A Turk in Poland

As many of you know, my partner is a Turk and he has been living in Poland for almost one and a half year now. As any other immigrant, he had to go through a couple of culture shocks so that he could finally get used to living here.
I often read about the experiences of Polish women moving abroad but I guess it is not that usual to read about foreginers managing somehow in Poland (or at least I have not come across too many of such articles). I would like to present to you some of his “challenges” when trying to get accustomed to living here, which I found interesting.

  1. It’s so flat in here!

It seems that in Istanbul you always climb something. It was only after some time that I realised that Warsaw indeed is completely flat! There is no exercise opportunity when climbing one hill after another, there is no car riding over a hill 45 grades steep, there is no risking your life when trying to climb any hill by car in winter (on plain summer tyres, as they always do in Turkey).

2. You drink so little!

Really, when compared with Turks, we do drink very little water. In Istanbul, there is a Man With Water at almost every corner and Turks buy those half-a-litre plastic bottles almost all the time (yes, they do have a big problem with plastic consumption). And of course tea – always and everywhere possible.
“Your tea is so tasteless! And you have such a small variety of it!” – we are talking about black tea (not teabags!), of course. Maybe you are not aware but even the famous yellow Lipton tea in Turkey is not from India/Sri Lanka but from Turkey actually. There are many types of tea and everyone has an opinion about each type. But they would still drink each type when served one 😉
We have also recently realised that it is quite difficult to find “real coffee” (according to a Turk) here – small, strong and full of aroma. Usually the only possible option is espresso but it is nothing when compared to the Turkish coffee, naturally.

3. You drink so much!

This time it is about alcohol, of course. It must come as a shock for any non-Pole (or non-Slavic person?). Every possible party means a certain bottle on the table. Each celebration; each joyful or sad occassion; together with a herring, pizza or desserts. Always. Everywhere. I also do not understand this “tradition” myself but I have not been noticing it until I looked at Poland through the eyes of a foreigner. What a shame.

4. Alcohol is so cheap!

It is a matter connected with the above point. Foreigners are in awe when they see that vodka, wine and beer can be that cheap. But what comes along is the numbers of drunkards in public transportation – my personal tragedy. Each time when I enter a bus/tram, I check two things: where it would not be windy/cold and where there are no stinkers. It’s nice we have a big variety of products in shops but I do not think it is something we could be proud of. I have been in contact with foreigners for over 10 years and I have heard just too many stories of hindus or muslims who would “forget” what their religions require; I have seen too many couples splitting because of hmm uncontrolable behaviors during parties… Seriously, one day you have to say STOP.

5. You eat so heavy!

Obviously, when compared to the Mediterranean cuisine, ours is way fatter/heavier. Look at the menu of any holidays – heavy soup, fatty meat, mayo, more mayo, cabbage, eggs… I assume it is so because of the climate (body needs more calories to deal with the cold plus many veggies and fruit simply cannot grow in Poland) but it seems that Poles themselves also choose more fatty meats (e.g. pork) over e.g. groats, “light” veggies or dairy products. Ok, Turks do like meat but they pay so much more attention to its quality and consume more dairy with it. There is also a great choice of fresh produce but hmm I somehow never saw any Turk eating much of it (ok, apart from potatoes in any form because potatttties are also veggies, right?).

6. There is nowhere to go here!

Wherever you go in Turkey, there are always tea gardens (çay bahçesi) and tiny cafes everywhere. It is normal that people meet in them at any time of the day. You can have a chat, play tavla (backgammon), you will always meet a friend/neighbor/cousin there, and if you get hungry, they also have toasts or some places even have some more extensive menu. It is also not uncommon for two guys to meet in such places. I suppose that in Poland guys don’t really have anywhere to go – they cannot go to a pub (“I already have a girlfriend” and “a gentleman doesn’t drink before noon”), cannot go to a cafe or for a walk (“it’s gay”) [Polish homophobia is a topic for another post], cannot go to a restaurant (“I will go bankrupt if I go there everyday”). Apart from that, there are simply no such nonchalant places here – where you could be sitting for hours and simply be sipping your tea for 1 USD, and besides we also don’t have this culture of sitting outside (ok, the climate, I know). But seriously, have you noticed that most people simply make their homes into bunkers and so often call off the meetings because “I don’t feel like”?

7. There are so many empty spaces here!

Whenever we go somewhere and pass an empty field/uninhabited area/wasteland, my beloved cannot stop wondering how it is possible that such places still exist. He is already so used to omnipresent construciton sites that he finds it amazing that such places are possible at all 😉 It is indeed difficult to find any district in Istanbul that would not be developing and the results of it are: growing real estate prices, demolishing old buildings for the sake of modern ones (so somehow losing the national heritage but on the other hand also increasing safety in case of an earthquake) and… more and more great Turkish engineers. This is why the Varsovian M2 metro line is being constructed by a consortium which is half Turkish – those are really good experts out there (have it from a girl who’s been working on the 47. floor of an Istanbullu skyscraper and who will surely get lost in Istanbul again because she will not recognise anything again).

8. You arrange everything so “officially”!

When I want to meet with my girlfriends, we start planning and calendar syncing some two weeks before. We start by saying what dates are out of the question for each, which dates are “better not” and which days are preferable. After a couple days we manage to choose a preliminary date which then gets changed 2-3 times and eventually one of us still cannot make it. A Turk calls his friend: – Hey, what’s up? – Nothing much, you? – Same here. Wanna meet? In half an hour? – Ok, see you! Don’t think they’re so untalkative. No, no, no. When they meet, they would discuss every possible topic (apart from the one I asked about, of course). And this ability to talk for hours is regardless of the gender. In case of women only the topics would change (as there will surely be a discussion about the family, kids, unmarried cousins and TV shows there). But this ability to quickly arrange a meeting is something that keeps on fascinating me. And I know that other “Turkish girls” are also in awe with it (and, same as me, can still not learn it).

