Expat wife/life: NOT always as pictured!

I came across this meme the other day and chuckled. I/we do travel, I use to get massages while living in Qatar quite often, I was a lady who lunched, I did shop a lot, I felt like I managed it all, but at the end of the day, what do I really do? Sort out documents – from birth certificates, passports, vaccinations, insurance forms, etc. BUT that was then…this time around, on our 4th international move, I am in another expat boat and am doing a lot more than just sorting out documents.

To begin with, we moved with the expectation that we would just settle in this little town of ours for three years, enjoy family time and the whole work/life balance that Scandinavians are known for. (I know, I should not have expectations…) This ideal situation unfortunately hasn’t unfolded for us yet because unexpectedly things changed at my husband’s work and he now travels WEEKLY for work. I have now learned that surprisingly like many other expats, we have a weekend marriage…not the easiest thing when you have two small kids!

While trying to figure out our lives where husband/dad is not home during the week, I have been really sick with mastitis recently. Something that I wish no mother has to go through. But this has given me the time to think about our lives as expats, moving around from country to country, adjusting every time, orientating, finding friends and so on. It isn’t always easy or as glamorous as I may portray it to be via social media posts. I actually posted about this being my expat problem – click here to read about it!

One thing for sure is that I would not move with a baby again. Why? Asides from trying to get settled, baby is growing, not sleeping, going through milestones, and making the move just slightly harder. My personal ironic twist – we first moved to Denmark when my son was 7 months. It was hard then. This time, my daughter was also 7 months. Even harder this time around. Lesson learned for me: do not move with a baby, who is 7 months old!!!!

Now that baby girl is off to nursery, I have more time to ponder should we continue this expat life of ours. It isn’t about shopping, lunching, getting massages as the meme suggests. The travel is a big perk however. That is not only because we are expats, but we are in countries that support time off from work. Thinking about our ten years as expats, we have so many great memories and experiences that make it difficult to say, I just want to settle back home…wherever that is now! Maybe deep down I don’t ever want to settle. It seems to be easy to say, “let’s just move back”. But I know that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, is it? Need to start watering my own again…grass is greener where you water it…


Christmas time in Copenhagen

Here are my pictures from our mini trip to Copenhagen before Christmas. Not pictured are my kids – one who refused to sleep the whole time we were there, and the other one who threw up…and the lovely picture of me fuming when the lift was not working again to get down to the train, so my husband and I had to carry down the double pram…fun?! I had flashbacks of the time when we use to live there…for some reason, I seem to always find the lifts that don’t work…at least Copenhagen looks picture perfect! Ha! Enjoy!


Last weekend we visited the beautiful and charming city of Odense. It is the famous childhood home of Hans Christian Andersen. (For those who may not be aware, he is the author who wrote fairy tales such as “The Little Mermaid”, “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, etc.) We went on a tip that Odense is a place to visit during Christmas time, when the already fairy like city turns even more magical. We were not disappointed. I am keeping this blog short, to include more pictures, and suggest that if you have the chance to visit Odense, do so!

Our Sunday Funday Grocery Shopping in Denmark

Grocery shopping with little kids can be challenging at times. I would prefer to shop on my own, or with one kid in tow, but Denmark has made it actually fun. At least on Sundays in one particular store called Bilka. Or as we call it Vilka store, because Bilka’s mascot is a wolf and in Latvian, wolf is “vilks”. Vilka Bilka…

Anyway, at the main entrance there is a giant lego of Billie the wolf. Perhaps just to remind us that we are in the land of Lego?! Then, on Sundays, Billie the wolf greets the kids, gives hugs or high fives and hands out a “magical” little bag. This little bag is what makes grocery shopping a whole lot easier.

It is almost like a party bag. The usual items are a cheese stick, chocolate milk, a fruit snack, stickers and then a new little toy. So far we have a key chain, a mini flash light, a little puzzle, some frisbee type toy, a bouncy ball, and a noise maker. All with Billie the wolf logo on it. Very smart for marketing! Our son happily eats the snacks and plays with whatever new toy while we can grocery shop at a snail’s pace. Check out is the cherry on top, where they have little toy flags or balloons. Sometimes they have had little games too, where you spin to win some free fruit or a hot dog.

For us, we look forward to grocery shopping on Sundays now. It has become our Sunday Funday! Wouldn’t it be great if all grocery stores were so child orientated and gave out free stuff for the kids?! If only…but nevertheless, thank you Bilka! You are our grocery store of choice because of this!

