Different Country, Different Customs – Saudi Arabia

Friday, August 26th, 2011 | Posted under Expat Week, Guest Post, Video, Vlogging

I am beyond thrilled to end Expat Week with a bang….and a vlog! My namesake Terri made a vlog just for us!! Terri Lundberg is an American expat who has been living in Saudi Arabia for three years. Originally from California, she is a self-professed travel addict, photographer, trailing spouse, and mother. She’s been to 85 destinations in 22 countries and looking forward to more. She writes about her travels and produces hilariously opinionated and honest vlogs about her life as an expat. You can keep up with her on her blog blackchickontour.com. – T



In this video, I discuss how I feel about being a female expat living in Saudi Arabia and how I’m affected and not affected by the customs and culture of Saudi Arabia. Even though I reside on a “Western/Expat” compound, it’s not just Americans on the camp. There are people from all over the world (think 3rd world), including Saudis. It makes for a weird mix. So, even though I’m on a compound and I pretty much live like I would in the United States, there are still some things that make me conscious of where I am. That’s typically related to what I’m wearing. You can watch the video to hear more about that.

Also, in the video I make reference to a situation with my vacuum cleaner. LOL. 🙂 If you want to get the back story the link to the post is here: http://blackchickinsaudi.blogspot.com/2009/10/too-funnythe-vacuum-cleaner.html Check it out for a quick laugh.

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Standing Out as an Expat – Hong Kong

Thursday, August 25th, 2011 | Posted under Expat Week, Guest Post

I’m very happy to introduce, Oneika of Oneika the Traveller. I was very excited to meet this globetrotter when she came through New York City recently. If you guys think I’ve travelled a lot…pshaw! This woman makes me look like I just went down the block. 🙂 Either way, she’s got a lot of stories and observations about her travels and her most recent expat stint in Hong Kong, which allowed her to travel extensively throughout Asia. – T

It wasn’t until I packed my bags and headed off to France for a year-long study abroad program that I realized that I had been bitten by the travel bug. My year in France, which took place during my third year of university, opened my eyes to the world and ignited my passion for discovering foreign lands. My appetite for travel was whet, and my mind was bursting with possible travel itineraries and wish/hit lists. After all, I was in my early twenties and this was my first time in Europe (and my first time outside of North America)- I had lots of catching up to do! I spent the year studying French literature, backpacking through various destinations in Western Europe, and plotting for a way to come back to Europe after my study abroad stint finished at the end of that school year.

Oneika

That was about eight years ago, and my thirst for travel still has not been quenched. I have travelled to over 40 countries and am a four-time expat who, after having expatriated to France all those years ago, went on to move back to France a second time, then onward to Mexico for a year, and THEN moved to Hong Kong, where I have just finished up a two year stint. I am soon to be a five-time expat- I am moving to London, UK in the fall! I am currently spending time in my hometown, Toronto, Canada, but am gearing up for a six week trip to Guatemala and Chile before moving the UK.

Despite my previous relocations to France and Mexico, people are most curious about my move to Asia, and understandably so, as it is just so darn far from home and the culture and language are so vastly different from those of us who are from North America have come to expect. I moved to Hong for work (I am a high school teacher) and have used the opportunity to learn about (and travel around) the region.

in Bali

Hong Kong is a spectacular city- its glitz and skyscrapers and fast pace have lead many to dub it the “Asian New York”. But for all its “Asian-ness”, there are a lot of Western touches and comforts that make the place feel familiar and quite a bit like home. English is spoken widely there, which is extremely convenient. The only downside is that I didn’t learn any Cantonese or Mandarin while living there!

While I get asked a lot of questions from a lot of different people about living abroad, I often get questions about what it’s like for Black people living in places like Asia. I’m not going to lie- my dark skin and dread locks incite a lot of interest and curiosity. Be warned that your “different-ness” (this goes for blondes, redheads, and very tall people) will often single you out and will make you an instant celebrity in some places in the region. My travels around Asia have yielded some pretty funny situations that are primarily due to my skin colour. In Cambodia and Thailand, people pointed at me and yelled out “Obama!”, while in China, I couldn’t move 100 feet without people snapping my picture with their camera phones. In South Korea, people were generally respectful and asked to take my picture, but there was one incident in Seoul where a woman forcefully grabbed me so that I could be in her photo! In Hong Kong, the local Chinese are generally accustomed to foreigners, but I still have had a number of Chinese people here come up to me and touch my hair without asking. That being said, the vast majority of interactions I’ve had in Asia have been extremely positive, and the attention can actually be flattering. Living abroad has been a fantastic experience and I feel so blessed to have had the chance to do so. Expat life has been rewarding and I have learned and done things that I would have never imagined! The thirst for travel is still alive and well for this voyager- the only question is where to next!

