Guest Blogging – Diary of a Serial Expat http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com Expat destinations off the beaten paths Tue, 12 Sep 2017 14:32:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/wp-content/uploads/logo-2-161x150.png Guest Blogging – Diary of a Serial Expat http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com 32 32 68156955 Expat and Muslim in India http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/expat-and-muslim-in-india/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/expat-and-muslim-in-india/#comments Sat, 29 Oct 2016 15:23:48 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3522 India is notoriously difficult to define or understand, so perhaps more than in other reviews, this piece is a reflection on my experiences rather than an overall judgment of the nation. India is, in theory, a pluralistic, democratic and secular state where the population is

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India is notoriously difficult to define or understand, so perhaps more than in other reviews, this piece is a reflection on my experiences rather than an overall judgment of the nation.

India is, in theory, a pluralistic, democratic and secular state where the population is overwhelmingly Hindu, but at least 14% are Muslim. This may sound like a small percentage, but with an overall population estimated at around 1.2 billion, this means around 180 million Muslims. Not surprisingly, Muslims feature heavily in the national psyche, and some of India’s most famous icons (such as the Taj Mahal) were built by Muslims.

expat and muslim in india

Taj Mahal, Agra

Islam in India

Islam was first introduced to India in the 7th century AD, when Arab merchants intrigued the locals of southern India with their faith. In the 8th Century Arab invaders crashed into the northwest of India, in the area now known as Sindh, a province of Pakistan. These two events (and the histories that followed) shaped the experience of Islam in India today; in the south, people see Islam as being woven into the local fabric of life, a sense of ‘adopted’ religion, while in the north, it’s not uncommon to hear of Islam referred to as somehow foreign, and ‘forced’ upon the locals.

Whatever the perception, Islam is undoubtedly central to the idea of the modern Indian identity. Gandhi himself is known to have taken inspiration from, and to have held admiration for the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) and many of his family. One of India’s scheduled languages, Urdu, is a kind of Persianised Hindi, written in a modified Arabic script to aid recitation of the Quran for young learners. Music and films often lovingly hark back to the lavish, cultured Mughal Empire, the Muslim dynasty that ruled parts India for centuries.

No discussion of Islam in India would be complete without mentioning Sufism, the mystical practice of Islam, that largely aided the spread of Islam in the region. Sufi practice was quickly adopted by many, perhaps due to its parallels with existing Indian philosophy and spiritual practice.

India has also been the crucible for much Sufi thought, and thousands of shrines exist to pay tribute to these spiritual philosophers. In such a diverse and broad community, it’s inevitable that other groups would emerge, including Bohra, Khoja and Ahmadiyya, all with their own understanding of Islamic teachings.

Expat and Muslim in India

Being expat in India (particularly a white-skinned expat) is an identity unto itself – I was afforded special treatment while there, and religion was never really part of the discussion. I guess it was assumed that I must have been living a lavish life where God played no large role.

I occasionally had to explain to people that I was Muslim, or that my Hindi was inflected with certain Arabic words because it wasn’t Hindi at all – it was Urdu, the language of Muslim India. The reactions I would get were usually accepting, but uninterested. I got the feeling that was the general feeling towards Muslims from non-Muslims; “it’s fine to be Muslim, but I’m not, so no need to talk about it!” On one occasion I was told to say the Hindi “danyavad” for thank you, instead of the Urdu “shukriya”, because “this is India, and we hate Muslims”, but this was on just one occasion, and it didn’t escalate into anything more. I wonder if he would have said that, had he known I’m Muslim.

Additionally, there seems to be an assumption in some quarters that a white Muslim is simply a typical foreigner going on a temporary spiritual experience while on holidays (like so many do). I got this feeling from some people (who thought Islam was my “interest”), including men at mosques, who talked to me like they had “seen it all before”.

On the whole though, my experience of being expat and Muslim in India was one of being left alone, to “do my thing”, and not given much attention other than for the fact that I was a white-skinned foreigner.

Jama Masjid seen from Meena Bazaar, Delhi

Jama Masjid seen from Meena Bazaar, Delhi

Being Muslim in India is…

I often hear various slogans expressed about Muslims in India; “they’re free”, “they’re just as Indian as anyone else”, “they’re persecuted”, “they’re restricted”, “they’re oppressed”. All of them are true to some extent, however the level of acceptance or oppression seems to depend on a variety of elements, including level of society, level of education, region, city, part of the city, and the political climate of the time. Very occasionally discrimination flares into violence, although considering the demographics, this is less of an occurrence than the media would have us believe.

Sometimes India could be the easiest place on earth to be Muslim, because the number of Muslims and the lack of government diktat on religion allows each person to explore the religion themselves. Halal food is widely available and religious holidays like Eid are protected and celebrated. However, without the backing of a community, Muslims may find themselves discriminated against in Hindu-dominated areas.

On balance, it’s safe to say that being Muslim in India is a widely varied and complex experience, and there is probably one different definition for each Indian Muslim that exists.

 

Thank you very much Tim for sharing your experience and helping us understand the Islamic culture of India a little better. To find out more about Tim’s expat experiences, travels and awesome photography, go over to his blog Urban Duniya.

 

More Expat and Muslim stories HERE.  I would love to hear about other countries, so if you’d like to share your experience as an expat and Muslim get in touch right now!

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Expat & Muslim in Iran http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/expat-and-muslim-in-iran/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/expat-and-muslim-in-iran/#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2016 14:39:46 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3020   Iran is one of only a handful of countries around the world that declares itself a fully-fledged Islamic republic. Not surprisingly, simply naming itself an Islamic republic doesn’t make Iran a utopia for Muslims, despite the ‘idea’ of Islam being infused through the government

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Iran is one of only a handful of countries around the world that declares itself a fully-fledged Islamic republic. Not surprisingly, simply naming itself an Islamic republic doesn’t make Iran a utopia for Muslims, despite the ‘idea’ of Islam being infused through the government organs.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Isfahan

 

While under sharia law, Iran differs from many other Muslim nations (and, arguably, from others’ understandings of sharia law) for various reasons. Pressures of a relatively educated, diverse and liberal populace, generational changes and international politicking all result in inconsistently evolved legal and social systems, which are simultaneously way ahead and far behind other countries in the region.

Iran also has a long, rich non-Islamic and pre-Islamic history of which it is justifiably proud.