Happy Halloween – The scary parts/Expat Problems

As Halloween is ending in Denmark, I am realizing how depressing holidays become as an expat. I know that I am in a foreign country and can’t expect everyone to celebrate the way I grew up celebrating a holiday, but it doesn’t mean that my heart slightly aches a bit more around these holidays when my kids don’t have the same traditions as I did growing up.

Scandinavia as I know it has begun to embrace Halloween a bit more over the years. At the grocery stores, dedicated areas were filled with the familiar assortment of costumes, decorations and candy. But, the locals, at least where I currently live, didn’t go further to really celebrate.

We ventured out tonight, and lucked out at three houses out of at least 20. No one had decorations out, not even a glowing jack-o-lantern. I am resigning to the fact that in some local article it was said that Halloween is to be celebrated before or after October 31 this year since today marks the celebration 500 years of reformation. Thus this Friday there is something in town arranged, and am hoping that my son will be satisfied.

Last year in Doha, Halloween was something out of movie. Houses decorated, kids running around trick or treating. Simple, sweet, holiday done and dusted. This year, I rather not repeat since as much as I tried, my little village didn’t. My efforts gave hopes to my son, only to make me explain that the Danes here don’t celebrate it quite like we are use to. Different cultures. Different lifestyles. Welcome to expat life kid. At least you got three lollipops! Grass is greener where you water it, right?!



Car accident

We are only human. And with that, shit happens. As much as I like to post happy, positive pictures and stories, reality is, I am not living in a bubble. The month of October reminds me of my first car accident I was involved in. Ironically, it happened just two weeks prior to our move to Qatar back in 2014. I quickly became very grateful at how effective the Danes are when it comes to dealing with authorities, specifically when involved in a car accident.

I had entered a round about safely, but a tricky one where the cars from the left also had a signal to adhere to within the traffic circle itself. A lady drove through her red light and drove right into me. It shook me up and I immediately began questioning myself did I actually have the right of way? We slowly pulled forward and off to the side. As we both got out of our cars, we of course questioned one another if we were fine physically. Then, she said her English wasn’t that great, and I replied my Danish wasn’t the great either, so we will wait until the police got there. From my American upbringing, I imagined that I would give my report to the police officer and then follow it all up with the insurance company. To my surprise, that is not the case in Denmark.

The police officer checked if we were alright, then told us to call our insurance companies and carry on. No further information needed! I expected him wanting to hear both sides of our stories, or collect our names at the least. But nothing! So, I called the insurance company and it all worked perfectly. The car insurance company directed me to where I can get my car fixed and nothing else was needed. There was a witness who did approach me at the accident scene and told me that he was willing to give his viewpoint to the insurance company if needed. I took his information and provided it to the insurance company, not really knowing if they ever actually contacted him or not. All what I can say is that I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it all went and can be thankful that I had insurance.

In Qatar, it was a whole other story. I wasn’t in an accident, but happened to scratch the car on a post while backing up. What in my mind was just a paint job, turned out to be the biggest ordeal. I had to report to the police station! Then to the insurance, then back to the police, and only with their approval, could I take it to their suggested place. Needless to say, I am very happy that I never was in an accident in Qatar. I could only imagine what a nuisance that possibly could be! Counting my blessings daily!


Finding My Viking Mama Feet

I can not lie. Living in the Middle East quickly can spoil one. It spoiled me for sure. Now that I am back in Denmark, I am slapped in the face daily of no one is going to help me. Don’t set any expectations! (As I had mentioned in my post way back when I made my trip to Banana Island.)

So I had low expectations as I left Qatar this late spring. The kids and I moved back in with my parents in California while my husband closed up shop in Qatar. Then in August we flew to Denmark, and from the moment we landed, I was quickly reminded that I am now in the land of the Vikings. Case in point: traveling with a large number of baggage… 7 bags, 5 carry-ons, two kids and a stroller or two…baggage

Three countries. Three very different experiences. Qatar, by far was the best. People were willing to help out. From the curb side, to check in, through security, the flight (thank you Qatar Airways!). People were helpful. And they had always been. One of many reasons why I will always love Qatar.

Next stop, Los Angeles International Airport. After a 16 1/2 hour flight, I was delighted that we were able to skip the line in passport control/customs and have some priority or just simple kindness shown, since I had a four year old and 4 month old in tow! Then at baggage claim, we were offered help, for a price, but at least I had help to get all by bags off the conveyer belt and out pass customs.

