Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Culture Shock

Why do you want to move abroad? What are your expectations? Why is it important to you? These are all questions you should be asking yourself {and answering} if you plan on moving abroad.

So, why am I in Scotland anyway? Well, I met my husband online and after 1.5 yrs of dating long distance we decided to stop going back and forth. We chose to get married and spend our time together. We had a dilemma. LD was living in Scotland and I was in America. Where would we make our home? After much research and deliberation, we decided I'd move to Scotland. I wanted an adventure. I wanted to travel. I wanted to try something new. And believe me...I got it. I've always felt that you never come back the same when you travel. I always want to be changing and getting better. I want to see how other's live. I want to be a part of something greater than just my neck of the woods. This is why being an expat is important to me.

Most people envision expats as having an Eat Pray Love experience.  Walking through plaza's with a creamy gelato in your hands or sitting at a cafe writing your novel with bagpipes in the background. I'd say there is some of that, but it definitely isn't the norm. When you move abroad there are some challenges.

Do you know what culture shock is? Everybody thinks they are well adjusted and they won't have any problems but let me tell you. You will. Of course you will! You are in a country that isn't your own. They don't do things the same way. Even if the people speak the same language--they really don't. Living abroad is not the same as visiting. You will go through some culture shock. 

Culture shock will hit you in a variety of ways. It is different for everyone. It hit me about a month after I'd moved to Scotland. I hadn't seen the sky in 3 weeks and it had rained every single day since my arrival. I felt trapped. What had I done? I still didn't have friends. I didn't know my way around yet and I didn't have a job. I was wasting away. I had expected to be sightseeing non-stop and had pictured myself with many friends and a job by then {idealistic, I know!}. I was living in a studio flat that smelled of mould. This wasn't what I signed up for.

If you don't want to see yourself packing up and going home within your first few weeks you need to be prepared. Now answer these questions:

  1. Why are you moving abroad?
  2. What are your expectations?
  3. Why is this move important to you?

The answers to these questions will be what keeps you in the adventure and not cutting your dream short. You'll be able to see it through and enjoy it. For there is so much to enjoy!!

Here are some of my tips for keeping culture shock at bay {or keeping it to a minimum at least!}:

  • Do your research before you leave. Find out what is around you. Grocery stores, banks, pubs, and the movies. 
  • Join a church or group of some kind. You need to be around people. Locals that can welcome and help you. You'd be surprised what can be cured with a good old fashion conversation. 
  • Find some kind of work. This doesn't have to be formal employment but something to keep you busy. Whether it is volunteering at the local food drive or writing a that novel. Get yourself something to do. Idle hands and all that. 
  • Before you move make a list of places you want to see. Whether they are right around you or take a bit of a travel. Make a list you can check off. You wanted to move so you could see new things, go see them! 
  • Learn about public transportation. Ask questions and read about it. Then try it out. Make it your friend. 
  • Decide what methods you will use to keep in touch with friends and family. Email, Facebook, Vonage and Skype are my chosen forms of communication. Oh and Blackberry Messenger works abroad too! For free! I love this. 
  • Find other expats. You will feel a kinship with those from your home country. It will be helpful to have someone you can ask all manner of questions to. They will also help you exponentially with finding what you're looking for. They will give you the 411 on what to do and not to do. Use them. 
  • Have fun! If you wanted to walk with a gelato in your hands, do it! If you want to sit at a cafe drinking coffee and writing in your journal, do it! Just go out there and experience your new life as an expat. Carpe diem and all of that! 
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined." ~Thoreau

Monday, 25 June 2012

Freaky Scottish Foods I'm Still Afraid to Eat

I've lived in Scotland for almost 4.5 years and there are still a few {weird to me} foods that I've not tried yet. I need to gather the courage and just bite the bullet already. But something keeps holding me back. I just can't do it! Take a look for yourself.


