EXPAT: Why Turkey? Why Izmir? Our 5 Reasons!

In our ‘Learn About Us’ section, we briefly share about our family, vision, and journey to this point. Even a little bit about why Turkey is special to us. 

Even more specifically Izmir, Turkey. 

In a recent little videos series on our YouTube channel called ‘Meet the Funks’, I shared about who we are and how we met. This blog post is a match to the 3rd part video sharing why we have chosen Izmir to be our expat home for now.

Let’s play catch up first if this is your first blog post you are ready, shall we? 

My husband Jason, our daughter Sofia, and I love to share turkey, culture, expat living and a little bit of travels along the way. If you want to learn more about our family you can always check out our about section, check out our FunkTravels podcast episodes 1 to 50 which documents two years of our lives moving from U.S. to Turkey and lastly, catch up on our videos here and YouTube episodes 51 to present day! If you want to continue getting updates about our family, subscribe to our newsletter. It goes out monthly and I like to include little extras that you might not get from anything else. 

I hope it will inspire you to travel here one day or who knows maybe even move here just like we did!

Ok, back to the regular program.

Jason and I are both Americans, but we actually met here in Turkey over 10 years ago when we are both living in Istanbul. You can learn all about that and how we met in our Love Story video.  

I lived overseas before for 4 years and when I move back to the state, started dating Jason, got engaged…. I hadn’t even been in the states for a full 2 years.  I knew that I wanted to live back overseas and that I knew Jason wanted to as well. But we didn’t have a plan in place. 

One evening or coming home from somewhere, I remember we stopped at a red light and I just broke down crying. I knew I wanted to move overseas but we didn’t have a plan. I was afraid we were going to get stuck. I’m not saying that getting stuck is bad. I just know that there was this desire to do this and I had vision. However, I didn’t see how we were going to get there.

Jason being the understanding and patient fiancé that he was, he surprised me with a timeline planning out our steps over the next few years and how we were going to work to move overseas. Of course, there were a lot of an Asterix or stars in those plans – like if this happens, then it may cause us to delay. BUT there was a plan! It was one of the best Christmas gift I have ever received. 

That was in 2013 and in the summer of 2016, we moved to Turkey!

From the very beginning of our relationship, Jason and I had this intentional dream to live internationally. 

First off, 3 major points that made us decide on Turkey first:

If you’ve been around at all, you know how Turkey is a pretty foundational place for us. But before I get into why we picked Izmir, I want to share why we decided on Turkey first.

  1. BOTH LIVED IN TURKEY BEFORE: We had spent significant amount of time, out of all the other countries, in Turkey. I spent two years here, and Jason spent six months here.
  2. FRIENDS: The second reason is that we have friends that continue to live here from our previous time! If we needed some support or had questions, then we had some type of support or network of friends that help us!
  3. BASE KNOWLEDGE: The third reason is that, because we already lived here before, we already some basic knowledge of the country. Things like how to pay rent, how to find apartment, how to pay bills, and bit of Turkish language. A little bit of a base just made it more comfortable a little less terrifying for a lot of people. While is it looks like we just moved here, we didn’t. To be fair, we did live here before and it’s been a huge role into why we are here again.

5 REASONS WE CHOSE IZMIR, TURKEY:

Like I mentioned, when we lived here before, we actually both live in Istanbul. But moving back together as a married couple, we chose not to live in Istanbul, but to live in Izmir. Let’s move on to why we picked Izmir!

1. NEW CITY FOR BOTH OF US

I spent a lot more time in Istanbul than Jason (1.5 years more to be exact). Sometimes moving to a place where one spouse has spent more significant time can actually cause some frustrations between spouses. Jason’s work only required a strong internet connection, so it left us flexible to try a different city in Turkey. That way we’re both starting off on Ground Zero where neither one of us knows anything really about this area and we are having to learn together. 

2. POPULATION

The second reason we looked into Izmir and not Istanbul is the population. Istanbul is a city of almost 20 million when you look at the whole state but whereas Izmir is bordering around 4 million! That is significantly less people and because Jason and I both grew up in small-towns and never lived in a big city in America, we personally wanted a city that was a little smaller but still drew an small expat/international community.

3. EXPAT COMMUNITY

Spinning off of number 2, Izmir does draw a small expat community here. NATO, few military families, universities and many global business headquarters are based out of Izmir. Plus, it is a shipping port and used to bring in a lots of cruise lines into this area. While our goal is to learn Turkish and be with Turkish friends too, it’s also nice to just know that there’s other international folk in the same place as you. 

4. WEATHER

I am a Louisiana girl who up in warm winters. Jason is from Iowa and the winters there are really cold and get snow. We lived in Iowa before moving to Izmir. I particularly was tired of freezing cold winters!

