Tag Archives: travel

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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6 Sitios Donde Comer, Beber y Comprar

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Calling All Arty Madrileñas!

If you’re an adventurous little thing looking for some super cool new joints in Madrid where you can eat, drink and buy artwork, hats or vintage furniture, read this awesome article in Harper’s Bazaar, Espagne. It’s like candy to a child for artistic types and is seriously making me wish I was still there!

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#yum

Entrepreneur Of The Fortnight: Emma Storey

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Ever dreamt of upping sticks from your 9-5 job if you only knew how to channel your passions into commercial reality? How the heck can professions like teaching be adapted to more entrepreneurial ventures spanning from London to Hong Kong and beyond? How much experience do you need in a field before jumping ship and creating a business from scratch? How do you motivate yourself when you’re your own boss?

As with most things entrepreneurial, Emma Storey challenges the norms we’re accustomed to believing, giving incredibly helpful insight and advice about her path to entrepreneurial success. So if you’ve ever wondered about any of the above, read on. This is a lady with brains, beauty and business savvy in bucket loads…

Emma’s company, Bespoke Tuition, is a seriously special tutoring outfit. Offering customised tuition for discerning families both in London and internationally, this is an organisation with quality at its heart. Comprising a 200 strong team of hand-picked tutors who are carefully matched to suit a family’s unique requirements, Bespoke Tuition is just that – bespoke.

So if you’ve ever found yourself sitting at your desk wondering how to go about setting up a business or how to combine your interests and your job, read on and be inspired…

Over to you, Emma…

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Can You Tell Me A Bit About What You Do?

I source inspiring private tutors to motivate young people in their academics in the comfort of their home. Bespoke Tuition is based in London but also specialises in placing tutors with families overseas from Asia to the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. 

What Was Your Previous Experience Before Starting Your Business?

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After 3 (enjoyable but not overly memorable) years in legal recruitment with Michael Page International, I resigned to discover something more personally stimulating. Given we spend more time with our work colleagues than we do our loved ones, life’s way too short to stick in a job that doesn’t motivate us.

Whilst exploring various career paths – personal training, interior design, researching whale sharks (!) – I took on some part time work as a private tutor in London. 2 hours a week swiftly became 30 hours a week. A year in, I got excited by the international scope of the role and became a ‘live-in tutor’ assigned to private family homes in Hong Kong, Australia, France and Switzerland. 

What Inspired You To Start Your Business?

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It struck me that I wasn’t put on this earth to be a recruitment consultant! I always wanted to create something of my own and building a tuition agency was a natural progression from my own personal work as a tutor. Sitting behind a desk from 8.30am-7pm every day didn’t suit my lifestyle either; I find it hard enough sitting through a film at the cinema! 

I had also witnessed the pros and cons of different education systems and methods across the world, which fascinated me. The key driver, though, was my belief that I could improve on the service currently offered by tutoring agencies in London. Having personally witnessed the importance of a good fit between tutor and student, I felt that the process of matching a tutor with a student was under-estimated by many and that I would relish the opportunity of providing this personal focus.

Many people wrongly assimilate being an entrepreneur with being an inventor – the reality is that most successful businesses begin by recognising how you could deliver a service or product better than someone already doing it! 

How Did You Manage To Build Your Business?

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By never losing sight of my values behind and vision for the business. My tutors are ultimately my business product so a crucial part of building the business was picking the right representatives of my brand and never compromising on quality. By deliberately remaining small and bespoke, the business has remained efficient and sustainable. It also means that we have been able to grow organically as our tutors willingly recommend other tutors and clients recommend their friends.

Getting regular feedback from clients has also been a crucial part of our business development. Whilst it may go against human nature to actively seek criticism, collecting regular feedback and making subtle adjustments can make the difference between a mediocre business and a highly successful one. 

