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We will send regular newsletters to our members who have signed up for receiving it during the registration. In 'mymerhaba' newsletter, our editorial staff provides updates, with regard to any information related to places worth visiting, viewing, or otherwise worth knowing, for those who care to know more....

Jennifer from Istanbul

Interview with Jennifer Gökmen:

Tell us about yourself
I'm a longtime Istanbul expat married to a Turk. I've lived in Turkey for a decade now and hope I'm lucky enough to stay at least a decade or two more! We moved apartments a few times but have always stayed in the Levent/Etiler area because the local shopkeepers have
become such good friends. Especially in my early days they looked out for me a great deal. It's so nice to walk into a place and have people know you immediately.

What made you come to Turkey?
A marriage proposal by a "confirmed bachelor" on the third date led to a whirlwind romance that led to marriage two years later to my best friend and sweetheart. We met at university and married upon graduation. The whole graduation-marriage-moving all took place within a few weeks of each other. We'd originally planned to stay in Turkey only a few years so I could acquire the language, but the longer we stayed, the more enamored I became with the Turkish Experience. We've been together for 12 happy years now, 10 of them in Turkey. It's been like a fairy tale.

What do you do in your daily life?
I'm the Development Officer for Istanbul International Community School, which entails being very involved with the foreign community of Istanbul. My job covers public relations, marketing, advertising, and fund raising. It's not an easy job, but it is a joy to be around so many bright, polite children from so many different nations every day. Working at IICS has been an important step for me because before then, I wasn't aware there were international schools here. Now I feel more confident about starting a family, knowing which school I can send them to.

I'm also pursuing my dream of being a writer. I wrote for the (now defunct) favorite underground expat magazine ISTANBULLS**T for three years. I'm a regular contributor to TIME OUT ISTANBUL and I'm now co-editing an anthology called TALES FROM THE EXPAT HAREM: FOREIGN WOMEN IN TODAY's TURKEY, for which we're seeking out contributors! It will be a collection of stories by expatriate women who have lived in Turkey. (yes, here's a blatant plug-see www.expatharem.com if you'd like to send us your story)

Family?
My family was nervous about me marrying into a Middle Eastern culture-there's a lot of negative press about Turkey and it's difficult to get a true picture of the country just by researching media archives. When they met my husband and my husband's family, however, all those fears subsided. We're very fortunate that everyone gets along so well. My parents fell in love with Turkey on their first visit and come back to visit quite often. They're planning to find a place in Fethiye near my in-laws and spend a few months of the year there each year.

My Turkish family is incredible. From my first visit to Turkey, everyone was so warm, so outgoing, and so supportive... I've never felt like an outsider with them. Even before we had any common language between us, they took me into the bosom of the family and have offered nothing but positive reinforcement. I know that's not every foreign bride's experience, so I'm quite aware of how much I have to be thankful for.

Can you compare your first days here with today?
My transition to Turkey was easier than most peoples'. My husband's whole department at the Ministry of Finance was transferred to my university to study English and to do their master's degrees. I got to know all of his colleagues and their families for two years before we all moved back to Turkey together and lived in the same government housing in Ankara. How much better can you have it? I arrived already having known and developed relationships with most of my immediate neighbors. My sister-in-law lived with us those first years, so it felt as if the whole thing were an extension of university dorm life. She and I were a perfect formula for hijinx and mischief.

It took me longer to adjust to Istanbul. I hated it for the first few years because I was lazy about learning the language and that made me feel disenfranchised. I hated having to depend on others. After I learned the language though, all that anxiety disappeared. From the day I realized I could communicate in Turkish, the world became my oyster. I am so happy to be living here. Everyday is fabulous. There are always surprises. Not always good ones, but I'd rather have a roller coaster ride of a life than a stagnant pond.

Has living in Turkey influenced your approach to life?
I have become more passionate. I've found my voice. I've found I enjoy yelling when I'm angry-- and when I'm happy. Deep belly laughs. Strong emotions. I don't hide that anymore. I enjoy life. I take better care of my loved ones. I find Turkish culture is a better template to follow to learn how to live interdependently. Since day one I have felt very cared for and looked after, and I try to return that level of care and concern. I'm still not very good at noble gestures that seem to come so second nature to Turks-even simple little things like ALWAYS offering what you have to everyone else before partaking yourself. There are a lot of layers to this culture that, ten years on, I'm still uncovering.

