Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Introducing: NORC Countries

When embarking on a life changing adventure such as uprooting your world and relocating to some distant land, making sure you are moving to the right place in seriously important. There is no substitute for putting in the legwork, checking out the reviews, talking to people who have lived there, visiting the city; there is no one size fits all way to find out where is best for everyone.

However, there are a number of studies, surveys and reports that can be a strong grounding for individual research and can be a good jumping off point for those who have no idea where to move. Of course one such survey is the Expat Explorer Survey, which this blog supports and will release the 2011 findings next week, but this post aims to take a slightly different angle.

There are lots and lots of studies on the best places for women to live and work, and the general consensus is that NORC countries (which stands for Northern Rim Countries and consists of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Russian Federation and the northern United States) come out on top. Have a look at this video to see where countries from across the globe fair for women, then scroll down to find out just why Scandinavian countries are so great for women and see if you are inspired.

In the coming days Expat Explorer will provide a mini-series of country focuses on some NORC countries that seem to top the charts of places for women to live and work time and time again. They will cover the benefits of each individual country, how to find out more and insight from expats who already live there, so you can a real feel for the place.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Guest Blogger Series: Where are you from?

“It’s complicated” – This is the answer that many third culture kids gave to the question “Where are you from?” on an online survey. Most of the TCKs had moved at least once before the age of 5 years old and  spoke at least two languages. An infografic on third culture kids can be found at Denizen, an online magazine dedicated to third culture kids.

After being born in the Zambian bush and living in Africa until I went to university in the Netherlands (also know as Holland), the question “Where are you from?” was a very difficult one for me to answer. During my time in Africa the answer to the question was not so difficult. I was living in Malawi and later Zimbabwe but I had blond hair and blue eyes and I was the “foreigner”, even though I had lived in Africa all my life and was even born there. My parents are Dutch and so I was Dutch.

The shock came when I went to university in Europe. I looked sort of like the other university students. I say “sort of” because I was not wearing the latest fashion, I did not quite sound like the others. There was an accent in my Dutch (ofcourse it was an English accent). Now the question was more difficult to answer. I suddenly discovered that I did not think like the other Dutch young people did, I did not feel like they did. I missed the colour of the Zimbabwean sun. I missed eating the sweet ripe fruits. I missed my friends and family back in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. There were many awkward situations in which I did not know what to do. How do I use the public transport? What brand margarine should I buy? If I visit someone should I always phone first or can I just drop by? Maybe I was not Dutch after all?

Years later I read the book “Third Culture Kids, Growing up Among Worlds” by David Pollock and Ruth van Reken (add a link to the book?). The book helped me realise that I was not strange, but that the confusion had everything to do with my life experiences. I was a “hidden immigrant”, I looked similar but thought differently to my peers.

Libby Stephens’, a cross- cultural transition consultant, says:

"In the 25+ years of working with third culture kids, I don't find cultural identity confusion to be a big issue until the TCKs return to their passport country"

I would advise parents and third culture kids to read the book I mentioned earlier. It also helps to know that problems could arise when children return to their passport country. That is my experience too. “According to my passport I’m coming Home” is an interesting document on the subject. It is writen by Kay Brandman Eakin. She has taught for more than 20 years in 8 different countries.

I recently started a blog. On the blog I want to share my life experiences and share information about third culture kids, children that grow up in other cultures. I have discovered that I feel “a whole person” if I can integrate the experiences I had as a child into my daily life or work. Writing the blog gives me energy. I also have the privilege of being part of a project in Indonesia. I just love the travel, interacting with people of other cultures, tasting new foods, and working internationally.

I would like to invite you to watch the short film “Les Passagers” by Aga Magdolen. It’s about third culture kids:

“I come from here, I come from there, in truth I come from everywhere” 

Thank-you so much to Janneke, writer of the blog DrieCulturen, for writing this insightful blog for us. If you would like to hear more, either visit the DrieCulturen blog or Twitter feed.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Bonjour, ciao, hello, hola!

