Sunday, October 31, 2010

Expat Experiences: Italy - Sarah and Tony

Who are you?

I am Sarah, married to Tony. We have a daughter (Axa Elisabeth, born 2005) and a son (Raj Dominique, born 2007). We are originally from San Diego. I home-school our children and my husband does marketing for an Italian company.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

We first moved to Italy in 2008. Tony is of Italian descent, and I've always wanted to live abroad, so Italy was the natural choice. We spent seven months living in two different towns in Piedmont (Saluzzo and Chiusa di Pesio) and trying to convince them to recognize Tony's Italian citizenship jure sanguinis (by descent). His citizenship was finally recognized just as the business we were still running in Southern California failed during the Economic Downturn of 2008. We spent a year back in the United States tying up loose ends, and finally made it back to Italy in April of 2010. After a couple of months in Florence, we decided that what we really love is the beautiful North of Italy.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Learning Italian from scratch was an adventure, as were a lot of other things, like discovering that shops and restaurants were never open when we wanted them until we became more Italian in our habits. We quickly learned that the easiest and most enjoyable way to do things in Italy is to make friends. In my experience, Italians are almost without exception friendly and helpful. And they love to practice their English and talk about what life is like in California.

How did you find somewhere to live?

We initially wanted a short-term rental, but found out that they just don't do that here, especially if you're not in a tourist spot. Just like with everything else, we found a nice Italian real estate agent who was willing to take us under his wing. He helped us get a codice fiscale and open a bank account, as well as (of course) finding us an apartment...


Friday, October 29, 2010

New guide to advertising at Expat Focus now available

By popular request our page for advertisers at has been revamped and a new guide to advertising at Expat Focus is now available for download at

Questions/comments to please.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween, American Style

by Expat Focus Columnist, Toni Hargis

Despite having lived in the States for twenty years, you’d be surprised at how many bits of American culture I still haven’t embraced. Top of that list is marching bands, which are ever-present at college football games and positively set my teeth on edge. They’re loud, and not particularly pleasing to the ear – especially when they attempt the ubiquitous “Rock n’ Roll”, by Gary Glitter. Fortunately I only ever come across college football on TV where there is an “Off” button.

Parades are another pet hate – perhaps because they include marching bands? For many important days in the US calendar (Thanksgiving, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day) there’s a parade. The big ones in New York City are televised, but many cities and towns across the land have their own parades. Unfortunately, many of them are during our winter months, so not only would I be required to stand on the side of the road with crowds of other people, but we’d usually be in sub zero temperatures. I think not.

One piece of American culture I have wholeheartedly embraced however, is Halloween. Yes, I’ve stepped over to the dark side. I know many people (usually not in the USA) think Halloween is just one big commercial hijack, and indeed, Hallmark makes more money from this “holiday” than all the others combined, but it’s not like that. Really.

Since my seventeen year old was a baby, I have immersed myself in coming up with Halloween costumes for my kids (did I mention that these costumes don’t have to be scary? The world’s your oyster.) I’ve sewn Red Riding Hood, Bo Peep and Marie Antoinette for her, glued robots and monsters for the boys, and painted a new toilet brush black for a chimney sweep outfit. The school has a Halloween parade for the younger kids, and everyone else in the building comes out to see them walking around, grinning from ear to ear. We decorate our house (tastefully, of course), put polystyrene gravestones in the front yard/garden and make black paper bats to hang from the light fixtures (we will not be...


Monday, October 25, 2010

Two Old Fools Go Shopping in Bahrain

by Expat Focus Columnist, Victoria Twead

October is the month for stock-piling firewood in our little Spanish village of El Hoyo. Evenings are very cool, and by the end of the month we would be lighting the wood-burning stove nightly. Not so here in the Kingdom of Bahrain where, for just one year, we’re working as teachers in an International School. For the first time in six years, we don’t need to think about logs.