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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It’s hard to single one out as every day is exciting when you are building something of your own. I’d have to say developing my brand in Hong Kong was a hugely exciting phase. Seeing the results of my team’s efforts is also a massive highlight – testimonials sent in from delighted parents and students so full of gratitude for our support makes it all so worthwhile! 

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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Probably starting out working from home, which was pretty isolating having previously worked in a buzzy office environment. Whilst office space in London remains expensive for startups, fortunately there are an increasing number of co-working clubs and spaces in London which provide an affordable alternative and can also offer good networking opportunities eg Workpad Group, Google Campus, London Executive Offices, The Clubhouse and The Soho Collective. You can opt to use these spaces by the hour, by the day or commit to a monthly/annual membership so there is plenty of flexibility. 

What’s Your Favourite Product / Service? 

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This month it has to be Barry’s Bootcamp as introduced to me by a girlfriend. It has a legendary following including A-list celebs, models—even Olympic athletes, its signature being hour-long workouts including 25-30 minutes of interval cardiovascular treadmill routines and 25-30 minutes of strength training utilising free weights, resistance bands, medicine balls and other equipment.

Trainers, muscle groups and even workout segments vary throughout the week so that no one class is ever the same. Their innovative technique works to “shock” the body in the most efficient and effective way to improve your cardiovascular system, lose weight and build muscle. Regardless of skill level, you can burn 1,000 calories in just one hour. It’s one hell of a work-out!

How Do You Build Your Client Base?

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By never dropping standards and paying detailed and personalised attention to each and every client enquiry. Beyond a basic website, I rely on good old word of mouth to reach out to customers. If I was a parent, I would far rather use an agency recommended by a trusted friend than the one I saw on a billboard. 

What’s The Best Compliment You’ve Received?

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I spent 1.5 years living with an American family in Hong Kong tutoring their 13/14 year old son. I received a card from the boy on my departure which read, “I don’t think there has ever been a student in history who has actually wanted his tutor to stay.” 

What Advice Would You Give To Budding Entrepreneurs?

1. Just Do It

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Stop talking about it and start mapping out the steps to achieve your goals today. If you believe in yourself and your idea, you are half way there but you must take bold action to turn it into a reality. Don’t be a drifter!

2. Be Clear On Your Goals And Never Lose Sight Of Them

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From the outset, ask yourself why are you doing this? What are you trying to achieve? How will you be distinctive? If you stop caring, you will lose all momentum and the business will suffer so never lose touch with these goals and drivers. Goals will re-energise you through the tough times.

3. Take Charge Of Initiating Change

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Take charge of your career and don’t wait for things to happen. I don’t make any New Year’s resolutions as I try to make them all the time – never cease to better yourself both in your personal life and your working life – there is ALWAYS room for improvement!

4. Avoid Being Reactive; Be More Proactive

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Many of us are guilty of drifting through our jobs, trawling through emails from top to bottom and simply reacting to new email alerts. Your productivity levels will soar if you are disciplined enough to prioritise your tasks each day (even each hour)! In particular, set time aside for emailing and turn off the alerts when you are working on other areas; that way you won’t be distracted by any new messages popping up. Maximise your time as efficiently as possible and always leave room for business development so that you have things in the pipeline. 

5. Look After Your Employees 

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Ensuring your employees feel valued and building their respect is a crucial means of developing a positive, enduring brand. Look after your employees, value their feedback and they will reward you by going the extra mile. Build a progressive and sincere ethos from within.

6. Stay True To Yourself And Your Values

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This applies in respect of your business planning and development. The most passionate and often most successful business owners I have seen have been those who have a little piece of them in their business. Absorb advice but trust your instincts and go your own way.

7. Don’t Be Afraid Of Making Mistakes 

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It may sound cliché but some of the best business lessons are learned by a bit of trial and error. Turn negatives into positives and never stop learning. Learning to accept when you are wrong is just as important in business as it is in your relationships! 

