A change that you will notice in the ExpatExchange.com blog is the addition of more “culture” oriented posts. This will not replace the type of content we have typically included to date, but rather simply provides broadened content that covers some of the most endearing aspects of expatriate life.
With that in mind, the good folks at BonAppetit.com recently covered everyone’s favorite meat substitute… tofu! The focus of the article is Tofu in Kyoto, Japan, where tofu is a dietary staple.
Before you go elsewhere, consider this quote from the article:
“But stay, carnivorous reader. Don’t turn the page. It’s not what you’re thinking. Believe me—I’m not a morning person, and before coming here, I was never an avid tofu-seeker. The fresh Japanese version is a far more noble creature than the often bland loaves sold in American supermarkets.”
NYTimes.com has posted an article from their Magazine section that deals with Americans exporting our concept of mental health and illness abroad.
As American culture is exported throughout the world, are we also disseminating our own view of what constitutes mental health?
One of the first things I learned in graduate school while pursuing my master’s degree in psychology was a definition of “mental illness.” Among the criteria were the following:
- Personal discomfort to self or those around the individual
- Statistical rarity of thoughts, behavior, mental capacities, etc.
- Maladaptive Behavior
- Violation of Societal/Cultural Norms
The article from the NYTimes.com highlights some great examples of the various concepts of mental wellness and illness throughout the world.
How does this color our view of culture overall? How about what constitutes mental disorders and our need to label them?
As an aside, my instructors in graduate school and the various mental health associations stress the critical importance of culture and how it is involved in every case.
While the seeds of recovery seem to have been sown, there is still financial turmoil echoing throughout the world. British expats are feeling the pinch and a significant number are at least giving serious consideration to packing up and heading home.
A recent poll of British expats by Moneycorop found that 38% in Germany, 37% in Spain, 34% in Italy and 33% in France are already taking steps toward repatriation.
If nothing else, it’s clear that any recovery we are experiencing is uneven, and there is still a considerable amount of uncertainty in the world economy.
Given the breadth of the losses suffered by Haitians, it’s difficult to blog about the American losses there. However, ExpatExchange is a service for expats, so we do feel some responsibility to pass along a window to the experience that Americans in Haiti have experienced. This article on NYTImes.com offers just such a glimpse to their experiences since the ordeal began.
Here is an update from Foxnews.com about the relief efforts that are making their way to Haiti.
For those able, please consider a donation to the Redcross, which is providing relief efforts to Haiti.
The tragedy of the Haitian earthquake has grabbed our attention more than anything else in quite some time. One of the thoughts I had with regard to the Haitian expats in the U.S. is the response of American expats in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. A constant refrain we heard in that time period was how Americans abroad felt helpless being away from their home country at such a time. With that in mind, here is a video from pbs.com about Haitian expats in the U.S. supporting each other following this tragedy.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Haiti, the expats who live there and those with family and friends there.
If you would like to post messages of support for our expat members in Haiti, please post them here or on our Haiti Forum.
In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, donations are desperately needed. We encourage our members worldwide to make a donation to an organization of your choice. Please do check to make sure that any organization that you donate to is legitimate.
Here are a few suggestions:
To donate US $5 to Wyclef Jean’s Haiti Initiative, text YELE (501501) on your cell phone. US $5 will be charged to your cell phone bill.
To donate US $10 to the Red Cross, text HAITI (90999) on your cell phone. US $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill.
Simply text “HAITI” to “90999″ and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill. Or you can go online to organizations like the Red Cross and Mercy Corps to make a contribution to the disaster relief efforts. Or, visit Redcross.org.
Other Ways to Donate:
Visit the International Red Cross Committee
Make a UNICEF Donation to Children of Haiti
Here’s an important article from Telegraph.co.uk for British expats that may be living abroad with disabilities. Despite a ruling in their favor, these British expats are being denied their disability allowance:
“The European Court of Justice ruled in 2007 that benefits such as the disability allowance were ‘exportable’ and should continue to be paid even when an individual leaves his country of origin and moves to another member state.
Yet despite the ruling, the UK Government has stuck with its policy of withholding the payments – prompting a warning from the European Commission that unless Britain falls into line by the end of this month, ministers will be dragged back into court and forced to defend their decisions.”
Clearly, this should be a consideration for those considering moving abroad, too.
There are some expats on the Brazil Network concerned about House Bill HR 4213, which has to do with Banking rules in relation to offshore banking. Others on the network think that the concern is not warranted. Take a look and develop your own opinion.
Also, if you are a British Expat and still have property back in the UK, what are the capital gains tax requirements? A Q&A on Guardian.co.uk provides some answers to this question.
And if you British expats out there are nostalgic for a Sherbert fountain, well you’re not the only one.
One of the great equalizers in the expatriate experience is that one has to be able to adjust to their new country culture. While it’s true that some people will have more resources to make this happen, it’s not always quite that simple. While a husband at work might be able to adjust quickly due to the exposure to locals and other expats, his wife or children may have a hard time making the transition.
When an individual or a family system does have a hard time with an international relocation, there often isn’t much in the way of effective counseling or therapy options. Some cultures are far more accepting of these types of problems, while others view them as a weakness and historically have not created appropriate resources. This isn’t to say that any culture is better or worse than another. Rather, we strive to be pragmatic and meet these types of needs as they arise, where they arise.
Some Asian cultures present some of the more formidable challenges due to a dearth of appropriate resources. In Japan, one non-profit company, TELL, has created a service to meet the needs of expats that face mental health challenges when abroad:
“Tokyo English Life Line, which has been providing free and anonymous English-language telephone counseling for more than 35 years, extends a helping hand to both expatriates and Japanese facing depression, suicide temptation, problems in cultural adjustment, relationships and the workplace, as well as health concerns.”
Over the course of the next several years, we expect to see more services such as this one pop up around the globe, especially as technological alternatives to face-to-face counseling and therapy develop and become more accessible.
Unfortunately, some British expats in Spain might have their homes bulldozed unless a last ditch appeal succeeds. At first glance, one is tempted to say they should have done more to research their destination, but it seems as if these expats are really facing something that was beyond their control. Our thoughts are with these expats as they welcome in 2010 in a fashion nobody should have to endure.
On a cheerier note…
How do different countries and peoples celebrate the New Year? Expats have the privilege of being exposed to the traditions in their host country (and any other host countries they’ve had in the past), so share some of them with us here on our blog! Here’s an article from Courant.com about some of the different New Year’s traditions from around the globe that expats might be exposed to while abroad.
And Happy New Year from ExpatExchange.com!