A Day in My Expat Life: Sweden#2

I’ve already featured Sweden in my Day in My Expat Life series but as someone who has lots of Swedish friends and has Sweden high on my list of places to visit soon I say we can never have too much Sweden! So here we go – please welcome Sara!

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I’m Sara. I was born in Portugal but I left ten years ago. In the meantime I have lived 3 years in Poland, 3 in Brazil and 2 in the Czech Republic. Now I live in Sweden. I live with my boyfriend. He is Swedish. He has also lived in different countries, including Brazil and the Czech Republic with me.

You can find my blog at http://asvoltasnomundo.blogspot.se/

1- window

1. My window 7.30 I get up and usually I stare out of the window for a couple of minutes. I check how the weather is, go through my to do list mentally and judge how awake I am. I’m a morning person, so I am usually fully awake after a few minutes. This is one of the good things of being unemployed… I have time to stare out the window.

2- breakfast

2. Breakfast 8.00 I have breakfast in the kitchen. Most mornings I eat porridge with cinnamon. Occasionally, I add a spoon of jam or apple puree. And black tea in my favourite cup. I love black tea in the morning! I read or check social networks in my phone while a eat.

3- my corner

3. My corner 8.30 After doing this and that (make the bed, clean here and there, you know what I mean) I sit in my favourite corner. It almost looks like a small office but it’s a corner of my living room. It is from here that I blog. The colourful post its have notes about what I want to blog about. From here I write, edit photographs, I read other blogs, I search and apply for jobs, etc. Note my favourite cup again with my second cup of tea. Usually, I turn on the radio for company. Portuguese radio. I can hear the news from my country and most importantly, I can hear my own language!

4- run

4. Run 10.00 I love running and I do it almost everyday. If I want a fast run I just go on the streets and in the pedestrian path along the road, because it’s flat. If I’m looking for a challenge I go up to the forest near my flat, where I find many hills. Of course the surroundings are nicer in the forest and the sound of the birds encourages me to keep going. Afterwards, I stretch for a few minutes at the entrance of my building and I go home and have shower.

5- cookbooks

5. Cookbooks 11.30 Since I had a few minutes to spare I went through some of my cookbooks to get ideas for dinner. I started collecting cookbooks when I started travelling more. I have always been interested in food and I really enjoy trying different dishes and new ingredients. I started buying a cookbook in every new country I visited and now I have a nice collection. I have more than one cookbook from certain countries. From Italy, for instance, I have 5! You guessed right… I love Italian food.

6- lunch

6. Lunch 11.45 After running I’m hungry so I need to eat some lunch. I either heat up some leftovers from the day before or eat a sandwich with salad. One of my favourite combinations is sill in lemon sauce with boiled egg. Sill is herring (a fish) and in Sweden you can buy it marinated in different sauces. Sill is always present in different Swedish festivities celebrated all over the year. I actually enjoy it quite a lot and as it makes an easy and fast meal I eat it for lunch sometimes

7- school

7. School 12.30 I moved to Sweden in the beginning of the year and I spend roughly 3h a day learning Swedish in school. It is called SFI (Swedish for immigrants) and it is a free course for foreigners. Foreigners who do have a job can also take the course, but it is usually only once a week. Our teacher is great and full of energy, which is very motivating. It’s fun and I really enjoy sharing that part of my day with people from all over the world.

8- library

8. Library 15.45 After dropping the school books at home, I take my bicycle and cycle to the library to return a book. I love the library! It’s huge and has a large selection of books in english, and a lot in many different languages! I finished Be careful what you wish for, from the Clifton series of Jeffrey Archer and I took Sushi for beginners, from Marian Keyes. I have 3 weeks to read each book, but the time can be extended through my online account. Usually I don’t have to extend it.

9- supermarket

9. Supermarket 16.10 Afterwards, I also went to the supermarket. I always have a list because my memory is not the best. The supermarket is huge and it only takes me 5 minutes to get there from home by bicycle. I am a member of their club and I can use the self-scanning machines. I scan my own groceries and I pay on my own at the end. It makes it so much faster! One can get a random check and be penalised if not all products are scanned. I have never failed… yet. Today is a bit later than normal, so my boyfriend Johan meets me at the supermarket and we go home together.

10- sofa

10. Sofa 17.00 Johan is usually tired after a long day at work and he enjoys laying down a bit in the sofa, reading or surfing the web in his tablet. Usually, I’m back in my corner to do my homework and study Swedish on the internet. Once he suggested me to read children’s books in Swedish to practise my reading. We brought his collection of books from his parents house and now and then I read for him. The interesting fact is that he often does fall asleep! The brain reaction is still there… 30 years later.

