US Expat Living in Istanbul - Interview With Joy

Published: 7 Jan at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Turkey
A Midwest-born girl and East Coast transplant, Joy has been living as American expat in Istanbul, Turkey, for a little over 2 years. She cooks, eats, travels and writes about her Turkish adventures on her blog, My Turkish Joys (Expat Blog Awards 2012 for Turkey gold winner - see listing here). Professionally, Joy continues to work as a pastry chef and strives to make her life and others a little sweeter in Istanbul. She often shares her recipes and photographs taken around the city and her travels.

Meet Joy - US Expat in Turkey
Meet Joy - US Expat in Turkey

Here's the interview with Joy...


Where are you originally from?
I grew up in the Midwest surrounded by farmland in the U.S. In 2004, I moved to New York City to pursue my culinary dreams, which is where I met my husband. I consider myself an East Coast gal with Midwestern roots.

In which country and city are you living now?
I am currently living in the historical, cosmopolitan city of Istanbul in Turkey.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
My husband and I moved to Istanbul in July 2010 for his job. I’m not sure how long we will be here as it depends upon his job.

Why did you move and what do you do?
My husband actually got the job offer to move here on our honeymoon in April 2010. We knew we wanted to move abroad so this was our big opportunity. I was a pastry chef in the U.S. and started networking once we arrived. I teach monthly baking classes at the Istanbul Culinary Institute as well as from our home. I also regularly bake cheesecakes, tarts and other pastries for a coffee shop in Sultanahmet and for friends.

Joy and Jason at Rumeli Fortress Istanbul
Joy and Jason at Rumeli Fortress Istanbul
Did you bring family with you?
It’s just my husband and me. Both our families are scattered across the U.S.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Living in a foreign country requires you to jump in with both feet. I’ve always tried to be positive and open minded about my experiences here.

At first, the language barrier made everything, from ordering lunch to buying groceries to getting a haircut, extremely difficult. But then you learn the right Turkish words and life gets easier for you. Even if you speak a little bit of Turkish, the locals really appreciate your efforts and you will get better service.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialize with other expats?
Before I moved to Istanbul, I researched all the expat groups and immediately joined every group I could. I’ve made the best connections with other expats through Professional American Women of Istanbul, International Women of Istanbul, American Women of Istanbul and Foreign Women of Istanbul on Facebook. Internations also is a great group but seems to be geared more toward singles. I think it’s much easier to make friends abroad because you easily bond as you go through similar experiences.

We do mainly socialize with other expats, but we’ve become good friends with many of our friends’ Turkish spouses too and have met other Turks and Cypriots through them.

Galata Tower and Bosphorus in Istanbul
Galata Tower and Bosphorus in Istanbul
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
I love exploring the back streets and local markets (pazars) in Istanbul. Every neighborhood hosts a weekly farmers’ market/bazaar on certain days of the week. The produce is so colorful and fresh that it’s extremely hard to resist. I often end up overbuying, but I enjoy cooking and baking a lot too. I can just wander around the historic neighborhoods for hours taking photographs of the architecture and the people.

Istanbul also is known for its rich history and is becoming more known for its modern art. Take the time to explore the areas of Sultanahmet, Fatih and Eminönü.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
It’s difficult to narrow down what I enjoy most about Istanbul. There are so many things. I love the food, the history and the friendliness/hospitality of the Turkish people.

Also, living in Istanbul has allowed us to travel all over Turkey and Europe. We’ve taken full advantage of the city’s strategic location in the world and the budget airlines that fly out of Istanbul. Our goal has always been to take a trip once a month.

Joy exploring
Joy exploring
How does the cost of living compare to home?
Istanbul is not a cheap city to live in and it’s comparable to living in New York City. While rent is expensive, public transportation and fresh fruits, vegetables and fish are cheap. Meat, alcohol and any imported goods are expensive too.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The craziness of a big city. Sometimes I just want to get away from it all, but then I remember how much I love this city too.

Also, I miss the variety of ethnic cuisines like there is in New York City. There are a few Indian, Chinese and Asian-like restaurants here, but for the most part, I end up making this cuisine at home.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Be open minded.

Yeni Mosque in Eminonu in Istanbul
Yeni Mosque in Eminonu in Istanbul
What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Nothing is as simple to get done as it is in the U.S. It might take 2 or 3 calls to get something repaired, and then the repairmen don’t show up when they say they will. It is frustrating at times, but you learn to accept this is how it is here. Then, you ask a Turkish friend to help you.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
If and when we leave Istanbul, my husband and I want to live in another foreign country before we return to America. There is so much I want to explore in the world before I return to my roots.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn the language. I’ve had a difficult time learning Turkish, but now I can communicate in present and past tense and hold basic conversations. It’s made my life much easier, and the locals appreciate the fact that you’re trying to speak their language.
  2. Network. The more people you meet, the more doors open to you. Many expat women in Istanbul know me as “Joy the baker.” I’ve received several baking orders through friends and friends of friends here in Istanbul.
  3. Explore. Be curious about everything and explore as many nooks and crannies as you can. You will meet new people and discover new markets, stores and cafes along the way.
  4. Smile. A smile always goes a long way in any language. I know my Turkish is far from perfect, but I always try and smile during my conversations.

  5. Have fun. You do this by keeping an open mind. Even taking a new form of transportation can be fun if you try and view it that way.


Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog, My Turkish Joys, covers cooking, eating and living in Istanbul. I enjoy taking photographs of Istanbul and our travels around Turkey and Europe and share them on the blog. You can find travel advice on the places we’ve visited in Turkey.

I also feature Turkish recipes that I try at home and emphasize using local, seasonal ingredients. I hope I inspire others to try a different recipe or cuisine. Sometimes I give recommendations on Turkish restaurants we’ve tried too.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I’d love to hear from other bloggers and expats. Normally, you can find me on the blog, my Facebook page for My Turkish Joys or on twitter @MyTurkishJoys. I also take photos around Istanbul with Instagram. Sometimes I post items to Pinterest as well as Flickr.

Joy blogs at http://myturkishjoys.blogspot.com/ which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. My Turkish Joys has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Joy, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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Comments » There are 3 comments

Julia Cooke wrote 1 year ago:

As an avid follower of Joy's blog it's great to hear a bit more about her. Her blog has been so useful for me both in giving practical information but also because her attitude to life is full of the joy of exploration and upbeat about obstacles. I think she is a great representative of the expat community here. Her blog has really been a help in my integration. Really happy you featured her.

BacktoBodrum wrote 1 year ago:

I found Joy's blog just before I moved back to Turkey last year. I don't visit Istanbul very often so Joy's recommendations are very useful to make the most of a short visit.

Michael wrote 3 months ago:

I think joy has moved now but she still kept all her posts about Turkey. It is a good read

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