Helen Simpson, Istanbul-based travel writer and editor for online travel guide, www.myistanbulinfo.com.
I moved to Istanbul, Turkey, at the end of 2009 to help set up an online guide to Istanbul. I first came here on an extended travelling holiday and fell in love with the city, so I decided to stay and try to make a life here.
What challenges did you face during the move?
Because I moved alone, the task of making friends, finding a home and navigating (geographically and culturally!) around this colossal city were left up to me.How did you find somewhere to live?
I found a room in a shared house in the rental section of Craigslist.com. This is a fantastic flat-find resource in Turkey!
Are there many other expats in your area?
Yes, the area which I live in on the Asian side of Istanbul is a wonderful blend of expats and locals.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
Great. Turks are renowned for being some of the most hospitable people in the world for good reason. I am often surprised by the small gestures of kindness I find in the most unlikely of places and when I least expect it. I find that both my Turkish friends and even strangers will go out of their way for people and expect nothing in return.
What do you like about life where you are?
I love the intense energy that Istanbul possesses… it is truly a city of life, and it has so many different aspects to it (culturally, politically, historically and geographically) that it seems to hold endless mysteries which are just waiting to be discovered.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Because English is widely spoken by Istanbul’s locals and meeting other expats is very easy, it makes it too easy to stick with the ‘foreigner’ crowd and to avoid learning Turkish and immersing in the culture.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
It’s worth it! The challenges I faced in moving to Istanbul were far outweighed by what I have gained -and continue to gain- from the experience. But we warned: Istanbul is an addictive city! I have many friends who have come here intending to stay only a few days and have never left.
What are your plans for the future?
Although I have no concrete plans, I want to continue to explore this vast city, and to help others to understand it in some way.