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Expat Interview: Live in Madrid, Spain as an expat

Welcome to Expat Interview Series. In this article, Kerry will show you what’s it like to live in Madrid, Spain as an expat. You can understand the city better from an expat’s viewpoint, and get to know important information such as living cost, good and bad things about Madrid, and how to prepare to move to Madrid, etc.. All tips and advice about Expat life in Madrid are here for you 🙂

 

Where is Madrid?

Madrid is the capital city of Spain and is located right in the center of the country. The city is known for having an abundance of art and culture. Some of the most famous sites include its art museums, Royal Palace, and Plaza Mayor. Madrid is certainly a gorgeous city, and extremely expat-friendly.

Madrid at night

Photo courtesy of Kerry

 

Firstly, let’s get to know a bit about Kerry 🙂

Kerry’s Background

My name is Kerry Ireland, and I am the blogger behind “The Petite Wanderer”! I absolutely fell in love with traveling after studying abroad in Madrid. I am a communications PR/advertising major at Loyola University Maryland, with a minor in studio art. I am an artist, and paint landscapes and portraits with oils and acrylics. I also love to sing, and I play the flute! I guess you could say I have a lot of passions.

I lived in Madrid for six months, starting in early January 2017.  Prior to moving here, I had only been out of the country once, to the Turks and Caicos with my mom after I graduated high school.

 

1.Why did you choose to live in Madrid?

Primarily, I chose to study abroad in Madrid because I wanted to focus on studying the Spanish language. My mom is fluent, and I grew up listening to her speak it. It has always fascinated me, and since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to learn to speak Spanish one day. I thought living in Spain would be a great opportunity to become immersed in the language and really get a strong base for it.

 

2. How did you prepare for moving to Madrid?

Since I studied abroad through my school, my abroad advisor pretty much babied us before departure, going over all of the essential things we needed to do. So through my university, everything was taken care of. Knowing that I would only be living in Madrid short term, I just brought one large suitcase filled with my basic and essential belongings. Of course, I did some major shopping when I got there!

suitcase

Difficulties & Challenges

3. Did you experience any difficulties when you first moved to Madrid? How did you overcome?

The second I got off the plane, an overwhelming feeling of sadness rolled over me. I had never been away from home and my family for more than a month or so, and knowing that I would be gone for half a year kind of hit me all at once. I had spent the previous year preparing for the move, but the reality of it did not hit me until after I actually arrived at the Madrid Bajaras airport.

I remember holding in tears as I got into the taxi, on the way to the hotel I stayed at for the first few nights. Luckily my amazing boyfriend traveled over with me and helped me get settled in the first week I was there. Once we arrived at the hotel, I immediately broke down and started sobbing. It was definitely one of the most overwhelming experiences I faced while living abroad! After a few days, I started to settle in, and things got a lot better.

 

4. Did you experience any discrimination in Madrid?

Nope! Spaniards are generally lovely, kind, and accepting people. One thing that I found funny was their fascination with American politics. Once a Spaniard noticed I was American, they would ask “What do you think of Trump?!” I found it pretty funny that that is what Spaniards think of now when they think of America.

 

5. How to deal with culture shock in Madrid?

The first week I was there, I experienced pretty major culture shock. Like I said earlier, I had only been out of the country once prior, and I stayed in a touristy resort town. I was surrounded by a new language, new culture, and new people. It probably took around two weeks to a month to really become accustomed to my new surroundings. Then it just felt like home.

 

About the city

6. What do you like about Madrid?

I adore Madrid! It is such a lively city and there are so many things to do. Every day is an adventure in this city. Being so huge, there was always something new to try, new places to explore, and more people to meet. I loved that you can just hop on a metro, and end up somewhere awesome within minutes.

Beautiful Madrid at night

Beautiful Madrid at night – Photo courtesy of Kerry

 

7. Is there anything that you don’t like about Madrid?

This is a difficult question. I’d say the one thing I really didn’t like was that a majority of Madrid’s population seemed to be cigarette smokers. The city air often reeked of cigarette smoke, especially in crowded areas. The smoke bothers me, and if I am around it too long, I start to feel sick. So that’s what I didn’t really like about Madrid. The air quality of the city is also pretty bad and is known for being polluted and smoggy.

 

8. What are your favorite things to do in Madrid?

I loved exploring the city! Madrid is huge, and there was always a new place to check out. I really liked visiting the “hipster” neighborhood, Malasana, which had amazing cafes, bars, and vintage stores. It’s a really cool area. I also loved getting “lost” and exploring the city’s central neighborhoods! I found some awesome restaurants and side stores by doing this.

 

9. Where do you recommend to visit in the Madrid?

The Royal Palace is simply gorgeous! It is filled with period décor and original paintings. It is so elegant- one of the most beautiful palaces I have been to. I also would recommend visiting the Egyptian temple that was gifted to Madrid, Templo de Debod, at sunset. It is so magical. I would also go to all of Madrid’s famous art museums, such as El Prado, Reina Sofia, and the Sorolla museum. These museums are home to some of the most famous paintings in the world!

Royal Palace Madrid

The Royal Palace in Madrid – Photo courtesy of Kerry

 

10. Cost of living in Madrid, Spain

Madrid is affordable to live in.

Grocery

Groceries are especially cheap. To put into perspective, I bought handmade bread for 50 cents, and a wine bottle was around 2 or 3 euros!

Transportation

Madrid has AMAZING public transportation. The most popular being the metro, which will take you all over the city. You can also take commuter trains and busses. I had a student public transportation card, which cost me 20 euros/month for unlimited transportation. The adult pass is 50 euros/month.

Apartments

Apartments In Madrid are affordable, and most of my friends were paying around 500 euro rent. Apartments usually come furnished, so you don’t have to worry about buying a bed.

 

Building relationships

11. Is it easy to make new friends in Madrid?

I made so many friends in Madrid! I’ve noticed that Spaniards tend to be very social and accepting, so it is very easy to meet people and make friends. I recommend attending Intercambio sessions, as this is a great way to meet people.

Many bars and cafes in Madrid host Intercambio nights weekly, where you will partner up with a Spaniard and speak in English for a half hour, and then in Spanish for a half hour. There are also a lot of paid and free courses you can take (Spanish cooking, dancing, art, and more!) Again, this is another fantastic way to meet people.

 

12. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

I hung out with a combination of both. I made some amazing Spanish friends, who I now call my “Familia Española”. Because I was part of an Erasmus program, I also made friends with a lot of other abroad students. So I had friends from literally all over the world!

 

13. Where is your favorite place in Madrid to meet friends?

I loved going out to the bars, grabbing a coffee at some of the local cafes, and just hanging around the Sol/Gran Via/Plaza Mayor areas with friends! My Spanish friends would show me some local favorite places for food/drinks, so it was really nice getting to know the city through the eyes of a local.

Plaza Mayor in Madrid

Plaza Mayor in Madrid – Photo courtesy of Kerry

 

14. Expat Community in Madrid

By “expat”, I did interact with other exchange students and travelers from outside the country.

 

Reflection

15. Can you tell us a memory that you have in Madrid?

One of the memories that stands out to me was watching the sunset at Templo de Debod with my boyfriend. It was during my first week in Madrid, and one of the last days he was there with me, the city was still so new, and seeing all the sites and culture for the first time was so exhilarating. We loved watching the sun set behind the Royal Palace. It was very romantic!

 

16. Did you change your perspective about the city after living here for a while?

I guess the initial excitement of being in a new place diminished after a while. But after living in Madrid for about a month, the city totally felt like home to me.

 

17. What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Madrid?

I would say brush up on your Spanish a little before going. While a lot of Madrileños do speak English, many (especially from older generations) don’t know a lick of English. You will also be surrounded by Spanish, so it is a really good idea to practice some of the basics before moving.

 

18. Would you recommend others to live in Madrid?

Absolutely! Madrid is a super safe city and filled with so much culture and activities. There is always something to do, and it is super easy to travel around Europe from there. Prices are decent, so it caters to people on a budget. The people are lovely, and you will make great, lifelong friends!

 

19. What have you learned from living abroad?

I learned that I have a huge passion for culture, and connecting with people from all over the world. While I lived in Madrid, I was able to travel all over Europe, so I met tons of people from literally all over the world. I learned that I love to travel, and I want to continue doing it for the rest of my life.

I also learned to become independent. I was essentially living on my own, in a foreign country, so it basically forced me to become super independent, quickly.

I learned to not to get anxious about little things. In fact, I like to say that living abroad “cured” my anxiety. It gave me more of a “big picture” point of view, and I realized what really mattered to me, and stopped focusing on small, unimportant stuff that would previously give me anxiety.

 

20. Do you want to add anything?

Thank you for interviewing me! I really do recommend living in Madrid for foreigners. It is an ultra-safe city, filled with life. Just do your research before making the move, and most importantly, focus on enjoying your time there, rather than being homesick!

 

More about Kerry

Kerry Ireland is the voice behind the travel blog, The Petite Wanderer. After studying abroad in Madrid for a semester, she fell in love with traveling. Through her blog, she hopes to inspire anyone out there who wants to peruse a life of wanderlust! Aside from blogging and traveling, Kerry loves creating music, cuddling with her cat, and painting. She hopes to educate and inspire her readers to get out there and see how incredible this world is.

