Today marks 1 year since we launched BlogExpat Interviews. We've learned lessons from every corner of the world, both unique to the place the stories come from, and identifiable among expats everywhere.
A year of interviews has covered:
Some of our favorite responses include answers to Why did you move abroad?
Jack Scott - From London to Bodrum: "I was a petty bureaucrat for 30 years gently ascending a career ladder to middle management, middle income and a middling suburban terrace; comfortable, secure and passionately dissatisfying. I thought it high time to take a break from my labours, put my feet up and watch the pansies grow"
Kym - From Melbourne to the UK: "I think F Scott Fitzgerald would call it ‘restless discontent’. An overtly successful life with all the trappings hid a deep, deep dissatisfaction and moving to London was quite a ‘toys out of the pram’ moment to see which were the things that really mattered to me. Needless to say I kept those things in mind as I rebuilt my life here."
Stuart - From London to Holland: "My move abroad was not exactly planned. In fact, in many ways it was
quite by accident . I had no plans to move to Holland. I didn’t even
have any plans to leave London but after a year of being out of college
and still trying to find a job I came across a cryptic job advertisement
that intrigued me. It had no address, no phone number. All it had was
an email address. It was very mysterious but I thought I would apply
anyway even though I was aware that it could lead to some kind of fake
office interview/black market organ harvesting situation.
When I received a reply a few days later there were two surprises. (1) At no point did they enquire about the condition of my internal organs and (2) they were offering to pay for my flight to the interview location in Amsterdam… Holland. As you might have guessed until that point I had (maybe rather foolishly) not even considered that the job might be in another country."
How do you make a living?
Dana Zemke - From Florida to Beijing: "My current job title is “Professional Woman of Leisure”, which surprisingly doesn’t pay much. Despite the pay, I have to say, I am at the top of my field and really enjoy my work. I spend my time getting to know Beijing through things like language classes, making new friends, cooking classes, lectures, hikes, bike rides, visiting the endless parks & temples and my absolute favorite – people watching. When I’m done with all the demands of leisure activities, I’m working on a masters degree for speech-language pathology."
How often do you communicate with home and how?
Catharine - London to Seoul: "When I first moved to Reunion Island it was the early 1990s, there was no internet and letters took 6 weeks to arrive! I used to phone my family once a year for Christmas. Now with VOIP (I was one of the earliest users thanks to a tech-savvy husband) I call my Mum once or twice a week and often use it to speak to other family and friends. E-mails, Facebook and even Twitter (I have three accounts!) also help keep regular contact."
Helena - From Stockholm to Lebanon: "Since Lebanon has the slowest and most expensive internet as well as the highest phone rates ever known to man, my parents call me every Sunday and between that we email and chat a lot. I try to avoid Skype since the slow internet connection makes it a rather annoying experience. I fly home at least once a year to catch up with friends and family as well."
What's your favorite thing about being an expat?
Garrett McKenna - From Boston to Milan: "The fact that I’m “different”. Among my group of friends, at work, and in my apartment building I’m not just another Italian, but I’m “the American”, the guy with the non-Italian name and the foreign accent that sometimes can’t remember the right word in Italian. In Bologna, I mostly hung around with other English speaking expats, while here in Milan, I’m the only American that I know and I’m surrounded by Italians. It’s cool and it makes me feel like I’ve really assimilated into the culture."
What’s the worst thing about being an expat?
Hannah - From Somerset to Boston: "The chocolate and the price of Ribena (which I never drank in England, but because it costs over $7.00 here I crave it)…and the non-existence of half pints that actually cost half… Also the winter… oh and house centipedes (I call them leg monsters) and the lack of public transport."
Lady Frontbottom - From Portsmouth to Buenos Aires: "The Argentines, definitely the way they drive; the way they shout when they talk to you; the constant interrupting; the chamuyo (which
I suppose you’d translate as “schmoozing”…something like that), the
“I’ll do it tomorrow”, the “its okkkk” (when it blatantly isn’t), the
“playing dumb” instead of just dealing with something. The worst thing
is that after ten years, I seem to have transformed into some kind of
ultra-mega Anglo/Argentine hybrid, incorporating the very worst of both
The other day, for example, I went for a coffee with my husband. The waitress was taking ages to take our order (not unusual at all). At first, I sat there like a pole, sporting my very best stiff upper lip and muttering all manner of obscenities under my breath in a very unbearable British manner. Then, the Argentine in me kicked in and I couldn’t take it anymore. I jumped up in a fury, loudly cursing all and sundry, throwing things around and marched out in quite an elaborate huff. I’ve turned into a monster."
What do you miss most?
