REVIEW: 2020 – COVID, YouTube, + Turkey Travels

Living in Turkey has some great benefits but when come to COVID, they are (semi) serious about their restriction and lockdowns. Due to those restrictions Jason and I shared our sushi and reflection questions with Sofia this year.  I am now sitting here on a 4 day New Year weekend lockdown writing out our 2020 REVIEW for this week. It will be the earliest I have gotten out a review. 2019 Review took me until April 2019. 2018 Review was in February 2018.

FIRST OFF: ADOPTION

Everyone always wants the updates of Sofia’s adoption. So instead of making you search for it, I have put it first on the agenda.

2018 was ‘technically’ the year we became parents. In 2019, custody of our daughter was legalized. We hoped our surprise private adoption would be finalized in 2020, but unfortunately it is delayed until 2021. Thankfully nothing can be ‘undone’, but we are just having to wait longer until everything is finalize.

If you are just joining in … you can find our adoption information here: Announced our adoption plans! (Adoption video #1 on our YouTube channel, but you can view the adoption playlist here.) Decided we had to move to America for said adoption plans….Then decided not to move to America because of an unexpected but exciting private adoption opportunity that came up here in Turkey!

SECOND: COVID

2020 has been an odd year for all. Turkey did not miss out. We had 3 months of strict restrictions and lockdowns last spring. In June, they started lifting and we ventured to a seaside town for a few weeks to get out of the city. We have cautiously made the most of our freedom and are thankful some family came to visit.

Unfortunately, as winter is approaching the covid numbers are rising again. We are already back on some partial lockdowns, and it looks like the winter will bring even more restrictions once again.

THIRD: YOUTUBE

Due to our adoption, we have placed almost all travels outside of Turkey on hold until all of this adoption stuff is complete and for 2019, we stuck close to Izmir. We SAID we were going to share these travels but it wasn’t until COVID that I got back into my website work and editing videos for myself! I hope you have found our content to be more all-encompassing of our lives as the Funk family – balancing life, work, expat living, mini-travels, and parenthood.

Our recap of 2020:

I did something a little different this year to share our year via our Following The Funks YouTube Channel. I started back on our FollowingTheFunks website and videos this year and it has been so rewarding!

This video has a TON of pictures and videos we have NEVER shared before with you (if anyone has been around since 2018, you would have noticed I took a crazy amount of time away from Instagram with all the transition going on in our lives). This April/May I finally buckled down and started producing content again – if not for you, then for our family to remember our lives here in Turkey.

Since there is not much explanation for anything in the video. So I did want to write out a quick recap of some of our memories over 2020!

  • January was normal life – work, Catie with her projects, and Sofia learning to walk more steadily. I think the most amazing part of this last year is watching Sofia grow from baby toddler to full on toddler child. (Is that a thing?)
  • February Sofia took her first airlines flight and we visited some friends in Istanbul. She then came down with the flu and we spent the rest of our week in the tiny airbnb apartment.
  • Jason also took a trip to the USA. It had been over a year since he had seen his family (remember I went 2 times in 2019?). He was able to visit our 3 new nieces and nephews and celebrate with his family at his Grandpa’s 90th birthday party.
  • Meanwhile, Catie took a solo trip with Sofia (on her second airline flights) to see her friend in Adana, Turkey. Sofia did unfortunately throw up all over me at the end of our arriving flight.
  • In June, most of the restrictions started lifting. We stayed closer to home but we thankful to take Sofia out daily at this point! Let’s just say that reentry into semi-normal society in a global pandemic is a lot like culture shock.
  • In July we decided to give ourselves a break from Izmir and skipped out to a little beach town called Kalkan. We stayed 3 weeks and enjoy each week with a different family/friends. The freedom to move around was refreshing (yes, we were cautious and wore mask). You can see a playlist from some of our summer here and what travel was like during COVID-19 in Turkey).
  • August was low key for everyone but Sofia. Jason changed out her crib to a toddler bed, gave up her Paci completely, and was potty trained. Oh and I am sure there was always coffee involved!
https://followingthefunks.com/category/black-sea-road-trip/
  • October came and went in a blur – literally… as I write this, I can’t remember what we did. I did a pumpkin decorating workshop and macaroon workshop with friends. Otherwise, it was a lot of normal life, Turkish breakfast every Saturday morning, and a lot of friend time. Oh and Sofia’s first fall party.
  • At the end of October, our city of Izmir was hit by a 7.0 earthquake. We were at home and experienced 15- 20s of strong shaking, which was very scary. Thankfully our home is fine but there are areas in Izmir that were devastated. Around 20 buildings immediately collapsed, over 100 people died, and 500+ buildings are scheduled for demolition.
  • November – Sofia turned two! This is the turning point for Sofia language! She started making sentences, and by the end of the year we were have two-way conversations (not just yes or no stuff!).
  • As well, a couple of Jason’s cousins came to visit us and we took them to Cappadocia and Istanbul. We are so thankful the new COVID restrictions and lockdowns didn’t start until after our cousins left.
  • In November, we had high hopes that our adoption would be finalized. We waited almost a year for this court date. But it was disappointing that it will be delayed until 2021. Thankfully it does not undo anything that has taken place. It is so surreal to think that we announced her to everyone in May of 2019!
  • In December, we enjoy filling our lives with advent activities to celebrate Christmas. This also included a last minute plan to spend a weekend out at a farm with friend. Sofia’s was able to ride a horse which is a daily topic of conversation still.

