Monday, 31 March 2014

Missing Mum on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world in the vast majority of countries - understandably given that Mums are important the world over! The actual date, however, changes from country to country - while those in the UK, Bahrain, Egypt and UAE have just celebrated Mother’s Day, mums in the Germany, the USA and Japan will have to wait until May for their special day. In Argentina it doesn’t take place until October and Indonesia waits until much closer to Christmas in December.

Mother’s Day is a chance to give Mum a token of appreciation, whether that is a present or taking her out for dinner. For expats, it can be a bit trickier because you are so far away but it’s still a wonderful day to show Mum just how much you love her. When your younger years flew by you; she bathed and fed you, she checked your homework, she cleaned your room, she magic kissed your cuts and grazes better and she held you in the tightest embraces when you were upset. 

Image source: Creative Common/Myles Grant
As an adult, your relationship with Mum doesn’t totally change. She still feeds you every once in a while and she’s always there for you, through the good times of course but also when problems seem too difficult to overcome. She comforts you to ensure that you have the courage to step over any stumbling block you come across, or at least to get back up again when you feel as though you have fallen.

Then, you decide to become an expat and explore new horizons. That’s when she has to help you pack your bags and, hardest of all, she has to wave goodbye to you at the airport. She can no longer be by your side to take you by the hand through life. Expats usually take for granted just how difficult that day is for Mum…To say goodbye and wish you good luck for the beginnings of your new life without her in it.

If you are, or have been, away from Mum this Mother’s Day, do not feel as though you cannot be a part of her day – whether that’s arranging for flowers to be delivered plenty of time in advance, sending her a text for when she gets up in the morning on the day itself and organising a time that you can video call so that she can show you what presents she has been given.

On top of all that, why not spend a bit of extra time on the phone with your Dad and/or siblings to discuss what they are doing for Mother’s Day? If you can’t be there in the same place, you may as well make sure that those who are there have got plans in place to ensure that Mum is going to have a wonderful day. For example, it’s time to make those hints to Dad so he remembers that Mum’s favourite restaurant is the one down the road on the street corner (you can be as specific as you like of course!).

Expatriation is not abandonment, although it may feel like it when you first start off. It’s an opportunity to see the world and broaden your mind with experiences that few people from back home get to witness. Decades ago, you really did have to leave your family behind because the only way to get in touch was essentially by written letter. Nowadays, you can be walking around your home in some far-flung location, video call in action, cooking dinner, preparing for your night out—all while chatting to Mum. Take advantage of technology and bring your Mum on the experience with you so that she doesn’t feel as though you have moved on in life without her.  

Image source: Creative Common/Calsidyrose

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Old-time Expat Life

With businesses and people becoming increasingly globally oriented, expatriation is commonplace and fairly easy to do. With so many people doing it, the provisions are there to make the move as seamless as possible. But this hasn’t always been the case.  

In this blog post, Expat Explorer takes a nostalgic look back to see how the experience of living abroad has changed over the years – and what it would have been like to be an expat 50 years ago.

Picture source: Creative Commons / bechaugen
Sharing and communication

If you were an expat 50 years ago, it would have been much more difficult to communicate with people back home. There was no email, no internet calling, and dialling an international number for longer than a few minutes was too expensive to do regularly. News was sent by post, the blue airmail letters taking weeks to arrive but holding memories to savour.

Nowadays, expats not only can communicate with more ease, but their family and friends will have more of an understanding of the expat experience,  photos are no longer confined to an album but uploaded to the internet so that everyone can share a  hidden local gem or beautiful sunset as it happens.  

Picture source: Creative Commons / bechaugen
The care package
Along with the internet, came the availability of home comforts. Whether you’re a Brit craving baked beans or a Dane with a love for liquorice, the likelihood is that you will be able to find it somewhere in your host country, and if not, you will be able to order it online. Back in the day, expats relied on their trusty care-packages sent from family and friends every few months, and they would relish and savour these little tastes of home.

The expat bubble
Back then, the ‘expat bubble’ was also more prevalent. Expatriation wasn’t as common and most people were sent by their work.  Expats lived and worked alongside each other in gated accommodation, and were less likely to spend time with the locals. With fewer businesses operating abroad, the profile of expats wasn’t as varied and most worked as diplomats, teachers and bankers; they often came from countries with a similar culture. In areas where there were a small number of expats, but businesses needed to operate, the few that were sent there were promised a high quality of life – put up in lavish accommodation and invited to embassy events on a regular basis.

