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My name is Grant Highstead. I am currently an Emergency Medicine physician, but this is a second career for me. I grew up in Canada and moved to the U.S.A. nearly 30 years ago. I have a wife and a tween daughter, both of whom are from Texas. We returned to the US last October after living in New Zealand for a year and are working on moving back to NZ permanently, hopefully in the next several months.

1. Why did you move abroad?
My wife and I are always seeking out new experiences for ourselves as individuals, but also for our family. We were looking for another chapter for our lives in a new country and culture. Four years ago we spent two weeks travelling in a caravan through New Zealand’s North Island and decided to move there for a year. We loved it so much, we decided to move back permanently.

2. How do you make a living?
I am an Emergency Medicine physician. It’s an in-demand occupation globally, and easily transportable. The job is pretty much the same everywhere, but the environments in which I practice can be quite variable.

I briefly touch on this in some of my blog entries. The biggest reason for our decision to return was my desire to continue practicing medicine in NZ rather than the US. My wife is also in healthcare, but she is looking for a change in direction in her career.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?

My wife has an international phone plan, so she speaks with her family several times a week. I don’t speak with my family more than about once a month or so, even when I’m in the US, and generally do so with FaceTime.

4. What’s your favorite thing about being an expat in New Zealand?

We love that there are so many cultures represented in New Zealand, and we are especially impressed with how much we are exposed to the Maori culture in our daily lives. We also really appreciate how family-oriented everything is there. While I worked just as much or more in NZ than I did in the US, we seemed to have more time to spend with each other in NZ than we did in the US. This priority on spending time with family is supported and encouraged by the people I worked with and the hospital I worked for.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in New Zealand?
Kiwis tend to be a pretty laid-back bunch of people, which is great in so many ways. One of the reasons we are moving there permanently is the significantly lower stress levels we experienced in our daily lives. But... that laid-back attitude means that things don’t happen quickly. We fear that our daughter won’t feel the urge to push herself and reach for the sky. Tall poppies get mowed down, right?

6. What do you miss the most?

We really tried to embrace our new country, and that included eating local/seasonal offerings. We did cheat once or twice and order from the American food store. We miss good Tex/Mex food. My wife grew up in Texas, and I lived there for several years, so we are a little particular about it. The best we had in New Zealand was at the Alley Cantina in Dunedin, and there was a good place in Christchurch, too. We miss good bourbon and rye whiskey, and the ease of internet shopping.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?

This was actually one of our biggest complaints about living in New Zealand. Every Kiwi I have ever met while travelling has been open and friendly, and I kind of expected the same in New Zealand. But back home, they are very reserved. Through persistence and patience, and through our daughter's interests in soccer and volleyball, we eventually met some Kiwis that we came to call “friends”, but it took 6+ months to do so. Even they admitted that it’s pretty tough to meet new people there.

8. What customs/habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
The slang! Even when I can hear through the accent and figure out the words, I have a hard time understanding what they mean. At work, I often have to ask the nurses to “translate” for me. The other thing that struck us was the easy, and common, use of curse words. No doubt about it, America is a pretty prudish place, but we were all shocked to hear curse words on the radio and television, and see them written on signs and fliers.

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That they are fundamentally different from Aussies ... no, I’m kidding. They are clearly very different from Aussies; I just haven’t figured out those differences yet.

10. 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?

The cost of living is so much higher in NZ than we are used to, and the quality of goods is significantly lower. Quality products are available, but often at too dear a cost. Add to this that my income in NZ is about 40% of what I earn in the US; it really required a drastic change in how we live. We are much more cost-conscious, buy less, and travel less extravagantly.

11. What advice would you give other expats?

If you are a Type “A”, driven personality, NZ might not be a good fit for you. If you are happy with a slower pace, less consumer-oriented lifestyle, you will likely feel right at home.

12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started writing about a month before we left the US for NZ. I started out by chronicalling our preparations for leaving, then transitioned to writing about our experiences in NZ. My goal was to write something about once per week while away. I think I had been writing for several months before I truly found my “voice”. Starting in about late October/November, I think my blog posts took on a familiar and consistent cadence and style.

The blog was for friends and family back in the US and Canada, but I quite enjoyed the discipline and creativity. I hope to resume writing when we return to NZ later this year, though my writing won’t be nearly so prolific.

 

Grant's blog, Jandals & Togs

 

 

 Find out more about being an expat in New Zealand with Easy Expat's

Auckland Guide

 

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Hello everyone ! Je m’appelle Olivier, 30 ans et je suis originaire de l’est de la France, dans le Jura. Maintenant je vis en Irlande à Dublin depuis 2010.

1. Pourquoi êtes-vous partis à l'étranger ?

À l’origine, c’était vraiment pour apprendre l’anglais. Je suis quelqu’un d’assez ouvert et ne pas pouvoir parler aux étrangers me frustrait énormément ! Je suis également un grand fan de VTT et toutes les coupes du monde retransmises sur le net étaient diffusées en anglais… alors un jour, je me suis dit qu’après mes études, je partirais apprendre l’anglais pour m’ouvrir toutes ces portes vers l’extérieur.


2. Comment vivez-vous  ?
Je vis plutôt pas mal je dirais ! Ha ha! Cela n’a pas toujours été facile surtout avec la langue où j’ai commencé vraiment bas, mais j’ai apprit à être patient (surtout quand le plombier vient et qu’il faut lui décrire ton problème de tuyau en anglais…), à m’adapter à une culture différente, et voir le coté positif des choses ! Maintenant, j’habite dans une capitale européenne, ou il y a toujours de l’ambiance pour sortir le soir, j’ai la forêt et la nature à 10mins de chez moi en vélo, et du travail intéressant dans les boites les plus innovantes au monde !

3. Est-ce que vous appelez souvent votre pays d'origine, et comment ?
J’appelle en général mes parents une fois par semaine avec WhatsApp. Je ne suis pas très téléphone en général donc j’ai tendance à envoyer beaucoup plus de messages.

