The 2 dangers of living in Turkey as a foreign​ woman

13938555_1247243605309163_822962642739573736_nAs an Istanbul-based blogger, I get plenty of emails from potential expats asking me for insider tips about living in Turkey.

Where to live, what to budget for, and how to get an ikamet (resident permit). The list of questions is long.

And, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but people do love to focus on what could go wrong in the world, rather than what could go right.

People – particularly now – are more interested in the dangers of being in Turkey, rather than hearing about the wonderful experiences people can have in the country.

There are plenty of expat blogs out there that tell you what to look out for, but on reflection, not one of them talk about the two most difficult aspects of living in Turkey – especially as a foreign woman.

1  Meeting a yabancı teyze

The first danger to be aware of is meeting a “yabancı teyze”.

In Turkish, yabancı means foreign.

Yabancı is a word you’ll hear a lot. Usually whispered to people around you.

Order food or ask for a table at a restaurant and you’ll hear at least one waiter whisper to their colleague: Yabancı. You’ll probably grow to despise the word because it’s used to describe anything foreign – from aliens to expats.

In Turkish, teyze  means aunty.

Turkish teyzes (or teyzeler to be correct) are generally mature ladies in age. The unsung heroes of Turkish society. They’re the “eyes on street” for keeping law and order in lives of those around them.

They keep an eye on their young family members, an eye on the elderly and an eye on their neighbours – who wish the Turkish teyze next door would turn a “blind eye” and mind her own business, sometimes.

But, from what I’ve seen, they tend to wear the pants in a sometimes male dominated society. Yep, the Turkish teyze can be handy to have around in troubled times because they’re built tough…real tough. Stand by one in a crowded tram and no man will stand close to you.

The yabancı teyze is somewhat different.  She generally fits one or all of the following:

  • She’s an expat woman who’s been living in Turkey for a while. Ask her how long and she’ll snap and say: “Please don’t ask me that. I hate it when people ask me that!”
  • She is or has been a yenge. Meaning, they’ve been a serious girlfriend or wife of a man in Turkey. And, she secretly hoards deep-seeded anger towards that ex-lover – or any man for that matter.
  • She knows everything there is to know about Turkey. Just ask her.

You can find a yabancı teyze, simply by posting a question – or an opinion (if you dare) – on one of Turkey’s many foreign women Facebook pages.

At first, you’ll be keen to befriend a yabancı teyze. After all, new friends in a foreign land and someone to show you the ropes does help to navigate the obstacles of assimilation. And, of course – let’s not generalise – not all foreign women who live here a long time are yabancı teyzes. Most foreign women do use their experiences for good, not evil.

You’ll know when you meet a yabancı teyze usually by the end of the first meeting.

They’re nurturing, helpful and upbeat but when you start talking about your hopes and dreams for your future in Turkey, they’ll cut in and recite horror stories about their tough times here.

Talk about the  boyfriend in Turkey, you’ll hear: “Just be careful. They’re all the same!”

Expat blogs in Istanbul

Your reaction: No they’re not!!!

 

Talk about wanting babies with that boyfriend in the future: “Oh my, wait until you have children with him. It all changes….”

Best blogs in Turkey

Your reaction: Ne? (Say what?)

 

Say you love Çemberlitaş Hamamı and get: “Oh it’s sooooo touristic. It’s not as good as mine.”

Istanbul blogs

Whatever…

 

The only thing you can do is look on in disbelief as they squash every inch of passion and hope you had for your life in Turkey.

The thing is, no matter how negative they can be, they actually love Turkey. They can’t possibly return to their hometown because they’re so in love with their lifestyle here. They know they’ll miss the drama. The hospitality. The 10 things to miss about Turkey. So they feel stuck. Which makes them frustrated, and they take that frustration out on you. The new fresh-faced yabancı in the ‘hood.

Yes, she can be like a Mary Poppins with a bag full of difficult and awkward stuff you really don’t need in your life. But, the good news is, you can overcome that sour taste you feel when you meet one by handing them a ‘spoon full of sugar’.

Tap into their positive experiences and that’s when you find the gems they have to offer. Because as much as things have gone sour for them, there’s plenty of sweet things they’ve experienced in Turkey. Otherwise, why are they still here?

The hidden rooftop bars.

The best beaches near the city.

Where to buy sweet potato or coriander.

And…..how to get that ikamet.

In fact, the best way to deal with one yabancı teyze is to see two of them in action. In the same room, or on a Facebook forum. That’s when you can sit back, eat some popcorn (or cekirdek) and watch as they battle it out in a supreme fight of “I know more about Turkey than you.” It’s a true battle of the egos that will leave you feeling good about yourself. Until….

2 Recognising when…

The second danger to be aware of is recognising that moment when….

…you become a yabancı teyze yourself!!!

Speaking from experience, don’t panic.

Apologise to the person you annoyed. Know it is you and not them. Realise everyone has their life and life lessons to live. Get off Facebook if you have to. Take a walk by the Bosphorus. Deep breathe.

You’ll be ok.

But, do know you have been warned of the signs and symptoms of becoming a yabancı teyze in this blog.

You’re welcome.

 

Thanks to Turkish Memes for some of the images above. Go like them on Facebook.

Is this what it means to be beautiful in Turkey?

A light-hearted reading from Istanbul’s Spoken Word on April 12, 2016.balik etli

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This is a story about one woman’s struggle to come to terms with beauty in the eyes of the Turks.

Well, the truth be known it’s actually my own struggle.

I just spent three months in Australia where I performed in a dancing show. With a month of intensive rehearsals in the heat of an Australian summer I naturally lost weight – about three kilograms.

Though, when the curtains came down on the show, “weight” was definitely not on my mind.  I was, “get in my belly” with chocolate, burgers and biscuits for a few weeks as my dancing feet rested. Binge, binge, binge. Nom, nom, nom. I no longer had to watch my waist line because I am happy with my curves – and I enjoy food!

That said, about a week before flying back to Istanbul I began to feel apprehensive about my weight. Because, I knew I had to face my Turkish friends. And, I knew EVERY TIME I land in Turkey I’d get an honest opinion about my weight:

“Hello my friend? How are you? ………..Have you put on a little bit of weight?”

In Australia, you would NEVER, EVER say: “Have you put on weight?” To say such a thing would be highly insensitive, perhaps even insulting to anyone insecure about their extra kilograms.

But no, no, no – not in Turkey. Apparently to say: “Have you put on a little bit of weight?” could actually be a compliment. (But, more on that later).

I bet there’s a few people right now sizing me up as they read this. Maybe thinking…”it sounds like she’s carrying a few extra kilograms”…is she balık etli!?

What does that mean? Some of you may ask. Well let me tell you.

I was introduced to this term six years ago when I came to Istanbul.

I met a Turkish guy at bar in Taksim. He was in his mid-30s. Had dark long locks and kept himself fit. We exchanged pleasantries – all in English, because my Turkish was terrible. He was kind of cute and charming. I was enjoying the conversation – right up until he started looking me up and down, and said, “You look like…”

He gazes at me with “sexy eyes”.

Sexy eyes (2)

I hold on for a compliment that will make me swoon for this dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty.

Perhaps he will say I look like Reece Witherspoon. Because I used to get that all the time – when I was thinner. Or may be he thinks I look like Ginger Spice – the mid-1990’s, curvier, union jack sporting version of “Ginger Spice” – because I used to get that too.

He repeats himself and pauses, contemplating his words: “You look like….

……balık etli.”