 

Islam in Iran

Iran is about 97% Muslim, of which about 90% is Shia and the remaining 7% Sunni. Therefore, to a large number of Muslims around the world, the Islam which is practiced in Iran may seem rather unfamiliar. Even among Shia Muslims, there are differences between what is practiced in Iran and in other countries.

Islam in Iran is noticeably politicised and reactionary. Iran became an Islamic republic after the 1979 revolution in which the strictly secular and modernising Shah (king) was swept aside. It seems that what followed the revolution was as much an effort to institute Islam in an official manner, as it was to undo the ‘Westernisation’ that the shah had implemented. Conversely, many of today’s youth are non-religious and take a dim view of practicing Muslims – but this seems to be more of a reaction to government policies (which of course all bear the ‘Islamic’ banner) than an outright rejection of Islam. Above all, however, respect remains for Iran’s pre-Islamic culture. In such a reactionary environment, in which history, politics and religion are all muddled together, what it means to be a Muslim in Iran is a dynamic, but confused concept.

Shia tradition runs deep in Iran_ the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad

 

Expat and Muslim in Iran

Being an expat in Iran, I was swamped with hospitality and open invitations to come home for dinner! For the most part, Iranians love foreigners, and that includes Americans too. In fact some people I met seemed slightly disappointed when I revealed I’m not American! It is said that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, and the absence of large numbers of foreigners, especially Americans, in Iran seem to have made Iranians very fond of them indeed!

Being an expat and Muslim in Iran is another matter. Because of the reactionary nature of Iranian politics and society, many educated Iranians would rather have religion left out of the conversation; they consider it a ‘dampener’ on what was otherwise a developing friendship. Many educated Iranians seemed to expect me to drink, party and live an otherwise “Western” lifestyle, and were visibly disappointed if I declined to take part. (Again: reactionary – in Iran, it seems, you’re either a debaucherous Westerner or a stone-age Mullah.)

Muslim values seem much closer to the hearts of people in other sections of society, however, and faith is genuinely appreciated and practiced.

Regardless of who you’re speaking to, you will nearly always be treated with respect as a guest in the nation – and in Iran that’s an experience vivid enough to cut through all of the socio-political white noise. Iranians, I can honestly say, are some of the kindest and most intelligent people I’ve ever encountered on my travels.

 

Being Muslim in Iran is…

Muslims in Iran will find their faith confirmed, reinforced, challenged and possibly even dismissed by members of society, but never disrespected. At a practical level, Iran being an Islamic republic, one never needs to worry about finding halal meat or taking time off for prayers. Sometimes the constant government preaching about “Islamic” policies becomes irksome, but you’ll never be alone in thinking so.

Overall, being expat and Muslim in Iran is an easy, if thought-provoking experience – keep an open mind, and enter the multilayered Islamic Republic of Iran.

 

Thank you Tim for sharing your experience with us.

If you don’t know Tim’s work, you should head over to Urban Duniya, his own lifestyle blog about all things expat, travel and cultures. He is also a great photographer and his blog is sure to inspire you.

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Expat and Muslim in Pakistan http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/muslim-culture-in-pakistan/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/muslim-culture-in-pakistan/#comments Tue, 16 Jun 2015 09:26:33 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=2678 The article below is a guest post by Tim Blight, an Australia and Pakistan-based writer and amateur photographer, who has been kind enough to share his experience of the Muslim culture in his adoptive country: Pakistan. Without further ado… Pakistan is a largely Muslim country, but despite being known

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The article below is a guest post by Tim Blight, an Australia and Pakistan-based writer and amateur photographer, who has been kind enough to share his experience of the Muslim culture in his adoptive country: Pakistan. Without further ado…

Pakistan is a largely Muslim country, but despite being known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, it is not officially under Islamic law. Pakistan was designed to provide a homeland to Muslims in the Indian subcontinent. Before independence in 1947, campaigners in British India argued that being Indian and Muslim was a nationality quite apart from being an Indian Hindu, and at worst, could put Muslims at risk of discrimination post-independence. This premise has shaped much of Pakistan’s modern history and outlook as a Muslim society.

muslim culture

Badshahi Mosque, Lahore’s grandest place of worship.

Islam in Pakistan

Islam forms the bedrock of Pakistani identity, and all major questions of nationality seem to come back to Islam for the answers. 97% of Pakistanis identify as Muslim of one denomination or another. Islam in Pakistan is a fairly conservative affair; orthodox understandings of the religion dominate, although these interpretations often differ from orthodoxy in the Arab world.

In Pakistan, the lines between native culture and Islam are blurred, and often non-existent. Many Pakistanis practice a distinctly South Asian form of Islam, where saints and holy men are revered (although importantly, they are not worshipped). Many Pakistanis visit the tombs and shrines of these saints, paying their respects. Unsurprisingly, Sufi thought is widely respected by many Pakistanis (even if they won’t admit it). See my post on shrines in Kasur, a satellite city of Lahore. Tension between sects of Muslims exists, and has cast a long, dark shadow over Pakistani society in recent decades.

muslim culture

The shrine of Punjabi poet and philosopher Bulleh Shah attracts devotees in Kasur, near Lahore.

Expat and Muslim in Pakistan

Because Islam is so closely linked to Pakistani national identity, many people are surprised to discover that a non-Pakistani is Muslim (particularly if you are not ‘recognisably’ Muslim, i.e. – without a beard or religious attire). Many people seem to assume that being a foreigner (regardless of your faith) means that you don’t know much about Islam, so sometimes it’s a challenge to ‘prove your credentials’ to avoid a well-intentioned but redundant lecture on the basics of Islam.

Life as a Muslim in Pakistan is easy, because so much of the day-to-day stuff is taken care of; all food is halal, it’s easy to stay aware of prayer times. Sometimes confusion exists where Islam ends and local culture begins, resulting in questions about whether certain practices are Islamic at all. These moments can be confusing for the uninitiated, or aggravating for those who understand it. Everyone has their own take on what it means to be Muslim, and in Pakistan it can sometimes be tricky to cut through the “white noise” and get to the facts.

[bctt tweet=”Life as an #expat & #muslim in #Pakistan is both inspiring and very rewarding with @urbanduniya”]

Another source of frustration can be the security arrangements around expats in Pakistan, designed to protect you, but which sometimes prevent you from attending certain events or visiting certain places “just in case”.

muslim culture

Minar-e-Pakistan, the “minaret of Pakistan”, stands at the place where the Pakistani state was proposed in 1940. Its pillars symbolise the struggle for independence, while the whole structure is inscribed with the 99 names of Allah s.w.t.. The monument accurately represents the intertwining of Islam and nationality in Pakistan.

