Archive for 2010

Trailing Spouse Trivia

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

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by Chantal Panozzo

Probably a lot of you are like me: A former DINK (Double-Income-No-Kids) who wants to continue her career while living abroad. But if you’re an accompanying spouse, this can be a challenge depending on the laws surrounding work permits. Luckily, the international trend is to loosen these laws and some countries have already acted on them.

For example, in France, an accompanying spouse no longer has to apply for a separate work permit if they are spouses of people working at multinationals. According to the International Herald Tribune, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Argentina, Singapore and the United States have also loosened restrictions. Unfortunately, Switzerland is not among them. And while it can be fairly easy to find a job in Switzerland as an EU National, when you’re a non-EU the task gets harder.

But it’s not impossible. As a non-EU, I was successfully able to find work in Switzerland. Every situation is different.

Some interesting facts about trailing spouses, courtesy of Yvonne McNulty, a trailing spouse researcher include:

84% of us have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher (see, we were not meant to be Hausfraus or Hausmanns!)

64% of us left careers to join our partners abroad

55% of us couldn’t continue working because of visa/work-permit restrictions

The important thing to do in any situation is to take control. If you can’t work where you’re living, or you later become laid off like moi, get creative. What else could you do? In a 2008 New York Times article, McNulty said, “What I found in my research is that almost all spouses face an identity crisis, but only about 10 to 15 percent did something about it, by becoming authors, getting an MBA or starting businesses,” she said. Most “felt they were victims, with no control.”

So instead of mourning my loss of my job idenitity, I constantly try to create new opportunities doing the things I love. In between searching for a “real job”, I’m currently writing a memoir, working as a freelancer for a Swiss magazine, and writing for U.S. publications.

If you’re a trailing spouse abroad, how have you approached continuing your career?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer and blogger in Zurich, Switzerland. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland, and Writer Abroad. She also blogs for Affordable Calling Cards, a new expat community blog. This blog offers affordable calling cards in Switzerland as well as information about living abroad in Switzerland and in many other countries.

Blogging from the Boot – Judge #3

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Hi, it’s Tina and Cherrye again!  We are have having so much fun collecting entries for the Blogging from the Boot contest.  This week, I (Tina) will be paying a visit to a certain chocolate maker and picking out some sweet little prizes for our winners.

We’re also have a great time getting to know our judges.  You’ve already met Michelle and Georgette, and today I’ll be introducing you to our third judge.

Audra de Falco, aka That Girl in Italy, is a freelance translator, student, and part time English teacher from New York, living and loving in Reggio Emilia. She enjoys trying new foods, travel, dancing and cheesy horror films. You can meet her and all her friends at the bi-weekly Reggio Emilia and Modena English meetup.

I first got to know Audra through Expats In Italy.  She’s one of those sunny spirits who really doesn’t let anything get her down.  She’s also a talented writer.

I enjoy reading what she has to say about food, and it’s always enjoyable to read her posts in which she includes a bit of the Sicilian language.  What really gives me a sense of solidarity with this girl, is our similar experience with Italy’s internet providers.

There are still a few days left to submit entries, so don’t be shy!  Click here to enter!

Why Switzerland?

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

By Chantal Panozzo

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Last night I was walking to a movie theater in Zurich when I heard a group of three Americans talking loudly. Ok, loud wasn’t a surprise, but American English was. I’m always amazed how many languages I hear in Switzerland that aren’t even one of the four “official” ones. But when you’ve got a foreign population of around 20%, I guess it’s only natural to hear non-official tongues.

Sometimes I wonder why Switzerland has such a high percentage of foreigners and I’ve come up with the following conclusions:

-Good Pay. Compared to neighboring countries like France, Italy, and Germany, Swiss salaries are higher. Of course, the cost of living in Switzerland is also higher, but nevertheless, it pays to live in Switzerland.

-No Need for a Car. While public transportation is sufficient in most European cities, in Switzerland, it’s good enough even for villages. The Swiss transportation network covers the entire country, from the mountain restaurant in the middle of nowhere to the farm village twenty miles from the nearest city.

-Work/Life Balance. At least compared to the way people work in the United States, there is a much better work/life balance in Switzerland. Family time is respected and valued, and stores and businesses all close down on Sundays and for a week over Christmas.

-Accessibility of Nature. In the U.S., I had to drive to get to the closest hiking trail. But in Switzerland, there are hundreds of paths right outside my door. The Swiss know how to build cities around nature, and so the nearest outdoor adventure is always just a walk away.

