Friday, 30 March 2012

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing… Mrs Dubai

Reluctant housewife; mother; domestic goddess; frustrated career woman; and lover of fine handbags” reads Mrs Dubai’s Twitter biog, who incidentally is this week’s guest blogger.

Having featured her in our recent mummy bloggers post, we were intrigued by the idiosyncrasies of raising a child abroad and got in touch with Mrs Dubai to tell us more about…

Bringing up children in Dubai

Source: Creative Commons/ Holger Zscheyge

Last week my seven-year-old daughter asked me a “knock-knock” joke taken from an English joke book.

“Who’s there?” I asked.
“Ahmad,” she replied, using the correct guttural pronunciation of the name, “Akh-mahd.”
“Ahmad who?”
“Akh-mahd a mistake,” came the reply, followed quickly by “Mummy, I don’t get it?”

I explained that, while she said the name the correct Arabic way, an English person – for whom the book was written – would pronounce it “a-mad”, as in “a-mad a mistake”.

One of the things I love about bringing up children in Dubai is the exposure they get to so many different cultures. While nearly 200 nationalities live in the UAE, inter-racial antagonism of the sort you might get in the UK is rare.

My daughter’s classmates and close friends come from India, Pakistan, South Africa, Australia, France, Germany, Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon, as well as from the UK and UAE. She thinks nothing of peppering her speech with words and phrases in Arabic, Hindi, German and French, and falling back on gestures whenever language breaks down. And, because she’s learning the languages from native-speaking children, it doesn’t feel like learning, and her pronunciation is spot-on.

Another way in which I notice my daughter’s attitude to different races and cultures is when she’s describing a person. When I was a child we used to describe other children in terms of hair and eye colour, then perhaps height, build and clothes.

One of the first things my daughter wants to know, however, is, “What colour is her skin?” and it’s not a racist thing. Her descriptions of skin are not literally black or white, but include all shades in between. She might describe a child as “really white-white with really pale hair”, “sort of creamy-white”, “pinky-white”, “light brown”, “medium brown”, or “sort of coffee-coloured, like from the Philippines.”

Since she was able to speak, my daughter’s been able to differentiate the colour variations between an Arab, Indian, Filipino and Caucasian skin. The product of a mixed marriage, she once asked me, aged three, “Why do daddy and me have brown skin but you have white skin?”

I very much like this celebration of and respect for others’ differences. I feel like my children are true global citizens – and I wonder if that would be the case if we’d stayed in England.

About the author
Mrs Dubai has lived in Dubai for 14 years. She’s currently trying to write a book while bringing up two small children, which any mother will know is utter madness. She blogs at and you can follow her on Twitter @MrsDubai

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Is the grass greener on the other side?

Last week we had some Tuesday fun and asked our Twitter followers to play a fill in the blanks game with us:

The response we had was so great, with answers ranging from wanting a change of scenery to moving abroad for love, from pursuing a career change to satisfying a hunger for adventure, that we wanted to share some tweet-bites of expat responses here:

Cathy Mac, proud Scouser expat who has been living in Spain for 14 years, replied:

Ana Silvia O’Reilly, travel blogger and International marketer said:

Briana Palma, serial expat originally from Boston, now in Ireland said:

Megan Fitzgerald, expat life coach living in Italy said:

U. Lemmin-Woolfrey, writer and serial expat living in Dubai and off to Australia next said:

Regardless of whether the grass is greener on the other side, there are always adventures to be had, friends to be made and lessons to be learnt. If nothing else – you come back from the other side of the fence a worldlier person.

If you would like to play along with our game, just fill in the blanks in the comments box below or on Twitter: I became an expat because_____.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Guest blogger series: Introducing… Rachel Southern

Switzerland, up close and personal with this week’s guest blogger, Rachel Southern @farfromhomemama on life in Zurich.

Organised perfection

Of all the countries that I have passed-through, visited or lived in, Switzerland is the one that is most definitely ready for its close-up, Mr. DeMille-style. So picture-perfect, so clean, so safe, so harmoniously run, it’s the on-earth contender for Avatar’s Pandora

One of the richest countries in the world with its largest city - Zurich, a regular top 10 contender in  Mercer’s Worldwide Quality of Living Survey, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s a place conjured up by the best of Hollywood’s scriptwriters. But it’s not. It’s a place where my husband, son and I live.