11- dinner

11. Dinner 18.00 – 20.00 We usually have a lot of fun cooking together and one of the things we make often is fresh pasta. Today, I found a pasta recipe that uses one of my favourite combinations: gorgonzola and walnuts. We have tried it in pizza, together with pear, but never in pasta. Since we really liked the recipe, we will repeat it and I will take better photographs of the dish, so I can post it on my recipe’s blog, the Swedish and the Chef (link: http://the-swedishchef.blogspot.se/)

12- bedtime

12. Reading 20.00 – 00.00 After dinner, I go back to studying Swedish because I have a test in two days. Sometimes I blog instead, or chat on the internet with family or friends. When I get tired I join Johan in the sofa and watch a bit of TV or read. Around 23.00 we go to bed and I keep reading as much as my eyes allow me. It varies from a couple of pages to an hour straight.

Thanks Sara, I really enjoyed reading about your life and seeing your photos. That pasta looks great! Remember to check out my other posts in this series – and please let me know if you would like your expat life featured on this blog.

A Day in my Expat Life – France

This edition of A Day in My Expat Life is a special one as it features old school friend Phoebe who I caught up with a few years ago and now keep on contact with via social media and blogging. Keen-eyed readers might have spotted an ad at the side of my blog with the words “Book Me” on it. This ad links to the Gite run by Phoebe on the Cote D’Azur in France called Lou Messugo. I haven’t managed to visit (yet) but after reading about Phoebe’s life, it’s certainly on my list……

 

01 breakfast

I get up at 7.30 but my day really starts around 8.15 after the kids have gone to school when I have a calm breakfast on my own usually consisting of a Franco-British combo of toasted leftover baguette “tartines” with marmite, some fruit and a coffee. At this time of year I eat it outside on the terrace.

02 Lou  Messugo Facebook page

8.30 Next up I usually check and answer emails and update the Facebook page for my gite. I also check and reply to other social medias, link up to blog linkies etc. I take my laptop out on to the terrace and spend anything from 1-2 hours doing this.

03 laundry

9.30 There is always laundry to do, living with 3 sporty males and running a holiday rental. Every day I do at least 2 and often more loads. Our climate is good enough that for most of the year I dry everything outside in the sun and avoid using the dryer.

04 goodbye guests

11.00 The gîte is very popular and for most of the year I have 2 changeovers a week. Today is one of those days and check out time is 11am so I go to check over the apartment and say goodbye to the guest.

05 unblocking septic tank

11.30 While cleaning the gîte today I discover the septic tank is blocked so I call my husband who has to pop back from work to deal with it. It is not a pleasant job! This is one of the worst things about running a holiday rental and unfortunately it happens reasonably often.

06 cleaning gîte

13.30 Cleaning usually takes me 2-3 hours depending on the state the guests leave it in. Last job is to mop the floor. I haven’t had time to eat lunch….

07 supermarket shopping

14.00 I just have time for a quick rush around the supermarket as we’re out of most things. I also go to the weekly market and several small shops on a daily basis but today is the big weekly shop and not market day. Supermarkets in France are excellent (but quite pricey!)

08 school pick up

15.45 School pick up. I car pool with neighbours and today it’s my turn to pick up my younger kid and a couple of others from primary school. (My oldest at high school, he takes the bus and is fully independent). I go straight from the supermarket.

09 welcome basket

16.15 I put the finishing touches to the welcome basket for the next guests in the gîte and pick some flowers from the garden for them. Check-in is from 16.00 but today’s guests aren’t due till 17.30 so I’m in time!

10 guests arrival

17.30 New guests arrive (and get photographed!) I don’t usually record arrivals but today’s guests have stayed at Lou Messugo several times and I asked if they wouldn’t mind! As they’ve been so often I don’t have to explain anything to them, just welcome them in.

11 edit photos

17.45 Time for another session on the computer catching up on admin, comments on the blog and other social medias. I have my phone on me all day for immediate answers to booking enquiries etc but I still like to sit down at my desk to deal with booking contracts and other details of running a holiday rental.

12 bus to Nice

19.00 I’m off for a rare night out in Nice with a group of friends to watch the Euro football in the “fan zone” (official spectator area with giant screen and bars). Buses are free tonight as the match is in Nice (one of the host cities) so I take public transport.

13 Nice fanzone

I grab a snack in the fan zone. On changeover days I often don’t get time to eat lunch. I get home around midnight and go to bed.