Do you have anything to do with Turks in Poland? What are their impressions? What drew their attention most, what are they mad about and what do they love most?

The Sapanca lake – good place for deep thoughts.

Istanbul Stories #4 – A Bus

This is the fourth post from the series “Istanbul stories”. All posts in this category are HERE

It’s anoter story about the Turkish helpfulness and kindness. It still keeps on surprising me – which I guess doesn’t show a good image about Poland and Poles? Hmm..

Once I was coming back from work by bus – you know: Istanbul and its city traffic, traffic jams, crowdy everywhere, people are nervous as in such a crowd it’s difficult not to be hot by someone at least once, people barely managing into buses because in this almost 20-mln city there are still not enough buses and one thing missing still is only people squeezing others into the buses so that the doors can only close… And with all that, there is a man on a wheelchair wanting to get on the bus from one of the bus stops. He was there, waved to the bus driver to show he wants to get in and the next minute it was already over. The bus was not standing next to the sidewalk so the man had no way to get on the ramp and then on the bus and the bus had no way to move back in this traffic. And then momentarily 3 big men emerge, one of them goes to the back to control the vehicles there so that the bus can move back, the second man stands next to the driver to help him manouver and the third one stands in the middle to tell the others how far the bus is still and to help the man on the wheelchair get on the bus. Seriously, the whole thing took all of 30 seconds and I was in the state of shock for the rest of my trip as to how eagerly and efficiently the whole process was organised by 3 random men from the bus.

And here is this bus so that you can imagine it better:


Go to the forest!

As you may know, September is the mushroom picking season in Poland – a pretty fruitful one this year. Mushroom picking means going to the forest and walking in it. I am not too good in finding mushrooms but I still enjoy such trips. Recently I went on some of such trips with my 4-year-old niece. And I had some thoughts regarding a couple of typical problems during such “travelling”.

  • It’s raining, adults are in a bad mood as what can we do here, the trip is now wasted, we will only sit at home all the time so what was the purpose of leaving the city in the first place, if we go out, we will get wet, we will surely get a cold, our hair will get all wavy and blah…..

Such a weather is not as bad for a child. It means board games with the family – hey, we will spend some time all together! It means the possibility of putting the rain boots on and running across all the puddles – it’s awesome fun when it splashes all around! It also means, surprisingly, getting more immune as when we eventually do leave home to go for a walk despite the rain, in most cases we will not actually get sick and the child will gain immunity which they will need in the kindergarten soon during the sickness season.

  • A lot of walking – we will surely get lost, we will get attacked by a moose or some boar, we will have ticks all over, it’s unpleasant peeing in the bushes, our legs will ache, the kid will shortly get bored and start whining…..

From the child’s perspective, such walking in the woods is a bit of easing their fears (but since the adults aren’t scared of the woods, then I’m not either, right?) and a bit of a mysterious trip to the unknown (oh! oh! I wonder what is there farther? Oh, and these trees have this mysterious shade!). Ok, after such a long walk your legs will ache (actually, this is more of a problem for the adults rather than those kido-mutants who still have the power to run after the walk) but imagine the satisfaction that you made it… And you know how good and strong the child’s sleep is after such a tiresome trip? As for the child’s whining, I recommend… creativity. Each parent has their own best methods for keeping the child entertained and obviously there are no methods that would work for each child. But when going out to the unknown, it’s worth trying to “creativate” these methods – e.g. if you usually count cars on the streets, count birches now; if your kid likes word games, make mushrooms and nature the theme now; if you practice songs – try to improvise in the subject of mushroom picking. Adults can also have fun out of it, you know? ;D

  • it’s boring when you get back from mushroom picking – what to do with the rest of the day? Always the same games and now also the adults are tired and they would love to have a nap and actually it’s probably going to rain again……

And do you know that the forest is not only mushrooms? 😉 For us it’s obvious that going outside the city means being in awe in the nature, the green, the simplicity. But the child would not necessarily understand how exceptional and important it is to have a break from the crowd, the pace and the smog of the city. We need to make children aware of it, direct their attention to the importance and uniqueness of some of those experiences. If you already applied creativity and you and the child e.g. go for an amazing and adventurous trip around the house in the search for… acorns, then don’t stand there looking into your messenger but you yourself also open up for all that is around. If you two listen up, you will notice that this bark falling at you from the tree is the doing of small squirrel feet and the monotonous knocking is the woodpecker. This continuous screaming out there is birds that fight for territory and this whistling in the leaves is… a hedgehog? Or maybe a small beetle carrying something heavy? And have you noticed this caterpillar on the tree and how many colours it has?

So here is my appeal to all of you parents, care takers, aunts, uncles, grandparents: try to find a child in yourself and give it a chance to open up to this beautiful world of nature around you and then show this kido next to you how it is done.
So long as we still have forests and the wonders in them.

And now a small quiz: how many interesting (for a kid) items do you see in this picture? 


Istanbul Stories #3 – Anise

This is the second post from the series “Istanbul stories”. All posts in this category are HERE

You can see religious people in each religion, obviously. And their religiousness or level of engagement are difficult to grade anyhow. But I cannot forget one story that is difficult to compare to anything you know in Poland (or any other European country, I guess).

