Americans living abroad

Dec 28th, 2003, 11:22 AM
  #1  
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Americans living abroad

Do you know any Americans living abroad, where, why (other than military service), for how long and how well have they adapted???
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Dec 28th, 2003, 11:39 AM
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Well, we're American (actually one American, one Canadian/American) and we've been living in Europe for more than four years now. Although life back in the States is more convenient, we've had few problems adapting to European life.
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Dec 28th, 2003, 12:20 PM
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I live in Northern Ireland (currently here for about a year, and lived here for about 2 years previously), and love it. Anyone can adapt to living overseas. It's just a matter of being flexible and open to new things. The only people I know who are miserable being expats are those people who hate change.
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Dec 28th, 2003, 12:33 PM
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lyb
 
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To those of you living in Europe, what were the major differences and things you had to adapt to?

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Dec 28th, 2003, 04:03 PM
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Well, even though you excepted military, I'll jump in anyway.

The first time we moved overseas was in '94 when my husband was in the Army. We instantly fell in love with northern England, but definitely had some adjustments to make. The weather (and lack of light in the winter) was the biggest thing, and the much earlier closing times for shops/bars/restaurants was something else we had to get used to. And of course, we had to learn how to drive on the opposite side of the road. What a hoot THAT was! But we really enjoyed living in England.

Then we got transferred to Belgium. I only remembered the most basic of French from high school, but living in a little village where only one other family spoke English forced me to remember a lot more. And of course, being the fleamarket nut that I am, I had to learn how to haggle in French, too. That was fun! Belgium itself was ok.....Brussels was interesting, Brugge was gorgeous, but we liked Belgium mostly because we could travel just a few hours from where we lived, in almost any direction, and we would end up in a different country.

After being stationed in the States for a while, we've been back in northern England since '99, but my hubby is a civilian now. We still love this area, but of course, haven't experienced the culture shock this time. The beautiful landscape and the ancient history of this area are still as captivating as they were the first time we were here. But, the best thing about our current tour is that our little boy was born here in England. We had no success for 11 years, and had just about given up. But he's here, he's our pride and joy, and he will have some good memories of England when we move back to the States (sometime next fall/winter).

Bottom line about our experiences living and traveling overseas.....No matter where we've been, we have always had a great time, and have lots of wonderful memories that we will look back on with a smile.
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Dec 28th, 2003, 06:15 PM
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I spent most of my career outside the US. Assignments included Paris, London, Cairo, Jakarta and Moscow, with business travel to out of the way places in all parts of the world . . (Dinosaurs died in some of the strangest places!)

One observation was that expats who were willing to learn new cultures and adapt to different circumstances, invariably were happier and more successful than those who were resistant to change and closed to different ways of doing things.

With each new assignment I would miss familiar foods and surroundings, but each brought new rewards and experiences.

I suppose the single common experience was the friendliness and helpfulness of strangers. Business dealings could often be challenging and difficult, but personal interaction was invariably positive.

Hope this helps . . Rich
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Dec 28th, 2003, 07:34 PM
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I know loads of Americans living abroad, why do you ask?

I plan to be living abroad myself as soon as my kids are in college. I've already been living abroad a couple of months a year already. What's the deal?
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Dec 28th, 2003, 07:54 PM
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St. Cirq

As I have mentioned at nauseum I have lived in both England and Italy. Italy is where I spent most of my time and while I struggled to adapt (language, culture, customs, shops being closed when I was ready to get my shopping done) I eventually did adapt. Some things drove me so crazy ( postal employees, red tape, being told by the gov't that my college degree was invalid there and then being told I would be given permission to work as a shop girl or a maid) and I slowly started to romantisize returning to the US. Returning to the US was great! We have taken advantage of opportunities our friends and family in Italy could only dream of. Now that I am here (12 years now) all I can do is think about how nice it would be move back to Florence. We have family and friends there and I think it would be amazing for my kids and my husband would be happier. Sadly, the AMerican School is too expensive for us to send our kids to. My friends who are still there tell me I am crazy for even considering moving back. They each have their own reasons. Housing being a major issue.

It is a classic situation of the grass is always greener. I was intersted in hearing how people over came their culture shock, if they were able to make friends and establish a sense of belonging and how their kids have adapted to the change.
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Dec 28th, 2003, 08:15 PM
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Here are some of the things I didnt know before we moved to Switzerland:

- Checks or checking accounts do not exist. All purchases in cash ? including cars.

- Baby names must be submitted and approved by the government within 3 days of baby birth

- Generally you cannot return items purchased at a store

- Light fixtures do not come with an apartment ? you just have a ceiling with exposed wires dangling

- Phones. If you call a business, you will often get the busy signal. There is no voice mail. If a person is out, there is no secretary to take a message ? you must call back.

- Discrimination is legal. You can advertise a job for a 25 to 35 year old female. We were turned down for several apartments simply because we were not swiss. In one of the cantons women did not get the right to vote until the 1973

- Soccer is huge. Ronaldo and Beckham are probably more familiar names to the world population than George Bush
- Robbie Williams: huge, huge, HUGE
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Dec 28th, 2003, 08:28 PM
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Queenie you have just reminded me of a few more things that made me nuts in Italy.

Discrimination is legal there too towards women of child bearing age. Employers want to avoid the "milk money" they have to pay a female employee while she stays home to nurse her baby for up to one year whilst holding her position for her the entire time. Once the new mother returns to work, the employer is also suppose to find another job at the same pay within his/hers company for the replacement.

Writing checks is not common practice and post dating checks is illegal.

It can take 6 months to one year to receive a new car which you must pay upfront for.

Italians do not want to rent to other Italians. Makes moving away from MAMA kind of impossible.

