Top 10 Takeaways from the Families in Global Transition Conference 2016, Netherlands

Top 10 Takeaways from the Families in Global Transition Conference 2016, Netherlands

The hunger pangs subside and the bleariness of the morning-after-a-long-travel-day fade into uncontrollable laughter as I listen to the hilariously honest opening keynote narrated by Christopher O'Shaughnessy. I'm sitting next to Jodie Hopkins, a woman I had only met two hours earlier but yet we instantly connected, and I keep glancing over at her as we laugh at the ridiculousness of this situational comedy. We've all been in that fish-out-of-water, cultural nakedness scenario that Chris is so fluently describing. "Expats arrive at their destinations culturally naked." [Tweet "Expats arrive at their destinations culturally naked. —Chris O'Shaughnessy"] Or in Chris' case, physically naked. The self-deprecating nature of the opening keynote grants us permission to humbly acknowledge that we've all experienced unbelievably embarrassing moments that we mortals would prefer to forget let alone share with 200 strangers through a microphone. However, as the laughs dissipate through the crowd, a more important topic is introduced—empathy—the theme of this conference. We have become a community of digital nomads and in the quest to build communities without geographical limitations,...
Read More
Swedish Parents Don’t Expect Pinterest Perfection

Swedish Parents Don’t Expect Pinterest Perfection

It’s mid-1990s and I’m in the fourth grade. My mom opens a box of 24 red and pink Valentines featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse on the front. I sit next to her and fold them along their dotted lines, signing my name and making little hearts above my I’s instead of dotting them. You know, for that special Valentine’s Day flourish. Somewhere between my school-age days and my children’s school-age days, the way Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day (and every other Hallmark holiday) has changed dramatically. No longer are store-bought Valentines the social norm. Now we have Pinterest and YouTube tutorials showing us moms how to create the perfect, homemade Valentine for our children’s classmates that will still eventually be trashed within two days (if we’re lucky). In the effort of full-disclosure, I am the mom who produces Pinterest-fail worthy creations. Not for lack of effort but due to the extreme absence of any artistic ability whatsoever. Some moms enjoy buying the perfect little buttons...
Read More
What Pregnant Women Should Know About the Zika Virus

What Pregnant Women Should Know About the Zika Virus

  In the past few days, both the US CDC and WHO have issued guidelines for pregnant women regarding the Zika virus and I wanted to provide more information based on the research I conducted. Zika is very similar to dengue—a virus with which I am intimately familiar.  I investigated two dengue fever outbreaks in Brunei back in my field-work public health days. All of the underlined text is linked to scientific articles if you want more information. Where is Zika now? There was an explosive pandemic in 2015 that has everyone at WHO and US CDC quite nervous, and for good reason. As of week 3 in 2016, the following countries have Zika confirmed cases: Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, US Virgin Islands, Venezuela. January 13, 2016 a case was reported in Texas, US. January 15, 2016 another case was reported in Hawaii.   What is the Zika...
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
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
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