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6 Benefits of Living Abroad for a Year (or More!)

Whether you plan to be living abroad for a year or hope to be an expat more permanently, there are endless benefits to trying out a new place. People worldwide will leave their ‘home country’ to experience other cultures, enjoy new job opportunities, study abroad or simply change their lifestyle. Not only is it exciting, but it’s also good for you as a person to gain a fresh global perspective, learn to adapt and possibly even master a second language. Here’s some wonderful positives of being an expat and living somewhere else.

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Improves Your Mental Health

According to the Harvard Business Review, people who choose to try living abroad for a year or longer can experience benefits to their mental durability. The study mostly deals with a sense of strong identity and self-awareness. Other benefits include things like reducing group biases, career success and enhancing creativity.

Improves Your Physical Health

Not always, but sometimes, when living in a new country, you may have different transport situations than at home. Perhaps walking to work or cycling is more accepted in a new city or rural destination. People who move to new countries often have to find new friends, which could lead to joining more intramural sports and activities. Also, in new countries, expats are inclined to try new, fresh foods that are local and delicious. All of these things can promote better health.

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Helps you Appreciate Your Home Country

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, right? Sometimes a move, especially a drastic one, can help you understand where you’re from on a deeper level. People who move abroad sometimes will miss ‘home’ and seek out ways to re-connect with their culture of birth. Furthermore, people who’ve lived in multiple different countries will see differences clearly and appreciate the beauty in each place.

Cultivates Intelligence

Moving to a new country often means having to learn a new language – or at least the basics! This challenge can lead to lots of benefits, including enhanced creativity, learning about new cultures and even more job opportunities. Simply having to adapt and learn how to get around a new place to live can be a refreshing way to stimulate the brain.

Enhances Communication

Even outside of learning the local language, you usually have to be very clear in your communication. Slang words, colloquialisms and simply different customs all require deeper thought. Communication and respect are key when living abroad for a year or more, which can be great for your job, home life and overall relationships.

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Leads to the Travel Bug!

If nothing else, some time spent living abroad will most likely have you wanting more! People who are expats or move elsewhere often prioritize traveling and exploring. Living in a new country feels like the ultimate trip in itself.

Want to know more about living abroad for a year or longer? Stay tuned, we’ll be covering lots of important expat tips and guides in the coming months. If you’ve already made the move, check out the KITnDO homepage to connect with your culture in your new home!

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What’s on your shopping list?

Back in the 90’s, just few years after the end of the Cold War, the difference of salaries and costs of living on East and West of Europe were so important that a price of subway ticket was considered as expensive for someone from ex-Soviet bloc. Though I had obtained a scholarship for my studies in a French College, each time I travelled for school break to Slovakia, I would bring back to France bags full of food and non-food items (of course, it would include some sweets from my childhood like “Horalky” or “Študentská pečať”). Many years later, the content of my bags reduced and changed, as I could travel by plane and was also limited by weight. I would bring mostly some souvenirs ‘Made in Slovakia’ for my friends, gifts I received from my family, and food that I’ve been really missing abroad (such as “Bryndza” – special sheep cheese, and “Becherovka” – herb based schnapps).

Much later, with the birth of my daughter, I would mostly bring CD’s with lullabies and little songs, books, and DVD with cartoons in Slovak language. If my family was visiting me in France during Christmas or Easter time, they would also bring some decorations (hand painted eggs, gingerbreads or beeswax candles) and also, some products to cook typical recipes for those special moments. Once, I even asked to bring me a special earthen cask to prepare my own sauerkraut, so I would never miss this ingredient so important in the Slovak kitchen. But unfortunately, when we moved to our New Yorker apartment, this item was left behind, it was not ideal to have fermenting cabbage literally in the kitchen/living room.