{made of the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep or lamb, combined with oats, suet and other herbs and spices, and then cooked in a casing traditionally made of the animal's stomach.}

Black Pudding

{This is not pudding like we know it. There is something about sausage cooked in congealed blood that just doesn't work for me}

Scotch Eggs

{A hard-boiled egg enclosed in sausage meat, rolled in breadcrumbs, and fried. I'm re-thinking this one. I might need to try it. Doesn't look as bad it it used to}

Deep Fried Mars Bars

{Before I moved abroad I was told all about these and how everyone eats them. Since I moved here...I've never seen one. I think it's a myth, but I need to try it. Fried chocolate. Sign me up.}

Pizza Crunch

{It's deep fried pizza and it is divine! I'm not afraid of this one. It is yummy! Weird, but good}

Monday, 18 June 2012

8 Scottish Essentials

8 Scottish Essentials

Living in Scotland poses a change of wardrobe from my home town in the States. There are items I need to use daily here that I didn't need in West Virginia. My sister {and her fam} are coming to visit in one week. Here are some of the items I've told her she'll need for her visit. Let's discuss.

01. {Trench Coat} It is always a bit cool in Scotland. No matter what time of year you'll need a jacket/coat. Something to repel the rain and keep you warm. You'll be surprised how much you'll use it.

02. {Rain Boots} These are a must! You'll do a lot of walking and you'll hate it when your feet get soaked when you're trying to enjoy your trip. 

03. {Shoulder Bag} I use my shoulder bag every day. I walk EVERYWHERE and it keeps my hands free and my possessions close by my side at all times. I'd say a shoulder bag is a travel essential anywhere you want to go.

04. {Umbrella} You'll never know when the rain will strike! It is best to be prepared. It is always raining in Scotland. Umbrella's even come in compact sizes. Perfect!

05. {Hat} Like I said before, it is cool here. You'll need something on your head. Not to mention to keep your hair under control from the wind/rain. Beanies are used year round here!

06. {Notebook} This is very cliché but you'll want to write down thoughts or feelings during your trip.  I keep a notebook with me to write down ideas or things I need to do. Sometimes I see details for events and I don't want to forget them. When you travel, you should always have some kind of journal. 

07. {Camera} This is a given. I carry my camera everywhere. I forget to take photos, but I always have my camera. You never know when a great photo opportunity will present itself. In Scotland there is always something to take a picture of. It is so beautiful!

08. {Cash} It is a little bit archaic but many shops do not take bank cards. Only cash. Make sure you always have some spare change for odds and ends with you. You may just want that sausage roll after all!

*I want all these items above. But mostly the bag and the boots. And the umbrella. Oh, and the cash.  Yes, most definitely the cash.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Your Visa {Part 2}

In case you missed it, Your Visa {Part One}

If you're wondering what Visa I have, I am living in Scotland on a Residence Visa. It basically states that because my husband is Portuguese {a member of the European Union} I am eligible to reside where he does. It is good for 5 yrs. I will be able to renew it easily enough for a small fee. Or I can become a dual citizen of Portugal and the USA and have my very own Portuguese passport. 

They quoted me 6 weeks to get my actual Visa. It took 18 months. Yikes! I did receive a letter 2 weeks after I filed that basically said I was good to go and work etc but my actual Visa was not ready yet. That took quite a bit longer. So, be prepared for the red tape.

For those of you whom are not marrying foreigners and would like to live abroad, Christy {The Departure Diaries} and I have a few options for you:

My husband lived in the USA for 6 months on a Student Visa. He attended a language school in Utah. I previously thought Student Visa's were for those in a degree program abroad. It's not! If you want to learn a new language, why not apply for a Student Visa? You're sure to immerse yourself in the language and get more out of it than you would a class at your local college. 

Here are some of the hoops you'll need to jump in order to obtain a Student Visa:

-Apply for the school of your choice. You need to be accepted into your program/class before you can apply for a Student Visa. 

-Once you're accepted, they will send you the documentation to apply for your Student Visa. {approximately 6 months before you travel}

-Get a Sponsor. A sponsor is someone who takes full responsibility for the candidate {ie: you}. You can apply without a sponsor but you will need to show that you have enough funds in your bank account to sustain you. This amount is usually far greater than your stay will actually cost. You won't need to live with your sponsor, they are just your "guardian" in a sense. 

