Moving To Turkey – Looking Back After Two Years
In Beijing, I had a successful brick and mortar spa business which I set up there in 2008 (and is still up and running), and therefore, my life was built a lot around the people I met through the business. Beijing being a very international city, I had friends from around the world who were business owners, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and this network was supportive.
My plan when I came to Istanbul was to learn Turkish and settle in my local life there as fast as possible, so I took 3 months of intensive Turkish immediately and made studying Turkish a priority. Simple things such as taking a cab or getting somewhere were milestones for me. I still remember leaving a rude taxi driver and crying because I felt so frustrated and powerless.
Slowly, I realized, that the integration will take longer than I had imagined…
I learned 6 languages in my life including Chinese and I have to say that Turkish is the hardest language I have ever tried to learn (Contrary to what people may say, it is not similar at all to Japanese!).
Even though most local friends around us speak perfect English, I found myself often, being in the middle of people only speaking Turkish. So I ended up just avoiding these occasions.
Year 2016 – I don’t want to elaborate on this, but we were scared, tensed, and stressed. I had to avoid certain areas and crowds. Nobody wanted to visit us. We thought of leaving Turkey. Going around the city was difficult for me, and I felt constricted.
What did I do to make my life easier as a foreigner in Istanbul?
1. Learning Turkish and walking
I walk to places and take public transportation, I avoid taxis in general, but so far, when I do take the taxi, it’s better. I practice what I have to say until it sounds confident enough, and have my Yandex always open! I can tell you is that the more Turkish you speak, the more confidence you’ll have, it will make your life easier.
2. Practice when you can, find your motivator
I’m thankful for my family who always tries to speak English when I’m around. My husband’s parents don’t speak a lot of English, but they try and never give up. I’m so happy I can call my mother in law and with our Turkish and English all mixed together, we can have a whole conversation! Family is my biggest motivator in learning the language.
3. Turn on your “radar” and exchange numbers
Being an introvert, it’s not easy to make new friends. But I developed the capacity to exchange numbers and date someone I just met, just from a “feeling” that we will get along. I think being a foreigner in Istanbul developed my connectivity and after 2 years, I’m grateful to have a few friends I feel connected to, and with whom I can laugh.
If someone wants to connect you with somebody, jump on this chance. If you like a person at a party, exchange numbers! I don’t think we need many friends, but it’s important for emotional balance, to have friends you can share laughter and just be yourself.
4. Find a community
I discovered Toastmaster club just before leaving China, and found a club in Taksim. It’s a community of positive people, where you can improve your public speaking ability by practicing in a safe and non-judgemental environment. To me, it’s a breath of fresh air, no matter how I feel during the day, when I leave that place, I am uplifted, motivated, and inspired. I’m so thankful for having a club at a walking distance!
5. Find your purpose
I spent a lot of time thinking about what should be my next professional project and made it almost an obsession in my first year. It was important for me to have something I’m passionate about and drives me everyday. This is how Wellnesspreneur was born. Out of the strong desire to “help people help other people” by sharing tools and strategies to set up a business, expand their audience, and master the business side of their activity. It’s also a continuation for what I have built before, yet challenging in a different way, so this is it!
What I believe…
If you too, moved to Turkey (or anywhere in the world!) I want to:
Congratulate you. Because you have left behind everything you knew, to start a new life. But arriving here is not it. The journey starts here, and its an on-going process.
It’s harder to do then said, but growth and happiness is outside of our comfort zone. So being a foreigner in a new city means that we will have to run the extra mile to earn it and own it.
If we put it positive intention and actions, things will always get easier and better. Be patient, and gentle to yourself.
Take the time to travel and see your life from a different perspective. It was good for me to go back to China after one year has passed. I remember walking in our neighborhood Parc right after I flew back, feeling grateful for the sunshine (it was -15 degree C in Beijing!!), and happy to live here, in this exact neighborhood.
Dear Expat Women in Turkey,
I hope you walk the path with peace of mind and clarity.
That you always feel loved and supported along the way.
I am grateful for such an authentic platform created by Ana, with care and kindness, for us. Ana, THANK YOU.
I hope you enjoyed this article by Maika and if you would also like to share about your expat experience in Turkey with other people, click here. Every experience is valuable and helps other expats. Share your story.