It is official! My sister has finally booked her plane ticket which means my whole family will be for my vow renewal in about five weeks. Granted ‘whole family’ means my mum and my sister. I come from a very small family where both my grandmothers died before I was born and grew up with not a single cousin. However if my dad was still alive you bet he would be here in a heart beat to support us. I could not feel more blessed or more excited to see my kin.
Unfortunately I found out a couple of days ago that my husband will only have his father here to celebrate our ten years of marriage. Despite years of rocky relationships with his side of the family we still have held out that change could happen. That they would accept us a family. The problems all boil down to not meeting expectations and misunderstandings in our cross cultural relationship. However you do not need a Third Culture Kid upbringing outside the US for this happen. This could be the same situation with couples from families in different parts of the US with how vast and different the culture is through out the country.
We, my husband and I, wanted this celebration to finally bring together the two families. We can see how most of all the problems have arisen while on my in law’s turf. My husband and I thought that having his family around my family and our friends and in our home country would help them assimilate to how our family works. As a third culture kid and an American raised abroad there are many aspects of our life that they have not understood nor accepted. From moving around a lot I know the easiest way to understand a new culture is to fully immerse yourself in it and get to know the people. That was our hope from this summer. I was finally excited to not have to ‘act’ a certain way or pretend to be someone we were not just when his parents were around because they live by different expectations.
It makes me sad for my husband. Especially because I know how close he and my dad became and how proud he would be to support us. I am also sad for our my kids. This is not the first time they have missed out on time with grandparents because of self imposed drama. Last summer after a confrontation with my mother in law she left the state for several weeks, only wanting to return after I was back in England. I wish I could say I am the root cause for it all, but it just happens over and over again. It is unfortunate. However not all families talk about the problems. They happen, no one addresses it and then they smile and act like nothing happens until it carries on into the next blow up. It is not healthy and though I cannot force my in laws to like me or to be here and support us I can share with you lessons I have learned from it all.
Be Assertive. I talk about things in my family. I use things that happen in life and in current events to teach my children life lessons and to open up conversation. I do not believe in covering up the truth with sugar coated stories. I really think the worst thing you can do is to not talk about something. If I am having a bad day I would rather my husband know about it, than hope that he has magically gotten a sixth sense between when he left for work and when he got home. You have to be assertive and act.
We have the power of choice. You can choose how you act or react to situations. I chose to Let Go when it came to things out of my control. I also choose to be honest to my blog. I love to take photographs and it is nice to be complimented on them, but I feel in turn I like to be open with my thoughts. I think the worst thing is to be alone, to feel alone, or to have no one to talk too. If you feel that way, feel free to talk with me as I have been there before. It is through talking and through letting go that we can live life as adults and enjoy each precious day we are blessed with in our life.
Q: Have you ever experienced trials with families when it comes to different expectations or cultural differences? How have you gotten through it?
“But still the clever north wind was not satisfied. It spoke…of towns yet to be visited, friends in need yet to be discovered, battles yet to be fought” – Chocolat
|With my husband, our sons, my sister Zoë, and my mum aka ‘Nonna’ at Christmas when we moved to Bath, England.|
1. Go back to school. Enroll yourself into school or sign up for a workshop. Sometimes all we need is a sense of direction. Perhaps this means embarking on a new career path or finishing a degree. Perhaps it is as simple as taking a night class for a new hobby you have always wanted to try. Even just trying something completely new to step out of your comfort zone can be the difference of wanting to runaway and finding your new path. My husband found his new path after the military by enrolling for a masters programme abroad in England. For me, now that we are here, I have wanted to take an adult ballet course or get back into horseback riding (a childhood passion I once enjoyed). The point is to expand your mind for learning and let the new opportunities and relationships that will occur from it take place.
I work as a photographer but for a hobby I started taking weekly self portraits.
2. Read a Book. I love to read because it is within a book that you can transport yourself to a new world or reality. Tolkien has always been a favourite of mine since my dad used to read the Hobbit to me as a small girl. Now I like to escape to the top of Solsbury Hill (ref to the Peter Gabriel song) outside my back garden and read when I need an escape. Join GoodRead online to see what books your friends are reading or find a local book club that you can join. The later could be a great way to meet new people as well.
|Sharing my love of Harry Potter by reading it to my boys. Their reward for each finished book is to see the film for the first time.|
3. Learn a New Language. My only regret is not being fluent in another language. I moved to often and too frequently between countries of other languages to become fluent in the country. I have yet to stick with a language program to keep it up. I am always trying to go back to learning Italian and have high hopes for learning another three languages. For me the struggle is not having anyone with whom I can practice a new language. Join a class, club, or group where you can practice your language. Maybe find an online penpal through the blogging sphere that you can do language practice with through a Google Hangout. It might just inspire you on a new vacation where you can really put that language study into practice.
