Cultural Unadjustment

Not gonna lie – I miss Istanbul. A lot. Trying to adjust from Turkish culture to Chilean culture hasn’t been easy so far. Some of the things I thought would be similar are not, but some things in Santiago are much easier than in Istanbul. Here is my list of what I find important, and which city has the advantage:

Price and Quality of Housing
Santiago. While the buildings in Istanbul have a lot more charm, in Santiago I have found bigger rooms and more modern amenities. Also, for the same price of a room in the city center and near a metro line in Santiago, you have to live pretty far away in Istanbul.

Istanbul, hands down. Santiago isn’t an ugly city, it’s just not Istanbul. No city is like Istanbul. There’s no sea, there’s no charm.

Santiago de Chile


Istanbul. The metro in Santiago is much more convenient than in Istanbul (for now – until Istanbul finishes all their projects), but the buses in Istanbul are much better (even though they smell and are dangerously overcrowded). And Istanbul has ferries. Maybe that’s irrelevant because Santiago isn’t on the sea. But riding a boat every day is awesome.

Istanbul. Turkish food is among the best in the world. What have you ever heard about Chilean food? Exactly. Istanbul is also generally cheaper in both the markets and restaurants.

Ease of Walking Around
Santiago. It’s flat. In Istanbul, it seems like you are always walking uphill. Flat is nice, for a change.

Istanbul. By a mile.

Istanbul. Turks and Chileans are equally very friendly and helpful. Chileans smile a lot more and are much more forgiving when I don’t understand the language, but the hospitality and genuine care for other human beings is something I have rarely seen outside of Turkey.

Museo de Bellas Artes in Santiago de Chile

Museo de Bellas Artes

Santiago. While I like Turkish rock and a few Turkish artists, Turkish music isn’t that great. Latin America has much more festive and enjoyable music.

Istanbul. There were five gunshots resulting in a murder outside of my window on my 3rd night in Santiago. Even in the worst neighborhoods in Istanbul, I felt much safer and didn’t feel I needed to worry about being mugged. I live in one of the BEST neighborhoods in Santiago. There’s definitely a problem here.

Santiago. It’s summer in Santiago, so I can’t compare winters yet, but the summer weather is hot, dry and comfortable. In Istanbul, it could get very muggy and uncomfortable.

Santiago. Istanbul is a mess. And in Santiago, cars stop when I cross the street!

Green Spaces
Santiago. Istanbul is a giant concrete jungle that lacks parks in the areas away from the seaside.

Santiago. Istanbul is very clean for a city of its size, but Santiago has a slight edge.

Basílica de la Merced in Santiago de Chile

Basílica de la Merced

Istanbul. There’s something I miss about walking through the neighborhoods in Istanbul amongst Ottoman architecture.

So the official count for the big things:
Santiago 7 : Istanbul 7

On the surface, it looks pretty even. But in life, it’s the little things that really matter, and the little things that make me still consider Istanbul my home. Here’s what I miss most about Istanbul:

  • Tea after every meal.
  • The bakkal (corner store) on every corner. I could walk outside of my apartment and get daily necessities like milk and bread. They seem nonexistent in Santiago. I have to walk 20 minutes to go grocery shopping for just a few things.
  • The sea.
  • Nargile at Tophane. I haven’t found a hookah bar in Santiago, but I know they exist.
  • Street food. Santiago has some street food, but in Turkey the quality and variety is much better.
  • ATMs everywhere. If I need an ATM in Santiago, I have to walk pretty far.
  • The constant state of chaos. Yes, it sounds weird, but once you get used to it, it’s not so bad.
  • So many cultures and religions in one place. Santiago seems culturally dry so far.
  • My friends. That’s really what I miss most.

And here’s what I don’t miss about Istanbul:

  • Moustaches and unibrows don’t exist in Santiago.
  • Santiago hasn’t been ruined by malls!!!
  • Politics. Istanbul has changed a lot in the few years I lived there, and not for the better. I hope to return to a better Istanbul some day – not the city I left.
Chilean flag at Plaza Bulnes in Santiago de Chile

Chilean flag at Plaza Bulnes

5 thoughts on “Cultural Unadjustment

  1. Tyra Deckard

    I always had a small market and botilleria near every place I lived or stayed in Santiago. In fact, they seemed to be in nearly every corner. Either something has changed or you're living on the wrong street! But seriously, it is good that the two cities are tied in your eyes, as of now. It's completely understandable that Istanbul stills feel like home and you will probably never stop feeling a little homesick for it. But I'm sure that after a little more time, Santiago is going to start to feel like home, too. Anyways, we miss you here and I'll be thinking of you with every bite of manti I take!

  2. Nick Pangere

    Walking around other areas, I saw a lot more markets. I guess it's just where I live. I miss you guys too and really wish we could go have some mantı across the street from your place.

  3. The Freebird

    Really interesting piece. No mention though of tear gas, toma and internet lockdown. Might that tip it for now? Rent seems cheaper in Santiago, how about food (both market and restaurant)? How about the Big Mac Index – i.e. how long on a typical English teacher wage do you have to work in order to buy a Big Mac?

  4. Nick Pangere

    Thanks! Will update for food price – can't believe I missed that. Big Mac wage – just the sandwich or the meal? Sandwich only I've found is about 15 minutes on average. For the meal, 30. Funny you mention the TOMAs and tear gas – while I was in Istanbul from Sept. to Dec., there was almost none. It didn't kick off again until after I left. So you're telling me the TOMAs aren't there to wash the streets off? And the Internet lockdown isn't for our protection?

  5. The Freebird

    Maybe the streets in the suburb you were in (which I believe was called Plovdiv) were already clean? Kadikoy still had weekly vermin expunging campaigns. The BigMac Index is based on the sandwich I believe and is a globally recognised economists' tool. As you move from place to place it would be interesting to see how long a typical English teacher needs to work, assuming paid in local currency, in order to buy one!

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