Finding her niche in Turkey
Anastasia found her niche in Turkey after having lived and worked for five years in Malaysia during the 1990s, where her expat experience was bumpy.
Neo-cultural entertainment author/producer, global networker, identity adventuress and mentor Anastasia Ashman moved to İstanbul in 2003. A turning point in her journey occurred the next year when she co-created with Jennifer Gökmen the anthology 'Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey.' Through her work at ExpatHarem.com,, Anastasia has created the space for independent cultural creative people and mobile progressive people to gather
She felt she had lost her “sense of self and [her] voice” by letting her surroundings overwhelm her and her choices. The disenfranchised state improved when she pursued her interest in history (she has a degree in archaeology). By reading historical travel writing about the region and acting in a period film, “Anna and the King,” she was able to put into context “the burden of my own cultural expectations in that particular place. It explained why life was bumpy, and was a good example [of] how to enjoy the differences around me by exploring what I personally find interesting.”
After returning to New York she fell in love with and married a Turk, with whom she moved to İstanbul in 2003.
She had a new expat survival plan for Turkey. Anastasia saw her life abroad as a sabbatical of sorts from her New York City life -- she intended to isolate herself and write a travel memoir.
A turning point in her journey occurred the next year when she co-created with Jennifer Gökmen the anthology "Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey." Anastasia says they were inspired by their “historical peers in the Ottoman harem” and they recognized that even though expats and foreigners often live in limbo, they can find strength and solace in each other and learn ways to thrive by combining the local culture with their own backgrounds and inclinations.
Impetus for success
Anastasia credits her Expat Harem coeditor and other expat women writers for her success. She also says, “Turkey's own metaphors kidnapped me,” meaning that the country's dichotomies helped unify her own conflicting experiences as an expat and as a writer, while the expat harem concept encouraged her to expand her connections to “cultural peers across the globe.”
She also credits “our İstanbul writing workshop, the 30 expat women writers in the book, the 100 women who originally responded to our call for submissions, and the American and Turkish publishers and sponsors, as well as book reviewers and readers internationally.”
Anastasia's next metamorphosis occurred in 2009 when she created and launched “expat+HAREM, the global niche” at ExpatHarem.com. For the first time, the online community allowed her “cultural peers to come together in the virtual realm.” She calls these expats, immigrants, travelers and “culturati” living around the globe “identity adventurers.”
“We all live in a fluid state of culture and identity. That's our neo-culture, and our hybrid identity. Our family, nation and original culture are not our only influences; we have to find a way to live in multiple worlds at once.”
Anastasia says that she has always been attracted to places with an amalgamation of people and cultures. However, the biggest pull is “the idea of crossroads … like Rome, where [she] studied in college … and now here on the Bosporus,” where she senses a positive energy and vibration for self-discovery and reinvention. Anastasia believes that working and living abroad is an excellent way to discover new self-potential.
The language factor
Anastasia says that her basic Turkish skills are enough to make her way in İstanbul, but are too rudimentary to aid her in her professional life. When she first got here she consented to being interviewed on television and to participating in business meetings in Turkish. However, since that “effectively rendered [her] mute and grasping at meaning,” she now chooses opportunities that support her strengths; all her work is in English.
The foreign edge
Anastasia believes that her expat status has allowed her some “leeway where a native might not have been granted it,” but the foreign edge certainly does not apply when one is working in a competitive environment.
Challenges of working in Turkey
Anastasia finds one of the greatest challenges of working in Turkey to be the “differing ideas of professionalism and business style” that exist here. She finds it tricky to navigate amongst such a diverse group of business peers with conflicting perspectives about things like lead-time, marketing and promotion.
Advantages of working in Turkey
Because Anastasia works in the virtual world with people in New York and California, as well as with colleagues in Europe, she finds the greatest benefit to be İstanbul's time zone. For example, she can take all day to prepare for a morning meeting in her home state of California.
Mentoring as a lifestyle
Anastasia embraces mentoring as a way of life for successful people. For over a decade she worked with a holistic writing coach in New York City whom she calls the godmother of her current book project. She is writing a forensic memoir about her best friendship.
Anastasia considers herself to be a mentor to her extensive network of colleagues and friends from the entertainment and media industries. Support includes advisement on career and lifestyle choices. Anastasia believes that her “secret weapon” to success is her two-way mentoring relationships. To further hone her skills as a facilitator, she mentors a Turkish professional woman in London. She also sits on the advisory board of the new Turkish Women's International Network, an organization with a global mentorship program.
Creative entrepreneurship of self
Through her work at ExpatHarem.com, Anastasia has created the space for independent cultural creative people and mobile progressive people to gather. Coining the term "global niche" to refer to the creative self-enterprise we all have to do to find our optimum work and lifestyle, Anastasia now provides a model for global citizens to integrate their personal and professional identities. With entrepreneurship consultant Tara Ağaçayak she is launching an online workgroup at GlobalNiche.net to put expat+HAREM theories into practice. One of the first steps she encourages people to take is enrolling in her free e-course, which is designed to build the foundation for one's global niche through a professional web platform.
In work and life, balance is extremely important to Anastasia. Guided by the ancient Chinese geomancy Feng Shui, which directs the flow of energy, she knows that as a Dragon birth sign she needed to live on a hill overlooking the water to ensure her happiness -- something that she believes “has proven to be true.” She says she still does her best work when she is isolated, yet she seeks “active global collaboration” to connect with the world while staying true to herself. She recognizes the need for “great light and ventilation, and an ergonomic set up” to be successful so she enjoys living with “fabulous, breezy Bosporus views that make working at home the best place to be.” The final ingredient for her perfect physical environment has been a special paperweight for her desk -- “a sleeping street cat from Cihangir.”