Category Archives: expat issues

“Aussie As” Gifts to Send Home from Australia

expat issues, shopping 8 Replies

australian-gifts-to-send-homeI always think it’s a bit special to be able to send people at home gifts from Australia. Gifts from our home away from home are totally unique, a great reminder of the sender, and something you can be sure the recipient won’t get duplicates of. Admittedly, my first year or so here, I used to head straight down to the souvenir shop at Circular Quay for some stuffed koalas or embroidered tea towels to send home, and I’m sure those things were appreciated, but these days I feel like I can do better – more interestng, more genuine, and more likely to be made in Australia, not a factory in Shenzhen.

So, here’s my gift guide for sending “Aussie As” gifts back home, just in time for the holiday shopping season. All of these items may be shipped internationally from the company’s website, from Amazon in the U.S., or easily purchased at stores in any Australian mall. Get in soon, if you’re shipping for Christmas!

*This post does contain some Amazon affiliate links. That simply means that if you purchase through that link, I get a little extra Tim Tam money. It doesn’t impact your purchase price in any way.*

For the Foodies

*Note: All of these things should make it past U.S. customs, just be sure to declare them on the shipping label, if you’re doing the shipping. For other countries, check local customs rules about importing food to ensure your gift makes it to the receiver.*

Tim Tams (2 for $5 at Woolies, if you play your cards right!) – Well, this is a no brainer! Is there any more widely beloved Australian snack food than the mighty Tim Tam? I bring them home with me every visit, and they never fail to make an impression. (And, yes, I know you can now buy them in U.S. Target sometimes, but there’s nothing like a few packages from Aussie-land). Send lots! And, toss in a few of the special flavours for comparison, as well.

T2 Teas – (price varies) – Does everyone love walking into a T2 store as much as I do? The impossibly stacked boxes, the gorgeous smells, it’s just an oasis of serenity inside the Westfield. The Melbourne-based tea haven just makes a lovely tea experience. Pick up some at your local shop to mail with the Tim Tams, or they offer international shipping through their website.


Personalize a Jar of Vegemite ($10 AUD) – A bit of kitsch, if ever there was one, because – let’s be honest – your overseas recipient is probably not going to just love Australia’s favorite toast spread, but most everyone’s a bit curious about it thanks to the Men at Work, and how fun to receive a jar with your own name on it? You can get them printed right now at KMart Australia. Just make sure to send some directions for serving on toast (spread thin with plenty of butter!), so that your poor giftee doesn’t try to just lick it off a spoon … gross.


Bush Tucker ($89.95 AUD) – How gorgeous is this “Australian Bush Spirit Hamper“? “This stunning all-Australian pack features Nathan Ferlazzo drawing ‘Buddha of the Bush’ koala tea-towel; some delectable honey-roasted and sea salted macadamia nuts, Outback Spirit Chutney and Baylies Epicurean Delights Dipping Crackers.” Class act, this one.



The Wanderlusters

In a Sunburned Country ($11.55 USD) –  Want to coax someone to come visit you in Australia? Bill Bryson’s book on his travels across Australia (called Down Under here) remains one of the most endearing and beloved book about visiting this beautiful country. You may have to talk them down about the killer animals, as Bryson does obsess on that a bit more than I think is probably necessary, but otherwise, it’s a love letter to this country.

In a Sunburned Country

Qantas Gear – Australia’s national airline is easily recognizable across the world by its flying kangaroo logo. Even if your giftee is just dreaming of hopping on a Qantas flight, at this point, I think the logo merchandise in their store is a lot of fun. I’m especially partial to this limited edition retro style shoulder bag ($49.99 AUD).


Movie Buffs

Your film lover probably knows Muriel’s Wedding, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Strictly Ballroom. But what about these?

The Castle ($10.30 USD) – Based on a true story about a working class man who fights the system to save his family home, The Castle is probably the most “Aussie-As” Australian film ever. It’s full of quotes that are part of the lexicon, like, “straight to the pool room” and “tell him he’s dreamin'” – and it’s a quirky, endearing story about the triumph of the Aussie “battler.” Nothing more Australian than that.

