Not Just Foolin’ Around: Our Communities in April

April Fool’s is not the only day of note this month. It was also World Health Day on 7 April. Expats, maybe more than anybody else, understand how hard it can be to lead a healthy and fun life. Sometimes, they work too much and do not have enough time to take care of what they eat; sometimes, they are stressed out by life in another country, or sometimes, they just do not have the opportunity to meet new friends. But our communities have provided some great solutions to those everyday problems.

Healthy Does Not Mean Boring

Singapore event
Our members in Singapore took the message of World Health Day seriously and organized a rollerblading activity on the east coast of the city. This event didn’t only fulfill the goal of keeping the attendees in good shape, but it also provided the fun by finishing at a bar with a good beer (only consumed with moderation, of course!).

Prague event
A healthy way of life begins with a balanced diet, and our members in Prague were clearly inspired by this tenet. They went in great numbers (more than 270 people registered for the event!) to Etnosevet, one of Prague’s fancier vegetarian venues, which even provided our very own DJ for the evening. Sadly, this was also the occasion to say goodbye to our Prague Ambassador Lenka, who’s leaving us due to her busy (but hopefully nevertheless healthy!) lifestyle.

Sydney event
The second step to a healthy lifestyle is exercising. Our community in Sydney impressed us with their physical performance on a Sunday morning. In fact, they began their run at 7:30 AM! Surprisingly enough, no attendee thought that this hour must be an April Fool’s joke. A big bravo to our Sydney Sports & Leisure Group for keeping Sydney’s expats in form!

If Laughing Is Enough Physical Activity for You …

It is scientifically proven that laughing is good for your health, too, and we know that not all our members are that fond of an early Sunday morning run. For those who tend to prefer fun to fitness, our Ambassadors and Consuls also had plenty of other events in store:

Dallas event
April does not only represent the beginning of (hopefully) sunny weather for the Northern Hemisphere. In the United States, it also represents the end of the tax season, and for 175 of our members in Dallas, getting their dreaded tax return over and done with was certainly worth celebrating. The guests had a lovely evening at the Four Seasons Resort, and we are sure that filing your taxes and having a party afterwards can only make you feel happy. By the way, if you now feel guilty about the partying, the Four Seasons has even set up a special discount for InterNations members who want to join their sports club.

Barcelona event
In Barcelona, our community wanted to begin the month of April with a healthy dose of laughter, and we can confidently say “mission accomplished“. Nearly 400 members signed up to gather at an art gallery and exchange their best April Fool’s stories, a relaxing and fun way to spend the evening.

Who said you can’t have fun in Germany? In Munich, members of the local InterNations Community attended a stand-up comedy show by an international trio from Canada, Texas, and Scotland. No need to do crunches when you can train your abs by laughing!

Having Fun All Year Round with InterNations

You haven’t yet had the opportunity to enjoy April in a healthy and fun way? Don’t worry: there are still plenty of possibilities for you to get in some exercise or be the life of the party with the help of our InterNations Communities around the globe.

The members of our Miami Community will explore marine life and enjoy the sun and the sea at this kayak and snorkel activity. If you feel like you have been working (or partying) too hard this month, it’s now time to make up for it!

If you want to know what it feels like to be a star, our San Francisco Community is organising a Hollywood theme night that you will never forget! From smiling at the paparazzi at the entrance to walking the red carpet, you can be George Clooney or Jennifer Lawrence for just a day.

Beijing future event
Sometimes, after so many days of eating and living healthy, you need to take a short break from your sensible lifestyle, as a sort of “cheat day”. Our Beijing Community had the excellent idea of combining great food with great art, so you can at least exercise your imagination. However, please be aware that the art on display is “food art” — you’d better try not to eat it too!

(Image credit: 1) Veronika Sakhno 2) Lenka Mazochova 3) Laura Ribeiro 4) Conrad Ornstein 5) Raquel Beque 6) Matthew Cuerdon)

Expats and the Five Stages of Loss

In Cologne, Germany, the part of the globe where I have been living for almost 16 years, winter has made room for spring. The long-awaited rays of sunlight warm our hearts and lift our spirits, as my husband and I move through the broad emotional spectrum of loss and grief.

Expats and the Five Stages of Grief_Pic 1 We said farewell to both our mother/mother-in-law and father/father-in-law in February and March of this year. Their deaths within three weeks of each other have created holes and voids we are slowly learning to nurture and heal.

A “Different” Christmas in 2015

Christmas 2015 was supposed to be a chance to spend some quality time with his parents. Their home is tucked between the vineyards of Baden, home to Germany’s classic grape varieties Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Gris.

On clear days, we can see as far as the Cathedral in Strasbourg and admire the Vosges Mountains from their expansive living room window. We usually emerged from the mini-apartment on the lower level of their house in our fluffy white bathrobes just as the warm rolls were placed in the bread basket. Expats and the Five Stages of Grief_Pic 2

The visits felt like vacation at a wellness spa. Our mornings were spent savoring breakfast-brunch complete with fresh fruit and muesli while chatting with our mother/mother-in-law in the Badish-Schwabian dialect, the official family language.

Just before Christmas, my husband had a minor dental procedure. Due to unexpected complications that followed, we decided to stay in Cologne over the holidays and spend the Easter break with them in the Black Forest.

At that time, we could not have even imagined that neither of them would experience Easter 2016.

Balancing Time and Distance: Part and Parcel of Family Life for Expats

My husband and I visited regularly, at least twice a year. From the start of our now 13-year relationship, we have maintained a healthy balance between spending quality time together and time with our families on both sides of the Atlantic.