Being a Muslim in Pakistan is…

A wonderful experience provided one is in the right frame of mind. Keep an open mind, understand that not everyone understands Islam in the same way (regardless of whether they should or not), and being a Muslim in Pakistan can be a beautiful path to understanding the humanity of our faith. The spectrum of practices in Pakistan, and the fact that cultural practices are so closely interwoven with faith, can make Pakistan a very confusing and confronting place. It’s really up to each individual as to how they experience life as a Muslim in Pakistan – but it can be very inspiring, very enlightening, and very, very rewarding.

I wrote a personal reflective piece about my life in Pakistan, in which I touch on the role that Islam plays in my love affair with this country. It is my humble wish that it accurately conveys the beauty that I see in the society in which I have chosen to settle.

muslim culture

Shah Faisal Mosque, the ‘national mosque’ in Islamabad, at sunset.

Tim Blight is a blogger, writer and photographer based in Australia and Pakistan. He splits his time between the two countries, and also makes regular trips to India for his site UrbanDuniya; a world of travel, photography, food, coffee and other musings.

You may also be interested in Tim’s previous guest post: Expat and Muslim in Australia.

Are you an expat and Muslim somewhere in the world? How about sharing your story on Diary of a Serial Expat. Leave a comment or get in touch anytime.

 

 

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Expat and Muslim in Australia http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/expat-and-muslim-in-australia/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/expat-and-muslim-in-australia/#comments Sun, 07 Dec 2014 16:57:03 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=1699 Blogging is not simply about sharing personal experience, it is also about raising awareness of other cultures and ways of life. Many bloggers hope to make a difference in the world by showing others that we can be different yet live together in peace. Islam

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Blogging is not simply about sharing personal experience, it is also about raising awareness of other cultures and ways of life. Many bloggers hope to make a difference in the world by showing others that we can be different yet live together in peace. Islam is a religion much talked about in the media yet totally misunderstood so it’s important for Muslims, like me and my guest today, to share what Muslim culture and being a Muslim means for us and how we manage as expats in other countries.

The post below was written by Tim Blight, a blogger that I admire. His adventures across the world make me dream but what I really like about him and his blog is that he always has a thought for others around him and it’s clear from his work that he is trying hard to bring people together. He has a real humanistic and embracing approach to blogging that I really love. Onto him now:

Expat and Muslim in Australia

muslims in australia

Eid Celebrations in Lakemba, Sydney in 2003

Australia’s national identity is strongly (although decreasingly) linked to that of the UK, and in this fashion, religion has never been hived away from the national identity like it has in, say, France. Although Australia is popularly considered secular, this is not explicitly written in the constitution, and some Australians are alarmed at how freely religion and politics mix, depending who is in power.

Although Australia is officially a majority Christian nation Australians tend to take a relaxed approach to religion, and atheism, or more commonly, undeclared agnosticism, are the norm. As a result, practicing Australian Muslims face the challenge of being both a religious minority, and an observing devotee in a largely non-religious society.

 

Islam in Australia

Muslims in Australia tend to fall into one of three categories; immigrants, offspring of immigrants, and reverts (converts). New Australians are encouraged to keep and share their ethnic identity (see my review of a Muslim fashion exhibition at the Melbourne Immigration Museum HERE). However the media’s demonisation of Muslims post-9/11 presents a confusing conundrum. It is tempting to fall into polarising thoughts; that you can’t be both Australian and Muslim; and indeed many believe this. As a result, some Muslims hide (or even betray) their religion in order to “fit in”, while others struggle to avoid even inoffensive Australian customs in order to “preserve their religion”.

Needless to say this is dangerous and frustrating for the children of migrants who are caught between two cultures; some second generation Australians live more religiously insular lives than their parents, while others rebel. Meanwhile there is a vast ocean of people in the middle who balance their religious and national identities. There are also a handful of Muslim Australians descended from much earlier migrants.

muslims in Australia

Eid celebrations in Melbourne, held outdoors in a public park – there wasn’t enough space in the mosque!

 Expat and Muslim in Australia

Drinking beer, swimming at the beach (in Western-style swimwear) and barbecues (regardless of halal status) are closely entwined with the Australian identity, so not partaking can draw some surprised or even suspicious reactions.

A lot of the racism levelled at Muslims in Australia is based on ignorance. As my name doesn’t identify me as a Muslim, I am often subject to views which would never be aired in front of a “real Muslim”.  Many Australians respect the religious rights and duties of Muslims, but it’s fair to say that the majority simply don’t understand them. While most anti-Islamic sentiment is based on ignorance, a small amount stems from pure disliking, and many Australians simply don’t appreciate hearing about religion (any religion) in public.

Among educated Australians, Muslim customs are better understood, and if a mistake is made, then other arrangements are kindly made. For example, more than once I’ve been cooked an individual meal, separate from other guests at a dinner, because the host knew I don’t eat pork. Once a host hadn’t made special arrangements and only realised the problem as we were about to eat. They quickly ordered a takeaway vegetarian pizza especially for me, drove to collect it, and wouldn’t let me pay a cent!

Among lesser educated Australians, religious duties are lesser understood and might be seen as a ‘choice’, in which case ordering a special meal could prompt questions like “what’s wrong with our food?”

 

muslims in australia

A Halal chicken shop in Canberra, Australia

Being a Muslim in Australia is…

Free but incredibly frustrating! We are protected against discrimination by the constitution, although discrimination persists. Many are worried that anti-terroism laws are being used to curtail Muslims’ freedoms. We are officially allowed to practice our religion freely (there are no restrictions on dress), but the issue comes from how much one is willing to allow the religion to impede their “Australian-ness” publicly. This can be largely avoided by having a reliable, intelligent and understanding group of friends, but there will still come a time when you are invited to a work function and someone notices that you don’t drink, and questions why.

Finding halal food can be a problem outside of the main cities, but within the cities it is readily available, even if you need to travel a couple of kilometres for it. There are halal restaurants, however these tend to be more ‘downmarket’ establishments – the food might be tasty, but the ambiance can be killer if you want to take someone out for a special dinner. Vegetarianism is well understood in Australia, so that’s always an option, even on top-end menus.

The main problem is ignorance, and the ideas and misunderstandings that stem from that (which most recently prompted me to write this article, explaining the various types of head covering). It is further compounded by a sentiment that religion is a personal choice which shouldn’t affect your public life – out of sight, out of mind, and certainly nobody else’s problem.

