Category Archives: Countries

The Travel Revolution: Moving Abroad: Australia

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Have you ever sat at your desk dreaming of jacking in your job and moving abroad to a whole new world? Or maybe you’ve wondered whether the 9-5 routine of city life deadens how you really feel deep inside? What if there are alternative realities that might bring you alive in ways you couldn’t even imagine?

With so many places to choose from whether Europe, Indonesia or America, considering a move abroad can feel as scary as it can exciting. From assessing the size of a place, the possibility of finding a job or the likelihood of finding good friends far from home, upping sticks can seem an idyllic idea laden with risk. But it doesn’t have to be.

That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.

In a series of short interviews with guys and girls who have moved abroad to Sweden, Spain, New Zealand and beyond, we hope to give you the confidence to travel where your heart takes you.

Next stop, Australia! Over to you, Mette

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Can You Tell Us A Bit About You?

I’m a Danish girl living in Australia with my two kids (5 and 2 years old) and my husband. He works in Oil and Gas, which means that he is away at work for four weeks and then comes home for four weeks in a continuous cycle.

I work as a Business Improvement Officer in my local council but I have a background in Psychology and Communication and I am currently studying to be a Life Coach.

What Inspired You To Move Abroad?

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I wasn’t enjoying my psychology faculty in Denmark and had toyed with the idea of studying abroad. That combined with Wanderlust landed me in Perth for a semester. I met my husband there and the rest is history, as they say.

How Did You Manage The Change?

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I’d had many years of getting used to the place without realising that I was in the process of immigrating. I’d had quite a few years studying, then holidaying and eventually living here (and then travelling back home again), so the decision to finally make the leap and move here permanently wasn’t too much of a shock.

That said, my first six months in Australia contained a lot of surprises – big and little! I had to get used to silly things like adjusting to a very different grocery shopping experience! Cling wrap and eggs are kept in completely different areas in Danish supermarkets!! And as for milk, getting used to a different colour coding system was something else altogether!

It’s those little day-to-day things that we take for granted at home which can become quite big stressors when we settle into a new country. Don’t even get me started on driving on the wrong side of the road!

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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The biggest highlight has been realising that I think of Australia as home now. I have stopped beginning most of my sentences with “at home we do it this way….” Also, Danes and Aussies share a very similar sense of humour, which has made the transition that much easier. In that sense I can continue to be my quirky self and people around me get it – most of the time!

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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Obviously leaving behind all my friends and family was never going to be easy but I have made a conscious effort not to dwell on it. It gets hard around Christmas and birthdays or other special occasions when I know that my family in Denmark are gathering and sharing old traditions but as Australia is quite tradition-poor I am working hard to ingrain those same traditions in my own family and my Australian family is falling in love hard with the Danish traditions.

In terms of setting up in a new country the biggest challenge has been making friends. I live in Perth where the standard ‘six degrees of separation’ has been brought down to three or four degrees. Everyone has either gone to high school, university or done sport with everyone and it is incredibly hard to break into those long established circles. However, having kids was great in that respect as it involved me in mothers’ groups and meeting new people when my oldest started school. I’ve made some very solid friendships among those mums in a short period of time.

What Has Surprised You Most About The Country?

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The lack of history and the lack of culture keeps surprising me. I once discussed the topic with my brother in law who insisted that he was very cultured. Given that sport is his culture, I really didn’t know what to say!

I’m also pretty surprised by the lack of quality buildings. There is an old electricity station near where we live that was built in 1935, which has been placed on the list of ‘historical buildings’. My first apartment was older than that!! It seems that if a building is ten years older or more the Aussies just knock it down and build something else!!

What’s Your Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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You can never get enough of the Australian landscape. From the picturesque white sand blue water beaches to the rugged outback with nothing but red dirt and the green woods in between. I could happily spend the rest of my days nature gazing here.

I also love the general attitude of Australians. When I first came out I was so excited to realise that when you pass people on the street you say hello and people actually say thank you to the bus driver when they get off!!! When I left Denmark that certainly wasn’t the case! I think that’s changed since I left ten years ago but it was a stark contrast back then and a habit I’m very happy to bring to Denmark when I visit home.

What’s Your Least Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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I wish the issues with the Indigenous population could be solved. The Australian settlers (and since then, the government) has made so many blunders and continue to do so. There is an incredibly strong ‘them and us’ mentality and it is saddening to see. It will take many many generations to overcome the negative impact, but hopefully one day there will be mutual respect between the races whether original Australian or many generation immigrants.

What’s The Biggest Difference To Denmark?

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Social Welfare!!! I’m sure many Danes think they have it hard and pay too much tax but in reality the tax percentage isn’t that different to what Aussies pay, yet Aussies don’t get nearly as much for their tax dollar as Danes do.

The fact that a Dane can receive their entire education for free (bar the materials they need) and even get an allowance while they study, means that the socio-economic gap is minimized. By contrast, in Australia there is a huge gap between upper class and lower class citizens and in my opinion it’s a hard cycle to break.

Did You Have A Stereotype Of The People In Your Mind And How Did Reality Reflect This?

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When I was 12 or 14 and Neighbours and Crocodile Dundee was on Danish television I swore I would never want to speak English with an Australian Accent. As it turns out, the Perth metropolitan dialect is much easier to digest than I could’ve imagined!

I guess I always thought there’d be a lot of khaki pants and loose shirts when in reality people pretty much look and dress the same as they do in Denmark!

As I get more aware of Aussies in general, I’m learning to distinguish between people of different states and also people from different areas of the greater Perth. There are certainly stereotypes, though – they are self imposed and proudly cultured from what I gather!

How Did You Find Making New Friends?

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As I described above, it was hard initially but that said, every where I’ve gone, people have always been very welcoming and eager to strike up conversation whether day or night.

It was difficult establishing those deeper connections, though – the ones that form when you’ve known someone for a long time. It’s not easy to break into long-established friendship groups so for the first couple of years I found myself making friends with people in similar situations to myself – those who had moved to Perth from either overseas or a different state. The only issue with the latter is that many of those people tend to eventually move on again.

What Is The Foreign Job Market Like?

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When I came out here I had just graduated with my Masters degree, I didn’t have any experience within my field and finances as well as my lack of interest didn’t lend itself to me doing a bridging course to transfer my qualifications to Australia. So in a sense I started at the bottom again. I tallied up the applications I sent out and within the first six months I must’ve sent out around 100. It was only when I met a friend of my husband, who had a sister who worked in a retail shop that I was I able to get my foot in the door.

I am not sure if it was my name, lack of experience or my inability to write a good application that was the reason. In most cases, I didn’t even get a response saying that my application had been received. Having worked in recruitment since, however, I notice there is definitely a resistance towards employing anyone who doesn’t have experience in Australia, no matter what level they have worked in previously.

Once I got my foot in the door and made a few connections I have had several positions ‘handed’ to me. It is definitely a case of who you know.

How Hard Is It To Get A Visa?

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Australia offers a Working Holiday to people under 30 that’s very easy to get. My student visa was also easy.

Before my husband and I got married I tried applying for a de facto visa. That was hard! Because we didn’t own anything together (the house, car and bills were all in his name), the immigration department pretty much told us that we would have to get married in order for me to be granted a visa. We actually broke up because of that as my husband was 23 at the time and not at all ready to consider marriage, so I withdrew my application and sent immigration a very angry letter.

About six months later my husband changed his mind and asked me to come back. I had planned to get an ‘intent to marry’ visa, which would give us a further nine months to see if he was really ready to commit, but as I was already in the country on a holiday visa, that didn’t turn out to be possible.

