Sunday, 31 October 2010

Top 10 Expat Explorer blog posts

Can't believe it's November already. Here are the most read posts from October to ease you into the month.

1. Guest Blogger Series: Introducing… Aaron White- thinking about moving to the UAE? Englishman in Dubai answers five top questions to prepare you for the move.

2. Guest Blogger Series: Introducing… Maryline- Maryline explores why the French find it difficult to say ‘I Love You’.

3. Expat guide to healthcare- Find out what you need to be aware of in terms of healthcare provisions before you move.

4. There’s no taste like home- What home comforts do you miss the most?

5. Web Wednesday #5- looks at commons mistakes in moving abroad and expats suffering from identity crisis.

6. Web Wednesday #7- links looking at the five stages of culture shock and comparing the cost of living.

7. Guest Blogger Series: Introducing… Rachael White- indulge yourself in Rachael’s post about the season of expat life.

8. Breaking the language barrier and the joys of expat slang- share your experiences of lingo faux pas here.

9. Expert Excellence featuring George Eves- Find out the story behind the founder of Expat Info Desk.

10. Guest Blogger Series: Introducing… Marie Brice- A tip a day keeps the expat blue away.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Ed Cheney

People decide to become expats for a variety of reasons. It could be to search for a job with better prospects, to move with a spouse or partner or simply move abroad for a lifestyle or culture change.

In this week’s Guest Blogger Series, we look at a particular breed of expats- Expat Entrepreneurs.

Living and working abroad has its own set of challenges, but starting your own business in a foreign country can bring about an entirely different set of difficulties one has to overcome. Here, Ed Cheney talks about his inspiration for his business- Mabboo, the barriers he encountered and how he overcame the cultural differences in setting up in China.

Into the dragon’s den

My entrepreneurial expat journey began in 2008 while studying Mandarin in China. I was living on the coast in Qingdao and stumbled upon an article about a new eco-fabric- bamboo. Not believing that you could make clothes from bamboo, I did some digging and discovered that not only can you make bamboo fibre; it is also incredibly sustainable and superior to cotton. Bold claims I know, but here are the facts:

• Bamboo is the world’s fastest growing plant (reaching the height of a double decker bus in a week).
• It grows 100% organically without the need for pesticides, fertilisers or additional irrigation.
• It is super-soft, hypo-allergenic, thermo-regulating AND entirely biodegradable.

In short, bamboo is a PHENOMENAL material!

Living in China, you quickly realise bamboo really has a cult status and not just because pandas love it. Bamboo is incredibly versatile, with daily use in Chinese food, all the way through to scaffolding for skyscrapers.

I was convinced that bamboo will be a fashion industry game changer and was compelled to create a brand which could draw on the Chinese heritage of bamboo while being very contemporary in design.

I started messing around with the word bamboo and my first anagram attempt “Oomabb” was a non- starter! It took a few more hours after that before I finally came up with “Mabboo” and thought there was something there. The name just stuck and it seemed almost too perfect. The Chinese character for bamboo is graphically similar to the letter ‘M’ and this gave me the basis of my logo and my bamboo clothing brand!

Now the real work (and the difficulties!) began, as I started to hunt for a bamboo fabric supplier. With China being the bamboo capital of the world I had numerous suppliers on my doorstep. Many claimed to be high quality, experienced and start-up friendly, but in reality most failed completely to deliver anything of worth. One supplier even decided to rebrand “Mabboo” as “Bamboo” saying that they preferred their name over mine! Add to this a six month delay to get my trademark granted, and you have a far from ideal start. Several times throughout the journey I contemplated packing it all in, but my ego wouldn’t let me. Not at least until I had produced and attempted to sell my first batch.

After a slight hiccup during the early days, eventually I was able to find a decent supplier. When it comes down to starting up your own business, it is important to tap into your trusted networks and to speak to people who are well-connected. This is especially true in China when everything is down to guanxi. Through finding out about testimonials from other start-ups, I was able to track down this new supplier who had genuine experience and the capabilities to produce our t-shirts. So far our working relationship has been great.