Thank you Phoebe for this peak into your French life. If you haven’t already seen them, please take a look at the other posts in this series A Day in My Expat LIfe; and do get in touch if you would like to feature.

 

Lou Messugo

A Day in My Expat Life: Zambia

Today’s Day in My Expat Life comes to you from sunny Zambia. I am still on holiday in the UK and really starting to miss the sights and sounds of Africa so have enjoyed looking through these photos.

In this entry to my series, Annie Wright of A Wright Adventure (also on Facebook and instragram at awrightadventure) takes us through a day with her three beautiful boys, from sun up to sun down. I can hear those cicadas and smell that dusty road from here!

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6:30 : Sun rise walk / run to drop big boys of at school bus.

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7:00 : Breakfast with my baby blue. Although most of his seems to go on the floor.

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8:00 : Baby blue gets as many toys out as possible!

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10:00 : Outside play with Baby blue. Picking our strawberries.

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12:30 : Pick up middle man from nursery. Red dirt roads and Blue skys.

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14:00 : Lego boy comes home on the bus and bounces with Baby Blue.

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17:45 : Beautiful sun set but it means it is time for insect replant.

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18:00 : Homework time.

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19:15: Lego boy reads me a bed time story.

If you want to read more Day in My Expat Life entries then please click here – and let me know if you would like to feature in this series!

A Day in My Expat Life -Sweden

Welcome to the latest look at a normal day in an expat life and today we move to Europe and Sweden where we meet Lisa Ferland and her family. Lisa is a U.S. citizen who has lived in Sweden since 2012. Together with her husband, they have embraced the Swedish lifestyle and according to Lida are currently “raising a five-year-old Lego-lover and a two-year-old Pippi Longstocking fanatic”. Lisa also recently published the anthology about birth and parenting as an expat called Knocked Up Abroad featuring a chapter by yours truely and can be reached on Facebook and Twitter@knockdupabroad.

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Lisa 1

7:45 am—8:00 am Our morning began with a deer sighting in our backyard. The kids did their best to scare it away but this deer was experienced in the ways of shouty children and stayed to munch on our grass.

Lisa2

The golf course behind our house has a herd of sheep grazing in a fenced-off section of grass. We decided to go check them out before school.

Lisa3

No fish are in that pond. My son checked it out—all clear.

lisa4

I’m not sure if the kids were impressed or bored with the sheep. Things got fun when the kids started shaking their rumpas at them. The sheep were a bit nervous with the display.

Lisa5

Very nervous sheep.

Lisa6

8:15 am – 8:30 am Time to head to school

Lisa7

Every bridge must be inspected for trolls. Troll-checking is a time-consuming activity but it’s for our safety, so it must be done.

Lisa8

Nope. No trolls here. No snakes either, despite a sign clearly depicting the presences of snakes. The kids were a bit disappointed.

Lisa9

Finally, we are on the way to school. A moped drove by and we stopped to wave hello.

Lisa10

Finally! After a long walk of touching every slug in sight, we make it to school relatively on time.

Lisa11

With the kids at school, I need to run some errands. First up—filling up the gas tank with diesel fuel. This is always a costly errand but we only use the car once or twice a week.

Lisa12

Total cost: 720.90 SEK for 55 liters (equivalent to $6.04/gallon—much cheaper than the $8.50/gallon we saw when we first moved to Sweden.)

Lisa13

Acquiring a Swedish driver’s license is incredibly difficult and expensive (for non-Swedes and Swedes alike). This sign says that you can park for 3 hours M-F 7 am-11:30 pm, Saturdays 7 am– 7 pm, and Sundays and holidays, 7 am – 7 pm. You must display a P-skiva on your window shield.

Lisa14

The P-Skiva

Lisa15

I received this notice that I had a package arrive and I can only retrieve it at the local post office, which is near the grocery store in town. Unless the package can fit within the dimensions of your mailbox, every package is kept at the central post office regardless if you live in a house or apartment.

Lisa16

The outdoor center of the shopping mall.

Lisa17

Inside the shopping mall—stores don’t open until 10 am, except for the grocery store and post office.

Lisa18

Ah, this box was larger than I anticipated. I had to carry it awkwardly through the grocery store while I did my shopping. Oh well.

Lisa19

I always check out the pastry section when I’m in the grocery store. I can’t help myself.

Lisa20

Delicious fikabröd or pastries for coffee breaks/fika

Lisa21

Due to my one arm being full of awkward box, I left with a pastry, a Swedish table top maypole flag (midsummer is coming up), and fun bandaids for my kids who like to use them as body art instead of covering cuts.