In the end we ‘just got married’ and then applied for a visa on those grounds. When we went for our interview we realised that the immigration department had kept everything we had ever sent them, including my hate-felt letter and based on all of that and the fact that my husband had been to Denmark to ‘collect’ me, they were quite happy to issue me my residency.

What Would You Do Differently Looking Back?

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I am a strong believer that ‘Everything Happens For A Reason’, and the same goes for this. I think I have learned a lot in the past ten years since I moved to Perth permanently.

I do wish we had been able to live and work in Denmark for six to eight months, which we have discussed so many times. The last time we looked at it seriously, we felt it just didn’t make sense financially and now that the kids are starting school I feel like it’s too late.

What Advice Would You Give To Someone Thinking About Moving Abroad?

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  • Follow your heart! What is it telling you? Trust that!
  • It is always OK to change your mind if it doesn’t work out the way you imagined. You can always go back home if you feel like it.
  • If you go through with it, make sure you do so wholeheartedly. There is nothing gained from living with one foot in your home country and one foot out. Yes, it’s hard to leave family and friends, but you have to move past that real quick and live in the moment, otherwise you’re going to miss a lot of good things that are right in front of you.

What’s Next For You?

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In an attempt to get back to my educational roots, I’m completing a Life Coaching course in a few weeks and am planning to launch a Life Coaching business before the end of the year. I am specialising in helping clients who are going through similar things to me, so I can help them to really enjoy life and embrace what it throws at them.

Oh and I have my brother and all of his family visiting this month and my parents are coming for Christmas. Yay!

How Can We Contact You?

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Watch this space… my website will be www.mettemcgrath.com but I am yet to launch it.

Tell Us Something We Didn’t Know About You….

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I have a huge love of anything feline and an equally sized allergy towards them but it seems that ten years of Australian air and soil might have cured me of that (that’s what I’m telling myself anyway)!

I also make awesome roast pork with crackly crackle. It’s in my blood, part of my heritage :)

The Travel Revolution: Moving Abroad: Hong Kong

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Do you ever find yourself staring out of your office window on a rainy day, daydreaming about moving far away to the sun, sea and sand? Have you ever wondered how feasible it would be to create your ideal life in a completely different cultural plain? How would it feel to be in a new and exciting place which brings alive every sense - mind, body and soul. Sound unrealistic? It doesn’t have to be – and here’s why.

There’s no such thing as unresourceful people, only unresourceful states. In other words, most of life’s seemingly ‘tricky’ scenarios are as easy or as difficult as you make them – and the difference between easy and difficult often hinges, quite simply, on how you exploit the resources around you to propel you from where you are now to where you want to be.

That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.

In a series of short interviews with guys and girls who have moved abroad to France, Spain, New Zealand, Australia and beyond, we hope to give you the tools you need to tackle the big questions – taking you one step closer to making your dreams a reality. 

So without further ado, get ready to transport yourself to Hong Kong! Over to you, Ainslie

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Can You Tell Us A Bit About You?

Hey there, I’m Ainslie and I’m 30 years old. In my past life I worked in Marketing and ran a designer handbag business in Australia. That all changed in October 2014 when I moved from Sydney to Hong Kong! I’m now following a new and exciting path as a Travel and Lifestyle blogger and a Life Coach in training!

What Inspired You To Move Abroad?

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My husband and I moved to Hong Kong predominantly for his career. This coincided with my sister and my business musings about moving the manufacturing side of our designer handbag label from Sydney to the South of China – so it all made sense at the time! As an aside, I’d travelled to Hong Kong many times for both business and pleasure and I’d always said that if I was to live abroad, I would want to live in Hong Kong!

How Did You Manage The Change?

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I’ll admit that it did take me a while to adjust to living in Hong Kong. I left a gorgeous Spring/Summer in Sydney for a grey and quite cold Hong Kong Winter (I don’t deal well with the cold!)

I also found it difficult to settle in as I was in between working on my handbag label and starting my blog and my life coach training – so I felt a bit lost.

But as soon as I started getting out there, connecting with like-minded people and embracing my new life, everything turned around and I now really love my new home.

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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This is a tough question! I have had so many highlights! Personally I love the fact that I have been pushed out of my comfort zone and I have grown so much as a person. I have also made so many amazing friends from all over the world who I really love!

The best day I’ve had in Hong Kong was participating in the Stanley International Dragon Boat competition and paddling with the Australian Association of Hong Kong Team. We ended up second in the Mixed Gold Plate Cup much to our surprise! 

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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Often I struggle with the environment here in Hong Kong. The pollution can often be quite bad and it’s not naturally beautiful like Sydney or other parts of Australia. But there are some really great hikes if you get out of the concrete jungle that is Hong Kong’s Central area.

What’s Your Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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There are so many things I love about Hong Kong. I love the convenience of everything (there is a 7/11 on every corner!) and the public transport is fantastic….nothing is too far away.

There is also so much to see and do here. Eating around the city is a non-stop affair; you could spend the whole day wandering the streets of Soho; visiting random temples in multiple neighbourhoods; venturing to remote islands by ferry and enjoying the amazing light show every night on Victoria Harbour.

Hong Kong is also a fantastic base for travel around Asia. Since living here I have been to Thailand, Vietnam, Macau, Singapore, Shanghai and multiple trips back home. Nothing is too far away and Hong Kong airport is so efficient!

What’s Your Least Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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Sometimes I get “Island Fever” and feel claustrophobic, which means I need to get out. Luckily, (as I previously mentioned), it’s easy to travel all around Asia from Hong Kong.

How Did You Find Making New Friends?

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Thankfully I found it really easy to make new connections and form friendships in Hong Kong. But the trick is, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. Just five days into my new life in Hong Kong I attended an Australian Association of Hong Kong event so I could connect with others (now I’m on the Association’s Social Committee). I also joined lots of MeetUp groups, including an Art Jam class, so I could widen my network.

Thankfully friends from home also put me in contact with their own friends here in Hong Kong and my friendship circle grew even wider. 

What Would You Do Differently Looking Back?

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I would start learning the local language a lot sooner. I plan to start Cantonese lessons in the next month! You can definitely get away with speaking English here in Hong Kong but I want to learn some basic Cantonese so I can converse with the locals and be respectful.

What Advice Would You Give To Someone Thinking About Moving Abroad?

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Be open to everything that comes your way and make the most of the amazing experience that living abroad offers you. When things get hard, (and it often does), practice gratitude and know that the challenges will pass. Being pushed out of your comfort zone is highly worth it!

What’s Next For You?

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I’m currently half way through my life-coaching qualification and writing my book on how to travel with style and spirit, which I’ll be releasing on Amazon. I also have a few short vacations planned around Asia before the end of year!

How Can We Contact You?

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I would love you to visit my blog Starting With A where I help spirited women boldly step up and step out of their cozy little comfort zones so they can live the life that they truly desire. Sign-up to receive my e-Book Wanderlust – Enhance, Enrich & Expand Your Life Through Mindful Travel and check out my Hong Kong based adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

What’s Your Favourite Quote?

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To See Hong Kong Come To Life, Check This Out…

What Nobody Ever Tells You About Moving Abroad

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Any of you who have been through one of those really difficult, almost soul-crushing transitions in life – whether job, relationship or geographical - those tough times that nobody really talks about out loud, unless they’re brave – like really brave – will fully appreciate this interview with the lovely Aussie life and wellness coach at Practise Glow, Sarah Tamburrini.