4. Quelle est la chose que vous préférez en tant qu'expat en Irlande ?
Hmm… il y en a tellement mais je répondrais le challenge de l’anglais tous les jours. On me demande souvent si je suis “bilingue” ? En fait, tout le monde définit “être bilingue” différemment, et une langue prend vraiment une vie complète pour être apprise ! Donc maintenant je me débrouille forcément bien en anglais, mais il y a toujours un challenge tous les jours avec la langue dans des situations telles que donner une présentation à des anglophones, expliquer au garagiste le bruit bizarre que fait votre voiture ou encore s’assurer d’employer les bons mots lors d’une engueulade. C’est pas toujours facile mais c’est tellement agréable d’apprendre tous les jours !

Après il y a la nature, les sports d’extérieurs, le surf, l’ambiance toujours géniale dans les pubs…ou encore la suprême gentillesse des Irlandais !

5. Quelle est la pire des choses pour un expat en Irlande ?
La météo ?! Ha ha ! C’est vrai que beaucoup de gens se plaignent de la météo car c’est souvent couvert. Il fait aussi plus froid qu’en France de manière générale. Mais bon, on s’adapte, on planifie sans s’occuper de la météo, prévoit un k-way au cas où… et puis s'il pleut, c’est toujours une bonne excuse d’aller boire une bonne Guinness !

6. Qu'est ce qui vous manque le plus ?
Ah comme bon Français, je vais dire la gastronomie française ! Même si j’ai un appareil à raclette ici, et connaît les bons endroits où manger des bonnes fondues, j’avoue que ca me manque quand même ! Alors je ramène du fromage, saucissons et vins quand je rentre en France et les apprécie d’autant plus encore maintenant !

7. Qu'avez vous fait pour rencontrer du monde et vous intégrer dans votre nouvelle vie ?
Je pense que ca se fait beaucoup autour des activités que j’aime pratiquer. J’aime beaucoup être dehors le week-end, pour faire du VTT, du surf ou de la randonnée. À partir de là, c’est trouver les personnes qui ont les mêmes points communs. C’est aussi s’ouvrir d’esprit, être prêt à rencontrer des gens un peu différents, de cultures différentes et s’adapter. Je trouve ce genre d’expériences super enrichissantes.

8. Quelle est l'habitude que vous trouvez la plus étrange dans votre culture d'adoption ?
Le dîner à 18h est bizarre… ou se mettre en short quand il y a un rayon de soleil même s’il fait 10 degrés dehors… ou quand on boit de la bière tout au long du repas !

9. Qu'est-ce qui est un mythe sur votre pays d'adoption ?
Que les Irlandais sont tous roux ?! Haha ! J’avoue qu’il y en a mais tous les Irlandais ne sont pas roux ! Heureusement ! Ha ha

10. Quel avis donneriez-vous aux autres expatriés ?
Soyez curieux et adaptez vous ! Détachez-vous des Français que vous connaissez déjà et partez à la découverte des autres nationalités et des autres cultures. Ne pas hésiter à sortir, s’ouvrir au monde extérieur et sortir de sa zone de confort. Éviter de tout comparer à la France, et vraiment absorber la culture locale. Je pense que c’est le principal. C’est toujours plus facile de parler français, alors on a toujours tendance à rester entre Français… mais je trouve ça dommage d’habiter dans un pays étranger et vivre comme en France…

11. Quand et pourquoi avez vous débuté votre blog ?

J’ai commencé ce blog en 2014, lorsque mes amis venaient me voir et qu’ils me demandaient toujours les mêmes questions : Que faut-il visiter à Dublin, quel bus faut-il prendre de l’aéroport, comment faut-il s’habiller… Alors comme je travaille dans le web, j’ai commencé par créer une page pour leur envoyer toutes les infos en même temps, puis 2 pages, 3, 4… et puis c’est devenu un site ! Aujourd’hui je me focalise sur aider les Français qui viennent visiter l’Irlande ou qui viennent s’y installer et trouver du travail.

12.  Quels bénéfices avez vous trouvé au travers de votre blog ?
Rendre service à mes lecteurs ! Je reçois pas mal de messages de familles et de couples qui viennent visiter l’Irlande, qui suivent mes itinéraires et qui viennent me remercier ! Ça fait vraiment plaisir surtout quand on passe du temps à travailler dessus. Ou des personnes qui tombent sur mon site sans que je leur ai envoyé l’adresse. C’est très fructifiant de faire partager son expérience en tant que Français en Irlande et recevoir de bons feedbacks en retour ! 

La fiche du blog : MyIreland

 


  Pour en savoir plus sur la vie en Irlande, lisez notre guide:

Guide de l'expatriation à Dublin et en Irlande

 

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Hello! My blog name is Naniwallisienne. I come from France. I am a resident of Wallis Island (which is a French territory) since the 1st of January 2018.

1.    Why did you move abroad?
My husband and I had a passion for travelling and discovering new way of living. Last year, my husband told me that he has a job opportunity in Wallis Island. I immediately said yes and I joined him with my son early this year.

2.    How do you make a living?
The first month was devoted to the discovery of this new life on a small island. Since February, I've been a volunteer in an association that helps entrepreneurs to create their own company.

3.    How often do you communicate with home and how?
A big issue is the time difference between Wallis Island in the Pacific and Europe : 10 or 11 hours depending on the winter or summer time. Every 2 weeks, we organize a Skype session during 1 or 2 hours with family and friends.

4.    What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Wallis Island?
Actually, there are three things I like. The first one is to live in a paradisiacal place. A lot of people would like to be in our shoes, even if there are constraints (small territory, prices of imported products, etc). The second thing is to wear light clothes and flip-flops all the time. And the last point is to eat the best grapefruit in the world.

5.    What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Wallis Island?
Without hesitation, it’s the distance from family and friends in Europe. We're really on the other side of the world with difficult access.

6.    What do you miss most?
Cheese and chocolate ;)

7.    What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
To integrate, I try to participate in the island's activities. I also meet a lot of people through my son's school. Thanks to my volunteer activities, I also understand how life in Wallis works. I think it's important to integrate into economic life and share our knowledge with people who need it.

