Posts Tagged ‘Expats in Switzerland’

Thanks Canada

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Ok, so, this isn't me in Canada obviously but this is me saying "Hi world, it's me Kristi.  I want to hug and embrace you"

Ok, so, this isn't me in Canada (obviously) - but this is me saying "Hi world, it's me Kristi. I want to hug and embrace you"

By Kristi Remick

Sitting in my college dorm room in Plattsburgh NY, sometime between 1992 and 1996, I was likely dressed in some ratty flannel shirt while humming to a Smashing Pumpkins tune and wondering where my next beer would come from.  You see, I had a horrible fake ID so beer was sometimes hard to come by.  I went to a school 20 some odd minutes south of the Canadian border and I could quickly cross the border  in an effort to score higher alcohol percentage beer legally.  Sadly, it never once occurred to me while there to visit Montreal, a very French inspired, cute and cobbly city only 30 minutes north of the border.

Before you all start thinking I had a drinking problem, let’s fast forward to 2008 where I either had a crisis, meltdown or a combination of the two. Instead of wishing for a “midlife crisis mobile” from the latest pages of Popular Mechanics, I was wondering what in the world I was going to do with this life I was given. It was through this crisis-meltdown that I found my REASON.

Back up again to 1999 when I met my husband in Atlanta.  He was shockingly well traveled in my “Canada-crossing-the-border-to-get-beer” opinion.  He went to the Bahamas during a high school band field trip and even studied abroad in Europe while in college!  This world traveler was about to introduce me to…well, the World.  Our first trip was to the Cayman Islands, a good starting point for a girl like me who didn’t yet have a passport and could just barely point out the Caribbean on a map.  Not only was the water unlike any I had ever seen, it was there I realized I was going to marry this man and see the world with him.  A traveling spirit was beginning to form in my belly, one I never knew I existed.

Throughout the next decade we saw more beautiful blue waters, crackly old buildings in Europe and packs of wild animals grazing on the sunset painted lands of Africa.  Even though I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life in Atlanta, I knew I wanted to see more of the world.  My meltdown-crisis commenced with the realization that it was time to do just that.

My husband, who is well “acroynmed”, began the search for a global rotation with his company.  Our search became a reality and here we are today in Zurich, Switzerland.  There was a lot in between that search and subsequent landing, some of it sweet and some of it not so much, but it never would have happened if I visited Montreal back when I was in college.

Because, I am convinced that my traveling spirit was always there and just needed to be inspired.  Had I been inspired too early, I may not have met my husband or moved to Atlanta or landed in Zurich.  I am in no way condoning waiting to see the world, in fact I still physically shudder while telling people the story that I never once saw Montreal as a college student…but it gave me my reason and for that, I will always hold “never seeing Montreal Canada”, close to my heart.

Thanks Canada

All You Need is Love

Monday, May 10th, 2010

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By Kristi Remick

There are so many reasons to become an Expat: ability to travel, interest in other cultures,  following a spouse or partner, career advancement, philanthropy…the list goes on.  What makes these reasons stick?  No matter the reason for your Expat journey, you will undoubtedly experience a wide range of emotions including excitement, curiosity, fear and confusion.

Excitement is always a short lived emotion and one I like to call the new car smell emotion.  It is the best emotion while it lasts because it keeps you energized and propels you towards something that is perhaps scary or difficult to accomplish.  Eventually excitement fades much like a car’s new smell.  You try to duplicate it, even going so far as getting the new car smell freshener when you get your car washed, but you soon learn you can’t quite recapture it in its original form.

Curiosity is likely the catalyst that leads to excitement.  It is that emotion that triggers the common human conditions of  ”grass is greener-itis” or “the what ifs?”.  I think it is the emotion that keeps humans trying new things and prompts invention.  Just like excitement, it is temporary and can sometimes lead to bad decision making.  Any emotion that can kill a fuzzy kitten needs to be handled with care, unless of course you are a dog person who seeks to eradicate the entire feline population.

Fear and confusion are popular Expat emotions as well but ones that can be reconciled fairly quickly with a map, translation dictionary and glass of Prosecco.  It may seem I am downplaying them and while I do think they can be easily squashed, I know their power lies in their ability to resurface when you least expect them to making them particularly dangerous to an Expat.

So if Expat emotions are volatile and/or short lived, what emotion helps you stay the course?  It wasn’t until I thought back on my move from Upstate New York to Atlanta that it clicked.  For the longest time I talked about how the culture shock from my earlier move was more intense for me than our move from Atlanta to Zurich.  I received a lot of quizzical looks after I made this statement and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why it was harder to move within my own country.  What I never took into account was the fact that my move from New York to Atlanta lacked love.