Living in the expat bubble extended to leisure time, expats would frequent the traditional foreigners’ clubs in the evenings. These clubs, although still in existence, are now more like museums than bars, and are frequented by tourists rather than expats, who go to enjoy a drink and a romantic Hemingway-like experience of old.

Friday, 21 March 2014

A Literary Picture of…Dublin

Work opportunities, lifestyle and the ease of making friends are all key areas to consider when thinking about making the move abroad – but immersing yourself in the cultural heritage of your new country and city can also give you an amazing insight into what life might be like there.

We’ve already reviewed the cultural highlights of Barcelona but in this post we look at what literary Dublin can tell you about expat life in Ireland.

Image Source: creativecommons/matthewreld

The Book of Kells

Trinity College Dublin is home to the Book of Kells – an illuminated manuscript Gospel, thought to date from around 800 AD. The book is beautifully decorated and different pages are displayed every day in the very heart of the city.

This combination of Celtic art with Christianity is still important to Irish culture today with the city’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations and parade famous the world over and sure to be a highlight for any expat enjoying the festival for the first time.

Ulysses and Bloom’s Day

James Joyce’s 1922 novel Ulysses is synonymous with the city and its sights. Approximately 265,000 words long, the novel tells the story of one day (16th June 1904) in Dublin and devotees celebrate the anniversary of the day annually on the anniversary, following the footsteps of central character Harold Bloom in a celebration termed ‘Bloomsday’.

This means public readings, mass pub crawls to the drinking destinations mentioned in the novel and visits to the book’s central locations (including Eccles Street, the National Library of Ireland, Glasnevin Cemetery and the Westland Row Post Office).

Expats will find it a wonderful opportunity for getting to know the city and its geography while meeting locals and visitors from around the world, even if they haven’t quite managed to finish Joyce’s novel!

Theatrical Dublin

Dublin has a rich theatrical tradition – Ireland having been the birthplace of many playwrights, including Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett, and English censorship laws in the nineteenth century meaning that many plays which were banned on the London stage were first produced in the city.

There are many theatres in modern day Dublin – some with a rich history, and others which are more recent additions - and any interested expats can enjoy a thriving dramatic scene.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Expat life in…Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is one of the largest and most diverse cities in the world. Famed for its theatre and music scene, the city’s passion for artistry is commonly revered as unprecedented. Argentina is the birthplace of tango after all.

As Europe and North America have suffered from one of the most turbulent economic downturns of all time, expats have been attracted to the enhanced quality of life which cities such as Buenos Aires can offer.  Argentina is renowned for its high quality of life, particularly compared to other countries in the region.

Buenos Aires conjures up images of Paris, Madrid and Barcelona—an eclectic mix of colonial architecture and modern renovation saturated with timeless art. In fact, the city is known as the ‘Paris of South America’. Expats are attracted to Buenos Aires to fully experience South America’s passion, culture and opportunity. A love affair is often ignited, causing expats who leave to return time and time again whether to live, work or stop by on holiday.

Image source: Wikimedia

Expats need to learn Spanish to some degree if going to Buenos Aires for an extended period of time. To truly immerse yourself in this exotic culture—command over the Spanish language will be a resourceful tool.
The version of Spanish spoken here is Rioplatense Spanish and if you have studied the traditional Castilian Spanish from Spain, you could find this newer version difficult to understand. For example, ll (e.g. me llamo …) creates the y sound in Castilian but it sounds like sh in Rioplatense. In Buenos Aires avoid the form of verbs; rather you should use the voseo form. To confuse things further, vocabulary can also be very different to what they use in Spain and even the rest of South America.

When a city is so large, choosing the right neighbourhood to live in can be problematic. The great news is that the city is peppered with anything you would ever need; such as parks, supermarkets, theatres, schools, squares, restaurants and of course tango saloons. The centre however will be noisier than any of the leafier residential areas and expats should be aware that certain districts are still home to some impoverished communities.

