US Expat in Turkey - Expat Interview With TCK Cecilia

Published: 6 Nov at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Turkey
Cecilia Haynes is an American expat kid. She was born in Hong Kong and grew up in China, India, the U.S., and the Philippines as a diplobrat. After graduating from university, she followed her itchy feet to Hong Kong and then launched off to Lhasa, Dharamsala, and Xining before settling down for the year in Alanya, Turkey. Living under the Mediterranean sun agrees with her and she loves being surrounded by baklava and dondurma (Turkish ice cream). Cecilia continues to blog, eat her way through life, and photograph all misadventures as she figures out expat life without a State Department safety net. Unsettled TCK (see listing here)

Unsettled TCK

Here's the interview with Cecilia...

Where are you originally from?
This is a difficult question since, as you can see from my introduction, there is no clear answer. I am an American and Chinese mix whose mother is from Hong Kong.

In which country and city are you living now?
I am currently living in Alanya, Turkey. It is a city on the south of Turkey right along the Mediterranean Sea.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I have lived here for four months and plan on staying for a total of one year.

Why did you move and what do you do?
The reason I am living in Turkey is because of a deal with my boyfriend. He is a PhD candidate researching Tibetan Buddhism and I followed him during his research period in India and Tibet. As a compromise, he agreed to go with me wherever I wanted to live during the year of his dissertation writing. Since I have never lived in this region and the cost of a high standard of living is relatively low, I settled on Alanya.
I work as a freelance curriculum designer and writer. This allows me the flexibility to bounce around. I got this job as an extension of my time as an English instructor in an education centre in Hong Kong. Writing is a hobby that I am trying to turn into something more legitimate.

Unsettled TCKDid you bring family with you?
I moved here only with my boyfriend. My family is back in the U.S. right now.

How did you find the transition to living in Turkey?
I honestly was not sure what to expect moving to Turkey. This country is a mix of Middle Eastern culture with European values and a strong patriotic streak that is wholly Turkish. I knew it was cosmopolitan and that was one of the reasons why I chose Alanya. Alanya has a huge percentage of expats and I really wanted a mix of local flavor with international amenities. The transition to Turkey was much easier than other countries that I have been to. Everyone is really friendly, apartments are lovely here, and you do not really need to worry about food poisoning. My landlord also helped with the process to get a residence permit, so I did not run into any snafus along the way. I would say the largest hurdle I have faced is in the grocery store. There is a lot that is entirely in Turkish, so I have had to learn to adapt.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
There is a vibrant expat community and most activities are scheduled through online forums. I use Turkish Living Forum since the responses I received were the most helpful and that is also how I found my apartment. The Turks here are, again, very friendly however English is not a strong suit for the majority of the population in Alanya. I would like to make more local friends but I am still looking for a good opportunity to do so.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Alanya is known for its beaches and water sports. There are also a ton of caves to explore in the area. One of my favourite Sunday afternoon activities is to go to the Dimcay River and have a leisurely afternoon spent in one of the floating restaurants located along its shores. Another great activity is to go up to the castle that overlooks all of Alanya. On the way down, stop by one of the many restaurants and have some delicious kahvalti (Turkish breakfast).

Unsettled TCKWhat do you enjoy most about living here?
I enjoy the weather the most. It is so sunny here and the temperature is gloriously warm. Right now in October, it is a balmy 80 degrees Fahrenheit outside. I also really enjoy the food since it is spectacular.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
The cost of alcohol and beef is more expensive than the U.S., which can be a positive if you are trying to live healthier. Water is incredibly inexpensive and most of the other amenities are cheaper here than the living in the U.S. would allow. It is also much cheaper than Hong Kong in all ways. It is more expensive than India and Western China.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The only real negative that I can think of is not being able to access the full range of ingredients that I would have in an American grocery store. There are a lot of recipes that I have to tweak because I could not find the requisite ingredients.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Pack your bathing suit!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Since I grew up in the expat experience, it is hard to say. I will admit there is a distinct difference between moving under the auspices of the State Department and having to handle everything yourself. All of a sudden trying to find a decent apartment, making sure that everything you shipped makes it to the destination, and just dealing with the hassle of settling in becomes ten times more difficult.

Unsettled TCKHow do you cope with repatriation?
I have had two experiences with repatriation. The first was when I was in late elementary/middle school and the second was during my university years. It was difficult for me to find an identity as an American. As a part of my personality, being American was peripheral when I lived abroad and only manifested in the perks of being able to shop in the Embassy commissary. I had a lot of trouble coping with repatriation because I was so frustrated that no one seemed to understand me. They did not understand where I had come from or why my lifestyle was so different from their own. I had to learn to be able to find points of mutual interest that did not involve travel or my upbringing. This was more of an issue when I was younger. Now that there is Facebook and Twitter and all of the other internet-enabled modes of communication, it is much easier to keep in touch with the expat community and the friends that I made. My biggest piece of advice is to make sure you do not shut down either side of your personality. Do not focus only on your travels but do not hide them away out of frustration.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
1. Research. Make sure to know the area that you are moving to really well. Try to get a feel for all the everyday requirements and get excited about your experience.
2. Finances. Make sure your finances are in order. It is so important that you have a starting nest egg for down payments on rent, utilities, etc.
3. Explore. Try not to find one place that you really like and then go only there. I know it is easier said than done but it really is important to explore.
4. Immerse. Try to make local friends and to frequent local restaurants. I think you will end up feeling cheated if you move to a foreign country and then surround yourself with home. It negates the entire reason for going.
5. Opportunity. Look out for as many opportunities as you can for employment, making new connections, and trying out professions that you might not have considered at first. I never thought I would teach or do anything with schools and now that I am, I love it.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog deals with Hong Kong, backpacking around Asia and Europe, and moving to Turkey. I also address TCK issues and I encourage a lot of dialogue about what it means to be an expat kid and how my upbringing continues to affect me. I display my travel photography as well.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can “like” my Facebook page as well as follow me on Twitter. Leave me some comments!

Cecilia has her expat blog called Unsettled TCK which is very worthy of a visit. She can be found on Twitter @unsettledtck and her Facebook profile. Unsettled TCK has an listing here which would love a nice review if you can spare a quick moment! If you liked this interview with Cecilia, please also drop her a quick note below.
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Comments » There is 1 comment

Justine wrote 11 years ago:

YAY cici!!!! love this girl!

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