On paper, Switzerland and Zurich specifically, have everything a family could want. Parks, museums, amazing healthcare, excellent schools, a safe haven for children to play outdoors and walk to school by themselves (from as young as 5 or 6 would you believe). Mountains on hand for winter sports, a lake so clean you can drink from it, for summer sports. Public transport that runs frequently and on time and a train station that you actually want to spend time in. And if you’re lucky enough to be in the city for the
Züri Fäscht festival (every 3 years with the next one in July 2013), you’ll be amazed at the amount of people who take to the streets to party until the early hours of the morning and then how quickly the city returns to its spotless self. By mid-afternoon the following day, the clean litter-free, bottle-free streets will have you thinking the whole thing was a dream.

Have I convinced you to move out here yet?

We arrived as two, from Wales, with the intention of completing a three-year work assignment (the company I work for has its European headquarters in Zürich) and then returning home. We are now a family of three and have over 5 years under our belt. 

Life wasn’t always easy though. It took my husband a year to find work – limited language skills and experience beyond working in sales proved to be difficult obstacles to overcome. Tenacious searching and applying finally paid off but in the meantime, time well spent in the gym and in the kitchen improved his health and both our diets. 

For all trailing spouses who arrive in the country and want to work, a simple Google search will unearth countless opportunities but it’s a competitive market and language skills are often required. Switzerland has four national languages – German, French, Italian and Rumantsch – and although many Swiss speak English, proficiency in at least one these is often required.
As a young couple without children, we flourished in Switzerland. Dinner, at sunset, overlooking the lake – there’s very few places more perfect. With a newborn in 2010 added to the mix, things have changed. We’ve started to miss home comforts. Okay, I’ll be honest; we’re missing those wonderful beings called grandparents. An expat couple of only a few friends and no family around is a couple that doesn’t get out that much. A couple that doesn’t get to spend that much time together without their cheeky little monkey. We’ve talked about heading back home to Wales and know that it will happen at some point in the future. However, if we have to be somewhere other than home, then Switzerland is the best place to be.

About the author
Rachel is originally from North Wales but is currently trying to eat Switzerland out of chocolate. With her one year old having been born in the seven-day stay luxury of a Zurich hospital/hotel, she regularly blogs about the highs and lows of navigating her way around one of the world’s most expensive cities with somewhat limited language skills, pram in tow. Find out more by subscribing to her blog or by following Rachel on twitter @farfromhomemama

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Are you an expat entrepreneur?

Source: Creative Commons/ The Dream Sky

We're starting a brand new series on Expat Explorer called Expat Entrepreneurs and we need your help.

Becoming an expat is no longer limited to those who move with work or with family. We know that there is a thriving community of expats who actively relocate to pursue their business dream and we're keen to hear from entrepreneurs who have done just that.

Within this series, we'll be looking to speak to start-ups and business owners in different sectors to share their experiences and challenges faced when setting up with our readers.

If you're an expat entrepreneur or know of one, email us at expatexplorer(at) for more details on how you can contribute to our new series.

Monday, 19 March 2012

At Home Abroad Series: Moving for Money

Source: Creative Commons/ 401k

Developments in technology are making it easier for people to keep in touch with loved ones, and with airfares getting ever more affordable and accessible, international living is becoming a deliciously tempting option for many people. Combine this with the lure of a new start and the promise of a luxurious relocation package, who can blame the thousands of workers searching out overseas positions and that ideal expat job.

In an article on the BBC, “How to judge if changing countries will pay, Rebecca Marston trails the experience of Simone Sbarglia who took the plunge and moved from his home country Italy to the USA, in order to take advantage of a career abroad and the financial benefits that followed. Commenting on his decision, he said, "A PhD student in the US gets as much as a full professor in Italy."

According the 2011 findings of the Expat Explorer Survey, more than half (55%) of people living abroad moved for reasons related to money or career prospects. Amongst those, expats in Egypt reported the highest increase in income and those who relocated to Saudi Arabia fared best in terms of overall economic benefits, with the country topping the Expat Economics charts.

But, of course, money isn’t everything, factors such as lifestyle and conditions for raising children abroad also play an important role in the decision-making process. 

