Having spent large periods of my life as an expat, I know what it’s like to feel clueless. All. The. Time.
When my wife Cheryl and I arrived in Izmir, Turkey in 1999 with 22-month-old baby Lucy, we were lost from the first minute on the ground. We walked into the terminal, and immediately a uniformed security officer handed his assault rifle to his co-worker, scooped up Lucy and takes off across the building to show his friends.
Lesson one: Turks love blonde, blue-eyed children. And can be relied upon to promptly return the ones they’ve borrowed.
To our relief, Mr. Airport Security returns in a few minutes with Lucy, then tries to help us make a phone call to our sponsor in the city, which is about 10 miles away. He doesn’t speak a word of English. We – at that point – don’t speak a word of Turkish. It was awkward.
Lesson two: At that time, you couldn’t use coins in payphones. You had to use Turkish Telecom tokens or a calling card. What we didn’t know then was, Turkish cellular service was light years beyond what we’d been used to in the United States. We should have purchased cellphones in advance.
Our new friend used his calling card to get our call through. We never reached our sponsor (who was supposed to meet us), so we were on our own. The options were take a taxi or take a bus. We just picked the taxi. We should have taken a bus.
Lesson three: Havaş buses from the airports across Turkey to city centers are always better deals than taxis.
I could write a book.
Instead, with our new expat news and entertainment website/corporate services business Dispatches, we’re including a standalone section called “Expat Essentials.”
Expat Essentials will start as how-to posts and videos for expats moving to Europe, then will be refined into country guides and city guides. Our first Expat Essentials post is in – two actually, on how to use the metro and trams in Vienna, including how to get from the airport into the city center. (Yes, we were inspired by our Izmir adventure.) Sisters Ivana Avramovic and Nina Avramovic Trninic collaborated on the posts and photos.
About now, you’re saying, “Well, a lot of expat sites do this.” And you’d be right. And some do them well. But Dispatches will be a bit more ambitious, because we aspire to build a Pan-European, encyclopedic data base of info, written in an eminently readable style. Sort of like a letter from your knowledgeable friend who’s lived in Vienna or Paris or Amsterdam forever.
Topics will run from how to buy a car in the Netherlands to how to open a bank account in Berlin. How to find a great international school in Paris. Tips for driving on the autobahn. Which European airports have discount airlines and flights to, say, Turkey or Morocco. Which service providers have the best wireless deals.
What’s that? You have some helpful tips about your city/country? We’re still building our beta site, so please send them to:
Also, if you’re a freelancer, please send us an email, and we’ll talk about rates for Expat Essentials posts. We’re hoping to hear from you!
And may the adventure never end.