Tag Archives: Expat

Expat Living- Friends

“Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold”

One of the most difficult things about being an expat is making and keeping friends. Expat living can be a very transient lifestyle, people are always coming and going. It can be very rare that you are in the same place, with the same people for very long.

Here is how it starts, when you first move to a country, you try to be friends with any one who speaks the same language as you. Maybe they work with you, maybe you meet them in a classroom, or maybe you over hear them speaking English in a Starbucks and you start up a conversation with them. Whatever the reason, the commonality of language is the key factor.

You realize that you are only friends with that person because of the language. That they are a person who, in your normal life, you never would have been friends with. Sometimes that is a good thing, and you’ve opened yourself to a whole new kind of person and friendship, and sometimes it isn’t.

Then, you start to become more picky, just speaking the same language is no longer enough, you start to look for friends who you actually have something in common with, or dare in say, like.

And then once you’ve settled into a routine with this friend, coffees, shopping, even play dates with the kids you both have, it is time for one of you to move on.

What do you do? How do you deal with this revolving door of friendships?

Keep in touch! You never lose a real friend. They are always with you, and these days it is even easier to keep them with you. Facebook, Skype, text, keeping in touch is not as difficult as it once was.

Keep making friends. You can never have too many friends. You don’t need to replace them, just make room for everyone.

Keep your options open, yes you are no longer going to be friends based solely on English, but give someone who you wouldn’t normally be friends with a chance, maybe she is ten years older than you, or not married, but perhaps there is something else that that you two have in common.

Since I started my life as an expat I have had some of the most amazing friends, people who have been through all of the major and minor moments in my life with me. I am truly lucky.

In the last few years I have had to say goodbye to so many of these amazing friends, and looking towards the summer, I am dreading saying goodbye to two more amazing people.

This is the life of an expat.

You can’t close yourself off, as my grandmother used to say, every stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.

Expat Living- Breastfeeding in Public

Today I went to my local breastfeeding support group. There are two facilitators, Jane and Cindy, (who are so resourceful) and a bunch of new mothers, some first time, some second or third babies. We sit and chat about breastfeeding problems, mothering questions, new baby issues and try to bounce ideas off of each other to help each other out.

Breastfeeding is hard. It isn’t as easy as it looks in the beginning. I had some very painful problems in the beginning with both Alara and Ela, and with Ela, this group helped me out immensely, and I have since been able to go on and continue breastfeeding her.

What does this have to do with breastfeeding in public? A lot actually, because if you are not comfortable and relaxed while breastfeeding, there is no way that you are going to even attempt to breastfeed in public.

Seyfi and I always said that we were never going to let having children stop us from traveling and going out. However, we don’t want to leave our kids at home either.

So we take them everywhere.

With Alara she went to every restaurant, cafe, dinner party, you name it with us when she was a baby. Here’s the thing though, I would breastfeed her in a separate room. I would go to a different area, or one of those breastfeeding rooms in the shopping centre, and breastfeed her there.

Not with Ela.

With Ela I have a whole new outlook on breastfeeding in public.

I do it wherever I want.

I have breastfeed Ela, in airports, on airplanes, in restaurants while eating, at friend’s houses, at the library, at the park, the list goes on. I have even breastfed her on the top of a open double decker tour bus while touring around London!

I just make sure that I cover myself up.

There are a few reasons why I no longer hide myself…

1. I have a three year old, I am not going to lock Alara in a room with me while I am trying to feed Ela, and it is just the three of us.
2. If it is the four of us, or we are with friends, I don’t want to be left out. I don’t want to miss out on anything that is happening around me!
3. I love going out, and so does Ela. I don’t want to spend the next year of my life stuck at home. The best way for her to see how to behave in public, is for us to actually take her out in public.
4. We are only in this part of Europe for a short time. I don’t want to take a year out of being able to travel around and see great places.
5. And this one might be controversial, but I am just feeding my baby, and there is nothing wrong or shameful in that.

Ok, so those are my reasons, here are a few tips…

*bring something that can go over both you and the baby. Most people won’t even notice if you are covered up. I generally use an old pashmina or really big scarf. You can buy/make one of those cover ups.

*if you think you are going to have to breastfeed in public, plan your outfit accordingly. A dress that doesn’t allow access from the top may not be the best choice. But blouses, flowy shirts, wider sweaters all work well.

