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What did you learn during your expat years (months)?

What did you learn during your expat years (months)?

Old Oct 3rd, 2008, 01:45 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
nukesafe, I only read a few bits so I hadn't noticed one had to buy anything to read the rest... thanks for pointing it out, and you're right, that's commerce disguised as a blog!
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Old Oct 3rd, 2008, 02:32 AM
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To amp322:
We were in the process to move back a few weeks ago.. until everything fell down economically.

But I saw those prices for the houses (similar to the one we sold 2 years ago)... I like what I see!
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Old Oct 3rd, 2008, 04:19 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
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I need my own blog and book to really answer this, but after 21 months in Switzerland with my husband and 2 teen-aged daughters, here are some thoughts:

1. I thought I would miss my friends and family, and I do, but I miss the food the most!

2. I have many days of euphoria where my mind is popping with new discoveries, and learning languages, and adjusting to culture and everything is beyond exciting and wonderful.

3. I have also had dark days where I just want to hide under the covers and where I have felt loneliness and alienation.

4. I realize just how many people hate GWB and it is way more than the 80% in the US. Some people just hate everything American.

5. I started out defending my country that I love and sometimes miss, and now I just avoid people who push my buttons because it's just not worth it. I discovered within Europe there is a lot of racism, prejudice and old grudges and it is not one big happy family.

6. Smiling is underused in Switzerland. I smile less, but I'm working on reversing that.

7. I don't like when people criticize my country, and so I don't criticize anyone else's. Lots of times I've learned to just keep my mouth shut in many situations.

8. I've learned I really like my own company and that of my immediate family, and beyond that I only "need" one or two other people to be happy.

9. Some things are better, some things are worse, some things just different. There is no perfect country out there. Take the good. Tolerate the bad. I do love my doctor here, and I will really miss him. Every appt. is an hour. The grocery stores? Whole other story...I get paid 200chf extra a month per child at my new job. Just because! I love that!! And I'm obligated to take at least two weeks of continuous vacation. Tough huh? Plus, as a little gift I get Dec 24-Jan 3rd off as paid holiday...But a good dinner out costs a small fortune...and no one here waits politely in line... etc. etc.

10. Learning a foreign language is a lot harder than it looks. I will always help a non-English speaking person with more patience in the future. I admire and respect the Swiss attitude about languages - many learn a number of them, and they never make you feel bad that you can't speak Swiss-German.

11. Switzerland is breathtakingly beautiful. In all my travels so far, the greatest concentration of natural beauty seems to be here.

12. I prefer French food to all others but when my taste buds are really bored, anything with Koriander on it will help.

13. There is so much to see and do in Europe, and it will take a lot more than 21 months to see and do everything on my list.

13a. Traveling without jet lag is wonderful!!

14. Working and living overseas is an broadening experience. If you get the chance - go for it! Your world will become larger and smaller all at the same time. You will vacation in Provence and meet a family there who lives in Lausanne, Switzerland who come from the same street as you in your little town in CT. This kind of thing will happen frequently.

15. These experiences will change you and your family forever. You will realize how small your world was before and how little of you brain capacity was being used until you are forced to navigate a new country, culture, language, job. Just using email or making a phone call in another language is challenging.

16. My children have developed some prejudices and I have too. But we have also develop tolerance. We have experienced stereotyping and we try not to do the same. I will try to judge people as individuals just as I would like to be judged.

17. All people everywhere are not the same. In fact, they can often be quite different. But, wherever you go, there is kindness to be found. Sometimes when you least expect it but most need it. An old Swiss man offered my teenager a hankie when she was crying on the bus after a very bad day. She'll never forget that.

18. Two years is nowhere near enough time.

19. Money isn't everything. But I already knew that. Now my husband does too.

20. Live your life. There is a whole world out there. Go experience it. Seize the day. Begin it. Just do it. The world is your oyster. All these trite statements turn out to be true.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2008, 07:49 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
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Have to agree with MANY of things already stated! After more than 20 years living abroad in multiple countries, I'd add that life can seem just a bit nicer for everyone if people give up just a LITTLE bit of their "personal freedom" for the good of the whole. Europeans, especially Scandinavians, have rules and regulations that would never fly in the US...but make daily life safer and more tolerable. Just my two cents...
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Old Oct 3rd, 2008, 08:25 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
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In the 5 years I spent in Budapest, the most important thing I learned ....Patience... I know have lots of it, and wait in the line with the best of them and not even bat an eyelash. gt;
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Old Oct 3rd, 2008, 11:23 AM
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We lived abroad off and on, for several years. Spend quite a long time in the Middle East...What I learned is that people, by and large, are the same all over the world in their interests, and the extremists among nations do not represent the general point of view. People want to live, stay well and safe and prosper.

That women all over the world have an empathy for each other, that a sense of humor is a 'local' thing, that there are new and interesting foods to share, that 'human rights' are a matter of opinion, women's role in society may have a different perception,etc.

What it means to be male, female, the importance of the family, the tribe, in cultures that differ from the West, etc. Notions of banking, credit, childen,etc....all differ.

What I learned????? do not judge all by your own yardstick.

Remember, you are in THEIR country and must abide by THEIR rules.

Make friends with local folks...learn to trust.

Keep a journal and take pictures...they will interest you a lot in years to come.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2008, 11:43 AM
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All countries/cultures have good and bad features.

But some have more bad features than others, especially in the way the majority of people are treated.

It's hard to find bad beer brewed in Germany or the Czech Republic.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2008, 02:38 PM
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I guess there are so many of us out there!

