In my adult life I have moved houses eleven times. It may not seem outrageous but counting the 12+2 years spent in our current home, we did move a lot from the ones that did not last more than two years. What is interesting is what made me move and how I found my new home each time. I believe there is a sweet balance between over-planning and following your gut when choosing a city, a neighborhood, a house. 

Here are my most memorable moving decisions to share. It started with being able to afford a really posh but small place on the 42nd floor overlooking Lake Ontario in downtown Toronto as newlyweds. There was not enough space for our clothes and our combined households, let alone an office. I learned to improvise: the small balcony became our summer dining room, the furniture had to be light and was constantly moved to accommodate office work, dinner parties and other projects. I never minded because the walls of window overlooking the lake and the city were my mansion.

It also taught me that I am not a city person. No matter how convenient the location, I prefer my privacy to not be shared with a 24-hour security guard.

Fast-forward to living with a toddler in crazy expensive California. Before relocating here to temporary housing, I had one day in-between work meetings to explore the Bay Area. We had learned that San Francisco was too cold for our taste, so we had to start our search from scratch.

I put our son in the car and drove south, planning to explore the beach and not worry about housing for now. Heading down Hwy 17 I saw a sign for Los Gatos which I thought was too cute a name, and on pure impulse, drove into town. It was so breathtakingly beautiful as I pushed the stroller down North Santa Cruz Avenue that I never made it to the beach.

Los Gatos, California has been our home for the past 18 years, raising our children and making wonderful friends. Interrupted by four years in India (finding a home in Bangalore is an entire story in itself).

What I remember is that we never questioned settling here. Things fell into place despite many obstacles. We found a great landlady who rented to us because she wanted a little boy to live in her house. We won a bidding war to buy our home because the seller liked us. 

All I can say is follow your instinct. Yes, decide what you cannot do without, such as schools and commuting times, but remember that you have alternatives. Between us, my husband and I have had long commutes lightened by flexible work arrangements, working from home and easy commutes. If you plan to stay, plant roots. If you know it’s only for a few years, ask yourself what kind of lifestyle you would like to experience. My own lesson? Home is where your heart is. 

You resigned from your job, sold your house and said goodbye to your family and friends. Your partner got this assignment in the US and it’s a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. You decided to follow and uproot the whole family. The children will become fluent in English, you’ll get to know another culture, you’ll visit new places.

A unique adventure.

Upon arrival, you work hard to settle in: finding a new house, an appropriate school for the kids, securing a car, a bank account and an internet connection, re-creating routines, filling the necessary paperwork, networking with other families, taking care of household chores.

But after the excitement of the first months, you’re missing something. While you’re in good health, have a roof on your head and enjoy a pleasant neighborhood, you’re not happy. When you were preparing the move, organizing farewell parties, supporting your partner and children, you forgot someone. Someone very important: yourself.

Before the move, you were so excited. You didn’t think about losing your financial independence, your social life, your colleagues and your friends. You didn’t think you’d be drained by the efforts required to live in a completely new environment: learning a new language, paying attention to local customs, or drive on the other side of the road. Worse, you didn’t expect to do it all alone.

Just arrived, your partner has been working 10 to 12 hours a day and traveling regularly. You’re mostly on your own. You left because it was required by your partner’s corporate function. You work your tail off to ensure a successful relocation. You play a key role for the family’s well-being – a stable presence amidst a sea of changes. You’re key in enabling your partner to be fully dedicated to his work. And how is it acknowledged?

Your name appears merely as a byline on a health insurance plan, an addendum to the visa, a sentence in the expat contract. You’re not even able to open up a bank account without your partner’s presence (he’s the one earning the money!), to get a credit card on your own merit, to enroll for a phone plan without the authorization of your partner. You’re stuck. It’s frustrating and humiliating. You’ve become… a child. So what can you do? Ask for a spouse stipend.

What is a spouse stipend, exactly?