8.    What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Wallisian culture is very religion-oriented. Life is punctuated by religious celebrations. You have to get used to living at the rhythm of the church.

9.    What is a myth about your adopted country?
Before I came, I thought I'd never eat meat. That's totally false. Here there is better meat than where I was in Europe. Normal  the meat comes from New Zealand and prices are quite correct.

10.    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?
The cost of imported products is 3 to 4 times higher than in metropolitan France, which seems normal because we're on an island. At the same time, salaries are also higher.

11.    What advice would you give other expats?
I would just advise them to think carefully about their project before leaving. Moreover, through my blog, I advise people who wish to come to Wallis for professional or personal reasons.

And once they get here, it is important to remain humble and open to difference. It helps to better understand the territory.

12.    When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog before coming with the objective to show what life in paradise is really like here and of course to give news to family and friends.

I write an article every week with very concrete elements on jet lag, cost of living, etc and globally on my daily experience.

Naniwallisienne's blog, Life experience in Wallis Island

 

To find out more about living in Wallis Island, refer to our

Resources on Oceania

 

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Introduce yourself: My name is Deb. I’m from the Philippines and I have been living in Suriname since 2013.

 1. Why did you move abroad?
I moved abroad for better opportunities.

2. How do you make a living?
I work as a nurse in the Emergency Room. I consider it a really tough and hectic job because there are times that I can’t even sit or eat for eight hours straight. It is the ONLY ER in the country, so everyone goes there.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I communicate with my family using Messenger or Skype almost every day.

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Suriname?
Suriname is a country of cultural diversity where I get to discover and learn the customs and traditions of people in different ethnic groups. It is also a relax country where people mind their own business and I like the laidback lifestyle.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Suriname?
Most of the establishments (offices, malls and stores) close early. The center looks like a ghost town on Sundays and Holidays. If you want to go somewhere, you need to check their websites or FB pages first to make sure they’re open.

6. What do you miss most?
I miss celebrating Christmas and New Year with my family at home. I also miss all Filipino food especially isaw, Lapaz batchoy and lechon.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
One of the best things about Suriname is that the people are really friendly and hospitable. Despite their different ethnic backgrounds, they unite as one group and celebrate special events together, so it is really not that hard to meet people and make friends.

I have local friends both from work and outside work.

8.    What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
They believe in curses and voodoo magic. For example: Don’t pick up a coin from the ground because someone could have put a hex on it or don’t let anyone touch your pregnant belly because you don’t know if they are wishing the baby good or bad luck. These things are not new to me since I grew up in a country with hundreds of superstitious beliefs, too.  

9.    What is a myth about your adopted country?
My family and friends don’t have any idea about Suriname or where it is located before I came here. I did a lot of research in 2013 and Google showed me pictures of jungles and rivers with a population of only 500,000, so there’s not really a lot of information regarding it.

10. 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?
It’s quite a bit lower in the Philippines as long as you don’t convert everything that you spend here to there.
The food and other expenses in Suriname are affordable and can compensate even with the minimum wage. Buying a car and paying rent are expensive though.

11.    What advice would you give other expats?
Learn how to speak Dutch, the locals will really appreciate it. Don’t try to compare the things from where you came from to here. Suriname people are humble and they live a simple life. Be open-minded and enjoy the new experiences with the country’s different cultures.

12.    When and why did you start your blog?

I started blogging in 2010, but it is more about my personal thoughts and writings. Then in 2014, I discovered Wordpress and enjoyed how the bloggers/ writers interact with each other. I have two blogs: one about my writings at A Real Messy Beautiful Twisted Sunshine and my travel/ expat life blog at The Gypsy Soul Diaries.

Deb's blog, The Gypsy Soul Diaries

 

To find out more about living in South America, refer to our

Resources on South America

 

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Je m’appelle Pierre-Yves Enderlin. Je suis né à Belfort (chacun son karma…) et j’ai passé ces 20 dernières années dans le sud, entre Aubagne, Marseille et Salon de Provence. Je vis maintenant à Ha Noi, Viet Nam.

1. Pourquoi êtes-vous partis à l'étranger ?

A 53 ans, un burn-out devient un signal d’alarme assez fort pour que des remises en question s’imposent. Rien ne m’attirait plus en France, à tous points de vue. Sans attache ne veut pas dire à la dérive . Une fois ma décision prise de partir, tout s’est ligué (!) pour que je parte serein.


2. Comment vivez-vous  ?
TRES bien ! Si vous parlez d’argent : j’en gagne très peu, au même niveau que la petite classe moyenne ici, mais je suis immensément riche humainement parlant ! Je vis comme un hanoïen moyen… Nourriture, logement, transport… Tout en mode viet, sauf pour faire plaisir à mes invités où je prépare des plats français ou italiens. Seul point noir, la langue… Un truc vraiment compliqué. C’est la sixième que j’apprends, mais ça va être la plus difficile !!

3. Est-ce que vous appelez souvent votre pays d'origine, et comment ?
On va dire 2/3 fois par mois. J’utilise Viber ou Messenger suivant qui j’appelle. Ici, l’appli vedette c’est Zalo, que je ne connais pas. On utilise Skype pour le boulot.

4. Quelle est la chose que vous préférez en tant qu'expat à Hanoï ?
Le sentiment de revivre, jour après jour. La simplicité de prendre les choses et les gens comme ils sont. La gaîté non feinte de ceux qui savent ce que vivre au jour le jour veut dire.

5. Quelle est la pire des choses pour un expat au Vietnam ?
Je peux comprendre le racisme anti-français, vu l’histoire de nos pays. Je ne parlerai donc pas de l’indifférence ordinaire que je peux rencontrer, parfois. Je pense qu’ici plus qu’ailleurs, la barrière de la langue peut faire plus de dégâts qu’un accident de la route… Tout le reste n’est qu’anecdotes

6. Qu'est ce qui vous manque le plus ?
Quand on prend ce genre de décision totale, c’est que votre question en devient inutile. Mais bien sûr que voir mes enfants, petits-enfants et amis me ferait très plaisir… Absolument rien en France ne me manque. Mais alors rien.

