Adjusting. This is the life of the expat.
There are a million things you must adjust to, all thrown at you at once. To survive, you’ve got to roll with them, embrace them, and adjust your expectations accordingly. Some of the adjustments are easy, like buying lovely fresh bread for one lira. Or having amazing sea views. Some of them are more difficult, and take a huge amount of patience. There’s been books, dissertations, essays, etc., written about culture shock, the signs and symptoms, and how to survive it.
Overall, I feel like I’m adjusting pretty well. I’ve now been here two months, and feel more comfortable every day. And I feel such support and love from you all, that keeps me moving forward. However, there is one thing – one BIG thing – I cannot get used to. Think you know what it is? Close your eyes, think for a second, and take your guess. Now read on, and see how you did.
Is is the noise?
While challenging, nope. I’m now sleeping through the honking of the taxis and the seagulls, and the screaming of the feral street cats. I barely pay attention to the street vendors calling out selling melons, simit (sesame pastry), mops and brooms, or the guys that collect your discarded metal.
It’s the shopping, right?
While occasionally challenging, no. Yes, I miss Target, but for the most part, I know where to buy things, and I discover new shops all the time – some like Zara (great clothes!) Mavi (fantastic jeans!) and Carrefour (Wal-Mart-ish) that I love. The sizing system has taken some getting used to – my feet seem to have grown exponentially from a 7 1/2 to a 38! 🙂
I know, it’s not having a car!
It’s crazy, but I don’t miss my car in the least. This city embraces mass transportation, and while it’s admittedly not always easy figuring out what combo of ferries, trams, buses, and taxis to take, it’s great not having to worry about rising gas prices, parking spaces, flat tires, and car payments. I thought that not having a car would represent a loss of freedom, but I’m finding freedom is in the getting rid of possessions.
It’s got to be not having a schedule!
Yes, it’s weird. After years of having a full-time job and other regular commitments, it’s a little strange to wake up and think, what am I going to do today? Some days it is a little disconcerting, and others it contributes to loneliness. But overall, I’ve gotten used to this much faster than expected, although I will look forward to having a bit more predictability. I’m really looking forward to this week, as I have all sorts of activities/meetings/goals planned.
Duh. The language difference.
Well, this has obviously been a huge challenge, as I’ve talked about previously. The good news? I’ve started Turkish lessons, and I’m learning, fast. I have so far to go, but I’m already improving, and having what you could almost call “conversations” with my neighbors. Everyone is so patient, and wants to help me learn. I think they are half amused/half really excited that I’m taking the time to learn their language. I’m picking up more words, so at least I’m starting to – slowly – understand context. It’s starting to be a fun challenge, as opposed to a constant source of frustration. But is it the one thing that plagues me? No.
Aha! There’s no Diet Coke in Turkey!
You are so very close. Technically, there is Diet Coke. It sure looks like it, but does not taste like my lovely manna from heaven. The American Diet Coke recipe is very different from the one used in the rest of the world. On my vacation here a few years ago, I remember Kim and I drinking 3 or 4 American Diet Cokes on the plane home. We were so excited to get back this comfort (read: addiction) from home. The closest thing I’ve found to it here is Pepsi Maxx. But it’s not the same. And it is amazing how much – after two months – I still yearn for the D.C.
There’s no air conditioning.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner!! As silly as this sounds, compared to language barriers, transportation issues, etc., it’s the truth. This week is in the high 80’s. That sounds pretty decent, right? Well, when there’s no A/C, it’s incredibly hot. I’m so used to our lovely Texas summers, where our homes, offices, cars, and stores are chilled so dramatically that we wear jackets indoors. The hot times are the getting-to periods. You know, the getting-to the car from the house; the getting-to the mall from the car. Here, there is no relief. Except for the shower and the ferry, when the breeze cools you. If you’re in the shade.
I’ve always said to people who complain about cold that it’s an easy fix. Put on another layer. Get a jacket, a hat. But when it’s hot? There’s only so many clothes you can take off without getting arrested. And the #1 goal of mine? Do not get arrested in a foreign country.
I find myself moving around the house to get to the coolest place possible. In the early morning, it’s my dining room. In mid-day, I’m kinda screwed. It’s all sizzling. At night, my bedroom. And even then, it’s not cool – it just happens to be where the sun is not. I sleep with my fan on high, aimed directly at me.
Like home, August is the hottest month in Turkey. This scares me as I’m already dying in July.
So, I would greatly appreciate hints for staying cool. Other than taking 5 showers a day. I learned to say cold water (soğuk su) very quickly. I’m buying clothes made of light material. I keep cold watermelon in the fridge. What else?
Oh. And if you hear me complaining when it starts snowing, remind me of this post, OK?