Homemade saurekraut FR

During our last summer break, we made a very long trip, visiting all three countries that represent our ‘Home’ countries: Slovakia, France and Mauritius (over 32.000 km all together). Following picture testifies that what we brought back with us, was decent to hold an international mini fair! So, if you are wondering what we have been missing since we moved to the US, here are some examples:

From France:

  • Special laundry sheets that make your life easier because you don’t have to worry mixing clothes of different colors
  • Baking Powder and chocolate Nestle (French expats in US would agree that Hershey’s is not the best substitute for a perfect “Moelleux au chocolat”: French molten chocolate cake)
  • Cosmetics like Chanel, Clarins, and Occitane (all available in US but pricier)
  • Tea “Mariage Frère”
  • Foie gras and some duck terrines
  • Different sweets like “Têtes brulées” and “Malabar”, and comic books for our daughter

From Mauritius:

  • Mixtures of different spices to cook typical Mauritian recipes like Daube, Carry, etc.
  • Pickled chilis from Reunion and Rodrigues Islands
  • Rums
  • “Eau de Mélisse” and “Alcool de Menthe”: alternative to meds for digestive problems, travel sickness, stress, fatigue, and so on
  • Fried salt fish (that we love so much)

From Slovakia:

  • Some spices and Hungarian paste in tube called “Porkolt” (for cooking a sort of beef stew)
  • Some more candies 🙂
  • Swiss toothbrushes Curaprox
  • Special cook utensil for “Koblihy” (Czech style of donuts)

Shopping from SK FR and MU

Luckily we don’t have to wait until our next vacation, if we want to cook our traditional meals. In fact, in New York City, we have a couple of French, Slovak, Polish, Ukrainian or Indian stores, where we can buy many products and there are online shops too. If you want to find addresses of stores related to your home country that are situated in your neighborhood, try out KITnDO platform. You can also add places you know if they are missing there, so that others can discover them too.

Please, share with us what is on your shopping list for your next trip to the country(ies) you are connected to? What are you missing the most (besides family and friends of course)?

Written by Martina Hornakova

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Purple Economy

Have you heard of the Purple Economy? The term has been used to define several different sections of the economy, but the definition I like is that it refers to the adaptation of the economy to human diversity in globalization and valuing the cultural aspects of goods and services. Well, this is exactly what we are promoting here at KITnDO. When we search for and purchase ingredients and mementos from countries related to our cultural background (such a country where we were born or raised), we are supporting the purple economy.

One of the many advantages of living in a large city such as New York is the availability of those things that remind us of our origins. As someone who has a Mauritian spouse and has spent part of my life in both Slovakia and France, I value that availability. We have a truly multicultural daughter, and being able to give her a taste of her roots – whether it is through Mauritian spices, Slovak candies or French books found here in the city – makes me grateful the purple economy exists.

There doesn’t appear to be much information about the economic impact of the purple economy. And indeed, it may be hard to pinpoint. While a restaurant may self-identify as serving Lebanese or Czech food – tax forms don’t call for that information. Besides, goods may be part of more than one culture – baklava can be found throughout the Mediterranean region for instance. A store selling Polish groceries in Philadelphia might appeal to Czechs, Slovaks, and others from Eastern Europe. The purple economy is a global economy and happily, the KITnDO website is part of that. We have listings for places found in the United States of course, but our international listings are increasing every day.

Another notable feature of the purple economy is the growing practice of Fair Trade goods being sold around the world. These are generally items created by artisans, though food items such as coffee and tea could be included as well. These items may be more generic – objects such as a pair of sterling silver earrings created by a member of a Hill tribe in Thailand or mittens knit by a Guatemalan – but they still speak to the concept of valuing the cultural aspects of goods. And more than one business has been built on this practice (e.g. Ten Thousand Villages, Rêve En Vert, and The Little Market to name just a few).

Do you shop on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn to find hummus just the way your Teita (grandma) made it? Or search for bookstores such as Ten Thousand Steps or Albertine in Manhattan so that you can read to yourself or your children in your native language? Maybe you are going to buy some gifts from one of the pop-up stores at Christmas Village in Bryant Parc that propose a variety of items crafted in Tunisia, South-Africa, Peru or Indonesia. We would love to know how you “support” the purple economy.

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How to celebrate a multicultural wedding? Get inspired and learn how to blend cultures into one beautiful celebration

The decision to get married is one of the biggest moves a person takes in a lifetime. Nowadays, couples are free to decide how they want to celebrate this event. No surprise that intercultural couples have all the possibilities to express their cultures in a wedding in any manner they want.