On a mission to help gorgeous women unleash their glowing self through ditching diets,  eating and enjoying food again  (dessert included)  and breaking up with their inner Skinny Girl, it’s not surprising that this is one of the most honest, heartfelt interviews I’ve read in a long time. Sarah’s openness about the testing emotional challenges that she faced moving from her native Australia to a country so different from home will warm your heart and soothe your soul.

So if you’ve ever thought of leaping across an ocean and want the full story (the good, bad and the ugly) or if you’re feeling the loneliness traversing through one of life’s big transitions at the moment, this advice-packed interview is a must-read.

Over to you, Sarah…

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Tell Us A Bit About You…

Hi there, beauties! I’m Sarah – a talkative, high energy Virgo, who’s wild for the sounds of the ocean, unleashing my creativity in the kitchen and travelling the world. I’m crazy (in a great way!) about food, especially avocados, fresh coconuts and cashew nuts. Oh and I love nothing more than munching away on a delicious raw vegan ‘cheesecake’ with friends and cuddling on the couch with my partner watching a good documentary (or a rom com!!)

My biggest passion of all is working as a life and wellness coach. I’m a diet rebelle + body love warrior + food freedom seeker and my work centers around guiding and supporting women to stop being crazy about food, so they can enjoy a kick arse life.

Whether through my 1:1 coaching, unapologetically honest blog posts or my upcoming ebook, I love creating spaces where women can ditch food fears, stop fad dieting and learn to accept and unapologetically love themselves now. 

Tell Us About Your Move Abroad, Sarah. Where Did You Move To And Why?

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My partner and I moved from Sydney, Australia to Singapore in April 2014. I will never forget the day we were joking about moving to South East Asia, mainly for my partner’s career prospects, but also because we thought it would be fun to be more central. I had never really lived too far from the ‘nest’ though – moving from Melbourne to Sydney for my own career was a significant move for me! But let me tell you: words have power, because it wasn’t long until we actually did move to Singapore.

When the time came to move, I remember being far too busy packing up my life, my house and saying goodbye to my friends and a city that had stolen my heart to fathom what exactly was happening. I had no brain space to process where I was moving to nor get a feel for what to expect (I didn’t even know that Singapore was one of the most humid countries around – just to illustrate how unprepared I was)!

Almost 18 months on and we are still in Singapore, with our sights set on the next part of the world we will add to places we call ‘home’.

What Were The Hardest Aspects About The Move?

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I can honestly say that moving abroad was one of the hardest and most painful times of my life. It made me feel incredibly vulnerable, fearful and scared. For many people, these reasons alone explain why this kind of move just isn’t something they would do.

Moving abroad was the catalyst for some pretty radical lifestyle changes that I hadn’t foreseen.

To paint the picture properly, I was in the midst of getting help for disordered eating, which was being carefully managed by my supportive nutritionist and naturopath. But when I moved to Singapore I felt like I was hit with a sand bag: many of my favourite foods just weren’t around (or if they were they were incredibly expensive – I like to call this extra expense the ‘expat tax’!!) I didn’t realize just how much this move was going to crack me wide open (especially when I didn’t think I could crack open any more!)

Every little thing, even the seasons, were different. It’s one long, hot day in Singapore, so rituals I was used to like snuggling up under a fluffy doona with an electric blanket, exercising outside with a crisp breeze, splashing away in the ocean, suddenly disappeared from grasp. I felt naked.

But what really hurt – aside from the food, the weather and the creature comforts – was feeling so segregated from my friends and family. I could no longer just jump on a plane and be ‘home’ in a matter of hours. It was only then that I realised just how much my emotional regulation and happiness is dictated by things external to me. So when I found myself in a position without these things, you can imagine how raw and vulnerable I felt.

What Caused Such Bad Homesickness?

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I’ve come to realize that I’ve always been a ‘homebody’ and have really enjoyed staying ‘safe’ in a predictable environment. Clear rules, clear boundaries and a heck of a lot of control. I come from a very involved family and I suffered knowing I was so far away from them.

Going through disordered eating helped me to break free of control, predictability and rules and to learn how to live life without the need for these ‘rules’. So my issues with eating proved to be one of the greatest teachers in my life – helping me to apply what I was learning to ‘unlearn’ some less helpful habits that I’d developed.

How Did You Handle The Homesickness?

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At first I didn’t do this too well – simply, because I wasn’t ready to. And that was ok. It took me a long time to realise that it is perfectly ok to lean into my emotions and to have the space to grieve. There were many things to be sad about – missing out on seeing friends’ newborn babies, being there for my grandmother when she was in hospital, even being at my friends’ weddings.

As my coaches said to me, fear is put in its place through action. So action is one way I was able to positively move forward – in my own time (which I don’t feel guilty about). I was so lucky I had a supportive partner who watched me cry, who showered me with positive love and praise and who delicately heard every single word of complaint or otherwise with open ears and a loving heart.

What Advice Would You Give To Someone Really Missing Home?

I strongly recommend the following:

Get Support

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Whether a coach, psychologist, counsellor or kinesiologist – whatever floats your boat. You do not need to go this alone. 

Prioritise Self-Care 

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I discovered that I didn’t have to do monumental things in life to feel good. In fact the smallest and simplest activities were often the most impactful. Like enjoying good quality chocolate, drinking a herbal tea in the sun before heading to work, rolling out my yoga mat and practicing in the stillness of the early morning or rubbing a gorgeous coconut oil body butter on my skin after a shower. Whatever it is you love, do more of that. It seriously works.

Be Gentle On Yourself 

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Lean into your emotions and don’t be afraid to cry, to hurt or to be angry. I found that when I stopped suppressing my feelings and ‘felt’ them without trying to cover them up and play ‘happy’, I was able to finally start to make traction out of the stuck position I was in.

Find Some Friends 

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I did all sorts of things to find friends from meetup.com, to facebook groups, to going to conferences and meetings… but all in good time. First I had to work on opening my mind up to the changes and adjusting before I could meet other people. So when you’re ready, be creative and take advantage of any social opportunities you can.

Work On The Ego 

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I really had to work on the FOMO (fear of missing out) that was building up in my head around what was happening back at home versus what was really happening. When I travelled home I realized that all the action that I thought that I was missing out on wasn’t actually nearly as fast paced and vibrant as I thought.

How Have You Grown From The Experience?

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I have certainly realised that my happiness is now not as heavily dictated by external things as it once was. I feel so much more comfortable, self compassionate and loving in my skin now. The experience of being stripped bare and ‘returning’ home has made me so aware of my potential strength. I see this experience as a courage reference point by which I now have this incredible array of evidence to look back on and say ‘look at what you have busted through’. And if I can do it once, I know I can most certainly do it again and again.

How Has The Experience Changed Your View Of Life / Future Plans?

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I can hand on heart say that I value and appreciate travel so much more now. I love getting out and about, exploring and living in a more central location has certainly fed that appetite. I am really looking forward to living in other countries in the future and experiencing more that this beautiful world has to offer.

What Would You Do Differently Looking Back?

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I honestly have never pondered this question because it just isn’t an option. I prefer to ask myself ‘what have I learned that I can apply to the next similar situation’ – to which I refer to previous comments on knowing that having moved once and survived, I can certainly do so again. Being a creature of reflection, I can certainly go into future moves now with a road map of sorts around what worked and what might need a bit more of a ‘do it differently’ approach.

The main thing that I would do differently is to take a few trips beforehand to suss the place out – work out a hip area to live in and certainly have a say over the apartment (my lovely partner hasn’t a forte in selecting visually pleasing décor!!)

