Americans living abroad

Dec 28th, 2003, 09:47 PM
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Calamari, I'm a plunker too in that regard! I was only trying to broaden the discussion....sorry.
obxgirl is online now  
Dec 28th, 2003, 09:56 PM
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What are you apologizing for???

Where did you plunk by the way?
Calamari is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 12:19 AM
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Ohh , this is fun?
I keep thinking of more stuff!

-No flushing the toilet or showering after 10 pm. Is impolite and generally not done

- Most apartments do not have their own washer/dryer. There are one or 2 in the basement and you must sign up for a time for usage. Typically this is only ONCE every week. It is accepted to leave work if it is your laundry morning.

-No laundry, vaccuming or other noisecausing activity done on Sunday

-We have *Mull-Detektives* or Trash Police who sort thru random garbage to ensure proper recycling efforts. I did not believe this existed till an expat friend of mine got a ticket (A warning - it was a first time offense)

-Disposing of recyclables on a Sunday is a 200 ChF fine (No noise on a Sunday please!)

St Cirq, maybe France is different in requirements and expectations for the expat, but I agree with obxgirl, there is a lot to learn, and often no one to help you.

I KNOW there are other expats lurking on the site as we are always joking about Fodors. I expect to see contributions from you guys... or I may just out you!

Queenie is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 12:54 AM
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I moved to Italy in 94. Came to study for a year and ended up staying. Not an easy adjustment for most as I know more expats who have gone back to the states than those who stayed. Big difference is those who have avoided other expats and really become part of the community find it is pretty easy to live here. The red tape doesn't bother me anymore as after a while you learn how it works so you know how to go around things. Make friends in government offices!

I would not worry about the American school. If you want to move over put them in the Italian system and live like an Ialian otherwise you will have problems.

It is not easy living here and not for everyone but you have done it before and your husband is Italian (this makes a huge difference) so that helps.

I run a forum for expats and wannabes at as well as my site is for those planning on moving (info on how to do it and helpful hints. I am in the middle of doing an overhaul so a lot of new info will be up in the next week or so.

I live in the Chianti so if you need a shoulder let me know.

siena_us is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 03:48 AM
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I am a corporate expat transferred to Geneva for 3 years and loving every day of it. Of course, as said, being a corporate expat is definitely easier than a "plunker?" (not sure what this means but I assume someone who moves to a new country without a job, loved one initiating the move). You do get assistance from the corporation for one, you are insulated somewhat from the language requirements (my French is still horrendous), and you generally have an instant social network between work and school if you have children. And, perhaps the biggest difference is....we know it is only temporary, which is very different from a permanent move. The biggest adaption for us was missing the convenience of the US - running to a shop whenever you want; being able to tell the car mechanic what you need done, etc. In addition, my husband cannot work here so he is a stay at home dad which was a big change for us at first but has turned out to be one of the best perks. (oh, and we do miss bagels!)Overall, it has been a fabulous experience, we are traveling as much as possible, enjoying skiing, hiking and biking in this beautiful country and we have had a houseful of visitors most of the year to keep us from being homesick! Our children are fluent in French and have met children from all over the world as they go to an international school. They have learned so much and their knowledge of geography and cultures exceeds most American adults. I fear it will be difficult for them readapting to the US when the time comes. We generally hear this is the hardest part for many children who live overseas and return to the US - they have changed tremendously and their peers have not.
Overall, still consider it a tremendous opportunity. Highly recommend it if you have the chance!!!
swissgirl is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 06:01 AM
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Well, I don't know where I ever portrayed living in France as a "nonchalant no brainer," but it certainly is different from living in the USA. And I admire patience and humor in anyone, not just Americans living abroad, and think they are qualities all travelers should aspire to.

In France I have to bag my own groceries.

I have to drive my trash to the dump.

The yearly tax I pay for my one television set is more than I paid for the TV. But I would pay the same amount if I had 10 TVs.

I'm very restricted by local building codes as to what types of renovations I can make - this is to preserve the character of the local architecture.

From mid-October to Easter, most stores are closed for at least two hours mid-day, plus there are all kinds of quirky closings of various stores and sites at other times of year, so you have to plan carefully to get errands done.

Banks charge to accept my deposits.

