I’m one of them, are you? You know, one of the estimated 1.3million British expats/internationals/immigrants living in Europe on our status as being part of the EU. We moved here legally. Work legally. Have bought apartments and houses legally.
But, now what? Who cares that OUR rights have just been changed by other people. I see a lot of talk about the worries of EU immigrants to the UK but what about US?! We left with an open border and find ourselves threatened by a shockingly closed one.
Are we part of the “negotiations”?
Are we supposed to move to UK and forget our lives abroad?
Where is our platform for discussion? Who hears our voices? Who will calm our souls over our foreign-born children and our now mismatched legal statuses abroad? WHO IS REPRESENTING US????
I have few answers and too many questions but one thing is for sure: I’m done being quiet about this.
1.3million. We have a voice. Let’s use it together.
photo credit: BBC news and used without permission. Just like how I didn’t give permission for my status to change.
What can I say sometimes other than ‘this expat life is no joke’! I know from the outside people see the glitz, the glam, the travel, the benefits, etc., but from time to time, I think it is good if we all ignore that part for a bit and turn our attention to some of the more difficult moments. Yes, I know, this sounds boring but it needn’t be. In fact, most expats you will meet have a wicked sense of humour and humility. We might not have started out that way but cultural barriers, linguistic errors, removal from what we know and who we know, and multiple social blunders have stripped us of our sense of cool. We learn to laugh at ourselves. With this spirit in mind, I’ve decided that from time to time, I will dig a story out from ‘the vault’ and share with you my sometimes bumpy ride as an expatriate. If you missed my last story on Expat Dating, feel free to check it out here.
Moving abroad presents us with so many moments for growth, personal development and life-altering experiences. But, at some point or another, we all learn that it also presents us with moments of extreme humility. I have spent hours cringing in reflection upon things I have said and done since stripping myself of all my cultural norms and moving abroad.
When you haven’t lived abroad, you don’t realise how much of your life you take for granted. Like, saying hello to people. You know how to do that so well you don’t even think about it. However, when you move abroad, this simple act becomes a challenge you didn’t even know existed.
In Canada, firm handshakes and hugs were the norm depending on how well you knew someone. I’m a hugger by nature and this was totally fine with me. What I’m not ok with? Kissing people I don’t know. So what did I do? I moved to Paris. The land of the two cheek air kiss. I took me years to figure this one out. The when and how and whom of kissing was all too much for me. I never quite knew when someone became a person on your kiss list and, to be honest, I still don’t. I spent a decade in Paris hoping a French person would offer up their cheek first. Most often this worked well. Sometimes, this was a massive failure.
Take my school gate incident. I’m cringing already thinking about it. A mum I had said ‘bonjour’ to for a few months greeted me a bit more enthusiastically one day in order to present me with a birthday invite for my son. Cool! At the end of our conversation, she leaned in for the au revoir kiss. Or. So. I. Thought.
In her world, she was leaning forward to scratch her knee cap. In my world, we were going for kissing. This didn’t end well with me kissing her and her not kissing me. She looked horrified and muttered at the end in painful English “oh, you wish to kiss me…”
Die. Die. Die. Melt. Please floor soak me up whole now!!!!
I made my DH take the kids to school the next morning because, well, once you’ve crossed the ‘we now kiss line’ you MUST ALWAYS DO THE KISS! Every time. Hello. Goodbye. Without fail. Dear lord, I wasn’t ready.
After some time and move to Switzerland later, I thought I had left the kiss and all its stress behind.
Not even close.
We became friendly with our neighbours in the early days here and one day the father passed me in the street and said his ‘bonjour’ and asked how we were settling in. All very nice stuff as we’d only been here a week and having someone know us and check in was comforting. At the end, I saw what was definitely the au revoir kiss lean in and I thought ‘I can do this, I am Parisian’ and went for it.
Only…in Switzerland, the kiss is different. When I thought we were done the obligatory 2 kisses, he kept going. Only, I didn’t. In the middle we met, lips touching and a thousand ‘I hate my life’ thoughts coursing through my soul. I made out with my new neighbour. Week One in Switzerland: check!
How could I get it so wrong???