Given our unique “work-life stage” and the distances between our global family clusters, we manage to carve out time and space to make the most of the eight-hour car trip southbound (to and fro) on the not always so fast-moving Autobahn. Expats and the Five Stages of Grief_Pic 3

Admittedly, the regular discussions about how we spend our vacation were indeed delicate balancing acts, comparable to advanced crash-courses in international negotiations. Yet, we all knew that scheduling challenges are part and parcel of expat family life.

During the course of our marriage, I had grown close to his parents. They made me feel truly loved and I viewed them more as a second set of parents, rather than as in-laws. Their kindness, openness, and generosity was tangible right from the start. Even as I write this post, my heart feels the void of their absence.

Moving Through the Stages of Loss and Grief

As expats, we have developed the resilience and skills to manage all sorts of change and loss. We have changed jobs, locations, cultures, and languages. The emotion that accompanies many of these changes and losses is grief.

Julie Axelrod’s “The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief” is a helpful reminder that bereavement is an individual process. We all work through the stages in different time frames and express each stage with varying intensity. Her article also dispels the myth that the five stages should occur in any specific order.

As my husband and I continue to move through our grieving process, here are a few things I keep in mind: Expats and the Five Stages of Grief_Pic 4

• There is no “right” or “wrong” way to move through this experience.
• I miss them because I love them.
• Although they have passed away, the love now occupies the space their departure created.

Their deaths also sparked deeper personal reflection and confrontation with my own mortality. With a heightened awareness of death as a part of life, I have clearer intentions and practice more presence with myself, within myself and those in my personal and professional spheres of influence. I have more courage and am more inspired to speak from my heart. I also make the conscious choice to forgive myself and others more quickly, rather than wasting precious time berating myself, being offended or resentful.

I have decided to embrace every opportunity to live in greater alignment and to love and give without fear.

Most importantly, I cherish every day I can spend with the most precious gift my parents-in-law have given to the world: their son, my husband and dear friend.

Monère Renoir Wanner is a global citizen in Cologne. She is an intercultural trainer/coach, image consultant, speaker and university lecturer. In her free time, Monère enjoys French films, Latin music, and Italian cuisine with her husband, Hans.

(Image credit: 1), 3), 4) StockSnap 2) iStock)

InterNations Insider Tips: Five Impressions of Manama

Malte Zeeck, Founder & Co-CEO of InterNations, the world’s expat community, shares his most memorable impressions from his recent trip to the Persian Gulf.

Manama’s Beaches: Escape the Endless Winter

Bahrain is undoubtedly a hot country, and temperatures can reach more than 50°C during the summer. However, in the winter months (from November to March), the weather is mild and very pleasant. I met quite a few people coming to Manama with their family in winter when Bahrain turns into a perfect vacation spot. Fishing pier in Manama, Bahrain

If you, too, want to spend some time at the beach, I very much enjoyed my time at Coral Bay, one of the country’s most popular beach clubs: no matter if you are planning to snorkel, go jet-skiing, or just relax in the sun, the Manama Corniche is the place for you.

Bahrain Financial Harbour: A Symbol of Economic Resilience

Bahrain is one of the first countries in the Middle East that literally ran out of oil: though you can still visit the First Oil Well and read the plaque to commemorate this historical discovery, all of its petroleum reserves are now empty. InterNations Insider Tips_Five Impressions of Manama_Pic 1

The Bahrain Financial Harbour (BFH) district, a new commercial neighborhood located on reclaimed land, is proof of how rapidly the local economy has adapted to this situation. Nowadays, Bahrain’s most important industry is finance, and Manama is home to more than 200 banks.

The BFH skyline is impressive, and its twin towers are now a landmark of Manama. I found out that one of the best spots to admire the skyline is from Juffair district, where you’ll also come across some expat haunts favored by personnel from the nearby US naval base.

Adliyah District: Where Tradition Meets Modernity

I spent several hours in the Adliyah district, and I was absolutely impressed by its mixture of authenticity and modernity, blending together in interesting ways. There are a lot of excellent restaurants in the area, both traditional and more modern venues. The available food ranges from Lebanese to Turkish and Filipino cuisines, all separated by just a few minutes’ walk.

Bab El-Bahrain Souk Gate in Manama, Bahrain, Muddle EastAdliyah features plenty of art galleries, too: however, though a Bahraini friend told me that they are well worth the visit, I unfortunately did not find the time. I did manage to stroll through the souks, though, where you can buy absolutely everything, from socks to Indian saris: do not miss out on paying a visit to this typical Middle Eastern market!

Reef Island: A Man-Made Paradise

The Gulf countries are famous for their man-made islands, and I had the privilege of seeing one of them first-hand: Reef Island. I thought it’s rather fascinating to see how Bahrain grows by reclaiming land from the sea and then eventually building entire new districts.

InterNations Insider Tips_Five Impressions of Manama_Pic 3 In this case, Reef Island is a luxury property development with its own marina and yacht club — close to the CBD, but still fairly quiet, meant to be a peaceful haven for the uber-wealthy in the center of a booming business capital, with a beautiful view of the city center and the Manama skyline. The island is also destined to become a nightlife hotspot, and you can already try out several new upscale restaurants on its waterfront.

The Bahrain National Museum: Tiny Country, Ancient History

If you are into history rather than luxury, then the Bahrain National Museum is a must see for you. Qal'At Al Bahrain Fort, Island of BahrainCharmingly enough, the collection also features the former car of the first King of Bahrain, which is in surprisingly good condition. I was already impressed by its ultra-minimalist architecture from the outside. Inside, visitors can learn all about the archaeology and the heritage of Bahrain, as well as the natural history of the region.