My eyebrows raise. I’m speechleess. I’m stunned as I interpret those two words in my mind to:

Fish meat!

“I look like fish meat!?” Ne! (What!?) I shifted uncomfortably with the anger resonating in my body. My western brain that would never compare a woman to fish concluded this guy was rude and insensitive.

Although, to give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps I did not hear right, or perhaps my Turkish is more average then I thought. I asked him, “Pardon? Did you just say I look like fish meat?”

I gasped when he answered, “Yes.”

What does that mean?? My mind went berserk as I searched for words to respond. I mean, what fish could I possibly be?

Am I hamsi (anchovies)? Short and slender. I do have pale skin. Maybe I was shining under the lights of the bar?

Hamsi

Am I hamsi (European anchovies)?

 

Am I çupra (sea bream)? Chubby in the face and mid-section. Skinny  in the “legs”.

Seabream

Maybe I’m like cupra (sea bream)?

 

Or perhaps levrek (sea bass)? Sleek and in proportion.

Seabass

Perhaps I’m like levrek (sea bass)?

 

Oh my! Am I turbot!? Flat, round, bumpy and rather unattractive to look at (but pleasant to devour).

turbot.jpg

Turbot, with a face only a mother could love.

 

Seeing the disgust on my face, my new friend at the bar was quick to explain what balık etli meant to him.

Apparently, in Turkey, to be “balık etli” is to be voluptuous. To have curves in the right places, and Turkish men do love curves (he reassured me several times).

His confident explanation soon had me believing that I had indeed just heard the most oddest compliment ever received.

But since then, many people have said otherwise. That perhaps when people say: “You’re like balık etli” it’s actually a warning to avoid that next chocolate, burger or biscuit!

Regardless, given this experience and many others I’ve had in my travels, I do feel beauty is defined by the culture and society we live in.

Do you like your ladies lean, voluptuous or lumpy and bumpy? Like your preference in fish – beauty comes down to personal taste – largely shaped by the society you live in. What’s attractive in one society may not be in another. And, as long as I enjoy my food, and I enjoy my curves, and Turkish men find balık etli  “tasty” I guess I’m not moving to another country anytime soon!!!

…..So….. who’s up for a spot of fishing? <insert cheeky bream grin here>

Skinny-Mirror

(Balık etli kadını sonunda bulduk = Finally we found the balık etli woman)

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Am I safe in Turkey?

It’s a question I get askeTerrorism in Turkeyd often and right now I’m inclined to say:

I’m not safe in Turkey.

I’m not.

What I mean is, I’m not safe from other people’s fears and what they create around me.

The atrocities and struggles we see today – acts of terrorism, restricted freedoms of expression, divisions in society, hatred towards others – they’re products of fear.

People’s fear of losing power, or not gaining power.

People’s fear of the truth being told.

People’s fear of cultures they’ve never experienced, or countries they’ve never visited.

People’s fear of other people they’ve never met, or the religions they’ve never understood.

The truth is, if I ignore the fears of others, and focus on my pleasant day-to-day life in Turkey, I do feel safe – especially in Istanbul. In the very city that just yesterday was devastated by a bomb in the heart of the city’s tourism district of Sultanahmet.

You see, Sultanahmet is a place I call home. It’s where I spend most of my time. It’s one place in the world where I’ve always felt at peace, because it’s where East meets West every day and many friendships are formed.

My favourite thing to do in Istanbul is sit in a cafe in Sultanahmet, savouring a Turkish tea, whilst talking to tourists and locals. I’m always amazed with how easy conversations with strangers start here with anyone from Australia, Canada and America to Algeria, Syria and Saudi Arabia. We instantly have a common topic to discuss – Istanbul and all the magnificent historical attractions of Sultanahmet.

To hear of the bombing yesterday that killed and injured people in “my home” is something that is too difficult to comprehend – as it is for many with an affection for the city.

The fear now is that this dreadful event may tarnish tourism and many businesses may flounder. Inshallah (god willing), it will not be this way. Like New York, Bali, Madrid, Paris – any tourism hotspot that has overcome terrorist attacks and continues to attract world travellers – I intend Istanbul will too.

But, just how can we overcome this?

I believe, you become what you think. You become what you create. However, influencing this are the thoughts and act of others. What other people think and what other people create can shape our reality and collective thoughts are powerful. Another way of looking at this is, positive thoughts bring positive results. Negativity breeds negativity. Fears can breed negativity.

I’m in Australia at the moment and it’s been somewhat trying when the topic of “my home” comes up in conversation. I’m constantly asked to respond to other people’s fears about Turkey with the question: “Do you feel safe Turkey?” Instead of asking about the good things happening in my life in Turkey or what I enjoy about the country, people “auto-reject” within seconds to focus on the negative.

I’m growing frustrated because Istanbul is my home and I believe inflicting negative views, essentially invites further negativity. I don’t want that for my friends in Turkey or Turkey itself. Like a sensitive vampire lifting their cape to doom, I hiss back: “Do you feel safe in your hometown?”

The counter question is always met with silence or a stutter of random comments. “Well, do you?” I poke with my words, hoping they might come to the same conclusion I have. That is, a reality distilled from fears. The reality that threats to our personal safety and lives occur every day, everywhere in the world. We have perhaps become desensitised to many of them, because sadly, they have become to norm.

Alcohol and drug related violence, car accidents, homicides, drownings, falls, electrocutions, deaths by exotic animals and gun violence in America. Scan the morbidity and mortality statistics on these around the world and realise that the chance of succumbing to these issues are far greater than terrorism, but like terrorism, we cannot always predict when these afflictions will strike.

So, what can we do?

Be aware of your fears and how they may impact on you and others.

Question the sources of information around you – are they reliable and unbiased?

Choose positivity over negativity and put the right intentions out to the world for you, for others and the places affected by terrorism.

Mourn those who have lost lives and livelihoods in the terrorist attacks around the world, and remain defiant – never to let another person’s fears stand in the way of your life goals and happiness. (Waleed Aly says it best here)

And, for Istanbul’s sake, be positive. Be like a good friend going through hard times, come visit to help her heal.

Please don’t feed the fears.

Instead….

Love Life Istanbul is it safe in Turkey

My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed and injured in Sultanahmet on January 12, 2016. 

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Other articles on this topic by fellow bloggers and writers:

Don’t hide from Istanbul by  (January 12, 2016)

The New Normal by Janey in Mersin (January 13, 2016)

This isn’t chaos this is my home by Life in Istanbul (January 13, 2016)

Is Turkey Safe from Isis and Terrorism by Turkish Travel Blog (June 2015)

 

 

 

 

5 events you can’t miss this winter in Istanbul

The outdoor events on warm summer nights have come to an end, and the evenings are getting colder and longer. The temptation to stay at home, cooped up in your onesie to binge watch HBO TV shows…is… well…tempting. But alas:

Winter is coming!

And, there’s some fantastic events  in Istanbul that you must check out to warm the cockles of your heart.

Ladies and gentlemen,  I present the five events you can’t miss this winter in Istanbul.

1. Spoken Word

SpokenWord

Spoken Word‘s promotional image for the November 11 event.

 

Spoken Word is where words happen. It’s where writers, poets, stand-up comedians, musicians, actors, activists – anybody and everybody – can take to the stage to recite creative works of their own, or of others.

The rustic setting at Arsen Lupen (Miss Sokak, 15/4, Taksim) provides an intimate setting for people to perform for up to eight minutes, in any language, to an uber supportive crowd.

The open-mic format kicks off around 8pm and promises a few laughs, some intrigue and thought provoking performances by Istanbul’s bravest souls (a.k.a. public speakers).

