How To Meet Locals, Istanbul Edition
Being an expat is an adventurous journey especially in a city like Istanbul.
This city is huge and full of surprises from the minute you set foot on the street. At times you end up being the center of attention when all you want to do is to blend in with the crowd. And other times feel totally invisible and irrelevant no matter how hard you try to connect. It’s not hard to meet locals, people are usually very keen to say “hi” and hear out your story. What’s hard is to connect with people on a real level, maintaining a deeper conversation that might actually go somewhere. So let’s talk about some practical advice on how to make this happen.
• It’s rather hard to blend in if you are not familiar with the language. Try to learn the basics. Simple expressions like “Günaydın” or “Merhaba” will give you lots of credit. Language schools are great for practicing but hiring a private tutor is better. At school you will be socializing with the expat crowd. If you hire a Turkish tutor for yourself only, you will make friends with him at some point and he will be your local guide. You don’t necessarily need an actual teacher for basic Turkish; you might simply put an ad online and seek volunteers for the job.
• Cihangir, Moda, Kadıköy, Nişantaşı, Galata, Bebek are more lively neighborhoods than most. Do not stick yourself at some concrete jungle in Maslak or Ataşehir where fun goes to die. It helps a lot to have restaurants, cafes, and bars within walking distance. Discover your own spot and become a regular, stay connected with the rest of the dwellers.
• Pilates, yoga, crossfit and fitness studios are all around town. Consider joining a local gym and preferably hiring a personal trainer. He will keep in touch with you through whatsapp, keeping track of your progress. After a few lessons, you will get to know each other and he will be your key to meet with other members, guiding you through his references.
• Try to follow local news, take a stand on local issues. A foreigner expressing his thoughts about local politics is always interesting, states the fact that you care, not just passing through but have some sense of belonging to the country and this will make you more credible on the local beholder’s eyes.
• Say hi to your neighbors. Don’t be shy to ask their advice on how to find a nice cleaning lady or which farmers market to go. Follow the advice and share your feedback as well. Show them you also have some stuff to offer; it might be an invitation for dinner, showing your cooking skills or helping them plan their next vacation in your hometown.
• Try Internations Istanbul Community. You will be surprised that almost half of its members are Turks with previous expat experience in some other country. You will be able to connect with them a lot easier, given the fact that they have been in your shoes at some point. Soho House Istanbul is also another hub to make great connections.
And you can always seek professional help when you feel stuck, tired or lost. Using a professional matchmaking service makes life a lot easier and helps you find love a lot faster than your own means.