For me, finding the right supplier was one of the greatest challenges, especially for a start-up and a huge barrier to getting a business started, particularly in retail where stock control is critical.

The Mabboo team has now expanded to include two designers. Our UK designer Matt C Stokes, who has designed for fashion heavyweights such as Boxfresh and Fenchurch, works closely with our Chinese designer Liu Hai Yan.


Throughout my journey I’ve learnt a great deal about doing business in China. Two key phrases that other would be entrepreneurs should bear in mind are “shu mianzi” and “guanxi”. Shu mianzi translates as “lose face”. The Chinese will do whatever they can to avoid looking bad in public or in business, and that often manifests itself in an unwillingness to openly admit to any wrongdoing.

Guanxi is essentially networking which is mutually beneficial for both parties and is very important for business in China. It’s quite similar to the ‘old boy networks’ you get in the UK. However there are plenty of occasions when individuals have plenty of bad guanxi, so try not to make people shu mianzi when bypassing an opportunity.

About the author

Ed Cheney’s new company Mabboo has began trading at Show support for Mabboo by following them @mabboobamboo, ‘Liking’ their Facebook page, reading their blog and leaving your comments below.

Currently Mabboo is also offering 15% off to all Expat Explorer readers. Just add the code “pandaparty” on their checkout pages.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Web Wednesday #7

The five stages of culture shock

Culture shock is a process that affects people from all walks of life and can be used in differing contexts. Expats as well as travellers and tourists can suffer from culture shock.

It refers to the process of coming to understand and adapt to their new environment through daily interaction and situation. There are usually five stages to culture shock and these include:

1. Honeymoon phase
2. Negotiation phase
3. Adjustment phase
4. Mastery phase
5. Reverse culture shock

What’s interesting about this article we came across is that instead of pigeonholing people into the stages and finding out which stage each person is at, they suggest taking a different approach and encourage expats to approach their new environment through the lens of “perspectives” rather than stages.

Is Rome one of the world’s best places to live?

Are you seeing a running theme in our Web Wednesday links? Just as people say that their university is the best university, some expats will say the same about their host city.

Italy-based expats may agree with this article we came across on Shelter Offshore. Its great città d'arte (cities of art) offers “an inimitable blend of history, art, culture, life and opportunity” for new expats looking for life abroad. Do you agree?

Comparison of International Cost of Living

One of the major concerns for any expat thinking about moving overseas is the cost of living in their new country and how these costs compare with those in their home country.

Indexes like the Big Mac Index offer a fun way to compare the cost of living. However, this is not the most practical method for expats-to-be. In a special report conducted by Expat Info Desk, they explain the cost of living index and take a look at how costs of living comparisons can be used to understand salary requirements when planning to move abroad. Essential reading for all expats.

Picture of the Week

On the theme of cost of cost of living, we came across this brilliant infographic on the Top 10 most expensive cities to live in for this week’s Picture of the Week.

(Click for larger image)

Friday, 22 October 2010

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Rachael White

We have expat foodie Rachael White as our guest blogger this week. Currently living in Japan, Rachael writes an absolutely delicious blog- Tokyo Terrace.

Here on Expat Explorer, we have the pleasure to feature Rachael's post about the changing...

Seasons of Expat Life

I love the changing seasons. While all seasons are wonderful in their own way, autumn is by far my favorite. There is something so beautiful about the sudden crispness in the air and the warm colors that cover the trees. The oranges, reds, and yellows run together like a watercolor painting, bringing warmth to the cooler temperatures.

Just as seasons change, so do the “seasons” of being an expat. There are days when life seems that it couldn’t be better. Other times are difficult, frustrating, even maddening. My husband and I have many contrasting experiences living in Tokyo that prove how quickly everything can change. Still, for better or for worse, this is our current home.

In an attempt to cope with the ever-changing feelings that come with life abroad, I have found that embracing the seasons in our home away from home is the key to survival. For example, when the weather begins to change from hot and humid too cool and crisp in Tokyo, the Japanese maple trees become a brilliant, bright red. The sky is a cheery shade of blue, and suddenly the city looks infinitely different.