Kerry

Don’t forget to follow her on all social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.


Read more interviews in this Expat Interview series:

Expat life in Beppu, Japan.

Expat life on the Marshall Islands

Expat life in San Diego, CA

Expat life in Prague, Czech Republic

Expat life in Germany

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Discover what it's like to live in Madrid, Spain as an expat. Cost of living in Madrid, things to do in Madrid, how to prepare to move to Madrid, good and bad things about Madrid, expat tips and more! You'll definitely want to save this to your Board to read later! #expat #expatlife #madrid #spain #livingabroad #travel #expatriate #expatblog #expatliving #ExpatTips

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Expat Interview: Live in Reutlingen, Germany as an expat

Welcome to Expat Interview Series. In this interview, you will get to know what’s it like to live in Reutlingen, Germany as an expat. You can see Reutlingen from an expat’s viewpoint. Also, this interview covers the cost of living, wanderlust inspiration, tips, and advice for living in Reutlingen, Germany as an expat.

 

Where is Reutlingen?

Reutlingen is a city in the southwest of Germany and about 45-minutes by train to the state capital Stuttgart. This is a small city in Germany with the number of the population around 100,000 people. The city is traditionally famous for its textile industry and today is a home for Bosch, who is the biggest recruiter in the region. The biggest university in the city, Reutlingen University (in German: Hochschule Reutlingen) offers many programs for international students so each semester there will hundreds of international students coming to the city.

Reutlingen city

Tuan’s background

I am currently a senior in the major of biomedical engineering in Vietnam. Besides my study, I love reading books, hanging out with my friends and traveling. Last spring I spent a semester in Reutlingen, Germany as an exchange student. My exchange semester in Germany has brought me to another 4 countries, namely Netherland, France, Switzerland, and Italy. I love meeting people in everywhere I go and getting to know about the culture as well its people.

 

1. Why did you choose to live in Reutlingen?

In my third year, I decided to have some abroad experiences, so I applied for the exchange program at my university. After the admission and scholarship selection, I started my summer semester at Reutlingen University, Germany. I love Germany so I want to experience the life and study in this country. My university has only one partner in Germany, so I applied for it without any hesitation.

Reutlingen in the morning

2. How did you prepare to move to Reutlingen?

This was the first time I lived in a foreign country so there were many kinds of stuff I had to prepare beforehand. I had to do research about the city I live, some cultural aspects and of course learn the local language (i.e. German). Finding a place to live was my most concern as the dormitory is not owned by the university and the rooms are extremely limited. Hence, I had to apply early to make sure I can have a room in a dormitory, otherwise finding houses in the neighborhood is really difficult and also much expensive.

 

Difficulties & Challenges

3. How to overcome difficulties in Reutlingen?

I think the most difficult thing is the language because I live in a small city and not many people can speak English well. There are things like banking and residence registration which you can better go through procedure if you know basic German. As I learn some German beforehand, I find it somehow not difficult but I strongly suggest to know German to avoid misunderstanding and at least you know what you are reading before signing any documents.

Street in Reutlingen

4. Did you experience any discrimination in Reutlingen?

Not at all. The people are really friendly and helpful. There was a time when I had a problem with online banking and the lady who worked with me at the bank, though speaks little English, tried her best to explain me the procedure and helped me get through that as fast as possible, which I really appreciated.

 

About Reutlingen

5. What do you like about Reutlingen?

This is a peaceful city with beautiful landscapes and architectures.

 

6. Is there anything that you don’t like about Reutlingen?

The city is a bit boring in the evening, especially after 8 pm when all the businesses close. Also, there are not many options for entertainment.

 

7. What are your favorite things to do in Reutlingen?

Jogging and climbing the mountains, also shopping in the city center.

 

8. Where do you recommend to visit in Reutlingen?

One can come to the city center (German: Stadtmitte) for shopping and see houses with middle-aged architecture or explore the narrowest street in the world, for which the city is famous.

Reutlingen city centerThis is the city center (Stadtmitte) with different shops and restaurants around.

9. Cost of living in Reutlingen

If you rent a house, the cost will be around 300 euros a month or cheaper if you live in a dormitory. For other expenses, I believe 200 euros a month will be sufficient. In total, having at least 500 euros a month will secure your stay in Reutlingen.

 

Building relationships

10. Is it easy to make new friends in Reutlingen?

Yes, of course. As I have said earlier, the people are super nice but you have to be the one who breaks the ice. If you keep waiting for them to talk to you, there’s no chance you can make friends with people there. Moreover, as the German love beer, so having a beer together in a beer garden, for example, can bring people easily together.

 

11. Where are your favorite spots in Reutlingen to hang out with friends?

As we are students, the bars are super cool places to chit and chat. There’s a student bar on the school campus, which is quite cheap compared to the others and it often holds many parties throughout the semester.

 

12. What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Reutlingen?

Be well prepared by researching carefully about the city. There can be practices like no plastic bags used in stores and trash separation that does not exist in your country or different types of renting houses you have to understand before looking for places to live. Another tip would be to learn basic German beforehand as there will be people who cannot speak English and you will have trouble working with them.

Trash separation in Reutlingen

Trash separation in Reutlingen, usually there will be bins for bioproducts (Bio), paper (Papier) and the rest (Restmuell).

13. Would you recommend others to live in Reutlingen?

The city is an excellent choice for students but if you are job-seeker, I suggest moving to a bigger city.

 

14. What have you learned from living abroad?

Being more independent and always showing up on time. The German is strict about punctuality.

Thank you for being a part of this interview 🙂


Read more interviews here:

I love everywhere but not Prague: Expat life in Prague

Expat life in Beppu, Oita

Living abroad in San Diego, CA

Living on the Marshall Islands

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The Mystery Blogger Award

After getting nominated for Top 20 Expat blogs and Liebster Award, I’m really happy that I got nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award by Chandrima from the Travel Stories Untold. Chandrima is a great travel blogger who loves sharing her passions for food, fashion, photography and travel-related activities. Thank you again for your nomination, Chandrima,.

 

What is Mystery Blogger Award?

According to the creator, Okoto, “Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion.

3 things about me

Because this award requires to share 3 things about myself, here are my sharing:

  1. I’m a big fan of ice-cream. I eat ice-cream almost everyday and I try Ice-cream in every city that I’ve been to. My favorite country for ice-cream is Italy. The gelato is way too good there! I remember that I ate gelato 3 times everyday when I was in Italy, even though it was the winter.
  2. Trying Vietnamese Pho noodles in different country is my goal. I love trying local food surely, but I’m curious how Pho tastes like around the world, so I have a small project to try it. You can read my Pho Review around the world here.

3. Solo travel is my passion. Even though it’s still fun to travel with family and friends, I love my me-time to discover the world on my own. You can read my first solo trip story and how it changed my life here.

Answer to Chandrima’s question

1.What is your greatest fear?

I think I will be so scared if I get kidnapped while traveling alone in a strange country. Traveling alone is quite dangerous for female, so I’m always careful and have plans to protect myself. However, if things go wrong, it will be horrible.

2. Which is the most embarrassing (and funny) incident of your life?

It was the time that I went to a toilet in my university, Copenhagen Business School, without knowing that that was the toilet for both genders. I was so embarrassed and didn’t want to go out, but eventually I did. You can read more about my story here.

My best post so far is 10 Bad things about Vietnam. Check it out if you haven’t.

10 Bad things about Vietnam

 

My questions for the nominees

  1. Why did you start your blog?
  2. What is your best achievement in blogging?
  3. What has been the craziest things you have done while traveling?
  4. If you could start blogging again, what would you do differently?

Read more about my Liebster Award that I received here.

If you think your blog is amazing and would love to spread it to the world, please contact me for nomination for Liebster Award and Mystery Blogger Award. Thank you!


The rules of the Mystery Blogger Award

1. Put the award logo/image on your blog

2. List the rules.

3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well

5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself

6. You have to nominate 10 – 20 people

7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog

8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)

9. Share a link to your best post(s)

Thank you for reading

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I love so many places BUT NOT Prague: Expat Life in Prague

Welcome to Expat Interview Series! In each week, you will get to know what it’s like to live in a city as an expat. The purpose of this series is to help YOU to understand the city from an expat’s viewpoint. Last week, you got to know the expat’s life in San Diego. This week, Caitlin will show you what it’s like to live in Prague, Czech Republic.

 

Where is Prague?

Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic (now known as Czechia). It is centrally located in Europe and is only a short journey away from many other wonderful spots. It’s a beautiful city which straddles the Vltava river. Prague is home to some of Europe’s finest architecture including what is widely considered to be the most beautiful bridge in Europe, Charles Bridge. The cobblestone streets provide a beautiful backdrop for any tourist but when choosing it as a place to live, whether to work or to study, there is more to it that you must take into consideration.

Beautiful Charles Bridge

Expat Interview: Live in Prague as an expat

Firstly, let’s know a little bit about Caitlin!

Caitlin’s Background

My name is Caitlin. Originally, I’m from Vermont, USA but I’ve been on the road for about 6 years now. I teach English as a second language and while I enjoy the job I am trying to move into writing full time. Also, I love all animals and horseback ride as often as I can. I like hiking, yoga, photography, and cats.