One of the biggest quandaries faced by Expats when heading to a new country is the language – is it easy to pick up? Will I be able to get by? How do I go about learning?

Here at Expat Explorer, we have put together some top tips on how to learn a language, do let us know if you have any other tips that you found helped you out, always look forward to hearing from you!

1.            Be Realistic

Learning a language is difficult, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you aren’t fluent within the week! It take’s years to be completely bilingual, this is the first step on a long road!

2.            Try and use it as much as possible

The best way to learn a language is being immersed in it, and trying to use it as much as possible. It can be very daunting at first when you lack confidence, but you will find, if you start using it day to day it becomes much easier, much more quickly. Don’t worry about mistakes, that’s all part of the learning process, and people will help you if you are making the effort.

3.            Use the locals!

Keep your eye out for advert in the local paper/shops for mutual tutors. This is where you can teach someone your language, while you learn their language…it’s such a great way of learning, can be free and also means you are making friends!

4.            Mini goals

It can be very daunting wondering how you are ever going to start learning a new language, and small achievable goals can help! Set yourself 10 new words a week and make sure you use them everyday, and suddenly you will find you have built up a solid repertoire of words! It all helps you measure your success, which can act as a motivator.

5.            Enjoy it!

Although it can be frustrating, learning a new language should be fun, so try never to treat it like a chore! It opens up worlds of opportunity and allows you to truly get involved in other cultures!

Good luck to all those budding linguists out there – do let us know how you are getting on!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Trans-Atlantic Stereotype Battling

As an ex-Londoner now living in America I find myself in the unique position of being an Ambassador for this much misunderstood country. There is much misinformation about America still flying about but luckily I’m willing to take the bull by the horns and separate fact from fiction.

Do Americans have no sense of irony?
In my experience, I think it’s safe to say many of them don’t – not really. They definitely have a keen sense of humour, it’s just not one that is based on ‘taking the mickey’ and ‘trying to mask our repressed emotions by using humour as a defence’ as we Brits are want to do.
For example on the day Ricky Martin came out as gay I adopted a deadpan voice as I told an American friend the news. While shaking my head as if I’d been winded by the announcement I muttered, “Wow! I never saw that coming.”
In response my friend wrinkled her forehead and said, “I don’t know, he always seemed a bit camp to me. I wasn’t that surprised.”
Which immediately led to me bursting out, “I was joking! Of course I knew he was gay!”
Yes indeed, there is definitely something ‘lost in translation’ between the American and British sense of humour. They just don’t have the same desire to pick something to pieces for its humour value before tossing the carcass aside. But that probably makes them nicer people.

Do Americans all have freakishly white teeth?
For an American, straight white teeth are very important while for Brits it’s more a case of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ As long as you have some teeth why sweat it and put yourself at the hands of a maniac with a big drill who will leave you with a large bill? Let’s face it dental perfection is very low on most British people’s list of priorities. Achieving freakishly straight not to mention white teeth is part of the American dream and if you need to take out a second mortgage on your house to afford dental care then hey just do it!

Are Americans are extremely superficial?
The vast majority are not. However, look at America via TV and what do you see? A huge growth in the breast implant industry (pun intended) as well as a focus on chiselled noses, abs and pecs. For these Hollywood stars the pursuit of perfection is a full time job. Americans have a very strong work ethic which has rubbed off on these celebs: but rather than going to work they are having work done on them. It’s more about looking the part of a celebrity than trying to look younger or firmer. As for the ordinary folk, generally US culture is less focused on looking sexy than in the UK.

So, there are some cultural myths busted, that’s it for now but do let me know if there are any other myths about Americans you’d like my insight into.

by Emma Kaufmann at www.mommyhasaheadache.blogspot.com

Monday, 7 November 2011

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Meghan Fenn

Bringing Up Brits

Source: Creative Commons/ millr

I am a mother trying to give my children first-hand experience of my own culture and country while raising them in Britain with my British husband. Born in Korea, I was adopted at 8 months old by American parents and became an American citizen. I grew up in America as a Korean American girl in an American/Canadian family. After graduating from University, I went to Prague to teach English and it was there in a bohemian expat bar that I met my British husband. 