The last two events were graced by some impressive orations. One of which was by Mariah K. Hamang, a poet with an enormous talent for crafting words that touch the heart. She, like so many of the performers, captured our interest and fascinated the crowd from the get go.

I won’t publish all her work here because it’s worthy of publishing in a medium far greater than my little blog! But, here’s a few lines from one poem – an example of the talent at Spoken Word, and a snippet of Mariah’s touching work that sticks with me even today.  To read more of Mariah’s poems visit BlazeVOX or Otoliths.

Screenshot (115)

For details of the next event, follow Spoken Word on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SpokenWordIstanbul

(Get there early for a good seat!)

 

2. Take Me Up The Bosphorus

Take me Up the Bosphorus

Asli Akbay, stand-up comedian and creator of Take Me Up the Bosphorus

 

“Take me where?” you may ask inquisitively.  Yes, this quirky, mischievous and somewhat suggestive title offers a tease of what’s to come at Istanbul’s newest stand-up comedy night.

There’s plenty of fun and frivolity to be had and the good news is (for us expats who are yet to master Turkish) – it’s in English. And, if the stand-up acts at Spoken Word by creator, Aslı Akbay are anything to go by, the comedy nights will certainly tickle your fancy!!!

Aslı started doing stand-up comedy when she lived in London and thankfully, for us comedy-cravers of Istanbul, she continues to tread the stage here.

Take me up the Bosphorus brings Aslı, and fellow rib-tickling Turkish and international comedians together in venues around the city. As Aslı confesses: “Stand-up really is something that you cannot shake off when you start.” On reflection, I think that statement goes for the crowd and performers alike!

Those interested in English stand-up comedy in Istanbul can follow the event page at: www.facebook.com/takemeupthebosphorus

 

3. IWI Christmas Charity Festival

Christmas Charity Festival

The International Women of Istanbul (IWI) have once again prepared a Christmas extravaganza of activities that will take place on November 29, 2015 at the Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus, Harbiye. The festival is open from 10am to 5pm to anyone and everyone seeking some pre-Christmas cheer.

Go along and do a spot of shopping, keep the kids amused with children’s entertainment, and indulge in the international food court, raffles, and other activities. There’s even caroling, gifts for kids from Father Christmas, and a mistletoe to tug your Christmas heartstrings right in the centre of Istanbul.

Christmas Charity Program

The  loveliest gift of all is, the IWI Charity Christmas Festival raises money for those in need. All net proceeds go to the IWI supported charities. For more details and to buy tickets for the event visit:  www.facebook.com/events/1655445834731049/

 

4. Cheese & Cheers

It’s back! The Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet have recommenced their popular Cheese & Cheers wine tasting night every Friday, from 7pm to 10pm.

Hotel guests, Istanbul visitors and residents are all welcome to chill out in this five-star hotel’s elegant lounge that’s set against a lush winter garden.

Over several hours, you can gastro-travel through a selection of Turkey’s best local and imported wines accompanied with a buffet of cheeses produced from the far reaches of Anatolia.

A different winery is featured every week, and a wine expert is on stand-by to explain the wines you’re drinking and the regions they’re grown in. And, for a very reasonable price of 65TL per person, it’s the ideal setting to enjoy a little indoor luxury on those cold wintry nights.

For more information visit: www.fourseasons.com/istanbul

 

5. Internations

Expat only

The next Expat-only Internations event is at The Raffles Hotel Istanbul, Zorlu Centre on December 8, 2015

 

An old faithful, and responsible for creating many new friendships, Internations has a plethora of socialising opportunities – all advertised on their website. The free-for-all Internations party is a huge gathering for all nationalities and walks of life, though if you’re an expat, the expat-only Internations events offers a quieter vibe.

Internations also has a range of special interests groups you can connect and mingle with. Groups for bowling, running, eating, partying, travelling and more are available. Take a look. There will be a group just for you to discover more of this amazing city and the people in it.

Visit www.internations.org for more information.

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Don’t forget events around town are also published on reliable websites such as The Guide Istanbul, Timeout Istanbul, MyMerhaba and my personal favourite, Yabangee.com. Biletex is also a great site to browse and buy tickets for major events in the city.

If you have an event you think the expat community need to hear about in Istanbul this winter (or next year) then do drop me a line:  expatinistanbul@gmail.com

 

2 ways to love in Turkey

Love Life Istanbul 3I recently caught up with an ex-boyfriend. A Turkish guy I had an on-again / off-again relationship with over four years. Whilst we couldn’t make it work as lovers, he remains one of my closest friends and confidants. We have a mutual respect and support one another in times of need.  He’s my go–to guy to help interpret the Turkish world around me. He’s been excellent at this role. That was, up until now.

You see, our last meeting at his house  slid into a conversation about our former relationship, which broke up over a year ago.  We questioned what went wrong and what went right. He eventually asked me, “Do you think we would have made a good couple?”

“Do you?” I replied encouraging him to dive in to the topic first.

“Well,” he paused, “I guess, I really, really liked you. I didn’t love you.”

My Western-made heart dropped. A heart that understood love as everything we had experienced in our relationship. It plunged into a pool of anger deep in my gut that could have splashed him with a wave of expletives.

Love to me was this: 10 lessons about love. That’s what we had.

Nonetheless, I snapped, “What do you mean you didn’t love me?”

“I really liked you.” He responded.

“No, that’s not possible. What do you mean exactly?” I snapped again, never satisfied with his brief answers whilst my heart was furious. I started to roll off the names our mutual male friends from my spiteful tongue. “I like Serkan. I like Erhan. But, I don’t love them like I loved you.” We both paused, with him looking as though he realised our difference of opinion.  I added, “So are you telling me that for four years I was I just a friend?”

He cut in trying to save himself. “No, no, no. That’s not what I mean. You don’t understand. Like is better than love. Love is really romantic. Love is where you don’t see each other’s errors.  Where you’re passionate all the time. You’re not confused.” He even closed his eyes mimicking the words, “Love is when you’re blind to each other’s errors.” He then added, “We saw each other’s errors. We weren’t romantic all the time.” Now sensing my growing resentment, he cut himself off and concluded. “Trust me like is just better than love in a relationship.”

“I still don’t understand. Isn’t romance and passion, part of being in love? To me, we were in love because we did see each other errors and we worked to overcome them. That is love to me.”

I sat in silence, sulking, for a long time trying to think of the words to bring this topic to an end. I was facing a reality that after all this time – he just “liked” me! The feeling stirred in me for a while, but I noticed his body language was trying to reach out to me – probably in an effort to break my silence.  His forwardness and eventual assertion to invite me to stay to watch a movie confused me. I was now curious about these mixed messages. As he started the film and I contemplated leaving, a thought dawned on me. Was our conversation lost in translation?

I asked, with new-found hope, “Ok, so let’s just clarify. What is the Turkish word for like …for you?”

“Sevmek.” He replied.

“And what, is love?” I continued – although I knew the answer.

“Aşk.”

I decided to leave it at that. Knowing that later, as an avid researcher, I would seek out the difference. After all, I had seen loving words and phrases with sev and aşk used interchangeably in relationships, and to be honest, I never questioned their difference.

Seni seviyorum = I love you

Sevgilim = my love

Aşkım  = my love

Didn’t they all refer to, “love”? Now I was curious about the difference.

Later, when I got home, I did what any normal person would do lost in the language of a foreign world. I consulted Google translate.

I typed: Sevmek 

Like appeared on the screen.