If You Could Give One Piece Of Advice To Someone Thinking Of Moving Abroad, What Would It Be?

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Understand that there will be difficult times and that is ok. Life is not all about having a ‘chin up’ approach. Be kind to yourself and take simple action to make your life that little bit brighter and more self loving.

And If You’d Like More Where That Came From….

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Sarah’s Free Ebook ‘Be Free- A heart centered guide to changing your relationship with food and your body’ is now out, so jump onto her mailing list to get your copy first!

The Travel Revolution: Moving To Sweden

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What three words best describe how you feel when you leave home on a Saturday morning after a lazy lie in and head into your local city or town for a spot of breakfast, some impulse shopping or a leisurely lunch? Excited, energetic, inspired, agitated, apathetic?

What goes through your mind as you step into your favourite bar, restaurant or shop? How do the locals make you feel? How do they change your mood? What is it about where you live that brings you alive and what is it that saps your soul?

Now take a fantasy moment out – and be as imaginative as you like.

If you could do your current job anywhere in the world, where would you pick and why? Or maybe you’re drawn to start afresh – change path, get away, get inspired.

If you fall into the latter category, what’s the most ridiculous job alternative you’ve fantasised about and what would your dream place look like? What kind of climates, people, food and visuals set you alight?

With so many places to choose from whether Europe, Indonesia or America, considering a move abroad can feel as scary as it can exciting. From assessing the size of a place, the possibility of finding a job or the likelihood of finding good friends far from home, upping sticks can seem an idyllic idea laden with risk. But it doesn’t have to be.

That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.

In a series of short interviews with guys and girls who have moved abroad to Sweden, Spain, New Zealand and beyond, we hope to give you the confidence to travel where your heart takes you.

Next stop, Sweden! Over to you, Jennifer

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Can You Tell Us A Bit About You?

My name is Jennifer. I am 32 years old and I have lived abroad for over 7 years with a pit stop back in England for a year in between. I now live in Sweden and I’m married to an Iranian who has lived here since he was 7 years old. We met in Dubai whilst we were both working for a real estate company and we have a son called Arthur who is 3 years old. He is learning to speak 3 languages – not bad for a tot!

What Inspired You To Move Abroad?

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I graduated from university with a degree in dance/theatre studies and knew for sure that I didn’t want to go down either of these as career paths – so I was left wondering what I wanted to do. I worked in London for a various PR agencies but despite being a people person, I wasn’t truly happy.

It was around this time that I went on holiday to Dubai and fell in love with the destination. It was time for a change from living in south west London and I needed to something different so I made up my mind and left for Dubai! A lot happened over three years and now we are living in Stockholm, Sweden. It was a big change!

How Would You Describe Sweden To Someone Who Knows Nothing About It?

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Sweden is a Scandinavian country in northern Europe bordering Norway and Finland – and a bridge-tunnel connects it to Denmark! At 173,860 square miles, Sweden is the third largest country in the European Union with a total population of 9.7 million but a surprisingly low population density (maybe this goes some way in explaining the quality of life here!)

Famed for its blonde beauties, 20 hours of summer sunlight, pricey beer, some of the best fishing in the world and of course, Pippi Longstocking and Vikings, it’s as diverse as they come! Swedish benefits are also the best in the world, with parents getting 480 days of paid parental leave, cheap daycare, unlimited sick days and free healthcare!  It’s not hard to see why it’s regarded as one of the most attractive cities to live in for its quality of life!

How Did You Manage The Change?

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Having a husband that spoke the language and knew the system helped. And although the Swedes are fantastic at English, the spoken language is Swedish so it was a struggle to adapt in that respect. It also didn’t help that when I arrived in January it was -16 degrees!!! Coooooooold and dark.

Had I gone to Sweden straight from only living in the UK the change may had not been so drastic but it couldn’t have been more different to living in Dubai.

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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I think that I am very fortunate to have experienced both the Middle Eastern and Scandinavian cultures. It opens yours eyes to different ways of life and has increased my open mindedness even more. My biggest highlight has to be meeting my husband Pejang, having Arthur and experiencing both the highs and lows which have made us who we are today.

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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Learning the language and finding a job!

What Advice Would You Give Someone Thinking Of Moving Abroad?

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Trust your gut instinct, throw yourself in and embrace the new experiences that come your way. They’ll open your heart and mind in ways you won’t expect.

And Just Because This Is Too Cute Not To Include..

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The Travel Revolution: Moving Abroad: China

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Have you ever fantasised about moving abroad but feel apprehensive about taking the leap?

With so many places to choose from whether Europe, Indonesia or America, considering a move abroad can feel as scary as it can exciting. From assessing the size of a place, the possibility of finding a job or the likelihood of finding good friends far from home, upping sticks can seem an idyllic idea laden with risk. But it doesn’t have to be.

That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.

In a series of short interviews with guys and girls who have moved abroad to Sweden, Spain, New Zealand and beyond, we hope to give you the confidence to travel where your heart takes you.

Next stop, China! Over to you, Laura

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Can You Tell Us A Bit About You?

My name is Laura and I am currently a teacher at an International School in Guangzhou located in Southern China. I’m in my final and fourth year living in the Middle Kingdom and I’m about to embark on a new challenge in Seoul, South Korea.

Before moving here I studied Politics and French at Bath then returned  to London to become a primary school teacher. After 5 years in London, I embarked on my new life here in Asia.

What Made You Want To Travel?

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I have always had wanderlust, moving to Nepal when I was 18 and then France in my early twenties. I seized every opportunity to travel and after becoming very ill in my mid-twenties and having to take a substantial amount of time off work, I decided it was as good a time as any to move somewhere new.

I currently live in Guangzhou in Southern China but I spent the previous 3 years in Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China and home to over 20 million people, the incredible Great Wall, The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, hutongs, Ai Wei Wei, peking duck, dumplings, bicycles and many other great wonders. A city of extremes, winter temperatures often drop to -20 degrees celsius and summer highs reach a very hot 38. 

What Were Your First Impressions of China?

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When I first arrived everything was so fun and interesting I didn’t really notice the change. I was very lucky and met very good friends early on that I still speak to daily. Any change is easy once you have that support network around you.

Hitting the expat supermarket for home comforts also helps with those days where you just don’t fancy the local cuisine and crave home comforts.

How Has Living In China Compared To Your Expectations?

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China is everything I expected and nothing like I expected at the same time. Anthony Bourdain summed up China perfectly when he said: “One thing I know about China is I will never know China – it’s too big, too old, too diverse, too deep, there is simply not enough time.’

I didn’t have a set view of what China was or who the Chinese people were beyond knowing that China was a Communist state, they produce lots of cheap goods, they eat rice and like Kung Fu and Pandas.

However, I’ve never seen any Kung Fu happening out the blue, Pandas don’t roam the streets and whilst China is supposedly a Communist country, it does in fact seem to be the most dynamic capitalist country on earth. I’d go as far to say shopping is something of a fetish here with intense levels of consumerism seeing people shopping at all hours of the day and night.

The Chinese also love to eat – eating is probably the favourite national pastime.

What Are Your Favourite Aspects of China?

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China’s diversity is amazing. There are many languages and dialects spoken, different ethnicities, cultures, religions and most importantly, food. The stuff you get at the Chinese takeaway in the UK is yet to be seen on a plate here. I had no idea how good Yunnanese or Xinjiang food was before I came here and I still don’t think you can find these regional specialities anywhere in London. Plus dumplings. They are amazing, boiled, steamed or fried. Simply the best.