One Turkish friend of mine was not that much interested in education in the last grade of high school. He was more into girls, music and… alcohol – surely. One day his friend brought a bottle of rakı (Turkish anise vodka) to school in his backpack – a botlle stolen from his dad’s bar. They were planning to do this bottle after school. Unfortunately, the bottle broke just before the religion class and the whole room was stinking with anise. All students were laughing as it was obvious for them where the smell is coming from but the teacher never understood what the students were laughing about and what the source of this specific scent was.

Many religion teachers are people who are being brought up very “religiously” from the very beginning – they attend religious schools and those wealthier ones go to such private school with dorms, often far from home (and these schools, btw., are pretty good in terms of general education). So: it’s really possible that the religion teacher really never knew the smell of rakı. Can you imagine any Pole (or Brit, Australian, German…) who would not know the smell of, say, beer? Impossible, right?

Istanbul Stories #2 – A Bus Stop

This is the second post from the series “Istanbul stories”. All posts in this category are HERE

One sunny and very hot day during ramadan (meaning: people are somehow more nervous), I was waiting for a bus on a bus stop. I noticed one young girl who was acting pretty nervous. She was a typical Turkish office worker so wearing a short skirt, cleavage, high heels, strong make-up, hair well done… but just this nervous behaviour… Ok, all of us were reeeally waiting for this bus already but running onto the street like this now and then? Suddenly, the girls runs on the street again (I see that the bus is already approaching),  returns to the sidewalk, quickly picks a leaf from a small tree nearby (the whole branch got broken but oh well) and runs with this leaf back to the street because… there was a beautiful beetle walking on the street! The girl puts it on the leaf and transports it to the edge of the sidewalk – so that it doesn’t get killed by the bus.

I don’t know if anyone else there noticed this but I smiled to the girl when I realised what she just did almost risking her life and she… shyly smiled back. And this shy smile of an overdone office girl is something I still remember.

And this is the tree:


Istanbul Stories #1 – An Old Man

For some time, I have been collecting mini-stories about things I’ve seen or heard in Istanbul.

I thought I would share them with you as I think they show some interesting shades of Turkey and Istanbul but from a different angle.

We were living in a somehow conservative district of Istanbul and our block was on the top of the hill. I liked looking through the window at what was going on around us (which usually meant observing the local pack of stray dogs since there was not much really happening there). One (not too nice) day, I noticed an old man walking down the hill. He was walking very slowly, had stops every now and then and since it’s difficult to walk there even with a walking stick, I had an eye on him to make sure he was safe. When there was a car passing by, the old man would wave to it. At first, I thought he was waving to people he knew but then he waved also to other cars passing by. The third car stopped (in the middle of the street). The old man “ran” to it, said something to the driver and got into the car. It occured he only wanted to have a ride down the hill and apparently it is quite a common practice since the driver did not seem surprised at all.

It’s so normal to wait for an elderly person and spare those couple minutes and a bit of gas and help someone get to their place safely. So now, how often do you encounter such selfless behaviour towards strangers?

Is Istanbul a place for me? – pt. 2

I recently posted the first part of the list which presents what kind of city Istanbul actually is and for whom it is (or isn’t) a good place. Today it’s time for the second part of the list – I hope it will help you understand the city and make a decision whether it is worth living in.

Again, a note from me: these are very subjective opinions and they concern mainly the Asian side of the city – I certainly don’t know everything and don’t put a sugar icing on the stories. 😉 

no suga

Is Istanbul a place…

…for people who are active in politics?

Oh, better not.
Every now and then you hear of problems that immigrants faced when they voiced their political statements too loudly. Also, due to the FETÖ issue and all the arrests taking place, especially at education institutions, I see that more and more foreigners do not feel safe. There were situations that immigrants were refused re-entry to Turkey (e.g. after they had a vacation abroad) only because they were employed in a school that got accused of teaming with FETÖ in the meantime. Obviously, the foreigner probably didn’t politicise much but rather simply had no idea which “team” their school was playing at but the border officers are not really interested in it. I haven’t heard of any person who hadn’t got admitted to Turkey to actually come back here eventually. So it’s better (and certainly safer!) to know what’s going on but to keep a low profile…

…for people fond of nature?

Not really.
Istanbul is a huge, almost 20-million-people, megacity. On top of that, it’s still growing and sometimes it feels like it’s an enormous construction site (especially in the Pendik district: the construction of new metro stations, reconstruction of highways [Sahil Yolu], demolishing old blocks of flats and replacing them with new ones that are supposed to be more earthquake resistant). Unfortunately, there aren’t too many forests here (on the Asian side there is only one true forest), there are only a couple of parks (but Göztepe park also has tulips! :D) and as for bigger green areas, that’s only Polonezköy which is, as I’ve written in the previous post, a bit far away. Of course one can go to the islands (Adalar) or other suburban areas but that usually means a trip of a couple of hours.

…for people with skin problems/allergies/sinus problems?

A month after coming here, I wrote on my Polish blog that my skin’s condition got better. But well, it was only temporary. And everyone notices the same, regardless of their nationality, specific place of living or any other factors. Everyone’s allergies are also getting worse here because this cute, romantic fog over the Bosporus/the city is actually yellow smog which does not improve (surprise!) the state of anyone’s skin or lungs. As for sinus, then as you may already have guessed, the climate here (humidity and wind), smog and this ubiquitous air-conditioning don’t do your sinus any good. I have never had sinus problems before in my life and now I can even foresee the weather by the state of my nose clogging and headaches. Almost everyone here always carries some great (and strong) sinus medicines with them and many people also use sprays (with cortisol, yeaah!) on a daily basis. Well, not a very happy picture here… 😦

…for people not having a car?

