Archive for 2009

Comfort Food for an Italian-American Expat

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

by Tina Ferrari

When we relocate to a country other than the one we were born in, we bring part of our culture with us – particularly our food culture.  We embrace our new home yet we can’t help sometimes missing things we enjoyed in our birth country.  I’ve heard many an American expat talk about peanut butter, ranch dressing and cheddar cheese, not to mention the wide ranges of choices in the supermarkets back home.

I get the peanut butter thing, as I’m a bit of a peanut butter addict.  But to be honest, I have never liked ranch dressing, and cheddar, while I like it, didn’t have as prominent a spot in our fridge as Parmigiano Reggiano and various stinky European cheeses (thanks to Husky’s deli in West Seattle!).  Growing up in a setting where the cuisine took on quite an Italian slant, I ate homemade garlicky bean soups much more often than Mac & cheese, and a lot of the produce I ate came from my grandparents’ garden.

On top of that I had a father who was always curious about international cuisine, so when we did eat outside of the home, it was Thai, Vietnamese or Middle Eastern.  When my American friends talk about childhood comfort foods, I don’t always know what they are referring to.  Unless it has peanut butter.

When I first came to Italy it was like coming home because I had finally found a place where I could find cooking similar to what my grandmother and my father would make at home.  In coming to Italy, I have come back to some favorite Ferrari family comfort foods.

I am still American, though.  What do I miss as an American?  Peanut butter with just peanuts as the sole ingredient.  Seattle’s plethora of Thai restaurants.  Pho.

Being raised “bi-culturally” has been a blessing, now that I think about it.  I’m able to appreciate the best of two different worlds.

Tina Ferrari is a translator, writer and tango dancer based in Perugia, Italy. She writes at as well as on her own blog, Tina Tangos. Comments are always welcome!

How Southern Italian Superstitions Mold Expat Life in Italy

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Although Italy is the home-base for one of the largest religious figures in the world, southern Italian superstitions are alive and well. These superstitions mold the lives of Calabrians, their children and their grandchildren.

Oh, and the expats who live here.

Here are three of my favorite Calabrian superstitions I’ve learned as an expat in Italy.

Photo: GetPrice.Com

1. Friday the 17th

While people throughout America mark today-Friday the 13th-as a day of bad luck and gloom (and the day Jason refused to surrender to the masses who fought to end his reign of terror), Italians think nothing of it.

But catch them on Friday the 17th … and boy is that another story.

It is even more ominous if Friday the 17th falls in November, the month of the dead. Imagine their surprise when my husband and I tied the knot on Friday, November 17-risk takers that we are …

2. Toasting

On my first visit to Calabria … oh, seven years ago I made the costly mistake of toasting my husband’s friend who was drinking water. The table gasped and people started yelling-both at Mario and at me-for clinking glasses.

“It’s bad luck,” I was later told. “Something you should never do.”

Other southern Italian superstitions regarding toasting include:

- Not reaching across someone when you toast (or shake hands)

- Always making eye contact with the person you are toasting

3. The Evil Eye

Now that just sounds scary, doesn’t it?

The Calabrian evil eye, or malocchio as they say in Italian, is one of the most feared superstitions in the region and one of the most difficult for expats to fully grasp. It is so deeply rooted in the Calabrian psyche that outsiders, like me, make innocent blunders that result in our Calabrian counterparts pointing horns (like the UT sign) or grabbing their body parts to ward off the curse.

Possible situations include:

- Telling someone their baby is beautiful

- Passing by a funeral procession

- Mentioning the word die, dead or death

If someone is jealous of another person they can think evil thoughts and put the malocchio on them. To ward this off, many southern Italians wear the symbol of hands making the horns around their neck or keep an extra set of horns in their car … just in case.

For more on southern Italian superstitions, visit Italyville, Life in Italy,WhyGo Italy or a guest post on the Calabrian malocchio written by Bleeding Espresso and posted on my site, My Bella Vita.

What unusual superstitions have you come across as an expat?

Cherrye Moore is a freelance writer and B&B owner living in Calabria, Italy. In addition to Affordable Calling Cards, she writes about living and traveling in Calabria at her website, My Bella Vita.

Drinking and Bathing Like A Ugandan

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Many Ugandans in the cities and towns have running water, but it continues to elude the vast majority, including all villagers. (more…)


Monday, November 9th, 2009

It’s November, and that means that we should be sweating down here in the Southern Hemisphere. This year, however, not yet, much to my dismay.

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In fairness, last summer stuck around a bit longer than usual. So I could forgive an extra week or two of winter. September 18, Chile’s independence day and time for long weekends and general merry-making, is usually considered the start of spring. After that date we still get plenty of grey, chilly days, but it’s usually heating up more or less definitively by mid-October.

