Shiny New Expat

I met a straight off the plane, never taken out of the package, New Expat recently.  So new that she had that new car smell.  Her excitement was palpable but, unlike a case of the measles, it was not contagious and I found myself talking down the same things that I talked up when I first settled here in Mersin.

new expat

New Expat spoke of her love for her husband’s close knit family.  I found myself rolling my eyes and suggesting she should find an apartment as far away as she could get from her new extended family unless she wants them on her doorstep all day, every day.

As New Expat made cay (successfully I might add) she spoke of the more relaxed Turkish way of life.  I laughed and suggested she take a trip to the Emniyet and then let me know how she feels.

For lunch New Expat put out an impressive Turkish spread.  She explained that she had taken Turkish cooking lessons back in the UK so she could impress the in-laws.  I suggested that she might like to join a few of us for lunch at Marina in the coming weeks where we all go for our European food fix.  Her reply?  “I could eat that back at home.  I am here to eat Turkish food.”  Inwardly I groaned.  Every day.  Every day.  Every day.  Here Turkish food is just food.  Every day.

By the time I left New Expat’s shiny new home I felt like a Dementor sucking all the New Expat happiness out of her.  Will I ever see New Expat again?  Doubtful as she is probably still trying to erase my unintentional but still horrid behaviour from her memory.

Yes I have lost that glow of a new expat and what were at first little irritations are now an open sore that needs treatment – STAT!

And it is not just me that feels that stench of a jaded old expat (do we have a stench?).  One of the first people I met here when I arrived in Mersin was a school teacher from Northern Ireland who was working at one of the private schools here.  Her excitement about living in this city synced with mine and we threw ourselves into our new lives, a little scared, quite naïve but ready for a little madness.  Well that school teacher is counting down the days until the end of term.  She has had enough and is leaving Mersin to return home to Northern Ireland, happy to close the door on her time here.  Crazy Mersin has broken her.  Will she come back to Turkiye?  Yes.  Will she come back to Mersin.  Doubtful.

Yet other expats are long termers, going on 15 plus years.  Right now, today, I cannot fathom the idea of being here for another 15 years.  Please God not that long but as The Turk put it – where would you go?  Back to Australia the land of my peeps?  Yes, please, but of course I can no longer afford to live in Sydney and I certainly don’t want to return to 50 hour weeks so I would probably have to move elsewhere.  But where?  And I would be starting again.  House.  Job.  Friends.  I would be an expat in my own country.

So my question to you today is how do you keep that new car freshness living in a city that has more problems than solutions, where your opinion matters little other than perhaps an amusing anecdote to the locals?  Do you have any advice for this miserable expat? Let me know ‘cause I really need some wise words.

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24 thoughts on “Shiny New Expat

  1. I was going through a similar set of feelings recently, and so made myself start doing some of the things I did when I first moved here that I loved but had stopped doing – even simple things like swimming in the outdoor pool or sitting on my balcony (when it’s not too hot) and then thinking how lucky I am compared to my family back home who have just been through another cold winter. It didn’t solve all of my problems but made the days more enjoyable!

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  2. Can’t help Janey, I’m in the same boat! At my worst, like last night, I close the blinds blocking out the “street” view, noises and Turkish speak, cook some “English”, play Barbra Streisand through my earphones, light the candles and enjoy my created “bubble” with a VT. I’m not depressed but I know “this” really isn’t me! It’s only a matter of time (financial) that keeps me going. After 16 years I still feel an alien, but after this, who knows where I’ll go, I haven’t a clue 🙂

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    • Oh Chris 16 years! Its exhausting and yes, you are right, the constant noise does my head in at times as well! I was lying in bed the other night (must have been 3am) and I could hear the putrid factory nearby. It was only faint but to me it was like being at the Grand Bazaar! Aargghhh!

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  3. Hope you find some pick-me-up advice soon. I’ve spent many a moment pondering expat life and started to write blog posts about it and deleted them. It’ll come one day. We’re 12 years in now and still happy in Turkey but we’re different as we’re both English so grappling with Turkish culture only happens when we’re amongst Turkish friends. It’s not a daily-life-thing for us, and I guess we have that luxury of picking and choosing when to immerse and when to take a time-out. So, hope the advice comes from someone in a similar situation to you.

