I arrived in Istanbul just over a year ago knowing nobody. Now I have the sort of friends who have invited me to stay with them for months at a time when I haven’t been working and who I know I could ring day or night if I needed help and know it would be given.
I lived in London for roughly thirty years and could not claim the same. Making friends here is so easy when I was first given this topic to right I almost laughed. There are endless Facebook groups you can join and connect with people. There are MEETUP groups, Internations. I have to admit from my experience their reputation for being a bit of a “pick-up” club rather than for friendship is justified. That’s just my experience, not a warning not to try it for yourself.
You can join Couch Surfers which I was surprised to find is not just for finding a bed for the night but also runs events. If you want to kill two birds with one stone you can find casual work at one of the many English Speaking cafés and meet all kinds of interesting people you might not otherwise cross paths with as an ESL Teacher. I met a lawyer, a computer engineer and a jewellery maker while I was doing this who remain good friends.
If you speak Turkish-or another language- you can post flyers in local coffee shops offering to swap language lessons and not only get to meet new people but learn about their cultures at the same time.
Turkish people are by nature friendly and welcoming and genuinely enjoy connecting with foreigners. As weird and crazy as this may seem to us foreigners you can actually just talk to people here and they’ll talk to you. I met a really good friend of mine in my local Starbucks. In much the same way five year Wolds make friends in the playground. He said “Excuse me. Is this seat taken?” and I said “No”. He said “Oh- you speak English!” and voilà; friends.
There is a very good chance the other foreigners here arrived knowing nobody and remember what the first few weeks were like so they seem to have shaken off the Western reserve about talking to strangers and won’t shut you down if you approach them.
I know this is hardly original advice but, join a class to learn something new. One of my closest friends here started as my Belly Dancing teacher. I am a terrible dancer and gave up after three lessons but she’s like a sister to me now.
Fortune favours the brave. If you hear someone speaking English, say hello. What is the worse that can happen? You meet someone you wouldn’t want to be friends with anyway.