I had the luxury of visiting my family back home for one month this summer before returning to Istanbul. While home, everything felt nearly the same, but there were a couple moments that I’m sure other expats or long-term travelers have experienced:
Miles vs. Kilometers: I went to the gym with my dad the first two days that I was home. As I was working it out on the eliptical, I checked my distance and it was in miles. Going one mile is further than one kilometer, as you know, so I told my dad, “Why is this in miles? It makes it look like I haven’t gone as far!”
Pounds vs. Kilos: Within the first few days, I told a friend that I was aiming to lose ten kilos while I was home (HAHAHA!) because I had a friend back in Turkey with whom I was racing/betting. My friend stared at me blankly then laughed because I hadn’t said the equivilent in pounds.
Dollars vs. Liras: When I first moved to Turkey, I continued to think about what my purchases were costing me in dollars because I am still paid in USD. This was great for awhile because it made Turkey seem much cheaper. When we set up our bank accounts (one in USD, one in TL), I was able to designate a percentage of my salary to go directly into my TL account. I committed to using only the money in my TL account [with the exception of purchasing flights, training sessions, and my language course] each month for my basic needs and entertainment while saving all the money in my USD account.
As time went on and I kept to my budget, I realized that if I were being paid in Turkish Lira and had to live off of what a Turk may typically earn, Istanbul is actually quite expensive. As I shopped in the States, I found myself thinking that my totals were in liras and when I realized they were in dollars, I thought, “Oh gosh, I wish that was in liras!”
Hugs vs. Kisses: Us Americans are huggers. We may shake hands when we first meet, but hand shakes switch to hugs almost seamlessly. Sometimes I’ll skip the hand shake alltogether. Rather than hugging everyone, I’ve been kissed on both cheeks almost exclusively for the last year in Turkey. It was the same during my year in Austria. In the USA, you probably don’t get a peck on each cheek very often unless you have a lot of Latino friends.
During my month back in the States, I completed Level One towards my Orff certification. During our promotion ceremony, if you will, we were told we had to give hugs to all our teachers. Now, I’ve hugged many teachers in my day, and as a teacher, I get hugged by the majority of my young students. Yet, for some reason, this felt strange to me. It almost felt like hugs were more intimate and that a kiss on each cheek would have been more appropriate. This was probably the biggest shock to me that month because I’ve always been a huggy person. I NEVER would have expected myself to experience this reaction.
Very few other things caught my attention while I was home:
The USA has a LOT of billboards on the side of the roads.
In the suburbs, you need a car for just about everything. Point A to Point B is very spread out.
Small town America has so much charm.
There is such a variety of food, both take-out and at the market. Istanbul, for being a very diverse city, does not have a diverse food culture.
A dryer for my clothes?! Win.
I love the comfort that home brings, but I hope that every time I visit little things continue to surprise me.