But this? This seems like overkill. This morning was overcast, and I froze in my 3/4-sleeve jacket, wishing I’d opted for fuller coverage. Sure, by the time I got out of work it was decent enough, but by no stretch of the imagination was it hot.

Most Chileans I know are similarly frustrated by this shy summer, but they’re not too worried about it yet. That’s because unlike me, they didn’t hear about the Northern Hemisphere’s awful, cold, wet summer. As soon as I saw raindrops fall in California in JUNE, I started hoping Chile wouldn’t get hit with its own weird weather during what should be the warmer months.

I’m not giving up hope just yet. We’ve had enough nice, warm and even hot days to give me hope that this might just be a fluke, and by this time next month I might be missing the cool mornings and downright cold nights. But I will say that I’m starting to get worried. Weather gods, if you’re listening, please bring a little summer to Santiago.

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Emily Williams is a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile. She writes about expat life at and on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!

How to Make Friends in Switzerland, Part One

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

By Chantal Panozzo


I’ve written about this topic before on One Big Yodel, but it seems to be a popular one, so I’m going to write two follow-up posts, this one, and another piece that will run on Swisstory blog about how I’ve managed to make a few Swiss friends in the three years I’ve lived in Switzerland.

In comparison to making Swiss friends, making friends with other expats is relatively easy. “You speak English? Me to. Let’s be friends.”  That’s about all it takes when you’re so far from home. Ages, backgrounds, interests seem to matter little at the beginning when the main thing is that you’ve found someone with whom you can actually communicate in your own language.

But then there are those Swiss. Dang, they are hard to meet. Reserved and private, many Swiss tell me they are happy with their small group of close friends that they’ve known since childhood and aren’t interested in making more. The trick is to find the people that are more open.

I didn’t think my neighbor was one of them. She was 73 years old to my 28 when I met her and didn’t speak any English. And while her first words of greeting were something along the lines of “you’re doing the laundry wrong,” what I didn’t realize at the time was that this was her Swiss way of saying a friendly hello.

To make proper friends with a Swiss neighbor, you usually have to go to them first. Knock on their door and introduce yourself, perhaps bring them some chocolates or something from your home country. Even if your German/French/Italian isn’t that good yet, you may be surprised at their happiness at your efforts.

If they make an effort to criticize everything from your gardening to your laundry like my neighbor did, take that as a strange kind of compliment. At least they’re paying attention. And most Swiss like to correct you. Give them that joy and you may make a friend.

Despite our age and language differences, my neighbor and I started hanging out. We’d set the German/English dictionary on the table and have raclette together. She’d take me to flower fields in her car so we could make our own bouquets. A year after all of this, she reintroduced herself to me with her first name. It was worth the year of calling her Frau V and being strangely formal while melting cheese together.

Are you friends with your Swiss neighbors? How did you make your Swiss friends? Or what do you find most frustrating about making Swiss friends?

Up next, How to Make Friends in Switzerland, Part 2, over on Swisstory blog.

October Wrap-Up

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Here’s a summary of what’s been going on this month on a few of the expat blogs that I follow:

My favorite post from Voices in Español (not an expat blog exactly, but an excellent blog on the Spanish language and has a great podcast): The most annoying phrase in Spanish. Who knew there was a phrase that foreign speakers tend to say that annoys Spanish speakers? I won’t ruin in and tell you what it is– you have to go look. ;) There is also a great post about the phrase “It’s all Greek to me” in English and how that is translated into different languages. For some languages, the incomprehensible language is Chinese, and for some, it’s Spanish!

Frank Alameda makes and sells his wonderful brand of cookies throughout Buenos Aires. His cookies and his blog are called Sugar & Spice, where he talks about his business and raising his children here in BsAs. This month, Frank talks about his 7-year old comparing the life expectancy of a whale to that of Michael Jackson, updates us about where his cookies can now be bought in the city, and a list of other expat entrepreneurs in Buenos Aires.

Paddy in BA is now no longer in Buenos Aires, he’s in Asia, blogging about his adventures hiking in the Philippines with a few side notes about keeping his body hair in check. He always writes with his wry sense of Irish humor.

Tracy has been blogging about love and relationships over on Last Tango in Buenos Aires. She also has a book coming out, part of which can be read online. Congrats, Tracy!

And last but certainly not least, you MUST see Cate Kelly’s photos of the South American Sumo Wrestling tournament that recently took place. amazing. She’s an awesome photographer, and chooses unique subjects.

Julia Evans wrote this article where she blogs about her life as an expat.  She also writes a personal blog Evans’ Gateabout living as an American expat in Buenos Aires, where she lives with her husband.  Comments on both blogs welcome!