1. Why did you choose to live in Prague?

I ended up living in Prague solely for the visa. It was never really on my radar as a place to live. I’d been previously as a tourist but that was it.

2. What was your moving procedure?

I moved to Prague in July of last year, 2016. I chose it based on visas. It’s the first move I made that wasn’t completely independent as I had a boyfriend along for the ride. He’s Spanish and I’m American so finding a country we could both work and live in legally was a challenge. The Czech Republic turned out to be our answer. He didn’t need a visa and I could get the trade license which is fairly straightforward and doesn’t need sponsorship.

 

3. How did you prepare to move to Prague?

Unlike some other moves, I’ve made I had a job almost entirely lined up before I arrived. I actually applied and interviewed for a few jobs before I arrived and I was offered one in Liberec, which is a much smaller city in the north of the Czech Republic.

Because of its size, we decided it was better to stick with Prague so my boyfriend would have better work prospects as he doesn’t speak Czech so he was relying on the tourist industry for work. We arranged an Airbnb for our first few nights and planned to apartment hunt as soon as we arrived. I had my final interview arranged for the first day or two I was in town as did my boyfriend. We prepared well. I also had started the process on my visa and was in touch with the woman (her contact is something I’d be happy to share one-on-one with someone) who would help. I was already well into my 90-day tourist visa so I needed to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.

 

Difficulties & Challenges

4. How to deal with culture shock in Prague, Czech Republic?

I don’t think it’s culture shock as the culture really isn’t that different than America. But I did struggle with some things, namely, the cold, dark, wet winters. Brrr.

5. Did you experience any discrimination in Prague?

I don’t know if I’d call it discrimination but definite unfriendliness. The Czechs are not known for their warmth and it’s sadly very evident just how cool they are once you start living there. I remember walking into a little tabac with my boyfriend, looking to buy a bus ticket, and before we’d opened our mouths, the woman behind the counter just looked at us and shouted ‘no’. It was hard to have this happen in our first days when we were trying to fall in love with our new home.

 

6. How to overcome difficulties in Prague?

Yes. I learned quickly that the English teaching world in Prague was very different than what I’d previously been exposed to in Sydney and Vietnam. It was oversaturated and most of the teachers were underqualified with only online TEFL and no teaching experience to speak of. So, I realized that I was going to end up being overworked and underpaid. In the first few weeks, I was there, I quickly started applying for more interviews. I cut down on the hours I was working for James Cook, the company I’d originally interviewed with, and started advertising for private students through a few online sites.

 

About Prague

7. What do you like about Prague?

I liked its architecture. There’s no doubt that Prague is a beautiful city. It has the astronomical clock, old town square, the castle, churches here and there. It did a wonderful job of staying intact throughout Europe’s dreadful history and all these amazing structures are still here for us to see today.

8. Is there anything that you don’t like about Prague?

The cold! And the fact that wine is sooooo expensive. I gained a few pounds from all the beer I drank! Actually, it’s a pretty expensive city to live in. It’s cheap if you’re coming with a dollar or a euro, but to live the cost is really high, as I’ve outlined below.

 

9. What are your favorite things to do in Prague?

Actually, my favorite thing to do in Prague is to escape it. I love the outskirts. There’s a little village to the south, which is technically still in Prague, called Radotin. It’s along the train line, just 8 minutes from the city, and it’s adorable. The river runs right through it, it’s calm, and green, and quiet. It’s a wonderful spot to escape the noise and business of city life. I love to grab a beer and sit by the river down there, especially when the sun is shining.

10. Where do you recommend to visit in Prague?

I had a friend visit earlier this year and we did a few of the standard things, old town, and the castle but I also took her to Letna park which is great for a warm day and a picnic but has stunning views all year long. My second go-to spot is Namesti Miru which is just a small square but it has an absolutely beautiful church which I love staring at both inside and out.

 

Cost of living in Prague, Czech Republic

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not cheap. In fact, it’s really expensive. The currency is Crowns but I’m going to convert everything to USD to make it easier to understand.

My salary was between $10 and $16/hour

  • A liter of beer at a bar costs $2
  • A really bad bottle of wine at Tesco costs $3
  • A dinner out for two at a normal restaurant costs $12
  • A new pair of pants costs $10
  • Internet costs $20/month
  • Basic cell phone bill costs $16/month

Rent of a one bedroom apartment costs $630/month (this is the kicker-the market in Prague is very much a landlord’s market, the prices are exorbitant and nearly impossible to survive with this example, what my boyfriend and I paid, is very low.)

A years transport ticket good for tram, train, metro, and bus costs $165 (this is the best deal in town!)

 

Building relationships

11. Is it easy to make new friends in Prague?

Actually, I struggled so much with this in Prague. I have to admit that I was spoiled in some of my previous homes with a readily available group of super fabulous people the moment I arrived and that just didn’t happen to me in Prague.

Part of the reason was that my job was not in one place, I ran from office to office all day long teaching lessons at different locations. So, I didn’t get to know my ‘colleagues’ at all really. Often when you move to a new place work is your first port of call for new drinking buddies. I had to look elsewhere. I actually went on a number of friend dates. People I connected with on Facebook. Some clicked, others didn’t. I struggled and it was definitely difficult not to have a great support system in the city. I was lucky that I had my boyfriend but I wonder if that was also the reason I didn’t end up with lots of friends, I didn’t really need them, I had him.  

12. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

Foreigners. I met up with a few Czech women and some of them were o.k. but none of them were interested in follow-ups (was it me!?) and the ones that were, were very difficult to get close to.

13. Where is your favorite place in Prague to hang out?

Prague just changed its smoking laws this spring, so last winter all the bars and restaurants were smoky and awful. I hate that. So, I chose cafes. There’s a little chain called Cross Café. I drink chai lattes and theirs are my favorite! Plus, they leave you alone for as long as you want to stay there. And no smoking!

Now that there’s no smoking I’d rediscover more bars and restaurants where I wouldn’t end up reeking of smoke!

 

14. Do you interact with any expat communities in Prague?

I went to a few events. I can’t remember exactly which organizations they were through but all were different things I found on Facebook just searching the events on there. Nothing really clicked through and I felt a bit awkward going to them, in all honesty.

 

Reflection

15. An unforgettable memory!

It’s hard to pick out one memory but so many of my memories revolve around the trams. They are just everywhere. We lived above a tram line (DON’T!) so we heard them running all night long. The trams are an awesome form of transportation when they work well but if they’re stuck, you’re screwed!

 

16. Did you change your perspective about Prague after living here for awhile?

Yes. Sadly, it went from positive to negative. I do feel so bad about it but people have reminded me that it’s o.k. not to like a place. I LOVE SO MANY PLACES IN THIS WORLD! But after living there, Prague simple isn’t one of them.

 

17. What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Prague?

Do your research. I think if you make a good salary and you’re not struggling day to day you’ll enjoy it much more than I did. So, look into the cost of everything as compared to your salary. Will you have enough to enjoy your life? Also, be ready for the winter. It’s not only cold but dark and damp. Also, skiing or other outdoor sports will take some getting to, and the wilderness is not at your doorstep. If you’re content to sit inside and drink beer for a good chunk of the year, then you’ll be happy in Prague. If not, I can’t recommend it.

 

 

18. What have you learned from living abroad?

I’ve learned so much from living abroad. Before Prague, I lived in Ireland, Morocco, Vietnam, and Australia. Everywhere has its good and bad. I’ve learned to be open-minded and accepting. Also, I’ve learned to embrace differences but, especially in Prague, I’ve learned that we don’t all have to belong everywhere. I’ve learned heaps about myself really, and I’ve learned how much I’m capable of more than anything else and I think that’s an invaluable life lesson.

 

More about Caitlin

Caitlin

Caitlin grew up in the countryside of Vermont, USA before heading off to college in Maryland. Since then she’s earned her CELTA to teach English as a second language and with that has lived and worked in Ireland, Morocco, Vietnam, Australia and The Czech Republic. She became an expat in 2011 and has never looked back. Caitlin loves riding horses and is a lover of all animals. She loves photography, though she’s still learning. She loves hiking, yoga, the countryside and the city, knitting, and writing, which she does on her blog at Countryjumperblog 

Follow Caitlin on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

 

Read more interviews in this Expat Interview series:

Expat life in Beppu, Japan.

Expat life on the Marshall Islands

Expat life in San Diego, CA

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Expat Interview: What’s it like to live in San Diego, California as an expat?

Welcome to Expat Interview Series! In each week, you will get to know what it’s like to live in a city as an expat. The purpose of this series is to help YOU to understand the city from an expat’s viewpoint. Last week, we got to know the expat’s life on the Marshall Islands. This week, Michael will show you the expat life in San Diego, California, United States.

 

About San Diego

San Diego is a city on the Pacific coast of California and mainly known for its warm climate and beaches. Also, the city offers different beautiful parks and a big choice of museums. With its location nearby the Mexican border, it combines both the American and the Mexican culture like no other city in the world. Often San Diego is called “America’s finest city” due to its amazing weather.