Then I typed: Aşk

Love.

Dam! He was right. In defiance I concluded that Google Translate for Turkish and English was rarely accurate. I had to delve deeper. I Googled the corresponding nouns.

Love life Istanbul 1

Scanning through the results, I read things about sevgi being an affectionate love between friends or between parents and children, whilst aşk was a romantic love. My heart didn’t lift. So, I kept surfing in my quest to define love in Turkey.

Finally, TurkishClass.com had a forum where someone was equally confused:

Love Life Istanbul 2

My point exactly. “What?” I was struggling with Turkish, let alone Greek! So now, I’m more curious. I Google: “eros and agape” and I have a little breakthrough with this page:

Four Kinds of Love; Eros, Agape, Phileo & Storge on the blog, Eros to Agape: Moving more deeply into loving relationships.

On this page, eros (aşk) was defined as:

“A love felt particularly within the body (trembling excitement, elation, joy), coloured and underpinned by deep and beautiful procreative urges.”

“….Eros is a state of the heart and while it is intimately related to sex, sex can exist, and often does exist, without Eros enlivening it. It leads to children, family, joy and laughter. It is good and right, but it is usually not enough to sustain a relationship long term.”

Well that started off sounding nice but ended badly. So I read agape (sevgi):

“Agape – Is more of a parental, mature, sacrificial kind of love. The Thayer Lexicon describes agape beautifully when it says “to take pleasure in the thing, prize it above all other things, be unwilling to abandon it or do without it.” In a way it is as idealistic as Eros, in that it is a crazy love that will not let go. Agape loves, usually at cost to the bearer. Agape puts the beloved first and sacrifices pride, self-interest and possessions for the sake of that beloved.”

Oh! The penny drops. Agape does sound more like the relationship my ex and I had, and probably still have in that apparently we can’t do without each other. Our love was mature. It wasn’t fleeting. It wasn’t unfulfilling as the Eros to Agape blog defined eros. I knew that eros doesn’t last and that’s what made him different to other relationships I had.

I kept searching to validate this research, and saw sevgi referred to a love between lovers. Then these quotes sealed my new-found understanding:

Sevgi last forever even if aşk ends.”

And, my favourite:

“A man who says aşkım may be talking about his love for a pretty blonde, but not the blonde herself.”

Now, I get it. In Turkish, like (sevgi) is better than love (aşk). Aşk is more about lust. It’s an erotic love that ends – like a fleeting romance. Sevgi is a higher love. It’s unconditional and lasting. Whilst English doesn’t seem to have two words to differentiate between the types of love we experience, Turkish does.

My ex and I were lost in translation. Whilst he failed beautifully in his attempt to label our relationship using English words, the words in Turkish made complete sense – and were actually quite sweet. I completely saw his point.

With my research closed, I rang my ex. He re-confirmed the difference and how he felt. I joked, “Google Translate has a lot of explaining to do!” I apologised for my anger and, instead, thanked him for his honesty and kind “words”.

Hanging up the phone, I joked to myself:

Remind me never to aşk about love again!

How you can REALLY help donate to refugees

Welcome, fellow humanitarians.  I guess you’ve stopped by because you’ve realised that the lives of refugees are just as worthy as your own, and you’re now keen to donate to make a difference.

LoveLifeIstanbul 1

If you’re looking to donate new or used goods, your services or your time to helping refugees in Turkey then head to Lisa Morrow’s Inside out in Istanbul for a summary of the current groups and initiatives (as of September 2015). Also check out the agencies and groups doing good things for refugees world-wide. These are listed at the end of this article.

Beyond the initial motivation to donate there are some practical actions donors can do to help volunteer efforts, and in turn, help the refugees get what they need faster for their  passage to peace.

1. Ask

Ask what the immediate needs are of the group(s) you’d like to donate to. Check their website. Link to their social media pages. Contact their coordinators.

Food is obviously high on the list of needs but these needs can change.

The groups helping refugees in Turkey are largely run by volunteers – volunteers that don’t have budgets to buy or rent large storage spaces. They rely on the kind donations of people for shelving, boxes and rooms to store items in. For this reason, storage and security of those donations after-hours can present a challenge for volunteers – especially when flooded with goods kindness.

Asking the organisation what they need as a priority will not only help them manage the stock and space they have but will also direct your donations to the areas of most need.

2. Think

While we’re on the space issue, when sorting or buying goods to donate, do think about the lives of the refugees you’re donating to. Are they on the move or in camps? Think about the logistics they face in getting from point A to B. Think about the climate they’re in, their genders, ages, their sense of fashion and aim to support these needs as a priority.

Items that cannot be given out to refugees by volunteer groups do take up space or require additional management to distribute them to the right receiver. Keep the needs of refugees at forefront of your mind when deciding what to donate.

Think small and compact for personal belongings such as hygiene products and toys for children.

Think light-weight for carrying in small bags.

Think maximum reach for donations (i.e. If buying baby clothes or shoes, donate those with unisex colours so boys or girls may benefit from your donation).

Think practical.

3. Don’t donate

Yes, I said don’t donate….IF the item you wish to donate is one or more of the following:

  • Sequined disco dresses
  • Skin tight short dresses
  • See-through clothing
  • Short shorts
  • Short skirts
  • Tops with revealing/plunging necklines
  • Dusty shoes with holes in them
  • Shoes that are broken or on their last steps
  • Clothes that are stained or tattered or full of holes
  • Stiletto shoes
  • Evening gowns
  • Racy lingerie
  • Opened or half-empty personal products
Not ideal for distributing to refugee women.

Not very appropriate items to donate to the ladies feeling war torn countries.

(Yes, my research has shown these items have been found in the donation bags to refugees!)

Even though these items are given with good intentions, these items are not appropriate to give to refugees – who dress more modestly. Not only do they contribute to the space issue, they take up the time of volunteers who spend hours sorting and categorising clothing. These volunteers wish to get on with helping refugees – rather than reminisce about the days of disco!

Basically when deciding what to donate, put yourself in the shoes of a refugee and ask yourself: Would I wear that? Would I need that? Would I want my husband/wife or my children to wear that? If the answer is no, then keep it for another donation drive elsewhere. Donate only those items that you feel a refugee will genuinely wear or use, rather than using the call for donations as an excuse to clear out the wardrobe.

4. Do donate

In terms of clothing, there can never be enough good quality clothing for all shapes, genders and sizes. More helpful clothing items that can easily be distributed are:

  • Ladies long cotton skirts
  • Ladies long sleeved cotton tops
  • Ladies shalwars either worn by themselves or under skirts
  • Primary school aged kids clothes (6 – 12 years), including shorts and pants
  • Comfortable pants for men
  • Winter jackets, beanies, gloves, scarfs, enclosed shoes (especially now winter is coming)
  • New underwear for all ages, genders and sizes
More appropriate donations for ladies...

More appropriate donations for ladies.

Clothing is not the only the thing to donate though. By researching the agencies linked to this article below you’ll find there’s plenty to contribute to, such as:

  • Food packs
  • Sanitation packs
  • Hot food donations
  • Donations of toys
  • Donations of reading material
  • Donations to help cook or set up a new home
  • Funding for programs and initiatives
  • Calls for volunteers to donate their time to teach, coordinate groups, and organise volunteers
  • Donations of boxes, shelving and other furniture that help organise premises for volunteers to work.

Again, ask the group(s) your interested in helping what their immediate needs are and go from there.