Here in Bahrain it is cool inside, thanks to A/C, but step outside and the heat still produces an instant sweat. Clothes, too, are a problem. The showing of arms and shoulders is unacceptable but neither is it comfortable to wear too much. The clothes I brought with me from Spain were inappropriate, and I needed some more to wear to school.

The shopping malls in Bahrain are beautiful; huge, lavish, marbled affairs packed with clothes stores, so I didn’t think refreshing my wardrobe would be a big problem. Wrong. I’m not a city gal, and I don’t enjoy shopping, but needs must, so I put a day aside to hunt down some new outfits.

With Joe trailing behind me, I rifled through racks and racks of clothes, trying to find something suitable. To my surprise, everything on display was low-cut, skimpy, glittery or a combination of all three. Rack after rack of exotic-wear. How is that possible when Muslim ladies are dressed from head to toe in black, with only their faces (or just eyes) showing?

We deduced something that day. Outwardly, Muslim ladies are the picture of anonymity and decorum, but underneath those veils...who knows what secrets are lurking?

And these ladies, all dressed in black, posed yet another problem for me this week. It was...


Friday, October 22, 2010

Gender equality in France - Fact or fiction?

by Expat Focus Columnist, Sharon Revol

When I first moved to France aged 16, I was too young to realize what a male chauvinistic, male dominated country I was living in, probably because I had no reference points to compare it to. So my first few years here were spent in total oblivion to the plight of fellow females and the difficulties they encountered on a daily basis.

I first realized how sexist France was when I was living back in England for a few years, aged 22. I was dealing with French businesses on a daily basis and as a joint partner in the company I worked for; I was entitled to make a certain number of decisions or to sign contracts without consulting my business partner. Yet, the French companies would never accept my word or signature until they had confirmation from my partner. It was like being considered a child or as being incompetent, they were always checking that what I said was true, thus undermining any responsibility I had.

Frustrating as this was, alarm bells should really have started ringing very loudly during one of my first French business meetings which I had set up and prepared. I was supposed to lead the meeting but I quickly realized that there was little point… The men from the other company were openly staring at my chest area whilst ignoring anything I had to say. Their questions and answers were addressed to my business partner and despite my efforts to regain control of the meeting and my partner’s constant deflection of all their questions back to me, nothing changed. Needless to say polo necks quickly became a staple part of my working wardrobe.

Thankfully, I am not a feminist although I am a strongly independent female willing to constantly battle for my rights. I will stand up and be heard and will stand firm if people do not wish to deal with me because of my lack of testosterone. France is definitely not a country for the faint hearted feminist that is for sure...


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Finding a therapist while living abroad

by Expat Focus columnist and Expat Expert, Robin Pascoe

During the many years that I traveled globally to lecture to expatriate clubs and international schools, I would always try to make time to sit down with mental health practitioners working with expatriates.

These informal sessions - where I could put on my journalist’s cap and ask a lot of questions - would include school guidance counselors as well the many qualified therapists living abroad. They all recognized the urgent need for expatriate families to be aware of trained professionals in their communities who understood the unique needs of the expatriate family.

Now, Josh Sandoz, a Seattle-based therapist, well-versed in the issues of the expat family and in particular third culture kids through his work with Interaction (the organization started by the late Dave Pollock), has put together a tremendous gift to the expat world at large.

He has set up a website called the International Therapist Directory at where professionals can list their services, and those in need of that assistance, can find them.

I ‘chatted’ with him recently via e-mail about the directory in general and the challenges of finding the right therapist far from home:

Robin Pascoe: How difficult is it for expats and their families to find therapists abroad?

Josh Sandoz: One of the main reasons I started the International Therapist Directory was to help ease the difficulty that so many expats have had in trying to find an understanding therapist. Many internationally mobile adults, families, children, and adolescents desire therapeutic supports in their locations abroad or once back in their country of passport.

My primary goal in developing this resource has been to create a comprehensive well-maintained online listing of mental health therapists around the world who self-identify as having experience working with TCKs and the internationally mobile community. Hopefully, because of this directory, the answer to this first question is: much less difficult.

