Archive for the ‘International Adventures’ Category

After I wrote my a blog post on managing cultural differences I received a comment from Candace C. Davenport who I met through Blogger Monday with Ann Evanston. Candace said

‘I’d also love for you to do another post on the connection between culture shock and ‘the ugly American’ syndrome. When I came back from a year of traveling all over South America, I experienced cultural shock just being in the airplane with all the tourists returning from S. America and all they were doing was complaining about the problems they had on their trips because it was so different than the US.’

I have been mulling this post over as I have grown to like my adopted country and I, as an outsider, don’t want to offend my new found friends. However, I do have to agree that the ‘ugly american’ does exist and can be quite a shock. Though  have to say that you see this phenomenon more when the ugly American is traveling outside of the US..

There is no doubt that some Americans are loud, boorish and nationalistic and that some Americans abroad remain ignorant of local culture and judge everything by American standards. Such people can be very unpleasant and give Americans a bad rap but now, having lived here for two years, this post is going to be a defense of my adopted country.

Have you ever heard of lager louts and chavs? Not exactly the best of British.

And how about the stereotypical German tourist. Pushy, rude and arrogant with a habit of putting their towels on pool chairs before dawn at holiday resorts.

According to an Expedia survey French travelers are the biggest skinflints, the worst tippers and the least able or inclined to speak foreign languages. They also finished next to last in terms of their politeness and behavior.

My point is that there are ugly people the world over and their worst traits seem to come out whilst traveling or living amongst a culture that is not their own. Sure, I think some Americans are very loud but I have made friends with many perfectly nice Americans who are most definitely not loud and obnoxious.

What has been your experience of ugly tourists/travelers? Are you embarrassed by some traits of people from your country? Do you think all these stereotypes exist for a reason or that they are wrong?

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I wrote in this earlier blog post how I overcame a whole load of fears and learnt to ski at the age of 49. Well, ever since then I have decide that there are certain things I am going to make myself do before I am too old to do them – my bucket list I guess. The main one on the list was to try something that the very thought of has always terrified me – to ride the zipline at Park City Mountain Resort. I had seen these things on TV and, since I’ve always had a fear of heights, thought that this would be a big no no. However, having overcome that fear to a degree whilst learning to ski I began to think maybe, just maybe I could do this.

I did, however, have a feeling that I might chicken out so I told my husband and girls that I was going to do it and to make doubly sure I arranged my August AuPair meeting at the resort so that some of my girls would do it too. Funnily enough, turns out most of them wouldn’t do it as they are just like I was at their age – over fearful but there were other things to enjoy at the resort so it made for a fun meeting.

Anyway – having husband, two daughters and my AuPairs there meant that there was now no way I could chicken out so I bought my ticket and Natalie from Austria and I decided to do it together (thanks Natalie – I love you!). By the time we reached the line at the top I was beginning to get nervous and as our turn came I was wondering if I could back out there but I just though ‘stop it!’ – you HAVE to go through with this. I was shaking as the guy strapped me into the harness and then he flipped the lever to let us go.

Well all I can say is WOW!!!!! It was an amazing rush from that first second. I loved every moment of it and Natalie and I are now planning on doing a longer, faster zipline at Utah Olympic Park. As an older Mum I am so proud of myself for doing this. My husband and daughters loved seeing me get such a rush from it and I feel I proved to my AuPair group that I’m not an old fuddy duddy at fifty :). I think the pics show how much I enjoyed it 😀

I finally feel at the age of fifty that I can do ANYTHING I choose to do. Tell me your stories of overcoming or facing up to fears. Or what’s on your bucket list? Do you have anything you feel inspired to just get on and do after reading this?

This post was originally posted as a guest blog post on @newbreedmama’s (her twitter name) blog. The post means quite a lot to me so I decided to repost it here.

We recently went on a family road trip to California and visited The Haight Ashbury district in San Francisco. This took me back to memories of me when I was around 11 which is smack bang in between the ages my two girls are now (12 and 10) – I grew up in England by the way.