History geeks, however, might especially enjoy the tableau depicting a scene from the Epic of Gilgamesh: the 4000-year-old poem from ancient Mesopotamia mentions what is now Bahrain as the “paradise of Dilmun”. Perhaps the poets of the Neo-Sumerian Empire have indeed foreseen what Manama’s 21st-century property developers are dreaming of…?

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

Founder’s Diary: Manama

InterNations Founder & Co-CEO Malte Zeeck provides a detailed portrait of our expat community in Manama, Bahrain, and the local event he attended recently.

To attend the spring event in Manama, Bahrain, I had to go on a lengthy journey: my trip from Munich to Manama, via Frankfurt and Dammam, took me about eleven hours. The time difference of another two hours on top meant that I started out at 10:00 and arrived at 23:00. Fortunately, the plane was half-empty, so I could first relax during the flight and then get in a good night’s sleep at the hotel. thumb_IMG_7459_1024

I was staying at the ART Rotana on Amwaj Island, a neighborhood fully reclaimed from the sea, like so many areas in tiny Bahrain. The InterNations Official Event was to take place at the ART’s Asian restaurant and bar the following evening, so I had plenty of time to arrange several meet-ups during the day.

An Entrepreneurial Personality

First, I finally got to know Burak, one of our InterNations Manama Ambassadors, in person. The Turkish expat was already an active member of our community when he still used to live in Moscow, about six years ago. In 2010, when he moved to Bahrain to enjoy a much warmer climate, he immediately checked out the InterNations Community there.

Back then, we only had around 400 members in Bahrain and the get-togethers were also smallish affairs. As we happened to be looking for a new Manama Ambassador at the time, he decided to accept a new challenge. Thanks to working for Ogilvy, one of the world’s largest advertising agencies, Burak clearly has lots of experience in spreading the word. InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Manama_Pic 5

Today, there are over 7,500 InterNations members in Bahrain, and it’s generally a very active community with 20 InterNations groups as well. As most of the over 300,000 residents living in Bahrain’s capital are expats, Burak — a very entrepreneurial personality — still sees a huge untapped potential for our InterNations Community.

But, even more importantly, he also told me how the role of an InterNations Ambassador has had a positive impact on his own life. Burak has met several close friends through our network and gained valuable business contacts that even led to joint projects. Seeing how our community can directly change people’s lives for the better is the best feedback we as founders could get!

A High-End Club High above the City

For 10:30, Burak had kindly arranged the first of my press interviews in Bahrain: Gulf Daily News sent a reporter who’s an expat herself, and we extensively discussed InterNations in general, the development of the Manama Community, and particularly the InterNations Volunteer Program.

Afterwards, Burak took me on a tour of Manama, telling me all about the capital and its local community during our sightseeing trip. InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Manama_Pic 4He showed me the great views of the city and the Persian Gulf from the panorama windows of the Capital Club, one of Bahrain’s premier business and social clubs, located on the top floor of a skyscraper in the Financial Harbour district.

The high-end club would also make a great venue for future events, Burak suggested before proceeding to introduce me to its general manager, too. The latter was a Lebanese expat, who told me that both her daughters — living in two completely different cities around the globe — had made good friends and even met their husbands through InterNations. It’s a very small world indeed!

A Passionate Advocate for Expatriates

The next stop after the ultra-modern buildings of the BFH neighborhood was an older part of town, full of little shops and restaurants, which had more of a typically Middle Eastern vibe. We’d chosen one of the cozy restaurants, a French-Lebanese place, to have lunch with Hanan, Burak’s fellow Manama Ambassador.

An expat from Amman, Jordan, Hanan came to Bahrain about three years ago to pursue an interesting job opportunity in the logistics sector. InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Manama_Pic 2 At one of the local events, she met Burak and was fascinated by the concept of the InterNations Ambassador role. When the growing community became a bit too much for one person to handle, she stepped up to join the Manama Community Team.

Just like Burak, Hanan is a passionate advocate of our mission to make life easier for expats, devoting a lot of time to her position, but she also explained how she’s benefitted from InterNations herself. Getting involved in the community meant that she found new friends in an unknown city, took advantage of a new job offer from a German company, and — last but certainly not least — met her South African husband through our network.

A Wide Range of Press Coverage

In the afternoon, there was another interview plus photo shoot coming up. On the outdoor patio of Trader Vic’s, the restaurant and lounge of the Ritz-Carlton, a journalist from Ohlala Magazine was waiting for us. Ohlalala is the Vogue of the Middle East, focusing on fashion and lifestyle topics for a female audience from the region. Therefore, my interview partner was especially interested in women in the InterNations Community — Burak could tell her all about our Women Only Group and several women organizing successful activities for various InterNations Groups in Bahrain. InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Manama_Pic 1

A little later, it was already time to return to the ART Rotana hotel and get ready for the event. Before the get-together officially started, I met up with Burak and Hanan to grab a bite to eat and give two more interviews — one of Bahrain Confidential, an English-language lifestyle magazine, and the other for Gulf Insider, a Bahrain-based publication covering business, finance, and current events, as well as travel, art, and lifestyle round the Persian Gulf.

Another big thank you to Burak, who’s really well connected in Bahrain and organized quite a lot of press coverage for my first visit!

A Fun Event with a Familial Ambience

The event itself took place at the WU bar, an Asian fusion lounge featuring an outdoor terrace with great beachside views, with the balmy 25°C being a nice change from the cool and even snowy spring weather in Munich. InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Manama_Pic 3 Over 200 attendees from more than 50 countries came to enjoy the familial atmosphere — expats from Germany, the US, Spain, the UK, Kenya, South Africa, and even some regulars from Dammam, Kobhar, and other Saudi Arabian cities. They often spend their weekends in Manama to experience a richer social life than the restrictions faced by expats in Saudi Arabia will allow.