My Mother lived in Atlanta and I certainly loved her.  She made the move feel safer than say moving to New York City but her love wasn’t the glue that kept me in Atlanta.  I was miserable for 2 years and was about to purchase a one way ticket back north when I met my future husband.  Suddenly Atlanta didn’t feel so foreign or scary.  It actually started to feel like home because I suddenly had a reason to be there and one that I loved.

So what does this have to do with the Expat experience?  A lot really as any reason why you choose to become an Expat is lined with a great deal of love.  Travel, learning about other cultures, career, partner, and philanthropy all  include an element of love and yes, you can even love your career.  It is true that love evolves over time, it can wax and wane and even sometimes disappear. Your Expat experience will likely be dictated by your reason and the progression of love you have for it.

I think the most popular question asked by people considering a move abroad is “how do I know if the Expat experience is right for me?”.  There is no right answer but if you have a reason to go, one that you are in love with, then I say go for it. It is the emotion that will protect you from all the other temporary and scary emotions:

Love- “Hey Fear, what’s up?”

Fear- “Meh, not so much…just holding back this human.”

Love- “Huh, sounds like a lot of fun but I am more in the business of setting people free.”

Fear- “Wow, that sounds really Lionel Ritchie of you.  You do know he thinks he can dance on a ceiling.”

Love- “Yeah, I know…but at least the people who rely on me do stuff… so take that Fear Schmear.”

What is your Expat Type?

Monday, April 12th, 2010

expat

I have been an Expat now for 9 months which is enough time to gestate something.  In these nine months I have met a lot of people, mostly Expats, and have learned a lot about our “club”.  With any grouping of people, you can separate folks out by their “type” and in doing so, I have identified 5 of the Expat variety:

1. I am an Expat, get me out of here! – This is not a reality show replacing the celebrity version and quite frankly, I am embarrassed that I know there is a celebrity version (”celebrity” used loosely here, this show consisted of every Baldwin brother but Alec).  This Expat wanted to go home a year ago, lives for the day they can purchase their one way ticket  and constantly hums “Leaving on a Jet Plane”.  There are likely a variety of reasons for this Expat’s mental state but the most common one is quite general: they are “stick a fork in my temple- DONE” and this person isn’t afraid to let you know it.  They have spent all of their available Expat mental equity and home to this person is a giant, comfy Snuggie.

2. The Comfortably Numb – This Expat has a solid plan to go home, likely has a date in mind, has seen what they came to see and did what they intended to do.  All that is left is time and they are such Expat pros that they go through the motions with a bratwurst in one hand and a bar of chocolate in the other.  They aren’t overwhelmingly positive or negative about their experience.  They are somewhat rooted, as rooted as an Expat can be, but still can’t call their host country home.  This person is likely good at taking newer Expats under their wing and I liken them to a Dormitory RA- a person who is responsible (person most likely to not funnel a beer), wise (a 5th year Senior willing to help out a Freshman) and not easily impressed (seen enough booze stained togas made out of flowered sheets to last them a lifetime).

3. Temporary but Loving It – I feel most Expats fall into this category.  They know for certain someday, in the somewhat near future, they are going home. At the same time they are totally into the experience still.  This Expat has been here a while and knows how to get around, has traveled a good bit but is still up for more.  They have likely planted some shallow roots and feel very positive about their experience.

4. No End in Sight – This Expat knows somewhere in the corner of their Medulla Oblongata that the move isn’t permanent but has no idea when it will end.  They haven’t done nearly what they set out to do and may still  be in awe of the whole experience.  This Expat likely wants the experience to feel a little bit more stable and the unknown sort of freaks them out.

5. The Renouncer- Much to the chagrin of their host country, this person has no plans to leave…ever.  They dress in their host countries colors and instead of walking to the tram stop, they twirl towards it like Julie Andrews on a grassy mountain top.  They dream of shredding their passport while ceremoniously burning their home country’s flag.  There is a certain Big Foot mystique to this type as you have heard they exist, but have yet to come face to face with one.

Of course typing a person has its flaws and depending on what type of day you just had, you could easily bounce from a “Renouncer” to a “Baldwin brother”.  While I have had some days that test me, I can honestly say I am a pretty consistent “No End in Sight-er” right now.  My husband and I have not even scratched the surface of what we came here to do and see but at the same time we know we won’t be trading in our US passports.

So what type are you?  Have you discovered another type that I have yet to identify?  Do you think typing is hooey and that I have way too much time on my hands?

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