Lisa22

Swedes remove their shoes in the entryway. Sock fashion is very important in the winter.

Lisa23

9:30 am – 3 pm Sitting at my desk in my home office with a little treat and some coffee and I’m ready to work on my writing.

Lisa24

3:00 pm – 5:30 pm I picked up the kids from school at 3 pm and we are ready to go off in search of new playgrounds.

Lisa25

We pause at a construction site because they are dynamiting the granite rocks and the kids love the big booms

Lisa26

A new-to-us playground is nearby in a newly constructed neighborhood. This one made excellent use of the local rocks and they are perfect for climbing.

Lisa27

To reach the swing at the top, kids must climb up the hill.

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A fun little hut that housed many spiders so the kids opted out.

Lisa29

Banana break in a shelter at the next playground

Lisa30

The last stop on our afternoon adventure was an outdoor exercise space that is the epitome of Swedish training. It is situated among the woods with a horse riding school nearby and people train by lifting logs on a fulcrum system.

Lisa31

The climbing wall was still under construction but we tried it out anyway

Lisa32

This exercise made me a bit dizzy as the logs went quite high.

Lisa33

Hey there, horsey. The local horses are always fun to watch.

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More climbing

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And dancing on rocks

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On the way home, we saw a cat sitting in the woods. Cats are given free range in our neighborhood and we see them all over.

Lisa37

5:30 pm – 6:00 pm So, what was in that large box that I picked up earlier? A wireless keyboard courtesy of my mother. Now I can get to typing up my second book!

Lisa38

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm For dinner, we had stir fried rice with eggs from our neighbor’s chickens. The entire day was spent outside playing in the beautiful weather. The kids were exhausted and collapsed into bed around 8 pm. Tomorrow begins another day of more of the same.

Thank you to LIsa for that glimpse into her life – those pastries in particlar look delicious. I am loving the fact that so many of these Days in an Expat Life have so much in common eg walking to school, yummy food and working at a lap top – even though they are all in very different places! If you want to see more posts in this series please click here, and if you would like your own day to feature then please comment below or email me clara@expatpartnersurvival.com.

A Day in My Expat Life -Saudi

Welcome to the fourth post in my blog series looking at an average day in the life of an expat. Today we are off to Saudi Arabia, where we hear from the Ersatz Expat. It’s always interesting to hear about life in some of the places we might think of as “difficult” – only to realise that actually it’s not so different from anywhere else. Read on to find out more….

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Clara sent out a call for guest bloggers a little while ago.  I have been meaning to write a post about the normal day to day existence we have as expats in KSA (Saudi) and it seemed to be a good fit for a guest blog.  With that in mind I kept my ‘phone with me for Thursday 9 June to document my normal day.

We have been living in KSA for 2 ½ months and really starting to settle in and get into a routine.  We are still, however, in the transit house (we hope to move soon), are expecting our shipment imminently and are still waiting for our pets to arrive from Malaysia so I fully expect the routine to change shortly.  Indeed I hope it does as I can’t wait to get the pets here and it would be lovely for Mini EE to have her own bed in her own bedroom and not have to put up with the travel cot in ours.

Ramadan arrived last week which has also had an impact on our daily routine.  The children have a later start at school,  a much more civilised 08.30 compared to the awful 07.30 and shops, restaurants etc are shut until after sunset in theory and after 21/22..00 in reality.

06:30

Mr EE’s day starts a little earlier than ours, he has to be in work for 07.20, he will usually bring the children in to school with him (he is their Headmaster) but there is little point in them going in early to sit around doing nothing.  Instead they can get up a little later and have breakfast at home.

Nerissa 1

08:15 Once the older children have eaten, tidied and made their lunch boxes Master and Miss EE help Mini EE to put her shoes on and pack her bag for ‘school’ (she goes to the school Crèche every day).

Nerissa 2

The school is next to our compound and the two are connected by a door so the older two children can come and go as they wish and I don’t need to wear an abaya when I do the miniscule school run. Master and Miss EE sometimes take themselves to school in the morning but they often prefer to walk with Mini EE. They are desperate to be allowed to take her to school on their own, perhaps when she is 4 years old….

