Expat to Expat: December

This past weekend was the Company’s Christmas party so some of us were flown down to London (yes, we were “flown down” just like last year’s party) for the party on Friday night and I stayed on an extra two days to spend some much needed quality time with my favorite engaged couple in Oxford! So, am I’m recovering from a whirlwind weekend here are December’s Expat to Expat questions. It’s about the holiday season and I figured I’d sprinkle in some iPhone photos from this year’s Christmas market.

Has your idea of the holiday season changed since becoming an expat?
It’s changed a little. I think that there are a few things here in Edinburgh that have morphed my idea of Christmas: like mulled wine and German Christmas markets! And Christmas in the UK isn’t that much different than in the States but it does feel almost more nostalgic in a way? And there’s no barrier holiday like Thanksgiving (i.e. my favourite holiday!) to keep all of the Christmas stuff at bay until December. New Year’s (aka: Hogmany) is really big here too and I like that.

How do you build new holiday traditions while keeping ones that remind you of “home”?
Our “home” traditions are pretty basic: eat and be merry! I do miss little things like my dad playing Salsa music or crowding on a couch to watch a movie or a Pernil roasting in the oven for a large Christmas dinner with our friends and family. The past two years have been much more… subdued, and that’s expected. I also feel like Will and I are still trying to figure out what our “traditions” are. I don’t know, ask me in five years!

What about you guys? Are there any family traditions you’ve started or have kept?

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Expat to Expat: November

Will update: Visiting Will in Tubingen was absolutely amazing! We had the best weekend ever! I only took my Minolta so you’ll have to wait for the pictures ;) But, Will has made some good friends through his hallmates, is doing really well in his classes, and is gaining more and more confidence in his German!

Ok, it’s time for Expat to Expat: November…

Cafe Rouge, Frederick Street, Edinburgh (taken with my Minolta, June 2013)

What advice would you give to your pre-expat self?

To take more control over my money. If we had been more strict with ourselves earlier on, it wouldn’t have been as difficult as it was to adjust to such a drastic change in income. I know it’s not a battle that’s won overnight, but Will and I would both fess up to not keeping good track of the money we made. We did pay off our credit cards and save up some money, but it was a scramble and with having to pay for visas and airline tickets and everything else that comes with moving across an ocean.

I’d also tell myself to start learning how to cook. It’s more that I wish I had started building up my confidance earlier on in the kitchen seeing as I do it sooooo much more now. There’s a reason why this isn’t a food blog ;) I do love baking, though!

How do you reconcile what you thought life would be like in your new home and how it is in actuality?

I have no clue. Honestly, I didn’t have any expectations. I left my home of 25 years and my family and friends. I have never had to do this before; not even for college (I went to college in Richmond too). There are a few things I’ve impressed myself with (making wonderful friends) and other things that I need to work on (not feeling entirely settled). It’s all a work in progress.

 

How about you guys? And not just expats. Are there aspects of your life you need to reconcile with your expectations and things you wish you had told your previous self?

Expat to Expat: October

Ok, it’s that time again to link up with other expats for Expat to Expat: What I am holding back?

How do your family and friends back home perceive your new life and is it accurate?

I can only assume that if all you read are my blog posts and Facebook statuses (statii?) my “new life” is probably perceived with a bit of a skewed lense. When we told everyone that we were moving to Scotland, the number one comment we heard was, “Oh, how exciting!”. Well, yes, it is exciting, and still is some of the time, but it’s also pretty normal. Europe does happen to be super affordable to get to and between my six weeks of holiday and Will’s student-like schedule we actually have the time to go as well. So, the travel opportunities are very exciting!

Rue Mandar, Paris

Do you find the need to edit your life from friends and family?

