5 Tips for the Expecting Expat

5 Tips for the Expecting Expat

I excitedly clicked on the article, "5 Tips for the Expectant Expat" expecting to find an article about being pregnant abroad. Instead, the article contained five tips for preparing for expatriation. Clearly, I have pregnancy on my brain 24/7. The idea of expecting expats gave me the idea to jot down some of my own tips beyond my favorite, "Use your belly as a table for convenient spill-free eating." Please feel free to share your own experiences in the comments to share the wealth of knowledge that we have learned from our own journeys. 1. Import baby culture that is meaningful to you If you live in a country with completely different baby culture than the one you hail from, you may feel like your pregnancy journey is lacking in some way. For example, in Sweden, it is not customary to have a baby shower whereas, in the US, every pregnancy milestone is an excuse for a party—the pregnancy reveal, the gender reveal, the name reveal, and...
Read More
Knocked Up in Germany—Insider Tips From Two American Women

Knocked Up in Germany—Insider Tips From Two American Women

  Upon first arrival, many expat women must navigate a foreign medical system that may be remarkably different from the healthcare system back “home.” Germany has a reputation for having one of the best healthcare systems in the world, providing its residents with comprehensive health insurance coverage.   Approximately 85% of the population is part of the public health insurance while the rest have private health insurance. In 2007, health insurance reform required everyone to have coverage for at least hospital and outpatient medical treatment. This mandatory insurance also includes coverage for pregnancy and certain medical check-ups.   Pregnant women in Germany receive three mandatory ultrasounds: One scan weeks 9-12, another during weeks 19-22, and a final scan during weeks 29-32. All scan results are entered into your Mutterpass, a booklet documenting your health statistics.  But aside from the typical Google search results, what else does a pregnant expat in Germany need to know?   I asked two American women currently living in Germany, Michele Landreman-Löschner, and Maureen...
Read More
5 Reasons to Not Learn the Local Language

5 Reasons to Not Learn the Local Language

We all know the numerous benefits to speaking the local language—being able to clearly communicate your needs and wants is kind of a priority in your daily expat life, no? However, there are some benefits, albeit minor ones, to not knowing the local language. Yeah sure, you'll miss out on the countless benefits of being multilingual, but this is just a fun post anyway, so let's roll with it. 1. Foreign languages sound like white noise White noise is so calming. We spent $35 on a white noise lamb sleep machine for our son when he was an infant. When you don't understand the local language, your entire world becomes blanketed with this white noise effect. It gives your brain a rest from trying to listen to, process, and understand all of the language around you when you just give up. It is shocking to realize just how much unknown language you can grow accustomed to tuning out. When I re-immersed myself back...
Read More
Be brave, little toaster

Be brave, little toaster

I don't know anyone who is fearless. Fear is a necessary emotion that has evolved to increase our chances of survival. It warns us of dangerous threats in the form of people, animals, and other situations that may cause us pain or harm. I see a lot of fear on social media—people who want to close the borders to those who don't speak, look, or worship as they do. It is understandable—the border-closing supporters are afraid. We all are. Except a life lived in fear is no life at all. In 1945, the state of New Hampshire adopted the motto, "Live Free or Die." I used to think it was a bit aggressive but in this time where people are very much threatening our freedom to live our lives in peace, that succinct motto is appropriate. It is very easy for the fear of the unknown to rule your life. To make you a prisoner in your own home. No, instead we...
Read More
Book review: Dutched Up!: Rocking the Clogs, Expat Style

Book review: Dutched Up!: Rocking the Clogs, Expat Style

  I recently read Dutched Up! Rocking the Clogs, Expat Style by Expat Women Bloggers, and enjoyed reading about life in the Netherlands. The book is an anthology of short stories by female writers and topics address the many cultural differences experienced while living abroad. I laughed aloud when the issue of stolen bicycles came up as I know how important it is when your primary mode of transportation goes missing. The infuriating feeling of someone stealing your bike is akin to stealing someone's horse in the 1800s in the US. Best solved with a duel at high noon! The writer's journey to retrieve her stolen bike, once she found it again, made me laugh! I could relate to many of the commonly experienced expat things like feeling lost, gaining/losing friends, and finally feeling at home in your adopted country that the book addresses. The chapters are short and entertaining, so the book is easy to put down and pick back up...
Read More
Travel Like A Pro With Your Child

Travel Like A Pro With Your Child

  The holiday season is soon approaching and living abroad often means lots of travel! Traveling with kids can often be a stressful event for parents but, here are some travel tips to make the whole trip fun for the family. 1) Plan, plan, plan. If you didn't plan trips before having kids, it's time for that to change. Having a plan reduces the headache of trying to figure out things on the go. 2) Have a plan for when things don't go as planned! Stock snacks, games, books, or a mobile device so there are activities if your well thought out plan becomes derailed. 3) Don't over-schedule your family. Kids (and parents!) need down time. That's the whole point of a vacation, right?? Make sure there is a slower rest day among activity filled days. A half day of board games or baking makes for great rest-day activities that include an afternoon nap too. Having a rest day will reduce crankiness for everyone! 4)...
Read More
Why Expats Should “Go Local”

Why Expats Should “Go Local”

Moving internationally can really take the steam out of your engine. You're exhausted, overwhelmed and overcome by all of the newness around you. New language, new culture, new people, new house, new everything. It is difficult to remain focused amongst all of the NEW during those first few months. By the time the dust settles and you finally feel less overwhelmed, you might begin actually missing things from home. There is a great temptation to import your old life into your new one—one that was comfortable, familiar and most of all, not foreign in your very foreign environment. Here is why you should resist that temptation and instead, go local early. By "go local" I mean do all of the things that locals do. Learn the local language(s) (it's difficult, I know), eat the local foods, celebrate the local traditions, partake in the local culture. Immerse yourself full into your local surroundings. The sooner you do these things, the sooner you will...
Read More
Expat Parenting: Coping with Contrasting Child-Rearing Cultures

Expat Parenting: Coping with Contrasting Child-Rearing Cultures

  My latest article was featured in the Wall Street Journal and discussed the child-reading differences I witnessed from my native American culture and my adopted Swedish culture. "Child-rearing is a deeply cultural issue and there are numerous factors─economic, social and political─that affect how we raise our children. In Sweden, children are provided with the space and freedom to behave as children, and parents are empowered to raise their children with a more hands-off approach. What I saw in the Hoboken playgrounds was the need to apologize to other parents for completely acceptable child-like behavior because ultimately, American mothers judge other mothers and we wouldn’t want to accidentally offend anyone, now would we?" To read the full article over at the Wall Street Journal, please click on this link and please provide comments or feedback. Did you ever have a moment where you felt more foreign in your "home" country than you did in your current country?...
Read More
An Open Letter to the Dads of Netflix: You Must Take Parental Leave

An Open Letter to the Dads of Netflix: You Must Take Parental Leave

Dear Dads of Netflix, When news broke of Netflix’s paid parental leave policy, you instantly became the envy of every parent who suffered through those sleepless nights during the first 12 months of his or her child’s life. You have been spared the stressful dance of early morning commutes and meetings that drag past 6pm only to rush home to start bath time before your little one falls asleep for the day. What most fathers wouldn’t give to be in your shoes right now. But now we are seeing articles stating that fathers at Netflix are unlikely to take advantage of this very rare opportunity.  Dads of Netflix – listen closely – you must take this leave. If you don’t take this leave, then nobody can. Let me back up a bit. My husband stayed at home for six months when our daughter was a baby. He was a professional dad with 80% salary—paid for by our taxes and his employer. How is this...
Read More