After living and working on Prague for two years, travelling around and then living in Tokyo for another two years together, we moved to England to settle down and start a family. We have three young children; all born in the UK and all have dual British and American citizenship. I consider my family to be very cross-cultural! So, what’s it like raising a cross-cultural family in Britain today?

For one thing, I am completely outnumbered! I live with a British husband and three children (who all speak with a British accent, even my two year old!) and I’m often made fun of and mocked because of my own accent and other ‘Americanisms’ (that I just cannot help having).  There are no family members from my side here nor are there any cultural references - my life, and my children’s lives are far more British than American. However, because of my background and my desire to raise my children as partly American, I force upon them American traditions which do not exist here and I always offer the American perspective on situations. 

Celebrating American traditions such as Thanksgiving and the 4th of July have become the norm in our household and my husband and children have learned to love them, not quite as much as I do, but enough to make me proud and happy. Proud that I am passing my cultural traditions down to my children and happy because I don’t have to give them up entirely. Of course it’s not the same celebrating them here, but it is the recognition and the effort that matters and the fact that my children might even pass those traditions down to their children one day (no matter where they end up living).

Language and communication are also very interesting aspects of our lives. When I first moved here, I struggled with both the British lexicon as well as the nuances of British English. Over time, I have become used to hearing and using words like ‘motorway’ instead of ‘highway’,  ‘nappy’ instead of ‘diaper’, ‘jumper’ instead of ‘sweater’ and so on and so forth! My children love asking and re-affirming what the American word is for something. They often mix the two without even realising it! I love that they are growing up with another cultural reference – even though they have never lived in America, they are influenced by me and I am instilling in them a part, albeit a small part, of what it is to be American. 

I think because language is not an obvious cultural difference between Americans and Brits, it is generally not considered to be problematic. However, it is huge. At times, my husband and I have misunderstandings and even arguments purely because we don’t understand the meaning of what we are actually saying. There is a subtlety in the way things are communicated between British people that is totally foreign to me and probably always will be. It is critical for us to recognise this cultural difference so that we can understand and support each other in any given situation.

Raising children within a cross cultural family is, at times, challenging and full of surprises. It is also wonderful, educational and extremely fascinating. In my book, Bringing Up Brits, I write about my experience as an expat mother and also about other cross cultural families from all over the world who are raising their children in Britain.

About the author
This article is by Meghan Peterson Fenn, author of Bringing Up Brits: Expat Parents Raising Cross-Cultural Kids in Britain

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Top Halloween Tweets

Here is a run down of Expat Explorer's favourite Tweets about Halloween from over the weekend.

'Today' show's Halloween costumes rule http://huff.to/rVP0Qo

From Jimmy Carr:
It’s Halloween. Just as it was exactly a year ago. On this very day. Spooky.
Click here to see original

From Technorati:
Kid's Safety: Tips For Parents On Halloween "Trick Or Treat" Night -

Happy Halloween Everyone! Hope to see all of your finest , and  costumes out and about!

Click here for original

From Life:
Cats in Costumes, Looking Horrified — appropriate for Halloween, yes? - 

Video history of Google's Halloween doodles, 1999-2010. 

Cool. RT : World's Largest Pumpkin Carved Into an Awesome Creepy Sculpture http://ow.ly/7by3w #halloween

The top of the Empire State Building tonight will light up orange, black and white for Halloween 

The baby won't go near our Halloween pumpkin. I keep saying there's nothing to be scared of . . . 

Genius Turns iPad Into Amazing Halloween Magic [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO] 

What are your favourite Halloween Tweets? Leave us a comment below or Tweet us @ExpatExplorer.



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