Better than having your wedding quickly out of the control (you don’t want to follow the example of “Big Greek wedding” movie), you have countless ways to mix the cultures creating a truly unique and personal celebration. And since the wedding is maybe the first substantial step in accepting and embracing the culture between two partners, it is important to respect and to be receptive to the wishes of each other.

There are so many opportunities to incorporate your traditions into the celebration. We’ve created a collection of stories and ideas for multicultural weddings that could possibly inspire you to remember and to celebrate your delicious origins.

“In case of my Slovak-Mauritian wedding that we celebrated in France, we started to integrate symbols of our cultures already on the wedding invitation: maps, stamps, and local flowers. When we arrived at the reception place, a Mauritian folk group had escorted our first steps with traditional sounds of Sega music, under amazed eyes of our guests. We have attached the name tag for each person on a piece of cinnamon stick to indicate table sitting. Each guest received as a souvenir, a gingerbread hand decorated in Slovakia, with our initials and the date of the wedding. We had some Mauritian cookies on the dessert table, called Napolitains, that we managed to bring directly from Mauritius. And, we also decided to create our wedding rings by a Mauritian jeweler. Every detail of our wedding was just an expression of our personalities and origins. Since we got married after 18 years of living in our hosting country, France, the culture of this country was a dominant element, namely through the gastronomic point of view. After all, I think we’ve created a real intercultural experience for our guests.” testimony from Janick, living now in New York.

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Fabio and Jessica succeeded in making a nice blending of Italian and American cultures for their wedding. In her blog article, Jessica describes with a good dose of humor how they managed to implement some of the American traditions into the traditional Italian church ceremony. Jessica talks in detail about some of the differences between their cultures and shows the solution that they’ve found to harmonize and to “marry” both traditions. For instance, unlike the Italian tradition, the function of bridesmaids in an American tradition is to help the bride throughout the ceremony, to be the support of the bride. Whereas, in Italy the bridesmaid play a more formal role of testimonies for the brides. So, Jessica decided to have 5 bridesmaids instead of traditional for Italy 1 or 2, and they all wore champagne colored dresses.

Tanya and Arun were both raised in London. However, Arun is Indian and Tanya has Jamaican and Irish origins. So, what did they make? A wedding that incorporated traditions from all the involved countries. The ceremony and reception took place in English. The bridesmaids wore saris. The meal included Indian, Caribbean but also local English dishes. The DJ played all kind of music so that every guest would feel comfortable to dance.

In this beautiful video, you can see how Thea and Rachit embraced Jewish and Hindu cultures in a two-day wedding that took place in the US. Both the brides and guests seem to truly enjoy following the traditional rituals of the Jewish and Hindu wedding.

Linda, wedding planner from Denver in Colorado, shared with us a story when an American couple with Irish ancestors, decided to remember their roots by tying the knot. This old Celtic tradition where the couples claps hands together and wrapped them by the cord, symbolizes their unity in marriage.

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Some more tips…

This article could serve you as a check-list of the different aspects of the wedding where you can show off your culture.

Or you can get some useful tips from Piyali and Jon, who share their personal lessons they’ve learned about the organization of the multicultural wedding

Pinterest board of inspiration for multicultural wedding: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/multicultural-wedding/?lp=true

Wedding rings with Irish Trinity Knot: https://www.irishshop.com/irish-jewelry/irish-wedding-rings-bands-celtic-wedding-rings/trinity-knot-wedding-bands.html

As you might have already guessed, there is an uncountable number of the wedding customs around the world. Here is the selection of some traditions that may surprise you or maybe inspire you to use it for your own wedding celebration. In the end, who said that you have to follow the traditions only from your own cultural heritage?

Share with us your experience with a multicultural wedding. Did you implement your traditions into the celebration? If yes, how?

Or maybe are you getting married soon? Then let us know if this article inspired you to remember your roots.

Written by Maria Migalina

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How Can Compatriots Help You In Your Successful Integration?

Moving abroad may be quite challenging. There are so many things to learn, to understand, nearly to re-build your life and integrate into the new society.

Basically, the successful integration involves two moves: * to blend in with the new society + * to preserve its own origins.

