There is much to be said about living in Istanbul. It’s a vibrant, cosmopolitan city and used to be very fascinating to live in. So naturally, there are many things I love. The mix of cultures, ethnicity, and religions, being surrounded by the sea, Turkish cuisine at every corner of the street, the city’s rich history, the amazing views from nearly everywhere you go, shops that are open 24/7 and being able to take a 10-minute ferry or Metrobus ride from Europe to Asia are just a few examples why I love Istanbul and why I decided to live in the city in the first place. However, there is always a downside and truth to be said Istanbul is one of the most difficult places to live in. They even say that if you can live in Istanbul, you can live anywhere in the world. But what’s it really like to live in Istanbul?
They even say that if you can live in Istanbul, you can live anywhere in the world
I could tell you about the countless refugees or vagrants and animals that fill the streets. I mean seeing children barefoot in winter is just heartbreaking and not something I’ve ever expected to see in a city like Istanbul. I could also tell you about the endless power cuts or the days that we didn’t even have water for unknown reasons. It happened just recently that we didn’t have an internet connection for over more than 24 hours which made it impossible for me to work or contact my family. I think I’ve made at least twenty phone calls but there wasn’t anyone who could provide me with information. It’s possible to tell you about the times that I was doing business with big companies who couldn’t even provide me a correct invoice (seriously, not only with different prices but also with different products, it took me days to solve..). Or I can tell you about the times where I got into some problems with the government and it would be them their selves who would tell me where and how to fix my problems in an illegal way. I even got the police made up a statement full of lies so I wouldn’t be in trouble. And yes, I know how horrible this sounds and of course I was afraid at first, but honestly, it wasn’t that bad. I got sexually assaulted and so I started a (pretty bad) fight. Let’s say that the guy just picked the wrong girl, but could have sued me for what I did as well so the police helped me out. But the fact that I got sexually assaulted and the police lying is not okay at all. “Yapacak birşey yok” (there’s nothing to be done and “Burasi Türkiye” (this is Turkey) are the two solutions to everything in this country and I swear that I can’t here just two phrases anymore.
There are so many things I could talk about, so many situations and examples similar to those above to explain why life can be so difficult in this city. I haven’t even mentioned dealing with scams, the horrible traffic, littering, education of people, smog, being without money and other simple daily things everyone sooner or later will experience. For me, it is all just immense culture differences that made life in Istanbul so interesting. Of course, at times it was mainly frustrating and annoying but hindsight mostly really funny and educational. It’s part of living in another country, it’s part of living in another culture. You have to learn, you have to cope and you have to adjust. And how horrible most of those things might seem to some of you, it’s that what makes the expat life so amazing. Yet there is one part that I was not able to get used to. It’s the main reason for my decision to leave this wonderful country. It’s a life under the regime of the Turkish prime minister.
Safety has become a luxury, being anxious has become normal
Over the last few years, our lives in Istanbul has changed drastically and as we all know not in a positive way. It became frightening and there have been times I’ve been seriously fearing for my life. Safety has become a luxury, being anxious has become normal. Yet, and I know how bad this sounds, we all got used it. Things such as violent demonstrations and the treatment of terror along with power cuts, social media blocks and learning escape routes to avoid danger or being attacked by polis with teargas are part of our daily lives. I don’t remember precisely when or how it happened, but at some point, we were always ready to fight, run, and escape. I have mentioned situations like this on my blog and to family and friends quite often, but never really go into details since it’s nearly impossible for outsiders to really understand. Of course, you all know about it from the news, but living it daily is so much different and so much stress. Life has become reasonably uncomfortable.
The most frightening thing, however, is that I only realized how extremely distressing our lives became when I was in the Netherlands a few months ago. On a night out with the girlfriend of my brother and one of our friends we were just chitchatting while passing a very quiet street in the center of Amsterdam. We’ve had some drinks and had quite some fun. Our friend was on his bike and suddenly he made an unexpected and weird move to avoid a cat. I jumped into the air while screaming and was shaking all over my body. I was unprepared. Or maybe it’s better to say: I was relaxed and spending my time living in the moment and without fear. That’s when it hit me. I realized that this is not normal behavior at all and I seriously started to consider my life elsewhere. Not much later we decided to get the fuck out of Turkey. There’s no simple answer if you want to know how life really is like in Istanbul. It used to be challenging, but interesting. I used to love it and hate it at the same time. But in the end, it was nothing more than just impossible.