Expat Magazine

I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Why Turkey Attracts Expats

By Ellen @ElleninTurkey
I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Why Turkey attracts Expats
We had barely put down our beach blankets when a stranger struck up a conversation:
"The sea is nice, it's not cold," he said in beginner's Turkish.
 "Really?" I responded skeptically, having already dipped my foot in the unseasonably cold water.  We chatted a bit, and then he asked if we were Turkish.  (With my dark hair and eyes and olive skin I can pass, but Gabi's Aryan look is a dead giveaway.)*
"I'm American," I replied, "and my friend's German."
"American?  I'm Canadian!" he switched to English, with an accent that didn't sound like it  came from north of the border.  An obscure French Canadian dialect, perhaps?
"What city are you from?"  I asked.
 I must have looked confused when answered  "Toronto", so he explained:  "I wasn't born in Canada.  l'm half Saudi and half Kurdish.  I was born in Syria.  And now I live here."  He pointed to the beach-front property right behind us.
We talked for a while about what brought us to Turkey, and it was two sides of the same coin: He'd been working in Saudi Arabia for several years, but didn't want to settle there.  He didn't want to go back to Canada, which was too cold in both temperature and temperament.  So Turkey was a nice compromise. He feels at home here because of the Mid-East culture and warm people, but he also enjoys the western aspects he got used to while living in Cadada.   And of course, Antalya has great weather.
It was almost the inverse of my perspective, in that the Mid-East culture which makes him feel at home is foreign to me.  But I came to Turkey because I wanted to experience a different culture.  At the same time, I wanted a place where I could feel comfortable.  Saudi Arabia, for example, would not have been an option.  Turkey is a Muslim nation, but a secular country in which my Western ways (such as sundresses and bikinis) are accepted.
Iyar obviously also accepted these Western ways:  His girlfriend was a beautiful bikini-clad woman from Kyrgyzstan.  After our introductions were completed, he said  "My Turkish class is having a party here on Saturday.  Why don't you come?  There'll be lots of people who speak English."
Foreigners who are studying Turkish, I thought,  just the kind of expats I like.  So we exchanged telephone numbers, and are now looking forward to seeing each other at Saturday's beach party.
*Actually, there are some blond, blue eyed Turks; my friend Fatma was constantly harassed during the few days I spent with her in Istanbul.  She had to scream "Ben Turkim!" to get men to apologize and move on.

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