30 signs you’ve settled as an expat in Istanbul


  1. You furnish your house entirely from an Ikea catalogue to avoid the two-tone, hard-wearing wooden Turkish furniture.
  2. You know not to plan life in advance here – the best experiences are organised last minute.
  3. Punctuality? What’s that? An hour late is fine.
  4. You accept phone calls and text messages at all hours – no problem.
  5. You don’t get out of bed before 9am, because you know not much happens before then.
  6. Your first Turkish words were,”Çok trafik ya!”
  7. You know it is possible to get motion sickness in a taxi on a straight road.
  8. You’ve learnt not to say the word, “sick” especially in a taxi.
  9. You know not to mention the social networking images called, “meme” in public (especially in a taxi).
  10. You know how to pronounce “müdürlüğu” and “ikamet” and you survived the process involving both words.
  11. 100 pages to sign to open a bank account? Sure, no problem – system inefficiencies are just a part of life here.
  12. In the company of Turkish people, you hear the word “yabancı” – you know they’re probably talking about you.
  13. In an effort to practice Turkish, you’ve ordered the “sicak erkek” instead of the “sicak ekmek” at the local bakery and you’ve said “terlikler” instead of “tebrikler “ to a bride.
  14. When your friends have good news, your immediate response is, “Hayırlı olsun!”
  15. You can’t eat a meal without saying, “Afiyet olsun” at least twice.
  16. You say things like “Allah, Allah” when things get confusing, surprising or funny.
  17. That street cat on the corner, you think it’s a good idea to take it home (Allah, Allah!)
  18. You know drinking copious amounts of tea from a tulip shaped glass is important in making new friends.
  19. You’ve had at least one Turkish lover who insisted on calling you every hour to tell you they love you and miss you after one date.
  20. You know you’re having a serious relationship with a Turk when you get a personal pair of house slippers to wear at their house.
  21. Sex outdoors is now something you can only do when you visit your hometown.
  22. You’ve learnt that an Internations party is just for Turkish girls to meet Western men, Western men to meet Turkish girls, Turkish men to hit on Western girls and Western girls to drink wine.
  23. You’ve paid 30TL for a glass of Angora wine at an Internations party.
  24. You know that 30TL can buy you two bottles of Angora and a pirated DVD to watch at home.
  25. You hold onto your glass of wine in a bar because you know the waiter will take it before you have finished.
  26. You know what a twinkle is and their association to self proclaimed Indian and Middle Eastern businessmen and pilots.
  27. You’ve watched all the seasons of True Blood and Game of Thrones in three months thanks to online streaming and cheap unlimited downloads.
  28. You know who Kerim and Fatmagül are.
  29. You don’t smoke cigarettes but you’ll occasionally smoke nargile.
  30. You could add many more crazy things about Turkey to this list!

80 thoughts on “30 signs you’ve settled as an expat in Istanbul

    • Thank you for feedback. I have lived here a few years now and on reflection these are just some of the ‘aha’ moments along the way that have made me smile and allowed me to connect with my Turkish friends. Love this city 🙂

  1. Pingback: 6 tips for the new Istanbul expat | Love.Life.Istanbul

  2. when you are denying something which indeed happened you say “yooo!” and between every couple of words you’d say “işte/falan” 😀

    • some tips about that.
      1- beware age difference. If the person young and you say aunt, you can get into trouble cuz it implies “you are old”.
      2- if you are girl saying “abi” is not wellcome, it has dual usage, brother and dude.
      3- yenge. If your male friend showed up with a female friends of his and you call her yenge, it implies that you think they have affairs. If they are not couple that might embarrass the girl.
      4- If you wanna avoid this calls, the word “hocam” is more convenient and distant way of calling people. Use for all sexes, very common especially among students. And I assure you wont experience any awkward moments unless you use for someone who is your superior at work.

      • Taner, item # 4 is not that commonly used. Its a common expression used in Middle East Technical University community and alumni. I guess you are from METU because I am from there as well :))

  3. Learn three words of Turkish and you’ll pass yourself on as a native wherever you go:

    – Yok (yok)
    – Çok (chok)
    – Sağol (saa-wall)

    Usage is like this:

    If you want to express your gratitude or appreciation for something done for you, just say:

    – Çok sağol! (chok saa-wall, meaning “thank you very much”)

    If you want to get rid of a pester like a street salesman, or kindly refuse an offer or something, just say:

    – Yok sağol (yok saa-wall, meaning “no, thank you”)

    That’s you.

  4. Hey I am a Turkish Cypriot who lived in Istanbul for two years until last year and your points are quite right and hilarious, espescially 8 and 9 made me laugh out alone and caused me to look everyone as a lunatic! 😀
    However you should update 28 as there are thousands of tv series nowadays that not even a Turkish may know all of them… ;P

  5. “system inefficiencies are just a part of life here” that makes me mad when I go to Turkey for our holidays as an expat Turk for 20 years.
    The thing is they understand you are an expat! How! The western ways we behave says a lot I suppose!
    Someone came along and asked my husband if he lives abroad in a bank queue! Cause he was waiting patiently and watching others pushing in the queue without making an angry fuss! After the wake up conversation he came to his Turkish senses and made a fuss so he can be seen in a reasonable time limit!
    An Istanbul taxi driver asked me with a tease if I was living abroad when I asked children to put their seat belts on, then frustratingly discovered that the seat belt locks were neatly hidden under the seat for customers’ bum comfort!
    Mind that… if you stay too long in Turkey when you go back to your own country same thing would happen to you in a reverse way! 🙂
    It was fun to read your blog entry! 🙂

  6. Hahaha, this post is awesome. Although I do not agree with #3; I think being 1 hour late is not considered okay anywhere on the world:) Even though I’m Turkish I don’t know what is #28. I’m guessing they’re characters from Turkish TV, which I don’t watch to spare me the taste of badly written soap operas.