5. Categorise

The volunteers in clothing distribution centres are overwhelmed with clothes and one of the greatest things you could do is to help them out too. When sorting through your donated clothes try to categorise them into separate bags so they can be stored faster and the volunteers can spend more time in helping refugees directly.

Here’s some suggested categories you can either box or bag your donations in.

Suggested categories for clothing donations to held volunteers sort and store items.

Suggested categories for clothing donations to help volunteers sort and store items.

Winter and summer items should also be ideally separated and categorised as it’s likely they’re stored separately. Labelling or categorising items into sizes may also help when large quantities are given.

6. Gratitude

The world has not seen this mass level of migration in many years and those who have come forward to donate their time to helping are giving up work, time with family, time with friends and time to themselves. In donating to refugees, also donate some gratitude to those helping, because the other risk to this crisis is volunteer fatigue. Say thanks and keep them energised. Better still, go give them a helping hand.

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#SyrianRefugees #RefugeesWelcome #Syrian #HumanityThanks

Keen to donate your time, services or goods? Here’s a list of agencies with donation programs to help refugees:

Care Packages for Syrian Refugees (based out of Bodrum, Turkey)

Lesvos Volunteers (Based out of the island of Lesvos/Lesbos, Greece)

Halklarin Koprusu

Caritas in Istanbul

Small Projects Istanbul (Based out of Istanbul, Turkey)

Ad.Dar Istanbul

Hayata Destek (Support to Life)

United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHRC)

International Rescue Committee

International Committee of the Red Cross

Save the Children

Care International

Refugees-Welcome

Doctors without Borders

Honouring our ANZACs in Istanbul

This is the third installment of my special ANZAC centenary series, acknowledging the importance of ANZAC Day in the lives of Australians, New Zealanders and Turkish people. If you’re an expat in Istanbul or travelling to Istanbul for the centenary then here’s are a couple of commemorative events taking place you might wish to check out.

An Unusual Friendship – Remembering Gallipoli

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Photographer Mine Konakci explores the unusual friendship that has arisen between the Anzacs and Turks since the fighting and anguish of the Gallipoli campaign.  By photographing subjects from Australia, New Zealand and Turkey, this project documents direct descendants of Anzac and Turkish (Ottoman) soldiers who fought in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign during World War I. The subjects are photographed with a projected image of their ancestor in an attempt to illuminate the relationship between the soldiers who fought in Gallipoli and their descendants.

The exhibit is open until May 24, 2015 at:

Buart Gallery

Bahçeşehir University building

Level 4, 24 Kemeralti Cd, Karaköy

Set aside 30 minutes to see the exhibition and read the slide show depicting the subjects’ quotes and information about their ancestors’ role in the Gallipoli Campaign. For more information about the exhibit visit: http://www.rememberinggallipoli.com

Getting there:

The Bahçeşehir University building is on the T1 tramline, between Tophane and Karaköy. The T1 tramline links directly to Sultanahmet – the main tourism precinct – in 10 minutes. Get off the tram at Karaköy and walk on the Bosphorus (water) side of the tramline/road in a north-easterly direction for a few minutes until you see the Garanti Bank. The entrance to the university building is next to the Garanti Bank. The latest Istanbul public transport map can be found here, showing the T1 tramline in dark blue. Walking from Sultanahmet can take 20 – 30 minutes.

Çanakkale 1915

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The İş  Bank Museum (Türkiye İş Bankası Müzesi) near the Spice Bazaar/Egyptian Bazaar is hosting an exhibit called Çanakkale 1915. The exhibit features photos, memorabilia and other artifacts from the Gallipoli Campaign from both the Ottoman and British Empires (including the ANZACs). Çanakkale is the town near the Gallipoli Peninsula that came under fire in the battle over the Dardanelles which led up the Allied landings on April 25, 1915.

Entry is free. The exhibit is in Turkish but ask for your free English audio-guide on arrival. The address in English is:

2 Bankacilar Caddesi (Road)
Eminonu

Getting there: Take the T1 Tram to Eminonu and walk towards the entrance of the Spice Bazaar. Bankacilar Caddesi (road) is the first cobblestone road on your left as you face the main entrance of the Spice Bazaar. You’ll find the museum opposite the New Mosque (Yeni Cami).

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2015 ANZAC Appeal

Red remembrance poppies are available from Fuego Café & Restaurant in Sultanahmet for you to take to Gallipoli to place against the names of the fallen who lay peacefully on our shores. All proceeds go to the RSL ANZAC Appeal in Australia. The ANZAC Appeal aims to give back to past and present servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives for Australia. For more information visit www.anzacappeal.com.au.

Together in Istanbul

Fuego Cafe & Restaurant is also hosting an informal, “Together in Istanbul for our ANZACS” from 22 – 27 April. The gathering is for modern-day Johnnys and Mehmets to meet and share their ANZAC stories and continue the friendship that started 100 years ago. Go along and enjoy a drink or dinner with new and old mates and soak up the ANZAC spirit. Drop-ins are accepted but bookings are advised to ensure you get a table. More information and how to get there is on the Fuego website.

Previous posts in the ANZAC Series:

16 tips for visiting Istanbul for the ANZAC centenary

A lesson on ANZAC Day

Tomorrow’s post – My ANZAC Day diary at Gallipoli.

16 tips for visiting Istanbul for the ANZAC centenary

This is off the normal topic of writing for expats in Istanbul, but I’ve been dishing out a few tips to Australians and New Zealanders coming to Istanbul for the ANZAC centenary. I thought I would write a blog article summarising the questions and answers given to date.

To know what the ANZAC century is, then check out my previous posts about ANZAC Day and Gallipoli.

Firstly, to those venturing to Turkish shores for the first time, know that Turkey is a modern first-world country full of modern-day conveniences to serve its population of over 70 million. Istanbul alone has over 14 million nestled in its boundaries, so, expect convenient public transport; shops open all day, every day ’til late; an abundance of ATMs; and basically a lot of conveniences that you will wish Australia and New Zealand had themselves.

On the flipside, Istanbul can be like your uber cool, chaotic and often unpredictable friend. They’re not always organised but they’re charming and fun to be around. In other words, don’t expect things to always go to plan. What you might be told, might be different to what you get….and most of the time that’s ok because sometimes plans change for good reasons. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and ask again to validate your understanding.

If you are coming to Istanbul for ANZAC Day (or any other time) then firstly:

Hoşgeldiniz! (Welcome) You’re about to holiday in one of the most hospitable countries in the world!

Here are a few tips that might help you have a great time.

1. Do I take Euro, American dollars or Lira?

There is no need for Euros and American dollars if you don’t want to exchange your Australian and New Zealand dollars. Turkish Lira (TL) is the local currency and is used in Turkey to pay for everything.

In Turkey’s tourism sector, however, “money is money” and most hotels, tour operators, hamams (Turkish baths) and shops will promote prices in Euro or (less often) US dollars. They do this partly believing it’s convenient for the majority of travellers to Istanbul. It’s not for Aussies and Kiwis who don’t use these currencies. Check with your vendor with what they prefer you to pay them in, but know you should be able to pay them in Turkish Lira too. Make sure you’re not losing out on the exchange rate first.

Other than paying for these tourism services, do shop, barter, eat, and pay for transportation in Turkish Lira. Do as the locals do.

2. Shall I take Turkish Lira with me?

Apparently there’s a shortage of Turkish Lira in exchange bureaus of Australia. Don’t panic. Turkish Lira can be obtained from ATMs throughout Istanbul (and the country) using your VISA card. ATMs are everywhere and have English instructions available to make it easy to complete your transaction just as you would at home.