-Many Neighbors. Switzerland is bordered by five countries: Italy, France, Germany, Austria, and Lichtenstein. All of these countries share an official language with Switzerland, making it easier for people speaking French, German, or Italian to work and live in Switzerland.

Why do you think there are so many foreigners in Switzerland?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer and blogger in Zurich, Switzerland. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland, and Writer Abroad. She also blogs for Affordable Calling Cards, a new expat community blog. This blog offers affordable calling cards in Switzerland as well as information about living abroad in Switzerland and in many other countries.

Blogging from the Boot – Judge #2

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Entries are still coming in for the Blogging from the Boot contest!   We are so very fortunate to have selected three special judges to help us with the narrowing down of the finalists.

Recently you met one of our judges, Michelle Fabio.  Today I would like to introduce you to our second judge.  Though we’ve never met, she is a woman after my own heart.

Georgette Jupe lives in Florence and her blog makes me feel like I’m chatting with one of my American girlfriends over a cosmo about everything in life, a la Sex and the City.

In her own words, she’s “a 25 year old from Texas with an addiction to food, wine and good conversation…not to mention a long and arduous journey from America to  Italy (well it was British Airways).  I left for LA when I was 18 for 5 years, taught English in China for a month, and now I’ve ended up via fate in Florence, Italy.  So I suppose you can assume I’m a bit of a vagabond or a gypsy…or as I like to think…just curious.  My passions include sarcasm, laughter, good friends and new wine…and giddy feelings of excitement ”.

Georgette is a breath of fresh air in the land of Italy expat blogging.  I particularly enjoyed reading this post about paying taxes in Italy.  It’s no fun or small feat, but she tackles it with flair, at least in her blog.

We are happy to have her among our judges!

There is still time to enter – you have this whole week!  And don’t you like chocolate?  Click here to submit.

Blogging from the Boot – Judge #1

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

As you know, Cherrye and I (Tina) have been hard at work with the Blogging from the Boot contest. We’ve seen some very fun entries and I can’t wait to see what more is to come.

Well, we couldn’t possibly do it alone, so we’ve recruited three fabulous judges to assist us in the reading and judging of the contest entries.  And who better to judge a blogging contest than fellow bloggers?

With that in mind, I would like to introduce you to our first judge.

Michelle Fabio of Bleeding Espresso is an American freelance writer and attorney who has lived in her ancestors’ village overlooking the Ionian Sea in Calabria since 2003. She has penned a column for Italy Magazine, contributes frequently to LegalZoom.com, and is the About.com Guide to Law School.

Michelle is one of my favorite bloggers out there – someone I admire for having carved out a freelance life for herself in this beautiful country.

I asked Michelle to share a few of her favorite posts from her own blog:

We look forward to having her input as we select finalists!

Be sure to click here to submit material. There may be some chocolate in it for you!

Blogging from the Boot: The Best of 2009 FAQs

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

Earlier this week we announced Blogging from the Boot: The Best of 2009, the blogging contest that is open to any and all expat bloggers who lived in Italy in 2009. We’ve received a great response in the first few days and have been asked a few questions that could be helpful to other expats.

Blogging From the Boot: The Best of 2009 FAQs

Q: How many posts can I submit?

A: There is no limit to the number of posts you can submit in any category. The categories are listed here.

Q: Do I submit my own posts or can I submit posts written by other expats in Italy?

A: You can nominate any post that was written by an expat in Italy and published in 2009. So, if your best blogging friend is a stellar writer with heaps of interesting posts on her blog-go ahead and nominate them. You will use the same entry form to nominate as you would to submit your own posts.

Q: Does the post I submit have to have been published on my blog?

A: It has to have been published on a blog, not necessarily yours. If you wrote a guest post on another blog that fits in one of the categories, feel free to submit it, as well.

Q: Are there prizes for the winners?

A: Oh yea … the first place winner in each category will receive local Perugian chocolate and a banner to display on their websites.

Q: How is the contest being judged?

A: Affordable Calling Cards has secured five Expat in Italy judges who will choose finalists for each category. On February 1 the finalists will be announced on this website.

Between Monday, February 1-Friday, February 5 (at 5:00 PM, Italy time) visitors to this site will vote for their favorite entry in each category. Winners will be announced on Monday, February 8, 2010.

If you have any other questions regarding Blogging From the Boot: The Best of 2009, you can send us an email at bloggingfromtheboot@gmail.com.

We look forward to reading your entries!

Elections in Chile

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

On Sunday, January 17, Chileans took to the polls to elect the next president. Businessman Sebastián Piñera Echenique beat out former president Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle with just under 52% of the vote. This victory marks the first time that a right-wing candidate has won an election in more than 50 years. More importantly, Piñera will be the first right-wing president under the democratic rule that followed Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973-1990).