As well as the food, I love the daily craziness you see. Anything goes! On top of that, the taxis are cheap so there’s no need for a night bus, it is safe to walk around late at night and I love my ayi (housekeeper), the markets, the dumplings, the history, the landscape and once you get to know them, the people.

I also really like how the family unit is still so important here. Grandparents take care of their grandchildren and you often see family banquets lasting hours with everyone eating, sharing and talking together.

What Have Been The Highlights?

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Without doubt, the people I’ve met. I’ve made some incredible friendships and met some truly inspirational people along the way. And of course the opportunity to experience another culture and travel has also been incredible.

The opportunity to travel within Asia and further afield is an obvious highlight. I’ve travelled to places that I wouldn’t ever have thought I’d be able to and seen and experienced many different cultures and foods. I’ve also been shown unbelievable kindness and realised how lucky and privileged I am to experience all these amazing things. 

What Have Been The Biggest Challenges?

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The biggest challenge is missing things back home – not being able to be there for loved ones when they are having a bad time and equally not being able to share the special times face to face.

To all my friends whose weddings I have missed and whose babies I’ve not yet met, I am sorry – I love you all.

In terms of challenges on a day to day level, I’d have to say one of the most difficult is the open toilets all lined up next to each other with no door, no divider, just a hole… all I can say is that the first time is the worst. My top tip to combat this is never wear a jumpsuit in the hutongs of Beijing (narrow lanes or alleyways) as you will ultimately end up half naked in an open bathroom for all the local grannies to see.

On an administrative level, it can be frustrating trying to get simple things done as everything needs a red stamp on it and you often get told things are impossible. Often things will end up being resolved and you will get that elusive red stamp on your paper but patience and perseverance is a must.

Finally, the language is a challenge and I’d recommend anyone considering making a move out here to learn it on arrival as it will make your life so much easier.

What Do You Hate Most About China?

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No matter how long I live here I cannot accept the spitting because it’s not just the spitting, it’s the hawking up of the spit before the spit that’s the most astonishing part.

I also get frustrated by a lack of politeness and awareness of others around you (but this might a British thing).

I also find public defecation an issue.

What Is The Biggest Difference Between China And The UK?

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One of the biggest differences is that there is a lot less diversity in China compared to the UK. Whilst you will see many foreigners in expat areas in bigger cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, if you travel to smaller cities you will see only Chinese nationals and hear Mandarin, Cantonese or a regional dialect. This is a pretty big contrast to the UK where you will see people from all over the world and hear a real mix of languages.

That said, I think China’s beginning to change in this respect. As China becomes a global superpower and the Chinese travel more often, more diverse cuisine will be on offer and the number of immigrants will likely increase.

How Easy Is It To Make Friends?

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Making friends was the easy part. Given how challenging it can be living in China, people are drawn together and they support and help each other very readily. People here are open, friendly and refreshingly down to earth. It’s the only place I’ve been to where it’s normal to ask for someone’s number when you’ve just met them.  As a result, China is a very sociable place to live and people are always asking you to do things and go places even if you have only met them once or twice.

How Easy Is It To Find A Job In China?

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Most people obtain employment before moving to China. This offers the best package to people making the move as housing, medical stuff, flights and often schooling is included in this package. Your employer will support you in obtaining a visa and you have to fulfil quite strict criteria in order to obtain one.

What Is The Cost Of Living In China?

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China is as cheap or expensive as you like.

If you want to live cheaply, you can shop in the local market, take the bus, share your apartment, drink local beer, eat street food and live on very little money.

Alternatively, you can shop at high end supermarkets, brunch in 5 star hotels, party at the W Hotel, live in a serviced apartment and buy every Apple product under the sun. I jest.. A higher quality of life is actually more affordable and accessible here than the UK. That said, the cost of living is certainly becoming more expensive with China’s ever increasing prosperity.

How Expensive Is It To Fly To China?

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You can fly here for as little as £550 return if you are lucky. Direct return flights usually cost around £800 – 1000 depending on the time of year.

How Does Homesickness Affect You?

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Smart phones have nearly made homesickness a thing of the past, with Whatsapp, Facebook and Skype available at the touch of a button.

On a personal level, I make sure I call my Mum every week and send photos of any adventures so there’s a sense of closeness and sharing.

My brother lives in Los Angeles so the time difference can be a challenge but as with most things in life, you find a way.

On the plus side, many of my friends and family like to travel. I spent last Christmas in Myanmar with old friends from Melbourne and Chinese New Year in Thailand with my bestie from school so I am very spoilt, really.

Obviously there are still days where I get homesick, though. We have found the best solution is to watch English films in bed with friends, drink some tea and eat some chocolate – it does get better.

What Would You Have Done Differently Looking Back?

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I don’t think I would have chosen to do anything differently. I’ve learnt from my mistakes and have found that China has made me stronger and more resilient to challenges I might face.

What’s Your Advice To Someone Thinking Of Moving Abroad?

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For me, moving abroad was the right thing to do. And whilst I found it easy, not everyone does. You will know in your gut if it is right for you. 

So my advice is – follow your instinct, try and talk to someone already living in the country that you are considering moving to. If it feels right, just do it and don’t look back. You might just find it’s the best decision you ever make.

And as for living in China, specifically, hire a bike, cycle around and get to know the city like a local!

What’s Next For You?

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After 4 years in China, next stop is Seoul in Korea – the “Soju Adventure” (Soju is Korea’s most popular beverage consisting of ethanol and water).

I’m excited by the new challenge, the new culture and the new language. I’m already planning on dumping all my Apple products at the airport in favour of Samsung so I fit in and I will be acquiring a love of Kimchi (a Korean vegetable dish), K-Pop (Korean Pop) and all things barbecue.

How Can We Contact You?

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You can contact me on Facebook if you wish. I’m the only person with my name in the world so I am pretty easy to locate!

What’s Your Favourite Quote?

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‘Bahala Na’. It’s not so much a quote as a Filipino saying… It means all things shall pass and in the meantime, life shall be lived.

Tell Us Something About You That We Don’t Know?

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I was once a judge in a talent contest whilst in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia. I had no idea what was going on.

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Moving Abroad: Singapore

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Do you ever contemplate moving abroad but don’t quite have the confidence to take the leap?

With such a variety of options to choose from whether Europe, Indonesia or Australia, considering a move abroad can feel like a minefield. From assessing the cost of living, sounding out new job markets or wondering about the likelihood of making new friends, upping sticks can seem as scary as it can exciting. But it doesn’t have to be.

That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.

In a series of short interviews with guys and girls who have moved abroad to France, Spain, New Zealand, Australia and beyond, we hope to give you the push to travel where your heart takes you.

Next stop, Singapore! Over to you, Sophie

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Can You Tell Us A Bit About You? 

My journey thus far has been quite a winding road, involving many changes in direction! This includes going from studying degrees in History of Art to Graphic Design to Chinese Medicine and the varied jobs in-between! I soon realised that I was not suited to a linear office job. The decision to embark on a Chinese Medicine degree at last began to satiate this longing I had since a girl to have a deeper understanding of the holistic nature of the world we occupy.   

What Inspired You To Move Abroad? How Did You Manage The Change? 

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Having spent a good deal of my twenties based in London, I moved to Singapore with my boyfriend, who was transferred for work. At that point I was working for an organic company and having finished the Chinese Medicine degree, I was also practicing Acupuncture. On the one hand I thought it could be a great opportunity to live in Asia, the home of Chinese medicine! On the other hand I was anxious about leaving behind a growing practice in London. In the end I took the plunge for our relationship and the adventure. The change has been exciting, insightful and at times, frustrating!   