-Save, save save!! Save as much money as you can. While you are studying you'll also be travelling around the country. You'll need to make sure you have enough funds. My husband came to the USA in 2001 with $5,000. I'd say that's a steal! You'd need a lot more than that now. But, that was sufficient for him at the time. You probably won't be allowed to work with a student visa. If my husband would have been in a degree program he could have worked his 2nd yr for a few hrs per week. But, if you are planning on just a 6 month stint to learn the language or take a fun class you won't be allowed. Make sure you have the funds to sustain you. 

My husband said it was fairly easy to obtain but the sponsor was the hardest part. He is fluent in English now and his accent is diminishing with each year. He had a great time and learned a lot!!

LD did say that he knew people arriving on a Student Visa, and planned on staying in the USA. Do not do this. If you enter the country on a limited time Visa, make sure you abide by all the rules. If he had overstayed his Visa then, we would have trouble getting him a Visa today now that we're married. You don't want to miss any future opportunities to travel because you broke the law. 

Friday, 8 June 2012

Bagpipes and Drums

One thing we really love about Scotland is the music. On weekends you can always hear bagpipes in the air. It is straight out of a fantasy. You'll hop off the train and hear the bagpipes calling. They do it for the tourist, but I love it.

Here are a few video's LD took over the weekend. Enjoy the sounds of Scotland!

{Big Peat--one of our favorite bands}

{Diamond Jubilee Parade in Perth, Scotland}

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Your Visa {Part 1}

I personally feel that your Visa {permission to stay} in the country of your choice is the most important piece of documentation that you will need. Period. Don't try to out smart the authorities. You could land yourself in a heap of trouble sooner or later. You can live abroad, but there is a process. Do it legally.  It will be worth it.

When LD and I got engaged we had to choose where we wanted to live. My husband was born and raised in Venezuela to Portuguese parents. He was living in Scotland. We knew we needed to get our future spouse permission for where we wanted to live. Scotland or America? We decided I'd come to Scotland. I thought it would be a great adventure, and it is!

We thought about these Visa's:

-Fiancée Visa {takes a few months to get and you need to be married within 90 days of receiving}.

-Married Visa {I'd be a spouse of an EU member, but I wouldn't be living in Portugal, so this one would be complicated to obtain at the present time}

-Residence Visa {I could reside with my husband in his country of choice}

I think these are the easiest ways {probably} to live abroad. Just marry yourself a foreigner and you're good to go! There was a lot to think about though. If LD was to move to the USA we'd have gone through rigorous questioning and a lot of expense. We chose Europe because the process was cheaper and faster. We had more options. We could get married when we wanted and I'd be able to move straight away. This was our main reason for choosing Scotland. We were married in Ohio Feb 2008 and I moved to Scotland 3 days later! It has been quite the adventure.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Perth Kilt Run

We celebrated Queen Elizabeth's 60 years on the throne this weekend! There were celebrations all over Great Britain. LD especially wanted to go to Perth for the Kilt Run. So we went!

{Sebastian's 1st kilt!}

It was a cool and overcast day but we didn't let that deter us. We packed up the car and drove the 1:30hr drive to Perth. The drive alone was gorgeous. So very green and inviting. I'll never tire of the Scottish country-side. It is something to behold. I tried to take pictures from the car, but well...I'm awful at it! It has actually become a joke between LD and me. Anyway, the drive was full of lush green fields, baby sheep, and quaint cottages.

We arrived just in time to catch the parade! In America, parade's consist of many different floats and acts. In Scotland they consist of piping bands! They are the best part anyway, right?!

After the parade we walked around town. This curious village has plenty of special shops. All looked inviting and made me want to sit and stay awhile. I love that the main street's in Scotland are all unique.  The main shopping happens in the town centre.


This Diamond Jubilee anniversary bash was all happening in a giant field. It was packed full!! There was entertainment, food, and sign-ups for the kilt run were in full swing. They were going for the Guinness  Book of World Records for the most kilts running at once. Ha!! There were thousand's of participants!

We had a great time! The food was great, but I didn't get a picture. Scratch that. I couldn't get a picture. Sebastian was running all over the field and I was shoving food in my mouth as I tried to keep up. He just wanted to run all over everybody's picnic's! But we ate Scottish beef hamburgers on home made rolls and fresh ice cream. Yum!

The town of Perth is lovely and I can't wait to go back and enjoy more of it!

How was your weekend?