Leading a Merry Dance: an Expats’ Guide to Christmas

There are many shoulds that are wrapped around the Christmas holidays like glitzy, cheap wrapping paper. Most of us have grown up with these cultural expectations for what the Christmas holidays “should” consist of, and we struggle to put together the magical ingredients for the “perfect” Christmas holidays. Each family and each culture has its…

The Challenge of Being an Expat

Isn’t it interesting what we consider to be a challenge, especially as inhabitants of a strange land? My first challenge upon moving here was to work out how to buy fruit and how to get said fruit to the checkout without being scowled at by the checkout lady and the entire queue (yes, I had…

There Is No Going Back!

Sitting on the train from London Heathrow airport, I watch the houses zoom past. Then I have the most bizarre thoughts starting to flood into my brain. Thoughts that have the hashtag #English attached to them. I start a running commentary on the houses, the state of repair, how much they are worth, the housing…

Growing with Your Children

“Oooooh!” “Hasn’t she grown?!” “Isn’t she getting big now?!” We the parents stand behind our children as they get compliments on their growth and development whilst we look on, exhausted and ragged. Yet we have a secret that few can see. My daughter would call it my Secret Superpower: we parents are also growing at…

Breaking the Rules

My daughter’s music teacher told me a story about a colleague in Basel. She was a teacher from France who had reached a good level of proficiency in German. However, she had a habit of addressing everyone as “du,” no matter who they were, including the Head of the school! She said she simply couldn’t…

Rituals and Traditions: Not Just for Christmas!

Around October it starts: “Are you staying in Switzerland for Christmas? Are you heading back home? Is the family flying over?” The answer to these questions is easy: one big, fat, jolly, Father-Christmas-shaped “No!” I am expected to look sad, grumpy or at least a little peeved; however, I confuse people with a grin (a…

The Trials of Parenthood: Birthday Parties

In my early 30s I always heard rumours of the dreaded parenting event called the “Birthday Party”: an event filled with wonder and delight for the children, and filled with screaming children, trashed houses and headaches for the parents. I had hoped that by moving abroad I would somehow escape from such stresses and strains:…

Don’t Look Back

Choice of schools in England is a Big Thing. To try to explain the Bigness of this Thing to a non-Brit would be rather futile and somewhat like trying to explain what a platypus is to Missy M (my six-year-old daughter). The question of “What school will you be sending your child to?” is one…