Izmir has hot summers but if you have an AC units bearable. The evenings in the summer generally cool off nicely and there’s always some type of breeze. The winters are mild. Unlink rainy Istanbul winter, Izmir has rain every once in awhile but it’s not every day.

5. HISTORICAL SITES

Finally, we love all the historical sites around this area. Ephesus is a really famous historical open-air museum and it’s within an hour’s drive of our home. Izmir is the old town of Smyrna. All of the seven churches of Revelation are within a 3 hour drive .

Thankfully Izmir being the 3rd largest city in Turkey, offers many direct flights to every major city in Turkey as well as international flights into Germany and other European countries. I didn’t feel like we always had to go through Istanbul to get another city or country!

There you have it! Those are the five reasons why we picked Izmir and have been so completely happy with it!

You can over on our Following The Funks YouTube Channel via our video: Why Turkey?? Why Izmir?? Our 5 reasons!

But I want to know about you!

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

  • Are you an expat? If so, where do you live?
  • Why did you pick that location?
  • Do you want to live in another country? If so, which one and why?

Check out our other videos in our Meet the Funks Series via our FULL PLAYLIST:

10 Best Expats to Follow in Turkey!

Back when I lived in Turkey the first time (2008-2010) blogs were just becoming a thing. I even had one… that I didn’t do much with… and I can’t tell you whatever happened to it!

Fast forward to 2021, there have been tons of blogs come and go about Turkey.

I find that bloggers tell you the truest, first hand accounts of life in Turkey and the little details of travel that are missed. These are usually expats who LIVE IN TURKEY, giving you the inside scoop. Some are intriguing, informative, or just purely entertaining – sometimes even giving you the feeling of having a coffee break with a friend.

Even though COVID is making it hard to travel right now, you can still explore and discover Turkey from the comfort of your computer screen!

Check out these great blogs and YouTubers that love to share about Turkey too!!!

Little Recap:

For the month of February (the month of lllooooovvvvveeeee), I am doing a quick little mini LOVE series. Each week I will cover 5 “…” I love about Turkey.

Here is the line up! (scroll to the bottom for all the links)

  • WEEK ONE: 5 Things I love about Turkey 
  • WEEK TWO: 5 Places I love in Turkey
  • WEEK THREE: 5 Foods I love in Turkey 
  • WEEK FOUR: 5 People who also love Turkey too 

DON’T FORGET: FREE PRINT!

If you’re new here I have a newsletter that goes out every month with a free download. I just sent out our first one for this year! This newsletter includes 3 free prints with the Turkish words faith, hope, and love. Please subscribe and access to those freebies will go straight to your mailbox!  

Let’s get started! Read on to learn the 10 PEOPLE I love to follow in Turkey

I started with the 5 from the video and then the rest are just in random order!

NOTE: There are a LOT of blogs I could post here… unfortunately many have gone inactive. I only included those I knew are still active and maintained regularly.

CAPTIVATING CAPPADOCIA

American Duke Dillard and his family moved to Cappadocia back in 2011. This blog started shortly after to share all the tips for exploring the area but more importantly to encourage you to look pasts all the rocks and get to know the wonderful people of this region.

What I love?

  • Longer term. Their website (not sure when it started) but I found it in 2013 has been around for almost a decade. 
  • Challenge you to take the roads less travelled and truly meet the people of Cappadocia
  • Amazing book that covers all things Cappadocia: Captivating Cappadocia: The Comprehensive Guidebook to the Heart of Turkey. It will NOT disappoint you – includes some discounts too!


TURKEY FOR LIFE

Julia and Barry are a British expat couple who have made a home in Fehtiye. Their blog, Turkey’s For Life, sprouted from life here and exploration of Turkey over the years.

What I love: 

  • Long Term! I’ve been following since before we moved to Turkey…. soooo 2014 ish. But they have been writing since 2009.
  • Their love for soccer and really knowing the Turkish soccer league!
  • Always willing to try and share a new restaurant or Turkish recipe.
  • Expat lives – they aren’t just full-time travelers. They love sharing daily life and all about the latest news of their beloved town of Fethiye in their Fethiye Weather newsletter!


SLOW TRAVEL GUIDE

These two Belgian expats, Pascale and Mark, don’t love the spotlight but they LOVE sharing all about Turkey. So you will find that their blog is all about Turkey and not about them. These explorers love to bring you detail articles about the less explored parts of Turkey!

What I love: 

  • Their guides, writing, and photos are always in-depth and gorgeous.
  • They appreciate taking the solo (non-tour) route and can tell you EXACTLY how to go about it too!
  • Their goal to visit every ancient site in Turkey!


WEST2EAST

Ginny Lou and Leslie are two American friends that share their expat experiences living in a more eastern region of Turkey, Adana. They know how to connect to the people and culture and share that with you! They have also branched out to create “Explore Adana,” a website devoted to sharing the unseen Eastern Mediterranean.