 

Expat Interview: Live in San Diego

Hey Michael! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hello guys! I am Michael, a freelance photographer and travel blogger based in Switzerland. Aside from that I also study here in Switzerland. I love to be in nature and capture special moments and today I will tell you more about my three months in San Diego, California.

Live in San Diego

Greeting from San Diego

 

1. When did you start to live in San Diego?

In September 2016, I moved to sunny California. It was my first big adventure outside of my country and it definitely took me some time to make the decision. I lived there for roughly three months.

 

2. Why did you choose to live in San Diego?

As I wanted to improve my English while enjoying a great lifestyle with a lot of possibilities to explore the region, I had a lot of choices such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada or California. At the end, some suggestions of good friends and especially my gut feeling were responsible for that decision.

 

3. What did you prepare?

I am not a person who plans everything perfectly. To be honest, I did not plan a lot. I booked an accommodation and my language school. Not more. However, I was quite curious how it would be there and read a lot of travel reports beforehand to really know the coolest spots to see.

 

Overcoming difficulties

4. Did you experience any difficulties when you first moved here?

Sure! The United States is extremely large compared to Switzerland and I had to adapt to that in my first days. Surprisingly I adjusted myself rather quickly and felt comfortable after a short time. It was certainly in my favor that I didn’t suffer a huge cultural gap. What shocked me was the huge accumulation of homeless people in the city. It made me really sad and sometimes I felt kind of sad when I walked past them. I really hope that the United States is able to change that problem in the future.

 

5. How about discrimination?

No, not at all. Most of the Americans I met in San Diego were absolutely friendly and courteous. They are very communicative and love to tell you their whole life story – even if you are just waiting at the bus station. You hear a lot about discrimination in the United States, especially against Afro Americans – though I never observed it with my own eyes.

 

About the city

6. What do you like about San Diego?

Honestly, San Diego has so much to offer! It’s called “America’s finest city” and I totally agree with that. There are several amazing beaches that you can visit the whole year. Combined with the great bars and some exceptional viewpoints you can just love San Diego. It’s not the biggest city but has its own charm and vibrancy.

Beach in San Diego

La Jolla Beach

 

7. Is there anything that you don’t like about this city?

As I already mentioned I didn’t like the situation with the homeless people at all. Sure we tried to support them from time to time with food but it doesn’t change the overall situation that is really concerning. Other than that you have to be very picky to find something bad about San Diego.

 

8. What are your favorite things to do in San Diego?

There were some activities I repeated over and over. One of them was beach volleyball. A relaxing afternoon at Mission or Ocean Beach with some rounds of beach volleyball. Absolutely amazing. Additionally, I really appreciated the Gaslamp Quarter (downtown) where we experienced some unforgettable nights. Furthermore, I didn’t mention my favorite place yet: Tijuana. The Mexican city is just a short bus ride away and amazing for a day trip – though even better for the parties at the weekend. In my opinion even better than in Las Vegas.

Volleyball in San Diego

Playing Volleyball at Mission Beach

 

9. Where do you recommend to visit?

Other than that I recommend everybody to visit La Jolla, where you can see seals chilling at the beach. Secondly, you have to see the Sunset Cliffs and the Adobe Falls. The latter is a hidden waterfall with a lot of graffitis on the stones next to it. Usually, only locals go there as it is not allowed to enter the property. Admittedly it’s worth the risk!

 

Cost of Living in San Diego

a) Accommodation

This highly depends on where you exactly stay and what kind of comfort you need. I personally lived in Little Italy which is pretty close to the center. As I lived in a student apartment it cost me around 1’000$ per month. If you live further outside or decide to have some more comfort the price can vary tremendously.

 

b) Food

The same applies to the food. If you plan to eat delicious food in Restaurants you will need a lot of money: Definitely more than 1’000$ – in my first month I almost spent 1’500$ in food, whereas I reduced it to less than 500$ in my second month. There are different great supermarkets to find cheap food. I can recommend you Ralph’s which is located in the city center.

 

c) Transportation

The transportation in San Diego is quite affordable. For most distances, I was able to walk or use a bus. However, I highly recommend adding “Uber” to your choice of transport. A ride from the city center to the beach was not even 10$ for example. Especially if you split the price with friends it’s a bargain sometimes. I personally didn’t need more than 100$ per month for my transportation.

 

d) Other costs

Surely this point depends on what you exactly need. Of course, you will need a mobile data contract. I had a rather expensive one (about 60$) which provided me with unlimited data usage in the whole United States and Mexico.

 

Building relationships

10. Is it easy to make new friends in San Diego?

To find friends shouldn’t be a problem at all in San Diego! Americans love to connect and it’s easy to find the connection with them. My favorite places to do so: Sports games, bars, and especially country line dance clubs.

Football in San Diego

Football stadium (Qualcomm Stadium) – now closed

 

11. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

Because I visited a language school most of my friends were foreigners from Europe, Brazil, Asia or other countries. However, I also made a lot friends from the United States and Mexico. Usually, I went out with my friends and we met Americans there. One night I discussed with a group of Americans in a bar about politics and the next day they invited me to their own party. Really, if you like to connect with people you will love California!

 

12. Where is your favorite place in San Diego?

My favorite place to go out was definitely McFadden. It is a half bar, half club and located in the heart of the city. Famous for its “Thirsty Thursday” you can get beer for 1$ and enjoy an amazing time. Another hidden gem is the “In Cahoots” where they practice line dance and offer extremely cheap drinks on Tuesday. Definitely worth a visit, especially if you love to hang out with locals. Other than that it’s always a good idea to stay at the beach or in a sports bar where Americans like to watch the football games on Sunday.

 

Reflection

13. Memorable Experience

Me and one of my friends planned to do a skydive in San Diego and we also wanted another friend of us to join. But he was afraid of heights and didn’t like our idea. So we needed some help from Mexico: Tequila. After some shots, our friend wasn’t that reluctant anymore and we just booked our skydive – with him. The next day he thought that it was just a bad dream. It wasn’t. Just three days later we all jumped out of a plane – an unforgettable memory.

 

14. Did you change your perspective after living here for awhile?

When I first arrived there I didn’t know what I could expect. Still, my expectations were quite high and to be honest San Diego excelled them! The city became my second home and I love almost everything about it.

 

15. What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in San Diego?

My honest advice is: Go for it! If you have some financial reserves there is nothing to worry about this step and I can just recommend moving to San Diego. There is only one tip: Be open and enjoy the Californian lifestyle. You will find out rapidly if it’s for you.

 

16. What have you learned from living abroad?

Not only have I experienced another view of the world, also did I develop my character and think that it really helped me to grow to what I am today. In San Diego, I met a lot of amazing friends all around the world and decided to start on Instagram and my travel blog. No matter where – I recommend everybody to live abroad for at least some months to enjoy life and maybe find new paths that will change your life forever.

Thank you, Michael, for the Interview.

You can learn more about Michael’s experience on his blog Mscgerber Also, don’t forget to follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest


Read more interviews here:

What’s it like to live in Beppu, Japan?

What’s it like to live on the Marshall Islands as an expat?

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A Guide to Julefrokost – A Danish Christmas Celebration

Christmas is coming with the most exciting and long-awaited celebration of the year: Julefrokost. If you live in Denmark or know about Danish culture, I think you may once hear about this party. My first time participating in Julefrokost was last year, 2016. I love the party and here is my sharing about it. I hope you will enjoy reading. 

 

What is Julefrokost?

Julefrokost plays an important part in Danish tradition. Every December before Christmas, people gather together and celebrate an annual Julefrokost – a Danish Christmas lunch. This party can be between family members, or just generally a group of people (friends, colleagues, the member of clubs).

In Danish, Jule means Christmas, and Frokost means lunch. However, the time of the party may depend on the host, and usually, it starts late in the evening, around 5 pm. It can be considered as a dinner as well.

 

Before Julefrokost

So, what do people do to prepare for this party? The participants will prepare some gifts and the host will prepare delicious food and drinks for the participants. You can enjoy lots of Danish traditional food in this party.

 

Dress code

In the party, people usually dress up and wear formal clothes. For example, men usually wear suits, while women wear beautiful dresses. Some people will dress up as Santa Claus too. The dress code is also up on the host’s rule, so check it before you come to the party!

 

What do people do in Julefrokost?

1. Eat

Julefrokost is a combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas, so of course, there are a lot of Danish traditional food. You will eat for hours and much more than you usually do. I don’t know how to prepare for the party, but found a cool post for this. You can check here to see how is a proper Danish Julefrokost

It’s Julefrokost and it’s time to get fat! So stay strong and eat for the whole night 🙂 

 

2. Drink

The participants may be asked to bring their own drinks and also drinks for the others. You can bring beers, cocktails, beverages, or whatever you want to.

The most important drinks in Julefrokost is snaps. Snaps is a small shot of drink and people drink it during eating, and it contains around 32% ~ 40% alcohol. You can read more about snaps at Wikipedia

In my opinion, snaps tastes like a combination of water, apple juice, and vodka. It tastes kinda weird I think…

Julefrokost Meal

“Everyone doesn’t like it but they still drink it”

“It doesn’t taste good, but it’s the tradition so everyone will drink snaps.”

My friends say that many Danes don’t like snaps, but they still drink it because it is an important part of Danish culture.