Turkish language?
I'm sorry I was so lazy about it. I skived off for the first three years, making my sister-in-law my mouthpiece. When I couldn't bear the lack of independence any more, I decided to throw off my self-imposed restraints. I buckled down, learned it, and put myself through a do-or-die rite of passage: I hopped in the car and took my mother on a road trip across Turkey for three weeks to prove that I could stand on my own two feet. There wasn't much danger, but there were a lot of risks that yielded fantastic results. That trip was so wonderful. It immediately freed me and enfranchised me. I've never made a more appropriate or far-reaching claim of selfhood. It may not sound like much for intrepid travelers to make such a journey, but there's a chasm of difference between living like a tourist for a short term and living as a long term resident foreigner among locals. After the trip, I became much more a local among other locals (as much as a yabanci can be).

Let's talk about the region you are living in?
I'm a country girl and adjusting to the city was not easy. So much traffic, so much noise. Fortunately the place I work is set in a gorgeous pastoral setting overlooking sunflower fields and a lake and we were able to find an apartment in Etiler that looks out at tall trees and a field of wildflowers. Living in the city makes you appreciate nature more. And you DO get accustomed to all the activity. The energy of the city is amazing. You become addicted to its beat. Istanbul is a beautiful place to live, with all the historic places, the quaint back street cafes, all the cultural events, the gorgeous Bosphorus… For a city this size (15 million people?) I find it extremely safe. Every city has big city problems, but Istanbul has much fewer problems than most. I've never felt unsafe or threatened with bodily harm. I've never felt more at home in a place. Excepting Fethiye, Istanbul has become one of my favorite places to be.

Have you traveled in Turkey? Tell us your discoveries
Always travel through Turkey with Sevan Nisanyan's SMALL HOTELS OF TURKEY book. I've traveled the west coast extensively, sometimes doing the same trip with different visitors, and staying at the charming hotels and pensions of Turkey made the same journey seem completely different and so much more engaging than staying at random mass-market hotels.

Some of my favorite places: Kaleici of Antalya, Sirince near Efes, Patara, Sedir Adasi and Cleopatra's beach, and my "hometown" Fethiye where my in-laws live (that includes our village Arpacik in the mountains behind Fethiye). I always prefer to travel by car so we can take off-the-beaten-path scenic routes and stop at any village that strikes our fancy. People are so hospitable here and friendships are struck quite easily over a cup of tea and conversation. Nothing makes a trip more enjoyable than making friends along the way.

What is your preferred characteristic trait of Turks?
The friendliness, hospitality, and innate nobility. I've truly learned much about being a better person from my relationships with people here. There's a nobility of spirit that I wish I could acquire.

What was the annoying one?
It wasn't easy to learn to become interdependent. So used to being independent, I wasn't used to having to care so much or become so involved with the lives of others. It was very draining and demanding at first. I didn't want to be so 'included' all the time or to be 'on call', or even be so sensitive. I also had to learn to avoid saying hurtful things when arguing because people often take things much more to heart than they do in my own culture. I found those things irritating at first, but now that I've grown into the culture, these are the things that I find so appealing.

Turkish Cuisine?
I absolutely love it! It's a much more healthy fare than the cuisine of my culture. I actually enjoy and prefer eating vegetables to anything else because the cuisine here is outstanding. My husband and I became vegetarians here 8 years ago and we haven't missed eating meat at all because the vegetable dishes are so varied. It's an epicurean's heaven.

Any suggestion to new comers to Turkey?
Join the foreigners' groups so you have some support, but leave your ethnocentricity back at the passport control when you arrive to the airport. Don't generalize or stereotype. Keep an open mind, and try to understand peoples' intentions, even when their actions may be a big question mark in your mind. LEARNING THE LANGUAGE WILL BE THE ONE SINGLE THING THAT HELPS YOU MOST, even if it's just 100 words and a few sentences. Apply yourself to that and so many other things will fall into place. You'll feel much more confident and settled if you can make yourself understood.