  7. Well, it seems like things are bit hard, not rational enough or not cool at all. But, I believe all the facts make Istanbul so special. Thanks to let us see in your way of perception, all true all funny !

    • When I return to my hometown – these are all the things I miss about Turkey. In my hometown, someone tells me they bought a house – I’m disappointed I can’t say “Hayirli olsun!” Or if they’re unwell, I can’t say “gecmis olsun.” Sometimes, I wish there a little more of Turkey in my hometown. Thanks for taking the time comment.

      • If you’re in States, there is a community in New Jersey, where if a foreign to the community is around and talking in English is accepted as ‘Turist’. 🙂

      • When I’m abroad I really can’t find a substitute for “Kolay gelsin” to open up a conversation and it makes me crazy

  8. LOL
    Loved your post.
    points are geniously made.
    Gel bi çay iç..

    (May I offer you something? write the translations of the idioms.. more people will understand us then..)

  9. I wonder where are you from, I haven’t seen an Europeans having outdoor sex, were you working in the porn industry in Europe or what?

  10. I’m Turkish and I have a foreign husband. I totally agree with all the language related parts. Especially no.13 is something my husband would do, so I laughed so hard when I imagine the scene. Good post! Cheers!

  11. “You know how to pronounce “müdürlüğu” and “ikamet” and you survived the process involving both words.” You really have no idea how these kind of things are done in Europe,in Belgium, you should be really lucky if you can find an English speaker in the commune in Belgium, specially in the french part, and it took 7 months with a lot of paperworks to get my work permission+2 months for the residence permit

    • Eeeek that’s tough going. I must say when I did survive the residency process here, I said to friends that it’s much easier here than most countries (my own included) when it comes to getting residency. Hope it’s easier for you next time.

  12. hahaha I have been laughing at your hilarious post and great comments while having my lunch alone in a restaurant. Now everyone must think that I’m kinda weird and crazy. As a Turkish expat living in Italy I should definitely write the Italian version of this list. I believe there are many similarities among Mediterranean countries and it’s great to observe your home country & habits through the perspective of an expat. I loved the bank account detail which shocked me here too that how many pages there are for bureaucratic issues and never-ending triple signatures for each. o.O Tesekkur ederim (tea-sugar-a-dream) 😉 Turkey is a beautiful country with beautiful people and you guys make it more hilarious with your colours and good-humoured mood all the time. Cheers from Milano! Bol sans 😉

  13. I loved this and remembered how much I missed Istanbul. I left many years ago and now I live in the US. Although life here is much easier than it was/and is in Istanbul (transportation, accessibility, basic human rights etc…) the warmth of the old city that captures every bit of you is something you cannot find anywhere, easily.

    Just another addition from me: “Daha karpuz kesicektik”. It is a phrase you use when somebody is leaving your company. It means “we were about to serve some water melon – don’t go!” lol

    Much love!

    • Teasugaradream Ipek. You just made me go through my notebooks. I had a draft for cute Turkish sayings exactly like this. Don’t be surprised if your watermelon comment becomes part of my blog soon. Say merhaba to the US for me.

  14. 8 years of living life in Istanbul + 15 years visiting annually
    I went from being an older teen, to young woman, to a new mom, to working mother all in this city and even though I’ve done my share of complaining. I think if i ever moved back to the USA I would be very lonely. I’m proud to call Turkey my home.

  15. Pingback: 30 signs you’ve settled as an expat in Istanbul | bariscantunali

  16. You can piss the drivers while crossing over the street when its green for you..

    You may not be allowed to get in to a night club by the security guy on the door if the boy/girl ratio of your entourage is over 1.00 even if the clubs ratio is over 5.00

    You pay 7 tl to a coke can in a restaurant knowing that it costs 1 tl in the kiosk next to the restaurant..

  17. hi, I’m a Turk and I live in İstanbul,too 🙂 I found your blog through dA.
    From the look of your posts I’m sure you saw a lot here.
    Bucha of amazing and weird stuff XD that’s turkey in general. Turks are a bit nervous with foreign people or they dont know how comminicate with them well but in general we’re nice in the most weirdest way (well, at least for you, we are) 😀
    that’s a very nice list ,they’re all so true 😀
    NUMBER 13 made me cracked up. I can imagine that turkish is tricky for you but gotta keep trying…Once you got familier with vowel harmony and grammer, it will be better 🙂
    Well, also a word can have a lot sub meanings. Words change with stuations O.o Hope you’ll learn it some day :3 Maybe you should try to read stuff it helps with learning another language…

    9 is also yeah, I’ve been laughing since foreign social media came up with that one ahaaha I’m like, you’ve got no idea internet people XD

    8 if it sounds dirty you shall not say in public. My classmates used to say ” I’m sick ” a lot in english lessons.. just to piss off the teacher >:D *tsk tsk sounds*
    18 is essential 😀 No water just tea!
    27 cuz no one would buy over priced DVDs >:D *tsk tsk sounds*

    it’s never dull :3 anyways
    Kolay gelsin (“easy come to you” ahahah bad traanslate on pupose!)
    Allah’a emanet ol 😀

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