 

3. Sing

It’s so interesting to see Danes sing while they’re drinking. In the party that I participated, people sang Haps haps haps song while drinking Snap. I found it was really funny, so I asked my friend for a lyric. You can check out the song here.

 

4. Talk

Julefrokost is also a time for everyone to gather together and share their stories. It’s time for reflection, so people usually look back and share their achievement and what they have done during this year. If you celebrate with your company, it’s a great time to get to know more about your colleagues and build a good relationship.

 

5. Dance

Yes! As other parties, Julefrokost cannot miss a dance floor. In my party, people just used the living room as a dance floor, and someone got to be a DJ, and others danced. It was so fun that night. 

 

6. Game

You can play some games at the party as well. It can be drinking game such as beer pong, or gift game such as PAKKELEG – the most common game in Julefrokost.

Rules: It can depend on each party but generally it follows

Each person brings a small gift and all gifts are placed in the middle of the table.

  • 1st round: Everyone takes turns in rolling the dice and when you roll a 6, you can choose a gift until all gifts have been taken.
  • 2nd round: You rolls a dice and can take other people’s gift if you can roll a 6.

Gift for Julefrokost party

After a period of time, everybody opens their gifts. Some people will have no gift while some may have more than one. In my case, I, unfortunately, didn’t receive any…

 

7. Smoke

Many Danes smoke, and they usually go out and smoke regularly. You can meet and see most of the people in the party outside. 

 

What happens at a Julefrokost, stays at the Julefrokost

In Julefrokost, especially after midnight, people get pretty wide. They may do crazy things and behave strangely. Everyone knows that and no one will blame you if you do something strange that night.

Don’t worry, on Monday people will back to the same 😉

 

5 Best Tips for Julefrokost

  • Don’t go out the night before. You need to get ready for the big day.
  • You should drink water because it helps reducing hangover next day!
  • Don’t drink too many snaps if you don’t want to be too drunk
  • Eat more than you do and drink more than you do
  • Enjoy yourself and be a bit crazy because it’s Julefrokost!

 

Just accept all the Julefrokost invitations and enjoy the best party of the year.

You can enjoy the most of the Danish culture with it. Hope you will have a great time!

Skål !!!

Read more about 10 Most Surprising things in Denmark

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Expat Interview: Live on the Marshall Islands as an expat

Welcome to Expat Interview Series! In each week, you will get to know what it’s like to live in a city as an expat. The purpose of this series is to help YOU to understand the city from an expat’s viewpoint. Last week, you got to know the expat’s life in Beppu, Japan. This week, Sara will show you the real life on Majuro, Marshall Islands.

 

Where is Majuro, Marshall Islands?

Majuro, Marshall Islands, have you heard of it? Most haven’t. If you were to look at a globe, I’d tell you to first find the international date line. Next, locate where that crosses the equator, now look up and to the left of that point and bam, you have found it. The country consists of 29 atolls, made up of well over 1,000 islands. Majuro is the capital city and the largest atoll of the 29. Originally known as ‘Jolet Jen Anij’, meaning gift from God, eventually, they were named after John Marshall, a British explorer who visited in the late 1700s. With a population of just over 50,000 people, about half live in Majuro alone. It’s a small island, where everyone knows everyone and knows everything. Anyways, you get the idea.

the Marshall islands from above

This was Enemanit Island, owned by one of the more prominent families in Majuro. A beautiful oasis from the busy Majuro.

 

Expat Interview: Live on the Marshall Islands

Firstly, let’s get to know more about Sara!

Sara’s background

Sara here. I am originally from Canada but have lived abroad on and off since 2009. I left Canada originally to go to school in Australia for teacher’s college. And it is teaching that has to lead me to live abroad on and off since. I have taught in Thailand, Canada, the Marshall Islands, Niger and am now currently in Vietnam. Although I used to teach elementary school, I have switched over to teaching High School English Literature. I have always wanted to be a teacher, ever since I was little. Though most fall into teaching because they want to travel, I fell into traveling because I wanted to teach. With no jobs for teachers at home, it was easier to just pick up and go.

 

1. Why did you choose to live in Majuro?

Honestly, my friend had mentioned the Marshall Islands casually in conversation one random Sunday, when I was actually looking into where my next destination may be. I decided to google schools there and I found that there was one international school. I decided to apply. Within a week, I had two interviews under my belt and a job offer to teacher Grade 5 for the coming school year. I had also had interviews for schools in South East Asia, like Singapore and Vietnam, but the intrigue of going somewhere I knew very little about won over the rest. I don’t know why the unknown always fascinates me more, but it happened again after Majuro, choosing Niger over Guatemala.

 

2. What is your moving procedure?

I was living in Whitehorse, Yukon, which is in Canada for those unfamiliar. I had been substitute teaching up there for the 2014-2015 school year. But I had recently been offered a job in the Marshall Islands. In order to move to the islands, I first had to pack up my car and move everything back home to my parents’ house in the Toronto area (where I was living before taking off for the Yukon).

Since I had to drive all that way anyway, I ended up on a (partial) solo road trip across my own country for 3 weeks. After that was over, I spent a few weeks at home with friends and family there and then packed up anything I would need for living and teaching in the Marshall Islands, and I was on my way. I left at the end of July in 2015. In order to fly to the Marshall Islands from Canada, or even the US, you have to fly to Honolulu, Hawaii, first. The only flights from this side of the world are run by United Airlines and fly from Honolulu. There are other airlines but some are just flights to other islands or fly down to Australia.

 

3. What did you prepare?

Before leaving for the islands, I was put in contact with current teachers at the school, to get more of an idea of what the islands were like. I asked them whatever I needed to. Usually, when you find a job with a school, they like to put you into contact with current teachers to help with that sort of thing.

I am more of a researcher, finding blogs, online articles and the like, to find my information. To be honest, at the time, there wasn’t exactly a whole lot of information, even online, about the islands. Especially not about what it would be like to live there. I started to do what research I could. Found out the customs, what is appropriate to wear to school, and in everyday life. The islands are conservative, and it wasn’t the kind of island you would find yourself wandering around in your bikini regularly. So making sure I understood what I should pack and what I shouldn’t, was important.

And me being me, I also looked up what airlines flew in and out of there, and where I could go for my holidays. I wanted to know what I was getting into, but there was literally one blog on Majuro at the time, and it just talked of how she dealt with a food shortage, living off rice. Which at least prepared me for that possibility.

 

Difficulties & Challenges

4. How to deal with culture shock?

I wouldn’t say it was the culture shock, per se. It was more of the shock of being in such an isolated place. You could walk the width of the island in a matter of minutes. And the length of the island, I never walked but I am sure it could be done. There wasn’t really anywhere to go and there wasn’t a whole lot to do. This hits you in bouts, not all at once when you get there, but periodically when you are there.

You realize how boring a person you are when you realize you can’t keep yourself entertained. I didn’t have too much a problem with it. I loved reading. And writing. And once I realized boredom was real, I figured out quickly how to keep myself entertained. Most of it involved throwing myself into my teaching job and coaching basketball.

 

5. Discrimination: Yes or No?

I was told that the island was conservative before I got there. Warning me that bikinis were frowned upon. Strappy dresses. Short Shorts. And so on. I was a little worried that I would be discriminated against a little because although I am respectful of culture, I am not a fan of perpetuating a controlling patriarchy. I also am skeptical of a dress code that is not even based on tradition but based on what those who colonized the island told the locals they should be wearing. Topless and grass skirts are traditional, look it up.

But I digress… I honestly never felt discriminated against by locals, and I felt that ex-pats, usual co-workers, were more concerned about what I wore than the locals. Also, I stand out anyways, with a half shaved head and tattoos, so I would be looked at regardless if I was covered head to toe in fabric, or if I walked about in my tank top and shorts. It wouldn’t matter but I never felt I was treated poorly by anyone because of my foreigner status, or even what I wore.

Arno Atoll was only an atoll away, provided a nice long weekend trip, as the boat was 1.5 hours across the ocean.

 

6. Difficulties

Everyone thinks island, and automatically thinks beautiful beaches and paradise. But there is so much that goes with that.

First of all, our apartments were on the ocean, hard not to be, no matter where you lived on the island, but there wasn’t really a beach, just massive rocks. Which served me well, as I watched the sunrise from them every morning. But it wasn’t exactly the paradise one builds up in their head. With ocean air, comes ocean rust and mold. My apartment was full of mold, which for my mattress and that, was easy to replace, but the mold that formed on my jewelry, not as easy.

And the rust! I was not prepared for. Things rust quicker than you think if you don’t take care of them. Something I wasn’t prepared to worry about. And with a small island, comes isolation. I found myself worried about making real friends while living there, with such a small expat community on the island. Luckily that didn’t last long.

 

About the city

7. What do you like about Majuro?

The people. The students really. They had hearts. It was hard not to love them. Even when they frustrated you. It was hard to leave those kids, and I was only there for a year. My boyfriend, after 3 years there, was a mess when we left. There’s just something heartwarming about the place. It didn’t hurt that we lived on an ocean, and I loved stand-up paddle-boarding. I regret not using that more while I was there.

