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A Greek blogger in …Istanbul

Το greekblogsbywomen παρουσιάζει μια Ελληνίδα blogger στην Κωνσταντινούπολη. H Βίκυ, ιδιοκτήτρια του blog "Η Αλίκη στη Χώρα των Μεγάλων" μας δίνει συνέντευξη, μοιράζεται οικόνες της καθημερινότητας της και μας μιλάει για την ζωή της στην Πόλη, πως βίωσε την αλλαγή και συμβουλές σε όσους θέλουν να μείνουν εκεί. Σε ευχαριστούμε πολύ!

About you
1.    Where are you originally from? – Greece.
2.    In which country and city are you living now? Istanbul, Turkey.
3.    How long have you lived there and how long are you planning to stay? 7 months and I’m planning to stay at least 2 years.
4.    Why did you move and what do you do? Because of my husband’s job. I’m currently working on my first novel and looking for a job as a French/English teacher.
5.    Did you bring family with you? It’s just my husband and me.

About living abroad
6.    How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country? Turkey isn’t just a foreign country. I’ve lived also in Paris-France, for a while and it had nothing to do with this. The answer is hard. Very hard.
7.    Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialize with other expats? It was easy since we already had some friends here. We hung out with both expats and Turks. Also there is a Greek community and a Greek friends’ club.
8.    What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats? The city is full of hidden treasures –nothing obvious. You have to be patient and adventurous to discover them so that you end up liking the city.
9.    What do you enjoy most about living here? The same thing I hate: there is no boring day here, something happens every day.
10.  How does the cost of living compare to home? Everything’s cheaper except for: homes, cars, electronics, perfumes and international brands (because of the taxes).
11.  What negatives, if any, are there to living here? Language barrier (no English here, you absolutely have to learn Turkish), very difficult to find a job if you haven’t already found one before coming here and that is also because of the language.
12.  What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far? Preparing my residence permit, finding a house, finding a job (now I have 2 out of 3)
13.  What do you miss most from Greece? My family and friends, my students, my beautiful neighborhood and house.

About work
14.  Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit? You can’t get a work permit in Turkey unless you have already found a job and your manager writes a letter to their consulate. Getting a residence permit has also been a struggle.
15.  What’s the economic climate like in the city, is there plenty of work? There is plenty of work and there is a general development in the country.
16.  How does the work culture differ from home? More working hours, in some jobs work during the weekends, shops open every day until 22:00, first year without any leave, 2nd year only 14 days.

About your blog
17.  Tell us a bit about your blog Η Αλίκη στη Χώρα των Μεγάλων is a personal diary that started by an impulse and an “I’m-turning-thirty-year-old” hysteria in order to help me realize that I’m officially an adult (honestly, it has never been my intention to become one). Some of my friends also shared their stories in the beginning. When I came to Istanbul last May I just couldn’t resist sharing also everyday life stories from the City.
18.  Why are you blogging? I have been keeping diaries ever since I was 14 years old. I found it fascinating when I discovered that I could give them this form and dress them with pictures and music and share them with people who may have the same feelings and thoughts and anxieties. It has also helped me improve my writing (at least this is what they tell me) and this was a “push” to work more seriously on my novel.

And finally…
19.  If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving there, what would it be?
It’s not an “obvious destination” like Berlin or London. You need to dress yourselves up for adventure. If you decide to take the step, it’s best to start learning the language immediately and try to find a job before getting here. If you do, negotiate your salary and ask for an “expat package” that includes also a flat. Sort out your visa issues as soon as you can.
20.  What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
1.    Istanbul is not a city where you’ll get to make money quickly. You’ll be break-even for a long time before getting there.
2.    The climate is an add-on. You’ll enjoy 4 seasons of the year but don’t fool yourselves thinking that because you’re going to live by the sea you will also be able to enjoy it. This doesn’t change; you’ll need to return to Greece every summer to enjoy a proper vacation.
3.    People are also an add-on (in general). They are friendly, funny, kind and good-hearted. If you’re Greek, you’ll be surprised to discover how alike we are with Turks. Sometimes it’s like you hung around with Greeks speaking just a different language (and mind you, a very difficult one). On the other hand, if you’re seeking for something totally different than the Greek mentality, don’t bother coming here. Better head of somewhere “western-er”.
4.    If you’re a “car type” keep in mind that cars here are ridiculously expensive (e.g. 15.000 euros for a second-hand mini size car of 2006) and that the traffic is a constant nightmare. Some days, you may need 2 or 3 hours to move from one part of the city to another. Then, again, if you are flexible and don’t mind moving around with Public Transport, it won’t be an issue. The Public Transport system is very close to perfect.
5.    As a conclusion I would say, if you don’t have many things to lose, just do it. But be on the safe side. Try to find a friend here, or share a flat with a Turk so they can help you in the beginning. The City has a very nice “aura” and it will change the way you feel, the way you estimate people and things.

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