*find somewhere comfortable to sit down. This is so important, you do need to be comfortable, otherwise it will be difficult to get comfortable, and then you will have to adjust yourself more often, which I find stressful.

*this is a tip for restaurants, but try to put your baby on the side that allows your ‘good’ hand to work. This way, you can still eat without dropping food all over yourself!

You know, I’ve never had anyone say anything to me while I was breastfeeding in public, maybe I’ve been lucky, but I’ve done it in a few different countries, and it hasn’t been an issue…

I hope that if you choose to breastfeed, that you have all the support that I have had, and you can always email me if you need some more!

Location:Rue des Brasseurs,Mons,Belgium


Up until this point, I had always considered myself a Paris girl, that is until this weekend…

We’ve just returned from a long weekend in London, and had a wonderful time. We spent two days in London, and a day in Oxford and the Cotswolds.


In London, we did the totally tourist way to see it. On Friday we enjoyed the Champagne Experience on the London Eye.

The London Eye was fun for all of us. Even Alara enjoyed it. She was given a bag with binoculars, a notebook, and a pencil to use while on the ferris wheel. We all enjoyed our drinks, and got to see London from a different view.

On Saturday, we took a bus tour around the city. It was an off and on tour, and it truly was the best way to see the whole city and to learn some really interesting facts, that I never would have learned on my own.

It is because of the bus tour that we were able to see everything that we wanted. It was also a great way to see lots of things with the girls. Alara loved being on the bus, looking at the sights and hearing the stories about them, and Ela either looked around, slept or fed (more on that later) while we toured about.

I absolutely loved London. It is such a relaxed place, the people are so nice and helpful, the food was great (yummy curry!!) and it was so easy to get around.

I can’t wait for our next trip there!

Expat Living- The Girls’ names

So many people ask me about the girls’ names. How did we choose them? Why those names? What do they mean? So I thought I’d shed some light on the topic.

To start with, Seyfi and I had a deal, I would choose the names, but the need to be modern Turkish names. For Seyfi, it was important that we didn’t have older names that were out of fashion, or religious names.

For me, I wanted a name that sound good in English. It could be a bit different, or spelt differently, but it had to be easy for my family to pronounce. I also didn’t want a name that had any of the funny Turkish letters in it.

Together, we both decided that we didn’t want a middle name. In Turkey, often the middle name is the name that gets used, and that is the opposite in Canada, so we figured forget it, one name is more than enough.

As a teacher of young kids, it was easy to be exposed to lots of different names, some of the names I liked, but always seemed to have a crazy kid attached to them, or some names seemed to generally have a nice kid, or an interesting kid.

Alara was easy to find. I’ve taught a number of Alaras, and they have all been lovely, good girls and the name is easy to pronounce.

As for the meaning, this is where it gets more difficult. I asked two of my students named Alara what it means, and these are the answers I was given.

1- the water that angels wash with.

2- the colour of the rising sun.

Beautiful, just like her.

Ela, it wasn’t originally my first choice for my second daughter. I has originally wanted Lila (pronounced Leela), but I felt that the pronunciation was going to be a problem, we went to Ela, which Seyfi liked more anyway.

Ela means the colour hazel, as in the eye colour. Alara’s eyes are a hazelly green colour, so we thought that maybe Ela’s eyes would be the same, but as of right now she has got the biggest blue eyes, whoops!

It’s still a beautiful name, just like her.

Since we aren’t planning on having any more children I will let you in on what our boy name would have been, Kaan.

It is a very popular boys name, and I will say that although I have taught a lot of boys with this name, they were generally very interesting boys.

It is a very Turkish sounding name, but it is really one of the only boys names that I like.

So, that’s how our two beautiful girls, got their beautiful names. I love when people ask me questions like this!

While in Istanbul- Çengelköy

Today we did my absolute favourite thing in Istanbul. We packed a breakfast, bought some pastries, and went to a tea garden in Çengelköy on the Bosphorus and enjoyed the morning.

So many people go to Istanbul and never get to the Asian side. They see all the ‘big’ sites, and head home, but there is nothing like sitting in a tea garden, eating simits and borek (pastries), drinking tea and feeling the breeze of the Bosphorus on your face, especially if there are no other tourist about to ruin by raising the prices!

Now, I am not saying, don’t go to to the big sites, they are breath taking and worth seeing. However, if you have an extra day, take a ferry over to the Asian side, especially to Çengelköy or Beylerbeyi (there is actually a beautiful palace there to see), hangout with the locals, and (in my opinion) enjoy my favorite part of Istanbul.

