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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?


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


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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?

No but I took very boring lessons at Dilmer Language school..spent the summer conjugating verbs and memorizing nouns...not the way to learn Turkish. It is however, how they teach English and thus the way they think Turkish should be learned.

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


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

not much here- I have lived in more isolated places. The men and women lead very separate lives...accept that and you can get along better. I love the gracious hostess culture, the curious questions about the USA or ABD (many know some English having lived abroad or know tourist English), the pride in their history, respect for cats and dogs, and eagerness to show the best parts of Turkey. It is best to absorb much through reading what others have learned and do walking tours to enrich what you see. ARIT is a good group to join...Take a city bus and ride the route. Hop off when you are interested in seeing more and then hop back on in the other direction to get to where you started. I think strangers are always trying to be helpful with directions even when they have no clue what you are asking. The food is great and relatively cheap if you cook. The men do seem to think women of all ages are desperate for sex...without any committment as they do have a wife and family all arranged for them usually.

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?

Yes, and the cycle continues...adjustment is stretched under stress...say at airports when all the flights are canceled due to gets to be crazy and no cues...yet it all seems to work out eventually.I am older but don't look it so I don't have seats offered to me unless I have packages. I see how they pay for fares on the blue small buses and am impressed with the honesty. It is also very safe here. Single gals tell me at night returning from tourist area bars they need pepper spray or an escort...probably true in the US cities of this size too. I do laugh at the almost the freeways are excellent and the green islands have families picnicing in the summer in them...practical, pretty but definitely not safe if there was an accident.. Buses stop in the middle of no where to let passengers off who then take a foot path to their home. Again...practical.

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 think I do get lonely for close friendships which do not happen on 2 year contracts very often. This Christmas I particularly missed my family as my father died last year and this was the first without him. But I have Muslim holidays and not Christmas for more than a day.

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

I think I reflected on it in the other entries. Public transportation goes everywhere and is often just as fast as driving yourself. I have found my limited Turkish to be enough to get help when traveling. The pharmacy I go to has a program to translate for them to explain what is available or not and why. Great medical and dental care and no where near as costly as the US. Many of the doctors trained in Europe and the US. The equipment is state of the art and many speak English. The hospitals paired with the US ones are the best.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Problem solving in a team is not possible...all defer to the one in power and then complain later. I deal with very affluent people who have no reality check and many no empathy for others. Entitlement. Children are allowed to do anything and told they run the house...and they do...until they are 18. then reality hits hard. And they repeat it. Spoon feeding and cutting their meat for kids when they are 6 and 8 years old is another example.

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

Don't say SICK in English as in Turkish this is very vulgar. Say I am ILL!!

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

It is unavoidable...go with it and through it and then know you will miss the place you are when you have left it.

AGS Worldwide Movers

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