The television show Cheers was perhaps a bit before my time, but its iconic theme song has been an earworm of mine many a time. I’m not the most gregarious of folks, so it’s rare that “everybody knows [my] name,” but one place where that lyric holds true in Istanbul is The Sublime Portal.
The Sublime Portal is a web-based forum and wiki for expats and repats across Turkey. I initially joined while living in Ankara, and met some very nice folks there before moving to Istanbul and showing up to one of the Portal’s weekly meetups, not knowing a soul. Now, one year later, when I walk into a weekly meetup I usually know everyone. I’ve met some of my closest friends through the Portal. Last month alone, I went to a pirate-themed boat party, organized a hamam trip (to Cinili of course), and met up for several dinners and several World Cup viewings with folks from the Sublime Portal.
There are other expat forums out there, but I’ve found the closest and most welcoming community on TSP. Because it requires that members be expats or repats, it does a good job of weeding out the magandas that run roughshod over certain other Turkey fora.
Folks on the forum are just plain interesting. There are teachers, journalists, lawyers, executives, and people whose primary pastimes are perhaps less easily defined. Some have just arrived in Istanbul for their first time living abroad, while others have stumbled in to the city after a long string of stints in exotic and occasionally difficult locales. The language of the Portal is English, but there’s a veritable grab bag of native languages (I’ve met a lot of German speakers recently, for example) and, naturally, native countries. As a sometime Turkophile, I’ve found great discussions and debates about modern Turkish society and politics with folks I’ve met via the Portal, as well as gossip about Turkish soaps and local shopping hints.
In addition to being a social hub of sorts, the Sublime Portal is a clearinghouse of information. If something changes procedurally at the Istanbul Emniyet Mudurlugu, someone’ll post the new requirements. If you’re sick of missing out on YouTube videos, the TSP wiki has a nice list of workarounds. If you have any sort of question or problem concerning life in Turkey as an expat, chances are good that several people have experience with the issue and can offer advice (or, barring advice, a place to vent your frustration – also very helpful).
The Sublime Portal is not a resource for tourists, but if you’ve ended up in Turkey for the long haul (or for a middling term), it is invaluable. The site itself, and the fantastic people I’ve met through it, are a central part of my Istanbul