We had such a lovely morning here with our friends (who are two of the most interesting and kind people I have ever met), it truly is my favorite thing to do in Istanbul, I wait for it every trip we take here.

I’ve always said that I would never want to live in Istanbul, but if every day could be like today was, I might be able to change my mind…

While in Istanbul- Van Gogh Alive

I love going to art galleries, and so does Seyfi. It is something that we really want to expose the girls to.

Istanbul is a great place to see different types of Art. They get a lot of the big artists in, and to be honest, I’ve loved all the exhibitions that I’ve been to here.

Today we went to a different type of exhibit, Van Gogh Alive. They have taken varies works of Van Gogh, a the project them, animated with music in the background.

It was so cool, to see the paintings really big, walking around while they were moving kept your attention, and made the whole experience more interesting.

Did you know that Van Gogh lived very close to our house in Belgium? I could walk there. I still haven’t been there… But after today, I think I’ll take a special trip over!

**I couldn’t use the flash on my camera, so my pictures weren’t the best, these pictures come from here.****

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Expat Living- Air travel with Kids, an Experience

Yesterday I was watching the episode of Up All Night where the Reagan and Chris take their baby on an airplane for the first time. They are all stressed and panicked, but of course in the end all is good, and they learn that their lives don’t have to change after having a baby.

A very good lesson.

As an Expat, travel with children, especially air travel, is a fact of life. Something that you can’t avoid, or put off.

Last night we travelled from Belgium to Turkey. And I have to say, it went really well.

When we left our house, it was already dark. We drove to Germany, which is where we were flying out of. The girls slept the whole way, three hours.

Then, we got the the airport, and other than the people on our flight, the entire place was empty and closed. We checked our bags, went through security, passport control and sat at our gate for, just over and hour.

Ela, whose almost three months, slept the whole time. Alara, whose almost four, sat with us, looked at the airplanes, and talked to the older couple beside us. Very cute.

On the plane, we were told there was a free snack, Alara wanted to wait up for this, she ate it, and then laid down, and went to sleep.

We woke up as the plane was descending, got off, did passport control again, got our bags and hopped in a taxi.

I honestly don’t know how we did it. This was not ‘s first flight, she loves to be on a plane, I think the excitement of seeing her grandparents made her a better traveler. Ela, was also very good, perhaps she realized that this was something she’d be doing for the rest of her life.

Here are some tips that I find make things easier:

*Keep your child talking. Talk about what you see, what’s happening, where your going. I think this attention helps them stay calm.
*Play a man on man defense, each parent takes a kid, and switch it up. That way each child gets what they need.
*Forget about watching your own movie, listening to your own music or reading a book.
*If you see a bathroom, use it.
*Give yourself plenty of time to get everywhere. You don’t want to be running through an airport dragging your kid and their things behind you!
*Show no fear! Kids can smell when you feel out of your element.

All this being said, I hope I haven’t jinxed air travel for us!

Expat Living- Going to the Hairdresser

When I was growing up, and in fact right until I left Canada, I only ever went to the hairdresser to get my hair cut. I always colored my own hair, and with the exception of a very special day, (like graduation) I always styled my hair myself. And I’d never had a manicure!

So, I thought that when I went to Turkey, I’d be continuing the same way. I thought that most of the women would be wearing coverings over their hair, and that this would make the need for hairdressers so minimal, that I would have to continue doing my hair myself (by the way, I could never do that good of a job).

I was SO wrong!

Firstly, most women are not covered in Turkey, so I was very wrong on that point, but that’s another topic.

Second, there are hairdressers everywhere, and women go to them all the time. Some women go to the hairdresser two or three times a week, just to get their hair styled.

I used to be one of them.

I miss being one of them…

Going to the hairdresser became way more fun for me when I started to speak Turkish well. I could explain exactly what I wanted. I was no longer giving my hair to the hairdresser to do what he’d like. Even though they always did a beautiful job, sometimes it is nice to be able to pick something different.

Turkish hairdressers are great, I truly think that it should be part of any tourist experience.

Sitting in the big chair, while at least two, if not three young boys wash, and brush and style your hair, While a young girl does your nails, drinking tea and chatting with friends and the other ladies in that salon. It’s like heaven.

And the best thing is the price… How can these women go to the salon so often? It isn’t expensive… Especially compared to Belgium.