The Castle

The Sapphires ($7.99 USD) – Set in 1968, The Sapphires is a “girl group” comprised of four Aboriginal women. They are discovered by a talent scout, who sends them to Vietnam to play for the troops. A period piece full of great music, with a compelling story. I loved this movie. Based loosely on a true story.

The Sapphires

The Dish ($14.37 USD) – Apollo 11 is set to land on the moon, and the world’s first moon walk will be televised using a satellite dish in a tiny Australian sheep farming town. When the dish malfunctions, the offbeat Aussie staff and their straight arrow American NASA supervisor scramble. Another true story – the famous moon landing broadcast that almost wasn’t. Completely charming movie.

The Dish

Art Lovers 

Warlukurlangu Paintings ($120 AUD and up) – Paintings created by the Warlukulangu Artists, a group based in the community of Yuendumu in Central Australia. “It is a fundamental aim of Warlukurlangu Artists to share Warlpiri culture and in addition, to increase awareness about Aboriginal culture generally, and to broadly support Indigenous causes.” Paintings are sold through the Blak Markets site, or follow Blak Markets on Facebook to find out where they will be next for many more gift options created by Aboriginal artists (Sydneysiders, make it out this weekend for Blak Markets at Barangaroo on Sunday 4 December!).


Jillian Nampijinpa Brown – Ngapa Jukurrpa (Water Dreaming) – Mikanji

Ken Done – Bright and cheerful, Ken Done has such a distinctive take on Australia. His work has been seen all over the world, and shows Sydney and beyond at its most colorful. Prints at the Ken Done online store start at $20 AUD, and you can also purchase clothing, books, and gifts.


Summer From the Verandah

For the Blokes

Australia cufflinks ($45.00 AUD) – Maybe cufflinks are up there with socks and ties on the boring gift list, but I’ve never seen ones quite like these before. Made from solid timber, they are a cut out of Australia (except poor Tasmania). I think these would be an especially great going away gift for an expat finishing up an Australian assignment, or one for expats to send over to dads and brothers who will get a little smile thinking of faraway family whenever they wear them.


Kookaburra Cricket accessories (various prices) – Listen, I don’t know Thing 1 about cricket, but I do believe that a lot of Aussies and people around the world do. And, I’m told that these Kookaburra sports balls are the real Aussie deal, and have been since the 1940s. Plenty of other cricket bats, bags, and accessories on offer, as well.


Kookaburra Miniature Ball – $10 AUD

Stuff Ladies Like 

Lucas Paw Paw Ointment ($14.20 USD for 75g) – This stuff is a wonder of the world. Use it as a lip gloss, hand lotion, diaper rash cream, or help with healing bug bites or sunburn. The not-so secret ingredient (it’s right there in the title) is paw paw fruit grown in Queensland. I always have a little tube in my handbag.

Lucas’ Papaw Ointment 75g

Liane Moriarty novels – Sydney author Liane Moriarty truly knows how to turn a suspenseful yarn. They have great characters, compelling stories, and a good dose of humor. I recommend them to just about every book loving female reader I know. For my money, I’d start with Big Little Lies ($18.86 USD), the tale of a group of Sydney suburban school mums whose lives become intertwined.

Big Little Lies

Oroton handbag – Want something a little more schmick? Your style vixens would be more than happy to receive a handbag from Australian brand, Oroton. They’re plenty pricey, but good quality and well-loved. You can also dip your toe in for a more budget friendly, but still lovely, wallet or key fob (men’s options, too).


Beautiful, Bouncing Babies 

Love to Dream Swaddle ($33.02 USD) – This Aussie invention is my number one must buy gift for every single new baby in my life, and that’s because it was one of those miracle items that helped us so much when Hushpuppy was tiny. The thing that makes the Love to Dream swaddle different from others is that it puts the baby in an arms up position. Once most babies “discover” their hands, they want those buggers in their mouth at all times. So, if they’re swaddled to their side, it makes them really, really angry! (Or, at least that’s what happened with our kid) Getting to sleep with their hands up (Maggie Simpson style, as someone I know said) makes for a happy little Vegemite.

