Yabangee: An online community connecting English speakers to the richness of Istanbul
by Michael J. Oghia
Oct 10, 2014 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Michael J. Oghia
Oct 10, 2014 12:00 am
Regardless of whether you speak Turkish or not, discovering Istanbul can be quite the challenge. However, non-Turkish speakers face a particular disadvantage, specifically if you are new to the city. Whether you're an expat who has just landed at Atatürk International Airport to live and work in Turkey or a student who is studying abroad in Istanbul for a semester, exploring the wealth of its cultural scene can be frustrating if you don't know where to go or where to look.
Recognizing a "void" that was desperately in need of being filled, expat Tom Bacon established the website, Yabangee – a take on the word "foreigner" in Turkish – in early 2012 to connect expats, English-speaking locals and visiting students to events, festivals, job opportunities, Turkish culture, tips and shared experiences to have a richer experience in Istanbul and sites around the city. Now, Yabangee is run by managing editor, Emma Harper and website manager Tarik Yassien who maintains the website and coordinates events.
"Yabangee is a place where expats can go to become more involved with the city. First, it's a place where they can learn what's going on in Istanbul and how to take advantage of the rich cultural scene. But with our non-event content pieces, we try to share more about the city's past and present and explore what it's like to live here," said Harper, who is originally from Maine in the U.S. and moved to Istanbul in July 2012. She added, "I think it's filling a void – there aren't many places you can go online to find out about everything that's happening in the city, while also reading interesting commentary."
According to Yassien, a Turkish-American who moved to Istanbul in 2010, there are over 1,000 articles on the site that have been written by over 100 contributors, and currently, there are around 55 active contributors. "We have a ridiculously awesome team of people from all over the world who write about things relevant to their life in Istanbul. So, we've got loads of diverse content coming in regularly and a fairly active and responsive readership as well. It's a good combo. Also, I think our events are a bit unique. Our last event was a donation-driven Syrian fundraiser that had nearly 700 people show up with thousands of articles of clothing, books, baby supplies, et cetera. It's just one example of many of trying to create a sense of community," said Yassien.
Yabangee hosts articles on a number of topics that range from music, arts, sports and events, to local reviews, advice and information and travel tips. It also has an extensive archive where you can browse the hundreds of topics covered and often features an "Ask an Expat" series that helps to spotlight expat stories here in Istanbul.
For Yassien, Yabangee is much more than just an event board, however. "It's an English resource and community for life in the chaotic and lovely city of Istanbul. [However,] we also believed that if we dropped the [original] "for expats by expats" [tagline], we would grow and also share the site and build community between locals and expats."
Indeed, fostering a vibrant community between Turks and foreigners is a huge part of Yabangee. And although is often marketed to expats, students, visitors and other English speakers, it is a resource anyone in Istanbul can enjoy and benefit from. "For me, what sets Yabangee apart is the community that contributes to it. Our contributors come from all over and all have unique stories to share. That's one of the best parts of the site; I think it provides a platform for people to learn more about Turkey and Istanbul, which can help this place feel more like home," said Harper.
Yassien underscored this as well. "We're an English language guide to the city that obviously focuses on helping foreigners integrate with the city. However, the goal is also to develop relationships with locals and grow together; so, it is really not meant to be exclusive. We're always happy to have anyone want to contribute, attend our events, improve their English, be our friends or find out about life outside of Turkey."
Harper encourages anyone interested in looking to get involved to contact her and Tarik, follow Yabangee on Facebook and Twitter and come to the upcoming Yabangee social event on Friday, Oct. 10 at OH Asmali off İstiklal Avenue in Beyoğlu starting at 9:00 p.m.
"We're always looking for more people to come on board. So, if you're interested in writing and have an interesting perspective to share, get in touch with us at: email@example.com," Harper emphasized.