Last week I went to a salon here in my town, it just got my hair washed and style, and I truly couldn’t believe the price! I’m not complaining, my hair looked great, and it lasted for a very long time, but it was quite a bit more than my turkish salons, even the pricer one I went to in Istanbul.

Oh well, for now, I will have to continue doing my hair myself at home, but I can’t wait until I return to Turkey to return to my life as a well coifed women!

Expat Living- Why Turkey?

‘Why Turkey?’

My answer to this always feels so boring, and kind of makes me seem silly.

When I was in my last year of university, the professors went on strike for a month. I had a lot of free time on my hands, so I decided that I would get my ESL certificate. I had always known that I would do something abroad, and teaching seemed like a great opportunity to travel and work.

While I was at the course, one of the teachers was talking about his experience with traveling and teaching. He was talking about food, and all the different kinds of food that he had eaten during his travels. He warned us that if we have any food allergies, we should be careful with where we choose to work.

Now, I have a severe fish allergy. When I told him about it, he suggested that I stay out of Asia. So, when I finished my course, I started looking for jobs in other parts of the world.

My first night of applying, I sent my resume and a letter to a school in Russia, and a school in Turkey. The Turkish school responded immediately. Everything that they were offering seemed to be what I was looking for, and I took the job.

I’d love to tell you that I had always wanted to go there. That I’d been dying to go cross between Europe and Asia in Istanbul, or sit on a Mediterranean beach, or see the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, or the Whirling Dervishes of Konya.

Honestly, I didn’t know very much about Turkey, and most of the things I did know were wrong (I had thought that Istanbul was the capital city, that everyone rode camels, and that it was a lot hotter all year round…)

It didn’t matter though, I thought I would stay for one or two years, get some experience and either go back to Canada, or move on to a new place. I wanted an experience.

‘Why Turkey?’ People always seem so disappointed, it’s not the most exciting answer, why I stayed is much more…

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Expat Living- Language #1

People that I meet are always interested in how I communicate in a different country. This is a topic that will actually take a few post to answer…

I’ll start with an experience in Turkey.

When I first moved to Turkey, I didn’t know any Turkish. I don’t think I had ever even heard Turkish before. Let me tell you something about Turkish, it is completely different from English.

As a language teacher, I can tell you that the best way to learn a language is to be completely immersed in it. However, for the first year that I lived in Ankara, I rarely spoke a word of Turkish. I worked at a language school where speaking anything other than English was forbidden. None of my students were allowed to speak Turkish to me, and at the time I was working so much that I rarely left the school.

So, when I met Seyfi, I could barely put a sentence together. Sure I could read a basic menu, and ask a bus driver to pull over so I could get off, say some really basic grammar structures, but that was it.

It was when things between Seyfi and i got serious, and I met his parents, that I thought I’d better get working on my Turkish. Seyfi sat down with me and went through some more of the grammar and vocabulary. I slowly started to get better.

A few months later, I asked my parents to come and see where I was living, and to meet Seyfi and his family. (I knew I would marry him, and wanted them to see where I would be living, and who I’d be with).

Now, I am going to tell you a funny story, a story that my in laws tell everyone, a story that I tell students to make them feel better when they make mistakes in my class room…

While they were in Turkey, we travelled around together, Seyfi was always there to help us out with the language. But one afternoon, in a different town, Seyfi and my dad had to go to get the car looked at, so my mom and I went to a little restaurant to get something to eat.

I think my mom was a bit nervous about going to a restaurant without Seyfi, but a reassured her, that there would be no problem, that I could speak Turkish now, that all would be fine.

So, we sat down, looked at the little menus on the table and decided to get some soup. Here is how the conversation went:

Waiter: Hoşgeldiniz. Welcome.
Me: İki çorap, lütfen. Two socks, please. (Pointing at soup)
Waiter: Pardon?
Me: iki çorap, lütfen. Two socks, please. (still pointing at soup)
Waiter: Pardon, çorap? Pardon? Socks?
Me: Evet, çorap… Ah! No! Corba istiyorum! Yes, socks… Ah! No! I want soup!
Waiter: hahaha (laughing at the cute foreigner with her mom!)

I made this mistake for years! My mother in law thinks it is hilarious, my mom still mentions it to me. But most importantly, this story helps my students see that anyone can make a mistake when learning a new language, the most important think is to just keep trying, because when you stop being nervous, and learn the language, an whole new world will open up to you.