Love to Dream Swaddle UP Organic

Bonds Wondersuit (currently 2 for $39 AUD on sale) – See an Aussie baby? Good chance they’re dressed in a Bonds Wondersuit. Having been the owner of a few of these things, myself, I have to admit that they’re pretty wonderful, indeed. I can’t really explain what it is that makes them so popular, but beyond an exceptional marketing campaign, they’re easy wearing fabric, super rugged, good for day or night, and they come in so many cute patterns. But, whatever you do, go for the zipper ones – ain’t nobody got time for buttons on a baby suit.


Kids, Kids, Kids

Diary of a Wombat ($14.54 USD) – If you’ve been hanging around this site for long, it will come as no surprise to you that this picture book by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley is much beloved in my world. Because … wombats. And, quite the cheeky wombat, just doing wombat stuff, at that. It is, just as the title suggests, the diary of the wombat’s days – and it’s the cutest. Suitable for kids up to about age 7.

Diary of a Wombat

Mem Fox books – For years, Australian kids have grown up on the books of Mem Fox. For the young ones, Where is the Green Sheep is the sweetest little board book. And, for the ever slightly older, Possum Magic is one of the most classic Australian story books (great introduction to Australian place and food names, as well). You can pick these up at any bookseller in Australia for shipping, including KMart and Target.


Lego Sydney Opera House ($310.00 USD) – The epitome of Aussie gifts for a Lego loving kid. Look at this thing! This one is guaranteed to keep them busy for a good, long while. This is quite a complex set, so best suited to older kids – preteens and teens (maybe even some Lego loving parents).

LEGO Creator Expert – Sydney Opera House

Caramello Koalas – In any package for kids, toss in some Caramello Koalas from the grocery store. Manufactured by Cadbury Australia, it’s both real Aussie chocolate with a caramel center and an iconic marsupial from Down Under. They’re a cute and tasty little ad-on that will delight almost any kid.


Do you have a tried and true Australian gift that you send overseas? Let us know in the comments!

Six Year Expativersary

expat issues 4 Replies

6 years ago today (today = a little over a month ago. I’m a bit late on this post), my two suitcases and I landed in Sydney. I thought we might stay for 5 years. We’re not going home anytime soon.

It makes me sad to write that, but 6 years ago, I couldn’t imagine the clown car carrying Donald Trump hurdling recklessly towards a potential Presidency. I’ve written and deleted many paragraphs on this topic, but it’s bigger than I can talk about. Bigger than I want to think about. Bigger than Trump. If you’re here, you get it. Or, you don’t, maybe … I can’t do anything about that.

Regardless, my husband, my daughter and I will be calling Australia home for some time longer.

This is not my perfect home. There are parts of myself that I’ve lost in the past six years. My choice to stop driving has stripped me of an independence that I used to love. Leaving work outside the home has given me a lot more freedom of movement, but left me with less intellectual confidence. I don’t have the roots of family or longtime friends here.

You know what I miss the most in this world? I miss having a best friend. You know that person you feel like you’ve know forever, who you call up anytime and say, “hey, what are you up to today?” And they say, “oh, listen, I just have to run to Target to get some new pillowcases. Want to come?” And you’re like, “Uh, YES! See you in 20.” Does anyone have that once you have children, or is this a symptom of having transitory expat friends?

It’s not perfect, but Australia is going to be home for now. I can’t imagine a place I’d rather raise a child. At this stage in my life, that’s just about the only consideration that holds much weight.

But, I defiantly hold onto things from home because these little rebellions make me feel like I still have one toehold in my home:

  • My American i-Tunes account
  • Saying zee, not zed
  • Making my kid peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch
  • Using the Oxford comma
  • Voting in American elections

So, a year past my expected Australian expiration date, life just carries on – me being my quirky self, happy most days, grateful for the many gifts I’ve been given in this life. Health, family, friends, beaches, flat whites, and the ability to choose which country I call home.

As I do every year, I’ll leave you with some the most significant images from my past year.