The spouse stipend is a portion of the expat assignee’s salary, directly paid to the accompanying partner. The exact percentage is to be defined by each company. I would suggest between 10 to 25%. In some cases, it can even be an extra amount of money to the normal expat package. But companies already offer cross-cultural trainings and language courses.

Why should they provide accompanying spouses with extra money?

Because you, as a trailing spouse, work hard to support your partner, ensuring thus that working corporate employees perform at their best. Because you have the right to decide for your own well-being: whether this means more cultural knowledge or a subscription to the gym, a fancy haircut or a new dress! Because you don’t have the network, the cultural knowledge, the language proficiency to apply for a job two weeks after arrival. Even worse, in many cases, you are not even granted a working permit!

Without a source of income, you’ve become fully financially dependent. In a society where money plays such an important role, you’re not equally valued. This is a major change in identity and sense of self-worth. Add to it what expats already have to go through: grieving losses, managing culture shock. Without a source of income, you lose your freedom: freedom to enroll for a yoga class or for IT lessons. Freedom to support a local charity or participate in a running competition. Freedom to invite a friend for lunch. Without a source of income, you’re limited in your participation. Hobbies, transport, networking are all involving some money spending, even minimal. Why should you work so hard and be penalized?

Identity, participation and freedom are not frivolous wishes. They’re part of our 9 human fundamental needs according to economist Manfred Max Neef. He also adds subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, creation, leisure to the mix. Subsistence obviously is the first condition for life. But when this need is fulfilled, there is no priority order for all the other needs. “On the contrary, simultaneities, complementarities and trade-offs are characteristics of the process of needs satisfaction” says Neef. A spouse stipend can definitely help to fulfill those conditions. Last but not least: some people may argue that the move was a couple decision. And couples may have found a perfectly fine financial agreement between themselves.

Why should corporations mingle into family life and couple arrangements?


  • Because the imbalance in the couple is so strong and so brutal that it destabilizes both spouses. It places the accompanying partner in a very vulnerable position.
  • Because many people don’t think to discuss it beforehand.
  • Because an unhappy wife greatly increases the risk of a failed assignment costing corporations even more money wasted, time lost and organizational chaos.


Is the spouse stipend really revolutionary? Paying somebody for a job isn’t. But the spouse stipend remains very seldom. It’s not wide-spread. Far from it. So in this sense, it’s revolutionary.

Finally, is the spouse stipend the ultimate solution to trailing spouses happiness?

The answer is a resounding no. Money can’t buy happiness … that’s for sure, but it lets you choose your own form of misery :)

In that sense, it’s an empowering tool!

Now over to you: what do you think? For or against the spouse stipend? Do you have examples where it can be applied or where it could have changed your life?

Speak your mind in the comments!
Anne GillmeBio: Anne Gillme founded Expatriate Connection, a free online resource for what’s missing in expatriates’ lives: how to deal with loneliness, expat grief and uprooted children. She has been living abroad for 20 years but she’s constantly looking for more answers in the latest developments of psychology, anthropology, social and behavioral sciences. Her dream is to build a thriving and supportive online expat community and make the world a more sustainable place. She’s got 4 children but only one (Muslim) husband.

Have you ever noticed how contageous the negativity can be? Particularly when you feel lonely and any kind of a conversation is better than none? Before long we find ourselves pulled into emotions of the negative neighbor or a person next to us in the supermarket, trying on their situations and judgements, venturing deeper into what’s not even our true feeling…  Just remember, it is always your choice!  Here is a great recent piece from personal development coach Manuela Pauer on negativity:

For some reason, I have been noticing a lot of negativity around me lately. There are updates on Facebook with various complaints, meetings in which people focus on all the things that are going wrong, and even when walking Rafa (our doggie) the other day, a regular park patron greeted me with “You are late!” rather than a “Good morning!”

Maybe you have noticed this phenomenon as well or have even felt more negative about things yourself. Why is it so much easier to be negative and how can we change it?