Young professionals may enjoy Puerto Madero as it’s the redeveloped old docklands area. It is part of the central business district with fine-dining restaurants and high-rise accommodation. Recoleta and Palermo are also two popular areas among expats. Recoleta’s streets are lined with Parisian architecture and Palermo has many different subdivisions but Palermo Soho/Viejo is known for its chic shops and trendy residents.

Image Source: flickr

If you are about to expatriate to Buenos Aires, ensure that you pack your imagination and willingness. You’ll need them as the city will most certainly ensnare all of your senses; the meat, the wine, the bohemian attitudes and the sensuality of tango. Buenos Aires is the perfect answer to where will expats find adventure and a desire for life? 

Have you ever been an expat in Buenos Aires? Share tips here:  

Friday, 14 March 2014

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing… Natilee Festa

Our latest expat guest blogger, Natilee Festa, tells us about living in Italy and ‘feeling Italian’.

I love Italy. I love Italians. Everybody writes about them, including me. Sometimes it comes out like stereotypical dribble, and all I hear is people saying, “A-pasta pizza Pinocchio pie!” like in Charlie Brown cartoons when the parents talk. But occasionally, even the silliest Italophile film strikes a chord with me.

I watched a silly Jack Lemmon film with my mom a while back because it was in English so she didn’t have to toil over subtitles and it was set in Italy so I could gawk at the scenery. At one point, the protagonist declares:

“Italy is not a country, but an emotion.” -Avanti! (1972)

It’s been almost a year since I watched that movie and I don’t remember most of it, save that quotation. It is just so true.

‘Italy’ was a concept long before it became a country. We like to say that the United States is a young country, founded in 1776. When you compare it to Italy, which had thriving city-states and a republic in antiquity, the 13 colonies pale in comparison. But the Roman Empire did not define Italy, at least not until Mussolini tried to bring back it’s “glory,” this time with the addition of Fascism. In fact, the Roman Empire fell. Rome was hardly a city when the country was unified in 1861, 85 years after the Declaration of Independence. Their capital was Turin because that’s where their KING lived. That’s right, they didn’t became a republic until 1946.

Even so, the difference in years isn’t too galling. However, the Italian language (that is, the Tuscan language diffused by Dante’s Commedia) wasn’t spoken by all Italians for decades after. I was harangued less than 3 years ago by an elderly Napoletano man because I didn’t speak Napoletano. My ‘northern’ speak, the Italian standard taught in schools, offended him. Regionalism was very strong in his generation. It still is in many places. Ask a Sicilian where he or she is from and you’ll get answers like, “Sicilia,” “Palermo,” or “Enna.” It’s not they aren’t proud to be Italians; it is that their culture is tied to their region. It’s like if the North-South divide from the Civil War not only took hold but were separate kingdoms ruled often by foreign dominions and popes, with frequent invasions. Oh, and everyone region speaks not just in a different accent with cute Yankee sayings like ‘pop’ where in Dixie we say ‘soda’, but an entirely different language. No one from Georgia (pronounced Joe-jah) is that unintelligible to a Bostonian or vice-versa. But a Calabrese in Lombardia? Mayhem.

Now, of course, things are not so disparate. The diffusion of the Italian language took off with the beginning of mass media. For many, radio and television were their first Italian instructors. There was even a TV show called “Non è mai troppo tardi” (“It’s never too late”) that taught Italian grammar to people who had previously only spoken dialect.

Language aside, we must think about ‘Italy’ as the far-off wish of Machiavelli--who exalted its unification in the final section of Il Principe--then realized by Garibaldi, hijacked by Mussolini, and now one of the members of the European Union. Italy is united, modern. Right? If you ignore La Lega Nord (nicknamed il Carroccio), a political party aligned in part with Berlusconi. Their main goal is to separate the North and the South of Italy for “economic” (also racist) motives.

So after all these political-historical-socio-economic reasons that Italy as a country is a unique concept, why is it an emotion? I would like to amend the wise words spoken by Jack Lemmon: Italy is not a country, it is every emotion.

Rome opens it arms to you, to everyone. It is the friendly stranger who has stories to tell and wants to be your friend. Rome is the excitement of something that is also new.

Venice is nostalgia, its impracticality only adding to its quaintness. Isn’t it annoying to travel almost everywhere by boat? Yes, but it sure is adorable.

Assisi is solemnity, devoutness. It’s quiet contemplation, high in the hills.

