Canadian Expat Living in Turkey - Interview with Christopher

Published: 29 Oct at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Turkey
Christopher is a twenty-something year old Canadian who finds himself living in the historic city of Istanbul. Teaching is his profession, but writing is no less a passion in his life, as evidenced by the large, diverse portfolio of work that can be found on his blog. Not to mention, Chris has been published in several esteemed magazines in many different countries, though he feels he is just beginning to scratch the surface of his writing career. Chris has spent time living in Norway, South Korea, Canada, and now Turkey, and he imagines the list will only grow longer. The world, for Chris, is a place of endless curiosity, and he can be described as someone who is rarely bored. Writing is his way of sharing the world as he sees it. Christopher's expat blog is called Heart & Seoul Travel Blog (see listing here)

On a writing assignment that focused on Bohemia. A beautiful view of Prague in the background.
On a writing assignment that focused on Bohemia. A beautiful view of Prague in the background.

Here's the interview with Christopher...


Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in good old Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

In which country and city are you living now?
Currently, I'm living in Istanbul, Turkey.

How long have you lived in Turkey and how long are you planning to stay?
I've been in Istanbul for a few months now, and I plan to be here for at least the next couple of years. Istanbul, for me, is one of those cities that you could never tire of. It's a place that you could spend a lifetime exploring, and still want more, and that's a place I can happily live (I felt that Seoul had a similar feeling when I lived there.)

Teaching English in tiny Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua.
Teaching English in tiny Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua.
Why did you move to Turkey and what do you do?
I moved here for the opportunity to live in a city with almost unparalleled history. It's difficult for me to walk down the street without being in awe of something or other. As for work, I teach here full-time at Turkish private school, which I love so far.

Did you bring family with you?
I did not in fact bring my family with me, though they are definitely looking to visit. But, I do live with my wonderful girlfriend, Bri, who also is a teacher here in Turkey. Who knows where opportunity will bring us next?...I suppose that is the excitement of it all.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The transition as far as settling into Turkey wasn't as easy as Norway or Korea for me. There is a fair amount of bureaucracy to fight your way through here in Turkey, none of it entirely too organized or efficient. However, when I sorted my way through the confusion, I found a country blossoming with life, complete with gracious, warm people.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Given its population, I think it's rather hard not to run into people in Istanbul. So far, I've met a lot of people that I have really grown fond of, and that I feel very lucky to have met. I never set out to socialize with only expats or only Turkish people - I wouldn't ever set out to search for one category or type of person to befriend. People are people wherever you go. I try to respect the Turkish customs and culture, explore the city through multiple social avenues, and whoever I meet and get along with is who I enjoy welcoming into my life. Simple as that. I have a fair amount of friends from all different backgrounds and a variety of different stories, and that suits me perfectly well.

Enjoying the Singapore sun (and fake snow) at Universal Studios in Singapore with Bri.
Enjoying the Singapore sun (and fake snow) at Universal Studios in Singapore with Bri.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Istanbul is a great city to just walk around, though it is very expansive, so sometimes you've got to hop on the metro or tram. It's always pleasant to head to an area like Sultanahmet, Taksim, Bebek, Nişantaşı, or Beyoğlu and simply explore, perhaps even get lost if you feel comfortable enough. There's just so much to see. If you had a day, I would recommend doing a whole lot of eating, and getting yourself near the Bosphorus to watch life float on by.

What do you enjoy most about living in Turkey?
The people. Everyone here seems genuinely interested in my experiences, and very generous. I've found that I walk around my area now and I'm constantly waving, giving kisses on the cheeks, and, thus, smiling. It's a welcoming place.

How does the cost of living in Turkey compare to home?
It depends on what you're buying, but prices tends to be cheaper here in Istanbul than in Toronto, which is a good thing because my salary happens to reflect that. While this isn't perfectly accurate, this should shed some light on a cost comparison - http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?country1=Turkey&city1=Istanbul&country2=Canada&city2=Toronto

Who knew Korean baseball was so great? My friends and I, that's who.
Who knew Korean baseball was so great? My friends and I, that's who.
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Turkey?
I mean, there are some negatives in every city. The biggest one for me in Istanbul? It's got to be the congestion and traffic. That can be frustrating, but if you've got a good book in your bag, then it's never too big of a deal. I would also say that the summer heat can be fairly brutal, but luckily our place here has a little AC consul that saves the day. The school on the other hand - no such luck.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Turkey, what would it be?
Be patient. You've got to be realistic of your expectations as far as timing for getting things done when you arrive. Visas, getting internet, finding a place to live - These are all things that might take a bit longer than expected. However, everything will get sorted in the end, so it's just a matter of being patient. Patience is something that, slowly but surely, I'm learning (a very fitting way to learn patience, I know).

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The language has been a challenge at times, to be honest, but that's a good thing. Living in Norway, I never felt like I had to learn Norwegian because of the ubiquitous understanding of English. Here, the language barrier motivates me to learn Turkish, and that's a good thing. You've got to search for that silver lining in any challenges abroad.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I love Canada, so it won't be a matter of "coping" with anything I imagine. Generally speaking, wherever I am, I relish my surroundings. However you look at it, my Canadian blood is always flowing through my veins wherever I go. I'll just have to make sure I get the Canadian healthcare back up and running and deal with updating driver's licenses etc., though I don't think it'll be too challenging.

Just flipping a coin, for good measure. Outside the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest.
Just flipping a coin, for good measure. Outside the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest.
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Get lost. When you live in a city, you can afford to drop the map, forget the guidebook, and discover your own version of the city.
  2. You're gone but not forgotten. Make sure to keep in touch with friends and family back home. You'll be much happier and so will they. You're never too busy to reach out to an old friend back home. With technology these days, there aren't really any excuses for not dropping a line every once and a while.
  3. This sounds cliche, but try new things. The person you were back home shouldn't limit the person you hope to become abroad.
  4. Be social. Meet people through couchsurfing, internations, going to restaurants, bars, cafes, language clubs, even just walking down the street...the list is endless. Be open to all sorts of people. I just couldn't survive in a new city without that social aspect.
  5. Savour the moments. When I came back home from Korea, I felt like Korea was almost a dream that was too good to be true, and that maybe I didn't appreciate it enough at the time (though now I feel as if I did.) Try to relish the small moments abroad, like an excellent kebab on a Saturday stroll. It's the little things that make the big picture so bright and beautiful.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I started my blog about five years ago in Norway. I continued it when I arrived in Korea, and here I am still writing here in Istanbul. Since the beginning, it has gained a lot of momentum, and I'm happy to say it's getting heavier traffic by the day. I write about things I see and have seen that fascinate me, and that, perhaps, will fascinate you.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
People heading to Istanbul, and specifically Şişli where I live can reach me on twitter @travelingmitch, or shoot me an email at [email protected] Or, if you're looking to see photos of the area beforehand, check out my instagram - @travelingmitch.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingChristopher is a Canadian expat living in Turkey. Blog description: I started this blog in Norway 5 years ago, then continued it in South Korea, where I was sponsored by the Korean Gov. Now, I'm in Istanbul and will be writing from here consistently for the next 2 years.
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