Conner Gorry - From New York to Cuba: "Jon Stewart, NBA, tofu (and a million other foods like trail mix, artichokes, cheese, ginger ale, sushi, Indian food, bagels), WiFi/broadband. This last is really quite frustrating. Do your readers even remember what dial up is/feels like? I fold the laundry while waiting for my homepage to load!"
Steve - From Greenwich to Beijing: "I think the anonymity – I can walk round most places in Europe or the Americas and just go about my business, but here I stick out entirely. The better I become at Mandarin the more I realise there are so often people watching and commenting loudly on my every move."
What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
koo • ki - From America to Switzerland to Qatar: "Social relations in Doha are incestuous. My husband’s boss is our neighbor. My husband’s work colleagues are our friends. Every time I see them I think how fortunate I am that they are some of the funniest people I have ever met. Laughter makes life in Qatar bearable. "
Emma K - From London to Baltimore: "Well having a baby was a god send because a few months after birthing my first daughter I was stalking playgrounds looking for new friends. I am friendly and will talk to anyone including a lamp post so was soon enmeshed in the merry world of mommy friends and playdates which ended after five years when they all went back to work – the kill joys. Then I was forced to start a blog to chat with people online. Actually I do quite a lot of voluntary work and have met lots of people that way too."
What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Ian Porter - From Seattle to Berlin: "Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, I can be a bit passive aggressive at times. It can be a shock to be spoken to so frankly. 'What? This shirt makes me look fat?'"
Marie - From Colorado to Rabat: "Strangers coming up and kissing my blond children on the mouth. You see, blond children are considered lucky here in Morocco. Moroccans are extremely friendly and love children, but in America we call people who do this pedophiles. By the way, my children do not consider themselves lucky for being blond in Morocco..."
What is a myth about your adopted country?
Sabrina - From Germany to Texas: "A myth? Well, people don’t ride to class or work on their horses. People actually asked me that when I moved here. But on the other hand, there are many real life cowboys everywhere. And by cowboys I mean the guys who wear the trinity of boots, buckle, and hat. I’ve seen them in airports, going to class, shopping, ... "
Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Miss Footloose - From the Netherlands to Moldova: "Before moving to Moldova, I lived in the US for three years, and before that in Armenia for six years. The cost of living in Moldova is similar to what I remember it to be in Armenia, but it really depends on your lifestyle. It can be lower than the US if you live and eat "on the local economy."
As in many capital cities, there are two housing markets here, and the one for expats is very pricy. Rents for expat housing are high by American standards (and again, that depends on location).
Also, buying imported foods can run up the grocery bills. I'm a bit of a foodie and love - for instance - French, Italian and Dutch cheeses, and I am lucky to be able to get them here, but they're expensive. There is plenty of local cheese, which is good too, so you don't have to do without if you don't want to buy the imported varieties. "
What advice would you give other expats?
Russell - From the UK to Vancouver to Sydney: "For potential expats, plan, plan and plan. Do your homework on the country – understand the job market, the property market, get a feel for the different suburbs and where you might like to call home. Understand the culture and the people – they will be your friends and your neighbours so make sure that they appeal to you. If possible, book a fact finding trip to witness firsthand the look and feel of a place. And be completely honest with yourself – this will be a huge move, it will put stress on your family relationships, and the first few years will be harder than you imagine in terms of going back to basics and starting over. Prepare yourself adequately and you’ll be set for the adventure of your lifetime."
When and why did you start your blog?
Amanda Barnes - Fom Wiltshire to Doha: "I love cooking. I also like venting my spleen – I've been the scourge of one particular expat woman's forum for years although I like to think I've mellowed. I originally wanted the blog to be a site that other expat women would submit their recipes to but gave that up as a bad idea when the sum total of 4 women sent me their recipes. So, in 2009 I turned it into a blog. It is still supposed to be mainly about food but I can go off on a rant now and again, which is why there will be a recipe for Foccacia followed by a whinging post about idiot drivers. "
How has the blog been beneficial?
Traveling Mama - From Atlanta to Morocco to Copenhagen: "Lots of ways, actually. Blogging helped us find our current jobs and we are constantly getting new clients because of it. We’ve also made so many friends that have been an amazing support to us. It is a lot of fun to share our highs, our lows, and all the craziness in between with friends from all around the world. I hope through the blog we get to share with others the honesty of a life abroad while also helping them realize that the world really is a small place and we are not all so different after all."
Check out a year of incredible expat interviews from around the world and go to each of these expat interviewees' blogs (interviewees are designated in the directory with a interviewee badge)! To find an expat in your neighborhood, go to the network tool or look up a blog in the directory.
New Expat Interviews are published every Monday and Thursday. For a chance to complete your own expat interview, make sure you are registered on BlogExpat.
Thanks for all of your support and Expat Stories!