Summer has loud, buzzing bugs called cicadas. To some, they are insufferable. To me, they are a welcome break from the usual city sounds. Winter brings occasional snow showers. The flakes are as big as cotton balls and quickly cover the ground in a stunning blanket of white. Spring brings its own version of snow: cherry blossoms. The petals float gently from the trees, covering the ground below in a pale pink pattern. And of course there is autumn, my very favorite season no matter what part of the world I happen to be in. Second to the stunning colors of the Japanese Maple Trees, one of my favorite parts of autumn in Tokyo is the cozy smell of yakkimo (grilled Japanese sweet potato) being grilled over hot coals. When I walk through the doors of our local market, the scent is like a warm blanket being wrapped around my shoulders. Since I take a bicycle everywhere, this is especially welcome when the mercury drops.

For an expat, change is a normal part of life. Feeling grounded can be difficult, but there are ways to get through the relative madness of adjusting. Look to the little things for comfort, like the seasons. While often times they pass without notice, it's when we stop to enjoy the leaves falling from the trees that we are able to appreciate where we are at that particular moment. For me, the relative consistency of changing seasons helps create the feeling of home and allows me to look at my surroundings in a new light.

About the author

Rachael White is a native Minnesota girl who grew up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota (USA), got married to a Colorado boy (whom she met at college in Iowa) and after getting married, they packed up and moved to Tokyo, Japan. Rachael has been an expat in Tokyo for two years. Visit Rachael's blog or follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Web Wednesday #6

Time for another weekly dose of expat links on the web this week. Enjoy!

The Expat’s Guide to Gift Giving

For many expats working abroad, October is a good time to think about Christmas presents. While living abroad is an amazing experience that allows to you to be exposed to different cultures, there are certain times in the year where you yearn for loved ones back at home. Christmas for example, is one of those times, especially for those who are unable to go back home.

Mother’s day, birthdays and Christmas can be a headache for expats trying to work out the optimal time to send cards and presents. That is why we found Lisa’s guide to gift giving so useful. It gives some great tips on how to plan out your year, when to send out cards and how to make sure everything goes accordingly to plan.

How to make friends in Germany

When you first move to a new country, getting your bearings and familiarising yourself with immediate surroundings can be difficult. Expats have to juggle a whole host of things ranging from organising finances, sorting out utility providers, to making sure that the right healthcare provisions are in place. Often, the easiest and quickest way to integrate into your new environment is to befriend a local or another expat that has been there for a couple of years who can show you the ropes. This blogger found that making an effort to meet one new person each week and getting to know them on a one-to-one basis can do wonders, especially in cultures where the natives are more reserved.

Is Hong Kong one of the world's best places to live?

If you’ve ever had those “I want to live here!” epiphanies then you will be able to relate to Lucy Jackson.

Within the first 24 hours of visiting Hong Kong, Lucy was captivated by the charms of this “Fragrant Harbour” and its unique East-meets-West vibe. Read about Lucy’s story and decide for yourself whether Hong Kong really is the best place to live.

Picture of the Week

Thanks to Peg for providing us with this picture of the week. Can you figure out what it is?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Expert Excellence featuring George Eves

New to Expat Explorer, is an additional slot to our popular Guest Blogger Series. As well as “Introducing...” we’ll be featuring “Expert Excellence” where we invite special experts in expats to guest post for us. This week, we have George Eves, founder of Expat Info Desk on how he went about setting up the site, the problems he encountered and how this growing online resource for expats has helped others.

A British expat living in Moscow tells why

In recent years, expats around the world have seen their numbers grow in places like Russia, Brazil, China and India - and it’s no surprise. According to the recent HSBC Expat Explorer survey, Russia leads the pack as the world’s most financially favorable place to live for the second year in a row. As a long-time expat – a British national currently in Moscow – I can tell you that the survey is spot on.

Moscow, the capital of Russia, is home to 12 million people, making it not only the largest metropolis in Europe but also the seventh largest city in the world. Of the expats here, more than a third of them are earning over $250,000 and more than three-quarters are reporting more disposable income since moving.