 

8. Is there anything that you don’t like about Majuro?

I don’t like the oppression of women. Women are made to feel ashamed of their bodies. I tried my hardest to instill in my students that they had nothing to be ashamed about. Also, the underlying domestic abuse that they deemed as part of the ‘culture’. So many stories of it running rampant on the island, with not much being done about it. I wasn’t prepared for that.

It’s hard to wrap your head around, and not want to do everything in your power to help every single child, every single woman, going through it. But you do what you can. Give your students a safe space to spend their time. Give them your love and attention.
Also the garbage. It was a huge island wide problem. Trash was everywhere on the island, and often thrown directly into the ocean. It stems from the fact that their dishes used to be coconuts and leaves, so they are used to that being biodegradable. But there’s no excuse anymore. They have used paper and plastic, and packaging, enough now to know they need to change that habit.

Picture of the Pig, car and garbage

A typical scene at the side of the road between the road and the ocean, garbage was a huge problem on the island.

 

9. What are your favorite things to do in Majuro, Marshall Islands?

Watch the sunrise. I literally spent every morning (that it wasn’t raining) watching the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean. I would grab my headphones, and a coffee, and sit and fall into a meditative state watching the colors fill the sky. And when I had the energy and time, watching the sunset on the other side of the island. Nothing beats those mornings on the ocean.

Palm tress sunrise on the Marshall Islands

A typical sunrise sitting on the rocks outside my apartment in Majuro

 

10. Where to visit for the first time?

If my friends had visited me, I would’ve taken them directly to Eneko Island. It was an island that was a part of the same atoll, Majuro Atoll. It was only a quick 20-minute boat ride away. You could camp or stay in the bungalows there. And most of the time, you were pretty much alone staying there. Snorkelling and using my stand up paddle board were two of my favorite things to do there.

Stand-up Paddleboarding was easier at Eneko Island, on the lagoon side where the water was calmer.

 

Cost of living on the Marshall Islands

 

a) Housing

The cost of living is dependent on what you are doing there. I was a teacher at the international school, and as such, I was provided housing that is adjacent to the school itself. It would be hard to give you an estimate of the cost of rent as I was completely oblivious to that.I also wasn’t paid much over $1000US a month, which is not a lot and definitely makes you budget, even if you aren’t a budgeting person.

b) Food

The cost of food was definitely dependent on how picky you are. My boyfriend spent about $10-12 US a day on food, but he lived off of tuna (fresh and canned), cereal, apples, bananas, and oranges. I spent a little bit more a day, as I was pickier. It was hard to eat a healthy diet at all times, as when produce came, you had to eat it right away to make sure it didn’t go bad.
This is definitely not one of those islands with all kinds of tropical fruit growing. Besides coconut and bananas, nothing else really grew there. So produce was shipped in and would often go bad quickly, or just be sold out by the time we able to get there. And it was often expensive in comparison to US or Canada, as it was shipped in. To put it into perspective, a pack of strawberries was $14.99US. But apples, bananas, and oranges were fairly cheap. There was a 4% tax on goods.

c) Eating out

Restaurants were typical prices you would expect at any restaurant around the US. Taxis were cheap. $0.75 to get anywhere on the main side of the bridge (where most things were) but if you wanted to go past the bridge to Laura Beach or the Airport, it would be a couple dollars instead.

d) Transportation

I only really needed taxis for going to Laura Beach or the Airport, or when we were going to Eneko Island and had something to bring with you. You just flag one down and hop in, even if there were already people in it. There was really only one road it went back and forth on, so if it’s going the right way, you can jump in. I walked a lot though, and I didn’t bother having a cell phone for my time there. Normally, I used wifi at my work and home on my phone, but the cost of phone credit was not that bad for those who chose to do so. I felt like I could easily walk and knock on people’s doors instead of calling them personally.

e) Traveling around

A trip to Eneko Island was fairly cheap. It was $20 each for a boat ride (round trip), and then $40 for a single bungalow, or $45 for a double. There is also a new (and nicer) beach house offered for $150 for the first night, and $125 any extra nights. Booked through RRE Hotel, as the dock is just outside the hotel to pick up the boat. You have to bring all your own food though, as there is no food on the island. Also, no fridge to put it in, but there is a kitchen to cook in, so planning accordingly is always a good idea.

 

Building relationship

11. Making new friends in Majuro, Marshall Islands: Easy or not?

As a teacher, it’s easy. Co-workers become friends and family. But other than that, not as easy right away. Like I mentioned before, it’s a small expat community. If you wanted to meet friends, you could. My friends, who were my coworkers, were always meeting new friends, whether it be tourists, pilots, or whoever else. But personally, in my old age (I am not that old) I am picky with who I spend time with and it was a little harder for me, as I prefer to make friends with people I make true connections with.

 

12. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

I definitely found myself hanging out with foreigners more than locals, on a friend basis. But I spent a lot of time with students too. A lot of basketball practices after school, one on one tutoring those girls who needed extra help after basketball and so on. Though my core group of friends was definitely foreigners.

 

13. Where do you usually hang out with your friends?

Restaurants weren’t exactly abundant. We did go to Tide Table often for food. Every other time I went I was unsatisfied with my food. But when they had all the ingredients, the nachos were so good. Marshall Islands Resort (aka MIR) was a lovely spot near the water. The pizza there was good. But to be honest, none of the restaurants would satisfy a foodie. Definitely not a destination you travel to, to try local cuisine.

Coffee shops weren’t in existence. Unless you count one spot that I can’t even remember the name cause it doesn’t count. We sometimes got coffee from the little stand/shop in front of our school, but it was just instant coffee most the time, and I can make that myself. So hanging out was usually done at each other’s places, or on weekends we would head to Eneko Island for the night. Sundays were spent on Enemanit Island, owned by a parent at the school.

 

14. Expat community

Teachers were the main expat community. Though there were others there. Even other teachers, such as teachers who were a part of the program World Teach. The island was small, even if you didn’t hang out with all the expats, you knew them and had seen them around. A lot of pilots working on the tuna boats, mostly from Australia, New Zealand or the US.

 

Reflection

15. Did you change your perspective after living here for awhile?

I honestly didn’t have any set expectations going in. I didn’t know much about it. It wasn’t an easy place to live but I miss it a lot. It’s hard to put into words the kinds of connections you make with the people on the island. For me and my boyfriend, it was the connections made with our students. It was a whole other world over there. I definitely worried when I first got there that I would have a hard time, but as you ease into the life where it becomes comfortable and familiar. You find things to do.

 

16. Any advice and tips for moving/ living here?

Do not look at pretty pictures from there and think that it’s all beautiful beaches and sunny days. Do not go with high expectations. It will change your life spending time living there but you have to go with ideas of ways to occupy your time. Make use of the ocean. Swim. Surf. Paddleboard. Do all the things. Climate change is real and destroying the islands, and they may not be there in 20-50 years.

Reading book on the Marshall islands

Eneko provided a beautiful escape on weekends to relax and read.

 

17. Would you recommend others to live on the Marshall Islands?

I won’t lie. I recommended a teacher friend of mine live there and I recently found out she left to go back home to the states early. It isn’t for everyone and I know this. But I would still tell people to go give it a try. I loved it. My friends and coworkers loved it. But that doesn’t mean I think everyone would. It is not a place I would recommend anyone go and settle down for a long time. But it’s definitely a place to go for a year or two and see how it goes.

 

18. What have you learned from living abroad?

What haven’t I learned? I believe that we are constantly learning throughout our lives, regardless where we are and what we are doing. It’s important to always keep learning, keep experiencing new things and growing. Each new place I move to helps me grow. I learn new ways of living. You learn to deal with things you may never have had to deal with if you stayed home in your hometown. I have lived in many different places and learned many different things, it’s hard to recount all of them. My mantra in life is ‘never a grown-up because I am always growing’. And that’s me, always adapting to new places, learning new things and growing.

Thank you, Sara, for the Interview. You can learn more about Sara’s experience on her blog The Life of a Solivagant. Also, don’t forget to follow her Facebook and Instagram as well!

You can read other interviews here:

What’s it like to live in Beppu, Japan?

 

Stay tuned for the next week Interview! XO


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A Complete Guide to Huis Ten Bosch – A little Netherlands in Japan

Have you ever thought about visiting Holland in Japan? I guess not, right? No one visits Japan and thinks “Oh we should take a canal tour and observe the beauty of tulip field”. Honestly, I didn’t, either. I didn’t imagine that one day I would visit “Amsterdam” in Japan, but I went there. If you’re seeking for an alternative experience while traveling to Japan, I recommend 100% to visit Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki, Japan.

 

So, what is Huis Ten Bosch?

Huis Ten Bosch (ハウステンボス) is a Dutch theme park in Sasebo, Nagasaki, Japan. It resembles the Netherlands by displaying life-sized copies of old Dutch buildings in Middle Age. Also, there are various attractions such as games, museums, windmills, wooden houses, beautiful canal, etc. With several restaurants located in every corner of the streets, you can enjoy delicious food from all over the world. The hotel systems in Huis Ten Bosch are impressive as well. You can choose to stay in Hotel Europe, Hotel Amsterdam, and Hotel Forest Villa. Huis Ten Bosch is famous for its outstanding light show at night as well.

