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Picture Postcards: Historical temple in Japan

Asakusa temple crowd

Sensō-ji is a large, Buddhist temple in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan. This photo was taken during a busy matsuri, a festival.

Read more:
Street Scene Tokyo, Japan
Moving in Gift, Japan
Ancestor Worship in Okinawa, Japan

April 15, 2013 Comments disabled

Stephen, from London to Beijing

Stephen is from Britain met his American educated Chinese partner in Venezuela. After a long-distance relationship, they now live in Beijing.

Stephen and riends having tea in Kashgar

Where are you from?

I’m originally from the south coast of England, but moved to London for university and stayed for work.

Hailan (Helen) is from Beijing, but attended school and university in Texas, and then went to work in New York.

Where and how did you meet?

I’d just taken voluntary redundancy from a city job in 2009 so set off to volunteer in Central America. I lived in Costa Rica for a couple of months, building houses with Habitat for Humanity. This was enough time to learn a bit of Spanish, so I travelled south to Colombia to start a circuit of Latin America.

I met Helen in Venezuela on Christmas Eve. We travelled together for a while, then went our separate ways (her to Antarctica, me to Easter Island) then met up again in Argentina.

She was just being posted back to China, so I followed along.

(more…)

November 1, 2012 Comments disabled

Picture Postcards: Traditional Dress in Romania

This month on Picture Postcards we will be focussing on traditional dress. Our regional contributor, Carmen Cristel, has sent in this photo of traditional dress in Maramures in the north of Romania.

Read more:
Bucharest seen from the Arch of Triumph
Picture Postcards: Bucharest carriage
Sweet-Sour Topoloveni Jam

June 3, 2012 Comments disabled

The All American Family, With a Spanish Twist

As someone who has lived abroad for over a decade and seen so many multi-cultural relationships blossom and thrive, I love reading stories like Cari and Juan Luis’s. In this interview, Cari tells us all about how she and her family happily weave together the Spanish and American cultures in their day to day family life.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How would your friends or family describe you?

I am a 38 year-old mom of three and have been married 16 years to my husband from Spain, Juan Luis Andreani. When I was in college I wanted to travel abroad and went to Madrid, Spain. I fell in love with Europe and ended up finding a job there and living for a year. I came back and finished my degree (I changed my major from Education to Spanish with an emphasis in teaching languages and a minor in Sociology), married my Spaniard and now teach English at a private high school here in Jacksonville,  Fl. I am very driven and have gone further in my education graduating now with a Masters in Leadership. My husband and I love to travel to new places and feel that the world is a marvelous place! I love learning about new cultures and exposing my children to them. My parents and family are very typical “all-American” and I am married to the only “foreigner” but my family adores my husband and the uniqueness he brings. I think he is still adorable and exotic and I have loved our journey together.

Where do you live? Where are you from? If those are different, can you tell us a little about what inspired your move?

I live in Jacksonville, Florida, but I am originally from Salt Lake City, Utah. After I moved back from Spain, I finished my degree at the University of Utah and my husband joined the American military and we were stationed first in Jacksonville. We loved it so much, we stayed when he got out.

If you would describe yourself as multi-cultural, tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why. What culture do your kids most associate with?

I think the best way that describes us is maybe “split personality”. Since we live here and we all work/go to school in American schools, we are very American, but we try to keep the things we like from Spain. For example, my husband is the chef of the home and cooks a lot of Mediterranean food.

Can you describe a typical day for you?

Because my husband has lived here for about 17 years- he has adapted the most to the American way of life. However, we visit Spain at least once every year or two and it curbs our (my husbands specifically) homesickness. We are your “all-American” family, with a Spanish side to us.

What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?

Here in the States we can have a great life. Economically, we can have a better quality of life here. In Europe, especially Spain, economic times are tough. We enjoy the quality of life and safety from living in the suburbs.

The worst part is possibly the food- we hate fast food and hate that our country is basically killing themselves slowly with a poor diet.

What books or films would you recommend someone who’d like to know more about your country?

We recently saw the movie “There Be Dragons” about the Spanish Civil War. A great movie.

What language or languages do you use on a day to day basis?

We speak mostly English but we are also bilingual and speak Spanish (Castillian or Castellano) My husband, my oldest son, and I are fluent. Our two little ones (ages 10, and 7 are not, but understand quite a bit.)

Tell me about a national hero in your country (can be anyone- living or not, internationally famous or not). Who are they and what are they admired for?

Since my husband and sons watch sports they LOVE Iker Casillas (soccer), Nadal (Tennis), Alonso( Formula One), and Sergio Garcia (golf)

 Tell me about your favorite holiday, and what cultural traditions you practice to celebrate on that day.