You can exchange your country’s currency into Turkish Lira at exchange bureaus (called, döviz) around the country too.

VISA, Mastercard and often American Express are accepted at most shops, restaurants, bars and hotels so you can earn those reward points whilst buying for goods and services in Turkey.

Avoid using traveler’s cheques if you can. They’re time consuming to exchange in Turkey and should only be used in an absolute emergency. Western Union have branches here for emergencies too.

turkish money

Image: Turkish coins and notes

3. Where are the best money exchange bureaus?

Locals will tell you the best exchange rates are in the Grand Bazaar. But like all money exchange dealings do shop around for the best deal – and look for ones without commission.

4. Is it safe in Istanbul?

Is it safe in your own hometown? It’s a difficult question to answer. Istanbul is a big city and not immune to crime. But one thing that is different is its huge population. There is always a high degree of natural surveillance around you – many eyes on the street.

As a woman, I can usually take public transport at night by myself – which I do not feel safe doing in Australia. Of course I assess the risks and make a judgement call, but being a Muslim country, there is far less people afflicted by alcohol and drugs than Australia and New Zealand which generally makes me feel safer.

Crowded areas can sometimes be problematic, such as peak hour on public transport and in the bazaar areas. Crowds make for easy prey for pick pocketers – as they do in other big cities.

There is a heightened threat of terrorism as the Australian and New Zealand governments have warned. However, as the events in Sydney and Paris recently showed us, sadly terrorism can occur anywhere around the world. The best thing to do, is follow the information from your country’s traveller advice website. Stay vigilant, avoid high-risk areas and ultimately trust your instincts.

Do know that Istiklal Street/Taksim Square are the venues for protests almost on a daily basis. These are usually peaceful demonstrations about a broad range of topics from animal welfare to legal injustices. Armed police complete with sizable guns are normally on stand-by which can be daunting to most, but it’s just precautionary. If you feel unsafe at any time retreat and get a taxi to your hotel or another safe destination.

5. What’s the weather like in April?

Being in the northern hemisphere, Turkey is coming out of a cold winter so expect the evenings to be chilly and the days, inshallah (god willing), to be sunny. It’s possible to get sunburnt on a cloudless day so remember to slip, slop, slap and throw on a hat!

Pharmacies are called Eczane (signposted with a large “E” in lights) . You can pick up sunscreen there. Pharmacies are again located on many streets in the city.

No need to pack bulky umbrellas too. If it rains people will come out on the street to sell them for 5-10TL ($AUD5)! They won’t last a lifetime but they’ll do the trick for a few days…or less.

…and don’t forget to celebrate our springtime and check out the tulips! Gulhane Park is likely to be your closest location.

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Photo: The tulip is celebrated in its country of origin at the International Istanbul Tulip Festival every April.

6. What should I wear?

It’s not quite weather for wearing shorts every day in April so pack jeans, a few long sleeved shirts and a winter jacket or two. Scarfs / pashminas are more common than apple tea so make the most of the “2 for 1” deals (I mean the $AUD1:2.02TL exchange rate) and buy up if you get cold. Thermals may be useful on the night of April 24 at Gallipoli – but unlikely to be needed in Istanbul at this time of year.

7. Do I need to cover when entering mosques?

Yes. When visiting mosques, make sure your shoulders and legs are covered and ladies do cover your head with a scarf. It’s respectful to do so. Some of the bigger mosques will have scarfs for you but best to use your own.

Take your shoes off before entering any mosque and take them with you using the plastic bags provided.

Also avoid walking in front of people praying, and know mosques will close for 30 minutes after the call to prayer five times a day for local worshippers. Expect major delays to get inside mosques around lunchtimes when Friday prayers take place.

Mosque

8. What’s the shopping like?

You’ve come to the right place. Turkey is one of the biggest producers and exporters of textiles so shopping for clothes is great. Sultanahment and the bazaar district in the old city is the place for genuine fakes but the range of shops for modern fashions, especially for women, is light-on.

Head to Istiklal Avenue in Taksim for international retailers like H&M, Mango, Zara, Topshop and enjoy other great retailers like Mavi, ADL, OXXO, Koton and Collezione. Istiklal, a street they say millions walk down every day, is two kilometres of shopping and cafes…and a good excuse to venture out of the old city to see another face of the Istanbul.

The neighbourhood of Nişantaşı on the European side or Bağdat Caddesi (Avenue) on the Asian side are where the swankiest shops can be found.

Large shopping malls like Istanbul Forum, Zorlu Centre, and Cevahir are also taking over the city – but will require a few changes in public transport or a taxi ride to get there from the old city.

If you’re in the market for jeans, then I swear you won’t find a better pair than buying them in Turkey. Even designer brands source their denim from here.

Istiklal Street

Photo: Istiklal Avenue, a two-kilometre pedestrian street, runs from Taksim Square to Galata.

9. Do I need a VPN?

People living in Turkey are becoming increasing users of VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). VPNs allow us to tap into servers in other countries to access sites that may be blocked in Turkey. We use them to run our businesses and communications with the outside world if the government blocks Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites (which they did in early April). At the moment, these sites are available to access so it is unlikely you need a VPN on your stay here.

Twitter

Cartoon: Turkish humour reacts to Twitter being blocked…

10. What about Turkish SIM cards – should I get one?

You can buy Turkish SIM cards with varying packages (from 29TL) from Turkish phone dealers: Avea, Vodafone or Turkcell. They have dealers in the arrivals halls of the airports. Do be aware, however, that putting a Turkish SIM in a foreign phone can eventually lead to Turkish authorities blocking your phone – unless you register your handset.

At the moment, there is a guide that you can use a Turkish SIM in a foreign phone for up to two months before it becomes blocked. But sometimes in Turkey, what is communicated and what actually happens are two different things. And do you really want to risk having an issue with your phone when there’s so much to see and do in the country?

Speak to the phone dealers in the airport to get their advice. But do know that WIFI is free in MANY places. Cafes, hotels, roadhouses – most places you visit will have reliable and free WIFI available (or somewhere nearby will). Just ask for a password to connect and communicate through apps like FaceTime, Voxer, WhatsApp, Facebook, Viber, Skype – all for free – without the threat of your phone being blocked. Yes, even Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger will now allow you to call your friends for free if they use the app too! Just look for the icon of a telephone handset on the messaging screen.

If you own a business and/or need phone coverage whilst at Gallipoli then also check what your options are for international services from dealers in Australia and New Zealand.

11. What if a stranger approaches me on the street?

In the tourist areas such as Sultanahmet, Gulhane Park, the Blue Mosque etc, would-be-entrepreneurs are on the ready to trip you into unwanted ventures like carpet shopping. If a man randomly approaches you on a street and offers to take you for drink or take you to a carpet shop, decline the offer, unless you wish to buy.

At no time should you hand over money to enter the Blue Mosque. It is free to enter. Donations on exit are appreciated and should be placed in the box marked as such.

Carpets

Photos: Excuse me, would you like to buy a carpet?

12. I heard men can annoy you on the streets? Is it true?

Again in the tourism precincts, expect most restaurant waiters to approach you to dine at their premise. Politely decline unless you wish to eat there. They’re used to rejection and are unlikely to follow you beyond the boundaries of their restaurant.

Ladies, also expect vendors in Sultanahmet and surrounds to try to get your attention by questioning you with, “Excuse me did you drop something…my heart?” and, “Can I ask you something?” or, “Where are you from?” Ignoring them and walking on is acceptable and will save you time and their heartache.

