Iranian expat Nazanin has lived in Turkey for almost a decade. She explains the challenges she has faced in settling in Istanbul, whilst giving advice about to make the most of living in the exciting city.
Q: Where are you originally from?
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Istanbul, Turkey
Q: When did you move to Turkey?
A: In 2008
Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/family?
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: For work, I am a banker.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Istanbul? How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country?
A: I love living in Istanbul, It is a very lively city, especially the Bosporus. There is also a beautiful view from everywhere in Istanbul.
I love living by the seaside therefore Istanbul is the best fit for me. The quality of life is better compared to my home country. Very clean air, full of oxygen and full of energy.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: I miss Iranian food. I’m not a fan of Turkish cuisine because I am used to having more spices in my food.
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life here? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: One of the biggest challenges is the Turkish language. It's horrible. The first year was difficult as you don't understand anything, therefore there were so many times when I wanted to go back to my home country.
However I never experienced cultural shock, as Turkey is very similar to my home country.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: The cost of living in Istanbul has become more and more expensive especially as the Turkish lira depreciates. When I moved to Turkey, the Lira was 1.1 against the USD. Currently it is 3.03 against USD.
Q: How would you rate the public transport? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?
A: For three years I used public transportation like the underground. However, now I use my own car. There are different types of transportation in Istanbul. Tramway, Metro buses, sea buses, buses, ferryboats.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in your city? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences with regards to doctors and hospitals? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: Healthcare is not so good. Many times the doctors don't diagnose a simple cold and after a week you need to be hospitalized because of their wrong diagnosis.
Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Istanbul? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: Tarlabasi area in Taksim, small alleys in Istiklal caddesi and Kasim Pasa Mahallesi are not safe for expats as there are many criminals in these areas.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in the city? What different options are available for expats?
A: Housing is very expensive and the standard of housing is poor as most of the houses don't have parking lots and you need to park your car far away. Natural gas is very expensive in winter time. You need to pay 300TL to warm up just one room.
You can rent an apartment in the residential areas or you can rent residencies which are more luxurious than normal apartments.
Q: Any areas/suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: Etiller, Ulus, Levent, 4. Levent, Tarabya, Ortakoy and Bebek are the best places for expats.
Meeting people and making friends
Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there any obvious discrimination against particular religions or women etc.?
A: No, there is no discrimination in general. But in the working environment they don't tolerate foreigners. Most are very restricted by Islam.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: Turkish ladies are very difficult to communicate with. No, it is not easy to make friends in Turkey.
Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends? Any social/expat groups you can recommend?
A: It is really difficult to make friends in Turkey. I mix with expats all the time.
About working here
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: I used the support of consultancy services. One of the best ones in Turkey is www.parthiana.com, I did not face any problems.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job there? Which resources did you find most useful?
A: if you are a native Russian, English, German or French speaker you can easily get a job in the language schools. If not you need to first improve your Turkish. Kariyer.Net is the best source for job seekers.
One suggestion would be to establish your own company in Turkey as the process is not difficult nor time-consuming. You can get help from one of the consultancy firms, I suggest www.parthiana.com for corporate registration. After registering your company, you can start earning money very quickly. Don’t forget that Istanbul is one of the biggest business centres in all of Europe.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in Istanbul?
A: The work environment is very competitive in Turkey. Everybody tries to compete with the others.
Family and children
Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions?
A: MEF International School is the best in Istanbul.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: take it easy and learn Turkish as soon as possible so that you enjoy Istanbul.
~Interviewed January 2016