One full year spent in Turkey.
I go from being totally overwhelmed and excited to being completely antisocial and alienated. Last night having a conversation with a fellow expat in Bursa I got to thinking that not having any expectations is the best way to start building your experience in a new culture and new society.
Let’s think of it like building a house with little LEGO bricks. But let’s say that the box with the bricks does not indicate whether they are colourful or black, square or rectangular, moreover it doesn’t say how many pieces are inside, what age is appropriate for using it and it doesn’t give you even a little glimpse or idea of what you can build from it. Yes, you go online and you search for blogs with instructions, you read through thousands of DIYs, you register on websites that say “the easiest way to build stuff from LEGO bricks”.. but you still don’t know what can you build from it.
Coming to live to a foreign country is not being able to pick into the box and see what you will make. Makes sense that if you’ll expect to build an Eiffel Towel without knowing that your particular box comes with just enough parts to make a cute little summer house, you will be disappointed. Turkey in this way is a complete lottery and a total surprise. You can expect good food, yes, true! But when you actually LIVE here and not really have much choice of restaurants with international cuisines, when on most of the days your choice is köfte or kebab (including hundreds of version of kebab, it is still a kebab), it can get boring and repetitive. Or you can prepare yourself for a total solitude and hard social adaptation, and find yourself surrounded with people who speak English, who will go and watch silly American movies with you and will appreciate when you bake chocolate chip banana muffins for them. You can expect to easily get a job and end up completely changing your career. You can expect to love every minute of it and then to be utterly disappointed that you can not have a good meal with a glass of wine in most local restaurants… because they simply do not serve alcohol. And you will be disappointed with how much does a descent bottle of wine cost in the supermarket. Silly? Maybe. After all, drinking wine is not the most important thing in life (says who?). But in a worst-case scenario, if you can’t find a job, if you have nobody to talk to, if your partner’s family is overwhelming you, if you struggle every day with learning Turkish but still trying your best, if you are called a “yabanci” and often in a not such a kind way, not being able to drink a glass of wine with dinner must just push you over the edge :D
… When you open your box with bricks you can do whatever your imagination allows you to do. If the bricks are black you can easily paint them. You can draw flowers or stars on it. You can get upset and put it all back in the box and shove it under your bed, or you can build something beautiful day by day, little by little.
Not having expectations allows to accept new experiences with an open heart, open mind, and with a positive attitude. When we move to a new country we bring our old lives, our memories, our ways of doing certain things, so nobody, nobody can really give us an assessment and a to-do list how to feel more or less comfortable or happy in a new place.
After all, living here is not easy, but believe me when I say that I’ve erased my expectations when I decided to move here and I take everything in as I go, and it is such a challenging yet happy eventful adventure that I would not trade it for anything else.
From Turkey with love.