At that age I had an Easy Rider poster on our playroom wall and used to borrow my teenage neighbours record player and records for a weekly disco that I ran for my school friends. I used to charge a small entry fee and with that I bought biscuits (cookies) and lemonade to for all my friends. Early signs of entrepreneurship?

I also remember that The Isle of Wight Festival was on and my teen neighbours went. I couldn’t understand why my mum and dad wouldn’t let me go with them! And I remember that my mum would try and recreate all the 60’s fashions for me as she made most of our clothes and she even bought me a pair of boots like the ones in the picture.
These memories made me look at my girls and how hard it is to let them grow up and be themselves. It’s so hard to let go and I had far more freedom at that age than my kids do now. My eldest got really upset the other day over some little thing and sobbed that she wished that she were 18 and that we didn’t tell her what to do all the time (I seem to remember that we had told her off for not doing some small chore). I remember feeling way more grown up than I was allowed to be.

I do also remember those hormonal ups and downs but it’s so difficult to know exactly how to deal with them as a parent of two girls. I do my best and communicate and hug way more than my mum and dad ever did but I still feel I’m not quite getting it right. Add to that equation two very different personalities in my girls and I’m learning that each one is going to need very different things from me as a mum.

We have started to allow them some freedom. My 12 year old went for a sleepover with a 13 year old friend the other day and was exploring our small town and riding around on the free bus in the town and she loved it. I was, of course, worried sick. We also drop them at the movies on their own and leave them at home alone for short amounts of time while we go to yard sales or on a date night.

I’m learning that this time is way more difficult than when they were younger even though we have the freedom to go out without them at times. I’m also learning to understand where my mum and dad were coming from all those years ago.

How do you cope with either the actual or the thought of the process of letting go with your kids? What are you learning from seeing your kids grow up? Does watching them grow up bring back memories of you at that age?

I talked in a previous blog post and how I had bad culture shock after moving to Utah and I wanted to talk to you all today about some of the causes of culture shock and how I’ve learned that seemingly little things can cause the symptoms. And I also talk about how I have reached what is described as the ‘mastery phase’.

What are your experiences of culture shock? Have you or do you know anyone who has experienced it? What triggered the symptoms? How did you (or they) deal with it?

We arrived in Utah, well Salt Lake City to be exact from my idea of paradise at the end of August 2008. From day one I hated it. I had severe culture shock although I completely skipped the honeymoon stage. I hated the schooling, the people, Salt Lake City, the lack of colour, the lack of beach, the lack of prettiness and gentle beauty. We moved up to sin city (Park City) in the mountains after 2 months in the misery of Salt Lake and met….. noone. Turns out people hibernate from socializing in winter and are too busy skiing and the like to meet up. Our kids started school and Chaz settled into his job and I just mourned the loss of my lovely life. Too be honest I was a complete nightmare about it all and a cow to live with.

I survived that first winter, made myself learn to ski and gradually started to meet people as spring appeared. I joined a book club and a coffee morning and started to settle in. However, I still blamed my husband for ‘making’ me move and spent more time hating everything than enjoying life.

However, a major turning point for me was chancing upon Wayne Dyer on TV. I vaguely remember that he was talking about his book Excuses Begone and I remember him doing a simple demonstration with a closed fist and an open palm – I think! I wasn’t even paying full attention but something stuck and I realized that changing this stinking thinking of mine was the only way out of this.

From that very moment I started to almost ‘act as if’ I was happy. I put a big smile on my face when my hubby came home every day, every time I started to blame him for our move I turned it around to say that he was trying to do the best for our family (which is, of course, the truth), I started to see the good in the place and the people and had a constant inner voice telling me to not listen to the negative thoughts. Do you know what – it gradually worked. Not only that but I started to use this approach to everything – I now choose to be happy. That’s not to say I don’t have the odd moment and I can spit feathers at times as I’m a little feisty on occasion ;). However, I have learnt that I can change the way I look at things and that, indeed, the things I’m looking at then change.