Last but not least! Our new contributor at Nia’s Corner:

Nia, a fellow expat living in Izmir, Turkey, joins Following The Funks as a contributor writer back in the spring. I am SO thankful for her insight, knowledge and thoughtfulness she puts into every post she writes over at Nia’s Corner! You haven’t seen her post these last couple of months because the earthquake effected where she was living. She has had a lot on her plate finding a new home and moving. I am hopeful you will get some more content this 2021.

You can find the complete list of her writings here. I think you will find more than a couple that will entice you! Thank you Nia for all you have share here on FTF!

WRAPPING IT ALL UP:

It is crazy to think we are in our 5th year of this journey. We are hopeful that 2021 will bring finalization of Sofia’s adoption as well as her USA immigration paperwork. If all works out then by the end of 2021 we should find ourselves in the states finalizing Sofia’s citizenship!

If anything I am so thankful I did this to remember all the GOOD 2020 held in the middle of a crazy global pandemic and restrictions and lockdowns in Turkey.

Thanks for letting us share our lives with you and being part of our 2020.

Jason + Catie + Sofia

Comment below and let me know about some of the questions below:

  • What is your best thing about 2020?
  • What was the hardest?
  • How did you grow for the better this year?
Black Sea Ordu Turkey Teleferik Gondola

TURKEY: Top 5 sites in Ordu, Turkey (and a BONUS one)

Little Recap:

Jason and I have talked about doing a Black Sea Road trip throughout the North East area of Turkey ever since we moved to Turkey, but it has never happened in the last 4 years of living here. On HIS birthday, Jason surprised me by setting aside some dates, finding tickets, renting a car, and making a ‘let’s go’ plan!  So in less than 10 days before leaving, we finalized our itinerary and booked all our lodging for 12 nights. It was a little stressful but we made it happen! ***Spoiler: It turned out to be an amazing time, to say the least.

COVID-19 has not made 2020 fun for anyone, even us living the expat life in Turkey, and traveling in the midst of the virus meant we had to be extra careful and mindful of our exposure. You can check out some of our other travels during COVID times to Kalkan this past summer.

Now on to Ordu!

Black Sea Ordu Turkey Teleferik Gondola
Black Sea Ordu Turkey

Back in the 5th century BC, Ordu was the site of ancient Cotyora, founded by Greek colonists from Sinope. A lot like Samsun, it follows the history of most of the Turkish Republic being passed from one empire to the next.

At the turn of the 20th century, the city was more than half Christian (Greek and Armenian). Taşbaşı Church, a former Greek Orthodox church in the neighborhood Taşbaşı, is one of the only prominent surviving churches. It was first built in 1853, used as a prison between 1937-1977, and then restored in 1983 by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey. The church, which was converted into a cultural center in 2000, continues to be transformed into an archaeological museum. It was closed when we went but we peeked at the outside from the fence. 