In a short speech, I got to thank the InterNations Ambassador Team officially for all their commitment and energy, and some of the Group Consuls — like Rebecca and Kevin, who are in the charge of the Manama Board Games Group — had the opportunity to present their activities. I also made a call for action for more InterNations members to get involved and share their passion and interests with other people in the community.

In the course of the evening, plenty of guests approached me with feedback on our official events and activities, as well as on the InterNations website. Everyone was really excited to hear that the first version of an InterNations native app would be coming soon! InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_InterNations Manama Community_Pic 1a

Later that night, a few of the members decided to continue the lively event unofficially next door, at the Cellar 59, a popular wine and tapas bar with its own DJ that doesn’t close before 2:00 in the morning. Though I really enjoyed the entire day, I basically dropped into bed and slept like a log as soon as I got back to my hotel room.

Fortunately, the car supposed to pick me up and bring me to the airport was only scheduled for noon. Next stop: Doha, Qatar!

(Image credit: InterNations/Malte Zeeck)

InterNations Members Help Provide Access to Education

23 April is all about World Book Day. Books are beneficial to us for many reasons, and although it might seem like they are widely available, not everyone enjoys the privilege of reading books.

InterNations members Rosario, Kalyan, Vanessa, and Lorna took action for a good cause and show us how they helped underprivileged children to get access to books.

Opening a Children’s Library in Santiago de Chile

InterNations members in Santiago have been supporting the non-profit initiative “Vision for Chile” for several years. The children living at the “House of Hope” come from a very poor background, and the initiative offers them a safe place to live, especially to girls.

Rosario Maza, InterNations Santiago Volunteer Group Consul, has noticed the importance of books for those children. She organized an InterNations Activity where books were donated in order to open a children’s library at Casa Esperanza’s Kids Zone. CM_NL_201604_blogpost3

“Books will always be a good friend for children, not only for the stories you can find in them, but also because you can take them wherever you go and they belong to you.”

And that’s exactly what it is like! Once the children learn how to read and get a feeling for what all those words mean, reading a book gives them the opportunity to step into another world.

Rosario adds: “I have always thought of reading a book as an honor because someone with more knowledge and experience gave their time to share it. There are many ways to gain wisdom and reading a book is one of them.”

Celebrating “Read Across America Day” in Washington, D.C.

CM_NL_201604_blogpost1 Read Across America is an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls on every child in every community to celebrate reading on 2 March, the birthday of beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss, born in 1904.

Kalyan Prasad from the Washington Volunteer Group decided to join the initiative and gathered InterNations members of the Washington Volunteer Group to acknowledge the bright personality of Dr. Seuss. The evening was filled with games and a raffle to win prizes, and every attendee donated to the charity initiative First Book.

With the entrance fee of ten USD, four new books for underprivileged children could be bought. So this event ended up being both a fun and generous evening!

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go…” — Dr. Seuss, children’s books author and illustrator

Fighting Poverty in Zurich and New York

“If every child received an education, 171 million people would be lifted out of poverty” — that claim is made by the international organization Room to Read. Room to Read believes that changing the world starts with educating children.

CM_NL_201604_blogpost4 That was reason enough for Lorna Quinn (InterNations Zurich Volunteer Group) and Vanessa Pranzo (InterNations New York Volunteer Group) to support this wonderful cause and get more people involved. While 23 InterNations members came together for a fundraising dinner in New York, Lorna gathered people at an after-work yoga class in Zurich, where every attendee made it possible to provide one local language book to a child in need.

“To Hell with Death” — Raising Awareness for Sick Teenagers in Munich

On 19 April, Christina Williams and the Munich Volunteer Group Consuls will host the twelfth InterNations Social Impact Night, a new event format for all InterNations members interested in socially relevant topics.

This month’s event is dedicated to International Books Day. Kira Brück, a German author, will be the keynote speaker of the evening and share her experience about writing her book Der Tod kann mich mal (To Hell with Death) about twelve seriously ill teenagers who tell stories about their life, their hopes and fears. CM_NL_201604_blogpost2

If you’d like to get involved in activities for a good cause, please check if there is a Volunteer Group in your InterNations Community. Every InterNations member can join the group and take part in the activities!

Find out more about the InterNations Volunteer Program on our About Page or write to volunteerprogram@internations.org.

(Image credit: InterNations)

Expat Lessons from My Five-Year-Old

Being an expat is a lot like being a five-year-old.

Spoiler alert: I have the most adorable trilingual five-year-old at home and I’m head over heels in love with him. Having said that, there are some solid lessons he can teach me and fellow expats around the world.

No, I’m not talking about the desire to take a nap regularly or the crying when you can’t find something you know you packed. That, too — but I’m talking about something much more specific and exciting.

InterNations Blog_Expat Lessons from My Five-Year-Old_Pic 3As children, we quite literally experience the world for the first time. Every single step, breath, and bite of food we take is an experience as foreign as possible to us too — but we do it, we get better at it, and soon, it’s easy as, well… walking.

Sound familiar? I thought it might. You get pretty much the same thing when you uproot your life and move to a foreign country.

Here’s the problem, though; being older than five and putting “expat” in your job title instead of “expert walker” takes things out of context. After a while, we forget how to be the best expats we can be because we forget how to be children.

Luckily, my five-year-old is here to give us a newsflash.

Trial and Error Are a Good Thing

When you arrive in a new country with a new language, the first thing on your mind is getting settled in and not screwing it up. Figuring out how to pay the rent with a brand-new bank account in a new currency is pretty top priority, but inevitably, we’ll make a random gesture that means something a lot more interesting than it does at home — and, boom, we’re in for it now.