8. Embrace Change

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Your ideas will naturally evolve – let them, don’t limit them, you never know where they might lead. It is good to be channelled and focused with clear direction when starting a business but adaptability, self-reflection and foresight are also huge business strengths. 

9. Constantly Re-Assess And Re-Strategise 

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Write down five adjectives of how you would like your business to be described then work on delivering this each day and make a point of checking weekly or monthly that you aren’t letting any of them slip. 

10. Learn To Delegate

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Or you limit your business growth. It’s as simple as that. 

11. Go The Extra Mile

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Be innovative, think outside the box, never tire of considering how you can add more value to your product or service and watch your competitors trail along in the dust! 

12. Enjoy Life!

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Boundless energy and passion for your business idea is great but channel it and keep your priorities in check. There is little more important in life than the health, happiness, family and friends.

What’s Next For You?

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A fortnight in Sri Lanka with family – being your own boss definitely has its advantages! 

How Can We Contact You?

Email: emma@bespoketuition.com

Website: Here

Telephone: 07732 371880

What’s Your Favourite Quote?

So many to choose from but if I had to pick a winner…

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

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According to the diary I recently discovered tucked away in a cupboard, my top five dream jobs were to become a marine biologist, a beach volleyball world champion, professional waterskiier, wildlife photographer or safari park ranger. Never say never!

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10 Of The Most Colourful Places On Earth

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From stunning purple lavender fields in France and candy coloured homes in Italy to Senegal’s bubblegum pink oceans, here are 10 Of The Most Colourful Places On Earth, brought to you by Pure Wow.

#Relax

#Unwind

#SavourTheBeauty 

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Paris In Pictures

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Check out Paris In Pictures here through Carin Olsson’s beautiful shots for Conde Nast Traveller. A talented Swedish photographer who left Sweden to stay in Paris for a few months, it’s clear to see why she couldn’t tear herself away…

Carin’s blog @parisinfourmonths can be seen here.

#paris #romance #beauty #love

Amsterdam In Pictures: A Playground Of Pleasure

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A City Of Sin?

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear ‘Amsterdam’? Tulips, canals, drugs, naked girls in shop windows or none of the above?

The capital and most populous city of The Netherlands, Amsterdam’s vibe hit me round the face like a breath of fresh air. A bit like Madrid in energy varieties, it’s buzzy and relaxed all at once, but it feels quite a lot kookier.

A Different Kind Of World…

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I’d previously put Amsterdam in a weird sub-category of topsy turviness quite apart from the rest of Europe - an ethereal, alternative world filed away with the likes of Alice In Wonderland and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. And though it certainly has an other-earthly feel about it with its distinctive and slightly wonky canal-side apartments, it’s the best kind of unique.

A Cool Kind Of Kooky…

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A bit like stepping into a pop-up story book like Hansel and Grettel, it has a quirky visual layout which I simply haven’t found in other European cities bar Venice, with its plentiful canals giving it a peace and spaciousness which is quite sublime. Yet at the same time, it’s also seriously civilised, housing the headquarters of some major international brands such as Nike, Heineken and ING, with bars, shops and markets befitting a major European hub. So whether you’re a shopaholic, culture vulture or a lover of illicit substances, there really is something for everyone here.

Amsterdam’s Best Bits

1. Artistic Aesthetic

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The shop windows are a sight to behold, with an artistry to most facades which is truly striking. With bespoke, boutiquey appearances, the shops are often small and quaint with detail befitting mini museums. The insides are pretty cool too – check out the urban-chic lamp above! #want #one

2. Canals Everywhere

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The canals are plentiful, giving the city a wonderful sense of space and peace. If you’re seriously lucky, you may even have a riverside view from your home, otherwise it’s not hard to find a cafe or bar with a view. You can even take a tour of the city on a canal boat if you have good water legs.