Tim Blight is an Australia and Pakistan-based writer and amateur photographer. He splits his time between the two countries, and also makes regular trips to India for his site UrbanDuniya; a world of travel, photography, food, coffee and other musings.

I highly recommend you go over at UrbanDuniya and check out Tim’s blog. You can also find and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram.

 

You can also find out about being an Expat and Muslim in other countries HERE.  And if you’d like your expat story to be featured just get in touch.

 

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The World’s Most Colourful Towns http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/the-worlds-most-colourful-towns/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/the-worlds-most-colourful-towns/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 12:40:14 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=1686 As you’ve seen with my most recent posts, I’m all about places and striking features these days. I just love a city that is unique, one you can instantly recognise even if you’ve never been there such as Santorini in Greece or Sidi Bousaid in

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As you’ve seen with my most recent posts, I’m all about places and striking features these days. I just love a city that is unique, one you can instantly recognise even if you’ve never been there such as Santorini in Greece or Sidi Bousaid in Tunisia. When Felicity Howlett from Holiday Letttings offered me a guest post on the world’s most colourful towns I was totally excited. I mean those guys are holiday specialists so they know their stuff.

Need some colour in your life? From red cities to Technicolor villages, brightly coloured places are always a shade above the rest. Holiday Lettings takes a tour of the world’s most colourful spots.

This is not a sponsored post – Holidaylettings.co.uk has partnered with Diary of a Serial Expat to share this feature. The Guest Post below has been chosen and approved by me.

Bologna, Italy

world's most colourful towns

Bologna, Italy
Photo credit: Yuri Virovets (license) via flickr.com

Bologna’s so red that its namesake is the colour itself – the locals have renamed it La Rossa. But is the nickname a tribute to their rich and meaty pasta sauce, or maybe it’s down to the city’s colourful politics? Stroll through the streets as the day is nearing an end and you’ll see the reason why as the buildings glow an intense shade of scarlet from the setting sun.

It’s well worth lingering in Piazza Maggiore as night falls. Take a leisurely stroll through the square, sit on the steps of San Petronio Church and absorb the atmosphere. Meander the alleys of the medieval market, Quadrilatero, and peruse the delicacies on offer. You’ll love the mortadella and local wines like Pignoletto.

 

Jodhpur, India

world's most colourful towns

Jodhpur, India
Photo credit: Francisco Anzola (license) via flickr.com

Jodhpur’s dubbed the blue city after the ocean of vibrant houses and a blue-wash mosque that all stand out gorgeously against the arid brown of the surrounding desert. A wander through the city streets, bordered with buildings that echo the bright blue skies, will leave you feeling refreshed. The blue tones shimmer with an eerie light. Reputedly, the colour repels insects.

Dive into the old town’s blue maze and you’ll happen upon traditional spice markets, puppet-makers and tie-dyers. Jodhpur’s celebrated cubic roofscape is a must at sunset and the place to admire the breathtaking views of the almighty Mehrangarh Fort as it soars above the city from the top of the cliff.

 

San Francisco, USA

world's most colourful towns

San Fransisco, USA

Atop Alamo Square Park and facing Steiner Street’s Postcard Row, you’ll find the pastel group of multi-coloured Victorian houses called the Painted Ladies. The houses are adorned with opulent gingerbread detailing, sweet-jar colour palettes and icing-like flourishes. Anyone for dessert?

San Francisco is famous for sweeping vistas and beautiful architecture, and you’ll see plenty of both on a stroll up and down the city’s streets. Wander around Golden Gate Park with its museums and landscaped gardens. You can walk, drive or cycle over the magical Golden Gate Bridge – it blushes at dawn, burns at sunset and twinkles at night.

 

 Longyearbyen, Norway

world's most colourful towns

Longyearbyen, Norway

The world’s most northerly town is made up of rows of matching wooden huts in vibrant shades. Needing some cheerful colours in the depths of winter, locals chose shades inspired by the natural environment. The colours contrast with their stark backdrop of the two shimmering glacial tongues of Longyearbreen and Lars Hjertabreen.

Watch out for reindeer walking through immaculate nature reserves and polar bears wandering the glittering glaciers. Try snow scootering across the frozen fjords – it’s an exhilarating experience. Then treat yourself to Arctic fare at the historic Huset: it’s the world’s northernmost gourmet restaurant and features one of Europe’s largest wine cellars with over 20,000 bottles.

 

Zalipie, Poland

world's most colourful towns

Zalipie, Poland
Photo credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs (license) via flickr.com

A clump of soot-stained huts blossomed this once-dreary town into a kaleidoscopic feast of colour over a century ago. After the town’s housewives painstakingly concealed smoke marks from their stoves with hand-painted floral patterns, they gradually took their vivid designs outside. The trend spread and painted flowers now bloom over everything, from bridges and churches to chicken coops.

Join the judges at the annual best painted cottage competition – it’s the perfect time to visit as the paint will be fresh and the colours still bright. Visit Felicja Curtylowa’s farmhouse, the woman who epitomised the village’s spirit, and take delight in her original furnishings, farm tools and folk costumes.

 

Thank you Felicity for sharing this post with us.

What’s your favourite colourful town? Do you know any others which could make the list?

 

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I’m an Expat Too – From the UK and the Philippines to Peru http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/im-an-expat-too-from-the-uk-and-the-philippines-to-peru/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/im-an-expat-too-from-the-uk-and-the-philippines-to-peru/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 12:52:59 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=1451 I’m an Expat Too is a series of guest posts and interviews with other expats from around the globe. They share their experience, tips and advice on moving to their adoptive country. I’m very excited to introduce Kach and Jon, who blog about their long term

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I’m an Expat Too is a series of guest posts and interviews with other expats from around the globe. They share their experience, tips and advice on moving to their adoptive country. I’m very excited to introduce Kach and Jon, who blog about their long term travels and expat life at Two Monkeys Travel, one of my favourite travel blogs. Everything about them is exciting, from the way they met to the countries they’ve been and the many projects that keeps them going (Antarctica is on their list next). Without further ado…

Please tell us a little about you

We’re a British and Filipina couple who both quit our jobs over a year ago in order to pursue a life of travel. We have both lived in different countries at various times in our lives, so the idea wasn’t a new one, except that this time we both wanted to create something sustainable. We met whilst we were travelling in Laos in May 2013 and have been together ever since (give or take a couple of months). After 9 awesome months living in Hanoi, Vietnam, we took four months off to travel around India and the UK before flying to South America.