My DH liked NO JET leg!

It is never enough time!

gruezi: how old are your teenagers? Mine is having a time of her life now, but it took about 12 month for her to find good friends. She still wants to go back! Now!!!
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Old Oct 3rd, 2008, 03:34 PM
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I appreciate and can absolutely relate to your list. Thanks for sharing.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2008, 03:44 PM
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Thanks matro and h2babe -

It's always nice to talk to other ex-pats...

Matro - my girls are 14 and almost 18. The 14-year-old has a lot of friends and would love to stay. The 18-year-old has struggled with the friends, although she does have a serious boyfriend here. She will head to the US next year for college though. She hopes her Dad will get transferred somewhere cool like Paris so she has a good place to visit on her school breaks

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Old Oct 4th, 2008, 01:46 AM
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Mine is 14 but sometimes act like 20 or 6 (depends on the day!!!). She does not admit it, but she secretly very proud having close to 2 dozen different countries stamps in her passport and adding more every two months. That, and it makes her American friends so jealous!
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Old Oct 4th, 2008, 01:54 AM
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I forgot this on my list (well, I could have written a list of 50 things!)

Is your family a lot closer?

This move has been a special bonding experience for us.

My marriage is stronger, my relationship with my teenagers is really great, and we do all spend a lot more time together.

I am so, so grateful for that - esp. since my oldest will head to college after this year. She feels the bond too, and jokes, "Mom, Dad better get us a good phone plan wherever you end up!"

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Old Oct 4th, 2008, 03:14 AM
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We do spend a lot of time together, but sometimes it is too much! I miss going on vacation just the two of us. We managed to grab a weekend in Antwerp and Gent in June while my mom was visiting, and it felt so good!

Marriage : ++++!
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Old Oct 4th, 2008, 04:43 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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Matroskin and Gruezi -- your last couple posts combined remind me of a very valuable lesson we learned in the last year:

When you only have your family to rely on you can become extremely strong and close knit. We definitely developed and "us against the world" mentality. Not in a bad way of course, but knowing that nobody else was going to make this right for us, we'd have to do it ourselves.

But that comes with two *'s.

* A good trustworthy babysitter is worth her weight in gold. Ours is coming over tonight and we would pay her any amount she could possibly ask. Being all together all the time can lead to some . . . insanity.

* The only time I wanted to crawl under the covers and cry (or the only time I actually did do that) was when my husband took a few too many business trips and late nights at the office. I felt really alone and isolated. With no family and no super close friends it was really difficult.
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Old Oct 4th, 2008, 04:58 AM
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My husband and I are lucky to be doing this while our girls are pretty old. My older daughter is 18 in 2 weeks.

We have left them alone a few times already for short weekends. We have wonderful, childless neighbors in our building who love them and keep an ear out for them.

Two weeks ago we went to Provence for a week and we left them with a teacher stopping in 2 of the nights "just in case."

They did really well.

We got home later than expected on Saturday night and they had bought a chicken at the market and it was roasting in the oven and the table was set for dinner.

We "pay" the oldest to "babysit" which means she has to be home at night for her sister. It's a great deal for us, as she needs the money for her college fund, and we can have peace of mind that all is well at home while we travel.

So, there is hope for some future freedom. I do remember the days when a good babysitter was a lifeline!

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Old Oct 4th, 2008, 03:45 PM
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With 8 and almost 14 - we still need someone else in the house if we leave for more than a couple of hours. Unfortunately, we still in a search for a babysitter (sadly, our parents do not live 10 minutes away as it was before!).

Well, I would say that applies ( babysitter) for any country, even when you are not abroad.

Grandparents are the best!
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Old Oct 29th, 2008, 07:04 AM
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Hausfrau - I had to smile when I read your first post here. I have American friends who lived in Munich for years and when I went to visit them I was surprised at how tiny their fridge was - it was like a dorm fridge! Milk came in pints - my God, I can practically drink a pint in one sitting. LOL.

Ditto when visiting friends in the UK.
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Old Oct 29th, 2008, 11:45 AM
Join Date: May 2006
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We had a large fridge by European standards, but it was still half the size of a typical American fridge. What's funny is that now that I am back in the U.S., my fridge always looks half empty. My friends think I have no food, but I explain that I shop for what I need week-to-week, so my fridge is never stuffed unless I'm cooking for a crowd.

In Europe, many people shop for groceries every few days, and only buy what they can carry (because they use public transit, bike, or walk), so they don't need an enormous fridge or large-volume containers.

Still, I do like having my gallon jugs of milk again!
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Old Oct 29th, 2008, 01:01 PM
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That friends we made when we lived in Vienna 25 yrs ago are STILL our friends.

Our German language tutor was a university student when we lived in Vienna. She took us to meet her family and we spent many wonderful hours in their company.

Today, she is married and has a young daughter. Every time we travel to Austria, she and her family meet up with us and we spend a few days catching up.

We still keep in touch with a lovely Australian couple who lived in our apartment building. He worked at UNO City for several years but is now retired and back in Australia.

We also learned to make the most of our amazing opportunity to see as much of Europe as possible. It is soooo much easier to travel around Europe when you live there than it is when you are back in the States and have to fly back and forth, rent a car, get over jet lag, etc.
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Old Oct 29th, 2008, 01:20 PM
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One more:
Since the closet space is an issue, I learned that I DO NOT REALLY NEED that many skirts or jackets, etc. Somehow I managed to go by with mostly those thing that I brought 2 years ago.
Amazing! And I used to check out every sale at the local mall..
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