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight? 

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Most definitely the people I have met. I’ve made some really special friends out here; it’s quite strange to think I didn’t know them a year ago!  

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge? 

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It turned out that the Singapore Chinese Medicine Board has a good deal of red tape in store for expat Chinese medicine practitioners! To be granted a license to practice acupuncture, a degree from Singapore or only certain Asian universities is required. So I have essentially had to put that career pathway on pause for the time being. The first 6 months I was helping out at a friend’s alternative shop and now I am using the time to develop my creative interests and build a small company myself. It is easy to arrive in Singapore and be dismayed by the ‘corporate cloak’, however there is opportunity for expats who aren’t in corporate fields. The creative market is not saturated as in places like London, where competition is fierce, so there is actually more chance to stand out.    

What’s Your Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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Singapore is a gateway to Asia – the perfect platform for travel. I have managed to travel to Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bali, Malaysia and Hong Kong thus far! Singapore boasts a clean, green, safe and smart habitat. Although it can be seen to lack character compared to other Asian cities, there certainly is character when you really look. The ease of living here is rather dangerous and it will be a shock leaving if one gets too accustomed! The lower taxes are another plus. 

What’s Your Least Favourite Aspect Of The Country? 

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In certain areas there are shopping malls spreading like fungus! I choose to mostly avoid them! There are also many interesting old areas of the city to shop and explore.

The living costs are also generally rather high. I would say we spend more money here than we did in London. Even though taxes are low there are hidden taxes lurking in Singapore; import taxes can be huge and so certain products are shockingly expensive. You can avoid these costs if you don’t need a car / wine every night! / flash apartment, for instance! Expats do tend to pimp it up out here though. My Singaporean friends, on the other hand, tend to be more frugal.   

What’s The Biggest Difference To The UK? 

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I’m going to go ‘hippy’ on you now! Energetically I feel much lighter here than I did in the UK. I love London for its culture, but it can weigh quite heavily on a sensitive soul. The weather is generally a plus here (G & T on the balcony anyone?!) but the lack of seasons can mess with your perception of time and the humidity can sometimes be stifling. Although I’m not complaining – English winters are far too long in my opinion!  

Did You Have A Stereotype Of The People In Your Mind And How Did Reality Reflect This? 

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I have visited Singapore several times over the years before moving out here. I would say that the expats living out here have become more eclectic. It used to feel quite heavy on the male shipbroker front and had a reputation for nurturing young bachelors at the beginning of their careers or for being a safe place to bring up a family.

There are now more single women choosing to move out here and also more creative types of roles. It is fast becoming a more exciting place to live as well as offering a comfortable lifestyle. 

How Did You Find Making New Friends?

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We already had several friends living out here and the rest is a snowball effect. I think because everyone is in the same boat in an expat community, people are generally incredibly open and go the extra mile. When you meet someone at a party who you click with it is standard to ask for their number and actually follow up. I have made friends here who I know will be friends for life.

I think widening your circle of friends is one of the main advantages to moving abroad; throwing your net in different waters and being open to different companionships and insights.  

How Hard Is It To Get A Visa?

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There are different types of passes and it can seem quite confusing at first. I have a Long-Term Visit Pass, which I was eligible for on the grounds that my long-term boyfriend works here. In order to live in Singapore, you (or your partner) need an Employment Pass, which your company will issue if you are being transferred out here for work. 

People are generally transferred from their company or are transferred between companies out here and interviews mainly take the form of friends putting you in touch and informal coffee chats! If you do find work out here, the company will apply for an Employment Pass, which needs to be approved.

What’s The Foreign Job Market Like?

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For those looking for work outside of banking, insurance, law, ship broking, and recruitment, it can be tricky to find a job in Singapore ‘off the boat’. Traditional ways of finding work through recruiters are difficult for expats in lower paid or alternative / creative roles.

There is also a drive from the government to recruit locals where possible.  As a result, many expats who have moved here for partners and find it hard to carry on with their career tend to set up small businesses themselves. For example, I have friends who have set up businesses in Interior Design, Photography and Floristry.  

How Much Does It Cost To Fly Home?

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On average an economy return flight to the UK will cost around £800-1,000. It’s a 13 hour flight direct. Although, if booking well in advance and at less popular times, particularly with indirect flights (for example, via Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka, Mumbai), it’s possible to find cheaper than this.  

How Much Of An Issue Is Homesickness?

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On the homesickness front, Singapore can be quite a bubble so once submerged within the lifestyle, your old life back home can seem like a dream!

Having said that, I do miss my family and close friends along with fresh air! Although Skype is such a good simulation of ‘almost being in the same room’ which makes the distance less tangible.

I also enjoy writing and drawing cards to stay in touch. The main frustrations are the different time zones, the lack of physical contact and sharing experiences and key events in loved ones’ lives. I try to fly back for key events where possible though!

What Would You Do Differently Looking Back? 

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I would jump straight into research towards setting up a company out here and implement action sooner. It’s easy to procrastinate and potter along. It is tough to go back to the drawing board on a professional level and my ego was taking a bashing, so inevitably doubt and indecision has crept in.

However, sometimes when you feel like you’re moving backwards, you’re actually moving forwards. Through initially working for this ‘fringe’ shop I gained invaluable contacts with an undercurrent of interesting Singaporean Creatives, which is hard to access as an expat. Working there also offered me routine when I first arrived whilst I was exploring what I could do long-term, as well as insight into setting up a business out here.    

What Advice Would You Give To Someone Thinking About Moving Abroad?

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If you feel stuck where you are, then why not give it a whirl?!

I would also say, though, it’s important to think about whether the move is part of a deeper exploration of your life or an escape from yourself. I am reminded of the title of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s meditation book ‘Wherever you go, There you are.’ In other words, the novelty of changing scenery will wear off soon enough, leaving issues once again exposed. That said, I do believe certain people and surroundings can provide a needed catalyst for deeper introspection.  

It is important to really sketch out a timeframe and to prioritise goals to make the most of your time and really analyse whether you are capitalising on your skill set. Sometimes this is complicated – areas of our life can wax and wane at different times and I suppose patience is important! If you have moved for a partner then of course compromise is key! It’s just getting the balance right and knowing what is nurturing your growth overall.    

What’s Next For You? 

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I am now looking to open a small ethical clothing line and am currently designing cards, commissioned by a shop. Also I am in the process of launching a holistic blog to share thoughts and finds, from practitioners to creative workshops to finding organic food and everything in-between!  Painting happens in the background and we will see whether that drums up any interest! With the coming and going of expats, there are certainly many white spaces needing filling so I would like to have a small show when I get a collection together that I am happy with! 

Overall, I am attempting to move forward with more courage and to stop worrying about whether something will work or not. I tell myself: “Get over yourself as well as other peoples’ expectations and play with your creativity!”  I think we need to feel the fear and challenge ourselves to live an authentic life! 

How Can We Contact You?

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By email - sophiecrawley33@gmail.com

What’s Your Favourite Quote? 

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There are too many inspirational people to choose from!  Two of my mantras of the moment are above ;) 

Tell Us Something We Didn’t Know About You…. 

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I look forward to a time in my life when I have enough green space around me to grow my own vegetables and the companionship of a cat, dog, chickens, goats and a horse!     

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Moving Abroad: South Africa

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Ever dreamed about moving abroad but don’t have the foggiest where to start?