Expat in Peru

Jon and Kach in Agonda Beach, Goa

Where do you live at the moment? When did you move and how long do you plan to stay?

We’re currently based in Arequipa, Southern Peru, where we’ve been living for about five months now and we plan to stay for at least two years. We’ll still travel, but with Arequipa as our home base.

What made you choose Peru and Arequipa in particular?

We’ve both wanted to travel in South America for a long time and Peru in particular. We spent a couple of days in Lima when we first arrived and quickly decided that it really wasn’t for us. We found out about Arequipa almost by accident while we were in Cusco and it seemed like a beautiful place to live. The city is small enough to walk around most places and there is a strong sense of culture here. It’s a also a great jumping off point for Chile, Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina.

Expat in Peru

Church in Arequipa, Peru

 

What do you do in Arequipa? How do you finance your life abroad?

Well, that’s an interesting question! At the moment we have a few projects on the go. We both teach English, privately and in Language Centres which is our solid income for necessities like rent, utilities and food. Then we have Om Yoga and Massage (www.omyogamassage.com). We both trained as Tantra Yoga teachers and Ayurveda Massage Therapists in India, so we rented a two bedroom apartment, bought a professional massage table and converted the second room into a therapy room. The massages are quickly becoming popular so they may take over as our main income at some point. We have also just created What’s on Arequipa (www.whatsonarequipa.com) which is a business listing and city guide aimed at tourists and expats. We provide all kinds of useful information on living and travelling in Arequipa, from shopping and eating, to living costs and public transport.

In addition to all this, we’ve recently become Ambassadors for South America Backpacker, so we get to connect with hostels and tour companies all over South America, try out what they have to offer and write reviews and articles!

We’re starting to realise why self-employed people always say, ‘When you work for yourself, you work twice as hard!’

We also have a brand new project in the pipeline, but we can’t give that away just yet!

Expat in Peru

Arequipa, Peru

Is it easy to get a job in Peru? Any tips for future expats?

If you’re from an ESL teaching background and plan to make a living that way, run! This is not China or South East Asia and teaching salaries are low. If you’re coming to live here and want to do more than just pay the bills then you need to have some other line of income, or create one.

Do you speak the language?

Not very well! We started learning Spanish when we arrived and it’s been a slow learning curve. We can both speak enough Spanish now to do all the usual day-to-day activities like getting around and shopping, but when it comes to business or anything more complicated then we rely on friends to help us with translation. We’ve been really lucky here with the people we’ve met.

Expat in Peru

Agonda Beach, Goa

What was the biggest culture shock when you first moved? How did you learn to deal with it?

I wouldn’t call it culture shock as such, although time keeping and punctuality is practically non-existent here. People talk about Peruvian time, but then there’s Arequipenian time! Students show up as much as one and a half hours late for a two hour class and people may not show to meetings at all.  There’s no single way to deal with this.  If it’s something like a yoga class, then you lock the door at the start of the class and they realise they have to be on time. If it’s a massage client or a student then you just deal with each situation individual. Never fight, just adapt!

Did you get the chance to move around a bit in Peru? 

We’ve seen a reasonable amount in our short time here so far. We lived in Ollataytambo in Cusco for a month when we first arrived and created our own DIY trek to Machu Picchu. It was a long walk – 30km in a day – through stunning mountain scenery and down the Sacred Valley into dense highland jungle. Definitely the best experience so far. We even had an article published about it in South America Backpacker!

There’s still plenty more to come, with a trip to Colca Canyon on a weekend and a tour through Bolivia, Chile and Brazil from December to February!

Expat in Peru Expat in Peru Expat in Peru

What lesson(s) have you learnt during your time abroad?

Having grown up in Africa, which my parents would probably describe as ‘A beautiful and challenging continent,’ I think I probably learned the most important lesson while I was too young to realise it was happening – adaptability. We moved around a lot, at least every two and a half years, so it just feels normal to me to move someplace new, settle in and get on with things.

Any practical advice for people thinking of moving to your Peru?

Yes. Learn Spanish! You can get by without it and pick it up as you go, but learning it in advance will help you to become part of the community a lot faster and is invaluable in professional and official situations.

Do you think about settling down somewhere? or do you still have more places to see?

We already have plans to settle down and we know exactly how and where, although the when is not set in stone yet. In a couple of years we’re going to buy a piece of beachside land in the Philippines and build our own yoga and meditation retreat with sustainable building education centre. We both love yoga and want to continue teaching, plus in my previous life I was an architectural technologist so we’re going to combine the two to build our own little piece of paradise on the beach!

Before that though, we still have a lot more places to see. We’re aiming for Antarctica in 2015, then New Zealand, possibly followed by the Middle East and Africa, so we’re far from finished. In fact, I seriously doubt we ever will be!

Expat in Peru

Kach on a Sleeper Class Train to Mumbai, India

Finally what can we wish you for the future?

Thanks for asking….More of the same please!! As long as we keep travelling, learning and working towards what we really want, we’re happy!

 

So what did i tell you, amazing couple right? They really take expat life to another level with their new website www.whatsonarequipa.com, a brand new site for tourists and expats featuring reviews of all the best places in the area, business listings, events, living costs and more. This is supported by their Facebook page facebook.com/humansofarequipaproject. I just love the way they give back to the people whose country they decided to live in.

I’m sure you wanna connect with Jon and Kach and that’s easy. Check out their Blog and follow them on Facebook.

If you have any questions for Jon and Kach don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. And if you’ve got expat stories to share you could be the next featured on Diary of a Serial Expat so get in touch.

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T is for Travel – Sabina of Girls VS Globe http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/t-is-for-travel-sabina-of-girls-vs-globe/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/t-is-for-travel-sabina-of-girls-vs-globe/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 12:13:21 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=763 T is for Travel is a series of Guest posts and interviews with people from around the globe who share a passion for travels. I’ve stumbled one day on Sabina’s website and i was amazed by the quality of her writing on the one hand

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T is for Travel is a series of Guest posts and interviews with people from around the globe who share a passion for travels. I’ve stumbled one day on Sabina’s website and i was amazed by the quality of her writing on the one hand and the variety of adventures she’s had around the world on the other. Remember her name, with so much talent she’s onto big things i’m sure.

Can you tell us a little about you?

Hi there Jameela, thank you so much for interviewing me on your great blog! I’m Sabina – a travel blogger, freelance writer and university student. On my site I also describe myself as a girl with a passion for fashion, someone who revels in her travels and is always in the mood for food… That’s pretty accurate!

