Series on Multiculturalism, Diversity, and Cross-Cultural Relationships

Part II

The Importance of Exposure to Multiculturalism and Diversity

This is the second of my three-part series on multiculturalism, diversity, and cross-cultural relationships. In my first article: https://thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/series-on-multiculturalism-cross-cultural-relationships-and-diversity/, I shared with my readers how and when I became impassioned with this topic. In this follow-up posting, I elaborate on the importance of exposure to multiculturalism and diversity. My definition of diversity includes people with all types of differences: race, religion, philosophy, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical health, mental health, socioeconomic, intelligence, genetic attributes, etc.

Exposure to multiculturalism and diversity helps us expand our awareness and knowledge. As we build our awareness of other people’s differences we learn to understand them and in turn we develop tolerance, acceptance, trust, and compassion, which can lead to cooperation and collaboration. And how much easier would it be to live on this planet, to work together to solve its problems, if we operated under this premise. But I know this sounds very utopian, and perhaps rather than try to solve the world’s problems, I can focus on my little part of the universe and help influence those around me in a positive way. I behave a certain way, because I know that my children are watching and emulating my every move. I want them to grow up without unfounded prejudices and fears.

Celebrating my birthday in London with wonderful friends from around the world. From left to right: Colombian-American, Mexican, Palestinian, Turkish, Venezuelan, and Canadian.

2012 – Celebrating my birthday in London with wonderful friends from around the world. From left to right: Colombian-American, Mexican, Palestinian, Turkish, Venezuelan, and Canadian.

It is human nature to gravitate to known and comfortable environments. And it is also human nature to be weary of those and of things that are unknown. In the absence of true knowledge we allow fear and ignorance to form our misguided judgments.

I grew up as a Colombian immigrant in Queens, New York in the 60’s. At the time the Latinos in New York City were made up of mostly Dominicans, Cubans, and Puerto Ricans. Even among the existing Latino groups there was dislike and mistrust. My parents and I moved to an apartment building in Woodside, Queens. We were the only Hispanic family in our building. For several months after we moved in, my parents greeted our next-door neighbors, a white Jewish elderly couple, and for months they ignored my parent’s polite salutations. My parents were patient and knew from prior experience that in time the couple would come around, and they did. Somehow their comfort level grew as they got to know us and they became friendly with us. It makes me happy to think that we helped influence their viewpoint in a positive way. My other memory of a neighbor was of the Marshall family, one of the few African-American families in our building. Mrs. Marshall was working a full-time job, was raising a family, had lost a son in the Vietnam War, and on top of all of that, she was the dedicated Girl Scout leader of my troop. I always admired her commitment to the community and am grateful that she served as a role model to me inspiring me to become a Girl Scout leader to my own daughter.

Marching proudly in the 4th of July parade in Westport, CT with my Girl Scout Troop.

2005 – Marching proudly with my Girl Scout Brownie troop in the 4th of July parade in Westport, CT.

Growing up as a Latina in New York was not a great thing. Not because I was directly mistreated but because there was a prevailing attitude that Hispanics and Hispanic culture was sub par. As a child I looked for ways of blending in and forgetting my ethnicity. I suppose this is what thousands of immigrant children had done before me and continue to do to this day. Immigrant groups that arrived before us staked a claim and defined what they believe is the “right way” of being American, and all of the newly arrived immigrants try desperately to fit in by giving up their uniqueness. It is sadly contradictory that some of the people of this country, a nation founded on freedoms and religious tolerance, punish those for being different. I was incensed recently with the reaction by the general public when Ms. New York, the first Indian-American woman to win the title of Ms. America 2014 received vile feedback in the news and social media. Ugly comments were made accusing her of not being “American” enough, and of not representing “American” values. Wow, that today in 2014 we can still have such biased views and prejudices saddens me.

In 1974, my parents decided to return to Colombia because that was their plan all along. Little did they know that our going back to Colombia would be the greatest gift they would ever give me. I had come to the United States at age two and now at 13 we were returning to my birth country. The USA was my home but I was equally accepting of the idea of moving back to Colombia where I had spent most of my childhood summers. I would become immersed in the culture, learn the history, travel the country, study the language, and develop an appreciation for being Colombian. This experience also heightened my sensitivity to the appreciation of other cultures.