With a population of 220,000, Ordu is the capital of Ordu Province. The main city spans along the 10 kilometers of beautifully maintained public Black Sea coastline. Quickly become a modern symbol for the city, the Boztepe teleferik, or cable car transports passengers from the coast to the Boztepe hill, a good 550 m (1,800 ft) and is THE thing to do here.

As well, Ordu produces 25 percent (YES, TWENTY FIVE!) of the worldwide crop of hazelnuts (Turkey as a whole produces about 75 percent of the world’s hazelnuts). This was a fun stop for us and we would definitely come back!

Black Sea Ordu Turkey

Read on to know what you should see and do in Ordu, Turkey:

1. Teleferik and Boztepe

  • Located 550 meters above sea level, Boztepe is the highest place in the city of Ordu. A quick 6-minute cable car ride takes you to a cobblestone road lined with little vendors selling everything from hazelnuts to little handmade trinkets. There are several little cafes, restaurants, and tea houses with a stunning view of the sea just waiting to serve visitors. For 15 TL a roundtrip ticket, it is one of the most affordable and enjoyable things to do in Ordu!
  • I don’t know much about the paragliding but we did see a couple gliding through the air as we enjoy our cable car ride. This website can give you a few companies to check out if it interest you!

2. Ters Ev (Upside-down house)  

  • Completed by Ordu Metropolitan Municipality in 2019, the Ters Ev (aka – Up-side Down House) is 150 square meter, 2 story home sitting on it’s roof and even has a small car ‘parked’ out front. A quick 2 minutes walk from the teleferik, visitors enjoy 2 of the cities most visited attractions.

3. Black Sea Coastline

  • I mentioned this in our Samsun post too, but really, it’s a must! Take some time to just stroll down the 10 kilometers of seaside and even take a dip in the sea. Multiple beaches are positioned along the way equipped with restrooms, changing areas and even showers.

4. Hazelnuts

  • Ok, not really a site but a ‘must-learn-about-and-try’ item! In between the Teleferik loading area and the Ters Ev lies an open market with several wooden stands for businesses to display their products.
  • Like I mention, Ordu produces a whopping 25 percent of the worldwide crop of hazelnuts – that’s amazing! So you can imagine they sell almost everything imaginable that they can do with hazelnuts! One of our favorite stands, Meşhur Ordu Helva, treated us with a taste of hazelnut and walnut Helva, and we definitely ended up buying some to take with us.

5. Colorful Buildings of Downtown

  • In my research about what to see in Ordu, NO one mentioned how COOL the downtown area is. A pedestrian-only street lined with colorful buildings where visitors can meander while window shopping is one of my favorite things! I wish we had more time to explore this area, but I was able to snap a few shots!

BONUS: Nearby Yason Kilisesi

  • The location isn’t exactly in Ordu, but if you are driving from Samsun to Ordu, like we did, then take the detour to Yason Cape just before you get to Persembe. Do NOT miss it! I PROMISE if the weather is even somewhat good then this place is the best stop you can make!
  • This small peninsula facing the sea is currently a governmental environmental protection area and there is no charge or touristy thing about it. Yason’s, or Jason in English (my Jason loved that!), Church built in 1868 by Georgians and Greeks still stands among the ruins of its garden wall. It is said the church was built in the place of an old temple that was built as a protector of the sailors of Black Sea‘s treacherous waters. The church held a similar mission.
  • Nearby the church is a lighthouse and a quiet, beautiful area full of green grass and wild flowers. We even took a dip in the calm, little cove.
BlackSeaRoadTrip Ordu Persembe Yason Church Lighthouse Turkey

Our other tips for this area:

Getting There:

  • For our road trip, we flew from Izmir to Ankara on Pegasus Airlines and drove a rental car from Ankara to Rize- stopping in Amasya, Samsun, Ordu, and Trabzon along the way.
  • Looks like Pegasus Airlines may have a few direct flights from Izmir to the remote Ordu-Giresun airport. Otherwise, most flights will have 1 stopover via Istanbul airports.
  • Istanbul has direct flights to the Ordu-Giresun airport.