Over our lifetime we all accumulate various memories – some good, some bad. However, even when we have more positive experiences than negative ones, we remember more of the negative experiences. This is because our brain has a preference for recalling and reacting to unpleasant memories. This is called the “negativity bias” and it has an important evolutionary reason: To help us survive by avoiding danger and keeping us out of harm’s way.

The problem is that luckily most of us don’t have to deal with daily life or death situations, so this bias for negativity is causing us needless suffering. While we often cannot prevent negative experiences from happening altogether, we CAN create much more balance by fostering positive experiences and really internalizing them.

In the book “Buddha’s Brain”, Rick Hanson suggests a 3 –step process for focusing on the Positive:

1. Actively look for the good and positive every day

Every day, there are positive things all around us – someone is nice to us, we see a beautiful flower, the smell of an orange, interesting clouds in the sky, we finish a project – but we just let it roll by. Instead of just letting those moment go by, bring mindful awareness to them. Open up to them and let them affect you.

2. Savor the experience

Really stay with the experience for 5, 10, even 20 seconds – don’t let your attention wander to something else. Focus on your emotions and body sensations and let the experience be as intense as possible. Pay attention to what is rewarding about it (for example, how good it feels to get a great big hug from someone you love.) All of this will help strengthen the implicit memory so you can carry it inside you and remember more easily.

3. Fully absorb the experience

Imagine or feel that the experience is entering deeply into your mind and body, like the sun’s warmth that is soaking through. Keep relaxing your body and take in all the emotions, sensations, and thoughts of the experience.

The good news is that there is plenty of opportunity to practice – every day we experience 20,000 moments! What positive moments are you noticing and savoring today?

About Manuela Pauer

manuela pauerManuela is a Certified Professional Coach and workshop leader. Her passion is to empower women to find more meaning, balance, and success, and to finally be happy with themselves and their lives.

Manuela loves helping professional women bring more balance, happiness and success into their lives! Visit Manuela’s Website for Professional Life Coaching and Powerful Workshops.

What’s in a name? Lots, actually! For one, identifying with the group calling themselves “Third Culture Parents” can help you with finding sometimes crucial information and support and to address the particular challenges, linked to raising kids in foreign cultures.

Here are 10 signs shared by third culture parents.

1. We’re struck by culture shock – like our children – meaning we can feel destabilized, unsettled, depressed or overexcited for a period of time ranging from several weeks to several months or even years!

We have to deal with a high level of stress, a reduced ability to communicate (due to language barrier but also the lack of understanding of non-verbal cues) and a modified sense of identity. This has an impact on the children. We are less available, more irritable, less patient. We may experience mood swings: being extremely frustrated because we’re lost in the street and can’t even find someone to help or being completely ecstatic in front of the impressive Great Wall of China.

2. We are facing – sometimes extremely deep – modifications of our identity.

But we’re supposed at the same time, to help our children develop their own! It’s challenging when you’re yourself struggling. In some cases, it can be heartbreaking to see our children deny the identity linked to our home country. This can be due to several reasons: trauma lived in the country of origin, negative image of the home country in the host country. My sister-in-law changed her name from Jasmine to Cathy to blend more easily in the French community. In other cases, the opposite reaction can occur. A friend of mine with a French mother and a Chinese father had Frédérique as first name. She proudly chose to use her middle name Siu Lan instead in her daily life.
Read full article here

I will never forget running into a very strange procession on the streets of Manhattan, shortly after my arrival into the US.  Hundreds of men were passing by, all in unusual green clothing, all with the expression of extreme importance on their faces, carrying banners and shiny omulets.  Fortunately, my companions were local and quickly explained: “It’s Saint Patrick’s day parade”.  What do you know about this celebration, so popular in America?

1. Most people know that St Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious holiday celebrating the Patron Saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, but did you know St. Patrick was not Irish?

Saint Patrick (known as Magonus Socatus before sainthood) was born in 5th century Roman Britain but was captured and brought to Ireland as a slave at age 16. He escaped, but later returned as a missionary and is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. It is believed he died on March 17th, 461. For hundreds of years he was forgotten, but then resurrected as the Patron Saint of Ireland in the early 17th century, hence the celebration of St Patrick’s Day on March 17th, the day he died.