Did you move abroad for financial gain? We’d love to hear from you. Let us know in the comment box below.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing… Will Peach

People’s expat careers or expat experiences begin at different touch points in life. Some move abroad after a second or third job when the opportunity arises, some start young and move abroad with parents as they relocate overseas, others are simply “third culture kids” who were born and bred in a foreign country. Wherever the touch points are, life abroad can be a character-building experience as this week’s guest blogger, Will Peach discovers…

Giving up on the UK even when times were good:
Hotfooting it to Vietnam

Source: Creative Commons/ JensAar
There are certain points in life where you may feel dissatisfied with your current surroundings and living in the status-quo. When I graduated from University, in the summer of 2008 before the economic collapse, I encountered one of those moments and decided to hotfoot it out of the fair Isles of Britain and fly half-way around the world in escape.

 I guess, for me, it was a simple case of wanderlust and that curiosity to see more of the world - and that hunger for new experience - that led to the trip of a lifetime. Drawing me to Asia, and, more specifically, Vietnam, I landed in September (a mere two weeks after graduating) and began my life anew.

Little did I know, that my time in Vietnam would prove the making of me. It was there that I truly found myself and began to understand just who I was. It was there that I tasted the true benefit of travel, my perspective having widened for the better.

Not having much idea about what direction I wished to go in life at that point, I enrolled on a course studying for the CELTA (the prerequisite teaching English abroad certificate) at a Ho Chi Minh City-based school called ILA. There I undertook four weeks of intensive study, teaching for a few hours a week for the first time in my life and cramming every other spare second into assignments and trying to understand the formation of my own language!

Thankfully the same school took me on right after I got my certificate. Signing a year contract I quickly settled in the country’s expat lifestyle, hanging out in high-end coffee shops and shopping malls on my days off (of which there were plenty). I felt like a king living in my two-bedroom apartment in a residential block of flats in a great area of the city, exercising at a five-star hotel resort gym in the evenings. By Vietnamese standards I guess I was one!

For a twenty-two year old however, that life came too fast and, let’s face it, without a great deal of work or any real sense of having “earned it”. Pretty quickly it all began to feel “too easy” and a certain amount of guilt began to creep in. Exacerbated every time I’d pass through the streets and watch people working all hours of the day for so little, I began to think more about what I was doing there and more about where I wanted to go in life.

That’s when I made the decision to start putting my free time to more productive ends, beginning a course of self-study that, if you tie the ends together, leads up right to where I’m at now. Dedicating every second to studying, I began learning how blogs and the Internet worked and started messing around building my own and working with others to help grow theirs.

Source: Creative Commons/Many Moon

Off the back of all this, I managed to score a gig at one of Vietnam’s biggest expat-lifestyle magazines and started writing for them on a part-time basis as well as managing their online presence. Filled with initial trepidation, and not having a great deal of work-experience outside that of a classroom, I surprised myself by recognising just how diligent and passionate I’d become about working on such projects. It seemed that more doors abroad, being a big fish in a small pond, opened too!

Outside of work I also grew leaps and bounds. In the classroom I became a leader, growing out of my shell and holding myself with pride and confidence. My love for the country, for Asia and for travel, also grew to an unprecedented degree. Those initial fears - of the language, the culture, the feeling missing friends and family back home – all those that were so strong at the time – subsided and made way for a buzzing feeling in my stomach.

Every day I woke up feeling privileged and excited to step outside. Every day I marveled at something new, whether it was a sight or something learned from a conversation with a passing stranger.
Yes I was an expat, but I was also part of the country in my own way. How many of us get to truly experience that?

Needless to say the downfall of doing this while you’re young is that one is naïve and prone to bad decisions. Having travelled out to the country with my girlfriend at the time, come the end of our contract she decided to head home and gave me an ultimatum for doing the same.

Against my better judgment – and clouded by the youthful fear of being left alone – I followed her back and ignored and suppressed the true feelings in my heart. It was the wrong decision to make. My only real, and deepest regret. Coming back to London, we only lasted another few months.

Still it doesn’t do well to always dwell on the negatives. Right now I’m in the best shape of my life and only have this experience to thank for it. Having finally got back on my true path in the pursuit of language, travel and learning, I’m living in Spain, writing for a living.

I haven’t yet been back to Asia, but I know that it’s only a matter of time.

That risk I took way back then when everyone told me not to, it helped me to discover a whole new world. A new world where I became my own man. I discovered my own interests and lived every day full of life and enchantment with that which surrounded me.

It’s thanks to this experience that for the rest of my life I’ll be forever looking forward.

About the author
Will Peach is the site editor at, a gap year travel site for young independent travelers and also heads up a blog about living in Spain. He currently lives in Granada, Spain.



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