Lisa from Kadıköy
Aaron from Çekmeköy
Adrian from Istanbul
Agnes from Gümüşlük
Aida from Nisantaşı
Aisha from Istanbul
Amanda from Bursa
Andy from Izmir
Anke from Kemerburgaz
Antonina from Bulgaria
Arlene's Secret Paradise
Ashley from Kadıköy
Borahan from Taksim
Bruno from Datça
Brandts from Holland
Carmel from Bursa
Carole from Kalkan
Caroline from Kuzguncuk
Claire from Izmir
Claudia from Fenerbahce
Cornelia from Florya
Cumali from Adana
Cyrus from Istanbul
Dace from Ankara
David from Van
Dmitri from Beşiktaş
Filiz from Beyoğlu
Fred from Adana
Frederic from Ankara
Hana from Istanbul
Harry from Antalya
Iben from Alanya
Ingrid from Tesvikiye
Isa from Istanbul
Jan from Kuşadası
Jane from Manavgat
Janine from Izmir
Jennifer from Istanbul
Jennifer from Sultanahmet
John from the Bosphorus
Kathy from Izmit
Kayla from Bostancı
Kenya from Beyoğlu
Leela from Nisantasi
Lisa from Sydney
Marc from Kosuyolu
Maria from Moda
Maya from Izmir
Michelle from Göztepe
Molly from Galata
Nilgün from Suadiye
Omar from Ankara
Omar from Umraniye
Paolo from Beşiktaş
Pat from Göreme
Pat from Yaniklar
Patricia from Kartal
Patrick from Bodrum
Paul from Antalya
Pennie from Çengelköy
René from Izmit
Robbi from Dalyan
Rosalind from Alanya
Russ from Gebze
Ruth from Cappadocia
Sarah from Gundogan
Sarah from Sarıyer
Sarah from Sisli
Sophie from Istanbul
Susanne from Fethiye
Steve from Tarabya
Tara from Cengelköy
Trevor from Side
Winter from Australia
Birsen's Horizons
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Latest comments about this article

 By callerg  24.1.2008

Hi jenifer I have level 3 teaching and training certificate in England and master degree in Logistics I would like to move back to Turkey and work in Istanbul . Could you please let me know the possibility of employement with my degree and is it difficult to fin a good job. I will be waiting for you rcomment. Hoghly appriciated please write to [email protected]

 By buffyb  28.6.2005

nice article. Is there a FAQ for women who wish to move to Istanbul- I am thinking of coming for a few months in Dec, to try the town on for size and have no idea how to begin looking for an apartment, work, and other such expat challenges (i also don´t have much cash to throw away.)

 By Levent  12.5.2005

hi Jenn! i am from sf bayarea,ca,living in istanbul.i”d like to meet with you please email me [email protected]

 By marmaris027  9.12.2004

Hi Jennifer, what a wonderful story!! I am hoping to move to Istanbul early next year. Is there any advice you could give me? Please email me at [email protected]

 By acibadem  3.9.2004

Jennifer has managed to describe the beauty of Turkish culture and its people so accurately and beautifully. I couldn´t have said it in any better way. I too am married to a Turk and we just moved overseas after living in Istanbul for 3 years. I have so many fond memories of the good and hard times. I would not hesitate at another chance of living there once more.

 By ashley hazell-yildirim  1.7.2004

I think Jennifer definitely hit the nail on the head with the comment that she had truly learnt to be a better person from the relationships she has had with Turkish people. I was in Turkey between 23 and 33 years old and it was the best thing I could have done to make me the person I am now. I too was welcomed into my husband´s family from day one. I was their ´gelin´ immediately even though it took us another 6 years to get married. We are temporarily living in Hong Kong for job reasons but I miss Turkey and Turkish life everyday - looking forward to returning ´home´ in a few years time.

 By fefesmd2003  16.6.2004

I was so happy to read Jennifer Gökmen´s article. I have never laughed so hard in my life. I have been here for 7 months and I am feeling all the things she said. It really makes me feel great to read that. Thank you. I needed that.

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Interviews with Members
Lisa from Kadıköy
Aaron from Çekmeköy
Adrian from Istanbul
Agnes from Gümüşlük
Aida from Nisantaşı
Aisha from Istanbul
Amanda from Bursa
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Caroline from Kuzguncuk
Claire from Izmir
Claudia from Fenerbahce
Cornelia from Florya
Cumali from Adana
Cyrus from Istanbul
Dace from Ankara
David from Van
Dmitri from Beşiktaş
Filiz from Beyoğlu
Fred from Adana
Frederic from Ankara
Hana from Istanbul
Harry from Antalya
Iben from Alanya
Ingrid from Tesvikiye
Isa from Istanbul
Jan from Kuşadası
Jane from Manavgat
Janine from Izmir
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Jennifer from Sultanahmet
John from the Bosphorus
Kathy from Izmit
Kayla from Bostancı
Kenya from Beyoğlu
Leela from Nisantasi
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Marc from Kosuyolu
Maria from Moda
Maya from Izmir
Michelle from Göztepe
Molly from Galata
Nilgün from Suadiye
Omar from Ankara
Omar from Umraniye
Paolo from Beşiktaş
Pat from Göreme
Pat from Yaniklar
Patricia from Kartal
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Paul from Antalya
Pennie from Çengelköy
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