Websites like ExpatFocus.com help others gain knowledge about the community, cost of living, and even neighbourhoods. Some of the best advice is from first hand experience. This website also has articles about expat living as well.
While most of our answers tend to be the same, we continue to learn more and more about ourselves through our expat living. We enjoy sharing that knowledge with others via our website, podcast, and expat websites.
“There is a puddle of water in here!” I gasped in horror at the floor of our extra bedroom. Just 1 month into our rental, our landlady was checking over some final projects on our apartment renovation when she randomly checked the extra room and discovered a layer of water. “This is not suppose to happen your first year living abroad…” I thought to myself.
I honestly don’t know why she checked that room, but I am so thankful we found the puddle of water on the floor upstairs. After a few hard rains in November, the newly replaced roof from summer was now failing the leakproof test. The room upstairs is not one that we use a lot just yet, but it is important that we fix the leak. Winter season is mostly rainy season for the Izmir area.
As November ended, we hoped and prayed our apartment neighbors along with our landlord could figure out a solution. Three weeks later and many confusing conversations… we finally learned that that section of the roof is our landlords responsibility and the warranty is not going to cover it. Our landlord disagreed about the timing and importance of fixing the roof and suggested a tarp be laid down to catch any water over the next two weeks that we would be gone on vacation. And a part of me was wishing we would have decided to be full-time travellers instead of full-time expats…
As new tenants, we politely but firmly requested the roof be repaired. We played the game of refusing to pay rent, deducing the cost from the rent for the repairs and paying ourselves, but in the end she did have the roof fixed and paid for it too. (We secretly may have had issues with figuring out the rental transfers via our bank, and it could have looked like we were not paying because of these problems.)
Two days before our two week departure for Germany and our Christmas market tour, 2 men lifted 4 steel beams up 6 floors via a rope on the side of our apartment to resupport the roof and I just prayed it wouldn’t rain until they finished. And one day before we left, the fixers told us they would need another day. One the day we departed, our Turkish tutor, who had helped up through the process, stayed at our home so that the men could finish the roof.
Thankfully, since returning, we have had no major issues!
As you can tell and much to our disappointment, living in another country has the same issues wherever you live. What makes them slightly more frustrating is figuring out how to solve them… what method they use, who can help you, what is a good price, and how to say it in another language. BUT just like living in your native country, living in another country brings lots of other fun adventures… going to the market, travelling because things are closer, and going to the seaside for a walk.
So in the spirit of reflecting, here are questions we have been asked about our first year living abroad:
What has been your favorite part?
Neighbors and friends – Little did we know that our neighbours would be this awesome! I have really been able to connect with the ladies in our building and in turn they have invited me into their home. Jason has been able to meet some men through a coffee shop he works at and an expat meeting we went to just once. Investing in the people around you is never an empty endeavour.
Neighborhood- We love where we live, the neighborhood, parks, seaside. The large weekly market is just 10 minutes walk; Starbucks is about 5 minutes. I run along the exercise path lined with the deep blue waters and parks with benches just 10 minutes from our apartment. Our neighborhood has multiple grocery stores, restaurants, and shops that have everything we could need. Hop in a taxi and the megamall is just 10 minutes away.
Travel is always a plus! While Turkey isn’t in the EU, it is still a popular destination for Europeans’ vacation. This in turn, makes inexpensive, frequent flights more available to major European cities!
I struggled to find my balance and identity after working full-time at a university for 3 years. Jason and I had to find new systems for working and living too. Once we got use to that, it helped us manage our schedules better.
What does a day look like for you?
Daily life is fairly normal and what you would consider typical. Jason works most of the day just like he did back in the states. And just like back in the states, he works from home, or a coffee shop, breaks for lunch or turkish study time. He is generally more at ease with being by himself than I am.
When it comes to living in another country and culture, I have had to learn what works best for me, and some weeks I am still figuring it out. I will usually exercise, have Turkish lessons, study Turkish and do homework, write, photo edit, and visit neighbors or friends to practice my Turkish.
I have found friends through several paths. My closest friend here is German, and we met on a local Izmir facebook group! Through her I found the IWAI and those women continue to weave more and more connections throughout the city than I could ever hope for. Jason and I have made efforts to know our neighbors and meet people in our neighborhood. We also attended an Internations party one time, and from that Jason has continued to meet with the guys he met there.
‘You get a strange feeling when you leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you miss the person you are at this time and place because you’ll never be this way ever again.’ — Azar Nafasi
Instead of spending one more month in the states we stuck to our original departure date – determined to move overseas. We felt that delaying our move would make it harder to leave, and believe me, it was sad enough leaving family and friends behind. So 20 hours later with a very lengthy layover in the Chicago airport, we found our (very tired) selves on the sunny beaches of Rota, Spain.
Since then, these 2 people have….
Moved 8 bags via south Spain (listen here and here) to Madrid to fly one way to Turkey
And the truth? There have been MANY times I have regretted moving those first few months, especially while we were settling in.
BUT the great reality?
REGRETS and ‘second guessing’ are COMPLETELY NORMAL. And in all honesty, part of the deal. The disagreements between Jason and I about what and how much to buy, having to research and learn what to do here before you can make 5,000 decisions, deciding to budget high for travel although we had just moved, investing money into our language learning when it could be easier not to learn it at all, having to deal with having surgery in another country, the days where you don’t want to deal with culture or think about how every way you act.
Tears, sadness, loneliness, reflection, prayers (lots and lots of prayers), and choosing joy and happiness. I remember it is WORTH it. I remember how long we planned and dreamed for something like this. I remember the list of gratitudes I started in my prayer journal. I remember how sweet our neighbors, church, and friends are. I remember how far I have come for the ‘not so easy learner.’
I am SO VERY THANKFUL we made the move. The decisions, awkward start of friendships, and transitioning from one life to another have had even more happy moments to accompany them. We have walked through our Turkish friends’ wedding, sang songs in another language, loved on Turkish and expat kids that are not our nieces and nephews, and celebrated life with those around us!