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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Istanbul, Turkey

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Istanbul

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

After

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

I have elementary level Turkish. I learned it after I moved here. I am planning to improve and hope to have basic fluency in another year.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

A little

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How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

It was not too bad.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

I think I went rather quickly to the cultural adjustment stage. But I can still experience the negative stages when things occasionally go wrong!

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

I do feel homesickness occasionally but not often.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

Turkish people are very hospitable and really love and value children. I also like not being isolated in my car and being out walking and mixing with people every day. I also love seeing the history of Istanbul everyday; I've been here almost two years and haven't tired of it yet.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Getting used to the challenges of walking everywhere and dealing with traffic--pedestrians do not have the right of way here. It's also been difficult to deal with my children's schooling (I have two boys aged 11 and 8).

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

I told my students in class one day that I was afraid of something, but I actually said that I "smelled bad"--the words are similar in Turkish!

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Just expect a few problems but keep an open mind and be willing to try new foods and take on new customs. The benefits will be well worth it!

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