My daughter smiling in the African dress I sewed her for a pre-school international event.

2003 – Westport, CT My daughter smiling in the African dress I sewed her for a pre-school international event. The shoes are Colombian “alpargatas”, a type of espadrille shoe.

As much as we enjoyed living in Colombia I had my sights on going to university in the states and so we returned in 1978. Living in Colombia had raised my self-confidence and solidified my identity. Upon my return to the USA I no longer felt like a minority. That is until my senior year of college when I went from not feeling like a minority to being labeled a “double minority”. That was a huge surprise and I envisioned a giant rubber stamp coming down on my forehead.  I was a soon-to-graduate engineer who was a “woman” and a “Latina”. I became highly coveted by the recruiting companies because I could fill two of their minority recruiting quotas. The reality was that I was back in the United States where labeling seemed and continues to be, unfortunately, a very important part of this culture.

In my first article, I mentioned how I have three distinct roles. I am a Colombian citizen, a Colombian immigrant to the United States, and a US citizen. In the first role, I did not and do not need to prove anything to anyone. However, in my role as a Colombian immigrant and naturalized US citizen I have always felt it necessary to show other Americans a positive image of Colombia and of Latinos, while dispelling some of the misconceptions they have of our ethnic group. I will take this opportunity to say that there is a subset of American society that is open-minded and have an appreciation for diversity. I also have to point out that prejudices can also exist within a minority group.

Celebrating a birthday in Annapolis, MD with two American friends.

2013 – Celebrating another birthday in Annapolis, MD with two wonderful American friends.

My husband, a white American of European decent, and I have raised our children in a multicultural environment. Together we made the decision that I would speak Spanish and he would speak English to the children. As a family we have lived in Belgium, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and England. Every location has offered us varying experiences. Moving has taught us resilience and adaptability. Living abroad has taught us to see things from a different point of view. We have lived in small towns and in big cities. We have lived in very diverse and in very homogenous locations.

2002 - My son on the left in yet another costume I made, representing lightning. He is standing next to his Sikh buddy. His mother would share concerns over whether or not to cut his hair for kindergarten. In Sikhism, Kesh is the practiceof allowing their hair to grow as a  symbol of respect for the perfection of God's creation.

2002 – My son on the left dressed as “lightning”. I certainly kept busy making costumes. He is standing next to his Sikh buddy. His mother would share concerns over whether or not to cut his hair for kindergarten. In Sikhism, Kesh is the practice of allowing their hair to grow as a symbol of respect for the perfection of God’s creation. She was worried about her son being teased as he got older.

I have come to the conclusion that people from very homogenous towns or groups are at risk of becoming insular and close-minded. These folks have had limited exposure to people who are different perhaps by their own choosing or just by chance. When suddenly faced with a person or group who may not conform to their value system, they allow fear and ignorance to form their misguided judgments. Some can exhibit behaviors such as apathy, unfriendliness, anger, discrimination, segregation, bullying, mistreatment, or even violence. These behaviors are then passed on to their children and the negative behaviors and misconceptions are perpetuated. However, not all people from a homogenous group will react negatively. Some will allow themselves the opportunity to get to know the “stranger” much like the elderly couple did towards us, and eventually welcome them into the community. It is nice to know that human decency and goodness can prevail.

In 2011 we had the opportunity to move to London with our teen-aged children. We spent two years living in one of the most diverse cities of the world. I am so grateful that we were able to expose our family to so many ethnic, racial, religious, and socioeconomic groups. When you live among people of different backgrounds or attributes you develop a comfort level with them that allows you to be open-minded. This better prepares you to interact with each other and offers a basis for cooperation and collaboration. It prepares you to live in the global community and to work in a diverse environment. I also feel that living in London gave my children an appreciation for their own multi-cultural background.

2011 - London Exploring our new home.

2011 – London Exploring our new home.

We are now in suburban USA. There is still so much to improve and accomplish in the arena of diversity. In the fall, I was at an orientation at my children’s school and I could not help but notice that there were three distinct groups of people. There was a large group of mostly white families with a smattering of some ethnic families mingling with them, there was a small group of African-American families, and then there were the assorted loners. I wondered to myself why each group was keeping to themselves fully knowing the answer to my own question. Everyone was choosing to stay in his or her own comfort zone. This self-selected segregation bothered me so I chose to walk over to the group of African American parents to introduce myself. Some of you may argue that self-selected segregation is acceptable, but I will counter that with, self-selected segregation is a defense mechanism, that although shields us temporarily, it prevents us from pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone to reach our fullest potential.