Building a social circle and searching for a support definitely, helps to integrate into a new country. It may sound counterintuitive at first sight, but connecting to your compatriots or other expats could be very beneficial for you and your further integration.

These are the people who went through the same process of expatriation, as you are doing now. Moreover, they might have the same cultural background as you do. So who can understand you as a migrant better, than your compatriot or other fellow expats? In a nutshell, you are in the same boat.

Many years ago, gathering together with compatriots abroad was almost essential for the “survival”. The community of compatriots carried out multiple important functions: finding a first job, renting a house or apartment, sharing food, giving advice and tips about the new country etc. So one of the first things to do when arriving in a new country was searching for people of the same origin.

Today, the situation is not the same anymore, the people can find jobs remotely and many are moving abroad having at hand a work contract. The same goes for the studies, where students can register to the university and arrange a lot of formalities before they actually move abroad. Even if a person arrives in a new country spontaneously, it is much easier to find most of the necessary information online.

Nowadays, people don’t need the compatriots for the so-called “survival” in a new country, but the same community of compatriots plays a new role. Firstly, it helps to deal with the feeling that you are a stranger abroad (even if the intensity of such a feeling differs largely from the hosting country). And secondly, such community serves as the main transmitter of your culture.

Which benefits do I get when connecting to compatriots or other expats?

  • Learning from experience of others

Keeping the social contact to the people who share your origins helps you to feel more confident and self-aware. These people are the ones who can not only understand better than anyone the experiences you are going through when setting up in a new country. These are also the people who are facing the similar challenges. Moreover, with the help of the others, you can avoid numerous mistakes, that most of the newcomers make. You can get a quicker grasp of how the “new” system works and, thus, significantly simplify your daily life.

  • Exchange

There are so many things to share in such a community. The exchange of traditions, customs, food recipes, movies, books, addresses where they sell products from your homeland…

It all helps to re-discover yourself and to enrich your culture. Let’s say you didn’t care too much about the folk music from your native country or didn’t appreciate enough your local cuisine. Well, it can easily turn out, that through the community of compatriots you’ll get a fresh view on your culture, (re-)awaken the curiosity to your own country.

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  • Language

When you are not using the language, you are gradually losing the grasp of it. Even if you moved abroad as an adult, your language literacy and eloquence can degrade in no time. Communicating with people who speak your language helps to prevent this, especially if you combine it with reading the books written in your language.

More than that, when moving abroad with kids, as parents, we want them to preserve their language. For example, meeting compatriots enables families to organize playdates for kids.

  • Meet-ups

Meet-ups help to build a community, and the community multiplies the benefits of the connection to your origins. Together you can organize trips to the places related to your home. Or why not promoting and introducing your culture to the country you live in? You can plan a thematic dinner to share the national dishes or to celebrate your national holidays. Or what about organizing a musical band, playing national musical instruments, folk dance club, etc.? The ideas for cooperation are countless.

Testimony from Carlos from Mexico who organized a musical band playing prehispanic music with his compatriots in Germany:

“I am a grandchild of indigenous grandparents, I grew up in a culture that although is not unique, but has a lot of things to show, among them are music, instruments, dance, poetry. When I interpret and people listen to me, I feel being a part of Mexico, of its culture that transcends. But I also think that when this nation (Germans) is interested in what I do, they accept diversity, value and appreciate what is being done beyond its frontiers.”

Grupo Cuicatl

 

So how do we find each other?

You can already find in the KITnDO directory addresses of some local associations related to your origin(s) and also join KITnDO Facebook Group. We also made a list of some ideas on how to find and to connect with compatriots abroad.

1) Web platforms that have physical meetups in several countries/cities

InterNations

Meetup

Justlanded

Expat.com

2) Virtual groups (including social media)

– Facebook groups of people sharing the same culture or language

– local forums (Toytown Germany, TheLocal communities including several European countries)

– local threads on Reddit (r/Germany, r/USA, r/Russia etc.)

Expat Forum

Expatinfodesk.com

3) Local culture centers/museums/libraries

4) Associations (cultural, educational, sport, etc.)

 

Are you keeping in touch with people sharing your origins? If yes, then what’s your favorite way to connect with other expats/compatriots?

Written by Maria Migalina