With so many countries to explore, considering a move abroad can be overwhelming. From visa requirements and researching new job markets to finding friends and housing, upping sticks can seem pretty intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be.

That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.

In a series of short interviews with guys and girls like us who have moved abroad to France, Spain, Singapore, Australia and beyond, we hope to give you the push to follow your dreams.

Next stop, South Africa. Over to you, Natasha…

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Can You Tell Us A Bit About You?

I grew up in the UK but moved to South Africa after I finished school and spent almost a decade between Cape Town and Luanda (Angola). During my time in Africa, I completed my University studies at UCT (University of Cape Town), spent 3 years working in the recruitment world before deciding to become a full time yoga teacher! I now live in Chamonix and I’m a Yoga Alliance qualified teacher and a MYYO Practitioner. I currently run Viva Yoga Chamonix and I’m really enjoying my new alpine-based life!

What Inspired You To Move Abroad?

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Through-out my school days I dreamt of moving abroad. I was born into a family with an insatiable thirst for sunshine and warm climates so I spent a lot of time chasing the sun as a child! I remember one occasion when we were on holiday in Vasiliki, Greece and we woke up on our first day to overcast skies. After checking the forecast my mother hired a car and drove us 50 kilometres to the other end of the peninsula just to catch some rays.

So after a trip to sunny South Africa in my gap year, the draw of university life in Sheffield of Bristol sort of lost its’ appeal! ;)

What Are The Vital Statistics Of South Africa?

south-africa-map-facts2The Republic of South Africa is found in the southern region of Africa next to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland. About 45 million people live there.

The biggest city is Johannesburg and the capitals are Cape Town, Pretoria and Blomfontein. This is because the government is based in Pretoria, the parliament is in Cape Town and the Supreme Court is Bloemfontein.

The 11 national languages include Afrikaans, English and Zulu and perhaps the most well-known South African is Nelson Mandela – the president from 1994 until 1999. The current president is Jacob Zuma.

How Did You Manage The Change?

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I was 19 at the time so making friends and adapting to a new life was easy for me. South Africa is full of warm, friendly people so settling into Cape Town life was not too challenging. I made an effort to enjoy the outdoors because South Africa is spectacular in that respect.  

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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There are too many to single out just one – the beaches, the wildness, the parties, the people, the lifestyle!

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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Distance from family was hard. Although Cape Town is on more-or-less the same time zone as the UK, it’s still an expensive trip home and a long journey so I only saw my family once or twice a year.

What Has Surprised You Most About The Country?

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The diversity. I had very little idea about South Africa’s intricate history, the controversy of Apartheid and everything that stemmed from it. Considering how recent a democracy South Africa is (only since 1994), the country has remained in a relatively peaceful state of unity…

What’s Your Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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The diversity – South Africa really is the “Rainbow Nation”.

What’s Your Least Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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The extreme inequality and the juxtaposition of rich and poor. It is quite a shock the first time you fly into Cape Town, for example, and you fly over the luxurious estates and huge houses in the wealthy suburbs and then as you approach closer you see an endless sprawl of shacks as far as the eye-can-see (“The Cape Flats”).

What’s The Biggest Difference To The UK?

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Colour. South Africa is an immensely colourful country and somehow the UK seems so black and white in comparison… excuse the obvious play on words.

Did You Have A Stereotype Of The People In Your Mind And How Did Reality Reflect This?

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I really had no idea what the expect.  At 19 I hadn’t really met a lot of South Africans before so I didn’t go in with any particular pre-conceived idea of what to expect.  However I didn’t realise the extent of the damage of Apartheid on race relations in the country.

What Is The Foreign Job Market Like?

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Quite a challenge and a little bit complicated. If you are moving with a big global company then they will work out your visa related issues for you. If you are looking to work for a smaller company or to start up something as a foreigner in South Africa then the challenges are substantial. The government are trying to ensure that South Africans receive jobs first so you, as a non South African citizen, need to prove that you have skills over-and-above that of a South African citizen relevant to the particular job. For instance, being able to speak multiple languages or experience dealing with a very specific issue.

How Hard Is It To Get A Visa?

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Visa’s are quite tricky. A study visa is relatively straight forward to acquire but work visas are a long and paperwork heavy process. My application took 9 months to be issued even with the help of a private Visa expert.

What Would You Do Differently Looking Back?

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I would have travelled more within South Africa. I explored the Western Cape extensively as well as Mpumalanga but I would have definitely liked to have explored the East Coast a bit more. I went up the Garden Route a few times which is spectacular but I never went up as far as Durban. The Drakensberg mountains nearer central South Africa are incredible and I would definitely like to head back and explore them some day.

What’s Next For You?

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Continuing on my yoga adventure with my company, Viva Yoga Chamonix! It’s hard to find more peaceful surrounds than the Mont-Blanc Valley. And while it’s quite a change from life in South Africa, it was time to move on after almost a decade living at the most southern point of Africa.

How Can We Contact You?

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natasha@vivayogachamonix.com through my website or on +33 (0) 6 42 90 18 04.

What’s Your Favourite Quote?

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“Love is all we are, the rest amounts to nothing” Anon.

And My Favourite Yogi Quote For Good Measure…

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“Every tomorrow is determined by every today” -  Paramahansa Yogananda

 

 

 

The Vallée Blanche: An Unforgettable Day

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“The starting point of all achievement is desire”

Napolean Hill

I’m not what you’d expect from a girl who’s lived in Chamonix for 4 months. You’d think I’d be a whizz on the skis by now but I’m not afraid to admit that I remain pretty average… Some things click, others don’t and that old chestnut, fear, hasn’t quite been conquered slope-side yet. Which is what made yesterday all the more magical.

A Journey Into The Unknown

Doing The Vallée Blanche, Chamonix’s well-known off-piste ski route – 20km long with a vertical descent of 2700m – was something I was determined to do. I knew I probably wasn’t good enough, I knew it would be tough and frightening but most of all I knew that I’d really regret not doing it before leaving.

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As you can see from the pictures above and below, the views are stunning, with the high mountainous plains providing a sense of wilderness like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It didn’t matter that I nearly toppled down the side of a mountain at one point or that I was tethered like a horse to my patient companion, Mowgli, down the narrow descent at the start – this was a once in lifetime experience I wasn’t prepared to wimp out on. And boy was it worth it.

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Journeying into the largest glaciated domain in the Alps, the Mont Blanc massif, was nothing short of sublime. The sheer scale of the mountains and the giddy heights which see you looking down upon the puffy white clouds is incredible, swamping worries like little ants. No matter how bumpy the slopes were in parts, no matter how many wobbles I had, I couldn’t help laughing at myself – even more so during those moments tinged with terror. My anxieties simply felt so small compared to the grandeur around me.

A fitting end to an unforgettable few months.

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How Can You Apply This In Your Daily Life?

Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or weighed down by anxiety, go to nature. The sound of the stream, the bark of the trees, the scale of the mountains – they heal souls. The beauty of nature cracks you open like a nut and relieves those man-made worries which so easily weigh you down.

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#nature

#peace

#beauty

 

 

A Magical Weekend In Wales: Owl Cabin & Romany Wagon

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“Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher”

William Wordsworth

Indulge your childhood fantasies of running away with the gypsies and stay in an original Romany wagon or ‘vardo’, with a charming accompanying cabin, in the middle of the lovely Monmouthshire countryside.