7. Qu'avez vous fait pour rencontrer du monde et vous intégrer dans votre nouvelle vie ?
Etre curieux, ouvert. Ne pas avoir peur du ridicule, ça aide aussi. Il y a toujours un quelqu’un qui connait quelqu’un qui va te faire rencontrer quelqu’un qui… Oublier les réflexes français et/ou provençaux et OSER !

8. Quelle est l'habitude que vous trouvez la plus étrange dans votre culture d'adoption ?
Etrange ? Heu… Je ne vois pas, non… A part aimer la Vache qui Rit en tant que fromage… La première fois, ça fait drôle… Et c’est importé, ça…

9. Qu'est-ce qui est un mythe sur votre pays d'adoption ?
Le calme serein et détaché en mode asiatique est un gros mythe ! La mystérieuse distance un peu froide aussi, on oublie

10. Quel avis donneriez-vous aux autres expatriés ?
Venir souvent par petites touches, prendre des marques au nord, dans le centre ou vers le sud. Sentir le pays et les gens. Avoir une idée en tête et la laisser germer, sans la forcer. Ne pas partir sans une thune et encore moins sans en avoir mis de côté en France. Et quand on sent que le déclic est là, s'autoriser à oser... Tout le reste, c'est de la poésie de garage.

11. Quand et pourquoi avez vous débuté votre blog ?

Je l’ai débuté de suite. Des potes m’ont aidé à lancer une campagne de crowdfunding pour pouvoir partir et l’idée était de raconter au fil du temps l’évolution du projet. Petit à petit s’est dessiné l’idée de mieux écrire ; on m’a demandé d’être plus « pro ». Ce qui devait être un truc perso est devenu semi-pro et c’est ce blog qui a incité les recruteurs vietnamiens à me contacter pour qu’on bosse ensemble. Je songe à le développer, à en faire une activité à part entière, d’ailleurs…

12.  Quels bénéfices avez vous trouvé au travers de votre blog ?
Tout d’abord et tout simplement le plaisir de l’écriture, du partage. Se raconter, c’est un peu se rencontrer. Et puis, je viens de le dire, c’est le blog qui a servi de cv et de lettre de motivation !

C’est vrai aussi que j’ai des retours de gens qui me disent : ce que tu partages me donne aussi envie de m’autoriser à oser.

Et ça, c’est le tout début de la belle aventure !

La fiche du blog : Impressions vietnamiennes - Thăng Long


  Pour en savoir plus sur la vie au Vietnam, venez visiter nos pages:

Guide de l'expatriation au Vietnam

 

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I am Shelley Jarvis. I grew up in Northern California in the wine country. I first moved as an expat to Italy. I currently live in Sweden.

1. Why did you move abroad?
I am an explorer by nature and I was restless living in a perfect suburban town. I always wanted to live abroad and I wanted my children to live abroad. My theory was that the world is becoming more global by the minute and I wanted my kids to feel comfortable living in the world. I have a friend who told me she is afraid to travel because she doesn’t know another language and she would feel unsafe. I did not want my children to be afraid of the world. I wanted them to learn about and live in another culture and to learn another language. I saw it as a bit of an insurance policy for their futures as they would have more options when it came to job hunting. 

I wrote some blog posts about that actually (here & here). 

2. How do you make a living?

I am a lawyer. It is difficult though to work as a lawyer abroad without getting a law degree from the place you have moved to. that takes first learning the language and then going back to school.  Since we have moved 2 times in 6 years that has been challenging. So I consult and manage trademark portfolios. I also edit and I am developing a course on English for Law.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I communicate with home a lot. We use Facebook, Skype, Magic Jack, and email. The time difference is a killer (9 hours), but we manage. I tend to use Sundays as my day to call home.

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Sweden?
My favorite thing about being an expat is the stimulation that meeting people from all over the world brings. New perspectives, languages, cultural experiences all keep me interested. I like learning and change, and, the expat experience offers both.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Sweden?
The worst thing about being an expat is that it can be really lonely and you miss family, friends and home a lot. Also, it is not uncommon to make a friend who then moves away which is hard to adjust to over and over again. It is really hard to watch your children suffer when a close friend moves too.

6. What do you miss most?
My family, friends, California weather, good flavorful produce (not much to choose from in Scandinavia) and good quality diverse cuisines.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Join international clubs and participate.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I don’t know that it is strange per se, but it is difficult to break into Swedish society. I am used to the USA where everyone talks to each other - strangers or not - and then Italy, which is full of passion in everything they do.

It was shock to arrive in Sweden where people are very quiet and keep to themselves. I will give you an example. At Christmas, we took cookies to our neighbors. I wrote a note in Swedish that this was an American tradition and that we wanted to wish our neighbors a Merry Christmas. I went up to the home of one neighbor and I could see them inside their home. They looked right at me, but they would not open their door. I held up the cookies for them to see. They still would not open their door so i just left the cookies on the porch. A Swedish person told me that Swedes do not like people to drop by unannounced. I had to drop by unannounced though as it had been 3 months and we still had not met our neighbors. I wanted to introduce myself.

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That they are the happiest country in the world and it is a utopia. I don’t see that.

10. 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?
The cost of living is much higher here in Sweden than in Italy where we moved from. And Italy was way more expensive than the USA. And Sweden is known to have some of the lowest salaries in Europe so it is a bit of a financial shock.

11. What advice would you give other expats?
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Be open to learning without comparing. Get out and join clubs and meet people. Force yourself to go when you don’t feel like it. Soon you will have friends. Dame Judi Dench’s character in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel said it best, “Initially, you are overwhelmed. But gradually you realize it’s like a wave. Resist and you’ll be knocked over. Dive into it and you’ll swim out the other side.  This is a new and different world. The challenge is to cope with it. And not just cope, but thrive.”

  12. When and why did you start your blog?

I kept telling family and friends all these funny stories about our life in Italy. Italy was just so different in every way from the USA. Friends kept saying, “you need to write these down.” So, initially my blog was focused on our funny expat life. I have transitioned away from that a bit and now it is more of an overall travel blog, but the expat experience is still a big part of it.