Food, Something We All Love

Friday, October 30th, 2009

I think one of the most difficult things for most expats to get used to is the change in food.  I notice that when I read other blogs the bloggers always talk about the food they miss.  If you lived in a place where there was an abundance of ethnic foods and then move to a place where the daily fare is less exciting, you find yourself dreaming of those foods you don’t have anymore.  Even junk food like marshmallows or peanut butter become forbidden foods to die for.

I notice that Emily a blogger from Chile (Don’t Call Me Gringa) has written several posts about food she misses from California.  I liked her post about cheese.  She really misses the variety of cheese she could get back in the US.   Julia Evans another blogger on this site, also from Argentina ( Evansgate) brought back salad dressing when she went  home.

My friend Gina missed cupcakes so much she started a business making cupcakes. (Palermo Cupcakery) Sometimes I read this blog about this young woman who is a vegetarian. Being a vegetarian really is not a big deal here. It takes getting used to. I think mostly they are in culture shock more than anything else. Buenos Aires is clearly meat country. She misses her peanut butter. ( Veggie Carly)

Personally, I don’t miss that much anymore.  Cinnamon candies, Peets coffee.  I can live without them. What I do miss is good ethnic food.  I was so happy to find the Korean barrio here in Buenos Aires.  It is in a bad neighborhood.  It doesn’t stop me.  I try to round up a group of friends and go there as much as I can.  It is my favorite food.

One of my friends who is Korean Argentine told me that the Korean barrio in Buenos Aires is like Korea in the 1970s.  He thinks that I am crazy to want to go there so much.  The food is excellent.  I think it is the only food in Argentina that is spicy.  My other expat friends love to go there with me.

Last week a group of us went before we went to dance tango.  We made jokes we would have Korean Barbecue breath all night.  Not such a good thing when you are dancing close.  I think we were all so happy to have the food we didn’t care.


All the tables have their own barbecue where you grill beef, pork, shrimp, and octopus.


They bring you 1000s of little dishes of wonderful spicy foods. Each one is different and delicious.

Korean Sake is not like Japanese Sake, it is much smoother. Unfortunately I could drink a whole bottle of it.

Korean Sake is not like Japanese Sake, it is much smoother. Unfortunately I could drink a whole bottle of it.

This restaurant serves oysters on the half shell and you can have as many as you want.  In a seafood devoid BA this is like a slice of heaven.

This restaurant serves oysters on the half shell and you can have as many as you want. In a seafood devoid BA this is like a slice of heaven.

You cannot possibly eat all the food they bring you.  The amazing thing is that it is like a buffet, all you can eat.  If you want seconds or thirds on any of the dishes, all you have to do is ask.  It is all included in the price.  My Argentine Korean friend David thinks we are all crazy.  He also thinks it is funny that the owners of the restaurants all know me and come out to greet me.

The Korean Barrio are Korean expats.  They are eating their native foods.  For us, me and my friends, the Korean barrio is a slice of life we had before moving here.  I think it is nice how we are all immigrants and we can share something in common that we love, food.

Deby Novitz moved to Buenos Aires in 2004 from California. She has a small bed and breakfast for tango dancers, she writes, does translations, teaches English, and of course dances tango. You can find more about her life in Buenos Aires on her blog  TangoSpam: La Vida Con Deby.

Even More Chilean Bloggers

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

I originally started blogging to replace the mass e-mails I’d been sending to family and friends detailing life after the big move to Chile. It seemed like a good way to let people keep up with what I was doing without cluttering their inboxes. As it turned out, barely anyone I actually knew read my blog – or if they did they never commented. But thanks to the blog, I met several fellow gringas in Santiago, some of whom have become close friends. I’ve also found other people whose writing I really enjoy, even if we haven’t met in person quite yet.

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Cachando Chile, written by Margaret Snook, is one of the purest Chile-focused blogs I read. Margaret’s from the US but has lived here for years (18 if I’m not mistaken!), and she’s got some interesting insights onto both the little and big quirks of life in Chile. Plus, if you like her style, she’s now got a radio show on Santiago Radio, and you can listen online.

Bearshapedsphere, brainchild of Eileen Smith, is well-written, well-photographed, and just plain funny. Eileen’s post on 5 places she’s biked from Santiago cracked me up, although I am very glad I didn’t have to take those trips!

Kyle Hepp is back in Chile – yay! I suppose I should add that this is the first Chile blogger I met, and she just so happens to be both my wedding photographer and an honorary bridesmaid. All bias aside, however, the girl’s got some good stories about Chile and the photos are AMAZING.

Abby chronicles her adventures as an English teacher in Abby’s Line. Although I’ve never taught English, I’m in the minority among gringas, so if you’re considering a move down here and want to get an idea of the lifestyle, definitely check out this blog.

Leigh of Crooked Compass is a less regular blogger, but I found her latest post about birth control in Chile really interesting.

Rounding out my list is Colchaguino, written by property agent, house remodeler and funny Brit Matt. He’s recently moved from the coastal city of Valparaiso to the wine country town of Santa Cruz and shares the occasional ensuing confusion. Plus he can help you buy a winery!

