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10 Quick tips on how to plan your stay when living abroad or traveling

Living abroad or traveling – tips for exploring and sightseeing

When I arrive in a new place I’m always eager to explore the surroundings. Sometimes I already know what I would like to see, sometimes I don’t have a clue. One thing I know though is that I don’t want to leave feeling I have missed out on places and things to discover simply because it “just didn’t happen”. This is an advice I always share with expats getting ready to leave for a new destination; do not go back without stories to tell, and memories to savor!  We all know that time flies so start planning your stay abroad! Below I’m sharing some of my tips to help exploring a new location. They are not only valid for living abroad but work for traveling and vacation too!

10 Quick tips on how not to miss out on places to go when living abroad or traveling

Here are a few tips for your inspiration
on planning what you want to experience in your adopted country and to get you going!

  • Start right away
  • Try apps such as Stuck on Earth or let Google World Wonders Project inspire you.
  • Stock up on guide books – still my favorite source for inspiration, and excellent to save as memories. Notes in them makes it more personal!
  • Ask people for tips – in person or on internet forums.
  • Local papers – ads and what-to-dos sections can provide ideas even if you don’t master the language.
  • Don’t limit yourself to searching the Internet – there are lots of accounts on
    Twitter providing tips on cities and regions. Facebook and Google+ works too! Instagram needless to say offers travel eye candy!
  • Take into account how long your expatriate / travel adventure is planned to last.
  • Make a list of want-to-sees, top priorities first.
  • Schedule trips and visits for your stay. Actual dates are great but “in May”, “by end of summer” and “3 things off the list in a month” works well!
  • Be realistic! Don’t overdo it but make sure you do do it! Happy discovering when living abroad!tips for expats on living abroad and traveling

Learn a few words before you travel

Knowing at least a bit of the local language is important to adapt to a new culture. Learn how to greet before your move, and how to say thank you, and teach your kids too. This is a good start when arriving. I remember my mother taught me how to say “play” in German, on the ferry, when I at the age of seven went to Germany for the first time. It was a very good word to know to start playing with other kids on the boat.

Also for vacationing purposes it is fun to know a bit of the local language. When I was working as an Italian teacher the basic courses usually involved a lot of tourist conversations – food, restaurants, travelling, shopping, accommodation. And the text books contained quite a few pretty pictures 😉 .

Some try to learn the language before they go, some start once they get there. I have done both. What about you? What worked well?

 

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International women #IWD

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Accompanying spouses need to take on many new roles. Let me introduce to you

  • the Moving Queen
  • the Relo Expert
  • the Resilience Champion
  • the No. 1 Assignment Glue

Many employers and relocation organizations count on them. What about acknowledgement? I once heard of a spouse that received a “thank you” from her husbands employer. She said it was easily done but meant a lot to her.

What are your experiences?

Moms’ expat disco

When I moved to Zurich I had made a few contacts in advance (thank you dear Internet). Nothing that lasted though. I knew I needed to make contact with people, to find friends but also information. On location I called a woman mentioned in a resource for expats-book just to ask where I could find playgrounds. I called my relocation agent and asked where I could find a super market – don’t know why she found that a strange question; how would I know?? I called moms that I had met only once at Gymboree or at the Swedish church. Some of them are still dear friends. I joined playgroups and applied (yes that’s right – applied) for membership in a Swedish one. I spoke to people everywhere; mostly expatriates due to the initial language barrier. I hungered for contacts, new friends, acquaintances. I still think it is a shame that my husband’s company did not provide any of this. A coffee morning was promised but nothing happened. Such an easy thing to do.

I joined the WAC in Uster where I came to spend a lot of my time; not only enrolling kids in the pre school but also on my own with new friends, or at family activities with the growing family. Not to mention working with finances and new arrivals. It’s such a wonderful place if you want to find activities and friends. One relocation agent called us a “lifesaver” for expat women.

Once we had a moms’ disco. I swear. Just us moms who wanted some time on our own but were to tired or too attached to a nursing schedule to be able to make it downtown to a real club late at night. We had a blast. Luckily this was before Vine and Instagram. 😉

We were all home by 10 pm by the way.

Networking for expats – you just have to do it!

Networking is important, especially if you move – abroad or within a country. As an accompanying spouse you need to get new friends, contacts and information. This is not the time to be shy or to procrastinate. On the contrary, a little bit of aggressiveness can be useful – in a nice way.

These days we have the Internet to search for playgroups, women’s clubs and activities. There are online forums to find potential friends and advice. Make contact! Call! Visit! It doesn’t always work out but it might lead to something else. If there is nothing organized try to set something up as soon as you bump in to someone in a similar situation! Coffee morning, museum group, book club or toddler time are good examples!

Intention vs. perception – when moving abroad

Moving to another part of the world can be exciting! It can also hold some frustration. When you experience a new culture – a good advice is to just take it all in. Try to leave interpretation and judgment behind for a while, until you learn more about the rules, norms and values. It will save you some emotional rides. I know it sounds easier said than done, but from the top of my head I can think of situations where I have felt indignation and later learnt that there was no such intent behind. It was just a matter of cultural difference.

This is not only valid for expatriation but for all encounters with a, to us, new culture.

A real cheesy dish if you ask me.

