After last week’s blog post, I received the following message from a friend. She’s a repatriated expat, who lived in Turkey for two years.
Like me, she has many doubts about being back in the US. Many “Is this where I belong?” questions. Many moments of “The grass is greener” somewhere else…or is it? What’s it like to go back to find out?
Here’s what she wrote:
Just read your blog post. It makes me curious. If I were to return to Istanbul, what would I feel? Many of the people that I knew have moved on, but not all. I wouldn’t have my same apartment–how would that make me feel–having to negotiate that without my school’s help? Not so sure… How is it to be back? I miss Istanbul so much! Anita
1. Not having my old apartment is a nonissue.
It doesn’t bother me at all. I’m in an apartment that I found on AirBnB. It’s in the same neighborhood, just in a quieter part of it. Everything I need is still close by. The only thing I miss is the view I used to have.
2. Finding an apartment is doable.
I think that you would have very little problem finding a new apartment on your own. AirBnB and other rental sites work well, for short-term. For a more permanent stay, you could check Craigslist and local Turkish rental sites. Is there an expat Istanbul Facebook group? The Chilean group is very active, helpful, and knowledgable. Great for giving recommendations about everything from food to physicians. And don’t forget word of mouth. Tell all your friends that you need help.
3. The expat revolving door is real.
Before I moved to Chile, I’d always said that I wanted to make friends with and hang out with Chileans. “If I wanted to hang out with ‘Americans,’ I could stay in the US.” But it’s not that easy. Making friends takes time. When I moved to Chile, I soon learned that I needed to have a mix of both expat and Chilean friends. At first, my friends list was skewed toward other expats. The longer I stayed in Chile, the more native friends I made. Over time, like yours, many of my expat friends have moved on. Now, my friends list is more heavily Chilean. It’s fluid thing and, I expect, always will be.
Conversely, I now find it difficult to make friends in the US, for the same reasons. People are busy. Their circles are already formed and closed. While their noses have been to the grindstone for the past five years, they don’t understand someone who’s been gallivanting around in South America, for the same five years.
4. Being back feels deliciously familiar.
Things haven’t changed much in the year that I was gone. I’m recognized and greeted warmly in the neighborhood. It’s almost as if I’d never been away. It’s a comfortable feeling.
5. Identifying my lifestyle.
For me, it’s a joy to be able to have a pedestrian lifestyle again. It’s the way I like to live, and it’s good for my body.
5. It’s the same, but different.
Different, because my friends and I know that I’m only staying for two months. That gives every encounter a sense of urgency, a “Let’s make the most of this” moment. My friends show, not just a “We’re glad you’re back” attitude, but a deep, abiding connection that’s withstanding the test of time. I’m feeling ferociously loved. When’s the last time I said that?
So, what do you think, Anita? Is it worth doing? The only way you’ll ever know for sure is if you try it.