I rushed home and googled ‘bisous Suisse’ (Switzerland kissing). Dang it all to heck, the Swiss kiss THREE times! Not to be outdone by their Parisian counterparts, they went and added a prime number of kissing to the cultural awkwardness!!
I’m not silly enough not to realise in the grand scheme of life that making out with my neighbour and a French mum are minor blips in life but these are the moments that I swear change us the most as foreigners abroad. We step so far out of our comfort zone that stepping back in seems difficult, if not impossible. Take the hug now, my favourite greeting. On my last trip to Canada I was shocked at how intimate it seemed in comparison to kissing someone on the cheek. Well I’ll be darned, I no longer know which one I prefer…
So, the next time you see me, don’t be surprised if I hug, handshake and kiss you all in one go. Heck, I might even throw in a little dance or two. Just blame it on no longer having an engrained, reactionary culture to dictate how I behave anymore (or the wine).
A couple Fridays a month I will be featuring another blogger or up-and-coming writer on my site. Stories range from expat life to travel/adventure. If you are interested in possibly being featured, please read the info hereand get in touch! You may notice differences in terminology, vocabulary and spellings here but I think keeping it authentic to the author’s voice and background makes for a richer reading.
Top 5 Expat Locations
By: Jason Mueller
Moving to a foreign location can be a frightening thought for many people thinking about making a big move that will change their life drastically but if you choose the right country this frustrating process can be very rewarding making all the hassles well worth the pain. For those looking for change, you will not find a better way to mix things up by re-locating to a strange country. There are so many great countries to ship all your goods to and call home. It is hard to narrow it down to just 5, and your perfect country is going to vary from the next persons, but here are 5 great countries for you to consider calling yourself a local expat to.
There is so much that Switzerland has to offer for expats searching tirelessly for a better life abroad. For starters the food is to die for and places like Lausanne have amazing street food festivals, wash all the great food down with a delightful glass of wine or some on the cleanest drinking water on the planet. Switzerland is very stable, in fact it has the sixth highest GDP per capita out of all the countries in the world. Great public transportation will get you around on time, if you don’t like to drive then this is a tremendous country to take advantage of and if you do enjoy to drive the roads are in good condition and fun to explore. Immaculate hospitals, brilliant doctors and great benefits make the health care top notch, in fact the Swiss are said to have among the highest quality of life on the planet. The central location will make a great home base to go out and enjoy the rest of Europe. This incredibly safe country makes the list for so many good reason.
This is also known as the land of pura vida which translates to pure life, on a typical day you will hear this saying at least 3 times a day, it can be used as hello, goodbye, thanks, have a good day, take it easy or just about anything else, but is really a way of life for the locals and expats living in the Rich Coast. The country has been toted the happiest country in the world due to high wellbeing, high life expectancy and not to mention the tranquil laid back vibe you can’t help but to enjoy when chilling on the beaches, walking in the lush rain forest vibrant with flora and fauna or enjoying the views in the pristine mountains. The locals are welcoming and you won’t have to travel far to meet up with a fellow expat. People re-locate here from all over the world opening B&B’s, hotels, restaurants, tours, vacation rental companies or anything to take advantage of the high numbers of visitors that come as tourists. Of course Costa Rica has a tropical climate keeping you nice and toasty on the beach but is also known for having some of the most moderate weather in the world up in the mountains.
People may not know it but Chile is a rapid developing country, South Americas most prosperous and stable country. The emerging economy has the highest state of peace with great economic freedom to keep your soul happy. Chile has a low percentage of corruption and crime making the country very safe and secure so you can save money by not having to worry about security in your office or business. Also the cost of delicious food and other living expenses such as rent is lower than North America giving you a better bang for your buck. Obtaining a visa, work permit or residency is pretty hassle free compared to many other countries. Come enjoy one of the bustling cities or some views of the breath taking Andes.
If you are planning a move from North America this may be your best option because of the close proximity, offering cheap and fast flights back home to visit relatives. The immigration process to get accepted in the country is fairly easy with minimal money needed to get your residency. Sure Mexico has gotten a bad rap from the war on drugs and the other reported crimes but the truth is that in most locations it is very safe and there is a lot of expats to mingle with. But you won’t have a problem making friends because locals are very happy to invite you for a meal of seemingly endless food and tequilas. The cost of living is pretty low for the frugal people out there looking to make their dollar stretch a little further. Mexican food is a desired taste bursting with flavour, if you aren’t a lover of “picante” food then don’t let that detour you as there is a huge selection of restaurants from all over the world.
