Sunday, February 27, 2011

It’s All in the Delivery

by Toni Hargis

“I shouldn't be saying this - high treason, really - but I sometimes wonder if Americans aren't fooled by our accent into detecting brilliance that may not really be there.” - Stephen Fry

When it comes to accents it's great being a Brit in the States. OK, let me qualify that. Sometimes I would like to be able to sneak in and out of a shop without attracting the covert attention of everyone around me simply by asking for a gallon of milk. Oh yes, and it would be rather nice not to have the occasional sales assistant start imitating me, to my astonishment! I’m sure they mean well, but a) they usually have terrible “Briddish” accents, and b) would they do that if my accent was Bolivian or Bangladeshi? I think perhaps not.

Anyway, as I was about to say, although many of us have different British accents, they are usually all very popular with the natives here. Having grown up with British-sounding people I never really thought about us coming across as particularly intelligent or sophisticated, apart from the real boffins* that is. Indeed, there are some UK accents that sound positively brainless, even when the individual has a triple digit IQ (not naming any of course.) Americans however, don’t seem to make the same distinction, or at least I’ve never heard a British accent being denigrated.

From my own experience in the States, I have to agree with Fry’s statement. I’m quite often asked to read something out at school parent meetings for example, and when I ask why, I’m told it “will sound better with a British accent”. Personally, I think your average American has such a smooth, confident delivery on anything from the cafeteria menu to international diplomacy, I’d never dream of questioning them, but apparently I’m in the minority...

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Expat Experience; When Friends Leave…

by Dhyan Summers

Almost all expats have had the experience of good friends leaving, unless of course, we leave first. Many times I see clients in my practice who have had one or several good friends leave and they express sentiments such as “what’s the point to even making friends?” They may feel like they don’t want to open up and make new friends if they’re just going to leave. This brings up many interesting issues and is near and dear to my heart, as it is something that I’ve also had to deal with during my years as an expat.
As I am now an expat ‘old-timer’ in New Delhi, (I’ve been here 3 ½ years) I have had to deal with the loss of several good friends in the last year. One friend in particular had become a kind of soul sister to me very quickly. I knew she was leaving shortly when we first became friends, but decided to allow our friendship to deepen because it was giving me so much, and to break off our friendship made no sense. So I went into it with my eyes wide open which didn’t help a bit when she left. I felt her loss profoundly and was deeply saddened by her departure.

Yet I knew then (and still know now) that I wouldn’t have traded the experience of our friendship in order not to feel the pain and loss. For one thing, I was a better person for the experience of knowing this friend. But more importantly, it would have gone against one of my basic beliefs which is to experience life as fully as possible.

If I were to turn away from every experience that involved an element of risk or loss, my life would be very shallow indeed. Athletes and adventure sports enthusiasts know that there is always a risk involved in what they do, but the joy of the experience weighs in heavier than the thought of losing, or the element of danger involved...

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

From Spain to Bahrain - Two Old Fools and Cars

by Vicoria Twead

Neither Joe nor I have driven a car in six months. Not since we left El Hoyo, our beloved Spanish mountain village to work for a year teaching in the Middle East. In Spain, our little jeep was essential. The nearest shops were half an hour away over the mountains, and we needed the jeep to collect everything; bags of cement, bricks, logs, chicken grain as well as groceries.
No, we don’t need a car here in Bahrain because the school provides the teachers with a bus to work. And Jalal, our driver, ensures that our journey is never dull. His time-keeping is appalling, but his driving is lightning-fast and creative. Every morning we are treated to a white-knuckle drive.

With a cellphone clamped to one ear, Jalal is forced to steer with one hand - unless he has two cell phones, in which case steering is accomplished with his knees and elbows. And being one of the largest vehicles on the road, Jalal asserts right-of-way at all times scorning junctions and traffic lights. Our near-misses are frequent. It is not unusual for our bus to screech to a halt so that Jalal and the other driver can question each other’s parentage and call each other castrated camels amidst much arm-waving...