The United States is not the only country dealing with diversity issues. The challenges exist worldwide. Italy appointed its first black female cabinet member, Cecile Kyenge in April of this year. What was seen as a positive step in racial integration has publicly highlighted the ugly face of the prejudices that exist in Italy as Mrs. Kyenge endures countless racial abuse. Many other countries have experience similar challenges with assimilation of ethnic groups such as France, Germany, Britain, Sweden, and Finland. Colombia and many other Latin American countries are guilty of marginalizing their own native and black minority groups. Other nations struggle with uniting internal religious and ethnic groups. No location is immune to this problem.

I have been through my own journey. I too am guilty of passing incorrect judgment. I have come to the realization that prejudices come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes can be almost imperceptible. We all have a value system that we learned at home. There are moments in our lives that we come to crossroads where our existing value system is challenged. If we recognize these junctures as learning opportunities then we can begin to make changes that allow us to become better human beings.

In the end, the hallmark of a good relationship is when all parties involved are made to feel good in that relationship. And how do we do this?  By taking the steps necessary to learn about the other person. As we build our awareness of other people’s differences we learn to understand them and in turn we develop tolerance, acceptance, trust, and compassion, which can ultimately lead to cooperation and collaboration.

Slide1I do a reality check and bring myself back to my little corner of the universe, back to my original goal, to behave in a way that teaches my children to be open-minded and not develop unfounded prejudices and fears.

In my last and third article I share my call to action with you, steps you can take to further your exposure to multiculturalism and diversity.

For now I leave you with the following:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou

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A Foodie Adventure in Asheville, North Carolina

The Biltmore Castle Asheville, NC

The Biltmore Castle
Asheville, NC

There are so many exciting places to visit in the United States. For us having the focus of doing a culinary adventure sounded very appealing. My husband had heard of Asheville, NC as being a big foodie community. Asheville is also home to the Biltmore Estate a gorgeous castle built by George Vanderbilt III, fashioned after some of the French Loire Valley castles. Asheville is located in the western part of North Carolina near the Blue Ridge Mountains. We decided to drive to Asheville, NC from our home in West Chester, PA. The drive was approximately 9 ½ hours long and we split it into 2 days. The drive took us from Pennsylvania through some very scenic areas of the states of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee. We had a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Southern hospitality.

Southern Food at the Southern Kitchen in New Market, VA

Enjoying Southern food at the Southern Kitchen in New Market, VA

Our first stop included stopping for dinner in New Market, VA in a 57-year old restaurant called Southern Kitchen. We thoroughly enjoyed a dinner of peanut soup, southern fried chicken, and not-to-be missed peanut butter cream pie.  After enjoying a wonderful dinner we continued on to Christianburg, VA to spend the night. The next morning we were only 3 ½ hours away from Asheville. Asheville, NC has a regional airport and can also be reached by airplane. Asheville is approximately a 4-hour drive from Raleigh, the capital of NC located closer to the center of the state. North Carolina also boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. With so much to do and see, the state of North Carolina can be a wonderful destination visit. Keep in mind that North Carolina is home to some excellent universities like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, North Carolina State University, Wake Forest University, and Elon University. So if college visits bring you here, make sure to extend your visit and see more of the state.

Inn on Biltmore Estate

Inn on Biltmore Estate

We arrived in Asheville on a Monday and went straight to our hotel to check-in at The Inn on Biltmore Estate located on the grounds of the Biltmore Castle. We knew our hotel room would not be ready until later so we dropped off our bags and drove into the town of Asheville.