Kitchen cabinets and bathroom fixutures do not come with homes when you buy them.

You cannot return an item unless you are a friend of a friend/distant relative of the shop owner.

You cannot give your child your maiden name as part of their middle name because the Italian gov't has decided that no one is allowed to have "two last names". Have been dealing with this little issue for he last 6 years since I gave my last child my last name as a middle name. HUMPH!

Never mind, I'll just stay here. Italy is a great place to visit though!!!
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Dec 28th, 2003, 08:31 PM
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lyb
 
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Queenie,

Wow, very interesting!

>>>- Checks or checking accounts do not exist. All purchases in cash ? including cars.<<<

What about credit cards? Did you ever ask why there were no checking accounts? When I was in Switzerland for a few short hours, I sure saw a lot of Banks, are there only the famous "swiss bank accounts"?

>> Baby names must be submitted and approved by the government within 3 days of baby birth<< Do you know what kind of names would be denied?

>>- Light fixtures do not come with an apartment ? you just have a ceiling with exposed wires dangling <<< Yikes, what if you're not good with electricity, wouldn't it be a hazard to try and put in a light fixture?

>> Phones. If you call a business, you will often get the busy signal. There is no voice mail. If a person is out, there is no secretary to take a message ? you must call back.<< That actually sounds kind of nice, when you're not there, you're there, period! I like that idea.
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Dec 28th, 2003, 08:47 PM
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Good question! I came to Poland with the USA Peace Corps in 1995. I married my Polish family hostess. After that experience I taught school in Slovakia and Poland. I enjoy the privilege of being one of a very few Americans in Poland. Many of my American friends are now deceased so I have few ties to the US. I am 77 soon to be 78. Living expenses are low and civil benefits are high. The Polish population is stable. The Polish economy is strong. We have modern markets and reliable utilities. Polish medicine is excellent. Yes, McDonald's is here as well as modern movie theaters. I suggest that you need a strong national connection if you want to live here in Europe in relative comfort.
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Dec 28th, 2003, 08:56 PM
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GSteed! Koodos to you! At almost 78 you are using a computer in Poland at that! My own parents cannot figure out how to use their cell phones! Sounds like you have a good life in Poland. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.
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Dec 28th, 2003, 09:02 PM
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There's a Russian immigrant joke that may be pertinent to this discussion.

One of the angels in Heaven has asked God for permission to see Hell. God granted his wish and the angel went down to see Hell. There, the Devil gave him the tour. The angel was fascinated. Hell was nothing like he imagined. No torture, no screams. It was like one huge party -- lots of beautiful people drinking, gambling, and overall enjoying themselves without any inhibitions. When the angel returned to Heaven, his memories of Hell kept haunting him. Quite chanting and constant playing of the harps in Heaven seemed incredibly dull compared to life in Hell. The white clouds, wings, and robes were beginning to get on his nerves. After a while he could stand it no longer and asked God for permission to transfer into Hell permanently. Once again, God granted his wish. Upon arrival into Hell, the angel was immidiately stripped, had his wings cut off, and thrown into a lake of boiling oil. He could not understand what was happening. This was nothing like the Hell he visited earlier. He called out to the Devil for an explaination.
-"Do not confuse tourism with immigration!" replied the Devil.

When we first went to France 7 years ago, we loved it and started thinking about possible ways of moving there for a couple of years. When we went back 2 years ago, we paid particualr attention to how the locals lived. We quickly remembered the above punchline and dropped the idea. It is a wonderfull place to visit, but we have become too accustomed to the everyday comforts of American life.
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Dec 28th, 2003, 09:06 PM
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How Very True.
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Dec 28th, 2003, 09:08 PM
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StCirc, Calamari has asked a thought provoking question on a travel forum. That's the deal.

Lots of us have lived abroad and not always found it the nonchalant no brainer you portray. Most of us needed patience and humor before we learned to love our new homes.

Not sure why Calamari exempted military folks from the question except as a reason for being abroad. Adaptation is still a factor,
obxgirl is online now  
Dec 28th, 2003, 09:16 PM
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Obxgirl. I was interested to hear about people who sort of just decided to move to Europe as opposed to being transferred there by the military. I certainly had no intention of discounting their experience and you are perfectly correct. They have some of the same challenges of adapting as anyone else. I do think that my friends who did so via the military did not have to learn the language as fast though.
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Dec 28th, 2003, 09:34 PM
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Hmmm, good and interesting distinction, Calamari, but I would add that the corporate world often extends the same sorts of cultural cushions to people who get placed abroad. Not quite the same as just up and plunking your little old self in a foreign culture.

GSteed. I love your story. Cheers to you.
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Dec 28th, 2003, 09:36 PM
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We're American and we've lived in Kuwait for three and a half years. We're not military - my husband works for an oil company and is on a 4-5 year assignment. We also lived in Saudi Arabia for three years and hubby worked a 28/28 rotation in Angola for three years.

You might be surprised to learn that the US Embassy estimates that between 8-10,000 Americans live here. I have no idea how many of those might be miliary though.

We don't know what's next, but we'd much rather live overseas than go to the wilds of Houston or CA where his company is based!

Living overseas certainly has it's challenges, especially in the Middle East. We're pretty flexible, so we've adapted well.

We miss things like pork and alcohol, anything green, driving amongst civilized drivers and being able to accomplish more than two errands in a given day.

The red tape in this country would blow your mind.

There are perks though! Shorter work days, lots of opportunities to travel, good pay, extra holidays, etc.

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Dec 28th, 2003, 09:37 PM
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Well, I'm a plunker so I would not be privy to what the corp world does for their people.
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