What does that blaring sign above your head say? Oh, yeah — “failure”.

child little girl with glasses reading a booksBut that’s rubbish. When my five-year-old tries to say a bigger, more complex word and completely bastardizes it, I don’t look down my nose and think “failure”. I think “persistence”. Most of the time I’m just amazed at how much he can learn and how quickly he adapts. The same applied when the “oh, ovens are hot” experience came around.

Whether you’re five or fifty, trying something new and messing it up is normal — and can actually result in something new and fantastic. That person you accidentally insulted? They found the incident funny, you became friends, and they’re now giving you language lessons. Awesome!

New Customs and Rituals — You’ll Get It Eventually

Okay, it’s time to get real here: five-year-olds? Social manners? It’s a love-hate relationship. Even with all my best efforts, there are times where my children pick their nose in public or cough without covering their mouth. I, as an adult, go, “Really? Really? Isn’t it obvious?” But every expat has probably committed a similar social sin.

For example, I live in Paris, where each building has at least five trash bins. You should have seen me the first week of our arrival, manually going through our garbage bag to dig out the paper boxes for a separate bin, with the gardien d’immeuble checking over my shoulder. Little boy picking his nose

Here’s the best example, though: slippers are the footwear of choice throughout Japanese establishments and are generally worn at all times — except when they are not. At first, it seems endlessly confusing, but “normal” slippers are actually culturally forbidden in Japanese bathrooms! That’s what special “toilet slippers” are for.

As an expat, you’ve no doubt run into the same thing on your side of the globe, and it’s hard; really, it is. But the good news is one day my five-year-old will learn that coughing means covering your mouth and you’ll pick up the new cultural customs as well. The important part is to keep an open mind and be open to corrections from others.

Enjoy the Newness

When I take my five-year-old to a new playground, I can promise you there are no thoughts of “Should I even be here?” or “Oh, what if I don’t like this playground as much?” There is just sprinting for the nearest swing set. InterNations Blog_Expat Lessons from My Five-Year-Old_Pic 2

Hello, expats, this is for you and me. Often times it’s easy to get so caught up in the details of moving, adjusting, and working within a new environment that we forget the best part of living abroad — we’re somewhere new and exciting! Take the chance to do a little wide-eyed wandering and enjoy the actual perks of being an expat.

There’s No “Absolute Truth” — Get Curious

Ever talked to a little kid? Their sole and favorite retort is “why”. Expats should totally jump on the “why” train. A sense of curiosity is crucial when you explore the world and sail into uncharted waters, Young boy, playing with airplane because it encourages you to try something that’s never been tried before.

In brief: you can kick conventional wisdom to the curb by taking after a five-year-old and asking one simple question: “Why?”

In Conclusion

More importantly than anything, a five-year-old is still growing and learning — and so are you. Rather than going through the motions and just accepting things, without making an effort to change and adapt, you can embrace your inner child and get out there.

You’re an expat, for all the mystery, funny mistakes, and incredible experiences that this entails.

Rita Golstein-Galperin is a multicultural expat in Paris. On top of her love for exploring the world, learning new things and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, she is also an author, entrepreneur, speaker and career makeover strategist for expat women.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

Founder’s Diary: Cape Town

InterNations Founder & Co-CEO Malte Zeeck remembers his recent trip to our official event for the Cape Town Community — as well as the rather unusual way he arrived there.

The InterNations Official Event in Cape Town almost turned out to be a non-event for me — and then it turned into the one with the most extraordinary way of actually getting there. InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Cape Town_Pic 4

After my visits to Johannesburg and Pretoria, I took the famous scenic train route southbound to the cape, with a stopover in the mining town of Kimberley. The train was scheduled to arrive in Cape Town in the early afternoon, and the event would start at 18:00, with plenty of time for me to get to the venue. Or so I thought.

To Cape Town by Train — And Plane

When I woke up and went to have breakfast in the dining car, I noticed that the train was by no means where it should be according to the timetable. Due to heavy thunderstorms that had affected the railroad tracks, we were stuck in the middle of the South African desert. The friendly conductor assured me that we’d arrive in Cape Town by 22:00 at the latest.

While I was still trying to explain that I had an appointment at 18:00, I was already thinking about potential alternatives for getting to Cape Town, from renting a car to booking a flight. What happened when I started asking about other passengers took me completely by surprise, though. InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Cape Town_Pic 1

“There’s another gentleman who urgently needs to get to Cape Town,” the conductor explained, proceeding to introduce us. The gentleman in question was a Dutch businessman, who was seriously considering booking a private charter jet from Cape Town to come and pick up his wife and himself in the middle of the desert in Beaufort West. Which he then actually ended up doing — and generously invited me to just come along, spontaneously and for just a small contribution that he would then donate to a local charity in Cape Town.

So, due to this astonishing act of kindness from a complete stranger, I ended up flying into Cape Town on board a small eight-seat charter plane, with the most amazing view of the cityscape and the Table Mountain thanks to my seat in the cockpit next to the pilot. We even landed at the international airport right next to the big airplanes from Lufthansa, British Airways, etc.! From what I heard later on, the train didn’t arrive until the wee hours of the morning, long after midnight. Not only did I get to the Ritz before the party started, but I also had a great story to tell when asked about my trip from Pretoria.

The Cape Town Community Team

With around 7,000 members and 13 InterNations Groups, the Cape Town Community is the second-largest in the country, right after Johannesburg, and even makes it to the top five communities on the entire continent.