Huis Ten Bosch is a small Netherlands

 

How to get to Huis Ten Bosch?

You can take a direct train from Hakata station, Fukuoka to Huis Ten Bosch station. The journey is around 2 hours, and it’s the final stop so you won’t get lost (If you get on the correct train of course). Hakata Train Station is huge, so make sure that you’re on the right train.

Here is the timetable from 04/03/2017 – 28/02/2018. You can download it here.

Also, you can check out the JR Kyushu Train.

You can use the JR Kyushu Rail Pass for this train as well. I recommend purchasing JR Kyushu Rail Pass if you’re in Kyushu. In order to buy this pass, you must fulfill these 2 requirements:

  • Hold a passport issued by a country other than Japan.
  • Reside outside Japan and are visiting Japan on a short-stay visa.

I’m a student at a university in Japan, and I purchased this to travel around Kyushu area. You can ride Shinkansen with this Rail Pass as well.

 

How much does it cost for Huis Ten Bosch?

There are different types of tickets that you can purchase. Here is the ticket price

Tips: Carry your ticket all the time

You have to show your ticket EVERYWHERE in this theme park. Because it’s divided into different areas, you need to show your ticket when you get to a different part. Also, you need to show your ticket at the attractions because Huis Ten Bosch offers different ticket package with and without attraction. So, my advice is NOT TO LOSE your ticket! You won’t able to move around or enjoy any activity here without a ticket.

 

Discovering Huis Ten Bosch

I was surprised to visit this place at the first time because it did not look like Japan at all. When you first arrived at the train station, you need to cross the bridge to the island.

Huis Ten Bosch station

Huis Ten Bosch station

Welcome to Huis Ten Bosch

 

Huis Ten Bosch gate

The gate to enter Huis Ten Bosch

 

Huis Ten Bosch building

When you pass through the gate, you will see this building

 

Canal Tour

Canal Tour

You can take a Canal Tour around Huis Ten Bosch and explore many beautiful Dutch buildings.

 

The Village

Huis Ten Bosch Town

The architecture resembles Amsterdam – the heart of Netherlands.

 

Huis Ten Bosch Windmill

Huis Ten Bosch Windmill

 

Huis Ten Bosch from above

Here is how Huis Ten Bosch looks like from above. You can take an elevator to the highest point of this theme park and observe the scene.

 

Foodie Guide

Yogurt

It’s time for something cold, and yogurt is a perfect choice!

 

Sasebo Burger

You cannot miss Sasebo burger if you visit Nagasaki. This burger is really famous, and it’s tasty too!

 

Ramen

Kyushu has the best ramen in Japan, and the restaurant serves amazing ramen soup with cheap price.

At night

Huis Ten Bosch at night

I specifically love the light show. At night, I was blown away by the illumination display. The whole park was light up with colorful lights and parade. The park had a magical and romantic atmosphere at that time, so don’t miss out the night there.

Huis Ten Bosch palace

Huis ten Bosch Palace is a royal palace in The Hague in the Netherlands. This Palace was built for Queen Beatrix in 1981, and it was the home of Princess Beatrix until early 2014.

 

Firework

Don’t miss the firework at 9 pm!

Note:

  • No Weed is Allowed: Even though it resembles Netherlands, it’s illegal to buy and smoke weed here. So, the atmosphere is a bit different from the “real” Amsterdam, where you can get high easily just by walking on the street.
  • No Red Light District: There’s no red light district in Huis Ten Bosch either. I was expecting something like that before I went, but Huis Ten Bosch was still a theme park for all ages.

I hope you will have a nice trip in Huis Ten Bosch! XO


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Expat Interview: What’s it like to live in Beppu, Japan as an expat?

Welcome to Expat Interview Series! In each week, you will get to know what it’s like to live in a city as an expat. The purpose of this series is to help YOU, yes YOU, to understand the city from an expat’s viewpoint. Therefore, you can make better decisions before moving to a new place. In this week, I will show you real life in Beppu by interviewing Lissie, a Swedish girl who is currently living in Beppu, Japan.

Where is Beppu?

Beppu is a small coastal city, located on the southern island of Kyushu, Japan. The city is renowned for its abundance of hot springs, known in Japanese as onsen, and prides itself on the existence of different types of baths and hot spring experiences. The city is also the site for a university housing a large international student population. All in all, except for a high rate of hot springs and foreign students who have settled in the city for the purpose of studying, it’s a regular Japanese town, with vending machines around the corners and traditional buildings mixed in with newer apartment complexes.

 

Expat Interview: Living in Beppu, Japan as an expat

Firstly, let’s get to know a bit about Lissie.

Lissie’s background

My name is Lissie and I’m currently a senior student at a university in Japan. My favorite past times include taking two-hour-long naps and treating myself to some delicious dark chocolate. And not to forget, randomly exploring new places and vegetarian food restaurants.

 

1. Why did you choose to live in Beppu?

I moved to Japan, and to be more exact Beppu, about three years ago. Basically, I went through the common procedures for a student visa to Japan and subsequently found myself sitting in my university dormitory room about a year after I first decided to study in Japan.

The main reason I live in Beppu is that Beppu is where my university is located. I guess you can say I choose the university, but not the city really…

Statue of Kumahachi Aburaya

You will see the statue of Kumahachi Aburaya when you first arrive at Beppu

Photo courtesy of David Stanley

2. How did you prepare to move to Beppu?

Well, as I quickly realized that because of my limited (read non-existent) experience of Japanese society, it would be impossible for me to ever be totally prepared for the move. So, I mainly focused on sorting out my belongings at home and deciding on what to pack (as in finding out what I could not easily buy in Japan) and fill my suitcase with those kinds of things, while trying to teach myself some of the Japanese writing systems and reading up on university guidelines for getting to the dormitory.

 

Difficulties & Challenges

Here, you can find all the difficulties that you may have when you first live in Beppu, Japan.

3. How to deal with culture shock in Japan?

I think the one thing which has shocked me the most is a number of different types of packaging and plastic wraps and bags Japanese people tend to use, or in my personal opinion, waste, daily. As far as possible I’ve tried to limit my own usage by telling shop clerks that the small plastic bag for the tofu isn’t necessary, or ‘no I don’t need an extra plastic bag for the omiyage I just bought’…

 

4. What are the challenges of living in Japan?

The toughest part of living in Japan has definitely been the language barrier. I still remember one of the first days in Beppu, when I was going downtown alone and couldn’t understand a word of what was being said in the loudspeakers of the bus, or how to read the characters for the stops. That day, because I didn’t have a phone, I solved it by randomly getting off at a location that seemed suitable. Later on, I learned to make use of different apps to make not only traveling but also daily life in general, a bit smoother.

 

5. Have you experienced any discrimination in Japan?

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced direct discrimination or hostility. Most Japanese have made an effort to accommodate me, especially if I’ve also have been trying to communicate in Japanese. However, there are the small things which keep reminding me about being a ‘scary’ foreigner; the excessive spaces left on the train… a lack of eye contact or recognition of me being there, especially when I’m with a Japanese acquaintance…

 

About the city

Let’s get to know the real Beppu in Lissie’s eyes.

6. What do you like about Beppu?

Hot springs! Beppu is a hot spring town and I’m an onsen lover so being able to go to the local 100yen host spring whenever I feel like it is a wonderful advantage that comes with living here.

Blue onsen in Beppu, Japan

 

7. Is there anything that you don’t like about Beppu?

If I would have to point out something that I feel less enthusiastic about, it’d be the almost non-existent green areas. I grew up surrounded by a lot of greenery, both in and outside the urban areas. While Beppu is surrounded by mountains and forest, it lacks, in my opinion, parks and other green zones within the city. There are a few parks, but not by far as many as I’ve been spoiled with growing up, so the abundance of urban greenery is something I miss.

Beppu Park

Beppu park in Spring – Photo Courtesy of tomosang

8. What are your favorite things to do in Beppu, Japan?

My personal favorite is waking up before dawn, head out to the harbor and watch the sunrise from there. However, since I am a bit of a snoozer that doesn’t happen often enough. On the other hand, visiting the onsen doesn’t require any early mornings, so that’s something I love doing!

 

9. Cost of Living in Beppu, Japan

Food

It may cost you around ¥1,000 to ¥1,500 per day if you eat out three times a day. In case you cook at home, the price will be much lower.

Rent

With the rent, it will be around ¥25000 – ¥60000 depending on your accommodation.

Transportation

If you’re a student, you can get a yearly bus pass which offers 75% discount on April or October. There are triple tickets which cost ¥1,000.

Other Cost

You will pay ¥5000 for mobile service, and around ¥10,000 for extra things.

 

Building Relationship

Is it easy to make new friends when you first live in Beppu? Lissie will help you to answer!

10. Is it easy to make new friends in Beppu?

If you’re a university student and would like to make international acquaintances, you’ll find it won’t be too difficult by joining different activities, especially the ones connected to the university life. However, I think to make longer-lasting Japanese friends you might need to put a bit more effort into joining local activities and understanding their culture. Many Japanese people are a bit shy (or insecure) when it comes to speaking to foreigners, so taking the first step is of consequence!

On a regular basis, I hang out with my foreign friends, but there are occasions when I meet locals and partake in activities with them.