Asheville has become a mecca for foodies, where restaurant chefs have the focus of farm to table. The other great attribute of this city is that it offers a very international selection of cuisine. The city has also become an artist community boasting many galleries and exhibits. We enjoyed our first meal in Asheville at a Latin American restaurant called Chorizo, where we savored a mouth-watering arepa stuffed with shredded pork. We then met up with our foodie walking tour, Eating Asheville. Our wonderful tour guide, Cecily, took us to 6 different venues while also sharing with us some of the city history. Our stops included: The Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, Chai Pani (Indian street food), Zambras (tapas with a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern twist), Table (farm-to-table seasonal), The Gourmet Chip Company (gourmet potato chips), and The French Broad Chocolate Lounge (a to die for chocolatier). At every stop we enjoyed delectable samplings of the food and drink. What a wonderful way to get introduced to the local food scene. I highly recommend that you sign up for foodie tours in the various cities you visit. It’s great entertainment. Cecily also recommended that instead of having a meal at just one restaurant, to try restaurant hopping while sampling their appetizers and drinks. We tried this strategy very successfully on one of our nights in Asheville. This allowed us to sample a variety of restaurants in a short time frame.

Eating Asheville Food Tour with Cecily giving us information about the tour.

Eating Asheville Food Tour with Cecily giving us information about the tour.
At The Battery Park Book Exchange Champagne Bar

Our stay at the Biltmore Inn was wonderful. The hotel sits on top of a hill with beautiful sweeping views of the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate. The Biltmore Castle & Estate was built by George Vanderbilt III. It was Vanderbilt’s dream to make the estate self-sustaining. When it was first built in 1895 the estate operated a diary farm. Today, the estate operates a very successful winery. Although, some of the grapes are grown on the property, many are purchased from other regions of the United States. The Winery is one of the most visited wineries in the country.  The Biltmore Inn offers various wonderful choices for dining and serves a lovely Afternoon Tea. Dare I say, that the afternoon tea rivaled some of the best London high tea experiences.

Afternoon Tea at the Biltmore

Afternoon Tea at the Biltmore

During our stay at the Biltmore Inn we took advantage of some of the many activities they offer. We enjoyed a session of Sporting Clays. In the picture I am shooting a 20 gauge double barrel shot gun.  At first I was a little intimidated seeing the shotgun. With the coach’s guidance I found myself holding and shooting the shotgun. The instructor uses a computerized system to propel 6-inch clay discs from different locations into the air that you then attempt to hit. And to my greatest surprise I actually hit the clays. Even my husband was shocked. Annie Oakley, move over!!! Another fun activity is the Land Rover driving school where you get instruction on off-road driving. Other activities include: fly fishing, horseback riding, hiking, river trips, Segway tours, biking, and carriage rides. There is plenty for the whole family to enjoy.

Annie Oakley Move Over!

Annie Oakley Move Over!

One very special activity that we did was a Private Food Demonstration that I arranged through the Biltmore Catering Department. A wonderful menu was especially prepared for us and demonstrated by Chef Kirk together with his sous chef and pastry chef. In addition, we had the wonderful service of two waitresses that made sure the champagne and wines were appropriately matched. All of this took place in one of their catering kitchens. The session was an amazing display of cuisine by a professional and friendly crew offering us an experience and lunch to remember.

Our Private Food Demonstration

Our Private Food Demonstration

The Biltmore Estate is still privately owned by the Vanderbilt Family and employs 1700 people and is visited by more than one million guests a year. We enjoyed a wonderful tour of the Biltmore Castle and its extensive gardens. The audio tour guide provided with the admission ticket is a great way to enjoy the property and learn its history. We really enjoyed the Biltmore Estate and hope to return again someday.

Our Delicious Private Food Demonstration Menu

Our Delicious Private Food Demonstration Menu

For more information on foodie tour in Asheville go to:  http://eatingasheville.com/

For more information on the Biltmore Estate go to: http://www.biltmore.com

The National September 11 Memorial and Museum

My summer travels brought me to a very special place, to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. The Memorial commemorates the almost 3000 people killed on the September 11, 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center, at the location near Shanksville, PA , and at the Pentagon; and the 6 people killed in the World Trade Center bombing of 1993.

The 9/11 Memorial

The 9/11 Memorial

The memorial features twin reflecting pools, each with a waterfall in the middle that appears to go on forever. The massive pools, each measuring approximately one acre, sit where the Twin towers used to be. The names of all the victims are inscribed into bronze panels surrounding the pools. The victims’ names are very specifically organized by location of attack, by company or crew they worked with, or by first responders. There are even computer screens that allow you to type a name and find its location in the Memorial.

DSCN1133

Honoring Angela, Susan, William Timothy, Ronald, Horace, Amenia, Gerald, and Patricia and her unborn child.