While I unfortunately didn’t have the chance to introduce myself to Teresa, a British financial consultant and the third member of the Cape Town Community Team, the other two InterNations Ambassadors hosted the event that night: sadly, it was to be a farewell for one of them. InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Cape Town_Pic 2

Jess, a Dutch expat from Maastricht, had decided to step down from the Ambassador role, though she’ll be staying on as the Consul for our popular Cape Town Lunch & Brunch Group.

At least, I could thank her and her fellow Ambassador Marta, an Italian lawyer turned tour operator, for their success at organizing great events for the international community in town. A big “thank you” was also due to Nicole, a committed InterNations member and friend of Marta’s, who had lent them her support.

Puttin’ on the Ritz

All in all, the Cape Town event welcomed nearly 170 guests that night — 42 different nations were represented on our guest list. Expats from Germany, the UK, the US, and the Netherlands, from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, and plenty of other countries, mingled with locals from the Cape Town area on the terrace of the Ritz, less than 300 m from the waterfront.

The cool breeze from the ocean helped with the rather hot mid-summer temperatures, but the wind also proved to be a bit of a hindrance when I wanted to hold my welcome speech — and realized there was no microphone. I hope the attendees still got the gist of what I wanted to say. Despite that slightly awkward moment, I think we all enjoyed ourselves greatly.

InterNations Expat Blog_Founder's Diary_Cape Town_Pic 3 There was a special DJ just for our outdoor location, who provided us with catchy Salsa tunes, which gave the evening a very laidback, coastal vibe. Before the serious dancing started, I happened to meet several old friends of mine, who are now living in Cape Town or just stopped by while visiting the country.

As always, I was also happy to seize the opportunity and talk to our members in person. Some of them, like Brett, the Consul of our Cape Town Out and About Group, told me about their activities, while others just wanted to share their experience with InterNations and getting connected with global-minded people in Cape Town.

“InterNations really saved my life here,” someone said, describing the initial struggle with building up a circle of friends. It’s moments like this that are the best feedback which my team and I could ever wish for.

(Image credit: Malte Zeeck/InterNations)

InterNations Insider Tips: Five Must-Sees and Dos in Cape Town

InterNations Founder & Co-CEO Malte Zeeck talks about five favorite “must-sees” and “must-dos” in the city that has captured his heart.

My last stop in South Africa was Cape Town, the city that stole my heart with its beauty. I am not exaggerating if I say that it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world, only falling short of Rio de Janeiro for me. InterNations Expat Blog_Five Activities That Are a Must in Cape Town_Pic 1

Like other South African cities, Cape Town has that special mixture of breathtaking scenery, with some National Geographic-worthy sites, and historical landmarks related to the apartheid era, starting with Robben Island.

The Island of Courage

A forty-minute ferry ride departing from a stunning waterfront brought me to Robben Island. The island is known worldwide as a symbol of the repression under apartheid, but most importantly, of its defeat and the triumph of democracy. The boat ride offers the most amazing view of the coastline, and if you are lucky, you even have a chance of spotting dolphins. There couldn’t be a harsher contrast than the serene scenery and the tour of the former prison.

Here, we met our guide, who — like all the other tour guides on Robben Island — used to be an inmate himself. InterNations Expat Blog_Five Activities That Are a Must in Cape Town_Pic 3While he was speaking, everyone fell quiet and we were hanging on his every word: his stories truly showed the brutal conditions the prisoners suffered from.

For instance, they did not even have a bed to sleep on, were not allowed to wear long pants, got little food — and what little they received was often laced with health-damaging substances — and had to work under despicable conditions in the island’s quarries. The tour culminated with a visit of Nelson Mandela’s former cell —a depressing two-by-two chamber — where the political activist was imprisoned for 18 years.

A Car Tour round the Kaap

There are so many things to see around Cape Town that renting a car is the most convenient option. I started out by visiting Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, the most famous in South Africa, due to its marvelous indigenous fauna. From there, I moved on to Kalk Bay harbor, which is not only a very picturesque fishing village, but also the best place to get fresh sea food.

InterNations Expat Blog_Five Activities That Are a Must in Cape Town_Pic 2 Close to Kalk Bay, the penguin colony at Simon’s Town made me feel as if I’d landed on the set of Happy Feet. Here, the endangered jackass penguins — yes, they are really called like this, due to the donkey-like braying sound they produce — have found a new home since the 1980s. The little chaps look very cute, but beware: apparently, they do deserve their name and have quite a mean bite!

Lastly, I decided to take the Chapman’s Peak Drive back, which runs along the mountain of the same name. The view is so spectacular that it’s almost dangerous to drive around here!

Downtown Rhymes with Cape Town

In order to explore the city of Cape Town itself, I had to abandon my car and take a walk downtown instead. There are plenty of historic landmarks to choose from. You can tour the Houses of Parliament, which hosted plenty of heated debates related to racial segregation back in the day, but the tour guide also gives you an insight into the political process of contemporary South Africa.

South African parliament buildings in Cape Town The Slave Lodge — a similarly emblematic landmark — is well worth a visit, too. This 17th-century building now a houses social history museum hosting exhibitions related to the cultural heritage of South Africa and to human rights in general.

If you are really into history, there are many more sites of interest close by, like the Bo-Kaap Museum, which highlights local Islamic culture, or the St. George’s Cathedral, which used to be a meeting point for various apartheid rallies led by the famous Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

A Foodie’s Paradise

Sightseeing is fun, but a visit to any city is not quite complete without the food experience. Cape Town has an astounding variety of restaurants to offer. The city enjoys the perks of its location in close proximity to the ocean, and at Willoughby & Co on the waterfront, I had some incredible sushi fresh from the sea. From Japanese to Italian cuisine: 95 Keerom is located in a fascinating building with a stylish interior and a luxurious atmosphere, definitely a restaurant I’d recommend if you want to treat yourself.

