Monday, January 28, 2013

Facts about Switzerland

My most polular posts to date are Fun facts about Switzerland and More fun facts about Switzerland So here are some more practical facts about Switzerland for you to enjoy:

- Albert Einstein published his Theory of Relativity in 1905, when he was working as a patent clerk in Bern
- Switzerland was the birthplace of Le Corbusier, born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, one of the most influentual architects of the 20th century.
- The flag of the Red Cross is the flag of Switzerland with the colours inverted.
- The flag of Vatican, is the only other square flag, apart from Switzerland's.
- Switzerland has the second highest life expectancy, after Sweden
- The number of elderly people is increasing: Switzerland has more centenarians per head of population than any other country in Europe.
- Switzerland has a population of about 7.4 million.
- Foreigners account for 20% of the population.
- People marry relatively late (men with 31 years and women with 28.7 years); divorce rate around 53 percent.
- The average number of children per woman is around 1.4; the average age of a woman at birth of first child is 29.
- Swiss women were the last in Europe to get the vote (apart from Liechtenstein). It was only in 1971 that the male electorate agreed to allow them voting rights at federal level.
- Some 400,000 Swiss emigrated between 1850 and 1914 to North and South America, and founded Swiss colonies.
- Bern has 26 towns & villages named after it in the US.
- The size of Switzerland is less than a third of NY state - but if you could just flatten the Alps, it would be much bigger.
- Switzerland leads the world in chocolate consumption. It is said that an average Swiss eats 23lbs of chocolate annually.
- The most popular alcoholic drink in Switzerland is wine.
- 60% of Switzerland's electricity is produced by hydroelectric power.
- Switzerland has one of the lowest crime rates of all industrialised countries
- Switzerland is also known as Confoederatio Helvetica, which explains the abbreviation CH.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Winter activity booklet for kids

January is the month for snowball fights, sledging, skiing, stomping through the woods in your snowboots. Sometimes it is just too grisly to venture outside, however. Keep kids learning and entertained during the long winter days with this booklet full of fun crafts, activities, and games.

Swiss Mix

Swiss Mix

Friday, January 25, 2013

Happy Burns Night

Tonight is Burns Night and Scots all over the world will be celebrating the life and works of Scottish poet Robert Burns. In homage to my Scottish ancestors I am dedicating today's post to one of the best loved and most celebrated of the Scottish poets, who blended the serious, the romantic, and the comical in his many works.

Robert Burns was born on 25 January 1759 in Alloway in Scotland and died on 21 July 1796. In his short life he made a tremendous impression on many people in Scotland, so it was only natural that they should want to mark his life and works with some sort of celebration.

The first recorded Burns supper was in 1801 in Alloway when a group of his friends gathered, not in January but in July to mark the fifth anniversary of his death. Some of the traditions which have grown up were established on that first occasion - haggis as the main course and whisky with which to mark the many toasts.

Haggis contains the minced heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep, also called the “pluck” or “offal”, chopped onion, oatmeal, salt, spices, and suet, which is beef or mutton fat. This enticing mixture is then packed into a sheep’s stomach which is tied closed. The whole thing is boiled for approximately three hours, requiring that you keep a close eye to make sure it doesn’t blow up and rain haggis down on your kitchen

The haggis was addressed at that first meal, after all the poet himself had provided the perfect words with which to do so in his poem "Address to a Haggis".

Since those early beginnings, the custom of holding a "supper" to the immortal memory of Rabbie Burns has become a world-wide phenomenon - anywhere that lovers of Scotland and its culture are gathered.

For this celebration a Chairman is appointed as "Master of Ceremonies" who will also ensure that the "Selkirk Grace" is said before the meal begins.

Some hae meat and canna eat;
And some wad eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thankit.

Thereafter follows the Bill of Fare (Menu).

The haggis (usually carried on high by the chef) will be piped in by traditional bagpipes (with the guests all standing at this time) and the Chairman or someone designated by him will deliver the Burns' "Address to a Haggis". This person can not only speak the Scots words (it doesn't have to be off by heart but it certainly helps) but he also usually adds a bit of acting to the performance - especially when he gets to the "An, cut you up wi' ready slight; Trenching your gushing entrails bright" - waiving his knife around while giving the address!

The piper and the chef will be offered a dram of whisky at the end. While whisky should really be sipped, most recipients drink it quickly, in part so that the proceedings may continue! Guests can of course join in the toast if they wish!

The formal part of the evening is brought to a close with the singing of "Auld Lang Syne" - a song which is known around the world. Sometimes each main verse is sung by one of the entertainers but it is also an opportunity to get individual guests to take one verse. Everyone joins in the chorus, standing and joining hands at the last verse.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Expat Child Syndrome

Now, I am not a person given to complain or stew over things. I certainly am no fan of expressions such as syndrome but I know life doesn't always hand you winning cards, if you get my drift. I am wondering if my parents or grandparents ever used the word syndrome? Their generations survived. Anyways, I have decided to share some information I came across because I am a firm believer that if you possess the information of what's going on, you have won half the battle. Here goes:

What is Expat Child Syndrome and what causes it?
Expat Child Syndrome is a term that has been coined by psychologists to describe an emotional stress in children caused by a move abroad.