None of this do I find problematic at all.
StCirq is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 06:17 AM
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In Ireland, while we at least don't have a language issue, there are a lot of other things that you have to get used to, the good and the bad. Stupid things like smaller sizes of products in the grocery store. More annoying things like workmen smoking in your house even after you ask them to stop. Getting reported to the local council for leaving an extra bag of garbage out for the trash collection. Like Switzerland, age limits for some jobs. Learning not to use your car horn unless it's a true emergency. Becoming a much more patient person simply because everyone else is. Being able to fly over to England for the day to watch Liverpool. House calls from doctors. The flip side to that is huge waiting lists (at least a year) for something as routine as ACL surgery. And things like very few hospitals in N. Ireland have MRI machines. Saturday afternoons in the pub listening to local musicians, drifting into Saturday nights in the pub.

All in all, it's an adventure, and each frustration is more than offset by something wonderful. Although I still can't figure out why Belvoir is pronounced Beaver.
Ann41 is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 06:33 AM
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StCirc, You ended your original post with the comment..."what's the deal" which implies that that Calamari's question didn't merit asking.

Perhaps you meant something else by the comment. That is the downside of conversing on line, implication and innuendo can be misinterpreted.
obxgirl is online now  
Dec 29th, 2003, 06:33 AM
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Calamari, please elaborate on your "housing being a major issue" comment. Very curious as to what you meant by that.
Holly_uncasdewar is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 07:09 AM
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Ok...I am rolling my sleeves up much to tackle in one thread! I am an American Expat and have been for the last 6 years. I agree with much that has been said, but not all. First, when we left the States, I figured that we would be gone about 10 years. So, it wasn't the typical 3 year assignment that many corp. people get. Going with a Corp. is the easiest way to do it. Moving expenses are generally covered and depending on the co. living expenses may be covered. There is a huge difference btw. being a corp. 'pawn' and a military one. The military and embassy folk have things much more cushy and there is definitely not as big of an adjustment. Think access to bases and medical care that us regular folk don't get.

We have lived in Budpapest first, Luzern, Ch, and now, Ljubljana, Slovenia. All three places have their merits and their challenges. Overall, the hardest adjustment for me was the lack of convenience. Thank goodness, Budapest was first, b/c it was much more difficult than the other two. By convenience, I mean being able to shop in one place for all of your groceries, being able to do more than 1-2 errands a day b/c everything takes much longer
and lack of items we take for granted. Simply put, everything is more difficult and if you don't have the language skills, you must find someone to help you.

The hardest things to get used to were:
1) lack of communication if you don't know the language
2) lack of confidence in the medical system--always an issue
3) lack of common cultural pointers. You can not assume anything about someone's reactions or habits.

This means that it is not a no brainer to move abroad. Corp. spend tons of money moving people abroad only to having it fall through b/c the employees can't adjust. It can be very difficult and there is not always a lot of support in dealing with the rough times.

BUT, if you do have the type of personality that loves change and are very adaptable, it is one of the BEST things you can do. We absolutely love it. We have had so many wonderful adventures and now have friends all over the world. Our children are fluent in two languages and may be adding a third soon. We have taken the time to slow down, become healthier in spirit and body and just enjoy life more.

My bottom line is "Do it if you have the opportunity!"

SloJan is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 07:20 AM
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I've never lived in a foreign country, and at this point in my life, I don't think I want to start considering doing so. But I think this is an interesting topic to read, so I'm glad the question was asked. But, Obxgirl, it makes sense that before putting energy into drafting long philosophical or funny or practical comments, some people might rather have some idea just why the question was asked, so the answer could be tailored to that purpose...maybe. Anyway, interesting subject, for me reading it here in the peanut gallery.

Rich, what's with the dinosaur connection?
cmt is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 07:27 AM
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Friends of mine, an older couple moved to Ireland maybe about 15 years ago. They have loved it there, living in a very small town not far from Wesport. The husband has since died and the widow remains. Nothing would ever convince her to move back to the States. They love everything about it. Being involved in theatre, they got involved immediately with community theatre there and now have a very close circle of friends. They have always been affectionately known as "those Yanks".
Patrick is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 08:13 AM
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CMT asked: "Rich, what's with the dinosaur connection?"

I guess more of an insider comment than I thought . . those of us who looked for petroleum deposits around the world were said to be looking for where the dinosaurs died.

Rich is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 08:36 AM
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As a self-confessed lurker of this website, I have been encouraged by another poster to add my two cents to this discussion. I have been living in Switzerland for over three years, having moved here without any assistance. I can fully attest to the statement that visiting a place and actually living there are two completely different things!!