Nerissa 3

08:45 After dropping Mini EE at crèche I aim to fit in some exercise. This is an activity that is often more avoided than engaged with, but I have been pushing myself to do more. Some days I go for a swim, the compound has two pool areas and both are quiet, other days I take myself to the gym and go for a run. I prefer to run outside but the only suitable space is the school athletics track which is out of bounds during the school day (for obvious reasons). This morning I went for a swim, I have been doing about 30 lengths a time but the pool is only short so I aim to get this up to 60 and then 100 in the next few months.

09:45

After my swim and a wash and dress I tidied the house and put the laundry on.  The older children are responsible for keeping their rooms tidy, Miss EE does this rather more successfully than Master EE but the rest, other than the two days we have someone in to help, is down to me.  We are hoping to employ a full time maid in due course but this is a long way down the list of things we need to sort out.

Nerissa 4

10.30 After cleaning and tidying I hung up the washing and then allowed myself a 5 minute coffee break before starting work. I would love a job here in Saudi but with all the hassle of the move and all the things still to sort out I decided to wait until after the summer to search for a job and, of course, a work permit. In the interim I freelance through Upwork and get paid into our UK account. The transit house has no space for a home office so I tend to work at the dining room table, it is not really ideal but much better than perching the laptop on my knee. If we move to a larger house I will be able to get a desk, either in our bedroom or on the upstairs landing. Malls open at about 10 so I sometimes get a taxi to one of the many close to our compound if I need to pick up essentials, I won’t bother during Ramadan as daytimes are a little dull.

Nerissa 5

12:00 At around lunchtime I start preparations for the evening meal. This house has no stairgates and Mini EE has learned to climb out of her temporary play pen so prepping early gives me a chance to get everything set up and ready to go later on in the day. This means that if the older two decide to go out I am not cooking while keeping an eye on Mini EE. Today I made a tomato and mozzarella salad and put some chicken breasts in the oven to roast. I often need to pick up some extra bits and pieces (milk, eggs etc) at the compound shop and if I do I generally go about this time.

Nerissa 6

He stocks a basic range of vegetables, fruit, dairy products and snacks and is handy for top ups between big shops. I rarely eat breakfast or lunch during the week so will often pick up a biscuit or bar of chocolate when I go over. They stock my favourites, Stroopwafels, a Dutch caramel biscuit and I eat far too many of them to be healthy (you can see a pack behind my computer).

Nerissa 7

The compound is teeming with cats (I even wrote a blog post about them here). Most of them are semi feral. Some are friendly but they are all endearing. A stunning Van style cat lives near the shop and will often come over to say hello when I pop over, probably in the hope that I will drop a morsel for him.

Nerissa 8

I bake a loaf of bread fresh every day, flat Arabic bread is lovely but useless for sandwiches or toast and while there are very good French bakeries that do lovely bread, I can’t get there on a daily basis. I can get plastic sandwich loaves in the corner shop but I don’t like the taste or texture so I brought my bread machine back from a recent trip to the UK. I have been working my way through the various different recipes that came with the machine. So far the thumbs up have gone to the plain loaf, the pesto and pine nut loaf, the cinnamon raisin and the tomato focaccia. The soft rolls (which mix in the bread maker then cook in the oven and which I stuff with feta and herbs or olives) are another particular favourite.

Nerissa 9

Today I simply made a garlic pizza bread to go with supper and then put a plain loaf on to bake. In between I was able to do a little more work.

Nerissa 10

14:00 By the time I finished preparing the supper and the second batch of bread the children were due back from school. I usually walk over to get Mini EE from crèche about 14:00. By the time we have said our goodbyes to the teachers it is around 14:10 or school leaving time. We walk back past Master and Miss EE’s building, sometimes we catch them, sometimes they are waiting for us at home. The older two like to take about 30 minutes to relax, have a drink of water and play with Mini EE before getting changed and doing their prep or any extra work that I give them at home. Miss EE has reading every day and will often read her assigned books to her younger sister. I didn’t manage to get a photograph today but here is one from a few weeks ago (when, for some inexplicable reason she decided to do her reading in her bedroom).

Nerissa 11

I love baking and Miss EE enjoys helping me. Sadly the oven in our last house was an absolute disaster and made baking a near impossibility. The oven here is a little slow but is a great improvement and means that we can enjoy cake again. I usually bake a loaf cake so that the children can take slices to school in their lunch boxes but today I decided to do something different. I had seen a Betty Crocker Ramadan advert for rose and pistachio cupcakes (made using something called cake mix!) and thought that with a bit of playing around I could emulate those with a normal homemade cake batter. The experiment worked first time, the cupcakes were a great success and something I think I might add to my regular baking repertoire.