ECS is most commonly found in children who are aged between 10 and 15. During this period of a child’s life they undergo significant emotional and physical changes and will often utilize their social circles as a mean of coping with these changes. Adolescence is a difficult period in the lives of all children, but when children are removed from their close circle of friends they can often find it even more difficult to deal with the mental and physical changes they are experiencing.

How does Expat Child Syndrome manifest itself?
Expat child syndrome manifests itself in many different ways and may impact some children more than others. Common symptoms include seclusion, loneliness, withdrawn behavior and uncooperative or even disruptive behavior. In the majority of the cases children will eventually settle down and will begin to understand some of the benefits of their move abroad.

However, some children may find it much more difficult to fit into life in the host country and may develop psychological issues over a longer period of time. If they are unable to develop a social circle in their new country this may lead to a longer term issue with making friends and fitting in with social groups and they may also harbor longer term resentment towards their parents for making them move away from a home they loved.

In what circumstances is ECS more likely to occur?
1) Older children will generally be more impacted by a move away and are therefore more likely to suffer from expat child syndrome. They are more likely to have developed strong friendships in their home country and will be unhappy at the prospect of leaving these behind.

2) The country that the child is locating to will also impact the degree to which the move impacts their psychological state. If the host country is dramatically dissimilar than their home country they will find the transition extremely difficult. If the host country is a very long way away from their home and their family and friends they are also more likely to feel excluded and isolated.

3) The school environment will have a significant impact on a child’s ability to fit into their new home. If they are able to attend an international school they will be more likely to have an opportunity to interact with children from a similar background to themselves and it will be easier for them to adjust to their new environment.

4) The rate and frequency at which they relocate. ECS is more likely to occur in children who are relocating more than once. They may become frustrated at having to move countries again having worked hard and established new social circles.

In order to avoid expat child syndrome occurring it is essential that parents carefully plan and implement the move abroad involving their children and talking to them at every stage of the transition (before, during and after). LISTEN TO THEM.
We all adapt sooner or later. It is harder for some than for others and every move is different. But remember YOU ARE A TEAM. One can't work without the other AND YOU CAN ALWAYS COUNT ON EACHOTHER!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday morning leisure

With hubby working, Expat boy busy watching football and Expat girl away at a sleepover, I have a Sunday morning all to myself... and my computer. I feel rather chuffed with myself since I have single-handedly doubled my Ram memory and updated my i-Mac from the ancient Leopard version of 2008 to Snow Leopard without a hitch. I have opted not to update Mountain Lion (yet) since I have read in many forums that it rather slows down your computer. I am no expert but with certain things I can be very Swiss, i.e. let's wait and see how the rest of the world fairs before we starts changing our ways.
So there you go, this moring I was playing around with the "new" Applications icon in my dock and here is a sample of an app called Collgelt:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

TCK identity dilemma

"Maybe you had to leave in order to really miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was."
Jodi Picoult

Although TCKs tend to have a high level of cross-cultural awareness, they also have a concerning identity dilemma. TCKs live in a dichotomy of worlds. They identify with an abundance of cultures but yet they are unable to take full ownership of any. As they get older, questions such as ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Where is home?’ becoming increasingly difficult to answer. For a TCK, home is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

TCKs have little experience in domestic schools where peers do not fully appreciate their multicultural backgrounds. Often on repatriation to their ‘passport countries’, this can sometimes push them to the fringes of social groups where they are misunderstood or simply do not feel like they fit in. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is common to find TCKs who possess a deep-rooted wanderlust.

Third Culture Kids are Third Culture Kids for life. When they can recognise their own TCK behaviours, feelings and identity traits they are more likely to realise that they do in fact share a common ground with others. TCKs of all ages can manage their cross-cultural awareness and unique multicultural identities and use them to their advantage rather than a restraint, throughout life.

So just remember, you are not the only one out there. There ARE people who feel just like you and know where you're coming from even though you yourself cannot explain where home is.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

20 ways to answer the infamous "Where do you come from?" question

I have been asked sooooo many times where I come from? My accent(s!) can't be pinned to one country, I have more than one mother tongue and in my mind I am a Latina although I only have Nordic blood running through my veins.

Therefore - with a pinch of sense of humour - here are some answers to the infamous question: " Where are you from?"

- It's complicated
- Somewhere out there
- Do you want the long version or the short version?
- Pick a country—any country!
- Are you asking where I was born, where I grew up, where my parents are from, or what kind of passport I have?
- When I find out I’ll let you know
- Please don’t ask
- Um, it’s kind of hard to explain…
- Do you have enough time for this?
- Technically, I’m from…but my parents are from…but I grew up…and I do/don’t speak…but I like living…but technically I’m from…
- Are you sure you want to know?
- That’s a tough question.
- You know, I wish I knew
- Um, it depends
- I don’t know
- Well, all over the world really. Where are you from?
- Outer space.
- Why do you want to know? (shifty eyes)
- Here.
- My heart is Italian

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Expat interview

A new term has begun and at an International school this always means new arrivals. Over the years I have watched newcomers and "oldies" meet up and introduce themselves ... sometimes boldly often timidly. Under local (normal) circumstances this process would probaly take few weeks if not months.