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Expat Experiences: Turkey - Tara Lutman Agacayak, Istanbul

Who are you?

Tara Lutman Agacayak

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

In 2002 I married my Turkish husband and moved to Turkey to be with him.

What challenges did you face during the move?

My biggest challenges were not knowing Turkish and not having a support network to help me through the culture shock. There were no other foreigners in the small town where we first ended up living so I didn’t have anyone to talk with who I could relate to. But slowly as my Turkish improved and as I made friends with other expats, I began to find my place and feel settle in.

Are you employed or self-employed? What challenges did you face in either finding employment or running your own business?

My challenges in finding work led me to being self-employed. As I mentioned we moved to a small town so the 8 years of experience I had as a database designer and data specialist with the Department of Defense did not translate into a job when I moved. At the time eBay was just becoming mainstream and I started selling pashminas from the Grand Bazaar through eBay auctions. After attending the Women Leaders for the World program put on by the Global Women’s Leadership Network I decided to add a socially responsible facet to my online business and focused on locally handmade products. As my network of artists and designers grew, a friend and I started offering shopping trips to visit their showrooms and ateliers in order to highlight authentic Turkish art, design and culture. With all the experience I’ve gained running businesses online I also helm a project design business called Turquoise Poppy for self-based creative business owners...

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Expat Experiences: Belgium - Mel, Antwerp

Who are you?

My name is Mel and I am an American woman, married to a Dutch man. I'm a geek, reader, blogger and photographer. You know. Just a girl.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved from the US to Antwerp, Belgium, in 2009. We came because my husband was (and still is) in university over here and we did not want to continue our relationship across an ocean. Besides which, I love it in Europe and was thrilled to have a good reason to come over!

What challenges did you face during the move?

Not very many. It isn't very difficult for an American to come over here, especially since we got married at the same time. The biggest thing was finding a reputable (and not overly-priced) company to ship some of my possessions over here, and finding a place to live (which frustrated me, because I was in the US and unable to view the properties or know much about them). My husband ended up getting our apartment about a week before I arrived here.

How did you find somewhere to live?

My husband scoured internet sites for renting in Belgium, and emailed/called up the ones that looked good in the right areas. If the people he contacted responded positively, he set up appointments and took a train over here (he was in the Netherlands at the time, about 2hrs away from here) to check them out. I think he visited 3, and had contact with a handful of others. When we settled on our apartment, there was some paperwork that needed to be done, and since he was a student (not working), his parents also made some sort of guarantee with...

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Friday, February 04, 2011

2011 Floods and the Brisbane Property Market

by Tracie Hocart, Residential Property Solutions

I was only 4 years old when the 1974 floods swept through Queensland and I really can’t remember a lot about the actual event, apart from the fact that there were a lot of the round plastic garbage cans (common at the time) floating around the streets. Following that time, everyone just rolled up their sleeves and got on with the clean up. There was a real no nonsense approach to getting things back to normal. Yes, it was devastating to many, but people realised that the only thing to do was to fix matters and move on.
Since 1974 the population growth in South East Queensland has been enormous, as has improvements to infrastructure. Things have been ticking along nicely despite the GFC. In fact, with the mining industry booming here we have been expecting big things in Queensland over the next few years.

The first images of the 2011 floods flashed onto our television screens on Monday last week when footage of tsunami like waves were seen pushing cars like boats down rapidly flowing rivers that were, minutes before, Toowoomba streets. Toowoomba is a regional Queensland town, approximately 100kms West of Brisbane, and high up on a mountain. Much of the devastation occurred in this area along with the Lockyer Valley down the hill from Toowoomba. It has been a very sad time for many of these Queenslanders.

Back in Brisbane on Wednesday it was evident the Brisbane River was going to flood, due to the fact that rainfall levels had been beyond expectations for weeks on end, and our dams were well over ideal capacity levels. People in low-lying areas were told to expect major flooding and prepare by removing their possessions and evacuating their homes.

Whilst the flooding affected 11,900 homes many of these were situated...