What does this mean in terms of day-to-day life? Overall, my wife and I have found that utilities, public transportation, and basic food staples are cheaper in Russia than in the UK. On the other hand, entertainment can be more costly, especially bars and restaurants. Imported goods can cost us quite a bit more, up to ten times more than what you’d pay in the UK for the same item. However, the pros well outweigh the cons. We enjoy a very favorable work/life balance, are able to either spend more on holidays or choose to save more if we wish.

For me, it has meant that since relocating, I have been able to more effectively save and invest. Having visited extensively or lived in more than ten countries around the world, it has been a passion of mine to support the expatriate community by making the relocation process easier and more successful. Since moving to Russia we've been able to do just that, by developing and launching Expat Info Desk (, a comprehensive and rapidly growing online information resource for expats worldwide.

Expat Info Desk has truly been a labor of love. The idea grew from our own experiences, as my wife and I struggled to find reliable information to make our own relocations to various cities around the world easier and less costly. One of the biggest concerns, as we moved from location to location, was always – where should we live? This seems to be the universal question for expats, arranging accommodation, followed by schools for children, tax provisions and visas, remain the most searched sections in our guides.

Setting up a business as an expat – rather than being relocated by a corporation – provides a unique set of challenges, particularly if you have shareholders living in one country while the business is registered in another. Building banking relationships and wading through the necessary accounting and tax requirements can be a long and arduous process. What we have learned from this experience, and what we counsel others to do, is to make sure you start by finding a good accountant. A knowledgeable accountant can smooth the process by connecting you with the right partners from the start.

Despite the challenges of expat life, the bottom line is that I enjoy a better lifestyle and a higher disposable income than I could likely attain elsewhere and with a personal and professional network which consists of both expats and locals, I can say with no uncertainty, this Brit is very content as an expat in Moscow.

About the author

George Eves is founder of, a comprehensive and unique online resource for expats and anyone considering international relocation. You can also check out Expat Info Desk on Twitter at: @ExpatInfoDesk or on Facebook.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Web Wednesday #5

Common mistakes in moving abroad

If you’re an expat in the Netherlands then you’re probably aware of insego- the “smart expats network”. It’s another brilliant example of a great online expat community, where expats share their experiences, interact and meet with each other. Even if you’re not based in the Holland, there are some excellent resources that apply to anyone working and living abroad.

Paul Allen, one of the blog’s contributors for example shared a blog post on the “Common Mistakes in Moving Abroad”, including:

• Choosing the wrong country
• Choosing the right country but the wrong region
• Underestimating the impact of cultural shock

How many have you made?

Expats suffering from identity crisis

In our post about Third Culture Kids, we mentioned how they can often face many challenges including loss of identity, feeling out of sync with their peers and experiencing the breakdown of social support networks. Well this feeling is not unique to offshore offsprings, many expats can also experience the same feelings of detachment in their new host country.

Despite living in Canada for the past two years, Russell Ward still feels like a “passer-by watching someone else’s party through the front windows of their house.” This is especially true during national holidays and celebrations. Without the historical understanding and cultural grounding of events such as National Day, Thanksgiving Day and Teacher’s Day, it is hard for expatriates to celebrate the occasion the same way a local would.

Thinking about moving to London?

We came across this great series of videos produced by moving2London with tips from arranging your Visa to organising your National Insurance number. A must-watch for any expats thinking about moving to the UK.

Picture of the Week

This week’s Picture of the Week features this buzzing district in Osaka.

Remember to submit your pic of the week to @expatexplorer and we’ll be showing the best we receive on next week’s Web Wednesday!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Expat guide to healthcare

When moving abroad the healthcare provision can often be very different to what you’re used to back home, both in terms of cost and availability. Private medical insurance is included in many relocation packages but what if your expat adventure is more of a DIY job? How can you best ensure you and your family are able to access affordable and quality healthcare?

For those who are EU citizens moving within Europe then you will be entitled to the same access to healthcare facilities as the locals. Being aware of what you are entitled to locally is important so that you don’t become victim of healthcare scams. For example as this article discusses how some UK residents ended up being charged for European healthcare cards that are available free from their national health service.