On a side note, do go to Taksim, Galata, the Asian side and other city locations to see the different faces of the city. The old city (Sultanahmet and surrounds) is very much a tourism precinct where many local men work. You may ask, “Where are all the local women!?” They are in Istanbul – you just need venture out of the old city to find them.

13. How do I avoid being ripped off by a taxi driver?

Difficult question to answer but there are a few tips I can offer:

  • When you get into a taxi the flag fall on the taximeter should be 3.20TL – day or night. If it is not just say “problem meter” and if he doesn’t fix it then get out and get another taxi.
  • There is a reliable app for locals called BiTaksi. You can use it to call for taxis using a GPS system, but I’ve used it with limited success in Sultanahmet and Taxim due to the enormity of one-way roads.
  • Avoid taking taxis off the street – unless you want a tour of the city to get to your destination. Instead, ask your hotel or restaurant to order you a taxi from a reputable taxi stand.
  • Avoid using 50TL notes in paying your fare as they look like 5TL notes. A quick switch by the cab driver and your handing over more money than you need. Have 10TL and 20TL notes to avoid this confusion. The government have started issuing purple 5TL to stop this swindle.
  • A taxi to “Topkapi” can lead you to the suburb of that name – not the palace – with the latter costing significantly more. Ask for Topkapi Palace or take the T1 Tram to Gulhane or Sultanamet stops and walk to the palace within five minutes.
  • Use Turkish Lira to pay the price on the taximeter at the end of your trip. Never bargain up front – you’re just asking for trouble if you do!

14. Can I expect discounts?

Yes, it’s possible to obtain discounts on your travels here.

  • If you plan to use public transport than do get an IstanbulKart. Click here for more information.
  • The Museum Pass (MuzeKart) does offer great discounts but make sure you’ll get your money’s worth before purchasing.
  • Turkish hospitality is the best and chances are you’ll enjoy the rewards of being a wonderful guest with complimentary teas and the like. Yes there are dodgy people on the streets, but there are far more considerate local people that are willing to offer you tea and a great conversation.

15. I have food allergies – what can I do?

The Turkish diet is one made from fresh produce, cooked-fresh and rarely uses processed products. Interestingly, in my observations it would seem food allergies are much rarer here. This means most menus won’t be marked with gluten-free or lactose-free meals. When you order your meal always let your host know your allergies and see what they recommend. Also ask your concierge or a Turkish speaker to write a note for you in Turkish to explain your allergies. You can simply hand that over when making your order. Things can get lost in translation otherwise!

And finally my favourite question to answer was…

16. How many Tim Tams do you want me to bring to thank you for your advice?
How many can you fit in your bag? Is there room for champagne too 🙂

(Just joking! On a serious note. Say thank you by donating to the ANZAC Appeal online or in Istanbul at  Fuego Cafe & Restaurant. Fuego has 2,000 RSL red remembrance poppies too. When you make your donation take one with you to Gallipoli to place on the names of the fallen).

tim tam

Iyi yolculuklar (Have a good journey!)

Tomorrow’s post: Honouring our ANZACs in Istanbul – What’s on in Istanbul for the ANZAC centenary.

74 Lessons from 5 years in Turkey

one-does-not-yc1utmI hit my five year anniversary of living in Turkey this week and so, in my moment of reflection, I brainstormed all the memories and things I learned since arriving. I normally write about my lessons from Turkey, but really – they mount up – I can’t keep up! These lessons are obviously skewed to my gender and neighborhood, so feel free to add yours in the comments section below.

  1. Having an excellent Turkish vocabulary does not mean your Turkish is fluent.
  2. Attempting to speak a new sentence with your çok az (very little) Turkish will fail 99.9% of the time.
  3. Six months will be spent waiting to apply and receive your ikamet (resident card).
  4. Several hours will be spent learning to pronounce: Yabancılar Şube Müdürlüğü (the place where you get your resident card).
  5. Getting your ikamet can be a convoluted process, but still somewhat easier and far cheaper than most other countries.
  6. Most mornings will involve checking your Facebook and Twitter accounts by switching on your VPN.
  7. You know what a VPN is. You didn’t before moving to Turkey.
  8. Your friends and family back home are also learning what a VPN is and are considering getting one too.
  9. Fleecy pazar (street market) pants for 10TL are the best pants you’ll ever wear while you work (from home).
  10. Allowing the greengrocer to pick your fruit and vegetables means getting the goods with the mold.
  11. Once the greengrocer knows you’re “local” this will stop.
  12. You can’t find self-raising flour in the shops (but you can find the recipe online to make it yourself) .
  13. You can find coriander in the local street markets for 2TL.
  14. The location of sweet potatoes is still a mystery.
  15. Everything else you seek is generally found at Eminönü – between the Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar.
  16. An environmentally friendly canvas bag at a check-out in a supermarket will earn you awkward looks.
  17. Bruce Lee reflexes and speed are required to pack a shopping bag at the supermarket before the next customer starts packing theirs.
  18. It is possible to pick the nationality of someone just by looking at them.
  19. When there are no prices on items the seller will judge your income by the way you look and price accordingly.
  20. There is such a thing as yabancı (foreign) tax – it’s when you’re charged more for being obviously foreign.
  21. Yabancı tax is high on apartments on Craigslist.
  22. New foreigners to town will still pay it unaware of the prices on sahibinden.com
  23. Hairdressers in expat-dense neighborhoods may also be guilty of yabancı tax.
  24. Hairdressers will almost always be male.
  25. It’s possible for two men to work on your hair, with one woman doing your pedicure and another woman doing your manicure – all at the same time.
  26. Pushing and shoving people to get off a tram/train when people are trying to get on is perfectly acceptable behaviour.
  27. It’s possible that Istanbul bus drivers are in fact retired F1 drivers in disguise.
  28. It’s possible to drive a dolmuş (shared taxi) whilst on the phone, collecting money and smoking cigarette (simultaneously).
  29. Dolmuş literally means “stuffed”.
  30. Figuratively speaking a dolumuş is also “stuffed”.
  31. A taxi from Taksim to Sultanahmet is about 15TL max…never 20TL.
  32. Transport across two continents is as little as 1.65TL (60 US cents).
  33. Wearing headphones whilst walking near the tram line on Istiklal Street is not a good idea.
  34. Zebra crossings are for cars to speed up – not to slow down and stop.
  35. The Metrobus is possibly the densest “person per square meter” space you’ll ever experience in your life.
  36. Unless you find yourself at Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi coffee shop in Eminönü on Saturday afternoon.
  37. The Sirkeci Marmaray line is possibly the deepest Metro station you’ll ever visit.
  38. The Metro lines should not be taken when tear gas is flying around upstairs.
  39. Tear gas certainly does tickle.
  40. The answer to, “But don’t you feel unsafe living in Turkey?” is still, “No.”
  41. The probability of being attacked by a drunk or a person on drugs in the West (or shot at in the USA) seems far greater than being attacked in Istanbul…in my opinion.
  42. Reporting a crime at a Turkish police station can earn you a police report.
  43. … and a friend request on Facebook the next day from the officer who took your report.
  44. You can sign up to online dating websites with no photo and no description and still get 100 likes overnight.
  45. Most of them will be married.
  46. Men will stare if you’re a blonde, brunette, or redhead – covered skin or uncovered.
  47. Ignore it – that’s generational stuff you’re never going to solve in your time here.
  48. Being a blonde in Aksaray is a beacon for Russian speaking sellers and businessmen wanting to “take you out for tea”.
  49. Nine out of 10 relationships that started in Sultanahmet will not work out.
  50. “Tsk” doesn’t mean you offended a friend, it can simply mean, “No.”…I think.
  51. “Allah Allah,” can be used to express anything from, “You annoy me,” to, “You’re hilarious, yani.”
  52. Yani does not mean, “my friend.” Nor is it a person’s name.
  53. At dinner time, it’s polite to always serve bread to Turkish friends.
  54. …even with Asian noodles.
  55. Saying, “I live in Fatih,” is met with a long and puzzling pause, followed by, “Why would you live there?”
  56. Saying, “I live in Cihangir,” is met with, “My god, that must be expensive. Why would you live there?”
  57. Someone is reading this list and asking, “But what about the Asian side?”
  58. Moving into a new empty apartment with lots of men delivering furniture and switching on services can be mistaken by conservative neighbors as, “The yabancı next door is a prostitute.”
  59. Internations expat only events are actually a great way to meet other foreigners in Istanbul.
  60. Those Internations twinkles from “Indian pilots” are still annoying.
  61. To understand the diversity of people in Turkey, you do need to ask questions about those taboo topics.
  62. Ask more than one person to get a balanced view…and ask in private situations.
  63. Explaining the fascinating facets of your life in Turkey to friends back home is almost impossible to do.
  64. But, doing so will have them booking a ticket to come experience the country themselves.
  65. There are far more people in Turkey willing to help you, rather than take advantage of you.
  66. Travelling to other parts of the world will make you miss Turkish hospitality…
  67. And the food…(ciğ köfte and kaymak – but obviously not served together!)
  68. And the hamams (Turkish bath)…
  69. And the hairdressers…
  70. And everything I listed here.
  71. It’s possible the friends and experiences you have in Turkey will become the fondest memories of your life.
  72. Istanbul is unlike any other city. She pushes you away and pulls you back in. She nurtures you and challenges you. She may in fact, with time, be your greatest love in life.
  73. Even Napoleon Bonaparte believed Istanbul should be the capital of the world.
  74. And maybe it should be!

