“This is life, and life is short. Why do we have to live in just one country?!”
Thank you Gizem. Exactly. And that is why I am here my friend.
I meet Gizem on a bus tour driving along the Turkish-Syrian border. She is the three B’s – Bold, Brassy and Beautiful. When we speak, her initial words are, “You are from Australia?… Why did you move here?!”.
Let’s try to tackle this question and understand why Turkish people think ‘we’ are crazy for re-locating to Istanbul.
After firing off her question, Gizem, a 28 year old account manager from Istanbul, then seems to soften up to her own city telling me, “Istanbul is a crazy place and I know foreigners love it.”
“Australia and Turkey are opposites and it’s the best decision to live two different cultures.”
Ready to enter the conversation is Tuğçe who is sitting to Gizem’s left. And as if they are playing good cop bad cop on a low rating TV crime show, she says, “I think that you are definitely crazy and you took the most ridiculous decision to move to Turkey.”
Intrigued, I prod the 27 year old international recruitment specialist further but she already has her own list of questions for me.
“How come you left your developed country and came to Turkey? Yes, Turkey is developing but it might not be enough for you! People are rude, economy is poor, human rights are not protected, traffic is dangerous, government is corrupt and almost everybody smokes! Why the hell did you move to Turkey?!”Tuğçe
Thank god she finishes her interrogation with laughter.
Of course, my opinions on Australia might be the complete opposite to Tuğçe’s views on Turkey but I’ll mirror Gizem’s words, Turkey is “an experience and experience is everything”.
Recently, two DJ’s from Istanbul’s music scene exchanged vowels at a wedding that was far from traditional. The evening blended a beach club party feel that was set in a pine forest.
As a guest at this wedding I nuzzle into a bean bag and rest my back against a pine tree with a glass of wine in hand.
Sitting next to me, lost within the waves of her own bean bag, is marketing manager Benin.
With no guidance towards the topic of this article, she hears I have moved from Australia and rolls her head back and says with a burst of air “Are you crazy?! Why did you come here!?”
This Turkish local has uttered the same question as Gizem, and almost word for word.
I ask why she poses this question, and her comments, with sharp bursts of air, continue.
“Turkey is a place where anything can happen at anytime. A city where your safety is not guaranteed.”
She tells me she lived in Istanbul during the 2003 bombings that targeted two synagogues, the HSBC building and the English Consulate.
Her fears seem warranted.
She also lived in the Middle East and extends her fears of an “unforeseen future in Turkey” that she believes is developing a Middle Eastern flair for danger.
There is a mathematical equation, two negatives make a positive. Keep this in mind when reading Benin’s next commentary on Australia.
Having already traveled road trip style around Australia, Benin is able to compare both countries drawing from her own experience.
In her exact words, “Australia is beautiful! But, it is mundane. Nothing happens. It is boring. There are no people.”
Although they appear to be negative qualities, she believes because of these, “Australia is safe. It is predictable. You can live and people are happy”.
Why would I leave a so described land of happiness?
But, of course, she goes ahead and answers this very question for me.
“You came here for the excitement of the unknown. It’s interesting for you because the things that happen in Turkey don’t happen in Australia. With borders to Iraq, Syria, Georgia and Iran, there is a sense of living alongside the depths of danger yet still being able to watch the war games as safely as possible from the arena grandstands eating popcorn and sucking on a diet coke. And when sh#! hits the fan, I know,” and she states this firmly, “that you have a way out. You will get on that plane and go home. But where does that leave me??”Benin
I thought about this…She is right. I both empathise and sympathise with my new friend.
I picture Benin standing in the middle of a field, among future hostilities, covered with popcorn and coke that ‘we’ people in the grandstands have thrown over ‘our’ shoulders as ‘we’ scramble to the airport with ‘our’ foreign passports.
Benin, how could I leave you, but I know that perhaps I would…
I empathise. I sympathise and now… I apologise.
Written by Sheldon Heyes
Favourite Istanbul hoods
Gizem - Upper scale Nişantaşı. “I love the concept, people types and quality.”
Tuğçe - Loves living in Beşiktaş. “It’s the closest to western civilisation.”
Think ‘we’ are crazy for moving to Istanbul? Tell me WHY below.
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