The landscape alone is enough to make you want to move to this unique country that offers volcanic terrain on the North Island and snow-capped mountainous peaks on the South Island. Outdoor adventures will keep you active with anything from skiing to surfing, you will never get bored in this adrenaline filled country. Although the average income is a little low the high quality of life will keep you healthy and after all some people forget just how important health is in life. Approximately one fifth of the population are expats, with that being said, it’s clear that the proof is in the pudding. The state sponsored health care is some of the best around with modern health facilities. All the amenities that you are used to will keep you very comfortable, soon you may be calling yourself a Kiwi (what locals are called)
Jason Mueller is an entrepreneur living in Costa Rica with family from Canada. Since graduating from high school and getting his pilot’s licence, he has lived to travel the world looking for adventure. You can find him onFacebookand Instagram.
Photo credits: Jason Mueller, Jennifer Hart, Fotolia – Vege
Love it or leave it but Panettone season is upon us again! Pana-what-y? Panettone (pan-eh-tone-eh). If you have to ask what this is then you must not live anywhere near an Italian market or somewhere like Switzerland where Italians make up a good chunk of the population. Something magical seemed to happen on the first of November in every single grocery store across Switzerland (and no, I’m not talking about discounted Halloween candy). Panettone popped up everywhere!! Just like cheese did a few weeks prior, panettone has taken over the supermarkets with bright boxes, colourful containers and more varieties than you knew were even possible!
So, what is panettone? Panettone is a sweet leavened bread with flavourings added. The traditional mix includes dried fruits but over the years versions such as hazelnut chocolate (think Nutella), grappa and lemon have appeared to gain in popularity. Panettone is similar to a brioche and is often served with tea or coffee as an afternoon snack.
What to do if your local store isn’t chock full of panettone and you want to try it? You could always make it yourself! YES, panettone is a somewhat time consuming recipe but it is not difficult. You basically work with the dough or 10 minutes or so then leave it for a couple hours and repeat. I know someone that left their dough accidentally for 5 hours and it still turned out fine. It is a forgiving recipe so even newcomers can handle it.
The same basic recipe can be used for a chocolate panettone or a fruity one, just choose your ‘extra’ ingredients based on your taste. You can always mix and match. I’m a big chocolate and orange fan so candied orange with chocolate chips would be awesome! My husband and I like a bit of Grand Marnier splashed in the dough but we avoid that with the kids. Just have fun with it!
Panettone: *NOTE: a panettone tin would be perfect for this but if you have another deep (20cm/7inch) dish, feel free to use that. Some bake shops and grocery stores sell disposible panettone dishes that work very well! I’ve heard of people in North America using old large metal coffee tins. Alternatively, I have heard of panettone being made in metal IKEA utensil holders (the silver one with holes) after being lined with aluminium foil and parchment. Deep is what you are after so get creative!
60ml/4tbs warm milk (soy milk may be used if you are vegan but beware, the final texture may not be the same)
14g/0.5oz dry fast-action yeast
100g/ 1/2 cup of caster sugar
500g/2 cups of strong white flour
250g/1 cup butter or butter substitute
5 eggs (or flax egg equivalent), lightly beaten
1oml/2tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 orange (you can omit this but I feel it rounds out the flavour)
pinch of salt
For a traditional fruit panettone
250g/1 cup of your favourite dried fruits (i.e. raisins, cranberries, cherries candied orange and lemon, etc) You can chose just one fruit or several types to make a mixture
For a chocolate panettone
250g/1 cup of dark chocolate chips, chunks or a broken chocolate bar (reserve some for sprinkling on top)
Finish for both versions:
1 egg white, beaten (vegan – mix small amount of soy milk with sunflower oil)
8-10 rough crushed sugar cubes or pre-made sugar crystals
optional – you can add slivered or whole almonds to the topping mix if you like
Place your warm milk, 1tbs/15ml of sugar and yeast together in a bowl and leave to sit for a few minutes. In the meantime, grease your panettone (or other) tin with butter or margarine. Using a different bowl, add the remainder of the sugar to the butter and vanilla extract. Mix together until pale and creamy.