Not really.
Of course, one CAN DO without a car, we manage like that every day. I think that Istanbul has a very good public transport network, but since the distances are huge, after some time it reeeeally tires you off to spend those 2-3 hours (one way!) on commuting to work. People work here until 6pm normally which means you get home after 8pm and obviously you don’t really feel like doing anything productive at that hour. Dinner, lazily killing time, going to sleep. I know, however, that people having cars perceive the city totally diferently – they learn it better, they have more time for themselves and…are generally happier. So: one can manage without a car but it doesn’t actually make sense in a long run. 

…for people not knowing foreign languages?

I know that some will be surprised by this answer but one really doesn’t need to know English, German or even Turkish as they won’t manage to communicate anyway haha! I heard English twice (yes, 2 times) on the Asian side (apart from Kadıköy, of course and apart from our friends). As for Turkish, I try to use it everywhere (ha! I have no choice!) but people usually don’t understand me anyway and since they don’t deal with foreigners too much (or at all), they simply don’t know how to manage it otherwise (e.g. by using body language) – yes, it is a bit demotivating if you really feel like learning the language… So: you need to be aware that you will always be the foreign one (yabancı) and whether you know languages or not wouldn’t really help you (unless you already speak flueeent Turkish).

…for “grammar nazis”?

Firstly: Turks don’t pay too much attention to grammatical correctness (or punctuation or any other correctness lol) in any language they’re using so, as per rule, they’re not the best language teachers (well, apparently that’s the flaw of this education system). I get sooo annoyed about their not using capital letters (and addressing me per “anna) or any (literally: any) punctuation.
Secondly: I wans’t aware of this before but the Turkish accent really “penetrates” other languages. I think I can now recognise a Turk anywhere in the world – by their very characteristic pronunciation of “r” and some grammar features that somehow sneak into other languages (but that is probably a topic for another post). I’ve even noticed that I started speaking differently both in Polish and English. Aaa I hope it’s curable! 😉

…for foreigners?

It depends.
As written above, you may have problems with communicating with people. But on the other hand, Turks are generally nice and helpful, so even if they don’t understand what you’re saying, they will still try to help you as much as they can. I wouldn’t expect instructions, menus or information in English anywhere outside Kadıköy. As for public transport and hmm road signs, everything is easily understandable. “Dur” on a red road sign means “stop” but that is easy to guess and I suppose that’s the only major difference in indications that I can think of.

…to live…forever?

Many Polish girls I met here found their place here in Istanbul. They have families here, their homes, lives and most of them is not thinking of leaving. So: it is possible.
But here we’re reaching the core of the matter. The fact the Istanbul is beautiful, breathtaking and unforgettable, is undeniable. I really recommend everyone to come and see the old Constantinople because it’s worth it. But the thing is that the city is beautiful when you first come here, when you still don’t notice the dirt, the stress and the lies all around. It’s breathtaking because it’s simply different and maybe more exotic but after some time you start noticing that it’s quite literally taking your breath away because of the smog…
And is it unforgettable? For sure. I will never forget it and will never regret those 20 months spent here and I hope I will be coming back here from time to time – exactly for that: to look at it from a different perspective, not the one that has become the boring and grey reality of my private prison.

Obviously, everyone has different expectations/requirements/needs and mine have rather not been fulfilled. But I have had my adventure and I think I’ve learnt a lot.
I’ve been disappointed with living here but I will still recommend everyone to find out for themselves as who knows what “Istanbul, not Constantinopole” has there planned for you? Undoubtedly, many surprises 😀

And here are some lovely shots of nature in the Spring for you – as an encouragement. 😉


Is Istanbul a place for me? – pt. 1

Yes, I know, I haven’t written here for a long while. I’m sorry, I’m ashamed and I promise (to you and to myself) that I will do better. I really have many ideas (personal stuff, migrating, Turkish and Canadian matters [yeah, something new!]..ahh..) but somehow I can never get round to actually writing down all that I have in my head (and on hundreds of notes)…

Thanks to talks with my family, I started thinking how it is that some place, even the most breath-taking one, can become so disgusting when you actually start living in it. And how it is possible that one place can be regarded so differently by people who are supposed to have similar viewpoints – they all live in it, they’re all immigrants, maybe they also don’t know the local language that well…

I’m talking about Istanbul, of course – the city that has been mine for 1,5 years already. But is it really that mine…?

Of course one regards the City of the Cities differently if they’re only tourists in it – only passing by, and quite differently when they live in it on a daily basis. Also, we would have quite different feelings towards it depending on whether we work, whether we have local friends or even whether…we have a car (I’m not joking).

I’ve prepared a list which will show you various “shades” of Istanbul from the insider’s point of view and maybe it would help people considering coming here in making a decision. 

NOTE: you should take it into account that I’m living on the Asian side of the city so the below information refers mainly to those less “expat/immigrant” areas. It’s also worth remembering that the opinions here are my private ones or resulting from my observations of the foreign women of Istanbul FB group (over 6k members) – thus, sometimes they may not be objective. 😉

Is Istanbul a place… 

…for families?

Yes, certainly.
Turks are very warm and they love kids.
Shopping malls are overcrowded on the weekends because where else could you take your whole family if not shopping and then to a fast food restaurant for a lunch/dinner, right? Oh, and maybe also a cinema and a playzone.
Restaurants: kids’ areas are not that popular but (unfortunately haha) it’s normal that kids sit at the table with their parents (and keep on screaming like hell ;p).
Sports: not practiced here.
Trips outside the city: one can go to e.g. Polonezköy (some 3-hour car ride from me), to the Sapanca lake (a 2-huor train ride), to the Istanbul seaside (yup, 2 metres from a highway) or maybe to the islands (taking a ferry to one of the Adalar). Generally: not too many options available. There aren’t many (big) parks or forests here. And as for barbecues, people use every square meter of grass at the seaside for it.

