The always-happy expat crowd: cliché or cherished reality?

Somehow there are these “top spots” most of us would state as a potential destination should ever the chance arise to make a move overseas.

When I was young, it was most definitely America where many of our generation were hoping to one day in the future either travel to or even live in. Reversely, one could argue that both France and the United Kingdom were and are two hot picks for US citizens considering a longer trip or extended expat life abroad.

Rational reasons include career, income, climate, retirement quality of life or home prices. Yet, besides these and so many more tangible aspects for packing one’s bags, there are motivations that are more difficult to accurately measure. Think, describing a city or country as “charming” or as “romantic” or as “simply hip.” Now we are confronted by our inner self with regards to giving in to right or wrong perceptions based on what others told us. And then we fall victim to our own non-verified assumptions concerning a city or place: We read books about Paris, read articles about London, watched movies made in or about America. The amount of information we think is correct increases month in, month out. And since this is a process that started years if not decades ago, we have by now a long list of “true or false” issues linked to a particular destination.

Coming back to my first few lines, Turkey is most definitely one of those “most favorite” expat locations. Even someone who has never set foot on Turkish soil and once asked about her or his impressions of İstanbul will have an answer. If asked what Turkey is famous for, replies will flow freely. Turkey is a brand in its own right, an expat magnet. And that magnet brings people of all ages and professional backgrounds (and wallets) to our shared shores.

To make the distinction between rational and less rational more clear, I thought a lot about whether or not it is “true” (see above) to say Turkey’s expat crowd is a happy one. Why have I chosen this adjective to describe our expat community? Because if I take my own assumptions and preconceived notions before arriving here into account, this is what I thought would be the reality. I had heard about the large international residents’ community all along the coastline who come here to enjoy a great time under blue skies in wonderful climes, as well as having met people who characterized İstanbul as an entertainment capital per se. I had not read or heard a single comment along the lines of “boring place, dull, uninviting, wrong choice.” So my expectations were sky high.

The world around us is, of course, not faultless, regardless of where we live, here or there. No one expects that working or moving abroad is problem-free or that we never ever bump into the wrong kind of person from the wrong side of the tracks while being abroad. That is life.

Thus said, can “happiness” be measured? Let us not forget that many of us actually do move abroad because something was missing in our lives back where we originally hail from. Thus said, could there perhaps be a “happiness factor” added to the list of rational, or rather the less rational but absolutely vital reasons for moving on into the unknown? Then what some argue is a cliché would turn out to be reality, and a much-welcome reality for that matter! Yet only you as an individual knows what makes you happy.


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