Lodging: 

  • Hampton by Hilton Ordu: Rooms are a little tight for space and we had some issues with our check-in. Otherwise, the location is PERFECT. It is literally 3 minute walk to the sea-side and restaurants.

Restaurants: 

  • Tomur Cafe: Great outdoor space by the water. It is known more for it’s burgers, pizza, salad – not a traditional Turkish food restaurant.
  • Our hotel provided breakfast, and we fill up on all the treats while touring in the morning so proper lunch was not necessary.

Nearby:

  • If you are looking for a few extra stops, west-bound Samsun is the provincial capital and starting point of the 1919 Turkish War of Independence.
  • As you continue eastward, Trabzon and Rize are next two stops you can not miss. Videos and blog post for this area coming soon!

Overall, Ordu is on our ‘visit again’ list. The beauty of the Black Sea and friendly people made want to come back for more! Even though a day is sufficient time for a short visit, I am sure a few more days would give you a deeper view into the city. You can explore Ordu with us over on our Following The Funks YouTube Channel via our Ordu video and see what all we did in our late afternoon/ morning visit!

Comment below and let me know about some of the questions below:

  • Do you want to travel to Ordu now?
  • Have you traveled to Ordu before?
  • If so, what did you love? What did we miss?!

And stay tuned! This is just the 3rd of our (most likely) 7 part video and blog post series of our road trip.

  • SPOILERS: Instagram highlights
  • My top 5 tools video for how we planned our travels – POST(coming) and VIDEO
  • Part 1: Explore Ankara, Turkey – POST(coming) and VIDEO
  • Part 2: Explore Amasya, Turkey – POST(coming) and VIDEO
  • Part 3: Explore Samsun, Turkey – POST and SAMSUN VIDEO
  • Part 4: Explore Ordu, Turkey – POST and VIDEO

More to come:

  • Part 5: Explore Trabzon Part 1, Turkey – POST and VIDEO
  • Part 6: Explore Rize, Turkey – POST and VIDEO
  • Part 7: Explore Trabzon Part 2, Turkey – VIDEO

Black Sea Samsun Turkey

TURKEY: Top 5 sites in Samsun, Turkey

Jason and I have talked about doing a Black Sea Road trip throughout the North East area of Turkey ever since we moved to Turkey, but it has never happened in the last 4 years of living here. On HIS birthday, Jason surprised me by setting aside some dates, finding tickets, renting a car, and making a ‘let’s go’ plan!  So in less than 10 days before leaving, we finalized our itinerary and booked all our lodging for 12 nights. It was a little stressful but we made it happen!

***Spoiler: It turned out to be an amazing time, to say the least.

COVID-19 has not made 2020 fun for anyone, even us living the expat life in Turkey, and traveling in the midst of the virus meant we had to be extra careful and mindful of our exposure. You can check out some of our other travels during COVID times to Kalkan this past summer.

Black Sea Samsun Turkey Teleferik Gondola
Black Sea Samsun Turkey

Samsun is the largest city, an important shipping port, and the traditional provincial capital of the Black Sea region of Turkey. We learned it was supposedly the home to the legendary Amazon warriors. According to Greek legends, these women warriors were famous for wielding bows and arrows and using double-headed axes for fighting in battles.

Samsun, like the rest of Turkey, has passed through the hands of many empires. One of the oldest names it holds is Amisos given by Miletusians (Miletus), which was one of the Ionian city-states, between 760-750 BC.

Unfortunately, most of Samsun was burnt to the ground by Genoese raiders in the 1400s. So, even though it is very old, there is not much old architecture left to enjoy.

Regardless, this city will always have a special in the republican history of Turkey. Samsun is the location of the start of the War of Turkish Independence in 1919 by the republic’s founder, Kemal Atatürk. The most famous symbolic monument in the town is a bronze statue depicting equestrian Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Read on to know what you should see and do in Samsun, Turkey:

1.Amazon Warrior & Twin Lions Statues:

  • Located near Bati Park in Baruthane along the seafront, the twin gold lion and Amazon warrior statues are hard to miss. A man-made canal runs through the center of the park. Supposedly, the park has lots of activities for children such as go-carting and play areas as well as plenty of wide shaded areas for picnicking. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there wasn’t much open. For a small fee currently 5 lira, you can also visit the nearby Amazon village.

