May 31, 2014

When home is in three different places...

It is the eternal dilemma.....when home is in two different places. I say two, but it might turn into three soon, if I'm not careful. Paris is starting to grow on me. The entire family is starting to feel settled in the city of lights. Tomorrow offically marks the three year period since Expat hubby started his new job.

Theoretically we were suppose to move on around about now... but ... as life goes... we are still in Paris and will be here indefinately it seems.

This is good and bad.

Good, because it makes my family logistics so much easier. We can hop on a plane to Madrid, we call our second home. We can hop in the car and drive to our third home, Switzerland. Our respective families live up North and down South but we can still reach them within half a day's travel. We speak the language and last but not least... we have gotten used to the Parisians and their attitude! If I am totally honest, we might have taken a bit on ourselves?! But only in order to survive, I promise. It is no surprise, therefore, that we notice how terribly friendly people are, when we travel back to Spain or Switzerland. But all in all, Paris now DOES feel a lot better that it has in the past, if you get my drift!?!

On the negative side, when am I ever going to do my trail blazing again? I am not too old to learn a new language, I'll even learn a new alphabet if I have to. I'll eat weird food and I'll even learn how to cook it. I will barter and banter with the locals studying their body language. I`ll make sure the kids get to school on time, despite the traffic even if I have to drive on the wrong side of the road! And I promise I will find tasty Italian pasta to cook for my hubby, no matter where we land. Just give me that one last opportunity. An exotic, challenging expatriation!

Otherwise, I feel I could get too comfortable in wonderful Paris and I might not want to leave anymore!!!!

May 26, 2014

It's a family thing

If you are married to an Italian, football is part of the package or so I believed. My luck would be to find one of the few Neapolitans who is not crazy about soccer. The situation drastically changed when my son was hit by football fever the day we moved to Madrid. He was aged four!!!

I know more about football than I care to admit, but I know even more about the players and the gossip that goes with it. Spanish football differs from the Italian version; Spaniards are as interested in the personalities as they are in the sport. This means, we women can take part in the conversation too! Calcio in Italy is for men only and it's about the sport and their team's players. Never mind all the TV channels have a beautiful "veline" (showgirls) presiding the panel of commentators. It's just eye-candy! Boy, does that bug me.

My Italo-Argentinean son has taught our family everything we know about football, we follow the important matches, we exchange the Panini stickers with everyone who will join the fun, we have painted fan signs and bargained for tickets to the stadium.

It starts getting a wee bit complicated when you're a Third Culture Kid. Italy, Argentina, Napoli, Real Madrid - who do we root for? Switzerland is where my heart lays, but I'll keep that to myself. They are better at skiing!!!

Last Saturday the match of all matches was to be played. Real Madrid's showdown against Club Atlético de Madrid in Lisbon was the seventh UEFA Champions League final. A Madrilenian derby!

We invited all our Italo-Franco-Spanish friends over for jamon and vino and kitted our place with Real Madrid paraphernalia. We ate, we drank, we screamed, we roared, we cried and we laughed. The neighbours in our house were wondering what the hell was going on.

Some of us were more passionate about football than others but in end ... all that mattered ... was that we were together. Because that's what you do at home in our respective countries: you gather as a family to enjoy each others company while supporting your beloved team. It's a family thing!

May 22, 2014

Dutch girl power in Paris

When you receive an invitation from three of your Dutch friends to atttend their first event, there is no question: you will be there to support their project!

When an industrial designer, a communication specialist and a commercial expert put their heads together, the result can only be extra-ordinary.

And so, I grabbed my German friend, we hopped into a taxi under the pouring rain and headed towards the center of Paris where the D’Days design festival was taking place. This year’s theme explores "Mouvement" with the idea of "moving from one place, state, moment to another."

Well, we didn't manage to enter the vernissage and we already had a glass of champagne in our hand. This is my kind of movement.

In an initiative to show contemporary Dutch Design in France - they name it Dutch Design pOps up - the Dutch trio introduced the works of the designers Noortje de Keijzer and Dirk Vander Kooij.

Dirk Vander Kooij transforms used refrigerators into design furniture which was mind-boggling in itself but Noorje de Keijzer took the cake by presenting us her knitted boyfriend! The mind is boggling further...

She claims that with this type of man you will never feel alone ever again... and she is probably right! He does not moan, he does not complain, he's always smiling, he's always there when you need him and prefers whatever you like!!! Hard to come by these days...

A pillow with a personality just like the grinning redhead who invented him.

Bravo ladies, keep up the good work. Looking forward to the next move of what I like to call: the Dutch mafia!

May 20, 2014

Where are all the locals?

Guess what happens when it is a sunny day in Spring in Paris. According to the newspaper Figaro, the city of Paris attracted 29 million tourists of all nationalities in 2012. After having lived the experience of New York's 47 million tourists, I have promised myself never to complain about Paris' tourists again.