That should be enough to get you started on some Chile blogs, but if you’re looking for more, check out my blog roll. And if you find a new one – or are yourself a Chile blogger who I haven’t met – please let me know!

Emily Williams is a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile. She writes about expat life at and on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!

Some of My Favorite Blogs in Italy

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

by Tina Ferrari

I’m fortunate that I live in the era of blogging.  When I first decided I wanted to live in Italy years ago, I joined Expats in Italy and subscribed to every blog I could find written by Italian expats.  I was thirsty to learn as much as I could about Italy from a resident’s perspective.  Blogs are a great source of information for wannabe expats. They provide anecdotes about daily living, advice on things to do in your city of choice, and information on how to avoid a cultural faux pas.  I’ve compiled a list of a few of my favorite Italy expat blogs, and I hope they can help you as you plan your next adventure.

Bleeding Espresso. Michelle lives in Calabria, where she is a writer and the mom of two dogs and three kids (baby goats).  I’ve been following her blog for as long as I can remember.  She offers recipes, great stories about life in her beautiful southern-Italian town, and the most adorable dog and goat pictures you could find.  An inspiring, positive presence on the internet, much like my fellow ACC blogger, Cherrye, who also writes from Calabria!

Calabrisella Mia. Staying with a Calabria theme, Lulu’s blog is a delicious archive of all things Calabrese. It’s so rich and descriptive I keep thinking she is in Italy and not Canada! I’m looking forward to what she has to write when she finally moves to the bel paese. She recently got her Italian citizenship, like me. Would you hurry up and get here, Lulu?

Art and Barb Live in Italy. Art and Barb are a wonderful couple living in Umbria, the region where I live.  I’ve also been following them since my expat wannabe days.  When I left Umbria for a while (a few years) so I could have my Buenos Aires adventures, I checked back to their blog frequently for memories of spicy olive oil and sagre in the green heart of Italy.

Living in Florence, by Melinda Gallo. Melinda is my Italy expat idol.  She lives in my favorite city, and she lives a beautiful life that she created for herself.  She has always been one of my favorite writers on the internet, with wonderfully written pieces on various aspects of her daily life, from bureaucratic adventures to walks around her beloved city.  Her photographs are inspiring and her blog’s design is easy on the eye.  Her blog is a wonderful reference for both armchair travelers and those who are planning a move to Italy.

Figs and Lemons. If you think life in Italy is all roses and lollipops, think again: it’s actually figs and lemons.  Charlie lives in a quaint seaside town that shall remain unnamed, and I have been following her for ages as well.  Her blog is beautiful and entertaining, providing you with delicious photographs that your eyes want to eat up, and a realistic view on life in a small coastal town.

What expat blogs do you like to read?

Tina Ferrari is a translator, writer and tango dancer based in Perugia, Italy. She writes at as well as on her own blog, Tina Tangos. Comments are always welcome!

Three Things I’ll Never Get Used to in Italy

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Expat experts say one of the worst things you can do when you move to a new country is constantly compare things from your home country to things in your new life.

And it is true. It is a recipe for despair.

Once I stopped let up on that, things got easier for me and I began understanding and appreciating the differences. That being said, there are some things I don’t think I’ll ever get used to – and here are three of them.

-  Not receiving mail
The Italian postal service is notoriously ineffective-packages are lost, misplaced or stolen on a regular basis and every expat I know has had at least one run-in with the mail system. Just over the last two months, I’ve had two packages from Amazon gone astray and a small package I sent never reach Rome. Packages are often held hostage in customs and the recipients are forced to pay a ransom to get them.

To combat this problem: I have asked people not to send me packages.

-  Walking into a doctor’s office and smelling smoke
A few years ago my hometown in Texas went smoke-free (no smoking inside buildings) and non –smokers like myself relished in our fresh air and clean lungs.

Not so much the case here in Italy.

Two days ago I went to the doctor’s office, walked under the sign that said “no smoking,” and was greeted inside by a wave of smoke.

To combat this problem: I have purchased a surgeon’s mask to wear when I am in public.

- Kids riding in the front seat – without a car seat
The first time I saw this, my mouth dropped ajar and I stared dumbfounded into the passing car. A one time thing? Oh, but no.

Children regularly ride in the front seat, oftentimes without a car seat and more than once I’ve ridden in the backseat, while a pint-size toddler took the front.

To combat this problem: I look away.

What are three things you will never get used to about your new country?

Cherrye Moore is a freelance writer and B&B owner living in Calabria, Italy. In addition to Affordable Calling Cards, she writes about living and traveling in Calabria at her website, My Bella Vita.

Photos from flickr: maxinnaberlin, marqez and Rebecca and Bernhard

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