Being an expat is bloody hard. You are uprooted from your place of birth (usually voluntarily), drop kicked into a country where possibly no one speaks your native tongue and you spend your first few days completely shell-shocked and shaking while trying to find a place to live, get a job and re-start your life from scratch. I am sorry to tell you my friend there is something else that you need to do. You also need to throw yourself into the deep end of social interaction. You find yourself scanning crowds, searching for anyone that may come from your homeland and if you find anyone (and I mean anyone) who has an accent similar to your own you pounce on that person with the hope that they will become your new best friend.
I think I had it pretty easy when I first got here. I had family. People who actually like me (well most of them anyway). I wonder how I would have coped being in Mersin, in Turkey, without family to support me and I shudder at the thought. I imagine I would probably be holed up in my room, rocking back and forth, mumbling “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Oy, oy, oy” while eating the unpacked cardboard boxes at my feet.
Having my blog has helped me meet new people and I think it has been a pretty successful venture. I often get emails from people via the blog or on Facebook who are expats in Mersin or thinking about moving to Mersin, hopeful of meeting some new people or wanting advice. I try and get together with all of them too although they have not always been successful meets.
Today I was at the Forum which is a large shopping centre near Pozcu where I caught up with a few expats who I had met through my blog. A coffee and a chat. Commiserate at their dramas and laugh at their triumphs. After coffee I left them to meet Daughter and her cousin at McDonalds. Living in the Village there is no takeaway. Wait. I lie. You can get a Tantuni delivered (which I love) for 3TL (about $1.50) but your standard burger and chips is just not available so when we go to The Forum Daughter always froths at the mouth in the hope for a greasy fix. I watched her and her friend order their meal from my nearby table and then noticed Daughter talking to a lady in the queue behind her. I always maintain a ‘no talk’ rule with Daughter regarding strangers and I was starting to get a little annoyed at her complete disregard to my rule but she was so animated with the conversation that I forgot to be annoyed and was more curious about what they were talking about. Daughter’s meal arrived but she ignored it and continued to talk to the stranger. When the stranger’s meal arrived she brought the lady over to our table.
“Mum. This is Evelyn. She lives here and I helped her order lunch.”
Evelyn smiled meekly, “Your daughter asked me to join you for lunch.”
Daughter took Evelyn’s tray and set it down beside me, “There you go Mum. Another one for your little group.”
I had to laugh at the look on Daughter’s face. She was ecstatic with the thought that she had played matchmaker and that Mum had a potential new friend. I know she worries about Mum being lonely when she is at school or at a friend’s house. So Evelyn sat down and we had a long yarn about her move to Mersin from Scotland. She is in love and hopes to be married before too long. Hmmm – boy have I heard a few stories recently about this subject. I say nothing and merely nod enthusiastically when she suggests that The Turk and I come along to her wedding in April (with Daughter as bridesmaid of course).
So there you go. Another little friend for my expat group. If there are any more of you out their get in touch – the more the merrier!
Happy to apply but can’t make the trip to Mersin – I live in Batman (south east Turkey!) and may well be the only English person here… or at least it feels like it! We moved here from England coming up for about 3 years ago and it takes a bloody long time to adjust. Like you I have a good family around me who have flung open their doors and their hearts. I came across your blog a few days ago now and it certainly has given me a good chuckle and bought back memories of being a newbie – but maybe if you ask my Turk he would probably say that I am still learning!!
I think you are forever learning well I imagine that is the case. Had a friend from mersin go to Batman for a week during the school holidays with her boyfriend to meet the parents. Eye opening. She is an English teacher.
This is so true! I remember how I would head out (even though I didn’t necessarily feel like it) just so that I could be somewhere I could meet people, particularly in Manila where work was a small office of only 4 other people. I don’t think people realise that a lot of expats suffer from loneliness when they first move. Everybody thinks we just drop in and have amazing social lives from day one…
Batman is certainly very different to anything I had experienced before but its nice (at least where I am!). I am not an English teacher but because I speak English I was asked by some family friends to teach their children – so I now teach English. Its good as its something I can do at home with my own children!
I totally agree that it can be lonely when you first move, as if your somehow supposed to hit the ground running! Before we came me and my hubby kept saying we need to settle quickly so our children will settle but want ended up happening was they were settled before we even had time to catch our breath!! Your right you never stop learning but that’s what makes life interesting (remind me of that when I’m learning something new and swearing to 10 has failed to calm me!!).