…for singles?

Women will soon have enough of interactions with the other sex lol (due to hundreds of friends invitations on FB or those super smart messages like “Hi, how are you?” or equally bright “Hi, wanna meet?”). Generally, surprisingly, it’s comparably difficult to find a “serious” guy but if one just wants to meet people, then it’s super easy – there are plenty of meetings everywhere all the time (e.g. CouchSurfing, InterNations) and one can also simply have fun with Tinder.
I’ve heard that men find it difficult to meet girls as most of them are so fed up with those messages and all those men hitting on them and “just leave me alone already” so it’s often difficult to get through it all.
But, generally speaking, there are possibilities to meet people – both on the European and Asian side.

…for students?

Hmm if you’ve always dreamt of learning a new language, then yes 😉
Ok, now on the serious note, Istanbul has a couple of really good universities and I see that there are many students from Europe here – they come on Erasmus or even for the whole programme of studies. The best schools (Sabancı Uni, Istanbul Uni, Boğaziçi Uni, Istanbul Technical University and Koç Uni) even let you study in English, althooooough I’ve heard that some you need to be very assertive on some faculties so that the professors don’t speak Turkish because it’s more convenient for them. But, as everything in Turkey, it can also be arranged 😉 Other universities may be more difficult about English.
Türkiye Bursları is an interesting option – it gives young people an option to apply for interesting scholarship programmes.
As for student life, the European side surely has a lot to offer when it comes to hanging out, studying places, meeting people. Asian side: that would mean commuting to Kadıköy as this is where most of the fun stuff happens. Oh and check on Google Maps where your campus is (e.g. Sabancı is veeeery far from civilisation so one needs to become dependant on the service buses).

…for animal lovers?

It’s hard to say. One needs to remember that many people think (mistakenly?) that according to haddiths cats are nice and dogs are dirty and bad. Supposedly, it’s not exactly like this in haddiths, but many people still believe it. So, as per rule, people don’t have dogs in their houses (Really! When I saw someone walking a dog here, I was shocked as I got so unused to this view) and some kids also don’t treat them too well. But on the other hand, there are enough people who take care of the stray dogs – they bring them food and water regularly, put out “houses” for the winter, let them inside shops when it’s freezing outside… And this is beautiful as, frankly speaking, I haven’t seen much of such care on “ownerless” dogs in Poland.
As for cats, sometimes it feels like an epidemy here. Everyone loves cats, everyone is in awe about the stray ones and most people have at least one cat at home. Sometimes it actually feels stupid that..well..I don’t really love them… 😉
When it comes to other pets, you do see rabbits (aww) and birds in per stores but I don’t know anyone who would have them.

…for pet owners?

Some of the answer is above – as for people’s attitudes towards animals.
From what I know, Turkey doesn’t have any super strict rules regarding transporting animals but it’s always best to check the up-to-date information before departure anyway (at airlines’ websites, e.g. Turkish Airlines and e.g. Pet Travel or YellAli When it comes to living with a dog in Istanbul, I see two possible problems here: many fla owners don’t allow to keep a dog in the flat (because: see the point above) and sometimes it may not be safe to walk the dog in your area (because: almost each block has its “dog pack” and they may not necessarily be friendly towards a new dog “in da block”). Cats are easy as everyone loves them (you only need to be aware of the lovemakers that will show around in numbers) 😉

…for cyclists/skaters/bladers/joggers?

For occassional sportsmen – yes. For professionals – no.
Joggers have a lot of places to practice – that is ok.
Skaters/bladers may try on sidewalks or bike routes. I’ve never eard of any skating rink in Istanbul.
And ok, there are some bike routes along the coast and one can have a long ride there (along the whole coastline), a pleasant one (thanks to the views) but not necessarily a peaceful one (due to hundreds of people who don’t notice it’s a bike route and walk on it all the time). But usually people don’t want to waste the 3-45 mins to get to the coast with their bikes. Ok, it’s possible to rent a bike. There are points for this every couple of km but, frankly speaking, I have no idea how it works and how much it costs (though I’ve heard it’s not too much).
You are strictly discouraged from trying to ride a bike (or anything else) outside bike routes. Even my Turkish friend, a big fan of cycling, once stated: don’t even think about it if you’e not a Turk (so that you can properly fight with car drivers who’ve tried to kill you) or a strongman (so that you don’t get lost and survive close endavours with crazy cars).

…for fitness/swimming/other sport fans?

Yes and no.
They say there are some fitness centres there but the big ones only take Turkish credit card payments (and immigrants cannot have that) and there aren’t too many of the smaller ones. Each district, however, has its district sport centre and that is an awesome solution. The only thing one needs to do is find such a centre, register, have medical tests (around 10 TL) and pay for a month in advance (around 55 TL). The choice we have in ours (and it’s not a popular/big place) is: football, gym, tennis, aerobic, kick-boxing and pilates. But this choice will be different depending on the district.
Swimming pools are, unfortunately, a small shame on Turkey (or maybe only on Istanbul). Imagine that Turkey, as you know, has 4 seas and yet, really only a few Turks I know can swim. Surely the situation is different in seaside resorts but here seriously not too many people had any contact with water. Because there is no “swimming pool culture” here that I know from Poland. Families or friends don’t go to swimming pools on the weekends (I atually still don’t know if there is any swimming pool in my district) but always only shopping malls – meeeh.

…for football/volleyball/basketball fans?