Arranging healthcare provisions can also be problematic for those who are not EU citizens or for those moving further afield. Most expats will opt to take out some form of private medical insurance but with the number of companies offering different policies and terms, sifting through page after page of small print can be bewildering. It might be worth having a look at this article by HR Magazine that looks at how to go about choosing a private medical insurer.

As well as seeking medical treatment abroad, expats should also consider what health requirements and restrictions the governments in their new homes have on those seeking work visas. The Daily Telegraph for example discusses changes in UAE vaccination regulations. Even if your new home does not mandate certain vaccinations it is always advisable to check what local vaccinations are recommended and ensure you leave enough time before you travel to complete any courses of drugs you need. The Travel Doctor website has region by region lists of the vaccinations you need before you travel.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Aaron White

We first knew about Aaron's blog- 'An English Man in Dubai' when we tweeted, "Just looking at our blog roll. Any essential expat blogs we should be adding to the list?" and @ronski responded saying 'add me!' Reading through his blog and watching some pretty amusing parody videos that Aaron has made, we knew that not only was the blog a must add to any expat blog roll, but also that we had to get Aaron to guest post for us. So without further ado...

Dubai Explorer

I first arrived in Dubai June 2006 with a couple of suitcases, the phone number of an old friend, and not much of a clue. It was a real eye opener moving from the UK to the UAE, but as all expats will tell you in Dubai it is hard going for the first month or so, then you are on easy street.

I would not advise coming to Dubai to look for a job on a long term basis as being on a visit visa is quite hampering. For example, it is difficult if not impossible to buy a car or rent a property without having a residence visa. When you do have a job the company will then take care of applying for said residence visa, and after this everything becomes far easier.

Do be aware that it is standard practice for nearly everyone to want a photocopy of your passport/visa to do anything with. So make lots of copies of them and be sure to have them at hand.

What to do before you come?

Aside from the usual moving of address things I was made sure I did the the following:

1.Wrote a will (otherwise Sharia law comes into effect should the worse happen)

2. Declared where I was going to the Inland Revenue

3. If you are able to open up a Premier HSBC Bank account in the UK do it as the referral to Premier Status in HSBC Dubai is worth its weight in gold (making banking a lot easier)

4. Had my degree certificate attested via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Milton Keynes and a notary/solicitor (if you are married it would be wise to have your wedding certificate attested too)

5. Had Royal Mail forward my post to my office address in Dubai as there is very little direct home mail service available in Dubai

6. Made plenty of copies of my passport and had lots of passport photos made

7. Make sure you bring your driving license (for UK people also the paper counterpart) and a copy of your no claims bonus from your insurance company

Where do I live?

Companies will normally provide expats with some form of temporary accommodation when first arriving. This may be in a hotel or a serviced apartment, but if you are anything like me you will be itching to get your own place and make it feel like home.

The good news is that with the dramatic construction explosion over the last five years there is no shortage of good quality accommodation to be had in Dubai for far more reasonable rates than 2006. Also, apartments and villas typically provide far greater floor area than the equivalent in the UK, and many even boast communal facilities such as pools and gyms.

Dubai is basically split in two in terms of housing. First there is "Old Dubai" consisting of Deira, Bur Dubai, Satwa, Jumeriah and Umm Sequiem. If you want somewhere with an original taste of Dubai with a side order of bustle and action then any of these areas will provide this. With plenty of apartments available in Deira, Bur Dubai and Satwa this may appeal to a younger audience. Those with families may want to look for villas in either Jumeriah or Umm Sequiem for a slightly more residential feel.

Then there is "New Dubai" with many luxury apartments to be found in Dubai Marina, Old Town, The Greens and Tecom. These are suitable for professional young couple and singles. Villa areas include The Springs, The Lakes, The Meadows, Arabian Ranches and Mirdiff. These are often highly sought after as good schools are often located nearby.

Each has its own upside and downside and ultimately personal preference, location and budget will decide. The other good news is that there is now a glut of choice and with a little care you can find a great place to live in Dubai for "reasonable money"

To start looking I would recommend the excellent where you can find not only property listings but just about everything else as well as lively Dubai debate. Also be sure to check out the Gulf News ads –

Also a top tip if looking for cars, furniture or a housekeeper is to be sure to check out the noticeboards in Spinneys or your local supermarket. These can often be a gold mine of good bargains - usually from desperate expats who are leaving the country

What are my choices from transportation?

