Happy Abroad: for everyone who wants to live happily abroad!

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New website: Happy-Abroad.com!

Dear Friends,

You might be asking, why I have not updated this blog recently… and there is a good and nice reason for it 🙂
Now we have a separate website: www.happy-abroad.com! =)

And there are already many interesting articles and materials on happy life abroad, so come in and check!

See you at happy-abroad.com!

Yours Margarita

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Coming back home: happy moments or just another cultural shock?

You live abroad and time to time you come back to your “home” country (i.e. a place where you grew up, where your family lives) to visit your family, friends. Even if you were not born there, you have spent there quite an important part of your life/childhood; thus part of yourself is always there. For me this “special place” is Riga, Latvia. Here is the scenario, which usually happens when I go back “home”[1], may be you will find there some patterns, which you also have:

First day: everything is great! You see your beloved ones, give gifts, see how surroundings have changed since your last visit. It is lovely to see all these people, places.

Second day: first disagreements arise. For example, my family tends to eat meals at weird times for me – the time which is too early or too late; their morning and evening habits are different from mine and different from the ones I used to have when I lived in Latvia. One of biggest tortures for me is the TV: my family spends most of their evenings watching TV, which means that if I want to spend some time with them, then I have to watch TV. During the first days it’s a real torture (taking into account that usually I do not watch TV).

Third day: meet other people, friends. Most of them complain about local life, they think that they live almost in the worst place in the world. Oh dear! If they ever knew that this place is actually quite nice. They just do not know how to value the things which they have, as they seem to be obvious for them. For example, Italians start to value good, sunny weather mainly when they move abroad.  I realized how clean, organized Latvia is only when I lived in other places (Western European countries, by the way).

Further days: you get used to live in a “new” environment, life stabilizes. And here are two options of further scenario:

  1. you either start missing the place where you live (your “new” homeland) or
  2. you feel so good staying with your family, old friends, that you do not want to return.

For instance, I sometimes miss Italian pasta, miss a possibility to have long walks in the city (it’s not that in Riga people do not walk, it’s just not very common due to not very nice weather), I miss emotionality of people – in Latvia even my closest friends hug only at big celebrations, such as a Birthday party or a Wedding. Thus feelings of “miss” exist, but not every time. For example, during my last visit to Riga in April, I was pretty happy, I guess it was because I stayed the right amount of time – not too short, not too long. Is it possible to stay “too long”? I believe yes, as when you visit your “old home” you are travelling, you are not into everyday routine. How long is it possible to stay out of routine (i.e. not studying, not working, not doing the activities you usually do)? I think not too long, unless you decide to stay longer and develop your new routine.

So tell me, have you ever experienced a shock when you visited your “home” country, visited your family and childhood friends? Or may be you are always happy? Did you want to come back as soon as possible to your “new” home? (I did…)


[1] In this article I can call this place “fatherland/homeland”, but for me “home” now is more the place where I am living at the moment.

How to speak a foreigner language and not sound like a foreigner?

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2125Accent. Lately it has become one of my challenges Nr.1. For some time I have tried to ignore it. But now I have decided to explore, what I can do to improve the situation. Where is the problem you might ask? Well, I speak 5 languages and am learning another 2 and in ALL languages (including my native) I speak with an accent.

Where from did it come? I studied in High School in Russian with some subjects in Latvian, then University was in Latvian-English, the last year of university I studied in Germany, in German. Then I moved to the UK and used English and Russian at work. When I did my Masters in UK and in Italy, the studies were in English and Italian. Now I live inRome and use Italian, English, Russian at work. So the last 10 years of my life I constantly had to use different languages every day.

The first issue arose after I finished Bachelors – I realised that I started speaking Russian, my native language, with an accent. Most likely it was because I have not used it a lot in everyday life. Now, when I come back to Latvia, people tend to think that I am a foreigner who managed to learn very well Latvian and Russian.

The easiest solution which you can find is “look at the locals and try to imitate their sounds, how they speak”. Well, in Italy I lived in Siena and Rome, and in these two places people speak very different language. Actually now I realised that the more you move, the more difficult it is to start speaking “without an accent”, as accent ALWAYS existas, and “speaking without an accent” means only that you speak like locals, but if you change towns, the accent might change.  Here, in Rome, I have Italian, American, English, German, Arabic and other friends and it is normal for me to speak 3-4 languages a day. So is it actually possible for me to speak without an accent?

One friend of mine, an opera singer, manages to speak without an accent even without mastering too much the language. Well, it is her gift “to hear the language”. But I think we could learn it, too, like learning the music sounds.

While trying to find more information on the web on how to get rid of an accent, I found this very interesting article, written by  Anthea Fraser Gupta “Ask the Linguist FAQ: Accents”, you can find it here. They offer some obvious, but at the same time the most practical tips on how to speak with a particular accent:

  • “Identify the accent you want to speak.
  • Expose yourself to the accent you want as much as possible.
  • Try to get some friends who speak with the accent you want.
  • Try to make sure you are not mixing with people who will criticise you for changing your accent.”

Hmmm I think in my case it is hard to achieve even one of these points. My main goal is to speak a language and not sound like foreigner. However I guess for Americans even British English might sound like strange…  What concerns exposure – I have so many different friends, that it is hardly possible to separate the groups and mix with one and ignore all others. So I guess in my case I better use an advice of Suzette Hayden Elgin and practice speaking without a “foreigner” accent, using audio recordings (the description of this technique I found in the article mentioned above).