In addition to the items already mentioned about Switzerland, I can add the following things:

- went to buy a car, arrived at the dealer and pointed to the car we wanted, said we would take that exact one, and was told to come back next week and they would make some time for us....all in all it took another month to get the car

- having to do laundry once every TWO weeks only, with the power shutting off for one hour at noon as a energy saving measure

- arriving at the grocery store the first time, not knowing you had to weigh and mark all the produce yourself prior to going to the cash, then causing a huge, angry lineup to form behind you at the register

-going to a job interview where they asked if I was married, and was I going to have children, and if so when

- wearing shorts, even on a walking path on a hot summer day brings you strange looks

It has been a huge learning curve, but also a great experience....we look back and laugh at things that caused us great stress at the time, but have now settled in and enjoy all the great things that Europe has to offer! (and I admit to having a shower after ten o'clock!
Suzette is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 08:40 AM
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Thanks everyone for all of your insight so far. After hearing about some of the things that go on in France and Switzerland, Italy is looking better and better!

Siena, I used to belong to a group in FLorence called American Women in Italy. It was alarming how at each meeting there would be fewer of us. You are right, so many just can't hack it and do return home for various reasons. Most of my friends were British and most are still there.

Holly - There is a very bad housing shortage in Florence. There is almost no new construction and the required 50% cash down payment in conjunction with the price of real estate has made it impossible to buy a home for many people. My husband's family enjoys life in a huge ancestoral home, however, it is alarming to me to see how tiny some of the apartments and homes are. It is remarkable that entire families can live in 400 sq. feet and keep their washing machines outside in the rain and snow.

With all it's quirks, it still is a beautiful place to live.
Calamari is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 09:37 AM
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Rich: I didn't know your work had anything to do with petroleum, so it would've been a stretch for me to guess from the dinosaur reference. But I get it. Really. It's an interesting way to put it, insider talk or not.
cmt is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 09:46 AM
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I figured Rich was a paleontologist. guess not!

interesting discussion everyone!
flygirl is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 10:53 AM
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My husband and I have lived in the West Indies, working in the oil business, for over ten years now. I strongly agree with Rich's observations....about accepting change, not the dinosaur issue.

We had to learn to adapt to many things here, as well as live without things we were used to having. However, the experiences we've had and the things we've learned about other cultures, not to mention the wonderful friendships we've forged with people from all over the world, have been more than worthwhile in the difficulties we've faced living abroad.

I've seen many expats come and go, due to not accepting change very well, and I've felt it very unfortunate for them in all that they've missed out on. However, I will agree that change and living abroad is not for everyone, but I'm certainly glad I've done it for this long. I have no regrets.
Statia is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 11:05 AM
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One of my daughters has lived in several countries. Hong Kong posed no problems, other than having some locals insist she be in their pictures because of her blond hair. Currently she is living in Paris, with an apt. in Brussels as well. Her apt. in Paris, though in a very upscale area and roomy [duplex], has NO closets. Guess they didn't have much need for them when her building was built in the 1500's..... Oh, it was a real challange living without air conditioning this past summer. Fortunately for her, her Brussels apt. had air.
LoisL is offline  
Dec 29th, 2003, 11:30 AM
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I am in Dublin just short of nine years now. I have Irish Parents and was on my way to London Via a long visit in Dublin and was convinced not to leave by family and then the Celtic Tiger started and I had some good work opportunities (unfortunately this era is now gone!) Here are some of my observations:

No Closets - annoying as a wardrobe take up so much space in small rooms and cannot adapt to my packrat ways.

Until recently I could not get ethnic ingredients without going all over the city to different shops. (I have my places now thank goodness!)

Closing times of supermarkets is too early and you can't get caught out or you have to resort to rubbish in the local newsagent.

Getting things delivered - now I know what it means to live on an island and wait six months for a sofa that apparently was shipped from italy. I could have bought it there and shipped in less time and probably for less....I bought it in an Irish Furniture chain! Many a day was also taken off waiting and no one showed up. All hell broke lose for a while.

Living in an apt that is smaller than a house but just as expensive and is only 48Sq meters!

What I like -

Buying a car is less of a hasle than the USA. All that haggle and if you are a woman, I have never been so discriminated against as when I bought a car in NJ. It's much better here but probably a lot more expensive.

I like the interaction in the workplace. Men and women are more equal. People are supportive of each other and I have made almost all my friends through various jobs. Also if you are married your life is not over. Married couples still interact, socialise with all their frinds not just the ones who are in the same lifestyle. Maybe this is something I feel was different in the part of America I lived previously.
SiobhanP is offline  

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