Posted on Leave a comment

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.

pexels-photo-853408

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.

pexels-photo-1027079

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.

pexels-photo-1267696

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!

Posted on 2 Comments

Secrets of the Slovak grandmas … or where you can eat pirohy in New York

Hello readers,

Thought it would be great to discover together some of the local New York addresses with family recipes, memories and stories related to them. Let’s start with East-Slovak specialty called “pirohy”, or what is commonly known here as “Pierogies”.

When we arrived in New York in 2015, my heart bumped up when I first saw “Pierogies” in the supermarket. They are sold fresh or frozen, filled with potato, cheese, feta and spinach, cabbage, etc. But the dough is very thick as compared to what I was used to eat since I can remember. Also, I find that fillings are too “sturdy”. I understood why 5-6 pieces are enough for one portion while in my home, you would eat at least a dozen.

All my family would agree, that my paternal grandma, who lived close to the town Michalovce, did the best pirohy ever: “Zemplinske pirohy” (Pierogies of Zemplin Region). She had such ease to make them, no matter how many we gathered in her house. As she knew that this meal will make everyone happy, whenever we called her that we are coming to visit, she would start preparing them right away. So, when we arrived she was waiting for us in the kitchen, with a big bowl of pirohy filled with home made plum jam and with Slovak style cottage cheese (called “tvaroh”), poured over with melted butter. They were thin and you could see through the cooked dough, in which there was jam and in which one cheese – as you may prefer one or the other, but we always ate them all.

I realized too late that my grandma’s knowledge of making pirohy at the perfection, was our family heritage. My mom and my aunts are good cooks as well and their pirohy are delicious, but I wish I could ask my grandma her secrets.

During my last summer vacation in Slovakia, I had a goal to learn how to cook them. I was proud of making them alone under my mom’s instructions but they were just like any beginning. You need to practice to reach the rightness, and I don’t. So, when I heard about a restaurant called Baba’s Pierogies situated in Brooklyn, founded by the couple with Slovak ancestors, I was curious. Will they taste as the ones from my childhood?

Me making pirohy
Video recipe in Slovak here

First, I read many positive reviews. I was touched by the story that Helena, co-founder of this place, explained in different interviews. In fact, her Slovak grandma, Julia Hlinka, was also the one who gathered all the family every Friday around the bowl of pierogies. And when Helena and her partner Robert wanted to open a restaurant business, she taught them all she could about pierogies so now, it’s them who perpetuate this cultural heritage. And they do it so well!

Their restaurant, situated close to Union Station in Brooklyn, is very cozy, with modern interior design integrating some Slovak elements. The long wall is covered by pictures with family memories and map highlighting Slovakia, and an open kitchen enables guests to feel the home atmosphere. I had a great Chicken soup and a “tasting” plate with every variety of pierogies proposed here. I began with boiled Potato & Cheese, and this is definitely my favorite because it reminds me the closest to the taste I was used to.

I had a chance to chat with Helena about all this “adventure”. We spoke Slovak even though she was born here. I was curious to know why the menu doesn’t include “bryndza” filling (sheep cheese), as this would be really typical Slovak recipe. Though this cheese is available nowadays in New York, it was not the case in the 60’s when Helena’s grandma arrived in New York and needed to adapt her recipe with American Cheese. To keep the family tradition, Baba’s Pierogies proposes the same recipe and when you order “Classic Potato” filling, get ready to be transported. And if you really want to taste bryndza, order the “Kielbasa sliders”, that features this typical Slovak cheese with sausage from Muncan in Queens, sauerkraut, and home cooked mustard. Czech and Slovak beers are available as well. I can’t wait to return here.

Written by Martina Hornakova

Posted on 1 Comment

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.

DSC_0746

  • 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

Posted on 4 Comments

What Is Cultural Diversity And Why Should You Care?

KITnDO’s mission, as you might already know, is to promote cultural diversity by helping everybody to perpetuate his/her cultural heritage through local connections. Since this is our very first article on the blog, we thought why not start with the ‘basics’:

What actually drives us to create the community, what’s the motivation behind this project?

Cultural diversity and globalization are the hot topics in the today’s political and social debate. Furthermore, as any controversial subjects, these terms arouse many prejudices and misconceptions. Understanding what entails the cultural diversity and globalization would be the first step in dealing with it.

The UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity was adopted in 2001, as an aftermath of the events of September 11th 2001. UNESCO aims to reaffirm that intercultural dialogue is one of the prerequisites in order to prevent the ‘clash of civilization’ and to guarantee the peace. It was the first document of a kind which has addressed the importance of cultural identity, pluralism and this in the context of imminent globalization of the world.

What is ‘cultural diversity’?

Cultural diversity doesn’t have an official definition, it is as diverse as the term implies. The authors of UNESCO World Report generally define it, as the expression of the fact, the awareness that “there exists a wide range of distinct cultures, which can be readily distinguished on the basis of ethnographic observation, even if the contours delimitating a particular culture prove more difficult to establish than might at first sight appear[1]”.

The concept of cultural diversity encompasses cultures, civilizations and most importantly people – transmitters of the culture and civilizations.

“I was born and raised in Russia. When I was 19 I left my country, and came to France to study. Later, I have spent one year in the Netherlands, then I married a Mexican and we are currently living in Germany. How can I identify myself with one single place at this point? Can I ignore the presence of other cultures and civilizations? Of course, no”.

And if 20 years ago, this example could be rather exceptional and rare, today it is not surprising anymore. There is nothing new in the human migration. The cultural exchange exists as long as the humanity does. What has actually changed, is the ease of migration, the speed of culture mixing.

How can globalization be reconciled with the cultural diversity?

The globalization is oftentimes juxtaposed with cultural diversity, as the globalization is commonly associated with the homogenization of society. What globalization does is it impairs the link between the cultural peculiarity and the geographic location by bringing the distant influence into the immediate vicinity[1].

If it is indisputable that globalization involves a lot of risks, it does not necessarily equal the loss of cultural identity and diversity. Quite the contrary, under certain circumstances, globalization presents a source of opportunity for the “preservation and promotion of the fruitful diversity of cultures”[2].

To grasp that idea, one should take into account two statements:

1) Cultures are not fixed and self-enclosed. It is in constant motion and change. The static culture is actually more likely to disappear than the ever-changing one.

The cultural enrichment is possible through the exchange and dialogue with the external parties, e.g. outside the culture bubble.

To take an obvious example of the perpetual movement and exchange of culture, let’s look at the language. The language never stops changing, borrowing new words, concepts from other languages and still keeps its identity.

2) Globalization removes the cultural barriers and gives access to the diversity.

Cultural stereotypes are based on the intrinsic human fear of the unknown. They seek to demarcate one group from the alien other[3]. The globalization, however, reverses such process. As Daniel Rothkopf wrote, it “promotes integration and the removal not only of cultural barriers but of many of the negative dimensions of culture.”[4].

Never before had we such a wide access to the foreign goods, traditions, music, books, food, clothing style etc. It is so normal for us to live mixing the cultures, that we don’t notice it anymore. It has become a part of our culture.

blog girl unesco

Conclusion

Globalization, increasing migration, urbanization and all the challenges related to it are part of the new reality. The world has changed a lot in the past century and the links between different cultures, entities, and people are so close than ever before.

It is vitally important to find ways how to manage cultural changes effectively.

One can make it with the implementation of the culturally sensitive education, the diversification of the business, introducing new policies etc. But is it enough?

It might be easier for an expat or any other person who gets in a direct touch with a multitude of cultures to comprehend the cultural changes that the society is going through. However, it is not the case for everyone. There should be not only intercultural but also intracultural dialogue.

Instead of pushing people to accept all the cultural differences, we should unveil what’s behind the steel curtain, establish mutual and respectful dialogue, letting them make their own conscious choice about their culture.

It is only by being aware that the responsibility mainly lies on people – transmitters of culture – that the cultural diversity can be nourished, and the intercultural dialogue preserved.

Are you ready to take that responsibility over?

Written by Maria Migalina


[1] UNESCO World Report 2009, p.3 (The UNESCO World Report No. 2: Investing in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue. Executive Summary)
[2] http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=13179&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html
[3] UNESCO World Report 2009, P.11
[4] David Rothkopf, “In Praise of Cultural Imperialism,” Foreign Policy June 22, 1997