|By learning a new language you break down a barrier to be opened up to many more relationships.|
4. Try a New Recipe. Whether you are a gourmet chef at heart or just try to not burn water when making pasta, you can find inspiration through cooking. I find the best part of cooking is being able to share it with others so maybe plan a special dinner or host a small party. Find a country or a theme to prepare foods around. Maybe you once traveled to South East Asia and want to reminisce your trip. If you find yourself homesick, take a positive turn and learn to cook something new from your home’s local cuisine.
|Last Autumn my BFF, though miles away, sent me her crust recipe and I made my first pie.|
5. See your current location through new eyes. More specifically younger eyes. Whether you have your own kids or are friends with those younger and shorter beings it can be a refreshing advantage point. I honestly would miss out on so much if I didnt talk to my kids about what they experience in life. I like to give my kids cameras and we will go out on a walk and take photographs. Being able to see our surroundings through their eyes (and their much shorter heights) always opens my mind and heart to more than what I would normally perceive.
|Normally I would walk past a pile of leaves, but when out with my kids in London it became a playground filled with laughter.|
6. Play the Tourist. It is really easy to take things for granted when you live somewhere. The easiest way to see your current surroundings through a new light is to pretend like you are only just visiting for the first time. Grab a tour guide book or go on a bus tour of your city. Experience the places you have seen before and explore the places you have yet to have seen. Perhaps there is a new restaurant that you have yet to try out. Or that museum you have been meaning to check out but have yet to go inside. Grab your camera and document your day out.
|My kids picked up local maps and guides from the rail station and we went off exploring.|
7. Meet Somebody New. This is easier done when you are younger or enrolled in school. If you find yourself always at home or always around the same people, find a reason to meet new people. Perhaps you signed up for a lecture or a weekend wine tasting. Maybe you decided to volunteer in your local area. Maybe now is the time to finally meet your neighbours. However you go about it make new friends with people and see how it opens your world view.
|I (third from the left) attended a Live Blogging Show at Bristol Fashion Week and met new bloggers and friends.|
8. Fall in Love. I have heard it said that if it was easy to fall in love, we would all be in love. However falling in love can make a place you felt lost in become a place refreshed with purpose and give you a reason to stay. Maybe you are already married and so you feel this option does not apply to you. There are many types of love and perhaps it is the right time to fall in love with a sweet animal from the shelter who needs a new home. Or maybe you find a way to fall in love with your current city. Life is filled with so much purposed when you surround yourself with love. It could be as easy as just ridding your life of toxicity to find the love that already exists.
|I found my happiness by falling in love with my husband all over again as we experience the new life as Expats.|
9. Plan Ahead. Just because you do not need to move or travel far away at this moment does not mean you cannot plan. I get most excited about planning out my new adventures. Sometimes its just comforting to pull out my travel book from the shelf and read through different countries I would love to explore next. You could start a Pinterest board of places you would like to visit. Make lists of the things you would like to do or see in a certain area. Talk to other bloggers who live in places where you would love to visit. Visit my MAP of Expat and Travel bloggers to find those who live in certain countries and start following their journeys.
10. Go on a Mini Break. While the definitions of a mini break can vary from person to person given your means and time allowances just getting a way for a little bit can help bring you focus. Perhaps you are a busy mum who can only just get one day off to be pampered at the spa. Or perhaps you are a couple who can escape to the mountains for the weekend. Whatever fits your lifestyle find a way to get a way from the normal day to day life to recharge your batteries.
|While living in Brighton we took a mini break to Lewes, where Anne of Cleaves had a house, and stayed at a luxurious B&B for our anniversary.|
The ‘Sunday Roast’ of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roasted or mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, and sometimes stuffing. It like a less grand version of Christmas dinner and my favourite thing to eat at the pub on a Sunday with my family.
Italy. Honestly I will nicely kick and scream before I have to eat Italian food in the USA because it 99.9% fails in comparison. What I love about the food in Italy is that it is as diverse as its dialects so for example pizzas in Florence are like a cracker crust, pizzas in the birth place of Naples practically melt in your mouth. Most of the food I have eaten in Italy (away from the touristy trap restaurants of course. Stay away from these as you will not only be over charged but it less quality) is made of simple but great ingredients. Italian food in the US always seems to have to have something crazy with it like giant meatballs or chicken, crazy cream sauces, or covered in cheeses. To be fair the best food and house wine I have had in many places in Italy has been in small hole in the wall restaurants or places where the locals frequent. Plus any country that boasts gelaterias that carry a multitude of gelato flavours is great in my book!