 

 

Shelley's blog, Niche Travel Design

 

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My name is Jeff. I was born in California but I lived in several states in the U.S. and also lived overseas in Indonesia for five years when I was young.

I was living in Dallas, Texas in the U.S. before I moved to Medellín, Colombia. I have now lived in Medellín for over seven years.

1.    Why did you move abroad?
I originally discovered Colombia back in late 2006, when I was living in Dallas and looking for a new vacation place.  I was looking for someplace warm to go, as this was during the winter.  Cartagena was the first place I discovered in Colombia.

How I discovered Colombia? I happened to buy a book “100 Places to See in Your Lifetime: Heaven on Earth” published by Life magazine. And two places in the book caught my eye as possible vacation places – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Cartagena, Colombia.

I decided to go to Cartagena on vacation, as it was closer and cheaper. And I spent several weeks in Cartagena as a break from a cold winter in the U.S.

I thoroughly enjoyed Cartagena, which I described to my friends in the U.S. as kind of a mix of a Caribbean beach location with the vibrant history, restaurants and nightlife of a place like New Orleans. I returned to Cartagena several more times on vacation. In addition, I brought a good friend along on one of the trips and he also really enjoyed Cartagena.

It was during one of these trips that I met some expats in Cartagena who told me I had to go to Medellín. I had the typical American reaction thinking of the history of Pablo Escobar and drugs and violence. But these expats assured me that Medellín had changed completely.

To make a long story short, I went to Medellín.  I planned a trip and decided to go to Medellín to see the Christmas lights. I had an amazing time and was completely enchanted by the city. I wanted to spend more and more time in Medellín. I started spending all my vacation time in Medellín. Normally I spent a week to 10 days.

I even worked remotely from Medellín during some of these trips for a few days and started to think about moving to Medellín, as I had a job in the U.S. with location flexibility.

By 2009, I made the decision for a trial of living in Medellín. I was working from home in the U.S. and just needed Internet and a phone to do my job. So, I had location flexibility and really could work from anywhere.

For anyone considering moving to Medellín or other city overseas, I highly recommend doing a trial like this. My trial of living in the city went well. And the more I learned about Medellín, the more I wanted to stay.

By June 2011, I decided it was time to rent an unfurnished apartment, as continuing to rent furnished apartments in Medellín would be expensive.  After moving to Medellín and now living in Medellín for over seven years, I can still definitely say this was the right decision and I have no regrets.

2.    How do you make a living?
I happen to have location flexible work that enables me to live anywhere in the world with high-speed Internet. Also, I use a VOIP phone so my phone number in Medellín is the same U.S. phone number as I had when I lived in the U.S.  

I worked out of my home in the U.S. and work out of my home in Medellín – no real difference except for the location. Colombia has the same time zone as the U.S. (either Central or Eastern as they don’t do daylight savings).  So, no time zone challenges to deal with.

3.    How often do you communicate with home and how?
Home for me is now Medellín in Colombia, where I have lived for over seven years. I communicate with my family in the U.S. monthly via phone and email.  And it is easy for them to call me, as I still have a U.S. phone number in my home office in Medellín that was the same as it was in the U.S.

4.    What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Medellín, Colombia?
I can’t say there is just one single favorite thing about being an expat in Medellín. I would have to say my favorite things about being an expat in Medellín include the following:
•    Spring-time climate year-round in Medellín (I’m now completely spoiled)
•    Low cost of living – as a couple our cost of living has averaged less than $2,100 per month and we live in a nice apartment with three bedrooms and two balconies.
•    Good healthcare – Colombia has the best healthcare in Latin America and Colombia’s healthcare is even rated better than the healthcare in the U.S. by the World Health Organization
•    Good metro and inexpensive public transportation – Medellín has a modern metro system, which is the only rail-based metro system in Colombia. The metro, buses and taxis are all reliable and cheap that makes it easy to live in the city without a car.
•    Diversity of Colombia – Colombia is the second most bio-diverse country in the world. I have traveled throughout Colombia over the past 10+ years and many of the landscapes in Colombia are breathtaking. It’s also easy and cheap to travel anywhere in Colombia.
•    Friendly and welcoming people –  if you make the effort, and take the time and learn some Spanish, Colombians are generally friendly and welcoming and very kind.
I even wrote an article for the Medellin Guru blog, with a total of 27 reasons I chose to live in Medellín: https://medellinguru.com/why-medellin/.

5.    What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Medellín, Colombia?
The standard of living is quite low in the poor neighborhoods of Medellín. So, crime is more common than is found in the U.S.  So, you need to take precautions.

This biggest concern of expats planning to move to Medellín is security. But once they start living in the city, security becomes less of a concern once they realize that the reality doesn’t match the perception many foreigners have.  

In over seven years living here, I have only encountered a handful of expats that have experienced crimes. Most of these were robberies on the street. And the most commonly stolen item was a cellphone.

I only experienced one problem in seven years. I was traveling on the metro during rush hour when people were packed in. I had backpack with a small camera in the small pocket. And when I arrived at my destination, the camera was gone.

6. What do you miss most?
I miss my family and friends in the U.S. But it’s easy to pick of the phone and talk to them.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I learned Spanish. I took Spanish classes at Universidad EAFIT in Medellín to get to an intermediate level of Spanish. If you want to meet people in Medellín and integrate, Spanish is required as few speak English.
I have met some foreigners that have been living in Medellín for several years that don’t speak much Spanish. So, they have to depend on others. I would say this isn’t really integrating.

I socialize with a number of Colombians who I have found are open an friendly. Also, life in Colombia generally revolves around family, friends and enjoying life. In Colombia people generally work to live and some in the U.S. in my experience seem to live to work.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
If someone says they will be there in 30 minutes it may be in two hours, tomorrow may mean sometime later in the week and so on. I definitely wasn’t used to this when I moved from the U.S.  You will need patience and tolerance living in Medellín or other cities in Colombia.