Naples is curiosity. It holds many secrets, some beautiful, others terrible. It is vibrant and known to both surprise and scare.

I could go on, but the problem is that each city holds a different emotion for a different person, or for the same person at a different time. For instance, when two young boys came running across the street to tell me not to drink the water in Pompei (the Italian city that surrounds the ancient one with two i’s), Pompei was fear. When we almost missed our bus, our connecting train, and our final bus (final of the DAY, meaning we were almost stuck several towns away from our belongings and therefore our money), Pompei was terror. But those young boys did save us from some gastrointestinal turmoil, once you think about it. Then the nice old man at the limoncello shop invited to his house for a pizza--we declined--and gave us free limoncello samples--we accepted--and Pompei was more like a friendly biker whose tattoos belie a sympathetic heart. And no, we never made it to Pompeii with two i’s due to the transportation difficulties but for me climbing Vesuvius was enough tourism for one day.

In short, Italy is all the emotions, felt if not all at once, then in quick succession. Always with full force. Once I went to a small town in Campania called Agropoli, which I can describe to someone not familiar with Italian geography as being near but not on the Amalfi coast. Actually, I went there several times, the first few to go to the hospital after I fractured my arm in because, the nearby town of Paestum, where I was staying, doesn’t have its own. I went back with my arm in a sling, not a cast, because that is how they roll in Campania. It also took 3 days for me to convince them that I needed pain medication, their reasoning for withholding it being that I was not yet crying and I probably just missed my family. Once I figured that out, I turned on the waterworks, which seemed to scare the children I was supposed to be teaching, so they gave me a disturbingly-powdered substance to mix into my water, and later a cough syrup with a worrisome viscosity to protect my stomach from the aforementioned mysterious analgesic.

Needless to say, I was a little distraught. I had to channel energy and enthusiasm for my students, made all the more difficult by my arm pain and ensuing sinus infection that caused me to lose my voice. But my arm hurt and I did miss my family and the European outlets would not accept my supposedly universal hair straightener. A Good Hair Day being one of life’s small pleasures that I believe can turn one’s day around, I went in search of a decent hair product to tame my half-Italian locks.

My cohorts were looking for sensible things like, I don’t know, CELL PHONES, but I had my international $1 per minute phone so haircare became my sole priority. After explaining to every single person I met 1) ‘Where you from’ (Inglese! No, americana) 2) What you doing here’ (Vacation? No, work), and 3) ‘Why you here’, (meaning why Agropoli? They sent me here!) I finally got down to some serious bouffant business.

“Vorrei...un mousse? Per fare i capelli...ricci?” I asked for curling mousse in awkward Italian, with generous hand gestures.

“Sì sì sìììì qui abbiamo il migliore mousse del mondo e devi averlo! Qui, eccolo, dammi 6 euro, dammi 6 euro, per piacere, ooooh il migliore mousse del mondo per la bella signorina!” The most excited cashier in the whole world sold me the best mousse in the whole world for 6 euro.

That man’s terrifying excitement and the wonders the mousse did for my hair, injected yet another emotion into my Campania experience. I was hurt, sad, hopeful, happy, and at the moment, confident with my new coiff. I recounted the story to my parents in an email, my dad responding that I should come home and my mom asking me if I was okay. I didn’t know what to answer. People kept asking me questions, but how do you answer when you are feeling everything, the full emotional force of Italy?

My favorite question was “Do you still like it here?” always accompanied by a nod to my behemoth of a sling (that wrapped all the way around my body and took two people to secure).  To me it sounded like “Do you still like us even though we hurt you?” I tried not to laugh every time they said it. I felt like they were trying to bribe me with buffalo mozzarella to love them even after the rather harsh welcome I had received, this being only my second week in the country.

“Sì, sì,” I’d always answer. Because for me, Italy is all the emotions at once, jockeying for position in my heart and mind, never settling for a minute. But there is one emotion that is always at the top. It’s widely recognizable in the Italian and thus needs no translation.