Yes and no.
Football (or soccer) is Turkey’s national sport. It’s impossible to live in Turkey and not become a fan (or, in case of natives: a fanatic) of some football team (usually Beşiktaş, Galatasaray or Fenerbahçe). I think this is also one of the reasons why there are so many sport centres here (as mentioned above). Football pitches are visible at every corner. Plus: kids play wherever they find a small area of grass.
Volleyball and basketball are an entirely different thing. Volleyball is not too popular, even though the Turkish female volleyball team is (was?) pretty successful. No one is interested in it. Some people are interested in basketball but it’s still not as popular as it should be. And it really should be popular as the Beşiktaş basketball team is very good and has been pretty successful for many years already. My friend was writing a thesis about the marketing of Turkish team sports. And unfortunately, apart from football it doesn’t really exist…

…for fans of less popular sports (rugby, American football, ice hockey…)?

No. We’ve never come across any sport centre that would offer to practice them. Although, once we were shocked as we saw ids playing rugby on the field next to the mosque (and it was quite professional, with proper shirts and all!). It was a very weird view. 😉

…for artists?

Rather yes.
I don’t think I need to remind anyone that Istanbul is a beautiful and historic city so obviously there are beautiful archistectural sites everywhere, as well as many museums, exhibitions, events…
Street markets next to Eminönü are famous for having everything one might want (paints, brushes, fabrics, threads, beads…) and generally the European side has a lot to offer in terms of artistic needs. When it comes to the Asian side, then Kadıköy also has some interesting shops to offer (crafts shops, school articles shops, hobby shops) and even the pretty conservative district of Pendik has a really nice shop Kaplan with all kinds of threads, fabrics, ribbons, cequins, and even sewing machines.

…for bibliophiles?

If one reads in English, then yes.
Many expat women recommend Book Depository (apparently the [free!] delivery can take some time but all is ok). It’s also been confirmed that Amazon UK delivers to Turkey.
There are a couple of bookstores in all of Istanbul: Greenhouse, D&R i Remzi Kitapevi.
On the European side: Pandora just off Istiklal Caddesi, Galeri Kayseri on Sultanahmet.
On the Asian side: a passage (Akmar in Kadıköy, next to the Nezih bookstore) and one small area of tiny bookstores selling used books (up from the bull in Kadıköy, the entrance is next to the shop with big sizes).
Books in other languages can be obtained either through international deliveries from your country’s big bookstores (but you need to check beforehand if they deliver to Turkey and what the shipping cost is) or through other people of your nationality (there are many meetings of people of specific nationalities – it’s advisable to join some of maaany FB groups for local communities of Istanbul – both to see the ads and to learn about meetings).
Generally, as it usually happens amongst immigrants, many people turn to ebooks so it’s worth buying some ebook reader (e.g. Kindle <3) before leaving your country. Electronics is comparably expensive in Turkey.

Oops, the list came out a bit long but…it’s still not the end! There will soon be the next part of it which will help you to better understand what kind of place Istanbul really is and make a decision: is it really a place for me? 

And here is the small positive side of living in Istanbul – such beautiful views in March 😀

FAQ about Turkey

I have been receiving many questions regarding how things in Turkey are. Some of the myths I have already busted in this post but there are still some things to be discussed (and probably in more than one post anyway hihi). For a change, the issues are presented in the form of FAQ so questions frequently asked by you, together with my answers. I hope it’s clear that way and that you like it 🙂

The provision I would like to make is that opinions published here concern what I see in Istanbul and opinions of Turks – are also of people I know here, in Istanbul. So some things need to be considered as demonstrative only and it needs to be taken into account that they may not be representative for the whole country. Same as mine and my friends’ views about Poland and Poles are not representative for the whole country as are from the perspective of people from Warsaw only.

  1. Are you afraid to live in Istanbul or generally in Turkey now? We see all the news reports about bombs, explosions, now also coup…

I would be stupid if I didn’t see any danger there but it’s true that the probability of something happening to me here is the same as in Brussels, Paris or Munich. Ok, Istanbul witnessed a bit more explosions than these cities but we also don’t live on the European, the more “popular” side of the city so here, in our indistinct neighbourhood, it’s comparably safe. Though, if we concentrate on the atmosphere among people or, more precisely, foreigners, then yeah, there is some panic there. Each time someone hears something louder (and it can as well be an ordinary shooting on a wedding or while celebrating someone’s going to the army), there are panicked questions showing on forums. I also know that some foreigners (Turks actually too) have already left the country or are planning to leave exactly because of all this bombing/terrorist stress – which has vastly increased after the coup attempt, obviously.

2. What do Turks think about the possible visa-free access to the Schengen zone?

Most of my friends actually take it with a pinch of salt. Visa-free entry for Turks has been a hot topic for a while now and somehow nothing has ever changed so: we shall see. If they really cancel this visa requirement, many people will obviously leave “for a better future” but, surprisingly enough, many people don’t even consider that. They are quite comfortable here and/or they don’t know foreign languages and/or they don’t want to leave their families and friends behind, so why leave. I was a bit surprised by that, frankly speaking, as everyone tends to think that they’re just waiting for an opportunity to emigrate but apparently there are still people who care for other things more than money… And that’s good 🙂

  1. Do you see many refugees on a daily basis? Is it a big problem? What is the Turks’ take on it?

I have seen refugees in our district once – next to a mosque, but in those more popular districts they are more noticeable – some of them stay under viaducts but some of them live normally here and you can tell they are here only when you hear a different language. It’s not a problem (yet), maybe because it’s been somehow regulated so far. But it is a big unknown how it would be in the nearest future if Turkey continues to be “collecting” all refugees returned from the Mediterranean. When I talked to Turks (and not only young Istanbullus but also older Turks from other regions), apart from the “ordinary” aversion to Arabs, no one, but absolutely no one, had any problem with aiding refugees. Everyone was referring to the need of helping people (also because we also may need help some day) and to the very notion of humanitarianism. I even asked catchy questions, like if it’s to do with refugees being Muslims too and if they would have a problem with taking Jews or Christians in but everyone denied and pointed out that firstly, Turkey as a former empire is and has always been a multicultural nation and secondly, Turks had already taken in a Jews’ immigration wave some time ago and no one had a problem with that. Interesting and educative, isn’t it?
PS. No one ever even mentioned the fact that “THEY will take our workplaces” (although, truth be told, it doesn’t make much of a difference with such a high unemployment rate anyway).