Gently add the orange zest and mix. Now add one egg at a time, making sure each egg is well incorporated before adding the next.
Place all the flour in a large bowl with a pinch of salt. Make a small hole or well in the middle and first pour the yeast mixture into the well, followed by the butter and egg mixture. Begin to stir and bring together, gently mixing all the wet and dry ingredients together. Once the ingredients seem well blended, knead the dough in the bowl with your hands for about 5 minutes. This will be a VERY sticky dough at this stage so don’t panic if yours is sticking to you!
Take the sticky dough and turn it out onto a well-floured surface. Here, you will knead again for another 5-10 minutes until you have a very stretchy and soft dough. If your dough is sticking to your hands and the surface, you may use small sprinkles of flour to help with this process. After 5-10 minutes, shape into a ball and place into a large, lightly greased bowl. Cover with cling film/plastic wrap and leave for 2 hours to rise. Please note: your dough will double in size so make sure your bowl is large enough to accommodate this!
After 2 hours, place the dough on a lightly floured surface again and knead for 5 minutes, gradually adding either your fruit mixture or chocolate mixture. If you are using chocolate, be careful not to knead too much and melt the chocolate into the dough. I would knead the dough for 4 minutes then add the chocolate at the last minute. Shape into a ball and place into your greased tin. Cover with cling film/plastic wrap and leave for another hour to rise.
Heat over to 180C/360F. At this point, brush the egg wash or substitute over the top of the dough and add the sugar cube pieces. Place in oven and bake for 40-45 minutes (some ovens may take longer!). Test with a skewer before removing from oven. IF your panettone starts to brown too much on the top, gently cover with a foil tent to protect from the heat.
Remove from oven and let sit for at least 30 minutes before attempting to turn out.
If you find the egg and butter mixture starting to curdle, add small (like a teaspoon at a time) amounts of flour to smooth it out.
Also, you can place parchment paper inside your tin before adding the dough to help remove the cooked panettone at the end.
Now, sit back and enjoy warm with a fresh cup of tea or coffee!! Did someone say warm sugary bread? YUM!
Do you currently, or have you lived at some point, as an international in Switzerland? If yes, I would LOVE to hear from you. I am running a short survey to write an anecdotal piece for my blog based on the experiences of people that have upped and moved to Switzerland. If this interests you, please leave a comment with your email OR email me here at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m not going to berate you, America. You had a tough night. Whether you feel your party won or lost, everyone is in a state of shock. You don’t need more advice, you don’t need a pity party and you do NOT need to be told to flee your homeland. Just take care of yourself, remember that the future isn’t written yet and anything can happen. I understand your fears. Truly, I do. I woke up at 4am to watch and text with my American father and immigrant mother living in Florida. It was not the result we had hoped for but things happen. Now is the time to heal and try to come back together as a nation.
One of the most repetitive questions you will be asked as an expat or foreigner living abroad is ‘where are you from?’ I often wonder what it is like for people, such as my husband, who comes from a very recognisable place (you may have heard of it, London UK?). The ease they must have explaining it. London. It comes out, people process the information, understand and move on to a story about London – either they have been there or they wish to go there.
My answer? Thunder Bay. Not at all the same to my husband’s response. Not even to CANADIANS who should know better but often don’t.
In the past few years I have found myself saying, ‘do you know where Toronto is? Ok well drive 16 hours northwest and that’s where I’m from.’ This is often met with blank stares and questions like, ‘is that even in the same country?’ HA! Same country? Try the same province, even! I often field polar bear and igloo questions and have even been asked if I have ever seen a beach before I left my northern life.
So imagine my delight when last week a video of my hometown started splashing across Facebook. The video, put together by cinematographer Damien Gilbert, demonstrates the vast beauty and complexities that Thunder Bay offers. People are often confused by me as I am a huge fan of both city life and Jimmy Choos as well as hiking and being in nature. Perhaps spending 2 minutes watching what my hometown looks like, you’ll understand me a bit more. Enjoy!
Thank you, Damien for putting Thunder Bay on display for the world to see. Maybe NOW people will stop asking if I mean North Bay 😉