But I understand this something that is not unique to Colombia and is common in other countries in Latin America.

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
When the average American hears “Medellín” or “Colombia” thoughts tend to turn towards the scenes in the popular Narcos series – drugs and widespread violence and Pablo Escobar. Medellín and Colombia still has a bad reputation to overcome from the days of Pablo Escobar, but Pablo is long gone.

Once you start living in Medellín and Colombia, you come to realize that the current reality in the city and country is very far removed from the time of Escobar and the violence depicted in the Narcos series. Medellín and Colombia have achieved a remarkable turnaround since the time of Escobar – which was over two decades ago.

9. 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?
The cost of living in Medellín is much cheaper than in the U.S. For example, I don’t know anywhere in the U.S. where you could rent a modern 3-bedroom, 2-bath apartment with 2 balconies in a high-rise with a pool and gym in the building for about $420 per month. And a taxi ride here for me averages just $3.

So, I am able live a similar standard of life as I was living in the U.S. for much less in Medellín.

10. What advice would you give other expats?
For other expats planning to move to Medellín or another city in Colombia I have four main tips:

  • Plan and research well. You can never know too much about a foreign country you are planning to move to. But be very careful about out-of-date information. One of my pet peeves as a research analyst is that there is so much inaccurate and/or out-of-date information in English about Medellín and Colombia. This was one of my primary reasons for launching Medellin Guru.
  • Trial living in the new country before committing. No matter how much research you do it doesn’t compare to actually experiencing living there to make sure it’s right for you.
  • Learn some Spanish. Few speak English in Colombia and if you want to be independent Spanish is required.
  • Research the tax implications for your situation with a tax expert. Colombia taxes worldwide income of tax residents, which is the same as the U.S. Also, Colombia has many tax deductions and you can subtract some income taxes paid in the U.S. from income taxes due in Colombia. For me, the move to Colombia has been nearly tax neutral – but it depends on your individual situation.

 
11. When and why did you start your blog?
For three years, I was the main writer for another Colombia blog writing about my experiences living in Medellín. And I was also editor for that site for six months. During this period of three years, I helped countless expats by writing over 100 popular articles, answering thousands of questions and meeting 100s of expats.  So, thousands of people over the past few years have used my advice about Medellín.

But I felt that blog had too much out-of-date content and decided it was time to start my own blog, where I can control everything and offer much more to readers with up-to-date content and a plan to keep all the content up-to-date.

I launched the Medellin Guru site in July 2017. But I spent over a month before that creating a detailed plan for the site and designing the site. I also wrote many articles for the site so it had content covering several topics on the first day the blog was launched. And the blog now has over 175 articles covering a wide range of topics.
The Medellin Guru site in less than 10 months has become the most popular English-language blog about Colombia in terms of Facebook likes and followers.  I wrote a recent article about all the top Colombia blogs.

Jeff's blog, Medellin Guru

 

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Nous sommes un couple franco-portugais. Nous nous sommes rencontrés en France et y avons passé plus de 20 ans de notre vie commune avec des séjours fréquents au Portugal. Nous habitions dans le Nord de la France, à Lille et vivons maintenant à Cascais au Portugal depuis 1 an.

1. Pourquoi êtes-vous partis à l'étranger ?

Notre vie en France ne nous convenait plus et une décision professionnelle était à prendre. Nos enfants sont désormais autonomes et peuvent choisir leur vie. Nous avons donc décidé de reconstruire une vie complète à l’étranger et le Portugal s’est imposé tout naturellement en raison des attaches que nous y avions.

2. Comment vivez-vous  ?
Sur le plan professionnel nous avons créé une entreprise ensemble au Portugal (un vrai projet de couple) à travers laquelle nous donnons un sens supplémentaire à notre vie en tentant de promouvoir le renouveau et la créativité portugaise https://www.luisa-paixao.com/  C’est passionnant et ça occupe une grande partie de notre temps. Sur le plan privé, il a été très facile de se faire rapidement des amis portugais que nous côtoyons très régulièrement. Nous évitons les rencontres organisées avec les français car nous souhaitons nous intégrer totalement dans le pays qui nous accueille.

3. Est-ce que vous appelez souvent votre pays d'origine, et comment ?
Évidemment nous sommes restés attachés à la France et nous appelons tous les jours nos enfants ou nos amis. Il nous arrive d’y retourner pour des événements familiaux mais la plupart du temps ce sont nos amis et nos enfants qui font le déplacement et viennent nous rendre visite. Nous voyons de plus en plus le Portugal comme notre pays et la France comme une extraordinaire destination touristique. Nous revenons d’ailleurs d’un séjour dans les châteaux de la Loire que nous avons fait découvrir à nos amis portugais.

4. Quelle est la chose que vous préférez en tant qu'expat au Portugal ?
Nous avons la chance de vivre dans une zone protégée proche d’une capitale européenne. Ce que nous apprécions ici c’est d’abord la mentalité portugaise y compris dans le business : la curiosité, la bienveillance rendent le climat des affaires bien moins stressant. Nous apprécions également la quiétude de ce pays : il y a bien moins de clivages, de conflits, d’agressivité qu’en France. C’est ce que nous cherchions : une vie plus apaisée. Évidemment nous apprécions également le climat, la sécurité et la gentillesse des portugais mais là on parle de clichés.

5. Quelle est la pire des choses pour un expat au Portugal ?
La « pire des choses » ? Je cherche mais je ne trouve pas

6. Qu'est ce qui vous manque le plus ?
Hormis nos enfants et amis que nous voyons forcément moins souvent, ce qui nous manque le plus ce sont les fromages français et les fleuristes. Les fromages portugais sont très bons et très variés mais les fromages à pâte persillée manquent (Roquefort, fourme d’ambert…) ainsi que les fromages à croute fleurie (Camembert, Brie, Chaours…) C’est peut être un manque à combler ici. Les fleuristes sont également rares et la culture des bouquets est bien moins présente.

