Tuesday, April 30, 2013


As an expat, going to the doctor or to the kuaför (Turkish hair salon) are two experiences that can make you cry.

Well, at least if you are a woman.

I’ve dealt with both while living in Istanbul.

Actually, I’ve left several different American hair stylists in tears as well after a haircut or coloring gone wrong. I’ve had my hair colored all different shades of blonde and brown over the years, including a fluffy, blonde perm in the early 1990s (picture on right). What was I thinking?

Finding a good hair stylist is important no matter where you live. In Istanbul, at least I was referred to a Turkish guy that speaks a little English, but is a little too proud of his çok altın (very gold) highlights every time.

Evet, Tekken Bey, çok güzel, çok altın,” I always tell him.

At least, I like the cut, and the price is fair, so I can’t complain too much. It sure beats trying to figure out what box of hair dye I would use instead. I’ve heard of other expat friends paying 300 tl or more for a haircut and color in Etiler and Istinye Park too. No, thanks!

Finding a doctor, especially a good OB/GYN, also is problematic. I’ve relied on friends’ recommendations and have had mixed results.

First, I ended up at the American Hospital with a female doctor, whom delivered six of my friends’ babies, but I thought she had an unfriendly bedside manner. Her English was near perfect, but she was always icy toward me and my husband. Not exactly the kind of personality you want to deal with when you’re trying to get pregnant.

Then, earlier this year, I went to another OB/GYN – this time a Turkish male – at the German Hospital. He was kind, friendly, answered all my questions and didn’t treat me like an idiot.

However, I had to go to another clinic for some specialty tests in an unfamiliar part of the city. It was raining. I was lost and in near tears until a friendly, older Turkish gentleman helped me find where I needed to go.

No one spoke English at this clinic. I was okay for awhile, but my Turkish comprehension doesn’t cover medical terms.

I lay down on the cold, flat table so the tests could begin. I was uncomfortably half way undressed. I was exposed and vulnerable. I wished I had a friend with me to hold my hand. I wished my husband was there.

The technician explained some things in Turkish that I didn’t really understand. “Kesmek?” Doesn’t that mean “to cut” in Turkish? Dear, god!

That’s when the tears started. The tears kept coming. I couldn’t help it.

I didn’t understand, and I was alone. The exam seemed to last forever, but in reality took only 10 minutes or so.

Some days that’s what my expat life is like here. I don’t understand, and I feel completely like a foreigner.

As an expat, have you ever had a similar experience going to the doctor or hair stylist while you lived abroad?

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12 comments:

Moe said...

My kuafor is fantastic, my doctor (from Acibadem) are wonderful and I'm near fluent so it helps but without fail going to the police station for residency permits renewals brings me to tears at the drop of a hat. I think its the environment, the stoic officers in their starched uniforms and the ever increasing amount of hoops to jump through.

Joy said...

@Moe, thanks for sharing your comments! Yes, I've heard from other friends that getting or renewing your permit can be difficult! Luckily, I never had that experience. My husband's company had a guy that took us in and out just like that. It was a very odd experience.

Mrs Ergül said...

Sigh. I guess that makes me ponder if I really want to stay abroad in a country where I don't speak the local language. I hope you find a OB/GYN that works for you soon. Also hope you get pregnant soon. We hope for the same ourselves!

Dayna Tellibayraktar said...

I can completely relate. On one hand the pampering is great at the salons in Turkey with 2-3 people attending to each customer. On the other hand, getting the stylist to do what YOU want is such a challenge. Mine has the habit of cutting a chunk off the back, handing it to me and asking if it was how much I wanted off. Well, a little too late now!!!! I've completely lost the color battle and just go with whatever he sticks on. Regarding doctors, I suppose that is when we are the most vulnerable. The last one I went to didn't remember me from the last visit. Sorry but how many Americans come into the clinic with the last name Tellibayraktar? I never went back.

Mahira said...

I can totally relate, having gone to 5 ob-gyn and specialists in the last month. I've covered the span from Amerikan Hastanesi to Anadolu Saglik Merkezi to doctors in private practice.

As for a hairdresser, I like Ozcan Cetin at MuamamrYaprakGul on Bronz Sokak, Macka because I know I can walk out of there without my hair looking like a bird's nest due to crazy, excessive layering!

Joy said...

@Mrs. Ergul, thank you! I hope so too. We'll see how it all goes. Trying to get back in shape so focusing on that first and the rest will follow. Inshallah! :-)

@Dayna, yes, I figured you would! Thanks for sharing your comments too. BTW, I bought some fertility teas when I was in the U.S. At least, color grows out. A bad cut is more difficult to deal with!

@Mahira, yes it's not easy! I hope you like the advice I sent to your email. Good luck!

Ersatz Expat said...

I had a fantastic hair stylist when I lived in Diyarbakir (20 years ago now), he did exactly what I asked. I was only 16 though so no colouring! Here in Kazakhstan I have a Lebanese hairdresser who is fantastic.

Our health insurance covers an interpreter which is a god send. Before we had the current insurance I had to take my son to the emergency doctors in the middle of the night with no interpreter. It was pretty awful and very scary as my Russian does not cover medical terms. The doctor was very patient, spoke slowly and then ran all her advice through google translate to make sure I understood 100%.

Dealing with any type of bureaucracy however - tears of frustration every time!

Backto Bodrum said...

I have a cousin by marriage who is a fertility specialist in Istanbul. Perfect English and a perfect gentleman, if anyone needs a recommendation.

Joy said...

@Ersatz Expat, thank goodness you can have an interpreter with you! What a godsend! Yea, bureaucratic permits, paperwork isn't that much fun either, but I think the doctors have made me more frustrated in Istanbul.

@Annie, thanks for the tip! Would you mind passing along the info to me? Some girls through PAWI might be interested too. You can email if you want at myturkishjoys@gmail.com

Jack L. said...

Dear Joy,

Greatest.
Haircut.
Ever.

I vividly remember that masterpiece. (Look out! It's alive!) Which later evolved into the "Rachel" cut; and, funnily enough, the hairstylist who invented the Rachel cut recently came out and revealed that he was high out of his mind on cocaine when he cut that hair. So millions of 20-something women walked around with a hairstyle that was literally a coked-out hallucinatory mistake. Awesome.

Sincerely,
This guy.

Joy said...

@Jack, thanks! I'm pretty sure I know who you are. ;-) And yes, bad permed out mistake of the late 80s and early 90s and gallons of hairspray to keep it all in place. Yikes!

Resul Basak said...

One of my friend like to work in Istanbul as a hair stylist; I wonder if there is saloon which expat women living Istanbul prefer to go... She is British citizen and very talented hairstylist. I am really looking forward to hear from you thanks...

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