The ink on his thumb shows he just voted

The ink on his thumb shows he just voted

Can you tell who won?

Can you tell who won?

Of course the details of the election process are different from how elections work in the US. No electoral college and a second-round run-off if no candidate wins a majority in the first-round (held in December), for a start. A fellow Chile blogger has a great summary of the nuts and bolts of the process itself. I, however, would like to look at some of the little differences.

Ley seca – This literally means dry law. That’s right, no alcohol can be purchased from midnight the day of the election until the next day. Because elections are always on Sundays, this means that you’ve got to think ahead and stock up before your Saturday night parties. I don’t really see the point, to be honest. I can imagine they don’t want people showing up drunk to vote, but I can’t imagine that many people would buy alcohol on a Sunday morning anyway, and those who would just need to purchase slightly in advance.

The results come in so quickly! – I’m from California, but even so I’ll stay up plenty late on election night waiting for the results to roll in. I can’t imagine living on the East Coast waiting for the numbers from a time zone that’s three hours behind. I don’t know whether Chileans are more organized or what, but by 6pm the first calculation was out, and Piñera’s supporters were celebrating. US election officials, pay attention to this one.

They count all the votes on TV – I don’t really have a witty observation about this one, it was just funny to see the random people who’d been picked to be in charge of the voting locations (it’s like jury duty, just cross your fingers and hope you don’t get chosen) holding up each piece of paper for everyone to see and reading the name on it.

People write all sorts of things on their votes – A friend who once had to do voting location duty said that people don’t just write down their votes and call it a day. Comments range from poetry to diatribes against the political system. Almost makes it worth having to work the location!

Driving around the city honking is apparently THE way to celebrate – I’m not particularly happy or sad about the result. It was pretty clear that Piñera would win. Frankly the left-wing Concertación made the mistake the Democrats made back in 2004 – they thought they didn’t need a strong candidate to beat the right-wing and that any warm body would do, and they were wrong. But oh my god, if the Frei supporters are quiter then I wish he would have won! For HOURS after the results came in, people were driving around waving Piñera propaganda and Chile flags, HONKING. It’s like they all turned to each other and say “honey, we won – let’s grab the kids, get out the flag, and go for a drive!” Not something I’ve ever thought, I have to admit.

Although I was here in 2005 during the first round of the last election, this was my first run-off in Chile. And aside from the honking, it was pretty interesting. What are elections like where you live?

Emily Williams is a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile. She writes about expat life at AffordableCallingCards.net and on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!

Blogging from the Boot: The Best of 2009

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Calling all expats in Italy …

All expats in Italy, please step forward.

Oh, hi there.

It’s Cherrye and Tina here and we’ve teamed up with Affordable Calling Cards to bring you the first annual Blogging from the Boot awards.

If you lived in the Bel Paese in 2009 and wrote about your expat experiences-even once-then this contest is for you. Did you write funny posts? Heartwarming stories? Love letters???

Perfect.

Here are the details.

The Blogging from the Boot awards were created as a Blog Carnival to highlight the best expat in Italy writing from 2009.

The following categories are open for submissions:

- Mangia! Food and Recipe Posts
In this category, expats in Italy will share their experiences with Italy’s other national pass time-eating!

- That’s Amore: Romance and Love
The Bel Paese is all about love and romance and any post that discusses an expat’s love affair with Italy-or her inhabitants-should be submitted to this category.

- Italianissimo: “Only in Italy” Tales from the Bel Paese
All expats have at least one “Only in Italy” story … whether funny, poignant or educational-submit those posts here.

- Mamma Mia: Parenting Stories
Rearing children in Italy is a topic near and dear to the heart of every expat parent. Posts that focus on this theme should be submitted here.

- Buon Viaggio: Living and Traveling Around the Boot
Many Italy-based expats enjoy sharing stories of their adopted hometowns, destination highlights or tips and tricks from their favorite Italian vacation spots. Any and all travel-based posts should be submitted to this category.

- Paparazzi! Expat Photography
Given the unmatched beauty of the boot, it is no surprise expats in Italy fill the Blogosphere with photos of the Bel Paese. Photo entries should be submitted here.

- Eccomi: Arrivals in 2009
New expats often have a different perspective from those who are settled into their adopted lives. This category is dedicated to expats who moved to Italy in 2009.