7. Qu'avez vous fait pour rencontrer du monde et vous intégrer dans votre nouvelle vie ?
La première chose que nous avons fait c’est d’inviter tous nos voisins à un barbecue, ce qui les a beaucoup surpris. Immédiatement, avec certains d’entre eux, le « courant » est passé et ils sont devenus des amis, nous ont introduit dans leur propre cercle d’amis et ainsi de suite. Après un an, tous nos week-end sont occupés.

8. Quelle est l'habitude que vous trouvez la plus étrange dans votre culture d'adoption ?
Le Portugal est un pays européen d’une culture très proche de celle de la France donc il n’y a pas vraiment de comportements ou d’habitudes étranges. Seules quelques coutumes sont différentes et amusantes : Claquer les casseroles à Nouvel an, porter un vêtement bleu pour porter chance...

9. Qu'est-ce qui est un mythe sur votre pays d'adoption ?
Le Portugal est encore vu, depuis la France, comme un pays un peu en retard, peuplé de gens travailleurs, gentils, serviables mais un peu « simples ». Il suffit de regarder les derniers films pour s’en rendre compte. Or le Portugal est très loin de cette image aujourd’hui, en tous cas dans les grandes villes. La créativité y est étonnante, l’ouverture sur le monde y est bien plus présente qu’en France… Il y a un mélange de tradition et d’innovation qui nous surprend chaque jour et qui nous a incité à mettre en ligne notre boutique pour en assurer la promotion de ces extraordinaires produits qui mixent la créativité et le meilleur de la tradition.

10. Quel avis donneriez-vous aux autres expatriés ?
Je ne donnerais qu’un conseil. Vous vivez au Portugal en tant qu’expatrié, vous êtes les bienvenus ! Apprenez quelques mots de portugais, mêmes les à l’anglais ou au français, vous serez toujours compris. Rencontrez les portugais, invitez les chez vous, sortez du cercle des expatriés, tout ce que vous donnerez vous sera rendu au centuple ! Une conséquence pénible cependant, le jour où il faudra partir sera un déchirement.

11. Quand et pourquoi avez vous débuté votre blog ?

Nous avons créé une entreprise dont l’objectif est de faire découvrir tous ces produits portugais extraordinaires emprunts de savoir faire, de traditions et maintenant de créativité. Il nous a semblé important d’adjoindre un blog à notre boutique en ligne afin de faire comprendre tout l’environnement de ces produits : les régions dans lesquels ils sont fabriqués, les méthodes employées, les gens qui les conçoivent ou les fabriquent… Tout ceci est, au moins, aussi important que le produit lui-même. C’est aussi un moyen de faire découvrir ce qu’est réellement le Portugal aujourd’hui.

12.  Quels bénéfices avez vous trouvé au travers de votre blog ?
Des rencontres, à nouveau ! La dernière avec un journaliste français qui, séduit par certains de nos articles, est venu réaliser un reportage sur la culture du jonc et sa transformation étonnante en accessoires de modes très tendance par des artisans d’un petit village du Ribatejo. Un magnifique reportage bientôt diffusé à la télévision française et qui donnera, nous en sommes certains, envie aux français de découvrir le Portugal en dehors des plages de l’Algarve ou des rues de Lisbonne ou Porto.

La fiche du blog : La vie au Portugal

 


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My name is Eva. I was born in an exotic country, where you can find coconut trees everywhere – Indonesia. Then I moved to a faraway country covered in snow in the winter – Russia. This is my fourth year living in Moscow, the capital city that will soon be the host of the world's most exciting event – the FIFA World Cup 2018!  

1.    Why did you move abroad?
My husband is one of the reasons I moved to Russia. We both decided to live and work hard in Russia first, then maybe in the future, once he has more resources, we shall move to a warm, sunny country. The other reason I moved was because I wanted to learn Russian. I am a language lover and living in Russia is a great opportunity for me to learn something new.

2.    How do you make a living?
I am a freelancer and I work nearly 7 days a week, and 12 hours a day. I work as a Bahasa Indonesia teacher for foreigners and I also work as a translator (Russian to Indonesian, Indonesian to Russian, Spanish to Indonesian, and English to Indonesian). Despite the stereotype some people have that working as a freelancer is not challenging, I love my own jobs. They are not only flexible because I can work wherever and whenever I want, but I can also meet a lot of nice and amazing people doing my job.

3.    How often do you communicate with home and how?

Whenever my husband and I have time for a holiday, we always come back to Indonesia to visit loved ones. When I am in Russia, I use all sorts of social media and messengers on a regular basis, such as Skype, WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber, and all that jazz. I text my friends almost all the time and speak to my mom whenever I have a hint of free time.

4.    What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Russia?

Walking and playing in the snow. It sounds silly, I know, but when I was in Indonesia, I never walked as much as I walk in Russia, strolling around the capital, exploring new routes, spending time outside and of course finding interesting things to write about on my blog. Indonesians are more fond of spending their time in the department store than in the park, so this experience is new for me, and I like it. Moscow has many interesting routes along with enticing historical places that you can explore easily whether in the winter or in the summer.

5.    What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Russia?
There isn’t a real worst thing that I could tell you. I just find it annoying that people keep looking at my face just to guess whether I am Russian or not, or to guess my origin. My husband told me that actually they (Russians) are just interested in foreigners, but they don’t dare to say hello or smile to express their curiosity, so what they do is just watch you with great interest.

6.    What do you miss most?
I miss Indonesian food. It’s a hard mission to find spicy food in Moscow. I tried many Asian restaurants that promised me the spiciest food ever, but then I realized that means the food is spicy for them, but not for me.

7.    What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Learn the language. Language plays a prominent role in my integration process as Russia is not an English-speaking country. A year after I moved to Russia, I spoke only a bit of Russian, and that made it hard to make new acquaintances. So, the second year, I focused on improving my Russian by joining a course both offline and online and also started my study in one of the most famous university in Russia – Lomonosov Moscow State University. Even though I studied for only one year there, I made some new acquaintances and one of them even invited me to walk around Moscow and happily assisted me in learning the Russian language.

