Friday, May 21, 2010

Expat Experiences: UK - Melissa

Who are you?
Melissa Richards-Stoey

Melissa Richards-Stoey.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to England in 1988 as a member of the U.S. Air Force. I joined the military with the intention of travelling and I chose England as my first choice for duty station. I had been an Anglophile since the age of 13 so going to England had always been a dream of mine.

What challenges did you face during the move?

I didn't know a single soul, not even another American. I was supposed to be picked up at Gatwick by a bus that would take me to RAF Chicksands where I was to be stationed. The bus never showed, so there I was in an airport in a new country with no idea of how to get to where I needed to go. All I could think to do was jump in a cab. Sixty pounds later I arrived at my new home. On the very first weekend there, I met a Scottish man at our NCO club and we hit it off instantly. Ten months later we were married. If it weren't for him, I think I would have had a lot more challenges than I did. He made it easy to get to know the culture and make friends.

Can you tell us something about your property?

I rented two different flats while living in England and the rental process was as simple as it is in the U.S. Back then I think I paid something like £400 - £600 a month. Property in the U.K. tended to be quite a bit smaller than what we are used to in America, although that has begun to change in the last ten years or so...


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Expat Experiences: Saudi Arabia - Lynne Charnley

Who are you?
Arabian Home

My name is Lynne Charnley.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I worked in Riyadh and Dammam in Saudi Arabia from May 2008 to November 2009. Having been made redundant in the UK I was looking for work, and a friend of mine was acting as a consultant to a Saudi airline, he suggested me to the airline and it all happened from there.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The hardest part was getting into Saudi and obtaining an Iqama (work and residency permit). This is normally done through your sponsor but I had to have 2 medicals - 1 in the UK and another in Saudi, the paperwork must be handled by a licensed agent in the UK. You cannot do anything without an Iquama - rent property, set up a bank account, get a driving license/buy a car (only applicable to males - women cannot drive in Saudi) or buy a mobile phone without one. Married women and children share their husband's/fathers Iqamas. Your forum and a copy of the Lonely Planet Guide to Saudi Arabia were a Godsend before I actually moved.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Expat Experiences: Australia - Lesley Snell

Who are you?

My name is Lesley Snell. I live on the Northern Beaches in Sydney with my husband and three children. I am a UK trained primary schoolteacher and Director of a small business on the Northern Beaches in Sydney, Australia.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I have been very lucky to have moved around a fair bit. Over the past twenty years I have lived in New York City, London, Sydney, Washington.D.C. and Miami. We have moved because of my husband’s job within the airline industry. We became Australian Citizens a few years back and we are now settled here on The Northern Beaches.

What challenges did you face during the move?


Initially it was missing our family and friends. When we had children away from family we missed the Grandparents and the support they can provide. It’s difficult to miss family events as we undoubtedly have. One of my hardest challenges has been seeing my parents get older without me being there for them.

Once you have children abroad you need to consider schools and areas you and your children want to live in. Deciding where to “Put down your roots” is no easy task and you need to figure out your priorities.

We also missed the social side of pubs and particularly High Street stores!!! (no need to mention names!)

Making new friends is also difficult - you have to be thick skinned and THROW YOURSELF into your new life!!!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Expat Experiences: Italy - Stef and Nico

Who are you?
Stef and Nico

I am Stef (male, 50 years of age, only just), married to Nico (male, almost 60), both born in The Netherlands and a couple since 1985 (prehistoric times).

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

We moved to Italy in 2008 after staying at Pavia for half a year, for reasons of study (medieval history).
In these 6 months we found our dream villa in the unknown Oltrepo Pavese region, south of Pavia, which was perfectly suited for our plan: starting a B&B vacation rental business.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Selling our own house in Holland, surviving the Italian real estate agent and trying to avoid disasters during the buying process.

Can you tell us something about your property?

We found the property via an advertisement in one of the many free magazines that circulate in Italy. It didn’t look very attractive from the photo, but price and description made it interesting. We knew the region more or less, as we had made daytrips from Pavia to explore it. The house turned out to be perfect internally and with respect to location: the panoramic view was breathtaking. The price was very reasonable. It “just” needed some restructuring to render it even better suited to tourists/guests...


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Getting Sheared In Armenia

by Karen van der Zee

If you’re a globetrotting expat you know all about moving from one country to another and what it takes to get adjusted to life in a foreign environment. Let me tell you about the second day of my new expat life in Armenia, a former Soviet republic. It’s an arctic January day and since I’ve just moved from tropical Ghana, I’m in climate shock as well as culture shock.

While my man labors away at his office, I’m scouting around Yerevan, the capital, on my own, walking very carefully in my new boots, shivering in my also-new down-filled coat. The town is blanketed in old dirty snow. The ice-covered sidewalks are treacherous, the buildings grim and gray, and why is everyone dressed in black? I asked one of the office girls this question this morning and she gave me a blank stare for a moment, as if she had never noticed or thought about it. “Because we like it,” she said finally.

Not surprisingly, I notice Armenian words everywhere, on road signs and billboards and shop windows. Written in the Armenian alphabet, which is unique in the world and completely indecipherable. There is no way to even make some educated guesses. Having grown up European, I’ve learned a couple of languages here and there, and usually I can fake my way around the continent, but not here. The Armenian language itself is also unique, not related to any other languages in the universe. There's Russian on signs and buildings as well (Russian was the official language in Soviet times), but that doesn't do me much good either.

So, I am not a little bit ecstatic when in the center of town near Independence Square I spot the English words hair saloon on a sign with an arrow pointing into a courtyard. This gives me great hope for an English speaker inside. And because I really do need a haircut and because maybe it's warm inside, I'm thinking I might as well give this a try. I find the “saloon” and push open the door.

Illusions are there to be shattered. It's only just above freezing inside the tiny space and none of the three girls (all wearing serious party make-up) speaks English. They try Armenian on me, and then Russian. Then they give up. They know no English. I've never felt such an illiterate in my life. But next week I still won't speak either language and hey, a haircut is not rocket science. I indicate a couple of centimeters, about an inch, between my thumb and forefinger and the fake blonde goes for it while keeping up a running conversation with her buddies shivering in their shabby fur coats. I don’t want to sound paranoid, but I suspect they’re discussing me by the way they’re checking me out -- my funny light-colored coat, my in-elegant flat-soled boots. All three are wearing boots with 4-inch spiky heels.

Some time later my stylist is finished with me and I look really interesting.

What I meant when I indicated the inch or so was to have that much hair cut off, not to have that much left. And just in case you didn't know this, hair keeps your head warm, if you have it.

My stylist writes down the amount I owe her, in standard numerals, the gods be thanked, and I pay it. It's only three times as much as I should have been charged someone tells me the next day. My sincere hope is that these shivering girls get enough suckers like me to be able to save up for a functioning space heater.

Ah, but spring and summer do arrive eventually, and so do the tourists. The town turns cheery with flowers blooming in the many parks and gardens. Open air caf├ęs and outdoor restaurants spring up like mushrooms. The men still wear black, but the younger women dress in brighter colors. And yes, I’ve found an English speaking hair stylist and I now know the right price for a haircut. Things are looking up!


Karen van der Zee is the globetrotting author of 34 romance novels as well as the humorous non-fiction e-book You’re Moving WHERE?! She blogs about her (mis)adventures abroad at LIFE IN THE EXPAT LANE.

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