Sunday, May 29, 2011

Expat Experiences: Panama - Jane Ellis, Panama City

Who are you?

I am Panamajama, also known as Jane, mother of three young children. I fill my time by looking after my children, taking photos, doing my blog and studying to become a translator (French to English – NOT Spanish to English!

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

We all moved across to Panama from Scotland last year as my husband is working on the project to expand the canal.

What challenges did you face during the move?

We had to decide whether to bring our furniture with us (including our piano), then our travelling date was pushed back several times. When we arrived we lived in a furnished high-rise overlooking the Pacific while waiting for our furniture to travel over on a container ship. This was a lovely place to live, but there was no way of walking anywhere, and I did not fancy driving in the chaotic traffic of Panama City until I had been here long enough to get used to it. So I felt quite isolated initially.

How did you find somewhere to live?

Our relocation agents helped us. These were provided by the company my husband works for.

There have been many difficulties associated with relocation, not of least of which that Panama has no postal service as such – not like the kind UK or US citizens are used to. It took us 2 months to figure this out, during which time my son’s birthday presents...

Read more about Jane's life in Panama

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What Paddington tells us about German v British manners

Are Germans ruder than the British? Are Britons more dishonest than Germans? Fortunately, we don't have to rely on blind prejudice for answers. Serious academic research has been done on both sides of the North Sea.

There are Britons in Berlin who get taken aback by the directness of Germans. And there are Germans who get really annoyed when Britons (and Americans), in an effort to appear friendly, say things they don't really mean. Some Germans call this "lying".

So, what do the experts say on the matter?

Professor Juliane House, of the University of Hamburg, has studied groups of people interacting in controlled situations, watching with academic rigour how they behave as human guinea-pigs.

She found (or verified) that Germans really don't do small talk, those little phrases so familiar to the British about the weather or a person's general well-being, but which she describes as "empty verbiage"...


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Moved Abroad, What Next? When The Sun Sets on Your Dreams

by Piglet in Portugal
I cried when yet another of my close friends, who had taken early retirement, announced she was selling up and returning to the UK. The reason for her change of heart and even direction was due to disillusionment and boredom. She confided there were only so many coffees you could drink, social events to attend, weeds to pull, vegetables to grow, books to read etc etc. Life here was simply no longer challenging as one day just drifted seamlessly into the next.
I wondered if expats who move abroad on a fixed term work contract felt the same. Maybe because they know they are only going to be in xx country for xx number of years they are already physiologically adjusted to the transient nature of friendships. However, when you retire there seems to be a greater sense of permanence. You are almost mentally saying to yourself “the only way I am leaving here is in a box!”

Sitting in a dreary office in the UK looking out at equally dreary grey skies made “La La” land in the sun seem like paradise. But for some, this is just not the case – paradise also has its down side.

How many people who retire to a “place in the sun” actually consider how they will fill their days once the challenges of settling in to their new home have been resolved and the initial holiday period and...

Read more:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Expat Experiences: Thailand - Mike Rose, Prachuap Khiri Khan

Who are you?

My name is Mike Rose and I am a retired teacher from the UK.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand in January 2008 when I took early retirement. I have always enjoyed travelling and had been to Thailand on a few occasions before deciding to settle here

What challenges did you face during the move?

Numerous! But nothing insurmountable. I had actually intended to work out here part time teaching English, but when I arrived the job wasn't there. So I had a hurried change of plan settling instead for full time retirement and living on my private pensions. Thailand is full of red tape but once you know the ropes its easy to negotiate. Find out what to do is the hardest but there are plenty of resources on the Internet. Visa regulations are quite relaxed but you have to report every 90 days to immigration, which is a pain along with your annual renewal...

Read more about Mike's life in Thailand:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Surprising day (Part 1)

by David Sutton-Rowe

Photo: David is 4th from the right in the back row.

Well that was a surprise, I was minding my own business one day in my local bar, the El Alhambra, and my friend Antonio walked in, I was having my morning Tostada (Toasted French stick bread, with a pouring of virgin olive oil and salt) and enjoying a really hot coffee, anyway we greeted each other asking how we were getting on in the world.

Antonio is a young man of 31 years old and we have known each other for around 8 and a half years now, and often meet up for a coffee but today was a surprise for me to see him, he is never on time, always gets his days mixed up and being a normal Spaniard this is the way things are done, we got into talking and he suddenly asked me if I would join the PP, (Partido Popular) well this took me by total surprise as I had never talked about my view on politics to anyone, but he went on to explain that the PP was recruiting Foreigners to represent the minority groups that exist here in Spain and in particular in our town of Sax.

I had to think about this for a few moments, with Antonio, asking me “Well about it?” I said “hold on a moment, let me think about this” “But it’s a perfect opportunity for you David, you know that if you get into the mad house, you will get paid for it”, (Mad House his name for the local Town Hall). “That may be” I said, “but there is more to it than that”, “Oh don’t worry about that David, you know you are the perfect person to make an impression in the local government here in Sax”, now this had me thinking at 100 thoughts a second, what if? “I will have to sleep on it”, I said to Antonio, he replied that we should have another coffee before I made up my mind.

Now I know as much about local politics as most people know about brain surgery, and he was asking me to stand for a post in the local government, of a foreign country, where on a good day I can hold a conversation in a bar or BBQ? Now come on, what do you take me for? Some kind of suicide jockey, (suicide jockey, a raving idiot on a motorcycle) I do not even know which side of the fence the Partido Popular stand, let alone who their president is, but hey, wait a moment, could I stand up and be a candidate for a local political party?

I sipped my coffee and took another bite from my tostada, chewing very slowly and thinking things over and not wanting to seem to be too excited by the prospect of standing for an election in my local community. I could see the expression on Antonio’s face change from a happy grin to a slightly concerned look, almost disappointed that I was keeping him waiting, like he has done with me in the past, and secretly I was enjoying this moment, watching his face, and he knew that something was ticking over in my mind, “Well”, he asked, “what you say to this”? “Ok” I replied, what am I letting myself in for, I thought to myself, Antonio’s face lit up and all was well in the bar, I did not have to pay for my coffee & tostada that morning my friend bought it for me, and his new “Friend” in the Partido Popular, well not yet be soon would be.

So that afternoon we visited another local bar to meet the president of the local branch of the Partido Popular, Vincente Gil Sauco, who had asked Antonio if he knew a foreigner that would be stupid enough to stand for local elections in May, and represent the foreigners of Sax, well here I am standing in front of him and looking rather lost in what I am about to expose myself to, and feeling very nervous about the whole idea and was having second thoughts about the role I was about to take on. Still I am up for the challenge and with a little help from other members of the PP, I should fit in and go with the flow.