2. Black Sea Coastline

  • 14 kilometers of seaside…. just enjoy a long beautiful walk (hopefully if it’s not too windy!)

3. Amisos Hill and Gondola/Cable Car:  

  • The first settlement in Samsun, formerly known as Amisos, was around 750 B.C. by the Milesians, a Hellenic civilization. While I didn’t see any ancient tombs, I heard there were some scattered along the walking path to see.
  • At the top of the hill, a cafe with a stunning view of the sea waits for you to enjoy a cup of tea, or even a meal. The cable car is right beside the cafe. A quick 5-minute ride takes you down to the park close to the twin lions.

4. Onur Park/ Downtown

  • Sandwiched between the seaside and downtown is a beautiful city park perfect to enjoy a chat with a friend or a well–equipped park for the kids. The Onur Anıtı positioned in the middle of the park depicts the equestrian Turkish founder, Ataturk, riding a horse.

5. All the Museum: (Unfortunately most do not have lots of English translations.)

  • Bandirma Ship Museum – Entrance Fee: 5 TL – I wish we would have seen this one! The ship is a replica of the original ship that was destroyed in the 1920s. The ship reminds the visitors of Mustafa Kemal’s journey to the city in 1919 at the start of the War of Independence.
  • Samsun City Museum – Good museum to learn about the city’s history. Even though most signs do not have English, there are supposedly audio guided tours recorded on a device in multiple languages.
  • Archeological and Ethnographic Museum and, right next door, the Atatürk Museum

Our other tips for this area:

Getting There:

  • For our road trip, we flew from Izmir to Ankara on Pegasus Airlines and drove a rental car from Ankara to Rize- stopping in Amasya, Samsun, Ordu, and Trabzon along the way.
  • Pegasus Airlines and Turkish Airlines have daily flights from Istanbul to Samsun. No direct flights from Izmir unfortunately.
  • Bus service is frequent and convenient to Samsun, especially with the Ulusoy company.

Lodging: 

  • Park Inn by Radisson Samsun: Although it is in the next town over and not in the hussle and bustle of Samsun, we really enjoyed staying here. The hotel has high standard, a great room service menu, and a friendly staff making it one of my favorite hotels we stayed at on our 2 week trip (and we stayed in 7 different places!).

Restaurants: 

  • no special recs (because we order room service at Park Inn and it was fantastic) but this is the side location we stopped at downtown at a local place a grabbed some pide for the road.
Black Sea Samsun Turkey  Pide

Nearby:

  • If you are looking for a few extra stops, west-bound Sinop is the highest point along the Black Sea Coastline of Turkey.
  • On the way to Ordu is a town called Giresun. It’s another easy little stop if you want to spend some more time experiencing the Black Sea Region.

Overall, Samsun is a must-see location for Turkish history buffs but otherwise, I would say a full-day visit (or 2 if you have kiddos that nap) should be sufficient. You can explore Samsun with us over on our Following The Funks YouTube Channel via our Samsun video and see what all we did in our late afternoon/ morning visit!

Comment below and let me know about some of the questions below:

  • Do you want to travel to Samsun now?
  • Have you traveled to Samsun before?
  • If so, what did you love? What did we miss?!

And stay tuned! This is just the 3rd of our (most likely) 7 part video and blog post series of our road trip.

  • SPOILERS: Instagram highlights
  • My top 5 tools video for how we planned our travels – POST(coming) and VIDEO
  • Part 1: Explore Ankara, Turkey – POST(coming) and VIDEO
  • Part 2: Explore Amasya, Turkey – POST(coming) and VIDEO
  • Part 3: Explore Samsun, Turkey – POST and SAMSUN VIDEO

More to come:

  • Part 4: Explore Ordu, Turkey – POST and VIDEO
  • Part 5: Explore Trabzon, Turkey – POST and VIDEO
  • Part 6: Explore Rize, Turkey – POST and VIDEO
  • Part 7: Explore Trabzon, Turkey – POST and VIDEO

EXPAT: 5 ways to document your expat adventures

Note: This article was first featured over at Expat Magazine at Expat.com titled “5 Ways to Document Your Expat Adventures.” – You can see all my published works on my portfolio page.