    Julia

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    • Yes I was wondering whether to actually post this one. I discussed it with my buddies here and they all laughed, said they were in the same boat, and the hell with it! Post it! Maybe The Turk will read it, feel sorry for me and send me on a holiday!

      He actually did read it this morning. He laughed and told me to pull my finger out. *sigh*

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  4. Start clearing specific negatives as and when they arise using well established techniques such as Emotional Freedom Tecniques (EFT) – easy to learn, easy to do & lot’s of skilled practitioners around if you need help with any ‘heavy lifting’. Its amazing that so few people know these techniques since they are now gaining acceptability even amongst psychotherapists & psychiatrists.

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  5. Janey, you may want to try eliminating specific negatives as & when they arise. There are great self-help techniques that are easy to learn & use for this purpose. You may care to try Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) – this is so robust that we even have doctors, psychotherapists & psychiattrists coming to learn it both for themselves & their clients. I have used it for the last 10 years and it has worked wonders for me and thousands of other . (I am a 25 years veteran here!) You will find loads of free tutorials & manuals on Youtube & you can always find a good practitioner if you need any help with ‘heavy lifting’.

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  6. Toughie, and we’ve all been in similar circumstances for different reasons. I think it would drive me nuts having my inlaws, or even my family, on the doorstep (literally in your case as you’re neighbours with some of yours). There are only so many cakes you can bake, books you can read, or sofas you can hide behind so that they think you’re out when they come knockin’.
    Any chance of further education? Or is that not the done thing for Turkish wives?
    I’m afraid I’m totally naive when it comes to cultures and traditions of other countries. Maybe the New Expat will be in touch and you could start a new blog together, like Before and After? :/

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  7. I did a 19 year stint, then felt I had to get out.. 12 years living abroad on 50 hours work weeks meant I was eager to get back – but only after my daughter left school. Once that responsibility was over I was free to cherry pick the best bits of living in Turkey. Raising a child in Turkey seems to add that extra bit of stress that makes one forget all the good bits. Hang on in there .

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    • Daughter is so happy here. She loves her friends. She loves her school (which I hate as I think it its “academically challenged”). The Turk is happy here. Surrounded by his family.

      I will soldier on – or go postal. Not sure yet.

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  8. I was happy enough here for 5 years. Not much noise in my village in summer, deathly quiet in winter when all the Turks return to Istanbul or Ankara. But my hubby found someone more exotic. Now I am getting ready to go to Canada after an absense of 40 years – indeed an expat in my own country. A new adventure at a time of my life when getting out of bed is sometimes enough of a challenge. And as my income is a UK pension I may have to be content with a cabin in the woods

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  9. We’re only a year in so still in the new-shiny-happy phase….and like Julia, we are both English so don’t have the issues you have. I’m currently in the UK with our daughter and missing ‘home’ a lot…I hope that doesn’t change but accept it might. I truly hope you find a way to lighten how you feel.

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  10. Have never been to Mersin, are there any other expats that you can pal up with and share your problems. There is a web site “Meet expats in Mersin”.. Have lived in Fethiye for 10yrs and am still happy, most of the time. We have many charities and activities such as Zumba, keep fit, dancing, art classes, walking groups to name but a few, is there anything thing that you can join? Maybe volunteering for a Turkish charity would give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment..

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  11. I have been here in Turkey for 9 months now and I have my times where I want to go back to the states. I do love it here, but I hate cooking from scratch. I know it’s healthier and better, but I really don’t care. I came here because of my husband’s job and we will be here till 2020. He has days where he hates it here, but he is also happy that he is near family. Well they are actually 5 hours away, but still. Sometimes I get jealous of him and how he can see his family so easily. I haven’t seen my mom in over a year. I think that’s what’s bothering me. It sucks that it’s so expensive to fly back home to visit my family. Like you, I will soldier on and hopefully not go crazy!