If you’d like to know what I’ve thought about on previous expat anniversaries, try these:
1 Year Expativersary
2 Year Expativersary
3 Year Expativersary
4 Year Expativersary
5 Year Expativersary

Coffees on the beach. The best of Sydney life.

Coffees on the beach. The best of Sydney life.

My favorite singer in this world came to Australia for the first time in 10 years. I was in absolute heaven.

My favorite singer in this world came to Australia for the first time in 10 years. I was in absolute heaven.

This theatre major got to see the Theatre of Dionysus.

This theatre major got to see the Theatre of Dionysus.

This was my balcony for a week.

This was my balcony for a week.

We met the Princess of Serbia, and she was gorgeous.

We met the Princess of Serbia, and she was gorgeous.

My kid was baptized.

My kid was baptized.



We threw a baby shower for one of the best girls I know. One more beautiful baby in our AusMerican extended family!

We threw a baby shower for one of the best girls I know. One more beautiful baby in our AusMerican extended family!

We took an impromptu trip to Jervis Bay, our happy place.

We took an impromptu trip to Jervis Bay, our happy place.

We celebrated Thanksgiving - a couple of times.

We celebrated Thanksgiving – a couple of times.

We had a pretty spectacular holiday season with our Christmas activity advent calendar.

We had a pretty spectacular holiday season with our Christmas activity advent calendar.

Loved the Sydney Festival

Loved the Sydney Festival

My little dinosaur turned 3.

My little dinosaur turned 3.

We went apple picking.

We went apple picking.

Hushpuppy and I spent 5 weeks enjoying all things Southern.

Hushpuppy and I spent 5 weeks enjoying all things Southern.

This one started daycare.

This one started daycare.

I saw Gloria Steinem.

I saw Gloria Steinem.

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival

I voted in my first Australian federal election - and SBS TV came along!

I voted in my first Australian federal election – and SBS TV came along!

We went to Bali, baby.

We went to Bali, baby.

I made this thing that I'm immensely proud of.

I made this thing that I’m immensely proud of. I’d love for you to have a look.

Sydney Expat Interviews Question 13: What I Miss From Home

expat issues, Sydney Expat Interviews 3 Replies

Regardless of how much expats love their new city, there’s always something from home that can’t be bought for love or money (well, *sometimes* for money and a good postal system). It’s that thing that brings up memories or floods our senses with feelings of comfort. I think for many of us, what that “thing” turns out to be can be a real surprise, too. Food is a powerful cultural marker for many.

You can’t have the experience of leaving home without missing something, so this month, I asked the expats, “what is one thing from home that you can’t get in Sydney?“. 

This is the 13th in an 18 part interview series with expats living in Sydney. Please make sure to visit the fantastic websites of the participants linked below, and join me on Facebook for much more on expat life in Sydney.

Sydney Expat Interviews - What You Can't Get From Your Home in Sydney

Question 13: Tell me one thing from home that you can’t get in Sydney.

Name: Debbie
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 10 years

Decent sausages! And by decent I mean typical English, fatty bangers. I so miss a good old fashioned sausage butty. When we went back for a holiday, I placed an order with my Mum to have in stock 1 packet of Richmond sausages and a loaf of Warburtons bread.sausage-472333_640

Name: Julia
Country of origin: UK
Lived in Sydney: 7 years

A proper curry – or a decent Roast dinner with all the trimmings like you would get in most pubs in the UK  for a sunday lunch!!

Name: Caitlin
Country of origin: England

Lived in Sydney: 1.5 year
Caitlin blogs at Where’s Wallis

Percy Pigs: a little jelly sweet from Marks and Spencers food stores. A friend recently went home and much to my delight brought a few bags back and we introduced our Aussie friends to them.

Name: Victoria
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 6 years
Victoria blogs at The Freedom Travellers

Real Dairy Milk chocolate. I used to visit the Cadbury factory as a kid in the UK and it just doesn’t taste the same here. Apparently they have an added ingredient to stop it melting which makes it taste different.

Name: Mollie
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 4 years

Crispy bacon and Velveeta cheese.bacon-737245_640

Name: Shane
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Shane blogs at Sea Salt Secrets

Pumpkin Spice, Ranch dressing, Mexican food, Franks Red Hot, Root Beer, decent peanut butter.