  1. Is Turkey, generally speaking, a conservative country?

Hmm to answer this question one would need to define “conservative” better. Religious or old-fashioned? Maybe the below would illustrate it better.

* Do Turks pray 5 times a day? Probably many of them do but no one around me does.
* Is Friday different from other days of the week? The practicing Muslims try to go the mosque at least then but apart from that, it doesn’t seem to be any different from other days (and it’s also not a day off).
* Is it possible to get pork anywhere? It’s difficult but it’s not only due to restrictions of Islam but it’s just that there is no culture of eating it and pigs are simply not kept here. It is possible to get ham or bacon in some shops like Carrefour but it’s expensive.
* Is it ok to drink alcohol? Yes.
* Should women cover their hair? When they go to a mosque – of course, but apart from that, it’s rather a personal matter and, from what I see, often more of a religious-cultural one than only religious.
* Should women dress more modestly, covering more? Rather not, it’s also only a matter of choice, how someone feels in a given environment. And again, of course one goes to a mosque always with covered arms and knees. But there are maaany girls in the city wearing torn pants, tight and “brave” shirts…

  1. Are there many women wearing hijab? Do you see many “nuns”/”ninjas” [women all in black]?

Generally in Istanbul not too many young women wear hijab (a scarf covering hair). Rather ladies from the generation of our moms or grandmothers. But these are two different types of scarfs. These worn by “older” women are sometimes just ordinary scarfs, just like the ones we see some grannies in Poland wear. But young women wear rather the more stylish ones, in proper colour, with proper drape and nice prints, sometimes with laces or flounces. In my conservative district most of the women wear hijab. And also in my district many women wear abayas (shapeless dresses, usually black, covering head and everything else apart from hands and feet) but it’s again only my district and generally in Istanbul, I think, there are not that many women wearing them.

  1. Can you still stand kebabs? Everyone eats them everywhere, right…?

Kebab… Ahh.. It has nothing to do with the one I know from Poland haa! First of all, forget about a sauce for kebab. Well, maybe the bread can have some spicy spread but that’s max and only some places do that. Generally kebab (or actually kebap) is lavash (something like our tortilla) which is filled with meat, turshu (pickles) and French fries. And that’s it. But this is only döner kebap. Apart from it, we also have şiş kebap (my favourite: deeelicious chicken pieces taken from a sword on which they were grilled, usually served with bulgur/pearl barley), adana kebap (spicy minced meat), iskender kebap (thin pieces of meat served on bread pieces and sprinkled with tomato sauce and hot butter, accompanied by thick yoghurt) and some 5 other types of kebap at least – many regions have their own specific local recipes. An answer to the question: no, I probably never will have enough of kebaps as they are truly delicious (and pretty varied). And as for the opinion that one eats mainly kebaps in Turkey, then aaaabsolutely not! Turkey has one of the richest cuisines in the world and it offers sooo many great dishes that one post is not enough.

  1. Don’t you miss pork chop, hams, bacon…?

Actually, I don’t. See point 6 – I have so many delicacies available on a daily basis, and still so many things to be tried, that I actually don’t think of Polish food (too much). But I still have some frozen bacon waiting for me.
(after some additional thoughts) Ok, I do miss Polish bread and pierogi (dumplings), I admit.

  1. How is it with alcohol? Can one normally drink it, do many people drink?

Alcohol is being sold until 10pm (or even earlier but many shop owners still don’t know about that lol). It is allowed to drink in public (I mean, it’s better to cover it somehow but there are no penalties for holding a bottle in one’s hand). Alcohol is generally on the pricey side (a beer is some 2 eur, wine starts at 10 eur, vodka is min. 20 eur – from what I remember) but no matter as there is also no such a culture of drinking as in Poland. You usually go for tea with your friends (çay can cost even 0,50 eur) and there is also no tradition of house parties with alcohol, parks with beer or evenings with cocktails. Although, when it comes to that, Turks can drink, mind you 😉 One popular drink is anise (horrible for me) rakı but that usually accompanies meals (preferably fish ones) and also not all environments like it. Generally speaking, I also don’t miss alcohol too much.

  1. Is it possible to communicate in English or is it really better to know some basic phrases in Turkish?

It’s easier to communicate in English on the European side of the city, on the Anatolian side it’s a bit more difficult and in my district (again) forget it. But wherever you are, it’s always advisable to know some phrases in Turkish – both for security (accidents, taxis) and to win people (everyone really appreciates even the slightest tries). Apart from that, for me it’s a way of showing respect to the country and its people if I try to show that they interest me. Not to mention adding skills to your general knowledge (;p) and bragging in front of your friends with words like görüşürüz (see you), güle güle (bye, when someone is leaving), alabilirmiğim (I’d like/please) or leblebi (roasted chickpeas). How can one not love a language that has such sounds? 😉

