I have been living in Istanbul, Turkey, since February 2015. It’s then almost two years. apparently, being able to survive in here is quite a hard work in terms of the acceptance in culture balancing. Yet, I don’t bother living here for years more. Its just a matter of security and high level of politics life here that play as a huge consideration for me to leave this beautiful country as soon as I can.
Well, it’s so common nowadays living abroad. Moving overseas could be seen as a phenomenon that raise my awareness to be studied. Yet this post would openly show the less serious part of being a migrant or let’s make it more casual: a foreigner.
What comes first is you should educate yourself.
It is recommended to know every possible important thing about the country that you are moving to. For me as an Asian, moving to Turkey is perhaps a challenge in the sense of cultural differences. Its language, politics, social norms, and religion are different with my motherland, Indonesia. Arming yourself with a plenty information regarding your destination country should be put on top of your to-do list before your departure date. Also, keep gaining this from sources that you could seize: internet and people who are there or were there. It could help you seeing the possibility of your life and another point of view that someday would be helpful for you.
It is the language you should know (or learn).
Merhaba! It’s a Turkish’s good morning, good day, good afternoon, and hi. Turkish language is acclaimed as one of the most difficult languages in the world. Yes, indeed. But it is not that difficult if you already know its language or eager to learn it. So, put it in the first place that being able to communicate with the local language would be your most benefited skill. In Turkey, if you are a foreigner and could speak Turkish, you may get a lot of smiles and help from the natives. Then, before you move its better to learn at least very basic daily life conversation in order to make yourself first acceptable. Indeed, body language is one that people will use to be able to communicate with other people with a different language. But most of time in Turkey, they will take you for granted and see you as an idiot if you are not able to understand Turkish. They will not give you their attention. So, how could you ask for help –in every single way- if you could not have their attention? And oh, don’t be afraid making mistake! They will try to understand that you are trying and for that they will appreciate your effort. If you are lucky enough, they will give their heart once you attempt to communicate with their language.
The social norms and politic life.
These two common things should you be aware of. For me, it took months to really understand how these Turkish people live their life. Politically they are so active and I could say they are politically educated as well. How they separate their life aspects: religion, social, economy, and politics is a crystal clear. You may find Turkish people are so integrated in politic sense. Yet, they could perfectly disintegrate their ‘other’ life with politic. You might have a debate with your Turkish friends regarding their political view in the classroom or coffee table, but crossing the door that issue is vanished. This is one of things I like from them. I haven’t find a punch in the face because one defends one.
So to speak, the social life comes very liberal. As what I have wrote in my other post, in Istanbul you can easily find lovebirds. They are everywhere. Living together without marriage bond is never bothering while in Indonesia I will be punished with public and state law if I do. Public Display of Affection (PDA) is a very common thing. Thus, when you feel bothered by that and show your dislike you could be judged as a hypocrite or too-religious-to-live. So, stay cool!
The availability of food that suits your appetite is a rare thing that you may have. For me, until I have this magical help –a rice cooker- I desperately crave for only junk food. Luckily, in Istanbul the food is all halal. But, what if you are moving to a non halal-friendly country? You should pack and stock yours as much as you can. Although this is not so suggested because if you will live for months or years its you who is tortured. You won’t save your baggage for those foods only, right? Be wise, you are going to suffer if you could not bear with local food. I could tell that.
What I am trying to explain is, start develop a new level of open-mindness. Everything you see and experience is a new thing for you. Thus, deal with it with your open mind. If you are not accepting this, your life will be so damn miserable and full of stress. Something you don’t want, huh?
Then, try to not have expectation in hands. I know it is a kind of excitement that now you are about to experience: a new phase of life that not everybody could. A wise proverb once says that a disappointment comes from the expectation. Try to rely on your information you have gathered before. It will help you shaping your new life abroad by embracing it and living with it to the fullest. Of course I am not saying to not to hope, but it’s different between expectation and hope.
So you should make friends as many as you can. Why? Because apart from your family, its your friends will take care of you if you are in trouble. Of course our embassy and general consulate will. Yet we, as an expat, should try to be more active in gaining acquaintance or become a part of a good circle. Not to hope they will take care us like our family will, but to at least lend a helping hand in case we are not able to get out of the trouble we may face alone.
The last but not least, don’t take it as a burden! Its the new chapter that you should explore and discover. Don’t lose yourself inside the local culture! Try to adapt with its value and norms. If it doesn’t fit you by your faith or heart, then you could stand with your dignity but still show your respect at best.