Other interesting tips I found were:

  • Find which muscles are used in language you want to improve and exercise these muscles
  • Observe how native speaker speaks your own language – if person speaks with a strong accent, his/her mistakes in pronunciation will show you the main differences in your languages, which you can use to master your pronunciation and improve your accent.

More information on this method, you can find in the article “Secrets of Speaking with a Genuine Accent” by Owen Lee here.

Good luck! And let’s share our progress or may be other issues or tips on accent in the comments 🙂

P.S. If you liked this article, share it with your friends! That’s so easy, but at the same time could be helpful to others!

New: online course “Happy Abroad”

I am excited to announce the launch of the new on-line course “Happy Abroad”, and you know what? You are one of the first ones to know about it!

When: course starts on 26thApril

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=659How much: it is a pilot course, therefore it is FREE, but hurry up, places are limited!
How to join: write to newabroad@gmail.com, explaining in 2-3 sentences why you would like to take part.
Contents: the course consists of 10 lessons. Each lesson is devoted to a particular issue on life abroad. Every week you will receive one lesson with an explanation and a practical exercise. Here is the example of some of the topics covered:

  • Planning and preparation.
  • How to find work abroad and integrate successfully into team at work.
  • How to find new friends in new place.

Should I join? Life abroad in general is a valuable experience, but it is up to you whether you will use 5% or 100% of its value. The course “Happy Abroad” will show you how to use your experience up to maximum, it will help you to discover all beauties of the life abroad and will prepare you for possible challenges.
Questions? If you have any questions, feel free to write to newabroad@gmail.com

April’s wind of change

Dear Friend!

As you might have already guessed, this blog is undergoing some changes, both in design and in content. Do not worry, I am not going to delete the valuable advices on how to find a job abroad or what to do before moving abroad.

However I have decided to add to the blog a “personal touch”. And from now on, in this blog you will find not only general information on life abroad, but every week I will share with you one of the challenges that I meet while living abroad, and explain how do I deal with it.

Let me know what you think about this novelty, new design and see you next week! Have a great time!

Margarita

How to find work abroad?

Work abroad. Where?Actually, it is similar to finding a job in your home country, however there are some nuances which should be taken into account. Before you continue reading the article, please note, that in the end of it you will not find a job vacancy waiting for you, however if you follow all the recommendations listed it can help you in your job searching process quite a lot.

First of all, you have to be clear with yourself:

  • Why do you want to work abroad?
  • To earn money
  • To see the world
  • To get new experience
  • To escape from problems in the home country
  • ….

Understanding your motivation is important, as it helps to prevent possible mistakes. For example, if you are going abroad to escape from certain problems, are you sure that they will not reoccur in the new place? Most likely they will. So it is worth solving them first.

Other important questions to respond are:

  • For how long are you going to work abroad? For 1 month/1 year/ forever?
  • Is there any particular goal to achieve? Do you want to get a degree? Earn certain amount of money? Learn new language? Marry?

Now, when the picture is clearer why you want to work abroad and for how long, you have to do a little research. Thus, things worth checking before leaving/applying/accepting the job:

  • International and local salary in this particular country (please note that for locals and expatriates it can differ).
  • Typical local benefits for this industry, for example inItaly lunch coupons are common. Other options could be: a particular pension scheme, gym pass etc.
  • What is standard CV for this country, what should and should not be included. For instance, in some countries CV without a photo will not be considered at all, whereas in others it could be eliminated just because there is a photo.

To be continued…

Move Abroad: think first, do next

Do you want to move abroad? Check the underwater stones before getting in the water!

Many people think that life abroad is easier, nicer and in general everything is better. Well, it has some advantages and disadvantages. A lot depends not only on the country/place, where you are going to live/living, but also on your attitude. This time let’s look at the points, which are important to check before moving to live abroad:

1. Think WHY do you want to move abroad, what are your reasons? Are you running away from problems? If so, stop! Solve the issues first and then move, otherwise you will get the same problems, just in the new place.

2. WHAT you will gain, what you will loose, are your gains greater than looses? Even if you are from the North Pole and now you are going to move to a sunny country in the South, where statistically is more sun and better fruits, it’s worth checking other aspects, too.  Think about your family, childhood friends, sweet home, favourite pet – are you ready to leave them all, and if yes what are your gains?

For example, make a table, similar to this one:

Gains

Looses

New experiences Miss home
Learn new language Spend all savings
Meet new friends Won’t have proper “home”
…. ….

3. Write down your expectations, i.e. HOW your life abroad will be. After you have written down everything what comes to your mind, check with the people who already lived in this country/town – are your expectations correct? Or may be some of them are just dreams?

4. WHEN? Is it the right moment to move abroad? Are you ready? Are your language skills adequate for what are you going to do? Are you physically, mentally and financially prepared?

Often people think that abroad grass is greener, water sweeter and food is tastier. All is relative. If you move abroad, because you think that everything there will be better and life will have no problems, then stop right now and have a look at the points above.  But hey, do not allow me or someone else to destroy your dreams! Just be prepared 😉

Some other questions to think of/discuss with your friends/write in comments:

– Is life abroad really better? Why?
– What is missing in the place you are living at the moment? May be you can get it in other way?

But if you are already living abroad:

–         Tell us, what else is important to know before starting life abroad?

–         Did your expectations meet the reality?

–         What was difficult/ what was easy in the beginning of your life abroad?