Christmas is the best- we celebrate Reyes Magos (the Three Wise Men on Jan. 6th too)

Describe a favorite typical meal from your country (include photos if you like!)

Favorite meal are so many things from Spain- like I said my husband cooks and he is better than any restaurant! He makes Pollo Al Ajillo (chicken in garlic and olive oil and white wine), Paella (rice dish), and Flan (custard) for dessert. My FAVORITE is Cordero (lamb) they make it with garlic, olive oil, wine (Malaga Virgen) and rosemary.

What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?

Spaniards look nothing like South Americans. They are Europeans and are light skinned and many have blonde hair. They also are surprised when they see Madrid (the capital) it is very similar to Paris and very European. I think because of the Spanish language they associate more with South American, but the truth is they are European and have more of a feel of  French than any South American country.

May 24, 2012 Comments disabled

Roger’s Multi-Cultural Family Living in Cape Town

 

Roger is a Kenyan currently living in Cape Town, South Africa as the proud father and husband in a truly multi cultural family. His wife is Austrian, and sons were born in Botswana and Scotland. Read more about Roger’s experiences raising children in the beautiful city of Cape Town, and what surprises people most about his home country of Kenya.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself. How would your friends or family describe you?

I’m from Nairobi in Kenya but have not lived there for almost fifteen years. I currently live in Cape Town and I’m an IT Professional working at the University of Cape Town. My family and I have moved around a bit over the years and moved here a couple of years ago from Edinburgh. We have two cheerful little boys and we hope to stay in Cape Town for the medium term at least. It’s very nice here.

I like simple things and perhaps might be described as a simple person with an open mind towards most things. I’m sure that a penchant for good ale would be added into a description of me at some point.

Can you tell us a little about what inspired your move from Kenya to South Africa?

I left Kenya in 1998 to go and study in South Africa. I quite enjoyed Johannesburg and ended up getting a job and staying there for four years before moving on to Botswana and then the UK and eventually ending up back to South Africa again ten years later. It has been quite an amazing period in my life during which, and most significantly, I got married and we’ve been blessed with two lovely boys.

If you would describe yourself as multi-cultural, tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why. What culture do your kids most associate with?

Though it might not be very obvious to my friends, I’m very proud of my culture. I come from the Kikuyu tribe in Kenya but do not speak the language very well. Why? I really can’t say. It’s just one of those things that baffle everyone including my parents who have other children who speak it flawlessly. I understand it perfectly, but the words just don’t roll of my tongue the way they should. I’ve been practicing for many years but have finally resigned myself to the fact that eyebrows will always be raised whenever I try and speak it.

Multi-cultural? I would say yes. My first born son was born in Botswana where we lived for five years, and his brother born in Scotland a few years later. We really loved living in both those countries and I would say absorbed a lot of the local culture and still have very good friends there. Oh, and did I mention that my wife is Austrian?

My kids are what I recently discovered to be third culture kids where they don’t identify with either parents culture and adopt amalgamate cultures from outside where either parent was born.

Can you describe a typical day for you?

When you have little children, there’s no such thing as a typical day. The morning always begins explosively with a an ever varying mixture of drama and emotions stretching from wet beds to lost cardigans as we attempt to herd our charges through the morning motions of getting them ready for school. A more complete description of a typical weekend for us can be found in this piece I wrote a while back. Are weekends with kids fun?

What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?

Cape Town is a very beautiful city that has endless opportunities for having a good time. It’s a bit like going on a beach holiday and never leaving. Having to work during the day does little to dull that feeling. Even as I write this, I’m looking out the window at Table Mountain and thinking that I will never tire of the view. Even the traffic is nowhere nearly as bad as some places I’ve lived in. It takes me twenty minutes to drive home from work.

The absolute worst thing about this place is the latent racism. I still get stared at when I go into the local pub and I’m consistently the only person of colour. I’m guessing that it will take a couple more generations to see the apartheid hangover finally end. I don’t let it bother me too much though and I go where I want, when I want, and people eventually just get on with their lives.

What books or films would you recommend someone who’d like to know more about your country?

Barack Obama’s book Dreams From my Father has a section about his experiences in Kenya that capture many aspects of our culture very well. Excellent book that. The recent movie The Third Grader is not too bad, though it only captures a small aspect of the whole culture. There’s a lot more to Kenya than that. A book that I’m currently reading – One day I will write about this place by Binyavanga Wainania – quite nicely captures my experience of Kenyan culture.

What language or languages do you use on a day to day basis?