But just look where all the locals hang out when the sun shines on a Sunday afternoon:

May 19, 2014

A serendipitous Sunday stroll

What I learnt this weekend is, that a flea markets not to miss, is the 3rd arrondissement's "Brocante" which is organized twice a year by the borough's festival committee. Wow! What a treat?

Imagine a small village of 500 booths all enjoying each others company and the Parisian sunshine.

Located next to the Marais, the market ran from Temple Street through the Rue de Bretagne to the Rue Charlot and was completely invaded by locals and bargain hunters alike. Have I finally managed to outsmart the tourists?!?

There were objects for all tastes and all budgets. LP record collections, TVs from the 70's, antique dolls, vintage linens, funky funiture from the 60's, and many more rare and curious items. Just take a look at the photos:

The best part, however, was the Argentinean food truck serving real empanadas and dulce de leche ice-cream... and for a moment I dreamt I was back on Ruta Panamericana in Buenos Aires.

May 17, 2014

Perfect job or dream location?

It is the time of year again. Families are beginning to pack up their households and prepare for their next move. A friend, who is still in limbo waiting to be told where they will be posted next, asked me for some advice today: "Would you choose the job or the location?"

We all know how difficult it is to combine these two factors. Should you have found the perfect job in your dream location you are one of the very, VERY lucky few.

In my personal opinion, professional career and economic stability always should take priority. My hubby and I have said good-bye to not only one but TWO dream locations in this world - Geneva and Madrid - in order to follow the job opportunity. 

I believe you should never pass up a professional challenge, assuming they are not sending you to Siberia, of course. I also believe men - when choosing location over job opportunity - will always have that little voice in the back of their head wondering if they made the right choice. This does not bode well for the future.

If the job does not work out the way they expected, they will spend the rest of their time trying to fix it. Ever noticed how men need to fix things? We women work with any given situation and deal with it, rather than trying to change it. Men seek a fast fix and rapid solution to the problem.

I read that on average people spend around 80,000 hours at work during their lifetime. This is a piece of mind-blowing information. In other words, it’s your life, your career, and your unfulfilled potential if you don’t find and follow your dream. So go for it – you owe it to yourself.

Therefore, my advice would be to choose the particular job that best suits your husband and that he will enjoy the most. With your husband happy and your kids safe at school, you will be able to make the most of your new adventure. Never forget to take some me-time!!!

So honey, go with the job and make the rest work. It might take a while, but eventually you will settle and even feel at home. And what's more: I know you can do it! Good luck, my friend.

May 16, 2014

Remember Jean Paul Sartre standing on a bridge?

Over the past three years, I've been on many a Parisian tour and have enjoyed most of them. They have always been in English. Not that I mind following other languages but it just happened this way.

Today, I decided to slightly change the formula, partly because I am no longer the novice tourist and do not need to hear the story of Napoleon the Third for the umpteenth time, partly because I have been on most of the programme's outings by now!

A French guided tour, by a charming bohemian Parisian, hit the spot exactly! Monsieur took us through the Centre Pompidou where we discovered Henri Cartier-Besson's life story and the excitement of being a flaneur of the street, in romantic Paris, armed only with a leather jacket and a Leica.

We looked back on the 20th century through his lens, and it was all there: the jazz age of the 1920s, colonial Africa, the Spanish civil war, developing human rights, capitalist expansion, two world wars, Ghandi's funeral, decolonisation, Mao, the first man in space, America booming, student protests, the collapse of the Soviet bloc – all captured in haunting blizzard of black and white.

Ahhh, and now I finally know who took that famous photo of Jean-Paul Sartre, a picture of the author absorbed by his environment, which haunted me during French classes through all my high school years!

May 15, 2014

We're off to New York for the weekend!

When your hubby flies off to New York for work, what would you do? My passport states Manhattan as place of birth but I am a Third Culture Kid and haven't been back to the Big Apple in 20 years. Basically, any excuse is valid to visit New York.

It was a suprise for the kids, they thought we were off to Lugano - once again - until ... oops... I got the wrong airport terminal, there are no flights to Switzerland on the departure board. "So kids, if you could choose any destination on the board, which city would you choose?" "New York" came the immediate reply from Expat daughter, followed by Expat son: "Yeah, I guess, but it's too far to fly for a long weekend."

Surprise. We are off to New York for the weekend. The kids could not believe it, even when they had finally settled in their plane seats, they still couldn't grasp the fact that we we're off to the U S of A.

While my hubby was enjoying THE view from his workplace, I spent the next 4 days pacing around the city with my kids viewing ALL the sites of New York.

We stepped out of the hotel at 6am (slightly jet-lagged) in search of a real American breakfast. Boy, that bacon is scrumptious! We then proceeded to walked our feet sore for the next 12 hours. Every single day!

We climbed the Emprire State building with 0 visibility, it could have been the Eiffel Tower for all we knew. We ran through the American Museum of Natural History with it's impressive dinosaur collection beause they close at 5:30 in the afternoon. We ate hamburgers at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square with the music blaring in the background. I made my children walk through Tiffany's and they cuddled soft toys at FAO Schwarz. We stood in line at Abercrombie & Fitch and scouted out two of the most humongous candy stores and an M&M store with three levels!!!