Expat travels blog

Sabina in Morocco

What do you like about travels?

Ah, what don’t I like about travel? I have been living outside of my home country since I was 13 years old so I’m honestly not even sure what not travelling feels like. Travel has made me very open-minded and tolerant, for which I am very grateful. I believe it can do the same thing for everyone, so I honestly think exploring foreign cultures through travel is the answer to many of society’s current problems.

What type of traveller are you?

I don’t travel in one specific way – I have slept at train stations and in luxury hotels, in budget hostels and on sailing ships.

The common thread connecting all my journeys is my appetite for adventure. To me this doesn’t necessarily mean jumping out of airplanes – it can just mean getting out of your comfort zone and daring to do things that scare you.

What cities/countries have you visited so far? Can you tell us a little about each destination?

I’m lucky to have travelled to so many incredible places that listing them all here would be nearly impossible. In this year alone I have travelled to ten countries on three continents – Austria, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Morocco, Russia and the UK.

expat travel blog

Czech Republic

expat travel blog

London, UK

expat travels blog

Moscow, Russia

I spent the most time in Russia, living there as part of my degree in political science which I’m pursuing in the UK. In all honesty, I had a tough time in Russia – I was working and studying full-time which was extremely challenging and meant I hardly slept.

The country did not make this any easier to bear – strangers rarely smile and can be downright icy. Once you get to know people, it’s a whole other story though and I have made many incredible friends during my time in Russia. In my experience, Russians are very proud people who treasure their country. This means they are very eager to share all it has to offer with visitors, which means immersing yourself in local culture is very easy.

I did not explore the country in as much depth as I would have liked, but my favourite place was St Petersburg – the local architecture is downright stunning and the Hermitage is any art aficionado’s wet dream.

What was your most memorable experience abroad?

I once hitch-hiked to France with a pimp and a sombrero-wearing Mexican. How is that for a memorable travel experience?

What valuable lesson(s) have your learnt during your travels?

I’ve learnt that “the best way to get things done is to just go ahead and do them”, as Alex Garland writes in “The Beach”. At the end of the day, it’s just you against the world and you better be ready to face it head on. It may seem trivial but has completely changed my life – in fact, my blog’s name, “Girl vs Globe“, is my homage to this little piece of wisdom.

Do you have any plans to travel in the future? Where?

Oh, absolutely! I’ve just moved back to the London to finish my university degree and I plan on exploring the UK in a lot more depth this year. I love British culture and cannot wait to venture away from the cosmopolitan hub that is London and experience the real Britain.

I am also going to Athens to attend my first ever blogging conference, TBEX. I’ve been to Greece many times – just earlier this year I spent two weeks exploring Santorini – but have never visited its capital. I’m completely obsessed with Ancient Greece and Rome, so am convinced I will fall in love with the city.

expat travels blog

Santorini, Greece

If you could go anywhere?

I have always wanted to visit Cape Town – for some reason, the place has a magical hold over me. In more general terms, I am very excited to explore places outside of Europe – I’ve lived there my whole life and it’s time for a change!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I have absolutely no idea and, while that may be frightening to many, it thrills me! There are many things I would like to achieve but they span so many different fields that it’s impossible for me to predict where I will end up.

The one thing I know for sure is that I want to be doing some kind of creative work, especially writing. I can’t imagine my life without it.

expat travels blog

Beijing, China

Finally T is for Travel

R is for … Romance around the world

A is for … Allowing travel to change you as a person

V is for … Volunteering and giving back to the world

E is for … Eating pretty much anything

L is for … Leaving each destination you visit with memorable stories. This requires you to embrace the unknown and always keep an open mind.

Thank you very much Sabina for accepting to share your travels here, I’m sure people will want to follow your adventures, so head over to her Blog.You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube (no excuse then).

What is your favourite of all those places? What’s on your “must go” list?

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Expats & BonAppetour: How they can help on your travels http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/expats-bonappetour-help-travels/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/expats-bonappetour-help-travels/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 11:20:06 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=1004 How to avoid tourist traps when eating abroad? You know the type, western food in countries where people cooking them have never tried eating those themselves. Quite logically you end up eating crappy food and that can really spoil your experience abroad. I recently discovered Bon Appetour by

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How to avoid tourist traps when eating abroad? You know the type, western food in countries where people cooking them have never tried eating those themselves. Quite logically you end up eating crappy food and that can really spoil your experience abroad. I recently discovered Bon Appetour by chance and here it is: a perfect solution to enjoy your food and turn your trip into a unique experience.

The following is a Guest Post written by Sophie of the Bon Appetour team. I got in touch with her and asked her to explain the concept of Bon Appetour and how it can provide the cherry on top of your foreign cake. (This is not a sponsored article or advertising)

 

Bon Appetour

Bon Appetour: The Story behind the Concept

When travelling, it can be quite an intimidating affair to launch yourself far into the unknown, especially when you’re faced with the prospect of travelling alone. Questions can plague you like, “What if I don’t meet anyone?”, “Will I get really lonely?”, “Will I be safe?”, and a whole host
of other thoughts can circulate in your mind, causing you to worry a heap before actually experiencing it! However, there are ways that can really help you meet new people whilst on the road, and of course, expats are a never-ending source of information.

Many years ago, I left my home in rainy old England with my sights fixated on warmer climates, exotic beaches, fun in the sun and a carefree lifestyle. I had packed (way too much in hindsight) my bulging backpack and jumped on a plane, leaving my frantically waving parents far behind for an epic backpacking trip.

I picked up lovely travelling companions in my first few weeks, although it took a lot of guts and courage to really put myself out there. Approaching travellers and striking up conversation or the first time can seem a bit strange, but after a while you get into the swing of things and soon, it just isn’t weird to walk up to someone in your hostel and sit down with
them. However, when travelling, it is easy to fall into the same social scenarios of hanging out with backpackers and travellers who are just as new as yourself to the city and country.

I was faced with the puzzling task of how to meet local people and expats who could teach me so much more about this new alien environment I had flown to, and what I was missing out on in terms of culture.

I found myself wanting to meet locals, wanting to eat authentically, see how they live, find out what they love about their country, and what they get up to in their everyday lives. It’s easy to speculate from a tourist perspective, but a backpacker would never truly know a place unless they turn into an expat and stay for an extended period of time in the same
spot. But as a traveller with multiple plane tickets, I just didn’t have time!