Pretty much the opposite to me then, lol…
I have not met more than 2 other English speakers in 9 years, and they were by accident. You see, I’m one of those antisocial antiexpat hermits who hides out in my village in the hills. There is an ‘expat’ community within driving distance, or so I understand, who get together for a beer every afternoon at the same place and whinge about the heat or the bureaucracy… nah, not for me thanks.
About 10 years ago I lived and worked in Marmaris and would try to be ‘social’ with other expats but got so fed up of hearing those exact same comments and would listen to people who had lived in Turkey for a number of years still not be able to speak a basic level of Turkish! My ‘socialising’ with the expats was very short lived!! Now I only socialise with hubby’s family but only when I really have it – I have a nice house (when my children are sleeping!) and I want to enjoy it!!
I don’t miss anything from England – I guess if I did I wouldn’t be here!
I have always been a bit of a social butterfly and this is perhaps why I blog. Its a way of getting my thoughts out into the world. Realistically though you are right – I am surrounded by family and being surrounded by them definitely will help me learn the language quicker than being surrounded by expats.
I do love my chats though. I miss my long chats. Now its more nodding of my head and smiling.
Congratulations on surviving Marmaris – brave gal. I go there perhaps once a year in mid winter when I am forced to, lol
As the boss works away, I rarely speak to any humans other than the kiddo before/after school – so finally, another antisocial expat (I hate that term due to the Muppets you described earlier!)
Batman – now that must have been a change 🙂
UK… why? That’s why bother, not why don’t you miss it 🙂
I went there in 2005. It rained. I came back.
Rain – yes it seems to be a common reason to not return to your place of origin. Its summer in Oz at the moment and has rained and is still raining – a lot! Mersin had a total of 10 days rain in 138. Happy with that!
When me and hubby were talking about moving back to Turkey we were unsure as to where to go – he suggested Marmaris, after gagging on my coffee I managed to re-gain my composure and told him not a hope in hell not a place I want to raise my children… we both wanted to be near family so opted for Batman. His family originally come from Hasankeyf (which is beautiful), he still has some family there and the rest are here – so it was basically a no-brainer! It is different but its a fast growing city. The area we live in is lovely, its quiet, the schools are down the road we have parks and large play areas – which is great as we live in an apt. People still find it hard to believe that we chose to come and live here but seeing how well my children have grown in the nearly 3 years of being here have truly made it all worth while! We have gone back to the UK twice to visit family as a ‘holiday’ – I use the term loosely! But will be looking to choose better holiday destinations shortly.
I am definitely not a social butterfly and enjoy nothing better than collapsing in a heap after the kids of gone to bed in my pjs and a big mug of coffee! Its a grand life!!
My sister worked in 2 North African countries for several years as an Ex-Pat. One of the the things she miss was Arby’s (roast beef sandwich). She said it’s strange the things you miss
Mine would have been roast beef, hot english mustard, a good, strong cheese melting through it and lashings of gravy. Drooling!
I miss, salt and vinegar crisps, bacon and egg sandwiches, oh and a nice pint of beer. having said that I love Italy and if I went back to the UK I would miss the wine, pizza and the chaos of Italian life, which makes me laugh …
I’ve gotten together with the “Americans in Bergen” Facebook group a couple times. One was to celebrate a big American holiday and another was dinner at a restaurant. A couple other times were smaller get-togethers at a friend’s house. Others in the group have had big Halloween parties or pub crawls. It’s validating to be around our own culture when we’re so far away from that comfort. I enjoyed reading this post – and reading of your daughter’s empathy! 🙂
It is amazing how many expats are hidden, it wasn’t until I started a facebook page for Side and Manavgat that I realised how many people are out there. We now have 92 members and arrange regular meet ups, with mixture of English, American, Dutch and Latvian joining us. The world wide web is great, but like you say, meeting people helps tremendously. You are lucky you have family near you too, I wish I did! xx
I don’t think I could of survived the first few months without his family next door.
Hi there, I’ve been residing in Mersin on and off for the last year. I’ve just arrived back and am looking to meet some other expats here and make myself more of a community. I am from Canada and would love to meet up with any other expats in the area.
Hey Anna, inbox me or FB me and well catch up.
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Came to Mersin a month ago. I’m streetproof as I lived in Turkey before. However I can’t find much here in terms of expat hangouts.
Could anyone please guide me a bit?
Lol, send me your details or name. I won’t publish yr private info but there’s a heap of us here.