For my kids it is porridge made from porridge oats and with a little honey and cinnamon typically. I actually grew up on this breakfast staple as well. Here in England the typical breakfast is the traditional ‘Full English’ or a ‘Full Monty’. This includes back bacon, poached or fried eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, fried bread or toast with butter, sausages, baked beans, and a mug of tea. If you are extra lucky your breakfast will include my favourite black pudding, which is a blood sausage, or bubble and squeak. Bubble and squeak is made by mixing mashed potatoes with any left over vegetables and fried. I have to add that the bacon in England is not like the bacon you get back in the US. In the US it is thin strips and sometimes if it is on your plate it is more of a taste factor and less of a ‘fill you up’ factor. Here the cut of bacon is thick like a slice of ham at Easter and the taste puts American bacon to shame.
Mexican. By mexican, I mean the type of mexican food that can be found in San Diego, California where the taco shells do not resemble the ‘El Paso’ store bought brand but the home made round tortillas. Also boasting very spicy options. Mexican restaurants are very few here and the one we went too looked like it was catering to Americans who needed a break from only ordering fish and chips at every meal.
Not a particular food, but that you must go to a curry house, a typical Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant or takeway. Their menus can be quite extensive, so feel free to try something new every time. They are to England what mexican restaurants are to the USA. It was actually one of the things I was most looking forward too before we moved to England. Perfect for those nights that you do not want to cook.
Actually now that I think of it I think everyone should try Cassava, it is a large white root and large source of carbohydrates. If not cooked and eaten it is highly toxic. If cooked it tastes amazing and is a perfect alternative to a white potato. It is one of my favourites!
Being that I have always moved and have not had a ‘home’ per se I do not know how to quite answer this question as an expat normally would. However from an eating stand point, blood sausage is something both my husband and I thought was initially gross. I remember seeing this before and in other countries, like Germany, growing up in Europe. However we have both had it here and have cooked it here for our breakfast at home and we love it. Referred here as Black pudding, it is a type of sausage made by cooking blood or dried blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled. It sounds revolting to me, however the way it looks prepared and the way it tastes, I would never had known thats what I was eating. It is so tasty and a favourite with my sons as well.
Also I have always loved ‘Beans on Toast’ which is not like american baked beans, but the English Heinz beans. It is a favourite dish that is hard to prepare in the US because I have to find an British shop of imports. Here it is a great staple especially for my boys’ tea.
In the neighbouring country of Scotland of the UK, I still find haggis to be quite odd. Then again I have never tried it. Marmite is quite odd, but it is loved at home house on buttered crumpets or toast.
Hawaii and the food from the shrimp truck up in North Shore.
- Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup. Though a soup, we ate this sometimes twice a week in Hawaii. It was also perfect cure all.
- Fro Yo. These were all over Hawaii and still popping up new chains while we were on the island. I loved ordering the plain yogurt flavour and topping it with fruit, granola, and some mini chocolate chips.
- Shaved Ice. Especially the kind found in Hawaii that is not icy at all, but almost like eating finally grained snow. You can get it there over beans and covered in condensed milk.
Meat. In California and Hawaii where my husband and I lived before we ate a lot of vegetarian or vegan options. I liked meat, but was not crazy about it. When you read about how food is processed in the US, it really does not make you want to eat that much of it. When we moved to England my husband, who already loves to cook, was really enjoying the ingredients he could find just at our grocery store or local butchers. We now eat mainly paleo which is mostly protein/meat and vegetables. I’ve probably eaten more meat in the two years we have lived in England than any two years in the last ten years I lived in the US. That surprises me and I’m still surprised how much I enjoy the way the meat here tastes. Theres something to say about the ingredients you can get and how it can make or break a meal.
I did a vacation with my parents where we toured all over Europe using the trains. One of our many destinations was Oslo, Norway and it still stick out in my mind as one of the most amazing and beautiful places I have ever been too in my life. I remember getting of the train and stopping at a scenic restaurant outside to enjoy strawberries and sparkling water and loving our destination. I really look forward to returning there soon with my husband and sons.
And now for the givewaway! The winner will receive once month of free ad space on each blog listed above. The more entries you complete, the better chance you have at winning. Remember that the winner will be verifed.
Day 3, Friday: Things that make you uncomfortable
Traveling with or being around the ‘Ugly Tourist’ makes me very much uncomfortable. Given that I stand out already with an American accent if you are an offender from the US of A, I will want to put as much distance between us as possible. Coincidentally I have movstly lived in highly touristy areas giving me plenty of run ins with the Ugly Tourist. While some can be outrageously obnoxious I have realized others are just ignorant to traveling outside of your country. You cannot correct what you do not know to be wrong. Perhaps this will be enlightening to some to help you in your upcoming travels abroad. For the rest of you who want to run for the hills when getting too close to these un-savvy travelers, feel free to comment below with your own stories.
|We sat on the beach and the scene was simple put: serenity.|
|Greg Long won the Eddie 2009/2010 surfing invitational.|
|Super excited to say I have seen Kelly Slater surf in person. Awesome.|
|With my son Maddox at Waimea Bay beach park for the Eddie 2009/2010|
|The Eddie is sponsored by Quiksilver. http://quiksilverlive.com/eddieaikau/2013/|