Expat Mom And Writer In Turkey – Expat family in Ankara
An American expat family lived in Ankara for one year and in this interview, Chantal discusses life in Turkey as a homeschooling, vegan family. How this expat mom schooled her kids, did she feel safe in as an expat in Turkey and what are her tips on moving to Turkey?
Here is what she says about herself:
I’m a Jamaican-American writer and unschooling mom of two. Though born and raised in New York City, I’ve lived in the Middle East and North Africa for the past eight years. I had a great year living in Turkey and only wish the geopolitical situation was more welcoming. I would have loved to explore the country much more but am still very grateful for the experiences I’ve had and the stories I’ve shared which are archived on my site, www.raggamuslims.wordpress.com.
Where did you live in Turkey and when did you move?
I moved to Ankara in September 2015.
How did you discover Turkey? What made you decide to come and live here?
I wanted to visit Istanbul in previous years but was deterred by the protests in Taksim. In early 2015, my husband was offered a teaching position in Ankara, so we took it as an opportunity to explore a new culture and country.
Was it hard to get a residency permit?
The new online ikamet system is not totally smooth or logical to me but, somehow, I completed my application and successfully submitted the necessary paperwork. Employers used to handle the family visas but no longer do, unfortunately.
How to deal with cultural differences? What to expect?
Don’t assume that you can avoid learning the language and make some Turkish friends quickly. It will easily get frustrating living in a major city like Ankara expecting to find more English speakers but not finding many when you need them most. Also, if you’re vegan like my family, there is a growing awareness and community of vegans and vegetarians in many large cities. However, lentil soup and baklava are not always vegan. That broke my heart.
What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling in Turkey?
Having lived in other Muslim-majority countries, Turkey is very different. I knew that the government was secular but I was surprised to see open disregard for practices of Islam like fasting or prayer. Ramadan/Ramazan was a jarring experience. I still don’t understand how Islam can function as a secular culture.
What did you enjoy most about Turkey?
The people are warm and not seemingly as race-conscious as other countries.
What didn’t you enjoy about Turkey?
I didn’t enjoy learning Turkish but had to do it anyway.
Were your friends mostly expats or local people?
I had a mix of expat friends that I met through my husband’s employer and English-speaking Turks that I met through Facebook and mutual friends.
Did you feel accepted by Turkish people?
Yes, I did. Especially as a mother, I felt that my children were accepted and loved by Turkish people, even though we are obviously of African descent.
How did you spend your free time in Turkey?
I enjoyed travelling in my free time to see other parts of the country. Istanbul was much more culturally engaging to me than Ankara.
Generally, how did you feel in Turkey? Did you feel safe?
I felt limited in mobility to avoid crowds and conflict. In terms of everyday safety, I felt very comfortable, but the unpredictable attacks and incidents were taxing for my family to bear.
What do you think about the healthcare system in Turkey?
I had a good eye exam but, thankfully, no other encounters with healthcare. I am encouraged by the growing preventative and alternative health care options in Turkey.
What was your experience with schooling in Turkey?
I homeschooled and found a neighbouring international school to be very hospitable by letting my daughter borrow books from their library and join their weekend sports activities.
Anything else you would like to add about your expat experience in Turkey?
I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to meet new people and learn about their culture. Thanks to Turkey, I now love dill, leeks, dried figs and apricots, and parsley. 😀
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