We need to talk about dog poo

This morning as I dragged Cooper around the block on his lead (he can be very obstinate when he wants to go in a different direction to you!), I thought about how hard it is to clear up your dog’s poo when there are so few bins on the street. One, on my usual walk, to be precise. And as night follows day, Cooper will always, ALWAYS, do his business after we have passed that lone receptacle. Nevertheless, I dutifully bag up his offering and carry it round with me until we either get back to said bin or reach home. After all, I’m a Brit: it’s what we do.

The dog park we frequent is another matter: bins dotted about everywhere, each one close to the main path, ready and waiting for the deposits. But sadly, even this doesn’t seem to make the slightest bit of difference: the park is littered with dog turds of all shapes, sizes, colours and smells. It is particularly bad at the moment, thanks to there having been no proper rain for months. But it’s not the lack of rain that is putting the poo there in the first place: it’s the local population who simply don’t have a culture of picking it up. And yes, it is pretty revolting.

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So why do I feel the need to share this story with you? After all, who wants to read about dog crap when you could be reading about sunsets and cocktails?

Well, mostly because this is exactly one of those small (but not insignificant) things that can trip you up as a new expat somewhere, one of the culture shock traps perhaps no-one will tell you about and you yourself won’t even have thought about until you move. One little thing like this on its own may not be a problem, but lots of little things added together can be. Especially if they happen slowly, one at a time, drip fed into your psyche until one day you reach your limit and you blow – without really understanding why.

Half way through writing this post I downed tools and walked to our local shopping mall to pick up a bit of food shopping. As I did so, I thought about what other little things were “different” from what I would be used to back home. Not better, not worse, but different. There were loads – the way people cross roads, the way people drive, the type of food available in the shops, the etiquette at the check-out tills in the supermarket, the types of childrens clothes for sale, the rubbish on the street…..after you have been here for a while, you get used to it all but when you start looking at it through a newcomers eyes it reminds you again what it is like to have to adjust to a totally different culture. The trips and the traps are everywhere.

But back to the dog poo. One of my newly arrived friends here (she will know who she is if she is reading this!) stated the other day that she wanted to start a campaign to clear up the dog mess in the park. It’s a great idea and I’m behind her but really, even if successful, it would be a drop in the ocean (or in the mounds of poo). Ultimately, as expats, we might be able to make small differences to our immediate surroundings but we can’t control the wider world we live in. So in the end we just need to get used to it, go with the flow, embrace the differences – or, at least, live with them.

So next time you go out for a walk and find yourself stepping around or over a bit of dog crap on the floor stop and think. Does it bother me? Did I even notice it? Am I even letting my own dog do his business and leaving it on the path? All of these things will help guide you as to which part of the culture shock cycle you have reached. And if it’s the latter, if you are so comfortable in your surroundings you’re at the “living like a local” stage then congratulations! Hopefully this means you have fully intergrated and can now enjoy your expat life to the full.

So this is the time to start encouraging your nieghbours to pick up their dog crap. Good luck!

 

Photo credit: Phil Thirkell

 

A Day in My Expat Life -Sweden

Welcome to the latest look at a normal day in an expat life and today we move to Europe and Sweden where we meet Lisa Ferland and her family. Lisa is a U.S. citizen who has lived in Sweden since 2012. Together with her husband, they have embraced the Swedish lifestyle and according to Lida are currently “raising a five-year-old Lego-lover and a two-year-old Pippi Longstocking fanatic”. Lisa also recently published the anthology about birth and parenting as an expat called Knocked Up Abroad featuring a chapter by yours truely and can be reached on Facebook and Twitter@knockdupabroad.

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7:45 am—8:00 am Our morning began with a deer sighting in our backyard. The kids did their best to scare it away but this deer was experienced in the ways of shouty children and stayed to munch on our grass.

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The golf course behind our house has a herd of sheep grazing in a fenced-off section of grass. We decided to go check them out before school.

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No fish are in that pond. My son checked it out—all clear.

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I’m not sure if the kids were impressed or bored with the sheep. Things got fun when the kids started shaking their rumpas at them. The sheep were a bit nervous with the display.

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Very nervous sheep.

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8:15 am – 8:30 am Time to head to school

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Every bridge must be inspected for trolls. Troll-checking is a time-consuming activity but it’s for our safety, so it must be done.

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Nope. No trolls here. No snakes either, despite a sign clearly depicting the presences of snakes. The kids were a bit disappointed.

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Finally, we are on the way to school. A moped drove by and we stopped to wave hello.

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Finally! After a long walk of touching every slug in sight, we make it to school relatively on time.

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With the kids at school, I need to run some errands. First up—filling up the gas tank with diesel fuel. This is always a costly errand but we only use the car once or twice a week.

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Total cost: 720.90 SEK for 55 liters (equivalent to $6.04/gallon—much cheaper than the $8.50/gallon we saw when we first moved to Sweden.)

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Acquiring a Swedish driver’s license is incredibly difficult and expensive (for non-Swedes and Swedes alike). This sign says that you can park for 3 hours M-F 7 am-11:30 pm, Saturdays 7 am– 7 pm, and Sundays and holidays, 7 am – 7 pm. You must display a P-skiva on your window shield.