Rules and Deadlines:

1. To be eligible, the author must have lived in Italy at some point during 2009.

2. Submitted entries must have been published in 2009.

3. Entries must be received by 5:00 PM-Italy time on Friday, January 29, 2010.

4. There is no limit to the number of entries you can submit in any category.

Click here to submit material.

Judging will take place on January 30-31 and finalists will be announced right here on AffordableCallingCards.net on February 1.

Winners in each category will receive local Perugian chocolate-straight from the source-and a fancy new banner to showcase on their blogs, courtesy of AffordableCallingCards.net.

For more information, email bloggingfromtheboot@gmail.com.

In bocca al lupo!


Tina Ferrari is a translator, writer and tango dancer based in Umbria, Italy. She writes at AffordableCallingCards.net as well as on her own blog, Tina Tangos.

Cherrye Moore is a freelance writer and southern Italy travel consultant. In addition to Affordable Calling Cards.net , she writes about living and traveling in Calabria on her site, My Bella Vita.

Five Great Reasons to Visit the Balloon Festival in Chateau-d’Oex

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

by Chantal Panozzo

If you’re an expat living in Switzerland, you won’t want to miss the upcoming Balloon Festival in Chateau-d’Oex. Not only is it included in the book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, but the event is just magical. I went last year and I highly recommend it (even if you have to stay in neighboring Bulle to save money). Below are five reasons to check it out:

1. If you’re an American, it’s another thing you can check off that you’ve seen. Another one down, 999 to go. Don’t all of us Americans love lists?

2. Western Spirit may be back. “Western Spirit” was an American balloon featured at the festival last year (See above photo). It’s owned by John Seay, and is notable for its cowboy decorations, furthering to engrain the Swiss stereotype that all Americans are cowboys.  But the best part is listening to the French announcers pronounce “Western Spirit.”

3. Swiss children will hand you a grilled sausage with their bare hands–even if what you thought you ordered was a barbecue sandwich. Either way, it’s all very, uh, quaint.

4. You can stare at people because they won’t notice—their eyes will be glued to the sky. So not only can you get great photos of balloons, you can get great photos of people looking at them.

5. You will redefine what you think of when you think hot air balloon. At this festival, there’s a special event featuring unusual balloons in the shape of everything from bagpipe players to chicks popping out of eggs.

What: Balloon Festival

Where: Chateau-d’Oex

When: January 23-31, 2010

Cost: You must buy a festival pass at the “door”. About CHF 10 ($10)

Tips: To save money, stay in a neighboring town like Bulle, just far away enough not to be affected by the ballooning prices.

Chantal Panozzo is an American writer living in Switzerland. She writes about expat life at AffordableCallingCards.net and on her personal blog, One Big Yodel. She also blogs about the international writing life over at Writer Abroad.

An Expat’s Guide to Winter Sports in Switzerland

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

by Chantal Panozzo

Most people know that while winter sports are great fun in Switzerland, they also don’t come cheap. Anyone who’s ever been to Zermatt can vouch for this (CHF 70 ($70) to ride up and down a mountain once).

But there are ways to enjoy winter sports in Switzerland without maxing out your credit card (oh wait, they don’t usually allow credit cards here). It’s called learning from the locals. As a local, I’m still doing that. For example, yesterday I learned that there’s a road they close for sledding at the top of Baldegg (small mountain/hill over Baden). So for the price of a bus ride, you can get to the top of the sled hill and then take the bus back up from the bottom. Not a bad idea. Now there’s just that sled to buy. (There’s a 2-seater available at Manor for CHF 79…hmm.).

Another reasonable winter sport in Switzerland is ice-skating. The local rink in Wettington, for example, has an entrance fee of only CHF 5 ($5) (and if you buy a 12-pass, like I did, it’s even cheaper). I like to go to this rink on Friday night because it’s not very crowded then and also because this is when the “professionals” (aka, anyone better than me) take lessons.

One final great way to enjoy winter sports without spending a lot is to go winter hiking. Switzerland is a hiking country pretty much year-round and I was surprised to find almost as many groomed hiking trails as ski slopes. Hiking allows you to enjoy the scenery more than you can while skiing and you’ll also have your hands free to take photos. One tip though—if you are only going hiking, make sure you make this clear if you are buying a lift ticket. Otherwise, you may be charged for a ski pass instead, which will probably be at least 5-6 times the price of a single round-trip.

What tips do you have for winter sports that don’t break the bank in Switzerland?

Chantal Panozzo is an American writer living in Switzerland. She writes about expat life at AffordableCallingCards.net and on her personal blog, One Big Yodel. She also blogs about the international writing life over at Writer Abroad.

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