  1. Do you regret leaving Poland?

No, I don’t. I don’t regret even though I miss my family, my friends, my places; even though it’s not easy; even though it’s sometimes too boring; even though I will leave this place anyway; even though I still don’t speak proper Turkish; even though sometimes it’s too lonely… Because what (and whom) I got, what I learnt, what experiences I gathered, what I went through, how much stronger I am and how much I changed… I would never regret that. They say that traveling in the geographic sense usually means also having a trip inside oneself. And rightly so – we learn a looooot about ourselves, about people around us and about the world. But that maybe is a topic for another post…

Northern Cyprus – the “however” country

We recently went on a short trip to Northern Cyprus so to the country that actually doesn’t exist. After many battles between Greeks and Turks, the northern part of the island has been proclaimed as Turkish but unfortunately no country other than Turkey has ever acknowledged it (so formally, as per UN, this area counts as occupied by Turkey). Being an unrecognised country, Cyprus doesn’t also have its army and it depends, both military and economically, fully on Turkey. It’s worth reading about the island’s history even on Wikipedia so as to better understand how the conflict broke out. So now I would like to show you what it actually looks like there from the traveler’s point of view. For me Northern Cyprus became a “however” country. Read on to see what it might mean.

Northern Cyprus is accessible through ferry and plane. NOTE! Note however that neither of those options is legal/safe for Poles since it is a country that exists somehow illegally (the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on its website that “airports in the towns located in the area of the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus are not subject to international air traffic, which poses a threat to the safety of Polish citizens” [trans. mine]). You might want to check what your ministry of foreign affairs says about it, too.

If we decide to travel to this country nonetheless, we may get surprised by how many towns there are on such a small island. And this is because many town names come in many versions – ok, the Turkish and Greek versions are obvious, however, there are different names also within one language. And so you may come to the airport in Ercan (this one has only one version). The university town with a beautiful cathedral-mosque (called Ayasofya – a name known to us from elsewhere) and some nice ruins from the times when Cyprus was a transfer spot on many trade routes, is Mağusa. But everyone calls is Magosa (e.g. bus drivers; it contains the normal “g” then, not the soft one). Road signs show it as Gazimağusa, maps – as Famagusta and, if I’m reading it right, it would be Amohostos in Greek.

Famagusta / Mağusa

A town with many casinos and a nice promenade with a picturesque sea view is Girne. But it’s also called Egirne, Kerynia in Greek and Kirenia in Polish.

Girne / Egirne

Nicosia is the capital city of both parts of the island. But no one would call it like this on the island itself. It’s Lefkoşa (Lefkosia in Greek) and no one even knew what I was refering to when I was using the English name. Generally, the capital city didn’t impress us at all and we were actually quite disappointed to find it…boring.

Lefkoşa / Nicosia

Northern Cyprus is de facto a part of Turkey, however, they requested my passport and stamped me a pseudo-visa at the airport. If it was a part of Greece, I should be able to travel on my Polish ID and if it was really Turkey, I should be able to travel on my Turkish residence permit. And they wanted my passport. Hmm. [Please note that the visa and me not having to pay for it may have sth to do with me being an EU citizen so, again, you’d better check your country’s regulations before you set up for a trip there].


Northen Cyprus is supposed to have Turkish law and generally Turkish regulations, however, taxes are their own – or at least more European ones. In Turkey itself most luxury goods (electronics, cars, alcohol) are very expensive but in Cyprus – not really. You can see (and hear!) many expensive and fast cars everywhere, there is a broad choice of liquors, you can go to any of the many casinos here (which, apparently same as prostitution, are legal here), you can visit many high-end boutiques and, if that was not enough, most shops offer goods imported from Europe – sweets were what we noticed first (they even had Polish Wedel chocolate!).


Northern Cyprus should, in theory, have Turkish traffic rules, however, they drive on the left side of the road (since it’s a former British colony). There are many Brits – both tourists and residents. And, what came as a big surprise to us (apart from cars coming from all wrong directions but ok, that’s obvious), cars stop for pedestrians! In Turkey it’s not possible – a car would stop (maybe..sometimes..let’s hope) only if someone literally almost walks on it.


Northern Cyprus should represent a culture similar to the Turkish one, however, one does not see too many women wearing scarves (and in Mağusa there were actually more African than Turkish women wearing them). Also many more people speak English but here that can be influenced by 1) us living in a conservative district of Istanbul and 2) the fact that we lived in a university town in Cyprus so most of its society were foreign students. Btw. students there are mainly from…Africa! I don’t know why it is so (maybe because of a comparably small distance?) but one can spot the difference right away and that is what hit me first thing – we were seeing conservative Turkish women in scarves in the morning (before leaving Istanbul) and then cool Africans in colourful outfits in the evening. What a contrast.

PS. Names of dishes there are Turkish since almost all people (ok, apart from students, of course) there are Turks. This is regarding the everlasting conflict re dish origins – many dishes are same/similar in Turkey and Greece but they have different names and of course everyone thinks that the dish is originally theirs (see kebap vs. gyros, cacık vs. tzatziki, dolma vs. dolmathes, şiş vs. souvlaki). Apparently even pork is available in Cyprus but I haven’t seen it.

DSC_1648        DSC_1710

PPS. An interesting fact to end with. The whole island of Cyprus has 3 active civilian airports – Larnaca, Paphos and Ercan. There was also one in Nicosia but it got deserted. Going by car between any of the airports would take max 2 hours so obviously there are no flight connections between them. What follows is that all flights on Cyprus are international so there is only one price given at the duty free and no one asks for your ticket/itinerary when scanning the price at the cashier. Interesting, right?

Have you been to Cyprus (either part)? How did you like it? Or maybe you’re planning to go there just now? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments below and don’t forget to subscribe and/or like me on Facebook 🙂
Here are some beautiful plants from Cyprus for you 😀