InterNations Expat Blog_Five Activities That Are a Must in Cape Town_Pic 5 If you are rather looking for a more laidback place where locals love to eat, check out Black Sheep. Here the dishes change on a daily basis, and you can expect a new menu every time you visit. Last but not least, you can just pack a lunch bag on a lovely day, take the cable car up the Table Mountain, spread your picnic blanket, and open a bottle of South African wine while enjoying the best view ever.

The City of Students and Wine

Speaking of South African wine: as I was invited to a wedding in the area, I also had the chance to visit a delightful city, 50 kilometers east of Cape Town: Stellenbosch. It is mostly famous for its many prestigious wine estates and for its reputation as a cozy university town. You’ll spot plenty of students sitting in cafés and restaurants, giving the city its very relaxed flair. InterNations Expat Blog_Five Activities That Are a Must in Cape Town_Pic 6

Moreover, you can visit various local wine estates, for instance Spier, one of the oldest wineries in South Africa. Here, you can participate in wine tastings, join farm tours and dine in a high-quality restaurant on the estate. Alternatively, if one wine estate is not enough for you, you could also take a Stellenbosch wine tour to explore different highlights of the wine region.

(Image credit: 1), 3) Malte Zeeck/InterNations, 2), 4), 5), 6) iStockphoto)

Rain or Shine? Celebrate the Change of Seasons with InterNations

Ah, the change of the seasons! The time when resilient expats in the southern hemisphere dust off their wind-breakers and warm socks and prepare for the wind and rain autumn may bring. Those who live on the other side of the equator, though, are probably done with the cold by now and can’t wait for spring to come. In Munich, this is the time when the first ice cream places open their doors after the winter break, when the outdoor seating areas of local cafés are filled to the brim with business people, hipsters and tourists, soaking up the sun.

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Whether or not the weather allows you to enjoy the sun, our communities around the world are celebrating the change of the seasons in their own special way. Why don’t you join in?

Spring Has Sprung

Spring has sprung in our community in Bristol. Come around and meet expats and global minds at a lively and popular venue at the Harbourside on Friday, 18 March. Our Bristol Ambassadors have booked the top floor of the bar exclusively for this spring fling, so grab your favorite drink and mingle with the crowd.

Our community in Strasbourg will get an exclusive visit from the Easter Bunny on Friday, 18 March. Between welcome drinks and hidden chocolate eggs, you will have the opportunity to enjoy some great company. Please wear something colorful or Easter-themed for the occasion.

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Members in Sofia will welcome spring with a get-together at a traditional, yet modern, venue on Thursday, 24 March. We’ll enjoy the traditional Bulgarian cuisine and the unique interior, while getting to know each other and spending a nice, relaxed evening in great company.

InterNations members in Casablanca are invited to climb up to the sky for the coming of spring. On Friday, 25 March, you can enjoy the panoramic view of the city while getting to know other expats and global minds in your community. Bring your smile and a sense of humor!

Spring is nature’s way of saying “Let’s party with InterNations Vancouver!” Come meet other expats at a cool, chic venue in downtown Vancouver on Saturday, 26 March. It’s the perfect opportunity to welcome spring and party with our Ambassador team at their very last event.

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Mainz, the self-proclaimed wine capital of Germany, is the best place to celebrate spring with a glass of wine in hand. On Thursday, 31 March, the Wiesbaden-Mainz Community is meeting at a historical wine tavern in town. Make sure to be there early for a welcome drink and an exclusive presentation of the wines by the owner herself.

Golden Leaves and Frost

Are you on the other end of the world, waving summer goodbye and mentally preparing for slightly less comfortable weather? Never fear, we have something for you in store as well.

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Autumn in Canberra, for instance, comes with a lot of great local activities and experiences you should not miss, from the National Folk Festival, to the Canberra Balloon Spectacular and the Night Noodle Markets. There is so much to do, in fact, that our members will get together at the end of the month, on Wednesday, 30 March, to catch up, talk about their experiences, and share stories of how they spent this month. Make sure to join the crowd and tell your own story of welcoming autumn!

The motto in Johannesburg, on the other hand, is “Keep calm and welcome winter!” On Friday, 1 April, InterNations members in Johannesburg meet up in Sandton to celebrate in a stylish and warm atmosphere. Use this opportunity to meet expats, locals and global minds, enjoy a drink and dance the night away, all in the spirit of the season approaching.

A coffee in the sun or a cocktail by the fireplace? There are many ways to celebrate the change of seasons. Let us know how you are spending this time of the year!

Image credit: 1) Pexels , 2) StockUp, 3) StockUp, 4) Barn Images

Five Favorite Sorts of Street Food and Their Stories

Food is more than the sum of its ingredients, a mere source of nutrients — even more than the glorious experience of enjoying a delicious snack on the go. The smell and taste of our favorite dishes often trigger powerful memories. A whiff of a particular aroma takes us back to moments we thought all but forgotten.

Madeleine  cookiesIndeed, one of the most famous scenes in the history of literature focuses on the peculiar taste of Madeleine sponge cake dipped into linden tea. The very moment when the tea-soaked crumbs touch the narrator’s palate evoke strong memories of his childhood, starting off the 4,000-page masterpiece In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust.

Don’t worry! This article is just a tad shorter than nine volumes of stream-of-consciousness narration. We have asked five members of the multinational InterNations Team about their favorite street food from around the world, and what these yummy dishes mean to them.

