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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey


A serial expat describes his 51 years of experience as an expatriate and world traveler. While not the longest report, it provides some insight into what drives some people to embrace life as a globe trotter.

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

Fatih, Istanbul

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

No. But I have traveled overseas on short trips regularly for 51 years.

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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 am learning basic Turkish.

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

No.

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

None. My wife and I spend 4-5 months a year abroad, in 1-2 month increments in Air BnB apartments in big cities. We shop for food where the locals do. We take trains and busses. We meet local people, invite them to dinner in our home and come to theirs.

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?

No, We spend 1+ months in Istanbul each year. The people are wonderful.

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.

None. Except I get sick of having to come back "home" to the US. Home is Europe.

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

Food, adventure, ferry rides!!!, antiquities, getting lost.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Finding the basics.

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

I wanted sour cream. Didn't know Turks don't use it. Could not find it. So I got a grocery store manager, stood at the dairy counter, and said "Moo!" loudly and stuck out my tongue, grimacing. A customer then said "you won't find sour cream in Turkey."

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

I love people. All kinds. If you do, no problem. If you don't, good luck.

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