RP: Besides the obvious challenge of finding the right person, are there other obstacles facing expats?

JS: Health care in general carries many various stigmas, depending on the culture of a particular community. Unfortunately, some attitudes are quite discouraging.

If someone I care about, however, experiences a broken leg, I would encourage him or her to seek health care from a professional who can facilitate a healing process. In my way of thinking, the same principle applies to mental health.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are concerned about community attitudes as you begin therapy, I would recommend talking about that dynamic with your therapist directly. Deciding how you will navigate those realities early on in your process will serve you well over time. After all, no matter your age, for better and for worse, peer pressure never really does go away...


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Expat Experiences: Cyprus - Roseanne Sherman

Who are you?

I am a 51-year old single woman from the United States . I have travelled extensively and have a bit of an adventurous nature.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

In 2004 I moved to Moscow, Russia for my job. I lived in Russia for 2.5 years, then I was transferred to Slovakia where I lived for 1 year, and then I was transferred to Sofia Bulgaria where I have been living for 2.5 years. In between Slovakia and Bulgaria, I lived in Cyprus for 3 months while I looked for a home and decided whether to move there permanently or not. I have just moved to Cyprus permanently.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Finding out information on what a US citizen needs to do to establish residency in Cyprus. There are plenty of Brits in Cyprus, but I have yet to meet another American.

Can you tell us something about your property?

I spent 3 months in Cyprus looking at properties. I worked with several estate agents. One day I was checking into the costs associated with buying a car and the salesman asked me about my home. I told him I was looking and he told me his daughter-in-law worked for ERA. I was just being polite and took her number, but then he called her and so I explained how I had already looked at many properties and was doubtful that she could show me something that I had not already seen. I was wrong – she found me several that I liked and I ended up buying one of them.

It is a 2-bedroom 118 square meter semi-detached villa in a development of only 5 homes. All of my neighbors are Cypriot, which should help with my attempts to learn to speak Greek. The buying process was easy. Just make sure that you get a lawyer and that the lawyer has no association with the builder or the property owner. My house was scheduled to be finished September 2009, but was not finished until January 2010. No problem for me because I was flexible.

What is the property market like at the moment?

There are many properties on the market right now. The prices are down a bit, but not as low as they...

Read more at:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Expat Experiences: New Zealand - Jared Gulian

Who are you?

My name is Jared Gulian, and I’m still not entirely sure how I ended up living in paradise. My partner Rick and I are two American city boys who moved to rural New Zealand in 2006. We live on 20 acres with an olive grove just outside the charming wine village of Martinborough, at the bottom of the North Island.

We sell our olive oil commercially, and we commute into Wellington for our day jobs. We've got chickens and there are cattle and sheep grazing in our paddocks.

I write about our life on my blog Moon over Martinborough

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

Rick and I were living together in Chicago when I became restless. I had always wanted to live overseas for a year or two, but had never managed to do it. Fortunately for me, Rick said he'd join me. We moved to Japan in 1998, when we were both 31. We ended up staying a lot longer than expected.

During our time there we heard really great things about New Zealand, and we met a lot of very nice Kiwis. When we were finally ready to leave Japan, we decided to give New Zealand a try. By then we'd both fallen in love with living overseas.

We moved from Japan to New Zealand in 2003. We started out in Wellington city, but in 2006 we moved out to Martinborough, which is in the Wairarapa valley about an hour outside of Wellington.

For more about how we ended up here, read my 'life story as recipe' in the blog post - 'Make your own olive oil in 23 easy steps'

What challenges did you face during the move?

We tend to leap-frog across the planet. I moved from Chicago to Northern Japan first, then...


Friday, October 15, 2010

Split between two worlds

Article by Tiffany Jansen

We met. We fell in love. We got married. I moved in with him… to his home in the Netherlands.