Quick Foreword:

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I LOVE talking about expat living. Not a traveling digital nomad, but a ‘we found a county and stayed put’ type of digital expat. Before I moved, I had this jumbled mix of what I loved writing about and I had a hard time narrowing it down to one specific area.  But over the last 4 years of living in Turkey, my 2nd time to move abroad, and writing last weeks article about culture shock, I think I have found (one of) my niche!!

Even more than chatting about expat living, I love sharing the ways I have documented our expat adventures. *Spoiler* The most interesting way is through our FunkTravels Podcast and FollowingTheFunks YouTube channel! In the midst of moving, traveling, and adjusting to another culture, documenting our memories can be the one thing that is thrown to the wayside. It also becomes one of the biggest regrets of those when they journey onward to the next phase of life.

Ok, we are ready to move on! Here is the article:

I woke up one morning and had completely forgotten where I was. You know how a really deep, good sleep can disorient you? Something in the room made me think I was in Turkey on a cool fall morning, maybe how the sunlight streamed in through the windows just so or the smell of the crisp morning air coming in through the open window. Of course, I quickly realized that I was no longer living in Turkey, but instead, I was in my bed in the States.

It’s funny to remember that now because currently my husband and I now live in Turkey once again. The smells and sounds of the neighborhoods are ingrained into my memory and I know… this is our lovely Turkey. It is strange how our senses can spark the littlest memories about a place.

Sometimes I get completely transported back to the places I have visited, whether I want it or not, remembering the tiniest details that I didn’t realize I had forgotten  – like the taste of butter, removing shoes at the door, or the certain fruity smell of a pipe from a hookah.

Over the last ten years, I’ve spent 5 of those as an expat; both single and married. I love being reminded of the journey and adventures we’ve had this year on our latest expat experience. I know that when we are back in our home country, I will enjoy looking back through the ways that I have documented our time abroad as well as sharing those memories with others.

Here are 5 ways I have used to document the adventures of our up-and-down, never-dull, fun, frustrating, and wonderful expat life.

1. KEEP A SIMPLE JOURNAL:

Keeping a journal has been proven to help people reflect and process change, but it’s mostly just a great place to hold memories. Keep a running list of things you love about the culture and place you live. Write stories of when someone helped you, a kind gesture on the street, or laughs of the neighborhood children after school. Journals are easy to take with you and write in at any time!

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset

2. START A WEBSITE:

This is probably the most popular choice. It can be a digital journal option for you and a great way to include your photos. If you are super tech-savvy, vlogs are growing in popularity. If you enjoy writing as a creative outlet, a website is a great way to share your expat lives with others and find an online community as well.

3. START A PODCAST:

Audio series are a great way to share your stories with others! My husband and I enjoy listening to them together on road trips, while working, or on any lengthy public transportation rides! So when moving to Turkey together this time, we decided to share our expat journey with others via podcast! (Update: Via 50 episodes of our podcast we shared our move from the USA through our 2nd year living in Turkey – so January 2016 to spring of 2018. We now still published blog post like this and have ‘continued’ our podcast via our newer brand of FollowingTheFunks YouTube channel.)

4. CREATE A PHOTO BOOK:

Maybe writing isn’t your thing, but creating a photo timeline of your journey is! Photo books are one of my favorite ways to remember a trip, experience, or even an entire year. There are many websites to help you create beautiful digital photo books of your travels. Or if you enjoy crafty projects, make a photo book from scratch.

5. ORGANIZE AND PRINT THOSE PICTURES:

If possible, just taking time to organize your pictures is a way to document your expat life! Perhaps there isn’t time to do all the other things mentioned above! No problem, do what works for you! And when all else fails, just print those pictures! These days it is so easy to never go out and print photos. So every month gather your favorite photos and print them! Then move the old photos over to a photo album, and hang up your newly printed pictures! (Update: I have just gotten the hang of this and got a ton of photo books done!)