BonAppetour

A month or so into my trip, I was faced with a few weeks of truly travelling alone. I jumped on a night train up to the cool and beautiful northern city, Chiang Mai, and soon wandered up to the small mountain village of Pai after hearing many recommendations. The first night up there was terribly lonesome. I found myself surrounded by tourists on the streets, but by staying in a guesthouse instead of a hostel, I just didn’t know how to approach them whilst feeling natural. But soon,

I met expats who really transformed my trip and turned Pai into a place that will always
harbour a special place in my heart.

A lovely expat couple befriended me after an early morning yoga session beside the river. I guess I must have been super relaxed after that lesson and felt compelled to chat to the interesting couple once class was dismissed. They soon invited me to a dinner that their Thai friend was hosting, which involved a cooking class and then a sit down meal of what
they’d cooked.

BonAppetour

Bon Appetour: Authenticity and Company

To see the techniques he used to create authentic and delicious foods was great, plus the smells and the new ingredients were astounding! I wasn’t just sat in a cafe waiting for food to come out to me from a mysterious doorway, I had the chance to really see how a spicy Papaya salad was created and how to do a Pad Thai right. Also, the taste was out of this world… not to mention the spice. Note: when eating what the locals eat, be prepared for the intense chilis they may use!

However, the warmth of the company and hearing about life in the village Pai really made this experience stand out for me. Not only had I made new friends up in this tiny community, but I also found out about spots for the best lunches, live music, great food and hidden waterfalls.

Expats can really help travellers to discover more about their surroundings, but there is the pesky detail of how to find them? In today’s digital world, we have the power of social media that can help and there are other platforms that can aid travellers in finding these great people!

Platforms, such as, BonAppetour.com, can help link up locals and travellers in places all over the world over a home cooked meal and great conversation. BonAppetour acts as a portal to help travellers search for hosts in their destination and arrange a meet up at their homes, which can really make a trip a memorable one. Not to mention, it’s a great and easy way to make new friends all over the world!

bon appetour

 

Bon Appetour: Your Turn…

To be a host or guest will be truly enlightening for you on your trip as the people you interact with can really develop your understanding of a country. Will you be using BonAppetour on your next adventure?

Find out more at www.BonAppetour.com and Follow us on Twitter:

Your Turn

 

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Discover Where I Live – York, England http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/discover-where-i-live-york-england/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/discover-where-i-live-york-england/#comments Sun, 28 Sep 2014 16:22:25 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=801 Discover Where i Live is a series of guest posts and interviews to discover places around the world from another angle. Find out what’s a city or country is really like from the people who know it best. Catherine is a 23 year old recent graduate who spends most

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Discover Where i Live is a series of guest posts and interviews to discover places around the world from another angle. Find out what’s a city or country is really like from the people who know it best.

Catherine is a 23 year old recent graduate who spends most of her days dreaming of being somewhere far away and exotic, and is currently making plans to turn that dream into reality. In the meantime she is lucky enough to live in the city of York in England, a place well known for its architecture and history.

 Five Of The Best Things To See & Do In York

York is a beautiful little city, located in the north-east of England. Full of character and history, there’s a lot to see and do, but here are five things not to be missed.

Best Restaurant

Amongst the traditional English spots, you’ll find a whole array of world food in York; Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Burmese, French, Italian, Polish. There’s so many to choose from, but my favourite restaurant has to be Cafe No 8. This hidden gem on Gillygate has a very impressive menu, with all the food homemade and locally sourced. Better still, they normally have some very good deals, with a two course meal available for just £12.

yorkshambles

Best Bar

According to the locals, York has 365 pubs, one for every day of the year. Yet again you are spoilt for choice, but one of my favourites in The Evil Eye. The cocktail menu spans several pages and every one I’ve tried so far has been absolutely delicious. The atmosphere is always so relaxed and laid back, perhaps helped by the Moroccan theme running throughout the bar, topped off with wooden beds filled with cushions.

yorkcastle

Best Museum

When The Chocolate Story opened in York a couple of years ago I was very keen to visit, but a little put off by the price tag; £10 per person for a couple of hours in a museum seemed a little steep. Cut forward a year, and when I came across a half price voucher last summer, I was over the moon!

As well as finding out about the history of chocolate around the world and York’s involvement in the development of the industry, there are lots of different chocolates to samples, a chance to see chocolate being made before your very eyes and even the opportunity to make and decorate your own chocolate lollipop. With hindsight, it was definitely worth the full £10 entrance fee!

yorkmuseum

 

Best Shopping Area

If you want high street stores, be sure to check out Coney Street and Parliament Street, but for the more unusual finds, the Stonegate Quarter is the place to be. Full of independent shops, these winding streets and alleyways have something for every taste and budget. Whether you’re looking for quirky gifts, unique antiques or cute clothes, you’ll be sure to find it in the Stonegate Quarter.

yorkminster

 

Best Green Space

York has an abundance of parks and gardens to be enjoyed, but my favourite spot has to be the Museum Gardens. Surrounding the Yorkshire Museum, these gardens are an excellent spot to enjoy a picnic or rest your weary legs after a busy day seeing the sights. Amongst the towering trees and colourful flower beds, if you keep your eyes peeled you are sure to spot some squirrels running by and hunting for food.

yorkriver

Thank you very much Catherine for sharing your lovely city with us.

Catherine is currently working away in her first ‘real’ nine-to-five job as well as writing her fantastic blog. Be sure to check it out here: Ever Changing Scenery to find out more about her day-to-day life, read stories from her past travels and follow her as she prepares to become a full time traveller.

Catherine is also on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also leave your comments and questions in the comments below, she will be happy to help.

Would you like to show us where YOU live? You can be the next to be featured on Diary of a Serial Expat, simply get in touch.

 

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I’m an Expat Too – from Ukraine to France http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/im-an-expat-too-sep-2014/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/im-an-expat-too-sep-2014/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 19:37:36 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=719 I’m an Expat Too is a series of guest posts and interviews with other expats from around the globe. They share their experience, tips and advice on moving to their adoptive country. This month i’d like to introduce Elena, a fellow expat and blogger who seems

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I’m an Expat Too is a series of guest posts and interviews with other expats from around the globe. They share their experience, tips and advice on moving to their adoptive country. This month i’d like to introduce Elena, a fellow expat and blogger who seems to be afraid of nothing, especially not challenges on the road. Elena is full of positive energy and a real inspiration for other travellers. Keep reading to find out about her expat life in France.

Please tell us a little about you: where are you from? your travels and life abroad?