We whispered across the arch in Grand Central Terminal and checked out the NY Public Library. We made a deal that I would accompany my kids to Nike and Adidas if they would follow me to Victoria's Secret! We had breakfast in Little Italy and witnessed a funeral in Chinatown. The kids discovered contemporary artist at the MOMA and were obliged to walk though the recently inaugurated Anne Wintour Costume Center in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Of course, we could not miss the Guggenheim museum at which point the kids refused to enter any more museums so we headed to Central Park where under a splendid blue sky the Japanese community of New York was celebrating Japan Day.

Sunday morning we entered St. Patrick's Cathedral which is being renovated from top to toe. After a short conversation with the Ritz Carlton concierge, we ended up celebrating Mother's Day at the Brooklyn Diner where we had the biggest, most delicious, most American brunch ever! Oh, I nearly forgot, we strolled through Soho hopping in and out of stores; Apple, Beats, Christian Dior, Lululemon, Uniqlo and Under Armour ending up at Starbucks so my techno starved kids could hook up with WIFI and snapchat their friends back on the old continent!

Three words to describe our trip: intense, emotional and impressive!

May 6, 2014

Napoli's treasure is mine

Although I would argue that I have found Napoli's treasure by marrying my wonderful husband, this is not what the current exhibition at the Museum Maillol was all about.

May 1st is France's Labour Day and therefore is a public holiday. After having suggested a day's outing to a nearby Chateau de Vaux de Vicomte, Chateau Chantilly or Chateau Fontainebleau and receiving nothing but moans by my kids, I decided to find an activity that might just catch their imagination and would not be too far out of town.

I came up with the treasure of San Gennaro, shown for the first time outside Italy. One of the largest collections of jewellery in the world, the San Gennaro treasure is comparable with the crown jewels of France and England, but rather than belonging to the former ruling dynasties, the State or the Church, the treasure belongs to the people, to the Neapolitans themselves.

San Gennaro, the principal patron saint of Naples (there are 52 of them), was martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian. The saint’s blood, collected in two ampoules, liquefies three times a year - this has happened on the same dates for centuries - a phenomenon that science, even today, cannot explain.

On 13 January 1527 an unusual contract was notarized between the people of Naples and the saint, who had been dead for over 1,200 years. In exchange for San Gennaro’s protection against the eruptions of Vesuvius and the plague, Neapolitans undertook to establish and keep a treasure in a chapel to be built in the cathedral and dedicated to him. Today this cult has lost none of its force. My husband can vouch for that.

The kids loved the stories their Papi had to tell about when he was a little boy and accompanied his parents to the celebrations of San Gennaro.

My first San Gennaro festivities were in Little Italy, New York but that is another story in itself... when I lost my heart to a Neapolitan!

The necklace of San Gennaro
Altar treasures
Bust of Sainte Irène
The Reliquary of San Gennaro out of town until May 15th due to celebrations in Napoli

May 2, 2014

I am a trailing spouse, if you will!

This morning I read the umpteenth article about an Expat wife complaining being called a trailing spouse. There are many definitions: trailing spouse, desperate housewife, expat wife, accompanying partners.

My friend came up with IPM (International Professional Mover). I quite like that definition because in my experience many of those so-called moving and relocation professionals have never actually been through one themselves. THAT says it all. They might be helping you but they can't relate to your experience and don't necessarily understand your needs. The latest example was importing my car: by the time the relocation officer figured out where to start, I had gone ahead and done it! Of course, it does help if you speak the language.

Way back when... in a former life... I used to work... my conviction was that YOU define your job. You push the boundaries of your responsibilities and therefore make it more interesting. You don't just follow your job description.

All this to say, get over it and get on with it. Whatever others may call you, however they define you, you are the one who's getting the job done. Being an expat wife can be a lonely affair, especially in the early stages of an International move. Usually, you don't know a soul in your new host country, sometimes you have to learn the language first in order to be able to communicate, you spend endless hours trying to figure out the labels in the supermarket not to mention all the paperwork that comes with a relocation!

At the same time you launch into conversations with weird and wonderfull strangers since you don't have anybody else to talk to and eventually some of these become your friends, even life-long friends. But again, it depends on how far you push yourself. It is up to YOU to make a difference. Who cares about what they call it?

Yes, I follow my husband around the globe, does that make me a trailing housewife? No. My friends can attest to that! I believe, it is more important to make your own definition.

I am the one out there, boldly taking up the challenge to leave the comfort and security of the familiar, exploring the world with a big smile on my face, making lots of new friends and experiencing new cultures, while supporting my hubby and kids in making a smooth transition into their new life. Because I actually have time and freedom to do so, and I appreciate every single, moment. So next time don't just call me trailing... call me trail blazing!

Photo by

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...