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The Positives & Negatives of Expat Life – England

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 | Posted under Expat Week, Guest Post

Life isn’t all sunshine and unicorns and that goes for the expat life as well. There are definitely benefits and drawbacks to being an expat. Today’s post comes from P. who writes the Spinster’s Compass blog. I appreciate her blog for her “no holds barred”, honest look at what her life is like as an expat. She currently resides in England. – T

Exciting! Exotic! Fun! Romantic! Splendid! Those are some words that come to mind when some people think of moving to another country outside of their own. You meet new people who turn into wonderful friends, your job is perfect, you eat at laid-back cafes every day, and the local dating scene may even lead to a new love or marriage. You can stay in your chosen country happily ever after!

Absolutely. On Planet Utopia.

As an expatriate of over one year, this surely isn’t the case for me, nor is it the case for many fellow expatriates. Here’s a brief look at (what I consider) the positives & negatives of moving to another country.

Taxes

Positive: My taxes help pay for universal health care, extremely low prescription medication costs, and things as miniscule as almost commercial-free TV programming.

Negative: Heavy taxation on everyone, including me as a legal non-citizen worker. Almost 25% taxes out of people’s paychecks, sometimes more? Come on now. That puts a big dent into one’s paycheck & makes it difficult to live frugally. That doesn’t include other fees such as council tax, annual TV license, and public transportation.

Employment

Positive: Better job, better benefits. In Europe (depending on which country you reside in), minimum vacation time is 20 days (4 weeks) and that’s for part-time employees. You may even have higher pay. Your profession may be more appreciated in another country, which is always a plus if you’re from the United States, where unequal pay still exists and some jobs are looked down upon.

Negative: In the current economy, your pay may be the same as, or even less than, what you earned in your home country. Your profession may be even more looked down upon in your new country, and the system in which you work – whether it be health or finance or engineering or teaching or (insert any profession here) – may be in even worse shape than the same system that you left in your home country. Possible remedy: lots of research – make sure that you know exactly what you’re getting into before you move.

Friends (how many of us have them?)

Positive: It can be exciting to meet new people. They can help you get adjusted to your new area, taking you out on the town & introducing you to other people who can help you feel even more at home away from home. If your personalities mesh, these friendships can last a lifetime.

Negative: If you’re like me (not always good at negotiating social activities, norms & mores), it’s more difficult to meet new people. Rather than meeting fly-by-night acquaintances, you may be seeking more solid friendships. Solid friendship are more difficult to form and can take longer to develop, and lack of friendships can make it more difficult to adjust to your new area. Possible remedies: go out on your own & explore your new area, and/or take up a hobby in your new area, which can expose you to new people.

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This is by no means an exhaustive list. My top recommendation to anyone who is considering expatriation: know what you’re getting into before you go. It can mean the difference between an easier transition or a return plane ticket back to your home country.

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Making Friends as an Expat – Delhi, India

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 | Posted under Expat Week, Guest Post

I feel like a total stalker of today’s blogger, Kisha, who writes the blog, From India–with Love. I’ve been following her blog since earlier this year when she started making her plans to move to India. Since I am officially dying to go to India, her posts satisfy my weekly need for insights into life there. Kisha writes about an important part of expat life in this post. How do you make friends and create a community for yourself as an expat? – T

First a big thanks to Terri for inviting me to contribute to Expat Week here on her blog.

I’m originally from Toronto but moved to Delhi, India earlier this year (March 2011) to work as a paid volunteer for one year. When Terri asked me to write a post I started thinking “What could I share that might be useful or interesting to others who might be considering doing the whole expat thing?” In my 5 months away from home I feel like I’ve grown so much – I’ve perhaps experienced every possible emotion there is to experience, seen things I’ve never seen before (both the incredible and the heartbreaking), ate delicious food, and met the most interesting people from all around the world…so coming up with something to write has been overwhelming – but after giving it thought I decided to share this piece of advice:

Get a social life. Make friends.

This one piece of advice sounds so easy (and it is EASY) that the thought of “making new friends” initially sounds terrifying. Before moving to a new country, when you’re at home, you have a set group of friends that you regularly get together with to have a good time and de-stress with. When you move to a new country, where you don’t know anyone, I’m not going to lie – it’s tough. On top of dealing with everything else that comes along with moving to a new country you suddenly find yourself friendless and with no social life – no one to vent to about your “tough/exhausting/amazing/etc.” day. When I moved to India, for the first month, I found myself staying home every day after work not doing much and as a result not having the best time – but then I gave myself a kick in the butt and decided to get a social life and make some friends! And since that decision my experience here in Delhi has improved 10000% Having friends in your new home can greatly enrich the experience you have – regular coffee/lunch/dinner dates, parties and get-togethers, hanging out at the park listening to live music, rock climbing, site-seeing, exploring the city, shopping the bazaars and markets……these are much more fun to do when you have company – trust me!

So how do you make new friends in a country you’re new to and unfamiliar with? I’ll tell you this – it just takes one. Yup, you heard me – it just takes meeting one new person and then it kinda snowballs from there. Here’s some suggestions:

Ask friends and family before moving if they know anyone in the country you’re moving to that they would be willing to introduce you to by email. You’d be surprised at how far reaching some peoples’ connections are!