Nerissa 12

17:00 The cakes had cooled enough to be iced and sampled (with a pot of rose flavoured tea of course).

Normally Thursday nights are our heavy grocery night.  Mr EE finishes work on time and we get his driver to drop us off at one of the big malls.  We usually grab a burger (Hardees, an American chain, are our current favourites) during sunset prayers then we pop into the supermarket just before night time prayers and browse in relative calm (the supermarket does a ‘lock in’ during prayers).  We can also pick up any clothing items the children need, browse for new books etc in the other shops in the mall.  Ramadan has put this Thursday ritual on hold.  As luck would have it, Mr EE and I had been invited to a goodbye party for someone from another company that he has been working closely with so we would not have been able to get groceries anyway.

Nerissa 13

18:00 The babysitter arrived. I dressed the salad, warmed the bread then cut the pieces of chicken I had roasted at lunch time before putting them into some pasta with pesto and cream to make supper for the children then quickly got ready to go out.

Nerissa 14

18:45 The party was off site (you can just see my abaya over my left arm in the picture). It was a good chance to catch up with Mr EE who had been very busy at work, he was hardly home all week and due to be working most of the weekend. It was also a good opportunity to meet some more people. I am always keen to extend our circle beyond work and our immediate compound wherever possible.

Nerissa 15

19:15 The party was not far away but Thursday nights are the start of the weekend and the roads are normally crazily busy. A week before we had gone to the same venue and the journey had taken us almost an hour. This time around the roads were almost deserted for iftar (break of fast at sundown). A few people were handing out or selling water for those who had not made it home on time. Most of our friends who are fasting say that not eating is not a problem at all but they find the not drinking very, very difficult. Our journey was so quick that we arrived early.

Nerissa 16

22:30 Tired from a long week we left the party early (Jeddah is a night life city and gatherings and parties, particularly during Ramadan, can go on until the not so early house). The event was quite close to one of the Jeddah landmark hotels which the children and Mr EE think looks like Avengers HQ. The lighting is certainly quite spectacular although my ‘phone did not do it justice.

Thank you to the Ersatz Expat for this glimpse at her daily life – that bread from your breadmaker looks so familiar from our days in Pakistan! I also love the look of those cupcakes…. Please check out the other posts in this series by clicking here, and in the meantime if you would like me to feature a day in your expat life please leave a comment below or email me clara@expatpartnersurvival.com.

A Day in my Expat Life – the Netherlands

Welcome to the latest post in my series about ordinary expat life. Today we hear from Lucille, an expat mum who moved to The Netherlands with her husband and their two boys a year ago. Her husband works for a multinational company and this is their fifth international posting. Lucille and her kids have three nationalities, The Netherlands being one of them, and so are happy to be practicing their Dutch and eating stroopwafels.  

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5h30

5:30am – I’m an early riser, a habit I formed when we lived in South Africa and would go running at 5:15am! In The Netherlands I still try to get up very early so I can work a bit in peace. In the summer it’s light fairly early, and by 7 the sun shines through the window on our top floor…if it decides to shine that day

7h30

7:30am – The kids wake up and come downstairs. I make them breakfast and they sit and eat at the kitchen island while I make their school lunches so we can chat. The school days are so long in The Netherlands – 8:45-3:15 – so these morning chats are an important part of our day.

8h15

8:15am – My brother Jake is visiting from Australia, and so the kids don’t want to get ready for school, and would rather listen to his stories.

8h40

8:40am – We’re off to school, late as usual. Even when my brother is not visiting we are usually late. I am actively trying not to nag my kids in the morning, not to hustle and shout and bribe them out the door. The result is that we are nearly always 5 minutes late for school, but we are relaxed and happy so who cares! When we moved to The Netherlands I decided not to get a car, and to only cycle. My 6 year old cycles, my 4 year old goes in the Bakfiets.

9h15

9:15am – I’m off for a run. I try to go at least three times a week, even if I’m super busy. It’s important to schedule exercise into my week. There are the most beautiful trails around our house. I can run through forests, farmland or to the beach through the dunes which is my favourite run. The weather isn’t always this good!

10h00

10am – This is the beach I run to. It’s sandy and wide and on a sunny day is lovely. It’s 10kms there and back, perfect.

11h30

11:30 – I’m home, have showered and eaten, and it’s time to work. Work is my freelance writing, posting on my blog, or working on the copy writing business I’m starting. I don’t run everyday so usually I start work at 9 after cycling the boys to school. You’ll notice the kitchen is still a bit messy from breakfast this morning, it just has to stay that way for a few more hours! If I don’t start work now, I don’t get enough done by the time I fetch the kids.