2. Until recently all pubs were required by law to be closed on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.

St Patrick’s Day was originally a religious holiday and thus Irish laws mandated that all pubs be closed on March 17th. This law was on the books until the 1970s.

Beginning in 1995, the Irish government saw the potential to use global interest in St. Patrick’s Day to stimulate tourism and showcase Ireland and Irish culture to the rest of the world. Today, about 1 million people converge on the cobbled streets of Dublin to enjoy St. Patrick’s Festival, a multi-day celebration with parades, concerts, outdoor theater productions, fireworks and of course, lots of pub crawling.

Read full article here
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American football may seem as complicated as solving a Rubik’s Cube, but once you have a general understanding for the game, it really is rather simple.

The sport is generally played at four different levels: Pop Warner (children aging from 6-14), high school, college, and professional (National Football League or NFL is the most common professional football group).

The football field has a very simple lay out: it is 120 yards long with each end of the field containing a 10 yard end zone. Behind each end zone is a free standing “upright”.  The objective of the game is to progress the ball down the field into one of the end zones thus scoring a “touchdown”. The team that scores the most points by the end of the playing period wins.

The game starts with one team being assigned the ball via a coin toss. Once it has been decided who will be “receiving the kick”, the kicking team will kick the ball to the receiving team and the receiving team will attempt to move the ball towards the far end zone. After this initial “kickoff”, the regular plays of the game will start. The team that starts the play with the ball is on “offense” while the team attempting to stop the offense from scoring a touchdown is on “defense”.

The offense has four tries (called “downs”) to progress the football 10 yards.The 10 needed yards are displayed by a marker, generally shown on the side of the field by two orange signs standing about six feet tall and connected by a thin chain (these markers are referred to as the chains). A third orange marker with a number displayed at the top shows which down it is and where the ball was placed at the beginning of each play.  Each time this ten yard marker is reached, the number of tries the offense gets to reach the next 10 yard marker resets.

If the offense is unable to progress the ball the 10 needed yards, they will generally use their last down to kick the ball as far as possible (called a “punt”). The team that punted the ball now switches to defense while the team that was punted to is now on offense.

In the event that a team is within a reasonable distance to one of the end zones, they may elect to attempt to kick the ball through the uprights (called a “field goal”) for three points instead of the six awarded for a touchdown. One different version of the field goal (called an extra point) is generally exhibited after a touch down. In the case of an extra point, after one team has scored, the ball is kicked from 10 yards away from the end zone and is worth a single point.

In regards to fouls, every time a player breaks one of the many rules of the game a referee will throw a yellow flag in the air. Minor fowls lead to a change in the placement of the ball in comparison to the chains, making it either easier or harder for a team to gain the needed ten yards depending if the foul was on the offense or defense.

By far the most important aspect of American football is how loud fans are in the stands. Be sure to support your team with as much cheering as possible and you will be sure to enjoy with great American pass-time!

Your child’s Home and School club may be your best source of information about school events, activities, programs, goals, budgets and more. It is an opportunity for parents to become actively involved with the way the school is run, how funds are raised, and what activities are planned for the children.

Home and School Club provides an excellent avenue for parents to be involved in their student’s education. The more you stay in touch, the more your student stays in touch. They organize events, help out on testing days, and bake cookies and treats for special school events. Most importantly they raise money for teachers to purchase essential items for their classrooms, they would otherwise not have. Being a Home and School Club member gives you a voice, and a vote on important decisions affecting your child’s school environment.

There are usually once a month meetings to handle general Home and School Club business agenda items. There are also many helpful presentations given throughout the school year that benefit you and your student’s educational needs.

Another huge benefit to joining is the opportunity to meet the parent body, get to know the families of your student’s classmates and make new friends to support you through your daily parenting issues in the new country.

Please check out our Group “Mothers with an Accent” and forum to join our community discussions on this and other parenting issues!