I grew up in New York City and experienced the construction of the Twin Towers. My father even has 8mm film footage showing the World Trade Center in the making. As for many fellow New Yorkers, this attack was extremely painful. Not only had we lost the Twin Towers, a favorite New York City landmark, we had lost thousands of innocent people in this attack. I had visited the World Trade Center site several years after the attack, and the new buildings and the Memorial were still under construction. Walking around the site then was still extremely emotional. In August I had the opportunity to visit the completed Memorial and I felt it was beautifully done. The emotions were still there. I walked up to the pools and gently passed my hands over the many names of the victims in hopes of paying tribute. It was hard to keep the tears back. As I walked around the Memorial I noticed that some of the names had white roses. A white rose is placed on the victims’ names on their birthdays. This whole area felt like sacred ground to me.

Remembering Jon Charles Vandevander's birthday.

Remembering Jon Charles Vandevander’s birthday.

If you are in New York City don’t miss the opportunity to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. The Museum was not opened yet when I visited but it is nearing completion. The 110,000 square feet museum is built over the World Trade Center archaeological site where you can see some of the original architecture of the Twin Towers. For more information on the 9/11 Memorial and Museum go to:

 http://www.911memorial.org/

The 9/11 Memorial uses water as part of its beautiful design. To me water symbolizes “cleansing”, starting anew, but knowing the lessons of the past.

I also share the following excerpt from The Healers Journal Blog.

Water carries all life. But water is beyond time, for it bears in its flow the seeds of future life, as well as the memory of past life. Water mediates between life and death, between being and not being, between health and sickness. – From: http://www.thehealersjournal.com/2013/05/24/the-hidden-metaphysical-properties-of-water/#sthash.fVicxoqO.dpuf

Moving Overseas

Yesterday, I walked my dog Maya in Regent’s park and we ran into a black labrador and its owner. The woman asked me about my dog and I noticed she was an American. Well, that was enough invitation for me to start a conversation. It turned out that she had just moved to London with her family. I was able to share a lot of good tips with her about living in London. We exchanged e:mail addresses and mobile numbers. I always like making new friends but I especially like lending a helping hand to a new expat family.

The experience of living overseas may be one of the most rewarding and yet one of the most challenging experiences you will have in your life. After the initial bewilderment stage comes an opportunity to enjoy and learn. I am writing hoping to reach many of you who just moved to London with your families or even by yourselves. Perhaps you just moved to Brussels, Paris, or Tokyo. Some of my words may apply to you as well. I am here to tell you that it does get easier with each passing day and that before you know it, the strange new land you moved to, becomes your home.

When we were preparing to move to London from the US in 2011 we were very excited about the opportunity. The reason being that we had already been expats in Brussels, Belgium from 1997 – 2001. We were now seasoned expats like so many people you meet. Some families have spent their whole lives moving around the world and can only say positive things about their lifestyle. Our overall experience in Brussels was amazing. We loved it so much that we yearned to someday go abroad again. But I will admit moving to Brussels in July of 1997 was initially a very shocking experience and I can sympathize with some of you who are completely overwhelmed as you read this.

Let me share a story. When we moved to Brussels many life events converged into what seemed like a personal nuclear explosion at the time.  The first one was that I left my career. For someone who had been so career-driven this was a very difficult decision. However, I had been very willing to go on a “sabbatical” because, I was pregnant with our first child and I was presented with the opportunity to travel all over Europe, something I was passionate about.  Had I been in the states I probably would have taken a standard leave of absence and then returned to work. The advent of losing my salary and cutting our income in half was frightening. I also had to redefine who I was as a person since so much of my self-confidence and self-esteem was linked to my profession. But we were open to the life adventure ahead of us. However, during my 17thweek of pregnancy, while the movers were back at the house packing us, our lives were rattled when we received bad news about the pregnancy and baby. News that seemed so insurmountable that I questioned why were we were even moving overseas.  The baby would require surgeries after birth. At the time, I was still narrow-minded in thinking that I would only be able to receive excellent medical care for our baby in the US.  On top of that I was leaving my family and friends at a time when I needed them the most. But there was no turning back with the moving plans. Sometimes destiny does lead you in mysterious ways and Brussels was to be our next destination.