3. Bikes, Bikes And More Bikes

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Forget four wheels, bikes are how everyone rolls here. Creating a wonderful calm and classlessness which unites prince and pauper, I’m a particular fan of the Minty number above. If I was a bike, I’d be that ;)

4. Tulips

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Whether in florists or markets street side, tulips are never far away, adding a touch of purity to the seedier parts of certain suburbs…

5. Shops

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Whether mainstream or vintage is your thing, there’s a great array of shops here from treasure chests stacked full of old jewels to modern gems like Nike.

6. Cafés

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Cafés bedeck the streets in Amsterdam with cakes and drinks galore to pour over of an afternoon. Amsterdam coffee shops, not to be confused with cafés, have been a part of the city since the 1970s, when the Dutch government made a clear distinction in the law between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ drugs. So if you fancy more than afternoon tea, find yourself a “coffee shop”.

7. Markets

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Whether it’s cheese, flowers, silly hats or sumptuous fabric you’re after, the markets in Amsterdam are amazing! And if sausages are your thing, you’ll find more here than in a brothel at midnight.

8. Gastronomy

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Whether sampling the cracking eggs benedict at Scandinavian Embassy, Amsterdam’s speciality apple and cinnamon cake or a range of treats from De Food Hallen, (an incredible indoor market with the likes of sushi, burgers and pretty much every type of food your heart could desire), Amsterdam is a greedy girl’s paradise. There’s even a gin and tonic bar with every kind of gin and fruit accompaniment you could imagine in the latter! Words fail me…

If that’s not enough, swing by the Grand Cafe at De Balie, a cool, kitchy café adjoining a theatre and centre for politics, culture and media and try the traditional, battered balls which go by the name of ‘bitterballen’. These are a savoury Dutch meat-based snack, typically containing a mixture of beef or veal, beef broth, butter, flour for thickening, parsley, salt and pepper. Or as my egg-obsessed friend put it, Amsterdam’s version of the scotch egg. They go really well with a pint of Heineken (I’ve heard) - one of the best Amsterdam products going.

9. Bars 

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I stumbled upon this magical little bar escaping from a snowy blizzard (which put Chamonix snowfall to shame). A bit like stepping into an animal’s grotto in Narnia betwixt a tree trunk, I’m sure you can see why I loved Papeneiland so much. A cosy lover’s paradise :)

10. Culture

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If you like Van Gogh, you’re in for a treat. Amsterdam houses his largest collection of works at the Van Gogh Museum, featuring masterpieces such as Almond Blossom and The Bedroom.

You can also visit The Anne Frank Museum where you can see the place where Anne went into hiding and wrote her diary.

If you prefer chilled live music or concerts, there are plenty of treasures to unearth come nightfall.

11. Street Art

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You’ll often stumble across vibrant displays of colour which betray Amsterdam’s zany undertones. A feast for the senses if, like me, you like a bit of rainbow :)

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16 Roof Terraces Worldwide You Have To See!

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Where’s Your Dream Summer Destination?

Poolside, Caribbean cocktail in hand, surfing across beautiful, frothy waves in Hawaii, or whiling away a sunset on a roof terrace overhanging city lights? I could happily indulge in all three, but found myself with plenty of opportunity to sample the latter last year, hopscotching from roof terrace to roof terrace across Madrid. 

What’s So Heady About Being On A Roof?!

The best thing about rooftops is the sense of space and freedom that you find high above the crowds of craziness down below. Peaceful, glamorous (and sometimes with a price tag to match), these treasures really are some of my favourite places on Earth. What’s more, they usually come with cracking views over beautiful cityscapes and warm, starlit climates to match. Romance at its best.

Searching For A Cure For the Monday Blues?

This is a beautiful slide show from Architectural Digest, featuring some of the world’s best designed rooftops. From Miami and Mumbai to Madrid, Chamonix and Paris, these are high points in more ways than one.

I seem to be doing a pretty good job of following them around the world and look forward to sampling Le Panoramic in Chamonix very soon :)

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