About the Author

Natilee Festa is originally from Orlando, FL and is living in Rome for 6 months. She is taking courses in Communication Sciences at L'Università degli Studi Roma Tre for her Master's in Italian Studies at Georgetown University. In her free time, she enjoys running, reading, writing, and searching for the best gelato in Rome. You can connect with her @Festathebesta

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Five things to do when you arrive in a new city

So you’re here – arrived. Months of planning, weeks of anticipation, and one rather tearful farewell party and you’re off the plane and embarked on your new expat life. Now what? Hopefully, you already have the basics – accommodation, some kind of employment – sorted. If not, get on it quickly. But if so, here’s a top five to do list upon arrival in a new city, to make sure you get things started on the right foot!

1. Emergency Plans: Here’s the sensible bit. Learn the emergency telephone number(s) in your new country. Know where to go in case of illness (and how you’re going to pay for healthcare). And keep some cash, or some way to access cash, separate from your main bag or purse in case of loss or theft. Make sure you have a spare key to your new house or apartment and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors primed. Now you’re ready to start living!

2. Have a walking day: I’m sure you’re super keen to become acquainted with the city’s underground train network and have already discovered the closest bus stop, but the best way to explore a new city is on foot. Set a day aside to have a wander – a day when it’s okay to get lost (temporarily) and have your own personal adventure.

Creative Commons/neilwillsey
3. Switch off: It’s important to stay in touch with loved ones back home but nothing kills the expat sense of adventure more than homesickness and overreliance on messaging those you’ve only just left behind. Don’t update your social media statuses every ten minutes from arrival but give yourself some time to settle in on the ground before going online. There’ll be plenty of time to take photographs, post bragging messages and coax over visitors – but for now concentrate on enjoying every second of being in your new surroundings.

4. Have some ‘me time’: Your whole life has changed overnight and you may well feel a little knocked off kilter. Take some time to enjoy something which you’ve always loved – whether that’s reading a book, having a run or even painting your toenails.

5. Do the tourist thing: Yes, your move is fully serious and you may already feel you’re far more of a citizen than the tourists flocking your new city but, on the other hand, you’re living somewhere new – somewhere lots of people would love to visit – and you should definitely make the most of it! Don’t play it cool – go up the Empire State Building, admire Sydney Opera House, ogle the Mona Lisa in the Louvre – and sample the local cuisine while you’re at it. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Finding the perfect expat accommodation

Expats with employers who provide accommodation have it lucky because finding a new home in a foreign country can be a daunting task—especially if you’re moving to a country in which the language is completely new to you. This topic often leaves first-time expats in a state of panic, suffering from sleepless nights and worried about what will happen if they can’t find their perfect flat or house.

Firstly, be realistic. You may need to ensure that the cost of living in your new location is manageable. Some people prefer to pay more to be in a better location but remember that often, the price of entertainment and food will also be more expensive in areas where rent is more. Cities such as Paris are made up of mostly prime real estate and expats often have to look just outside the city to find accommodation that’s right for them.

Paris is encircled by a motorway called ‘le boulevard périphérique’ and within this motorway there isn’t much space to build any new housing. This means that the area within this motorway is much more popular to live in and so the rent prices keep going up. Of course, once you decide to move to the other side of this motorway it will be more difficult to get home later at night and you may not feel as though you truly live in Paris. 

Image source: Creative Commons / Jon Juan

For some, getting that typically Parisian bric-a-brac apartment with its Juliet balcony looking out over the cobbled streets of the Latin Quarter is their top priority.
Secondly, test run a trip from your house or flat to work. Before you sign the agreement, check that your commute is something that you are happy with. In cities such as London and New York, it’s common to have to commute for 40 minutes (unless you live in Soho, London or on Manhattan, New York). In Hong Kong, however, this is unheard of (unless you live in the New Territories—be warned that relocating to the countryside in Hong Kong could involve a lengthy wait in the morning at a bus stop to take you to the nearest underground station).

Typically in Hong Kong, expats go to an English-speaking estates agent for help. These agents have their ears to the ground when it comes to real estate in Hong Kong. Within the city, Hong Kong doesn’t have any more space and that is why the skyscrapers are so notoriously tall. The Peak is where the glitterati live with views all over the Harbour but areas such as Quarry Bay and Causeway Way are becoming very popular with English teachers. Kowloon side is a cheaper alternative with a stronger Chinese influence—here, you may get more access to the local way of life.