How do you deal with the negatives? Are there any specific inspirational people or sayings that have helped you to change the way you look at things? Do you think messages often appear when you need them?

I mentioned in this blog post that I got dragged kicking and screaming from the Adelaide Hills so I thought I’d tell you a little about our time there. We arrived in Adelaide from the UK on Australia Day in 2007 after a year long wait for our residency visas. I loved the place from the minute I got there. We moved straight into a rental I had found through an online forum in the Adelaide Hills in a lovely little village called Piccadilly and I thought I’d found my own little piece of paradise.

What is it that I loved about the Adelaide Hills you ask? You might regret asking! I loved the colours and smells of the gum trees. I loved the birds; the lorikeets, magpies and kookaburras. I loved the sunshine and the laid back life style. I loved my coffee girls, the wonderful bunch of friends I met up with and spent almost every Friday morning with. I loved the fact there were butchers and greengrocers and lovely little independent retailers.I loved having amazing empty beaches a short drive away.

I loved the schooling; my kids got very little homework, did lots of PE, an instrument and a language in elementary school and still received a good education in the basics. I adored our little log cabin that we bought after 4 months with our 1/2 acre of native garden which was home to more than one koala on occasion.

I loved our 4 wheel drive/camping trip in the outback and our trips to the beautiful empty beaches. My life there made me smile – a lot – but karma/life/whatever had other plans for me as hubby’s company decided to relocate us to Utah after only 19 months in my Paradise. But that’s another story. I learnt that again, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans (thanks again John Lennon) and to never say never. This gives me on one hand a sense of freedom and on the other a sense of instability depending on my mood.

Have you ever found somewhere that you thought was your place and had to leave? Do you think as I now do that maybe you just weren’t there long enough and that you had to leave whilst in the honeymoon stage?  Or do you think there is such a thing as one right place for you? Having moved around a lot in my life I am not sure of that but would love to know what you all think.

Having spent my early twenties wasting time waiting for a go nowhere boyfriend to marry me we broke up (well actually he went off with someone else and got married) and I was heartbroken.

So, I decided to break out of the mundane and have an adventure to ‘find myself’. I’d always done a lot of babysitting so I decided this was a good way to see some of the world and work. I bought The Lady magazine and applied for an AuPair/Nanny job in the most remote place and unpopulated place I could find, Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, Canada

I had a fantastic time! I looked after 3 kids, Alice, 9; Thomas, 6 and Douglas, 5 and had great host parents Sue and Dick (Richard).

Fort Qu’Appelle is a small town of around 2,000 people called. However, strictly speaking I lived in B-Say-Tah which was outside Fort Qu’Appelle on Echo Lake and had a population of around 200. Fort Qu’Apelle is in a valley in the Prairies and even has a ski area which is where Tom, who was one of the boys I dated there gave me a ski lesson of sorts before my disastrous trip to Banff .

I think I was probably a bit of a nightmare in many ways as I was a bit of a party girl spending most off my ‘off’ time in Trappers Saloon. But the family seemed to love me anyway as I worked as hard as I played and I loved those kids as if they were my own. We’ve kept in touch ever since and I plan on taking my family to visit them at some point now we live in Utah. One of my ‘kids’ has even recently had a baby so I now feel like I’m a Grandma!

I learnt such a lot in that year. I learnt that I love to travel, I love children, I love living in the open spaces of the mid west and I love the independence of striking out and going somewhere I’d never been before. Being an Au Pair was one of the most fun times in my life (and I’ve had a lot of fun) and I did it for 5 years so there’s a lot more to talk about on the subject and it’s the reason I became a childcare coordinator for an AuPair program when I later moved back to the US with my own family.

I wonder sometimes where I’d be if that boyfriend hadn’t gone off and married someone else. I may never have left Derbyshire and I wouldn’t be the person I am today. From that I’ve learnt that life is what happens when you’re making other plans, as John Lennon once said, and that even when your life seems bleak good usually comes out of it.

Have there been any pivotal moments in your life where you have gone in a completely different direction to that which you planned?