I’m Elena – a twenty-something, born and raised in Kyiv, Ukraine. I’ve started travelling pretty young and spent two years living in Japan with my parents when I was 4 and kind of can’t stop till now. expat travel stories

I’ve been to 12 countries so far and have at least another twenty on my bucket list for the next decade 🙂 There are just too many incredible places in the world, that I’m dreaming to see!

Where do you live at the moment? When did you move and how long do you plan to stay?

Currently, I’m a part-time expat in small, yet absolutely adorable city of Besancon, France. I say part-time, ‘cause I have to take occasional trips home due to my visa status. It’s kind of hard moving permanently to EU with a non-EU country passport.
I’ve moved here in September 2014 and planning to stay for at least three years. Not sure of my further plans for now and not excluding a possibility to become a serial expat 🙂

What made you choose France?

Actually, I didn’t choose France. It just happened this way. You see, I was backpacking around Indonesia last summer and met a boy. We had loads of amazing adventures together: hiked two volcanos, visited a local school, got lost in the jungles and when the time came to say good bye. I simply couldn’t let him go. I’ve ditched all the common sense and followed my heart to France where he’s been doing scientific research for the next three years.

expat blog

Besancon, France

What do you do in Besancon? How do you finance your life abroad?

I got lucky with my job and my boss back in Kyiv, who agreed to keep me working out stuff. I work as Inbound Marketing Manager and basically, can do my job from anywhere as long as I have my laptop and solid internet connection.

Is it easy to get a job in France? Any tips for future expats?

Well, I wouldn’t say so. France has really strong labour policy that protects the local citizens. Basically, if a company wants to hire someone outside, they need to prove to the government that this person has a unique skills set that is particularly valuable for the company and no French citizen has the same qualifications and by no mean this person will occupy a position that a Frenchman could take. And they’ll have to pay large fees to have you hired, given a work with and a temporary resident card.

My advice for people who are considering moving to France is to get education there first. If you are fluent in French you can enrol for any BA/MA programme for free. Besides, students are allowed to take part-time jobs up to 10 hours per week.

Another option is for English natives is to become Teaching Assistants. There are quite a few perks like 12 hour working week and two weeks of vacation each six weeks. Yet, the salary may not be the one you’re dreaming of. But, hey, you can live and work in France for a year or longer!

expat blog

Paris, France

Did you speak the language when you arrived? What about now?

I’ve arrived to France knowing like 5 basic phrases like what’s my name, thank you and excuse me and so on 🙂 Out of Paris you’d hardly find anyone who speaks English. It’s not the fact that the French do not want or like to talk in English, it’s just that they don’t bother learning another language and are absolutely okay with just their native tongue.

Yet, everyone are super friendly and helpful and try their best to understand your odd pronunciation or figure out what exactly do you want. I’ve developed my gesture language and pantomime skills significantly for last half a year. Yet, it was my tablet and Google Translate who really helped me out when I needed to send a package on post or buy specific medicine in the drug store.

I was struggling with French on my own for now, but it’s the pronunciation and spelling that are really hard for me. Learning English was way easier.
I’m planning to enrol to a language course this autumn and hope to finally start naming things instead of pointing at them 🙂

Did you find it easy to learn about your destination before you moved? Can you share a few good places with loads of info?

Actually, no. There’s not much about Besancon or Franche-Comte region on the web. And most resources are in French.

expat blog

Besancon, France

What was the biggest culture shock when you first moved? How did you learn to deal with it?

I’ve wrote a post things I don’t understand about France a while ago with 6 facts I find really odd about the people and life here. That’s probably just the top of the iceberg and I’m discovering new things that amaze me every day.

The web is full of stories about “The Rude French”, but it’s a huge myth. It may somewhat be true about Paris and the Parisians who are simply tired of the never-ending tourist flow, yet I’ve never experienced any arrogance or rudeness towards me from the locals whom I’ve asked for directions, finding something or getting any sort of service.

Guess the most important rule I’ve learnt is always say “Bonjour” to a stranger before asking for something, to the bus driver, shop assistant, people in queue before you at the doctor and so on.

expat blog

Paris, France

Did you get the chance to move around a bit in France? What is there to see?

Yes, so far I’ve travelled around Besancon and visited Arbois – the local wine capital, Dole – another small and cute city in Franche-Comte region. As well, I’ve been to Strasbourg – amazing city to spend a day or more.

expat blog

Strasbourg, France

Check out Notre Dame de Strasbourg in the heart of the city and climbing up to the very top of the bell town is a must! Have a stroll along Ill River to Petite France district with lots of colourful, postcardish houses and the best ice cream.

expat blog

Strasbourg, France

I’ve had a day trip to Lyon recently and had great time wondering around Vieux Lyon – the old city center and enjoying spectacular views from Fourviere hill.

I took a trip to Corsica in the beginning of May and spending a day in Nice afterwards.

The best and the worst of France?

Best:
– Patisseries and Boulangeries!
– Cost of good wine
– Railway system. I’m a huge fan of SNCF and travelling by train around France.
– People.
Worst:
– Bureaucracy. The French love papers and paperwork.
– Awful websites and online user-experience. (Guess that’s due to the fact that the French love papers :))
– Everything’s closed on Sunday. All shops, services, most cafes.

What lesson(s) have you learnt during your time abroad?

* it’s okay not to know the language. You can perfectly survive without it.
* making friends as an adult is way harder than it used to be in college :)#

Any practical advice/tips for people thinking of moving to your France?

– There’s not just Paris which is quite expensive, crowded and less comfortable for living as regional cities like Lyon, Strasbourg, Lille or smaller towns like Besancon, Dijon or Montpellier that have a unique charm of their own to offer you.
– Knowing at least basic French earns you liking from the locals. Even if you use wrong conjugation or tense and your pronunciation sounds absolutely wrong, you’ll be treated open-hearted and friendly as you’ve made the effort.
– Finding work may be tough, so maybe you should consider working freelance or enrolling to a PhD in case you’re planning to settle long-term.

expat blog

View at Croix Rousse, Lyon, France

Do you think about settling down somewhere? or do you still have more places to see?

Absolutely into travelling.

Finally what can we wish you for the future?

Less paperwork and most of luck to finally remember all French spelling rules ’cause that’s my nightmare 🙁

 

Thank you so much Elena for sharing your story. Don’t forget to check out Elena’s blog: Elena’s Travelgram. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

If you have any questions for Elena, simply leave a comment below and she will get back to you. And if you’d like to be a guest on Diary of a Serial Expat just click HERE.

 

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