Coming for the UK I was somewhat petrified about driving in Dubai. After all it was on the "wrong side"of the road in traffic that has its own set of rules. Again, the good news for new expats is that the authorities have worked hard on a number of things. Firstly the driving, aside from the odd exception, really isn't that bad and with hundreds of speed cameras popping up around Dubai neither is it at quite the break neck speed it use to be.

Also public transport has dramatically improved. The Dubai Metro is up and running and can get you to nearly all major destinations in the city and each stop is well served by a new bus network.

Failing that the good old Dubai taxi is still reasonably priced and while there is now a minimum 10aed charge it is still super cheap compared to a London Black Cab.

Having said all that about public transport in this city nearly everyone owns a car. Japanese and American cars in particular are cheap and plentiful and petrol compared to Western Europe is very inexpensive despite rising by 50% in recent months.

What are the most important things when I get there?

As far as I am concerned there are five basic tenants that you need in Dubai:

1. Air Conditioning - it may seem like a joke - but when it is nearly 50c and 90% humidity having poor or no A/C is literally living hell. Most apartments will have central AC but if moving to a villa make sure the system they have has been regularly maintained and works well.

2. Water - for both water and electricity you will need to visit your local "DEWA" office - be sure to bring the following with you - A deposit (1000aed/2000aed for an apartment or villa), passport copy, visa copy, tenancy contract and passport copy of the owner of the property (this took by surprise before). Otherwise you could get your rental agent to sort this out for you

3. Electricity - see above

4. Mobile Phone - take your pick of provider (Du or Etisalat) and get a pre-paid or post-paid SIM and select your handset (along with the usual passport copies). But it really is important to have a mobile number as everyone you interact with want to know what it is. I can't recall when anyone asked me what my home phone number was in Dubai.

5. Internet Access - again choose from Du or Etisalat and while it is expensive compared to Western Europe there are now speeds available up to 30mb.

What do I do for fun?

Well if you are resident and want to drink I highly recommend getting an Alcohol license. It is after illegal to store and consume it in your own home or in a bar without one. Again the process involves form filling and passport copy supplying. But by now you are an expert at that right?

Other than that the UAE offers a wealth of activities - there are of course the beach bars and high end nightclubs than you can visit in any one of the numerous five star hotels. But the glorious weather can lead to such a adventures as 4x4 driving in the desert or along Wadi's, hiking in the mountains, diving in the Indian Ocean, camping in the desert or on the beach and nearly all year around barbecuing is possible.

If you are short on ideas then grab a copy of the local Time Out and give something a whirl. Otherwise if you have more detailed questions they can often be answered by either the Expatwomen forums (always my first destination) or the excellent Dubai Complete Residents Guide.

Dubai is still a young but vibrant city. A lot of things that you or I might take for granted are often in their infancy however with a dash of patience and dose of adventure you really can lead a fun life in the sun shine.

About the author

Aaron White is an expat who moved to Dubai in 2006, works in the IT field and writes the blog An Englishman In Dubai. Follow Aaron on Twitter @ronski

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Web Wednesday #4

We have some great links to share with our readers this week. First up…

Odd facts about the German beer festival

September and October is the time for Oktoberfest, a German beer festival in Munich. Oktoberfest is a world famous celebration of German beer, visited by almost 6.4 million people over 17 days of non-stop beer drinking. Sounds too good to be true? Well, hear this out- the beer festival is so popular that they even have an app for people to find out available tents, opening hours and even a beer counter to keep track of your alcohol intake! There are similar beer festivals throughout Germany. This past weekend for example was the German beer festival in Stuttgart, where this fellow expat discovered a few strange facts about German beer festivals.