8.    What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
As an Indonesian who smiles a lot, meeting a face with an absence of a smile is quite difficult. At first, I was even shocked to learn that they don’t even smile to each other on the street, meanwhile I kept smiling like crazy. But, then I learned and got to appreciate their culture.

Another thing that surprised me was their ignorance about other countries. Most Russians don’t even know where Indonesia is. They just know Bali, and they can’t even imagine where my country is.

9.    What is a myth about your adopted country?
That Russians love vodka- Yeah, it is a myth. Not all Russians drink vodka and play balalaika. Some of them don’t even drink alcohol or embrace this habit as part of their lifestyle.
Also that Russians are cold and bold- They are, but if you speak the language and get to know them better, you will find that they are really helpful and not as cold as you might think. They are just shy to talk to foreigners and afraid to risk greeting them first.

10.    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?
The cost of living in Moscow is undoubtedly higher than in Jakarta (Indonesia). For now, it doesn’t make any difference in my life as I share the living cost with my husband. But, for example, when I need to go out by myself and pay for my food, the price is quite affordable as long as you don’t go to luxury restaurants. The entrance tickets to museums or any other places are reasonable enough, I think, and won’t break the bank.

11.    What advice would you give other expats?
Learn about your adopted country first. Being an expat is a big decision. You need to be ready for strange things that will happen on your journey. You are demanded to adapt quickly to a life that is (maybe 100%) different from your life before. And definitely learn the language. I wished I had learnt the language before I came here and didn’t waste my time murmuring that I miss Indonesia. Last but not least, open your mind to new cultures and new habits - I think it might make your life in a new country easier.

12.    When and why did you start your blog?
I actually started my blog 2 years ago but, due to many reasons, I have just begun to write more regularly last year. I like writing and I would jot down any ideas that ever crossed my mind about something, whether it is for my blog or my diary. I prefer my blog as I also want to share my experiences with other people, not only about my adopted country, but also my journey and my ‘trivial things’ in general. Maybe someday I can be a celebrity! Who knows?

Eva's blog, Sightseer's Diary

 

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I am Nadine Murphy. I’m a British mum living in Nairobi, Kenya… though I’ve just come from living in Cape Town for 6 years.

1.    Why did you move abroad?
I moved to Cape Town to be with my husband who had a great expatriate job opportunity. My first child was just 3 months old and the assignment was just to be two years.  We thought it a great opportunity to be able to spend time just being a mum. Our twins were born 12 months later and we ended up staying in Cape Town. After 6 years my husband was offered the dream chance to open his own office in Kenya and we jumped at the chance to experience more of Africa.

2.    How do you make a living?
I’m still finding my feet with regards to earning.  I write a blog, which despite being very new is slowly, but surely increasing it’s audience. My challenge is to find a way to monetize the site.  I’ve also been offered writing and marketing work locally. We have been 8 months in Kenya but there are lots of irons in the fire…  the future is both unknown and exciting.

3.    How often do you communicate with home and how?
I’m an email/Facebook kinda girl.  I post a lot to social media as it allows me to share my life with all y family at home.  It also provides a record for me of what I’ve been up to.  Recently my laptop blew up and the only photos I have of my children, as babies are those that I posted on Facebook.  I’m terrible at Skyping, its Christmas and birthdays only although my husband is much better than I am and Skypes his parents every week.

4.    What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Kenya?
Kenya is a bright, bubbly, vibrant place. There is life everyone from the smiles of the colorfully dressed local people, to the wild animals that are now a feature of everyday life.  In Kenya its rare to find an empty place; there will always be lady weaving a basket or a giraffe popping out from behind a tree even in the most rural of areas.
I’ve also found it very easy to make friends; there is a clear expat community.  We all go to the same places to shop and eat and drink.  Most of our kids all go to the same school.  It’s hard not to make friends.

5.    What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Kenya?
I find simple things hard and frustrating. Even just a simple trip to the shops. The drive is a death-defying feat avoiding cows and cars and people who jump out into the middle of the street. Shops don’t stock what you want or need, you have to see what’s available and make your supper choices from that. Queuing at the till can take ages. Someone will be there who has no money and you have to wait for a friend to send it to him, or a till will suddenly decided to close just when you get near it.

Setting up utilities, ordering stuff, getting things repaired… its all hit and miss when and if it will happen at all.  

6.    What do you miss most?
My family. Cold crisp mornings.  The hustle and bustle of London, Accessibility to anything you want whenever you want.

7.    What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?

I met a lot of mums through the school and I was often the first to invite people out. I try to say ‘yes’ to every invitation even if I don’t really feel like it. I try to be a good friend and not lazy and useless as is my nature.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
The flexibility with time is a constant annoyance.  Other than that I find nothing strange, I came to a new country expecting new experiences and I try to embrace it all.   I suppose living in Cape Town has made me more aware of cultural differences and less shocked by them.

9.    What is a myth about your adopted country?
That it’s all crime and robbery.  As with every city there are places that its better to avoid but in general we live a peaceful and hassle free existence.  Our suburb is leafy and green and I happily jog or walk around without feeling any threat of my life.  Africa in general is a lot less scary than people would lead you to believe.

10.    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?
It’s much higher than Cape Town. Housing, schooling, food and going out are astronomical compared to South Africa, but it’s on a par with those prices in England.  

11.    What advice would you give other expats?
Take things slowly because everyone else will. Everything happens slowly here. Sometimes things don’t happen at all, you just need to take a deep breath and keep on at it.

Put loads of effort into making friends. People will only extend the hand of friendship for so long. If you don’t grab it when it’s offered you may find yourself 6 months in and lonely.
Get out of Nairobi and see all that Kenya has to offer, this is one of the most spectacular places in the world and everyone that can get away during holidays does.  Nairobi is an empty place during summer and winter breaks.

12.    When and why did you start your blog?
I wanted to chronicle my time in Kenya in a way I never did in Cape Town, keeping a record of where I went and how I felt at the time. I felt I had learned a lot as I moved into my second expat placement and thought that I had things to share that others could benefit from
 

Nadine's Blog, The Expat Mummy

 

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Johannesburg Guide

 

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