Sleeping 2 adults, 2 children and up to 2 well-behaved dogs, the Romany wagon is complete with a double bed (for people under 6 ft 1in tall)! There’s also a sofa bed in the adjoining cabin which has a super cute wood-burning stove to keep you warm on wintry evenings. With goose down double duvets and electric heating in both hidey-holes, what’s stopping you from running away to a land of make-believe for a long weekend?

For more information, check out this link :)

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Moving Abroad: Milan, Italy

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Ever dreamed about moving abroad but don’t have a clue where to start?

With so many countries to choose from, considering a move abroad can be overwhelming. From visa requirements and researching new job markets to finding friends and assessing the cost of living, jumping ship can seem pretty intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be.

That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.

In a series of short interviews with guys and girls like us who have moved abroad to France, Spain, Singapore, Australia and beyond, we hope to give you the push to follow your dreams.

Over to you, Karolina…

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Can You Tell Us A Bit About You?

Hi there. I turned 26 in January and got my first white hair this week!

Born and raised Croatian, I moved to Milan in 2011 to do a Master’s degree in Cognitive Science (a fancy name for psychology) – at least, that’s what I told my parents. My main motivation for moving to Milan was actually to to be with my Italian love! After a year, though, heartbreak pushed me to Madrid where I met two new loves: a new guy and entrepreneurialism. And now, after 2 years of Spanish adventures, another heartbreak has pushed me back to Milan where I’ll be staying until…another heartbreak I guess?!

As for what makes me tick – I love quality, processes, people and stream-lining products and services to maximise growth. Career-wise, I sing opera, work with start-ups, design webpages and attend jewellery fairs (the latest being in Basel, Switzerland – tough life!) My dream job would be a professional mingler.

Anything else you should know about me? I’m a dog person. Woof!

What Inspired You To Move Abroad?

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(Un)fortunately I’m from Croatia, which though rich in beauty, doesn’t have a great deal more than that. I was raised in a happy family of internationally active opera singers brought up to think outside the box (and the boundaries of one’s native country). My upbringing has had a huge bearing on what drives me in terms of love, education and travel.

How Big Is Milan?

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Big enough, I’d say. The city itself has around 1 million people, 5 million including the outskirts which makes it just a bit smaller than Madrid. Milan is the 5th largest European metropolis.

How Did You Manage The Change?

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Actually, if you know the language, you’re at home. Milan is almost not “abroad” for me – I have an amazing network of friends there and I know the majority of the city’s secret pockets. However, in my experience, a successful transition is enhanced by keeping busy and throwing yourself in.

What Are The ‘Must-Sees’ In Milan?

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  • Anadima Bistrot – The ravioli with zuchinni is a must-try – absolutely mouth-watering.
  • The Old Tavern – Try the donkey meat ragù… incredible.
  • Osteria Conchetta – Traditional Milanese cuisine which is delicious and inexpensive.
  • Bastianello – A patisserie serving outstanding brioches and cornettos (similar to croissants).
  • Luini’s PanzerottoThe tomato and mozzarella panzerotti (savoury filled pastry) is, quite simply, unforgettable.
  • Deus Cafe – Think burgers, pancakes, sandwiches, fresh juices – you honestly can’t find one flaw in this place.

Cocktails

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  • Pinch – Cocktails to die for in a buzzing social area. 
  • Rita – If you’re looking for some seriously good drinks to kick off the night, Rita is brimming with a young, hip, good looking crowd and is almost always full.
  • Nombra De Vin - A seriously cool, vaulted wine cellar with lashings of atmosphere and sex appeal.
  • Ugo Bistrot - Ugo is a snazzy bar with mainly gin based cocktails located along the canal in the south of Milan. Very classy.

Must-See Sites

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  • Duomo rooftop - The stunning Gothic cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete. The 5th largest church in the world and the largest in Italy, the Duomo is well worth a visit.
  • Da Vinci’s Last Supper – Housed at the Dominican convent adjoining the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, this is Italian art at its best.
  • Pinacoteca di Brera – The main public gallery for paintings in Milan, it contains one of the foremost collections of Italian paintings.
  • Museo del Novecento – Located in the Palazzo dell’Arengario, this a public venue dedicated to Milan’s collection of Twentieth-Century Art.

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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Spring – no question! Seeing magnolias and cherry trees blossom in the Parco Sempione with the Arco della Pace at one end and the Sforzas’ Medieval Castle at the other is breathtaking. And that’s not the end of it.

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April is also the time when Navigli, the ancient canal system, fills up with water and the whole neighbourhood lights up which makes you forget you’re in the centre of a metropolis. Everyone is out on the streets, there are all sorts of flea markets, festivals, concerts, performances and exhibitions. It’s magical.

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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I call this the Slav paradox.

Croatians and everyone East of the Italian border are generally considered “those who clean and serve”. It’s no accident that the Italian word for slave (schiavo) comes from Slavo (Slav in Italian). Although we’re talking about hardcore stereotypes here, I sometimes felt I had to make an extra effort to avoid being stigmatized, especially during first encounters. In terms of what I mean by the Slav ‘paradox’ – most Slavs in Italy are actually more international than those inclined to stereotype ;)

What Has Surprised You Most About The Country?

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The rent. You could get a seaside villa in Croatia for the price of a Milanese flat! In other words, it’s not cheap. I’d say most accommodation in the centre costs between 550 and 800 euros a month.

What’s Your Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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As always… the people. Obviously, Italians are so easy to approach. By the time you’ve thought about how to make the first social step, they will already have introduced themselves, everyone around them and invited you to their home for some of Mamma’s pasta.

What’s Your Least Favourite Aspect Of The Country?

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Italians love words and communication in general. Which is a great thing unless applied to areas which are supposed to be quick and efficient. Basically, if Administration was a marathon, Italians would be a dead turtle.

What Other Cities Are Near Milan?

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Milan is surrounded by beautiful places from Lake Como, Lake Garda, Genoa and Florence to Lugano in Switzerland – all within a two hour radius. And if a long weekend away skiing is your thing, Chamonix in France is just 3 hours away!

What’s The Biggest Difference To Croatia?

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Food etiquette. There is a completely different culture behind the way food is selected, prepared, combined, enjoyed, admired, served and talked about in Italy. It’s an art form.

How Did You Find Making New Friends?

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Easier then the easiest. But do make an effort to speak Italian because the soul of these exceptional Mediterraneans will never fully sing unless you touch it with the right music.

What Is The Foreign Job Market Like?

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I’m not really sure but instinct tells me that Madrid, for instance, is more international then Milan. 

Do You Get Homesick?

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When I do…

Seeing my family  is a 4 hour train ride away. It’s super comfy and only 30€!

How Hard Is It To Get A Visa?

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I’ve never tried as Croatians don’t need to. But getting the residency permit requires a few hundred Euros for the health insurance and some administrative efforts.

What Would You Do Differently Looking Back?

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Nothing. Maybe just.. not having hugged those I care about before leaving Madrid.

What Advice Would You Give To Someone Thinking About Moving Abroad?

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Becoming an international person is the closest one gets to living more then one life only.

So if you have nothing to do, it’s better to have nothing to do abroad then at home.

And if you do have something to do, challenge yourself and grow.

What’s Next For You?

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Life.

How Can We Contact You?

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Karolina@sober.hr 

And if you’re in Milan, more likely you’ll find me at Pinch, the best cocktail bar in the City ;*

What’s Your Favourite Quote?

“I have no favourites. No favourite colours, songs, animals, quotes… I’m learning to embrace my horizontal and versatile personality and to admit that I have as many “favourites” as moments of life.” 

Karolina Sober, just now

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