Hello! Our names are Claudine and Brian, but feel free to refer to us as the Kathmanduo. We’re just two Type-A go-getters who traded life in Chicago’s corporate skyscrapers for expat adventure on the Roof of the World: Kathmandu, Nepal.
1. Why did you move abroad?
Faced with a crossroads in life, Claudine yearned to return to her passions for Asia and international development work. Brian longed for…well, anything but corporate law. Seeking the simplest, most obvious solution, we decided to move to Kathmandu, where Claudine spent a summer doing research in college and as newlyweds we honeymooned in bliss. Except for that one food poisoning incident.
2. How do you make a living?
We are a bit all over the map. Claudine volunteered with Kiva, working in microfinance, and has been consulting in the international development field. Brian is lecturing at a local college. We are both continuing to explore new activities whether professionally or on a volunteer basis. This is still very much a work in progress for us, and that’s somewhat the point.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
We are in close contact with friends and family at home thanks to email, Facebook, and the lifeblood to every expat and his mother, Skype.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Katmandu?
There are so many interesting, non-conventional people in Kathmandu doing really amazing, creative things here. It’s a city of do-ers, people who prefer action and engagement to deliberation and discussion. That makes it a very exciting and inspiring place to live.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Kathmandu?
This is not what we consider a convenient city. If you value potable water from the tap and electricity for more than ten hours in a given day, Kathmandu will involve some adjusting. Services and products can be hard to hunt down, turning what used to be a quick stop to the corner store into an exhausting multi-day scavenger hunt extravaganza. But that’s part of the fun, right?
6. What do you miss most?
Of course we miss our friends and family and not just because they might disown us if we failed to mention them first and foremost. Beyond that cliché, we admit that our fantasies have us returning to a Whole Foods grocery store and food court we frequented in our former life.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Kathmandu has a charming weekly farmer’s market that draws a social and friendly expatriate crowd. Otherwise, we consider every interaction a chance to meet new people and learn something new. It helps that Nepalis are incredibly warm, friendly people.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
The timing of meals here is a bit strange for us, but it does not impact us on a daily basis. Other than that, the six-day Nepali workweek peppered with frequent holidays is something that keeps us on our toes.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Some people assume Nepal is dangerous, either simply because it seems exotic and frightening in comparison to home or because they are aware of its recent civil war and ongoing political turmoil as it drafts a new constitution. Like any large city, Kathmandu has its dangers, but we feel very safe here, probably more so than in some Western cities.
10. What advice would you give other expats?
Moving abroad is not something we advise doing half-heartedly. Do your due diligence and deliberation before moving, but once you decide to leap, we suggest a full plunge rather than merely dipping a toe in: eat the adventurous cuisine, meet local people and learn their customs, and embrace your new home’s flaws as well as its virtues. Sometimes it will feel more like a belly flop than graceful swan dive, but we think you will probably learn more and have more fun this way.
11. When and why did you start your blog?
We were so excited about our move to Nepal that we wanted to share it with others. In part, we hope that this blog can be a daily escape (and inspiration?) for anyone out there dreaming of quitting his or her job and making an extreme change in his or her life. We started the blog when we began to pack up our lives for the move in earnest, December 2010.
12. How has the blog been beneficial?
One of the most rewarding aspects of the blog is hearing from our readers. We’ve met (electronically and personally) lots of very interesting people we have connected with through the blog in one way or another.
Claudine and Brian's blog, The Kathmanduo