Friends in All the Right Places

Recently a friend in Denmark announced she was moving to Paris. So I, of course, did what any expat would do.

I reached out to a British woman I met in Cyprus who now lives in Warsaw but used to live in Paris to ask her about schools. Then I got in touch with another British women who lived in Copenhagen before me (she moved to New York and I gave her some tips), and now lives in Paris.

Simple, right?

The British friend from Cyprus who used to be in Paris but is now in Warsaw is soon moving to Ottawa. So I promised her I would hook her up with the folks I know from Copenhagen who are in Ottawa.

Paris? Check!

Next I got in touch with an American woman and a Kiwi by way of Oz, both of whom I know from Denmark who now live in The Hague (though one is soon moving to the US)  to see if I could hook them up with a Brit who came to Denmark via Qatar and is now going Dutch.

Den Hague? Check!

As I was tapping out messages and typing requests, I was astounded at the sheer size and capacity of the global network that hums along behind the scenes. And no one’s the wiser.

Forget the movers and the shakers, the back room deals and the golf club promises, there is a whole lot of dealing going on in FB messenger chats, closed social media groups and list serves. Got a question about moving your goods from Singapore to Seattle? Post a question and you’ll have sixty-four answers within five minutes, from the container companies who will break your Great Aunt Agnes’s china to the ones with the hunkiest haulers. Want to know how the schools in Entebe compare with the ones in England? No problem. I guarantee you someone has the answer.

In a lifestyle in which your whole world can turn upside down with one layoff, one big oil company buyout, one dream job offer, information is currency.

And let me tell you, there’s a whole lot of trading going on. It’s like those old-fashioned telephone operators sitting in front of octopus tentacles wires, connecting one party to another.

Expat Moms. Getting shit done.

Signing the contract is the easy part. It’s the rest that haunts your dreams. Having to move is hard. Moving to a country you’ve never been before, not knowing where to start? That’s paralyzing.

There’s a village out there. And it’s organized and on social media. It’s a whisper network of expats, mostly women, out there helping other (mostly) women. Not for money or fame or fortune, not even for the golden goose of an expat package, but just generally out of kindness, and a desire to help, and the kinship which comes with moving to a country not your own.

That ready-made global community at your disposal–it gets lost in all the wheeling and dealing, the packages, the glitz and glamor (as if!) of moving abroad. But its important.

Information and advice about schools and sports programs, neighborhoods, where to find gluten-free groceries for your celiac child, where the best cardiologist is for your son with a heart problem. How to get around, where to go, what to do, where to stash your mother when she comes for a visit. Buy or lease, take off your shoes or not, what do I need to bring with me from home, how are the OTC drugs??

I have an eight year old, a three year old, and an incontinent terrier, where’s the best place to look for a house and doggy diapers in Dubai? 

I need to fly back and forth to care for an ailing parent, where’s the best place in Uruguay to secure an au pair who drives, cooks Thai, and speaks Mandarin ? 

Don’t get me wrong. A package is nice. But so is having a list of schools to look at before you hit the ground, especially if it means you can cross a few off your list. A paycheck is necessary, but on the ground advice about which neighborhoods to skip and which to put on your wish list? That’s the real deal.

All of the things which help smooth the transition, which help keep the nibbling anxiety at bay. Schools, housing, childcare, doctors. Tips and tricks. Advice and areas to avoid. Dos and Don’ts. Musts and Mustn’ts.

It’s all there. Yours for the taking. Or the asking. You just need friends in the right places. Or friends who have friends who used to be in the right places who might know someone who might know a gal.

 

 

 

 

 

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I get by with a little help from my friends (Introducing Pay it Forward Friday)

Photo:  bbc.co.uk
Photo: bbc.co.uk

If you are of a certain age, you may remember a time when everything you needed to know fit neatly into 26 alphabetized volumes.

Not so much these days.

The amount of information available, at our literal fingertips, is overwhelming.  Research a rash and you’ve got lyme disease, scabies, pancreatic cancer or perhaps just dry skin.  Google some advice on how to treat a rash and you need to go gluten-free, caffeine free, wine free, go live in yurt in Nepal and only wear yak hair sweaters.  (Yes, I have a rash).  Sometimes the amount of information is so vast and consuming that it’s best to just unplug the router and go to bed with a good book, the old-fashioned kind.  There is a lot of pap, crap and nonsense out there, but there’s also some great stuff.  Blogging has given a virtual voice to many talented, creative, and insightful folk.  I typically visit a lot of blogs in the course of a day.  Sometimes it is just a brief glimpse to see if it is something I find interesting, sometimes I stick around and navigate my way around someone else’s weird thought trains and am amused, enlightened, and entertained.  I may only follow a limited number, but I check in to a lot more.

Where is this going, you may ask?  About a month ago on Facebook there was a chain status making the rounds called Creative Pay it Forward.  In a moment of questionable sanity, perhaps too much wine, I signed on.  Of course now I am left with having to come up with 5 creative projects at some point in the calendar year.  Luckily, my five guinea pigs were mostly family members, so if it comes down to the wire, I can mail off a five dollar bill in a cheesy Hallmark card Nana style and be done with it.  But it got me to thinking.  Why not do the same with blogs?

So I’ve decided that on Fridays I will use my blog post to pay it forward by featuring other blogs that I think are worth a look.  Blogs that perhaps someone who follows mine may not know about, may not stumble across, may not think about clicking on.  So for my inaugural post, I introduce to you:

iScandineighbour

IMG_1217
Paper wreath (Photo: iScandineighbour)

iScandineighbour (iscandineighbour.blogspot.dk) is written by an English ex-pat living in Denmark.  What’s unique about iScandineighbour’s blog is that she embraces Denmark and Danish culture not as an outsider trying to make everything familiar, but as an opportunity to taste, to live like, and to experience what makes Denmark unique.  Always creative, she is like a modern Martha Stewart, but much younger, hipper and hasn’t (to my knowledge) done any time for tax evasion.  The blog is filled with her creative endeavors, from cooking to crafting, interspersed with her personal Denmark.

Photo: iScandineighbour
Photo: iScandineighbour

Doublewhirler

Doublewhirler (doublewhirler.wordpress.com) is a husband and wife blogging team, fairly new to the scene but taking to it like the proverbial duck.  Filled with beautiful photographs, travel experiences, and the connections between travel, photography, and social media, it is always lovely to look at and insightful to read.  With years of combined travel experiences between them, they oscillate between their current New York City location and their memories and photographs (both shared and individual) of the places they’ve been, the people they’ve met, and how eventually, it all comes together.   Their background, which mixes design and diplomacy, offers a unique insight into the world around them as well as the world at large.

Photo:  doublewhirler
Ansonia (Photo: doublewhirler)
Photo:  doublewhirler
Rockefeller (Photo: doublewhirler)
Photo:  doublewhirler
Thorn trees (Photo: double whirler)

So there you go.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on paying it forward, blog style.  Do you have a blog not your own you want to share?  Pass it along, paste it in a comment and I will take a look, and hopefully others will too.  Happy sharing.  May the karma be with you.

p.s.  My husband informed me that there is a similar movement on twitter on Fridays, but I don’t tweet, twit or titter, so I wasn’t aware of it.  Honestly, I don’t understand the whole hash tag thing no matter how many times he explains it to me.  But in any event, if it is something you do, it may work there as well.  Happy tweeting.