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The P-Skiva

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I received this notice that I had a package arrive and I can only retrieve it at the local post office, which is near the grocery store in town. Unless the package can fit within the dimensions of your mailbox, every package is kept at the central post office regardless if you live in a house or apartment.

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The outdoor center of the shopping mall.

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Inside the shopping mall—stores don’t open until 10 am, except for the grocery store and post office.

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Ah, this box was larger than I anticipated. I had to carry it awkwardly through the grocery store while I did my shopping. Oh well.

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I always check out the pastry section when I’m in the grocery store. I can’t help myself.

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Delicious fikabröd or pastries for coffee breaks/fika

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Due to my one arm being full of awkward box, I left with a pastry, a Swedish table top maypole flag (midsummer is coming up), and fun bandaids for my kids who like to use them as body art instead of covering cuts.

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Swedes remove their shoes in the entryway. Sock fashion is very important in the winter.

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9:30 am – 3 pm Sitting at my desk in my home office with a little treat and some coffee and I’m ready to work on my writing.

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3:00 pm – 5:30 pm I picked up the kids from school at 3 pm and we are ready to go off in search of new playgrounds.

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We pause at a construction site because they are dynamiting the granite rocks and the kids love the big booms

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A new-to-us playground is nearby in a newly constructed neighborhood. This one made excellent use of the local rocks and they are perfect for climbing.

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To reach the swing at the top, kids must climb up the hill.

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A fun little hut that housed many spiders so the kids opted out.

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Banana break in a shelter at the next playground

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The last stop on our afternoon adventure was an outdoor exercise space that is the epitome of Swedish training. It is situated among the woods with a horse riding school nearby and people train by lifting logs on a fulcrum system.

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The climbing wall was still under construction but we tried it out anyway

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This exercise made me a bit dizzy as the logs went quite high.

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Hey there, horsey. The local horses are always fun to watch.

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More climbing

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And dancing on rocks

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On the way home, we saw a cat sitting in the woods. Cats are given free range in our neighborhood and we see them all over.

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5:30 pm – 6:00 pm So, what was in that large box that I picked up earlier? A wireless keyboard courtesy of my mother. Now I can get to typing up my second book!

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6:00 pm – 8:00 pm For dinner, we had stir fried rice with eggs from our neighbor’s chickens. The entire day was spent outside playing in the beautiful weather. The kids were exhausted and collapsed into bed around 8 pm. Tomorrow begins another day of more of the same.

Thank you to LIsa for that glimpse into her life – those pastries in particlar look delicious. I am loving the fact that so many of these Days in an Expat Life have so much in common eg walking to school, yummy food and working at a lap top – even though they are all in very different places! If you want to see more posts in this series please click here, and if you would like your own day to feature then please comment below or email me clara@expatpartnersurvival.com.

Saying Good-bye…The Leaving Series

Here’s a nice chance to add to a series about expat children and saying goodbye. I’ve just written a post about telling the children we’re moving; I now intend to have a think about what I can write for this series. Possibly from my own childhood….if I can think back that far 😉

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When I look back at my history of blogging, I noticed that I have written a lot about leaving, or saying good-bye. I’ve written about the importance of saying ithelping our kids through it; and how it just plain stinks. I’ve also written about the importance of sharing our past with our kids and taking them back to the places where we once said good-bye. And although, these posts may be helpful – possibly even inspiring – I have found something to be even more powerful. Story.

Stories are powerful tools that can speak from the heart of the writer to the heart of the reader. We connect in the story as we see that our own story is sometimes quite similar, yet different. We feel the pain of saying good-bye; or the relief of the hard-to-deal-with drama; or the difficult times of trying to balance our own emotions…

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Help needed – survey on relationships

As part of my research for the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide I have been gathering material from far and wide – from expats, expat partner’s, re-pats…anyone who knows what it feels like to move overseas and suddenly be a long, long way from home. As I come into the home straight with the book I think I need a little more information in one particularly sensitive area: that of relationships. I have thus created a survey to help me understand this subject better and would be very grateful to anyone who would take the time to fill it in. Anything you give me could end up in the Survival Guide – possibly as a direct quote – but you can of course remain completely anonymous. Please let me know if you have any questions but I thank you in advance for anything you can give me. You can fill in the survey here.

UPDATE: THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS FILLED IN THE SURVEY, I THINK I NOW HAVE ENOUGH MATERIAL. IT HAS CERTAINLY BEEN INTERESTING READING EVERYONE’S RESPONSES – WATCH THIS SPACE FOR A BLOG POST ABOUT THIS IMPORTANT SUBJECT….

Every morning….

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Two Right Feet.”

Today the question was asked what do you do every morning to get yourself off to a good start. I’m British. The answer’s easy. It’s a cup of tea, of course.

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I’m usually the first up in our house. At the moment, the days are still moody at 6.36am when the boiler kicks in and the chugging of the central heating wakes me. I creep downstairs and before I do anything else, the kettle switch is on. It takes just a few minutes, but that first hot, builder-strong, milky brew of the day is all I need to shake my head into action. I only have a few minutes, because I know that before long I’ll hear the sounds of the shower, the drawer-slamming of my eldest daughter getting dressed, the moans of my youngest being forced out of her duvet cocoon. By the time they arrive downstairs, I’ll be ready to face them all – putting on my best mother act and starting the morning round of toast, smoothies, cereal, juice….

Looking forward to the moment they all leave and I can put the kettle on again.