Cheese fondue was something my parents made in the 70s. I assume. At least there was an old artifact from the era in one of the kitchen cabinets – a fondue pot. I hadn’t tried the dish many times – it was more or less extinct in Sweden and had been replaced by more modern dishes. But here we were; New Year’s Eve in Switzerland and we had decided to abandon our tradition of fireworks and fresh seafood in the middle of the night and honor our newest home country by proudly making our own cheese fondue. We consulted our classic Swedish cookbook; and yes there was a recipe and yes it seemed doable. So we went ahead. Maybe that´s where we went wrong. A Swedish cookbook. I mean, this wasn’t exactly in the age before Internet and Google but … you know; sometimes you just don´t think twice. Or maybe we did and just decided not to involve the mysterious Swiss-German in our culinary experiment.

Let´s just say it was a disappointment. Did not rock my boat at all. Happy New Year. And no fireworks either.

Half a year later, in the summer, we had guests from Sweden. We drove to the picturesque little town of Vevey by Lake Geneva and spent a few days. For lunch we visited a restaurant my family had tried earlier – we knew they had fondue on the menu as well as great entertainment for the kids consisting of empty pizza boxes with crayons and small surprises. We sat down and began to order. Lots of food and as a starter we decided to share a small cheese fondue – our guests had never had it and were eager to try. And we wanted to give it another go. The waiter said “Non.” We insisted and found ourselves dragged into a discussion, or rather argument, of why and why not we could have the fondue. Our arguments were in the lines of

  • It´s on the menu
  • We would like to have it
  • We would like to sample a local dish
  • Our guests are here from Sweden for 10 days only– not coming back in the winter!
  • Other guests at the restaurant are having it

The waiter´s argument was simply “you don´t eat cheese fondue in the summer. It is too hot.” Period.

Well, he finally took our orders – including the fondue – and we set out to enjoy a tasty meal in the glorious summer weather. Blue sky, an abundance of flowers, steam wheelers on the lake – you get the picture.  Vevey is truly a beautiful place to visit.

The kids’ dishes arrived, and a little bit later so did ours – with one exception; the fondue. This was clearly not a case of customers know best, or even of us being customers.  The waiter had taken upon himself to save us from the, in his eyes, horrible mistake of having cheese fondue in summer.

During our years to follow in the Zurich area we had fondue – both cheese, fish and meat – several times, both in our home and at restaurants. We even tried it again at New Year; this time at a rustic bistro where they served a special champagne fondue menu. But it wasn’t until our last year in Switzerland that we got to enjoy the true soul of cheese fondue. Along with a few other expat families we were invited to dear Swiss-Swedish friends, permanently residing in Switzerland on a farm. Together we prepared the fondue and the rest of the meal in a separate area on the farm dedicated to festivities. It was a furnished barn with large wooden tables and benches, a small kitchen and even a bathroom. Perfect for parties, even more perfect for cheese fondue parties. Because one thing we have learnt; it smells. And as good as it smells when you eat it, it is not very appealing the next day.

Here is the recipe we use nowadays when we prepare cheese fondue.  It´s a plain simple recipe, yet the best – we skip the Kirsch. It was passed on to us from very good expatriate friends in Switzerland. Cheese fondue has very much enjoyed a renaissance in our home; even more since moving from Switzerland. We all know this phenomenon.

Makes 4 yummy servings:

3 dl dry white wine – chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc works well; save some for the glass too!

3 tsp cornstarch

1-2 garlic cloves

800 g of shredded Swiss cheese (try a blend of Gruyère, Emmentaler and Appenzeller, or just two of them.)

It´s nice to use a fondue pot or a ceramic pot if you have one. I have to confess for a quick meal I just use normal cooking ware; heat the fondue on the stove and transfer the whole pan to the table. Easy! It´s gone in an instant so no need to worry about the fondue cooling off … We call it fast food in our family. And TCK food. A table top burner is useful if you want to sit longer.

Rub the inside of the pot with the garlic. Carefully heat wine and starch (you might want to dissolve it in some wine first). Add the rest of the garlic; crushed. Stir in the cheese and let it melt while continuing to stir carefully. Black pepper it with love!

Serve by dipping diced day old peasant bread in the fondue. There are special fondue sticks but you can use forks too. The gourmet who drops a piece of bread in the fondue gets to clean the pot afterwards. That´s the worst part.

En Guete!

100 challenges #blogg100

#1 Saturday Jan 26

What have I done?!  😉

#1 Decided to join the challenge #blogg100

#2 Decided to go to an outlet center on a Saturday. An outdoor mall mind you. Freezing cold and a strong icy wind.

Well, the second decision of the day – check! Safely returned home in time for a late lunch. I like the concept of outdoor malls. Just not in combination with the Swedish west coast winter wind.  There was a small outdoor mall where I lived in the US when I was an expat in Michigan. Loved it. Starbucks, GAP and Bodyworks. A grocery store and some restaurants. A small green area with a tiny playground and a fountain with a bench next to it to enjoy an occasional ice cream.  Perhaps 20 stores all in all. The outdoor concept with a “main street” gave it a European feeling. I believe it was called The Village. Only missed one of my favorite stores; Target. Come to think of it it wouldn´t really have been a “village” with a Target in it.

Decision No.1 I´ll have to live with for the next 100 days. Good for me! Love the idea! Found the challenge only this morning, so starting 3 days late. Just need to finish 3 days later. Since we´re on twitter, my business and I, and Facebook, Instagram as well as on Google+ and Youtube, the project should be perfect for providing my different media channels with content. And vice versa. Want to join?

Let´s go!