You see somebody.
You smile at that somebody.
You wait until someone introduces you to that somebody. (This can take a looong time).
You greet that somebody when you see them.
You start having a chat with that somebody but can't for the life remember his/her name.
You a have a proper conversation with that somebody and ask them their name again "en passant".
You decide to meet for a coffee together. (This again can take a very loooong time.)
You finally do have that coffee together.
You suggest to do lunch.
You finally pluck up the courage to sit down with a stranger for 2 hours in a noisy bistrot and hope you have enough topics to talk about.
You actually think your new found friend is quite cool and decide to pursue your budding friendship.

This process can actually take months even years. But then again, if you know where your home is and you are not moving around the globe with your entire household why bother developing new friendships. Good point.


if you HAVE moved over half a dozen times or more you adapt a new personal communication technique that gets you through all those stages faster than you can say "How nice to meet you".

I always wondered: Why does everyone keep on asking the exact same questions when you arrive at a new destination, no matter where in the world you are? Well, one day it hit me. It is the Expat interview and goes somewhat like this:

You see somebody, you make eye-contact and you smile at them all in one go.
If that person smiles back at you, you walk straight up to them and introduce yourself in English probing if they understand your language. You keep on giving them your best Hollywood smile and start shooting:

- Hello. When did you arrive?
- Ohhh, Mmmh. Ahhhhh.
- How many kids do you have?
- I see.
- What grades are they in?
- Ah, mine are in Grade ...
- Where did you arrive from?
- Really.
- Where are you originally from?
- Wow.
- How long will you stay here?
- Yeah, us too.
- Where are you living?
- Oh, that's great (thinking easy logistics for playdates!)
- What does your husband do?
- How interesting (thinking I'm sure our hubbies could find something in common)
- Why don't you join me for lunch this week with some of my friends?

Et voilà. 5 minutes ago I would have walked right passed this person had I met her on the road. Next thing I know I'll be introducing her to my BFFs over lunch. We might hit it off, we might not but at least we didn't waist any time with the introductory rituals.

And if we were not trailing expat spouses we'd be bloody brilliant at speed dating, I can assure you!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Common behavioural characteristics of TCKs

Following yesterday's post about Third Culture Kids and upon request you'll find some more info about TCK's.

TCKs have an innate open-mindedness and cross-cultural awareness that significantly helps them to cope with their unique cultural make-up and use it to their advantage. They usually come from globally mobile groups such as expatriate communities, the military, governmental bodies or missionaries.

When parents decide to accept an international assignment they must consider the long-term impact that exposure to multiple cultures will have on their children. Unlike adults, children and teenagers can be more deeply affected by their experiences abroad. Why? Because, unlike their parents, they are in a natural process of developing their identity.  Exposure to multiple cultures at an early age means that each new experience will be embedded in their identities for life. This is a key characteristic of TCKs and a massively potential tool for their future professional lives.

The TCK community is vast. Every TCK possesses a unique multicultural identity but they are all able to lay claim to a common TCK identity. Common behavioural characteristics of TCKs might include the ability to:

- Build cultural bridges easily
- Integrate well into new surroundings
- Adapt well to unfamiliar situations
- Pick up new languages with ease
- Adopt an open-minded and flexible approach with others
- Demonstrate maturity at an earlier age than their non-TCK peers

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

TCK resolutions

Welcome back and Happy New Year to all my readers.

To kick-start 2013 I decided to post 7 questions rather than a bunch of resolutions. The questions do not have answers attached because they are open to any interpretation or reply. There is no right or wrong answer in this game. Just be yourself ... that is what really counts!

What do Yoko Ono, Carlos Fuente and Barack Obama all have in common? A shared cultural identity based on similar upbringings: they are Third Culture Kids.

Third Culture Kids spend their developmental years in a fusion of multiple cultures, typically growing up in countries different from their parents’ "passport country". Children growing up in this fusion of cultures exhibit elements of their parents’ cultural background as well as facets of their immediate cultural surroundings, thereby creating their own "third culture".

Here a seven things every TCK should know:

1. How do I learn to recognize and develop fully the gifts I received from this TCK experience?
2. How can I make and maintain friendships with non-TCKs and TCKs?
3. How do I sort out who I am and where I belong when I can’t get past the feeling of belonging “everywhere and nowhere?”
4. How do I deal with the grief I still feel from long ago losses of country and friends?
5. How do I stop restlessness, and the cycles of separation and loss I continue to create for myself because I can’t seem to stay in one place more than 2-3 years?
6. How can I not forget and lose my past while moving towards the future?
7. How do I deal with the loneliness I sometimes feel, even when others are around?

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