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23 Mart 2012 Cuma

Living in Turkey, a foreigner's point of view

When I first moved here, many Turkish people asked why I would come here, because there are so many problems in Turkey. I didn't understand then, but I do now - the "honeymoon period" is over


Can you tell us about yourself a little bit? A short biography to our readers?

My name is Sarah Sweeney, I am from Nova Scotia, Canada. I was born in 1980. I come from a military family, and travelling was in my blood at a very young age. I graduated in 2002 from St Mary's University in Halifax, with a BA in International Development Studies.  At the time, I thought I would jump into development work, only to discover my BA was too general, and I would need to focus my studies on something specific, but I just didn't know what I wanted to focus on. I took sometime off, and eventually ended up in Turkey.  Finally, I think I know what I want to be when I grow up, so I decided to return to university to persue an MA in early childhood education.  I am newly married and enjoy the adventures that come everyday from being married to someone from a different country.




- Which countries have you seen or lived?

Growing up, my family travelled a bit (but not as much as most military families). We lived in London England when I was 7, then we moved to the west coast of Canada when I was 8. As a teen, I lived with my family in Rhode Island, USA. In between, we lived in our home in Nova Scotia, Canada. I am a bit of a country girl, even though I have lived in big cities.  After graduating high school, I moved to New York and worked as an au pair (something like a nanny) for a year, and then later, during one summer in university, I moved to Leeuwarden, Holland, and worked there for 3 months as an au pair again. I've been lucky to visit Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Bulgaria, and Georgia, and hope to add more countries to that list.



Why Turkey? What made you decide to live in Turkey? 

I came to Turkey with my father on vacation in February 2004. I loved it here, but it was only a vacation. Then I returned to Canada, just in time for one of the worst snow storms imaginable. After a week of shoveling snow, I made the decision to find a job teaching English overseas. Using Dave's ESL cafe, I contacted every school I could find around the world. I was contacted by email by a school in Mexico, but before I could reply back, I was phoned by a language school here, in Istanbul. First come, first serve.

- How long have you been in Turkey? What are the differences between Canada or the other countries you've been before?

I have been in Turkey sincce April 2004. Sometimes it seems like a long time, other times, it seems like I just arrived yesterday. I'm always asked about the differences between Canada and Turkey by taxi drivers. And this is what I tell them: both Canada and Turkey are filled with warm people, who are friendly. They will give you the coat on their backs, but in other ways, citizens can also be cold. Canadians aren't so keen on physical contact among friends, and many Turks I have met are much friendlier to me when they think I am a tourist, than when they realize I am living here permanently (of course, they are friendly again when they realize I'm married to a Turk- they usually approve). A lot of the differences I see between the two countries are fading. When I first moved here, it was very uncommon for young people not to live with their families- whereas, in Canada it is quite common for young adults to move away from home after high school. However, over the years, I am seeing more young people moving out before marriage, so I can see a lot of changes taking place in this country.

- Cons Pros living here

It's hard to list cons of living here, because I don't think I have the right to say bad things about the country, however, I can tell you, I see what the Turkish people see. When I first moved here, many Turkish people asked why I would come here, because there are so many problems in Turkey. I didn't understand then, but I do now - the "honeymoon period" is over.  Let's start with the pros. I was thinking of this today actually, I think I have done more in my 8 years here, than I have done  in any other 8 years of my life before- and I think it is all because I am here in Turkey. Everything in Istanbul is very easily accessible compared to when I lived in a small town, and I don't have to drive because there are so many minibuses, dolmuşes, and taxis- not to mention the ferries, metrobuses, and the fact that I like walking. Some of the cons, I think would have to be personal space issues (there are none in Istanbul- it seems), the fact that everyone knows everyone else's business- but I think that comes with any big city, and the traffic.

- Do you have any problems living here as a foreigner? or advantages?

Of course, until you can speak Turkish really well, nothing is easy. For a long time, I could understand but not speak Turkish well. I remember struggling to send a package at the post office, and over hearing two older ladies complaining about "these foreign girls who think they can come to Turkey, live in their country, use their postal service, and not be able to speak the language". I felt terrible about it, and convinced myself that they were right, that I should be able to speak turkish better- but I'll be honest, I was still just trying to learn the culture, and I was lazy about studying Turkish. There were some days that I considered running out to do some errands, and just decided not to bother because I didn't want to handle the issues that might come with it.  Talking on the telephone is still a nightmare for me. You cannot imagine how important hands and facial expressions are when communicating, until you don't have them anymore.  Even though I can communicate pretty good now, I still dread answering the phone.



Advantages? Well, as a native English speaker, it becomes a lot easier to find jobs here, especially at language schools (dershanes), of course, good private schools require that teachers have more than just their native language to teach at their schools, but it certainly helps.
Another disadvantage is that being a foreigner means that my family isn't here. When I have a problem or my family back home has a problem (or a reason to celebrate) I can't be there with them. Birthdays are missed, new babies are met as toddlers, and Christmases tends to get a little ddepressing. I don't have the chance to pop over to my parents' house for dinner, and they aren't really just a phone call away when I need to talk. But this is a whole part of choosing to live abroad.

- Any interesting experience you'd like to share with us?

Marrying a Turk, and learning how weddings are different from Canadian weddings. That was an experience. I'm glad I did it- mostly I'm glad to finally be married, the wedding was like a learning experience.
Since my husband drives a motorcycle, and we both love touring around on the bike, I thought it would be a good idea to get my license too. So I took lessons from driving school. That was an interesting experience. Needless to say, I cannot believe they let me have a license in the end.


I love going to the Black Sea region because it reminds me of home. I love the trees, the sea, the fresh air, and how quiet the towns are compared to the center of Istanbul. I also love the fish. Even though I am a vegetarian, I haave discovered I am a pesco-lacto vegetarian because I just can't give up the fish or cheese!
Also I would usually say I love that the winters arent that severe, but with the amount of snow we've been having, I can't say it anymore.
I LOVED travelling by bike along the southern Aegean sea and the mediterrannean, searching for Likian tombs in the mountain sides, and floating in the salty waters. Part of me hopes that turkish tourism grows so that the economy is boosted, but at the same time, I wish it would stay a hiddden secret from the rest of the world, so the ruins will stay safe.

Thank you a lot for your answers.



Sarah's other articles in OMActivities:
- Geocaching and me 


5 yorum:

  1. Well i hope you would have fun in Turkey. Its a best country of the World to spend vacations as i think so

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