What I love?

  • It’s a different part of Turkey most blogs don’t cover and most tourist never visit. But you can via their website!
  • Genuine love for the Turkish Culture and people and you can tell it in their writings.
  • They have some fun merch in their little shop.


HASAT CO

American expat, Jocette, and her Turkish husband, Salih work together to share their passions in agriculture, gastronomy, and cooking. No matter where you live, their stories and recipes are fun and easy to follow.

What I love?

  • True look into Turkish village life with her husband’s family on their family farm.
  • Super fun Instagram reelz sharing non-traditional (or let’s say typically known) Turkish recipes. Oh, and some new YouTube videos coming along too.
  • Some sweet prints that depict Turkish life and some fun recipe prints. Check it out at her shop.


FIORE BELLA EXPLORES TURKEY- YOUTUBER

Hailing from Costa Rica, Fio is a trilingual beauty and new to sharing her life with others via her YouTube channel. She has quickly become popular for her upbeat videos- which she has done in English, Spanish, and even Turkish. Most of her videos are in Spanish but will have subtitles if you want to follow along.

What I love?

  • Super postive, upbeat gal with amazing story telling skills. Even in Spanish I am mesmerized by what she is saying (and I don’t speak Spanish!).
  • Love for sharing Turkey with others!
  • I definitely admire her for doing one of her videos completely in Turkish! (YOU ROCK!)


CHELSEA ELIZABETH – YOUTUBER

American expat, Chelsea, has lived in Turkey for several years now. She is super popular among the Turks sharing what it is like for a foreigner to adjust to living in Turkey and even what it is like to learn Turkish.

What I love?

  • Some fun videos about what it’s like to move from America to Turkey.
  • Her bravery for speaking in Turkish on video! (Obviously I am not there yet!)
  • She is a tell-it-like-it-is and she is not afraid to cover some of the harder topics like Fem on her channel – (THANK YOU!).


INSIDE OUT IN ISTANBUL 

Lisa Morrow, a writer from Australia, shares interviews, advice for foreigners, cultural information, and even some personal accounts of her time as an expat in Istanbul.

What I love?

  • Longer term – having visited for the first time in 1990.
  • Great writer and she always comes up with some of the most creative topics! has published three books on Turkey, including “Inside Out in Istanbul: Making Sense of the City,” “Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom” and “Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries.”
  • Encourages you to really get to know areas of Istanbul that you may never consider!


EXPLORING THE TURKISH KITCHEN

Originally from Wales, Christa now lives in Aydın with her Turkish husband. Exploring the Turkish Kitchen is a blog sharing Turkey’s culinary delights and recipes from the expat perspective. As well, she share a bit of her personal accounts of her expat life usually via a connection with Turkish food.

What I love?

  • Christa doesn’t live in the typical Istanbul or Izmir expat locations. This gives her a different insight into more regional Turkish cooking – which always differs slightly depending on the region you live in!
  • Sometimes learning a completely new culture and food can be intimidating, but she has 5 years of learning how to fight with the skill and does a great job sharing it with you!
  • Free Turkish Recipe ebook with 15 Turkish Recipes! Check it out!


TRAVELING LENS PHOTOGRAPHY

American Lanell and her Lebanese husband decided to move abroad after their kids graduated college. While Antalya, Turkey is becoming more and more their home, they are sharing their exploration of the area via photography and writings.

What I love?

  • Newer to Turkey which means they are sharing all their learning and fun eploration. Lots of expat info too in case you want to move here!
  • Located around Antalya and have some fun articles about it.
  • Beautiful website and travel guides covering lots of countries outside of Turkey too!


TURKISH TRAVEL BLOG

Having moved Aegean Coast over a decade ago, British expat, Natalie Sayın’s blog is one of the most informative on travel, history and culture in Turkey.

What I love?

  • Long term!
  • Seriously great content on almost every part of Turkey! Super easy to read and navigate.
  • Some fun expat write up on Turkish culture, film/tv, and news.


BONUS: My Pretty Everything

I came across her YouTube when I was writing this post! So I am a new to learning about her. Here is some info:

Rosemary, a Dutch expat, move to Marmaris, Turkey for her Turkish husband. She makes video’s about everything from makeup and fashion to daily life vlogs and explorations in Turkey!


There you have it! Those are my top TEN PEOPLE I love to follow about Turkey.

Check out our matching video over at our YouTube Channel.

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

  • Have you visited Turkey? 
  • Who do you follow to learn about Turkey?
  • Who did I miss on my list???

Check out our other Mini LOVE Series videos and blog post too!

Thank you for watching my mini love series and so thankful for you and I hope you enjoy the freebies!

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?

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!

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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?