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  12. Hi Janey
    Not being an expat (yet!) I can only empathise with you. I’m not married to a Turk either although daughter No1 is and they live here in Ireland. We have a villa here in Turkey (Kusadasi) and have yet to spend more than 2 weeks at a time in it, although that will change when we get to spend two months there in September. Our place is on a sitesi with a lot of Turkish neighbours only some of whom reside all year and most speak little or no English and we speak only hello, how are you, nice day Turkish. It’s also on the outskirts of town and so is fairly quiet.
    I think negative thoughts hit us all regardless of where we are or what our circumstances are. When negative thoughts strike me I curl up in a ball, get a good book (or a rubbish one that will annoy me!) or even two books and read it (or them) straight through and refuse to emerge and do anything until I’m finished – the longer the book the better! I might lock myself away with a bottle of wine to do it – only emerging to answer the call of nature. Then I go for a long sleep – and when I wake up – although nothing has changed – I usually feel better – maybe because I’ve spent time that could be used productively purely on me. If reading doesn’t appeal I’m sure “wasting time” (because thats how a lot od people will regard it!) doing something else you like or even doing nothing as long as it’s time away from everyone and just for yourself might help.

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  13. . . maintaining your own space in your situation must be almost impossible – you could always trundle down this way in your shiny new car in the Springtime and then go wander the backways and trackways communing with flowers and dragonflies – very calming for the splintered psyche!

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  14. I’m 4 years in now here in Batman, I think I may well be the entire expat community here. Someone told me that it takes a good 2 to 3 years before you start to feel settled and its true. Having your own space and doing the things you used to do before is VERY important. My in-laws are great as they give me my space, they are not round all the time, they respect my routine with my children and how I do things…although that certainly took time and many times of physically holding my hand to my mouth to stop me from screaming…but we got there, its important to try to set some ground rules about personal space! If you think government offices and banks are hard work just imagine having a baby in a government hospital here….having my 4th child here was certainly an eye opener (never given birth before with my arse hanging over a bin…catchers mitt anyone!!!!) it shook me for a while and I certainly did have some dark days and lots of good cries of ‘why oh why do I do this to myself’!!! But I pulled myself together I wasn’t prepared to give up…I was not going to let this country beat me…I found it helps to try to find the funny side of things here, especially those that are out of your control. You have to think about the reasons why you came here and hold on to that. I am not here to fit in to the Turkish culture and the Turkish way of life I do things my way, the way I like them and I couldn’t give a rats arse about the ‘proper’ way!!!!

    If all else just make the Turks life a bit miserable its always nice to share the pain!!!!!

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      • I don’t get chance to pee in private, even now sitting at the computer typing this my son is in front of me with his building bricks….maybe in the future. But I do certainly enjoy reading yours.

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  15. I am experiencing sort of the opposite; I have returned back to the US, my home country, and don’t feel like I belong here — or anywhere, for that matter. I too easily see the negatives here. I guess I need to accept there are negatives everywhere, but there are also positives. Sometimes it’s difficult, but forcing oneself to see three positives every day and express gratitude for them helps (there’s science to prove it!).

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  16. The part of Turkish food all day every day gosh, why didn’t anybody warn me? Had I known this 4 years ago, I would’ve stayed quietly in my Montreal apartment and continued to enjoy my international food escapades.

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  17. I’ve been here for nearly 20 years, living and working in Istanbul – and I still love it! My Turkish is good enough to live an independent life and make Turkish friends – but my foreign-ness keeps me insulated a little from the clingy-ness of Turkish social life. Sure it’s noisy here, but I love the vibrancy and the constant change against a background of a strong local culture. Living in Turkey has given me a whole new perspective on the world. I believe there is a higher proportion of friendly, helpful, hospitable people than in most “First World” countries – but First World comforts are now readily available. Turkey’s history is second to none – and has spoiled me for visiting other places. Sure I enjoy eating Italian or Mexican now and again – and Asian when I go back to visit family in NZ every year – but for me, the variety of Turkish food is hard to get tired of. Count your blessings, is my advice – and look at what’s going on in other “civilised” countries without the rose-coloured spectacles of distance.

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