Life in Istanbul: passion for people

Istanbul is a simply wonderful city, rich in culture, history and with a passion for people and business.

In 2016 I’m spending a year in Istanbul – on and off – enjoying Turkish culture and food, and providing some part-time consultancy help with the English language to local business executives and managers. I took my first faltering steps as an exporter after participating in two UK Trade & Industry trade missions in the Februarys of 2014 and 2015.

Istanbul is a simply wonderful city, rich in culture, history and with a passion for people and business. Turkey is also a young (average age 30) and vibrant country. English people ask me, ‘Do you feel safe in Turkey?’ Well, I certainly did before this month’s terrorist suicide bomb attack near the Blue Mosque which killed 12 people, mainly German tourists. And I feel safer than if I was commuting daily to London or Paris. I just take care to avoid tourist destinations, like the Haghia Sofia (pictured), groups of sightseers, the American Embassy, police stations, and some demonstration hotspots (like Taksim Square during public holidays).

An article on the weekend of 16-17 January by Simon Calder, the Independent’s travel editor, reassured me. He wrote, in answer to a letter from a reader fearful for her family if they holiday in Turkey this year, that “the overwhelming odds” were in favour of safety. He went on to add a three-point a risk-management plan. This involved taking care of rip tides, watching out for traffic when crossing the road, and wearing a hat and taking care with the sea, the cars, and the sun. Of course, we are all being vigilant, avoiding tourist groups in major sightseeing areas (as I do).


The route to exporting

I must break off to listen to a webinar from the UKTI about planning an online business strategy. They follow that up shortly with another webinar on social media. I have to say that UKTI have provided huge support and help in my exporting efforts.

Exporting is for companies of all shapes and sizes, not just multi-nationals. In Britain it is not generally appreciated how much the commercial world respects brand UK, especially in design, architecture, project management, consultancy, creativity, culture, and much more. The world is indeed your oyster – or, in my case, my Istanbulkart (the local equivalent of an Oyster card).

How to communicate best in English

How we express ourselves in English has always been important. After all, English is the language of business

Do you wonder about the best ways to communicate with people? Meeting face-to-face remains the best and most satisfactory means of communicating. However, we know that, when we meet face-to-face,  people take far less from what we say than from our body language. But we must also face the modern problems of time and access. Time is restricted while access seems global, and instant. There are just not enough hours in the day to meet as many people as we want. And some people in the corporate world spend all their time in ‘meetings’, which is just as bad.

 Online, we are told, ‘content is king’, and there is also the familiar adage that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ (from an article in 1911 by American newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane). So content has tended to be confused with image, brand and design.

How we express ourselves in English has always been important. After all, English is the language of business. So I was interested to read Internet Psychologist Graham Jones in his blog: “The number one online activity is … READING. We read more than ever before and each day billions of words are added to the web. So, given that reading is the most common online activity, what kind of person do you really need to produce your website? An IT specialist? A designer? Nope. They’ll help, for sure, but the key person you need is a writer.

“Writing is the number one skill required to produce a great website these days. Hence if you don’t have an in-house writer, you need one. If you don’t have a team, hire a freelance writer ….”

 While design and brand have their place, they need to underpin the words (rather than overwhelm them). It has been said that websites with the right words will often work better than beautiful-looking websites which pay no attention to the language. Whether or not you are a native English speaker, always remember that the best business English is simple, yet powerful. Always prefer shorter words, sentences and paragraphs to long-winded ones. That takes time, as Pascal wrote in the 17th century: “I have made this longer than usual only because I did not have time to make it shorter.”

 So, get help with your English communications from professional writers, especially those who keep their writing short and simple.