Registering a foreign phone in Istanbul

Register phone in TurkeyChances are whenever the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy are released you’ll want to get your hands on one as soon as possible. But, when you’re living in Turkey, the cost of an unlocked handset for these state-of-the-art babies is likely to blow the budget. Chances are you’ll be buying them duty-free or asking a friend to bring one back from America where the prices are considerably less.

However you procure the phone, you’ll find the unlocked device becomes locked and unusable within days or weeks of putting a Turkish sim card in it and switching it on. Turning it on and off again, won’t solve the problem this time.

To avoid this inconvenience, you’ll need to register the mobile phone within 120 days (as of October 2015) of entering the realm of Turkish telecommunications. It will cost you approximately 165 – 205TL to do so depending on your telecom provider.

So what do you need to do to register a phone? Read on to find out..

1. Decide which telecom provider is for you

Turkcell, Vodafone and Avea are the dealers to choose from to get a pre-paid sim card for your unlocked foreign mobile phone (CEP) in Turkey. They all offer promotional packages (kampanyalar) throughout the year with calls, sms and 3G for as low as 35TL per month. Just shop around to get the best deal. Make sure you get a package with 3G – you’ll need it to GPS your way through the maze of Istanbul streets and to keep in contact with friends when you’re stuck in Istanbul traffic!

I use Avea and for 28TL a month I get 2GB of internet use, 5000 sms and 500 minutes of calls. I got it on a promotional deal three years ago and never use up the credit. Other friends have Vodafone or Turkcell and pay more per month so shop around to find the right package for you.

Know that, whilst the telecom provider websites are not in English, most stores have English speakers. So you don’t need to use their websites to add credit to your pre-paid sim card. After you buy your sim you can top-up credit at stores, or buy “top-up” (kontrol) cards at confectionery kiosks around the city, add credit via your Turkish bank account through internet banking and even (my favourite) add credit to your phone at Garanti Bank ATM/cash machines around the city without needing a TC number (Turkish citizen identification number).

2. Ask the telecom provider for the price to process the registration of your phone

When deciding your telecom provider, ask them how much they charge to process the registration of your foreign phone. In 2014, when I went through this process, Avea charged 35TL, whereas Turkcell has been reported to charge up to 70TL. You don’t pay this until after a trip to the Tax Office. This fee is in addition to the actual registration fee charged by a Tax Office.

3. Visit a Tax Office to register your phone

To register your new foreign phone you need to go to a Vergi Dairesi (Tax Offıce) with your passport and pay 135TL (price as of May 2015) over the counter. If you have an ikamet take that with you. I believe you can also visit Ziraat Bank to register your phone too.  Four things to be aware of at this stage:
1. Your date of entry to Turkey in your passport must be within the last 120 days to be able to register a cell phone bought overseas. If your arrival date is beyond 120 days you cannot register your phone and will have to wait to re-enter Turkey again to complete the registration process.
2. You can only register one foreign mobile phone every two years.
3. If you’re a tourist (i.e. you have no ikamet/resident permit) registering your phone will keep the sim/phone unlocked for six months. If you’re a resident or citizen registering gives you access indefinitely on that handset and sim.
4. The handset is registered to that sim. You can’t easily change telecom providers/sim cards after registration.

You can find the address for your nearest tax office by Googling, ‘Vergi Dairesi adres’ and your district.  Avoid visiting them at lunchtime as they close usually from noon to 1pm.

When you pay the tax office the 135TL they will also take the IMEI number of your phone. Dial *#06# to get this. The Tax Office will give you a receipt / Certificate of Registration to present to your telecom provider. Keep this somewhere safe.

4. Go back to your telecom provider

Once paid up at the Tax Office, go to a store of your telecom provider. It doesn’t need to be the same one you bought your sim card from. The store may say they can’t process the registration for you, but ask for the address of their nearest store that has the authority to do so.

When you find yourself in the authorised store, give them your receipt from the Tax Office or PPT or Ziraat Bank and your passport so they can take a copy of your last entry stamp. Finally, pay the fee they charge for processing the registration for you.

5. Use your phone

The telecom provider will process the registration and usually within a few days your Turkish sim is activated so you’ll be whatsapping and Facebooking again from your new handheld device.

Please note, there’s rumors that the system is changing. If I get any confirmed reports on this I will update the information above which leads to the final point…

6. Know the process can change!

Like any country in the world – bureaucratic systems are prone to change, but in Turkey it can mean a process that works for one person might not work for the other. So please use this information as a guide only. Anyone with a different experience is welcome to leave comments below.

JUNE 2015 UPDATE (WORTH READING):  Many people (who have resident permits) can go directly to PTT and obtain an e-devlet password (cost is 2TL). With this password you can log on to https://www.turkiye.gov.tr pay the tax fee online with a credit card and register the phone as easy as a click. Take your residence permit and passport to the PTT to do this. This also avoids any extra service fees the provider might require.

June update provided by the wonderful and knowledgeable people at oitheblog.com

A SPECIAL NOTE FOR TOURISTS:

Those travelling to Turkey as a short-term tourist need not worry about this process if they keep your foreign phone and foreign sim card on international roaming. It however becomes a problem the moment you put a Turkish sim card in a handset bought outside Turkey. My advice to tourists here on a short stay visas is soak up the free wifi everywhere and communicate for free with people back home via wifi-based apps like Skype, What’sApp, Viber, Voxer and FaceTime. Facebook also now allows you to call friends too via their app or send a voice recording to more than one person. Go to your Facebook inbox and send a voice recording to friends by selecting the friends you wish to message and press the microphone icon at the bottom of the message screen.