Duh! Living here has brought on some really cool opportunities but it’s also made life a little bit harder. We’ve had to make new friends, learn a new city, find a new church, live off of one income, and most recently, do this while being apart. I want so badly for people to see we’ve made the right decision so of course I’ll highlight all of the good things (i.e. month-long holidays and weekend jaunts around Europe) and then glaze over the bad (i.e. living off of a budget better suited for a 19 year old and  battling loneliness while Will and I are apart). I try to be as transparent as I can but that’s a fine line to walk.

 

So, there you have it. That’s what I’m hiding. Is there anyone else out there, expat or non-expat, that feels as though they struggle to find the correct way of being transparent with their life?

Expat To Expat: August/September

Clarendon Crescent

I just discovered Expat to Expat from My Life In Scotland so I’m linking up with a couple other expats for the months of August and September. I’ll be doing these monthly to be able to give you a little more insight into my “expat” life.

What is your favourite food store?
I don’t go there often (and it’s more expensive) but I love going to Waitrose! The store is always clean and the food packaging is beautiful and they have everything – food wise. But I get my groceries delivered from Tesco and my veggies and eggs from East Coast Organics.

Is it OK to buy store brand items or do you pay more for name brand?
I haven’t had any issues with store brands (from either Waitrose or Tesco) so I tend to just stick with them.

What is the best way to go around my city?
Edinburgh is really “walkable” and the buses are amazing here. I’d love to say it’s easy to ride my bike but it’s really hilly… need I say more?
Also, Edinburgh’s new “shame” are the Tramworks and apparently they’re scheduled to be up and running by May 2014. I think they’re intended to make City Centre more accessible to those who live outside of the centre so we’ll see how it all ends up.

Where is the best place to get a cup of coffee {or beverage you prefer} and catch up with friends?
For all of you coffee lovers I hear Artisan Roast and Brew Lab are the places to go. But, for me and my tea-loving-self, I love going to Lovecrumbs and Loudon’s. Loudon’s is close by and clean and their massive windows allow for a lot of natural light in (and in a city where we get an average of 50 sunny days a year, that’s really important). Lovecrumbs is, well, bliss. I get really excited when I go to Lovecrumbs because of their cakes! They get their tea from Anteaques and make their own homemade cakes and desserts every morning. And what’s tea without a delicious cake to accompany it?

What was your eureka, “I’m practically a native” moment?
Anytime someone asks me for directions (and I actually know how to get them there) is a little victory for me. It makes me feel like I look like I know my way around this city (little do they know… just kidding!). As well as any time I look right first before crossing the street. It’s the little things.

Does your accent get in the way?
Well, I don’t think it does but I spend a lot of time on the phone at work and so that has caused more problem on my end than theirs. If I say the word , “Scottish”, people tend to understand me better when I pronounce it “Sco-ish” with a slight accent.
But, you have go to check this video out about weird Scottish words! I’ve heard (and seen) a lot of these in action.

How do you fit into your new culture without losing some of your identity?
There have been some moments where I feel like maybe I was a bit abrasive in my comments or intrusive in my questions but that’s just me. I have that problem anywhere I go with anyone I meet. I do feel that I’ve been pretty fortunate to have made some friends that don’t laugh at my questions about how to “properly” serve tea and how to say certain words or how in God’s beautiful earth do you turn on an old gas oven. No joke. Will and I called our friend Ben to come over and teach me how to turn on my gas oven… which we realized that the pilot light was broken and I had to practically crawl in it and light a match to get it on… Sylvia Plath anyone?!

What do you think your biggest trigger for homesickness is?
Birthdays. My family does birthdays perfectly. And because my birthday is this weekend (Saturday, to be exact!) I’ve noticed, much like last year, I’m homesick and really missing my family a lot. I’m constantly wishing that I would wake up on Saturday morning with the expected “HAAAAAAAPPYYYYYYYY BIIIIIIIIRTHDAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYY!!” and birthday songs (we sing two birthday songs to the birthday person: the traditional birthday song and a Puerto Rican happy birthday song… feliz, feliz en tu dia…!) and cake and balloons and presents and lots of morning breath! Oh I love my family so much and I love how much we love each other.