Let’s meet up!
Meetup is a brilliant website that allows you to either start your own Meetup Group or find one of the thousands already arranging to meet up via this website. J D V for example organised this Meetup Group specifically for Chicago-based expats. We think this is a great tool for new and even existing expats to meet up or join local groups and meet new friends

Is this the funkiest house in Japan?
This reminds us slightly of Escher’s never-ending staircase, but we came across this unusual-looking three-story house situated in the middle of a Japanese district in Tokyo which we found pretty bizarre.

Petit Paris in Russia
We were amazed by Carole Pompon who fell in love with the Russian countryside and decided to build her own eco-guest house. One of the hardest challenges for Carole to overcome was getting construction materials, finding good workers and applying for credit. Russia Today’s Prime Portrait shares Carole’s story of determination and perseverance to build her dream hotel.

Picture of the Week
Thanks to @Fashion_butter for this week's Picture of the Week. Wonder where the path leads to...?

Friday, 1 October 2010

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Maryline

It's the first of the month and what better than to begin October with a guest post. This week we have Maryline from Franco-American Dream.

We got in touch with Maryline after spotting her amusing post on culture shock- "11 French things that are only French in America". In this guest post, Maryline shares another dose of culture shock arising from language differences...

The French don't say I love you

Source: Arivan B

Outside of romantic comedies, the French don't say "I love you". Or so rarely. On the other hand, I am willing to bet nobody can beat the Americans!

When I first moved to the US, seven years ago, I didn't take me long to realize "I love you" was more of an idiom in closing of every day conversations than a declaration of love.
On the phone just before hanging up: "Talk to you later, got to go, love you!"

In person, saying good bye: "Have a good day, I love you. Muah."

At first, I was quite a bit embarrassed; I wasn't going to love them back just for the form!

Turns out "I love you" is merely the equivalent of "bisous" in French (kisses); though I can't help wondering if it might undermine the true meaning of the words.

What still amazes me and sets me apart from my Americans friends and my husband's family is their innate ability to tell each other, and often, that they love one another.

A brother to a sister, a dear girlfriend to another dear girlfriend. They say it out loud, they even put it down on paper.

And they mean it of course.

It hit me as I was hugging my young son the other day. I've been talking to him exclusively in French since birth -- a challenge of its own considering everyone else around us is anglophone (and, occasionally, hispanophone). And I very much wanted to tell him that I love him. But I found myself unable to tell him "Je t'aime" in a natural manner. It felt very awkward.

I don't even remember my mom telling me "I love you". Let alone my bear of a dad and my siblings. Undoubtedly, I know they love me. Just like they know I love them.

If you asked any French person of any generation, they will probably tell you the same thing. (And though I haven't experienced it first-hand, I have heard the same of other European population.)

Over the centuries"Je t'aime" has been charged with modesty and put on a pedestal. Almost becoming, in itself, a burden. A few words of choice to use with caution and parsimoniously. Except maybe between lovers.

That's too bad. I actually think for once the American might be doing it right by overdoing it.

Here is how my husband puts it: Would it be so bad if "I love you" happened to be the last words you got to share with someone you care about, if for any unforeseen reason you never got to see them again?

Maybe the French are just out of words? (How could this ever happen?)

Many cultures are able to avoid this dilemma thanks to the variety of their language, which may offer alternatives to characterize certain variations of love. In Chinese for instance, you may find the equivalent of 'love' under two concepts; one of profound attachment, and another of loyalty and responsibility.

Both the Chinese and the Japanese actually have a distinct phrase equivalent to the American idiom "I love you" to convey the affection on a more casual note.

My short life experience in Spain shows people tend to say "I love you" to their family and friends with "Te quiero", and use "Te amo" for a more romantic turn of events. And with much more restraint. Here is the shy "Je t'aime" the French are keeping inside of them!

Simply put: Both the French and the Americans are lacking their own "te quiero". While the French have chosen tacit love, the Americans in contrast have opted for the "I love you" abundance.

Have you encountered culture shock when it comes to "I love you"?

About the author

Maryline's life journey started in France, then took her to the UK and Denmark before she arrived in the US. This is where she met her husband and found a new place to call home. For now.

You can find Maryline on Twitter @FrAmericanDream and on her blog where she writes about her quest for happiness between France and the US.



Related Posts with Thumbnails