2h30

2:30 – Once a week the kids finish school at 2:30pm instead of 3:15, so off I go to fetch them. They attend the American School of the Hague and it’s in a lovely green area. The cycle is really lovely, and only five minutes from our house

2h45

2:45 – On early release days I usually pack a snack and we cycle to a forest (there are a few to choose from) and go for a walk. It’s so important to me that my kids relate to the natural world, I think I’m winning because they get so excited when they see a blackbird or magpie or some cowslip!

4h00

4pm – Monday is football practice. That’s the new American Consulate being built in the background.

5h00

5pm – If (and only if) I’m super organized I don’t need to go to the supermarket after football, but sometimes we stop on the way home to buy dinner. The main supermarket chain is called Albert Hein and it’s pretty fantastic with fresh produce and a wide variety. It doesn’t really compare to Woolworths in South Africa, but I don’t think anything can!

6h00

6pm – Straight home to Uncle Jake who is here from Australia to landscape our garden and who has been working hard all day! I make dinner while the boys play or watch TV. I cook separately for the kids because my husband only gets home late and we eat then. Weekends are our family meal times. That’s the reality of an hour-long commute to the office unfortunately.

6h30

6:30pm – Playtime, bath and story. We all get into one bed and read a story. We just finished The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, and the boys were utterly enchanted. Now we are reading James and The Giant Peach which is such a great book. I love reading these books for the first time in almost 30 years!!

8h00

8:00pm – That’s it, days done. The boys have been asleep for a while already. I’ve cooked, my husband arrives home and we eat. If I need to finish up some work I do, but we usually watch an episode of something, maybe Outlander or Game of Thrones. I’m usually in bed by 10pm so I can get up early and do it all over again!

Thank you Lucille. The Hague was one of the places we applied for when we got this posting to Pretoria and although I love my South Africa life I can’t but help feel a little envious of this wonderful day with its cycling through greenary and runs on the beach!

Don’t forget to read the other posts in this series by clicking here.

A Day in My Expat Life: Berlin

Welcome to the second in my Day in My Expat Life series – if you haven’t already done so, you can read the first (mine) here. In this post we hear from Natalie, a South African who now lives with her partner in Berlin, and blogs over at Middle Europe. I really enjoyed reading about Natalie’s life in Berlin – as someone who has two children, it sounds wonderfully relaxed! But so interesting too, to be cycling past the Berlin wall every day. And look at the size of those strawberries! Thank you for this glimpse into your Expat Life Natalie.

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7:30: Good morning Berlin! I normally wake up to the sounds of roosters, birds or thunderstorms thanks to my fiancé’s phone alarm clock app. One of the first things I do upon getting up is check the weather, since it can be quite changeable. At the moment it’s warm and sunny with occasional thundershowers and rain. I never get tired of the view into the “Hinterhof” (back courtyard), because of all the trees. Many apartments in Berlin have a courtyard behind the building and in some there are even back buildings which you can enter from the courtyard. We are staying in my cousin’s “Altbau” apartment (meaning, built in the old style).

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8:15: After showering and getting ready for work I normally have a coffee before I leave. My fiancé’s family gave him a coffee machine for Christmas as he is a big coffee aficionado. Before we used to use a mocha pot, which also made great coffee. I hadn’t seen them before moving to Berlin but it’s a metal jug with which you can make coffee on the stove. I’ve got into the habit of putting a half spoonful of condensed milk into my coffee here, mostly spurred on by the fact that you can buy mini cans of condensed milk from Russia in our local supermarket.

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8:30 My fiancé often waters the plants in the morning. He planted a whole lot of tomatoes from seed and they have taken over our balcony. In Berlin our balcony is the garden and it’s nice to have this green spot, as not all apartments have balconies. It’s also pretty hard to find an apartment with a garden.

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8:40: Time to leave for work, so I go downstairs to the courtyard which is also the bike parking place. Cycling is a popular mode of transport in Berlin. It’s often faster than the public transport , you can avoid the rush hour crowds on the trams and trains, and in general there are good cycle lanes. Bikes get stolen a lot in Berlin though (and probably in most cities) so wherever you take it you have to lock it to something. Which lock is the best is often the topic of lengthy discussions.

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8:50: My ride to work always takes me past the Berlin wall. Yes, that is the ordinary grey wall in the background! The red path is the cycle lane, something which a lot of tourists don’t notice, and they walk into it. I used to do the same when I first arrived of course. It took a while to get used to the fact that there are many cyclists around (also when crossing the road).