For months before the wedding, I was so excited. Nervous, but excited. I had met at least one other woman who had done what I was about to do and she was well-adjusted and happy. Naturally the same would happen for me, right?

The day of the wedding, it hit me. It was huge what I was about to do. My mother and I sat on the edge of my bed and cried together. We agreed that I would give it 2-3 years and then I would move back to the US with my husband. After all, this was my home. I couldn’t stay away forever.

When I got to the Netherlands, however, I fell in love. I met remarkable women in the same or a very similar position to that which I was in and made some really excellent friends. My husband’s family and friends took me in and really made me feel at home. It came as a surprise to everyone – myself included – how quickly I adjusted and came to love my adopted country.

“No way am I going back,” I’d tell everyone (except my mother, of course).“I like it too much here.”

I became overly critical of America and the Netherlands could do no wrong in my eyes. I didn’t understand the other expat women I spoke to who used the word “home” to refer to both the Netherlands and their countries of origin.

As far as I was concerned, “home” was the place I was living. Where my husband and dog were and where we wanted to start a family of our own. When you move out of your parents’ house, you don’t continue to refer to it as “home” for the rest of your adult life. Why should it be any different in this case?

My first 6 months in the Netherlands, I had no desire to...

Read more about Tiffany and her life in the Netherlands at

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Magic of Malta

Article by Derek Wells

If you are looking for a retirement destination or maybe somewhere to buy a holiday home, then Malta may just be what you are looking for.

Malta is a tiny archipelago in the middle of the clear blue Mediterranean Sea, some 60 miles south of Sicily. It consists of Malta, Gozo and Comino. Malta is 95 square miles, Gozo is smaller at 26 square miles and Comino is barely over a mile square.

The island has strong links with the UK. It has always been a popular destination for individuals from over here and it’s not hard to see why. English is widely spoken, driving is on the left, medical care is top class and most important of all, the Maltese are a welcoming and friendly people who will help you settle easily on their island home. Through its long and colourful history, the islanders have come into contact with numerous ruling nations, all of which have contributed to Malta being an historical oasis. Despite its history, the Maltese have remained steadfastly independent, proud of their cultural roots yet hospitable to visitors.

Malta is an island of contrasts, which is all the more interesting when you take into account its tiny size. From Neolithic temples to 5-star hotels, from imposing fortifications to yacht marinas, from tiny cafes to top class restaurants, the island has it all. Life can be as lively or as laid back as you wish it to be, as sophisticated or as rustic as you choose.

Malta’s climate is warm and healthy, with mild winters and dry hot summers. No frost or snow and that’s a promise. Temperatures between November and April average around 15oC with temperatures between May and October averaging around 23oC.

As you get older, you will quite naturally be concerned about healthcare. Well, you need not worry. Medical services on the island are...

Read more about the magical island of Malta here

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Interview with Robin Pascoe, Expat Expert

Robin is well known abroad for her inspirational and informative articles, corporate presentations, and best-selling books. She is the author of five widely-used books on global living. Since 1998, her popular Expat Expert website has served as an international meeting place, discussion group, and source of advice and information for hundreds of thousands of expats world-wide.

Robin, can you tell us a bit about your background?

My husband used to be as Canadian foreign service officer (he's been in the private sector now for many years with his own global company) but during his time as a diplomat we were posted four times to Asia. As a journalist of more than 35 years now, at the time, I was not allowed to work as one given I carried a diplomatic passport!

So I initially started working in expat family support when our daughter was born in Bangkok and I wrote a newsletter for an international mothers group I helped start (and is still going strong after 27 years!) Later, I decided to write books, initially for the spouse, but the enterprise just kind of blossomed into five books and a website (sounds like a movie). Of course, because of the books, I was invited to lecture to expat communities in the schools, to clubs, and to international HR groups.

What products or services does Expat Expert offer?