The Early Belgium Years 1998

Our  beautiful son was born on Christmas Eve 1997 in Brussels, Belgium. I would have at my disposal an amazing team of doctors who were so gifted and wonderful that even demigods would not compare. I still believe that it’s as if though we had to move to Brussels to have these incredible doctors take care of our son. What had started out as a tempest, with no calm in sight, had evolved into a clear horizon allowing my husband and I to successfully navigate our new lives in Brussels.

OK, I won’t kid you. Living in a country where they speak foreign languages, in our case French and Flemish, was difficult at times. Many Belgians spoke English which definitely helped but there were times that you had to be creative, like when the phone guy came over and we had to communicate with hand signals. Sometimes I would spend hours reading food labels in the supermarket trying to figure out if I was buying the correct item. A big help for me was joining The American Women’s Club of Brussels. They were an amazing resource of support and friendship. In August of 1999 our beautiful daughter was also born in Brussels. Our son was 19 months at that time. And now with two babies in tow we continued to explore Belgium and Europe. Our children learned to sleep in planes, trains, and automobiles.

By Chenonceaux Castle in the Loire Valley, France
2000

We got lucky because they were good babies/toddlers who allowed us to bring them everywhere, from châteaux in France to Champagne houses, from crystal shops in Prague to Michelin star restaurants.  After an amazing 4 years in Brussels we returned to the US in 2001.

Developing a Discriminating Taste for Champagne in Champagne, France
2001

Fast forward to 2011 as we prepared to return overseas…

We were now moving overseas with 13 and 12-year old children. The key was in selling them on the idea of moving very early on. It’s all in the marketing, isn’t it? What helped was that we had already moved within the US. When we returned from Brussels, we had first lived in Westport, CT for 5 years and then we had moved to West Chester, PA. The children were in 2nd and 3rd grade when we did this move, and yes it had been hard for them to leave friends, but they instantly made new ones. So when we announced we were moving to London they were absolutely fine with the idea. They were excited about living overseas and had the confidence that they would be able to make new friends. Before the move, they would ask us questions like:

“Do they have Wawa’s hoagies in London?” (For those of you not from PA/NJ area, Wawa’s is a Gasoline/Food/Convenience chain that makes delicious hoagies (heros/grinders/sandwiches))

Our answer would be, “No they don’t have Wawa’s hoagies in London but they will have different things that may be better ”.

Sure enough the children discovered that you can get some very amazing baguettes in London and the sandwiches made with these are delicious. We have opened ourselves up to new experiences with the thought that the outcomes will be positive. We keep saying to the children:

 “Things will be different, but different does not mean bad, different may mean better”.

My husband and the children exploring the streets of Bologna, Italy
July 2001

Exploring the streets of Bellagio, Italy
August 2012

I am not here to say that change is completely easy and without challenges. Change can be very difficult at times. It’s how we manage the process of change that allows us to move forward in a productive and healthy fashion. It is important to know how to manage the stresses that get thrown our way. How we behave is also critical. Our children are watching us every step of the way. Children are very intuitive and they can sense your attitudes and feelings immediately.  Sometimes we just have to laugh at ourselves and at the difficult situations. Like the time my friend in Brussels went to put her Thanksgiving turkey in her oven and it did not fit. She had to carve it up and roast it in pieces. Then there’s the time I tried to use my “French” language skills, and asked the waiter for a spoon,“ une cuillère”, and instead they brought out cheese, “le gruyere”.  That’s o.k., I’ll take some of that too. You may have already faced or are in the middle of facing daunting tasks like opening bank accounts, buying cell phones, getting a phone line connected, getting internet and cable, dealing with home repairs, figuring out how to get around, grocery shopping, unpacking, baby sitters, dog sitters, or where to buy something. We waited for 3 weeks for our Sky Internet modem to arrive and we were supposedly one of the lucky ones. Just know that with each passing day it will get easier and you’ll laugh at some of the missteps over a glass of wine or pint of beer.

Walking Over the Rhone Glacier in Switzerland

Know that this overseas experience will profoundly change you and your family members in so many positive ways. How you perceive the world and react to it will be different and better. This experience will test your and your family’s resolve, flexibility, and even relationships. For many it will bring you closer as a family. Open yourselves up to this new adventure with a positive attitude. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to organizations and support groups. Try new foods, make new friends, explore new places and hopefully you’ll look back at the expat years as some of the most amazing years of your life.