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9:10: It only takes me 15-20 minutes to cycle to work, so before long I arrive on the Charite campus, where I work in a lab. Not all parts of Berlin are pretty, there’s also a lot of grey streets, graffiti and some ugly buildings, but there are definitely beautiful spots and I find Charite campus lovely, especially in spring when the leaves come back to the trees. Berlin has relatively a lot of green spots for a city.

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9:30: Time to go to the lab and do some work. This sign on the door amuses me. When I arrived I didn’t understand German, then later on I barely noticed the sign, but recently I noticed the words again and this time I understood it. It basically says: “Before the first coffee, keep your mouth shut!”. The reason I find it funny is that some of the staff can hardly crack a smile or return a greeting before coffee or lunch (although luckily the ones I sit next to are more friendly). When I first moved to Berlin I found it hard to get used to greetings not always being returned, as this would be considered extremely rude in South Africa. One of my German teachers told me it‘s the same at his workplace but that people are normally more friendly after the first coffee!

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11:00. Time for a coffee break. A colleague friend and I often pop across to a coffee wagon on the nearby Humboldt campus grounds (which looks like a little park) as it’s good to get some fresh air and have a walk and their coffee is good. In summer they also serve ice coffee. By now they know us and some of the baristas ask “Wie immer?” (Same as always?) and occasionally even start making our coffee before we get to the stand, if it’s a busy day!

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11:10: Also on the Charite campus are some ladies who sell fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, honey and occasionally flowers and other things. They are probably from Brandenburg, the area surrounding Berlin, or from the outskirts of Berlin where it’ s possible to have more land. Their produce is generally very good so often we stop there to buy something. Everything is seasonal and it’s fun seeing what is there each week. Around Easter I was able to buy some blossom tree prunings to make an Easter tree. At the moment it’s strawberry season and before that it was asparagus time.

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18:00: I forgot to take a photo at lunch, but lunch was pasta at our cafeteria as usual. We have an Italian man running it and his food is really tasty, so many of us regularly eat there. I think we have all put on weight since he took over our cafeteria. By 18:00 the lab is really quiet, especially so because the weather is good, it’s Friday, and people want to enjoy the warm, light evening. In general the lab technicians start and finish early and postdocs and PhDs start and finish later.

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[Aside: Monday and Wednesday 19:30]: On Monday or Wednesday I’d be at work until 19:30 and then go directly to my German class, as it’s close to my work. Today is Friday so I have a free evening.

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18:30: Today I have plans other than German class: we are meeting a friend at the Sony centre at Potsdamer Platz for a movie. Before leaving work I check the route on Google maps, which has been invaluable since I moved to Berlin. Especially when cycling, I need to know how to get there in advance.

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19:00: I arrive at Potsdamer Platz near the Sony centre. Potsdamer Platz used to be a central entertainment area in the roaring 20’s, was bombed flat in the war and left deserted during the time of the Berlin wall. Now it is a newly built business district which also has fancy hotels, some museums and the Sony centre. As you can see, as with most places in Berlin there are bike parking places around. My bike is my new car.

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19:30: After picking up the tickets that our friend has reserved, we head over to Vapiano’s for a quick bite to eat (it is sort of Italian fast food). The Potsdamer Platz area is not really known for restaurants. Vapiano’s is a restaurant chain that uses a card system: you order on a card and then pay for everything you have ordered afterwards at the till when you hand your card in. It’s all self-service.

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20:30: Back to the Sony centre for our movie (the new X-men movie). They show original language movies at the Sony centre, so we can watch movies in English, which is always a treat. I don’t mind watching some movies in German, but in general it’s still more enjoyable for me in English.

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12:00am: We arrive home pretty late as the movie is long. Our friendly neighbour has left a message that a package has been delivered. In Berlin they have the interesting system that postmen deliver parcels and if you are not there they leave it with a neighbour. It’s quite convenient, especially since we have a nice elderly neighbour who often ends up looking after our packages. He has lived in this apartment block since before the Berlin wall and says he has been through two dictatorships (he was at school when Hitler was in power and also lived through the communist regime). It’s great to be able to hear stories from a local. 12:30am: time for bed! Normally we might watch something on Netflix before bed, but we’ve had our movie fix for the day. Now a sunny Berlin weekend lies ahead of us.

Thank you again to Natalie for featuring in this series. If you would like to show off a day in your Expat Life please get in touch – either leave a message in the comments section or email me clara@expatpartnersurvival.com.