Primarily, as a writer and journalist, I offer content in the form of my books and now a video lecture series. But along the way I also wrote hundreds of articles and conducted a major family survey that is still valid (and on the site for free) to give some statistics and a chance for families to give their point of view of the kind of support they need and the kind of support they received (or didn't!) I suppose I was also considered a bit of an advocate for expats because I didn't care what I said if it meant waking up organizations to the needs of the family. Mostly, I think of myself as a resource where people come to ask questions and to be reassured that their challenges are very similar if not often exactly the same as expat families living anywhere in the world. I like to think I make people's feelings real.

Tell us more about your books and what it's like to be an expat author

I was only going to write one book (because they say, write what you know!) and ended up writing five non-fiction books plus an expat novel that was serialized years ago on my website. Being an expat author back in my day was very isolating because there was no Internet, no Amazon, no connection between me and my readers. I used to joke I had a life I didn't participate in!

A writer's life is hard enough as it means going into a deep dark hole for a few years to took me years to write each book because once I started to travel to lecture, I was always either getting over the jet lag and exhaustion of one trip or planning the next. Vancouver is always a 10 hour flight to wherever I was going, often longer. And the lecture tours, while sounding terribly glamorous, were brutal. On some, I would deliver over 30 talks in 5 countries in two weeks! But it was worth it because the audiences were so appreciative of my speaking to them. I only took a decision this past year to stop traveling because it was killing me to be on the road, all alone, boxes of books everywhere (I forgot to mention that I decided to become my own publisher in 2000!!), and I also experienced a lot of food poisoning! I could go on and on about my fear of flying which was not helpful either. I called it 'the flaw in my business plan.'

Video lectures are a new addition to the Expat Expert site - what prompted you to make these videos?

I was very blocked in my writing, not recognizing it was more exhaustion from traveling too much and not having the time to just think and write. A cousin of mine who is a career counselor of many years suggested I try working in a different medium, like video. I used to be a television reporter and documentary writer in another life so the idea of working again in video appealed to me (or certainly didn't scare me). I knew how to do it (but of course, had to figure out You Tube etc...)

So, coupled with the fact that I had taken the decision not to travel anymore, I thought putting together the lecture series would be a win/win. I could check out working in video, and my lectures would be available for free to anyone who needed to hear my messages (and could do so in private, not in a public setting). Having been through the exercise, and watching myself over and over again on video during the editing process, I have decided no more video for me! But hopefully, if people can find the lecture series (it's hard as you know to get anything new 'out there' these days with so much information bombarding expats) they will be helpful to families, especially spouses...

Read the rest of this interview at

Monday, October 11, 2010

Interview with Alan Bentley, MD International Personnel Management Ltd

Alan, please can you tell us a bit about your background before you joined International Personnel Management Ltd?

My career has focused on financial services and travel. I have experience in all aspects of Human Resources at a senior level, including international and executive compensation for local nationals, expatriates and third country nationals with HSBC and Thomas Cook.

What services does International Personnel Management Ltd offer?

IPM Ltd specialises in handling overseas staff placements for companies. That means sorting all the ‘red tape’ associated with, salary packages, home and host country tax and social security, cost of living, visas/work permits, accommodation, and schooling. We do all that is required to ensure a successful outcome for both employer and employee. We handle the movement of staff for multi-national companies as well as smaller businesses that need to project manage one-off overseas contracts. We will ensure that you are compliant in all aspects of home and host country tax and social security as well as immigration. We are currently managing international assignments in more than 50 home and 60 host countries around the world. Established in 1995, our experienced team of specialist consultants is based in Peterborough. We benefit from low operating overheads but pride ourselves on delivering personalised, quick response, client management. That translates to excellent value for money. We provide both an...

Interview continues here

Friday, October 08, 2010

Interview with Michael Barrett of

In the latest Expat Focus podcast we speak to Michael Barrett, an American expat who has settled in France and now runs the blog to help other expats. This interview gives us a unique insight into the problems and differences between the US and France as well as the benefits of living in another culture.

Listen to the podcast at