Hmong Egg Roll from Laos

Different varieties of egg roll or spring roll are a staple of diverse Asian cuisines, from mainland China to Malaysia, but Victoria, a US expat, loves Hmong egg rolls in particular. For her, the taste of ground pork, mixed with shredded carrots and cabbage, seasoned with a touch of cilantro and oyster sauce, isn’t a reminder of a backpacking trip overseas: it’s a favorite memory of things to do back home, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Baked spring rolls with vegetables on a black plate Every Saturday, the local farmers market offers homegrown produce and homemade food to the 66,000 residents of the small, mid-western town. There are always several food trucks selling Hmong specialties among them.

There’s a large community of circa 50,000 Hmong from Laos and Vietnam living in Wisconsin, where they resettled as political refugees after the Vietnam War. In fact, they are the biggest group of Asian-Americans in the “Badger State”, with its predominantly German and Scandinavian heritage. The produce from their market gardens has become a staple at Wisconsin country fairs, adding to the ever popular cheeses and sausages.

“I should probably say something profound about how they have shared part of their culture with us,” Victoria says, “but now all I can think about is how much I wish I had egg rolls from home.”

Onde-Onde from Indonesia

Onde-onde is a typical dessert from Malaysia and Indonesia. The little dumplings literally burst into a sweet cloud of palm sugar as soon as you take the first bite: in addition to the sugary goodness, they consist of sticky rice flour, pandan juice with its distinctive flavor, and plenty of coconut gratings or sesame seeds.

“It’s the best sweet I’ve ever eaten!” Vera, a Swiss-American from the tiny mountain resort of Samedan near St. Moritz, is just as enthusiastic about the country of Indonesia in general. InterNations Expat Blog_Five Favorite Sorts of Street Food_Pic 2_Onde Onde “I traveled to Java for the first time in 2015, and I think I’ve fallen in love.”

“I’m planning to return next year to visit some of Indonesia’s less touristic parts, and now I’m busy learning the language and regularly cook kering tempe (fermented soy bean cakes with spicy rice) and pisang goreng (deep-fried bananas) at home.”

So far, Vera has found it difficult to buy onde-onde here in Germany, but she hopes her Indonesian friends will teach her how to make it herself one day and to recapture that special sweetness.

Pad Thai from Thailand

“Street food is an incredibly important part of Thai culture, especially in Bangkok,” Blandine remembers. A French-British third-culture kid born in Singapore, she lived in Thailand for 13 years and grew up there. She moved to the UK to attend university in Bath, but it’s Thailand she still considers home.

“It’s incredibly hard for me to choose my favorite Thai food,” she says. “I absolutely love som tum — spicy green papaya salad with sticky rice — but that’s very hard to find abroad. So my all-time favorite is now pad thai.”

Event Photography by FotoPlus HuaHin Pad thai, the traditional stir-fry dish of rice noodles with fresh seafood, served with juicy lime wedges and crunchy roasted peanuts, is a familiar feature on many a fast food menu. “You can find pad thai in any Thai restaurant, but it’s never quite the same,” Blandine insists.

She tells me all about how she found the most delicious pad thai in Bath, but still struggled with the lack of spice. “I actually spoke to one of the waitresses about it!” She laughs. “Apparently, their customers in the UK are so bad at handling hot dishes that they’ve given up on adding the proper spices.”

On a weekend trip to Amsterdam, she finally found her perfect pad thai. “I happened to walk past a small place run by a Thai couple, and they cooked it just like back home. Talking about Bangkok while I was eating there made it taste all the better.”

Strauben from South Tyrol

There are plenty of little street markets with various food stalls all over Munich, especially in the weeks before Christmas, and Lenore, another US expat, explains how happy she was to stumble upon one particular stall in her neighborhood.

“An American friend of mine happened to be visiting me,” she remembers. “That nice woman from Southern Tyrol said that she sold Strauben, but to us, it looked just like funnel cake.” Homemade Funnel Cake with Powdered Sugar

The two dishes are in fact very similar: both involve deep-frying a rich, buttery dough and serving the pastry piping hot, preferably with lots and lots of powdered sugar. Personally, I associate the traditional Strauben with the taste of cranberry jelly — another popular topping — and the festive atmosphere of the holiday season.

For Lenore, funnel cakes taste of “autumn and family togetherness”. In the US, funnel cake is a typical fairground food, and she specifically remembers eating it at the historic arts and crafts fair in nearby Waterford, Virginia.

“Funnel cakes were easy to eat with your hands and pick off little pieces of while you were watching the folk dancing or the candle-making demonstrations. They are just fried awesomeness.”

Leberkäse from Bavaria

As one of the team’s resident Bavarians, I probably should put in a word for our local street food specialty: the ubiquitous Leberkässemmel. The expression literally means “liver cheese bun”, but as I enjoy pointing out, it contains neither cheese nor liver.

A Leberkäsesemmel is a slice of meat loaf with a crunchy brown crust, served on a soft bread roll and liberally seasoned with sweet mustard. Yes, sweet mustard with kibbled seeds and brown sugar, not Dijon mustard or, God forbid, ketchup. Carved meatloaf

Leberkäse is hardly the stuff that healthy diets are made of. It’s greasier than the famous Broadway musical, which is why it makes excellent hangover food. To me, it doesn’t just taste of ground pork, fat, and mustard topping. It rather reminds me of finally turning old enough to go out and party till after midnight.

The local food stall Würschtl Toni (“Sausage Tony”, now run by a middle-aged lady called Erika), a veritable institution, was the only venue still open to (very) late-night party-goers. They probably owed their entire existence to inebriated students, as well as grumbling taxi drivers and paramedics working nightshifts.

As far as I know, they have now branched out into burgers, but that’s just not the same!

(Image credit: iStockphoto)