Thirdly, take a tour. Whether you prefer boat, bus, walking trips—discover where in your new location best suits your personality. In London, you could find yourself a quaint townhouse in a district that has got a very distinct village feel—it’s the magic of London, it feels as though villages and towns have come together and as an afterthought it all became London. East Village in New York will ensure that you are in the heart of it all and if you search hard enough, you may be able to find that dream New York loft apartment. 

Image source: Creative Commons / La Citta Vita

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Country in Review: Belgium

In the 2013 Expat Explorer survey, Belgium was a top ten destination for raising children abroad, and also scored highly in other areas, such as healthcare quality (4th), local transport (7th) and organising finances (6th).

And here we take a look at other aspects of Belgium as an expat destination, seeing how the country performs in the odd and the unexpected as well as the practical. Prepare to be surprised…

1. Brussels National Airport is home to more chocolate sales than anywhere else in the world.

Image Source: Creative Common/ProjectManhattan
2. Belgium is home to the world’s first beer academy and Belgians consume nearly 150 litres of beer per person each year.

3. There are three official languages in Belgium – Dutch, French and German.

4. Europe’s first casino opened in Belgium in the 1700s.

5. The Belgian motorway system is so well-lit it’s the only manmade structure which can be seen from the moon. 

6. Belgium has more castles per square kilometre than anywhere else on Earth.

Image Source: Creative Common/Donar Reiskoffer
7. The country has the highest density of Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe.

8. Belgium ranks second in the world (after Canada) for granting the most new citizenships per capita.

9. Almost half of Belgian households keep a pet making it one of the most animal-loving nations.

10. French fries are actually from Belgium – yes, really!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Expat faux pas

Becoming an expat means that you are entering what can sometimes feel like a completely different world. You have grown up with your family and you have had similar life experiences as those of your friends. 

Everyone around you has had the same bedtime stories, fairy tales, traditions, eating habits and customs—yes, you name it and the people who have grown up with you will most likely understand it. The thought of moving across the world and leaving your comfort zone can be daunting – but a little preparation can mean you’ll be well equipped to keep any embarrassment to a minimum…!

Language learning is definitely an easy way of embarrassing yourself, but do not let that dismay you from trying. Learning a foreign language can be very rewarding and will eventually allow you to immerse yourself into a foreign culture to a much a deeper level.

Image source: Creative Common/Jason Bachman

In the UK, when a child loses a tooth, they’ll put the tooth under their pillow for the tooth fairy to collect (normally, in return, the tooth fairy will leave some money). In Greece, children throw their teeth on the roof of their house for luck! If you throw teeth on the roof of your house in the UK, your neighbours may just find you to be the oddest person they’ve ever met.

In Indonesia and many other South East Asian countries, people point with their thumb as it’s rude to point with your index finger. In Thailand, use the whole of your hand, not just one finger, to direct attention to somebody.

In many European countries, when counting with your fingers; your thumb is number one, index finger is number two, etc. In the UK, when signalling that you want two of something—ignore your thumb and use the peace sign (just don’t turn the peace sign around as that hand gesture is deemed to be extremely rude).

In Spain, Los Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Wise Men) play a significant role during Christmas. Children even believe that The Three Wise Men bring gifts and leave presents under the tree (Santa does exist too but supposedly his presents are never anywhere near as cool). When walking about the streets in Spanish cities, you will notice plenty of decorations with Three Wise Men including hanging puppets from the windows or balconies (they don’t come down a chimney—they come through the window).

In Thailand, do not show the soles of your feet to people nor should you touch somebody’s head. Furthermore, it’s not very common to shake hands since greeting one another is normally signalled by placing your two hands together like in a prayer which is called a wai.

In Russia, Father Frost gives children gifts on New Year’s Day.

In France, there is a lot of kissing! Kisses on the cheek when greeting the opposite sex is very common and different places in France can mean a different number of kisses. The trick is to never pull away until they pull away, otherwise there will be that awkward moment when someone goes in for another kiss but they have been left abandoned.

There are plenty of opportunities for social disaster when living life as an expat. The good news is that in most cases the faux pas simply embarrasses you, whether you do not know something or you do something that makes a group of people around you fall into a fit of laughter. However, learning about foreign traditions and customs can be the most exciting aspect of becoming an expat—so if they’re laughing, at least you can be happy in the knowledge that your lack of know how is brightening up somebody else’s day….!



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