Final stop: Denmark. Again, I didn’t expect much, but when I approached the baggage service desk for some help, I think I could have heard crickets. I asked for their suggestion of how do I manage by myself, two little ones and at least three carts of baggage. They seemed to be dumbfounded as to why I would even travel! I said I don’t mind pushing one cart out of customs at a time, knowing that my husband was on the other side and can collect them. That seemed absurd but I wasn’t offered any help or any other options. Then I spied a larger cart that was off to the side. After what seemed like the longest consideration, they said I could take the larger cart. I put on my Viking hat, loaded up the cart and tried to push it all through the doors. A lovely officer guided me, but didn’t even offer to help me.

I get it Denmark. Land of the vikings. Survival of the fittest. I have my hat this time around! Just need to find my feet…



THE expat problem

I had written about my expat problem (link here) and now I am sitting in anxiety, dealing with what I believe to be THE expat problem. Demobilization. Moving again!

And I want to write about it because for those who aren’t expats, being an expat isn’t as glorious as we portray it to be through our pictures that we post. Especially the expat who is on global mobilization, like my family is. Meaning we move around from country to country for work. (One can categorize expats into two groups. The other group are what we like to call love pats, they have moved to the country where their spouse is from. They usually don’t move around.)

Some may think it is just another flight and move to a new city. There is so much more to it for an expat. Residency permits need to be turned in. Plants and cars need to be sold. Bank accounts need to be cancelled. Schools need to be notified and applied for, again. Pets need to have their accommodations sorted out while we move into temporary ones. Food needs to be passed on. We have to say goodbye to our friends, or rather see you later.

I have heard it from many of how great it seems to be living an expat life, but there are plenty of downsides, and demobilization is one of them. We make the best of our last days in each country, checking off our bucket lists. The grass is greener where you water it! Even if there for only a short period of time!

Camel racing

I briefly had read about camel racing and didn’t know much besides that I wanted to see it while living in Qatar. When I asked friends about it, they would say it is worth it, but details were minimal. (Somewhat like my trip out to searching for shark teeth! See post here!)

I knew that I could find the location on google maps if I typed in “Camel Race track” and then follow the signs to Al Shahaniya. I also knew to go on a weekend. That was it. Schedules aren’t posted online, but with a colicky baby and preschooler, I decided to just go even though storm clouds were continuing to hover and had a downpour of rain earlier. Worse case scenario in my mind was that it would be a drive out to the desert and back.

I am happily writing to say that it was well worth it. My excitement grew when I first saw the signs for the camel race track on the Dukhan highway. Then I began hoping that there would be at least some camels lazying around, maybe training and at best, racing. Pulling into the parking lot of the 10km racetrack, the rush began, literally with white SUVs driving up to the race track and following the camels that were racing. We had lucked out and made it during a race! Feeling slightly like a black sheep, I parked our black SUV off to the side, away from all the white SUVs, carefully got out the kids and went up to the race track. It was no Kentucky derby for sure! (Not that I have ever been there, but I have gone to Santa Anita plenty of times, and let’s just say that camel racing is not to be compared.)

Here is a little video clip, note the jockeys!

You now saw it! A little remote controlled robot jockey!

Some other fun facts:

  • Known as the sport of the sheiks
  • Professional camel racing began in 1972
  • There is an actual tv station dedicated exclusively to the camel races
  • The camels can have a speed up to 40 mph
  • The camels can cost up to one million Qatari riyals

My bonus to my memories is this lovely booklet that they handed out for free upon entrance!

Al Shaqab Equestrian Center

By no means am I an expert on horses, but when I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Al Shaqab Equestrian Center in Qatar, I signed up knowing that I would see something special.

The Al Shaqab Equestrian Center was founded in 1992 by His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Father Amir of Qatar. Before Qatar was known for oil and gas, the region was mainly known for its prized Arabian horses. The name itself, Al Shaqab, is known as the battle when the Qataris defeated the Ottomans, leading to the independence of Qatar.

The center covers 980,000 square meters in a clever horseshoe design. The architecture is as beautiful as the Arabian horses that are bred there.  It is definitely a world class equestrian center, holding everything imaginable needed, from air conditioned stables, a breeding center, hydrotherapy, a veterinary center, a riding academy and more. I definitely left the tour amazed and am curious to know if there is another equestrian center in the world that matches the standards of Al Shaqab.