I mostly speak English and get to speak Swahili and some Sheng whenever I meet my Kenyan friends. I very rarely speak Kikuyu. I listen to German being spoken in my house all the time. It’s almost as if I’m not there. I understand it quite well though, but shy away from speaking it unless cornered. My three year old is already better at it than I am. 

What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?

Kenya has a very vibrant night life and a populace that loves being in it. It is my opinion that it is because Kenyans are very friendly people who love their beer and love to laugh.

I think this always catches a first time visitor to Nairobi by surprise. In my opinion, that was once called humble, it is the party capital of the world.

May 11, 2012 3 comments

Aslak: Enjoying the outdoors and family life in Oslo, Norway

Culture shock in your own country? Absolutely! Read more to hear about Aslak’s fondness for Norway and particularly Oslo, how fantastic the outdoor and family oriented lifestyle is there, and how it feels to have culture shock when coming back home.

Where do you live? Where are you from?

I am from Oslo, Norway. Oslo is the capitol of Norway. The city it self has about 600.000 people and Norway is just about to become 5 million people. Apart from the 2 years I spent living in Barcelona, Spain and 2 x 1/2 year living in the US (Texas, Utah, Minnesota) I have lived here my entire life and I am very fond of the city.

Can you describe a typical day for you?

A typical day for me is all about family and work. My wife and I try to share the responsibilities at home equally, so that I normally take care of
the mornings and she takes care of the afternoons. That means that in a typical day I get up early and make breakfast for the kids, fill their lunch
boxes and make sure they get safely to school and kindergarten. After that I have a 30-40 minute commute to work. I work as a consultant but my clients are mainly centrally located in Oslo so I rarely have to do extensive traveling. Most days I can ride my bicycle to work.

After a full day’s work I rush home. It seems there is always some football (soccer) match, handball practice, parents meeting at school or something going on, so I normally just manage to get through the door before heading back out again.

Once the day’s activities are over and the kids are in bed I pick up the computer again and put in a couple of hours of work before heading to bed.

I know you lived in Spain for a couple of years. Did that experience change your view of your own country at all? If so, how?

Yes. The same thing has happened to me both when returning from studies in the US and in Spain, although I was more prepared for it the second time around. The thing is, that when moving abroad you are mentally prepared for the fact that there will be cultural differences. When returning home, you are not expecting there to be any differences, since this is “your own” culture. However, you have accustomed to your new culture and can actually experience a small cultural shock. This can be small things and it can be big things.

When returning from the US I was surprised by how rude Norwegians are. While as in the US, someone would say “excuse me” while passing you with a 2 feet distance in a supermarket isle, people in Norway can literally bump into you without even acknowledging that you are there.

What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?

Oslo has a great nature with great outdoor possibilities very close to the city core. The city is surrounded by a forest (“Marka”) which can be used
for skiing in the winter time and walking, running, bicycling, fishing, camping and more in the summertime. In the summertime the Oslofjord provides great opportunities for swimming, fishing, boat life and even beach life(!) as well.

There is also a broad acceptance in the Norwegian work life for having family obligations to attend to. Even in client situations it is most of the
time OK to reschedule a 4 o’ clock meeting because you have to pick up your kids at the kindergarten.

Of the things I like the least about Norway is a tendency among people to try to pull other people down, especially if they are successful and know
it/ show it. Going your own ways and achieving success is jealously looked down upon. There’s a poem in a book from the 1930s quoting a “law” starting with the line “you should not believe you are something” and it goes on “you should not believe you are as good as us”. All Norwegians are familiar with this law and even though not accepting to conformity is more accepted than ever, the tendency is still there.

What language or languages do you use on a day to day basis?

Norwegian, obviously, and I read and watch news, books, movies etc in English. No Spanish, desafortunadamente.

Tell me about a national hero in your country (can be anyone- living or not, internationally famous or not). Who are they and what are they admired for?

I will go for Roald Amundsen. 100 years ago (14th of December 1911 to be exact) he was the first man to reach the south pole beating the British Robert Scott. Winning the “race” to the South Pole and beating the British was an incredible achievement. For a small and new Nation (we got our independence from the Swedes in 1905) it had great significance far beyond the individual achievement. Skiing is Norway’s national sport and Norwegians take great pride in staying outdoors. Even today explorers and adventurers are greatly respected and admired in Norway.

Tell me about your favorite holiday, and what cultural traditions you practice to celebrate on that day.

The 17th of May! In 1814 Norway got its constitution and the day is celebrated with great children parades in the streets of every city and small town. The National day is all about creating a great party for children.

What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?

There are no polar bears in the streets! Definitely not in Oslo, and not even anywhere on the Norwegain main land. (There are however polar bears in Svalbard, a Norwegian island far north).

March 29, 2012 Comments disabled