 

11. Where to hang out in Beppu?

I come from the country of Fika so coffee shops are a favorite, especially the smaller, hidden ones which are not part of the commercial chains. Also, because it would be such a shame to reveal the exact location of my very own ‘secret spot’ I’ll just let you know that it’s on a backstreet in Beppu.

 

Reflection

12. An Unforgettable Memory – Eating Udon

One of my first days in Beppu I was invited by some floor mates to go out with them for dinner. We ended up at 鳴門うどん – which is a popular udon restaurant among students in the area. This was my first time eating udon.

quan Udon

The Udon restaurant – Photo courtesy of joniuyen

While I was slightly concerned about my chopstick skills, I shrugged it off as unnecessary worrying. It was just noodles we were going to eat after all.

How wrong I was.

Upon seeing the menu, I realized that the noodles would arrive at our table served in a huge bowl – swimming in broth. With other words, I could not just mind my own business eating liquid-free noodles from a private bowl, but I would first have to fish the noodles out of the larger bowl and transfer them to my own. Now, I don’t believe this would have posed much of a problem if the chopsticks hadn’t been of the ultra-smooth, plastic kind, which allows just about anything to slip through if you haven’t got your chopstick skills down to perfection. Needless to say, I ended up spending the majority of the meal delicately gripping the noodles with my chopsticks, just to have them slip back into the broth seconds later. Splat, splat, and splat …

 

13.  Did you change your perspective after living here for awhile?

To be honest, at first, I found Beppu to be a bit small and dull. However, after living here for a while, I’ve found that it has an abundance of charm to share if you give it a chance. It might seem like you’ve seen it all after staying here for a year, but there’s always something new around the corner if you allow yourself the time to look for it.

 

14. Can you share tips & advice for living in Beppu?

Really consider whether or not you are a person who enjoys a bit more of a countryside life, or if you prefer a constant dose of urban adventures. If you fall into the latter category, Beppu might not be the optimal place to settle in.

Thank you, Lissie for your participation.

You can read other Interviews here:

Expat Interview: Expat life on the Marshall Islands

Expat Interview: Expat life in San Diego, CA

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Travel to Tokyo: How my first solo trip changed my life

A group of Female travel bloggers prompts me an interesting idea to write within 1 hour about a travel event that changed my perspective on life. ONE HOUR. Yes, you’re reading correctly! I normally need more than 5 hours for an article, so it’s surely interesting to challenge myself to write in a fast-speed. About the topic, I’ve had many memorable experiences during my trip, but my first solo trip to Tokyo was a total life-changing event. Let’s read my story below.

 

Background

Tokyo was actually not the first place that I visited in Japan. I first left my home country – Vietnam since I was 18 years old to study abroad. A flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Fukuoka was the first time that I ever got on an airplane, and Japan was the first country that I traveled abroad.
At that time, I didn’t start traveling alone or think about doing a solo trip. In Vietnam, I just visited some cities with my family, and in Japan, I did camping, field study trips, weekend trips, but I was always with a group of people. I was in my comfort zone and didn’t try to break it. With me, traveling alone was lonely and dangerous.

 

Why did I travel alone to Tokyo?

Tokyo – the capital of Japan with lots of interesting culture and beautiful places. Even though I live in Japan, Tokyo is totally different from my place, a small spa town in the South of Japan.

I was thinking of visiting Tokyo for a long time but didn’t have a chance to do it. Eventually, I had to go to Tokyo because I had to apply a visa to Denmark for my exchange. (I studied at Copenhagen Business School for 1 year as an exchange student)

 

Preparation

Since it was my first time traveling alone, I decided to do something differently.

  • No Mobile Data during the trip
  • Using Maps and asking people if I got lost
  • Not booking any accommodation beforehand
  • Preparing a small plan for the first day about what to do, where to go, what to eat

That’s it! I took a small backpack which I used daily to school with me, and went on a solo trip to Tokyo 🙂

 

Travel on a budget to Tokyo

1st day

I was overwhelmed when I first got to Narita airport. “Wow! There are so many people!” – I first thought.

I decided to spend my first day at Ueno Park, which is a popular park with lovely walking paths and several museums. There were so many people at the park that day, so I had to wait in a long line to get into a dinosaur museum. It was quite weird at first when being alone and seeing only couples or friend groups around, but I had a good time exploring the museum and the park on my own.

Solo trip to see Dinosaur

My first time seeing a dinosaur

Spending an evening in Shibuya area, I visited the famous Shibuya crossing. It was crazy to see how many people were crossing at that intersection at once. At some point, I did not feel lonely anymore. Instead, I felt happy that I could explore a new place on my own.

Shibuya Crossing Street

There are so many people crossing at the same time at Shibuya intersection.

On that day, I also went to a restaurant alone for the first time and enjoy some Japanese food. It was actually okay because that sushi restaurant offered single chairs for solo travelers. I could enjoy my dinner in my speed and not worry whether I ate too fast or too slow.

A sushi restaurant where you can enjoy your meal alone.

So, how did I sleep at night?

Trying to catch free wi-fi at McDonald’s, I found out the nearest Internet Cafe to sleep. I paid for a small area (2×2 square meters) for 8 hours and spent my first night there. The Internet Cafe had a corner for female travelers, so I didn’t need to worry about the safety. I then planned for the following day’s activities while eating free ice-cream from this place. Yes, Internet Cafe in Japan offers free ice-cream and drink bar!

A room at Internet Cafe

 

2nd day

On the next day, I woke up early at 6 am, caught a train and visited Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park, and Takeshita Street. Even though I got lost at first, I figured out where to go thanks to the help from a local man.

It’s an interesting part of traveling, right? Getting lost and let the road be your guide.

Takeshita Street in Tokyo

I accidentally came across Takeshita Street. This place was full of people!

At night, I chose to stay at the Internet café just like the previous day, but I couldn’t find the place. A Japanese girl offered to help me, and she even took me along the way to the Internet café. It was so nice of her to do so.

 

3rd day

I visited Shinjuku Gyoen in the morning and spent my time enjoy beautiful nature. Because I have a goal to try Vietnamese Pho around the world, I had my lunch at a Pho restaurant in Tokyo. I was surprised when the owner suggested me to visit a Vietnamese festival nearby. “Wow, what a coincidence! I’m in Tokyo and now there’s a Vietnamese festival”. I was so happy to attend my home country festival in this country since I missed Vietnam food a lot. Although it was a Vietnamese festival, there were food stands from all over the world, and many performances as well. I had a good time at the festival, talking with people and making new friends.

Vietnamese festival in Tokyo

Yummy food at Vietnamese Festival in Tokyo

 

My most memorable experience

I wanted to visit and buy cheesecake from a famous cheesecake store that I saw on Facebook many times. However, without the Mobile data, I got lost and couldn’t find the way. I tried to ask an old lady for the instruction, but she didn’t know the location. Luckily, a man nearby just offered to help me to find that store. We walked together in 30 minutes, crossed lots of street and buildings, and finally got to the place.

You know what, that mall has 7 floors and 5 underground floors! I was thinking about giving up but he still wanted to help me. We literally walked around the mall, went to 6 different floors, asking tons of people to find the place! We finally found this cheesecake stand on the 2nd underground floor after that.

That man asked me “How did you know about the place?”

I said “Ah… I saw the cheesecake on Facebook”

He was surprised by my answer and said that I knew more about Tokyo than him (haha!). He said goodbye to me because he had to get back to work. The cheesecake was really yummy, but 1-hour walking and finding were just too much!

Impression

I was so surprised by how nice people at Tokyo were.  They literally spent their time helping other people! That guy was a complete stranger, but he was willing to help. I heard the story from my friends that a guy went with them the whole way on the train to guide them to the correct place, and I kinda doubted it, but this experience made me believe in the kindness of people 🙂

 

How my first solo trip changed my life

Independence

Remember how I thought about a solo trip? I never expected that I would travel alone, and now I’m more than happy to do that. Now, I feel comfortable to travel everywhere on my own. Also, I know how to take care myself while on a solo trip.

 

Freedom

The freedom to decide where to go, what to eat and when to do it make my trip amazing. When traveling solo, I’m not tied to anyone’s plan or schedule and don’t need to worry about other’s feeling. Also, I can travel in my space, and enjoy the destination in my style. I’m growing my love for solo trip <3 

 

Communication & New friends

At that time, I was still super introvert and didn’t spend time outside my circle. When I traveled in a group, I just talked to my friends or family and didn’t try to communicate with anyone else or even local. I didn’t try to see the place in local eyes at all.

When I travel alone, I start to talk to different people on the road. I start making lots of new friends and learning how to interact with different people. I never thought that I could just talk to a random person and spend a good time with them.

 

Open-mindedness

Talking to different people out of my circle helps me become more open-minded. I started to accept the differences in people, and value the differences in cultures and living styles. Also, I tried different activities on my solo trip, rather than just being a “normal tourist”. I let the road be my guide 🙂

 

Now, I’m a big fan of solo travel. I’ve been traveling alone since then, and I’ve visited 25 countries on my own. Traveling alone gives me the power to do things that I cannot imagine of, and being a travel blogger is one of these. Now, I’m using my voice to encourage more female to explore the world!

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