Those are just a few of the many ways you can document your expat journey! Overall, the main goal is to just do something! It doesn’t have to be perfect (which if I am honest, is very hard for me), but you just have to start!

Now to you:

Have you used any of the ways above to document your story?  

How have you documented your expat adventures? 

What tips do you have for others who want to start documenting their expat life?

EXPAT: 5 Tips to Overcoming Culture Shock

When the excitement of moving abroad wears off

Note: This article was first featured first on the Expat Women in Turkey website. You can see all my published works on my portfolio page.

Spring is gorgeous here. The sun shines and the weather is just the right temperature. Recently, I went out for a few errands and just basked in the rays of sunlight peeking through as I weaved in and out of the shadows made from my neighborhood buildings and trees. In a split second, I went from gloriously praising MY lovely city to cursing the stinky rules of THEIR culture. Because, for the almost 1 millionth time, I barely missed stepping on fresh dog poop in the middle of the sidewalk….

Eight months ago (Update: now 4 years!) my husband and I moved from a small town in the midwest of the United States to Izmir, a busy apartment city of 4 million people. We moved from one set of cultural rules to another – spoken and unspoken. An unspoken one in America, you pick up your dog’s poop and throw it away (or take them to a dog park) and here in Turkey, leaving poop everywhere is totally acceptable. Amazing how one little thing can spark a moment of anger stemming from culture shock.

(Update: I have since come to learn that this is NOT a norm and street dog are a major culprit here with this issue. ALSO, I would like to point out just how amazing clean these major cities are kept!)

But this isn’t the first time I have moved internationally.  Before marrying my sweet man, I spent 2 years in Turkey and 1.5 more years in Afghanistan.  From my experience, the first few months can be hard because you have to adjust everything about your life. Other people seem to have a little honeymoon phase (maybe 2-4 months) before the frustrations hit them full-on. 

Throughout these journeys, I have found a few ways to counteract culture shock:

1. KEEP A JOURNAL:

Keeping a journal has been proven to help people reflect and process change. However, many people end up using a journal to vent about things they don’t like or make them angry. While there is nothing wrong with that, I suggest using your journal another way. Keep a running list of things you love about the culture and place you live – especially in the beginning while the ‘honeymoon’ stage is still happening.  Write stories of when someone helped you, a kind gesture on the street, or laughs of the neighborhood children after school.

2. BE A TOURIST FOR A DAY:

My best way to counteract the frustration of living in another country is to get out and explore. Sometimes it is easy to fall into the routine of work, eat, sleep and repeat. Make a list of places, festivals, and events to explore in your city then make a plan and go! It can seem intimidating, but the more you try new things, the easier it becomes to explore.

Culture Shock - Expat living

3. MAKE YOUR COMFORT FOOD:

While I promise you it won’t be the same, it’s definitely worth the effort! The first time I moved to Istanbul, I basically had to learn to cook my comfort food from scratch. But when I mastered my first banana bread recipe, it became a go-to for times I felt like everything I ate was foreign.

4. EXERCISE:

Sometimes moving to a new city can stop our daily routines. Maybe you exercised before moving, but now are lacking motivation.  One of the best things I did my first year abroad was pay (way too much money, mind you) for a gym membership. It gave me a reason to get out of my house, interact with others, and meet new people.

5. MEET YOUR NEIGHBORS:

You may think “why would I meet new people when people are the cause of my culture shock?!” Believe me, it is the best advice others gave me when I was feeling frustrated. Creating deeper relationships with locals (or even other expats) helps you understand the culture more. Perhaps cultural frustration can be resolved by learning more about why people do the things that they do. Also, connecting with other people helps you notice individuals behind “those Turks” or “those Americans” or “those… insert people group here“.  Grace and open-mindedness help you move past culture shock into an area of understanding and appreciation for another’s home country.

These are just a few ways I have found helpful to avoid and break through the culture shock in the 3 countries I have called home in the last 10 years.

Remember that you are not alone and there is always someone to talk to! So instead of withdrawing, maybe consider doing the exact opposite and see how it goes! 

Which one sounds most appealing to you?

If you have moved abroad, what has helped you overcome culture shock?