Try Couchsurfing. Not only is it a good place to find a couch to crash on for a new days in practically every country around the world – it’s also a good way to meet other expats or locals. I have a couchsurfing account and while I don’t have a spare couch or bedroom to offer my profile clearly states that I’m willing to “meet up for coffee.” (Note: You will get tons of sketchy emails on couchsurfing from people who think it’s a dating service. Ignore them and keep control in your hands by contacting and responding to the people who seem to have the same intentions as you. Be smart and be safe!)

Smile; look friendly. Allow me to explain, when you move to a new country it’s easy to always have your guard up. In an environment you feel comfortable in – try letting it down. A few weeks ago I found myself in a favourite coffee shop. I decided to take my own advice and when someone who was clearly an expat came into the shop and ordered a drink – when our eye connected (you’re eyes will ALWAYS connect with the other expat in the room!) I smiled. He said ‘hi’. And thus a friendship was born. We ended up chatting over our drinks and background for the next hour. Easy peasy!

Hang out with someone from work (either another expat or a local who you think you’ll have things in common with). Invite them out for lunch or to check out a local bazaar.

Connect with a local blogger. Since moving to Delhi I’ve received emails from newly arrived expats and travellers who were readers of my blog and wanted to meet for coffee – I always say yes. Now I have a new friend and so do they! …and when I go to parties hosted by my “old” friends I always invite my “new” friends along.

So those are some suggestions for making new friends in your new country. If you have any tips or suggestions to add leave them in the comment section – I’d love some new strategies! And if any of you happen to be in Delhi – drop me a line! I’d love to hear from you 🙂

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Preparing to Expat- Coruna, Spain

Monday, August 22nd, 2011 | Posted under Expat Week, Guest Post

One of the issues that I wonder about the expatriate life is the logistical side of things. How do you go about setting up a life in another country? Some times I have a hard time keeping things together here in NYC much less in a new country with new rules, a new language and just about new everything! Mandy of Married up with Wine is here to tell us about her preparations for her upcoming move to Spain. -T

Hi Everyone!! I’m so excited to guest post here about my experience so far with expat life…or at least, preparing for expat life since we haven’t left the States yet.

Back in December of 2010, my husband and I got news that a position in Spain was opening up through his company. We immediately agreed that we’d want to take the opportunity and live abroad as long as we could. Then the job was pushed back. And back. And back. Then we got a confirmed start date for August 1, 2011. We were elated!

Then the job was pushed back again until October. Oy. Putting my future in the hands of others has not been an easy undertaking for me, since I’m usually the type that likes to plan, plan, plan! In exchange for the uncertainty and frustration this has caused though, we do get quite a few financial perks when it comes to our living and relocation expenses since we are moving for a job. Hopefully, it’ll all even out in the end.

So, while we’ve been waiting to depart, I’ve had plenty of time to think about and prepare for the logistics of moving from one country to another. We’ll be living in the Coruña, Spain area and have a 3-week vacation/house hunting trip scheduled in September. We’ll be given $2000/month for rent, so we are excited to see what kind of properties we can afford on our budget!

The pin is where Coruña, Spain is located. It’s about 6 hours from Madrid and 2 hours from Portugal.

We also have two dogs, both Wire Fox Terriers, that are accompanying us on our move.

They’re about 25 pounds each, so not too large, and since we get $3,000 per dog (!!) to transport them to Spain, we called on an international pet transportation company, Worldwide Pet Transport. Their fees were well within our budget, and I feel much better knowing that Wrigley and Zoe will have someone dedicated to their care while in a stressful situation like an airport. They also take care of all of the paperwork on getting the dogs into Spain and can drop them off at our new doorstep if we so choose. I feel like it’s a very convenient and assuring service since our dogs’ safety is a priority for us.

The dogs are also determining where we’ll live since they absolutely require a yard. They’re the kind of high-energy dogs that start eating drywall if they don’t get enough exercise in every day, and walks just don’t cut it! So that rules out most city flats, but I’m just fine out in the country with a nice garden as long as it’s a bike ride away to the city and shops.

A beautiful property within our budget…I hope we can find something like this on our house-hunting trip!

The biggest challenge I anticipate: I don’t know Spanish. Rosetta Stone was provided by my husband’s company, but they say the best way to learn it is to live it, so that’s going to be a huge personal project that I’m taking on. I want to embrace the language and culture as much as possible while we’re in Spain. This probably means making an ass out of myself fairly often, making mistakes and saying things terribly wrong. It’s scary to put myself out there like that, but in order to get the most out of the experience, I’ll do it and hopefully emerge from it all with decent Spanish conversation skills.

Overall, we are incredibly excited for this move!! It will give us a chance to experience a radically different lifestyle while traveling and experiencing new things at every turn. We are currently contracted to be in Spain for a year with a high probability of being extended. If our contract isn’t extended, we’ll probably try to obtain a position in another country through my husband’s company–Australia, Japan, Romania, Poland and Thailand are just a few of the possibilities. For now though, we’re trying to focus on the next year and all of the adventures we’ll have!

I’ll be blogging all about our three-week vacation to Madrid, Andorra, Montsant, Barcelona, Bordeaux & San Sebastian and about our house-hunting trip in Coruña, as well as our move and transition into Spanish life, so be sure to check out my blog, Married Up With Wine!

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