Name: Melissa
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year

Melissa blogs at Leche Love

I have not been able to find Fritos and good Tex Mex. I’m from Texas, after all.

Name: Erin
Country of origin: Texas, USA
Lived in Sydney: 7 1/2 years
Erin blogs at TexErin-in-Sydneyland

Tex-Mex; oh…I appreciate the efforts of some Sydney Mexican food establishments…but…they ain’t Tex-Mex. mexican-food-279892_640

Name: Ashley
Country of origin: United States

Lived in Sydney: 2 years (in Newcastle)
Visit Ashley on Instagram

Luckily, I don’t have any massive things I crave! The main things are Fritos and Dunkin Donuts. 2 years without Dunkin Donuts. How have I survived? Oh and cheap sneakers. So lucky my mom brought me some Converse from the U.S. at $45 instead of $90.


Name: Kirstie
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: Since September 2013
Kirstie blogs at Venga Vale Vamos

A few select restaurants (Californians can never live long without In-N-Out), and, perhaps it’s the obvious answer, but for as much of a “family” as I’ve found here, not being close to my family is the biggest setback in living overseas.


Name: Rachel
Country of Origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 4 Years

It’s pretty cliché to say it, but I used to miss the English sweets and treats, I’ve found as time goes on your forget which foods you’re missing and quickly integrate favourite Aussie alternatives. Like swapping my beloved Bovril for Vegemite or my chocolate biscuits for TimTams. More than that though, something from my home country that I can’t get in Sydney are my family members. I think of them every day and FaceTime at least once a week. The longing for home changes but never leaves you, regardless of the time you’ve been away from home.

Name: Dido
Country of origin: India
Lived in Sydney: 2.5 years


Name: “Bushranger”
Country of Origin: Serbia
Lived in Sydney: 6.5 Years


Expats, what is that elusive thing that you miss from back home?

Read Part 1: Expectations vs Reality
Read Part 2: The Most Memorable Sydney Day
Read Part 3: Your First Day in Sydney
Read Part 4: Drinking Like an Aussie
Read Part 5: The Birds of Sydney
Read Part 6: Australian Christmas
Read Part 7: Off the Beaten Path
Read Part 8: Questions About Your Home
Read Part 9: What People at Home Think of Australia
Read Part 10: Advice for Moving to Sydney
Read Part 11: A Sydney Weekend
Read Part 12: Australian TV

A Visit to Club Pippies in Chatswood Westfield

expat issues, Little Aussie 2 Replies

A Visit to Club Pippies

Confession time: I get a little jealous – in particular, I turn a shade greener whenever I hear about fellow parents with family nearby. Such is life as an expat parent (parents with families out of state, who don’t have a great relationship, or whose family is no longer with us – I see you, too). For us expats, of course it was our choice to step away from our village, but sometimes I do have a quiet twinge of envy towards people who can manage a date with their partner while the grandparents take the reins for a few hours, or get to run a couple of errands, while leaving the kids for some quality time with aunts and uncles. So, when I was invited to visit Club Pippies at Chatswood Westfield, I was intrigued by their “Shop and Drop” program, where parents can leave their kids with the staff while they do their shopping, or sit outside and get some work done using the free WiFi.

Not quite “baking cookies with grandma” level, but it still sounded pretty good.

Club Pippies Chatswood

We popped into Club Pippies on a weekday afternoon, and it was fairly quiet, but Hushpuppy still quickly found a couple of friends to conspire with. She did some painting and craft with little boy, whose mum had gone out for a some shopping. Then, she and another girl ran into the big play gym with one of the staff members, from where she occasionally poked her head out over the next two hours, just to tell me that she’d mastered the slide or that they’d renamed all the balls from the ball pit after fruits. Actual acts of bribery were required to convince her to leave as we inched close to dinner time. Meanwhile, I sat at one of the tables in the cafe drinking my coffee, wondering why I hadn’t brought a nice book to read, or my grocery list to tackle alone.

Grocery shopping alone. Even big dreams can come true.

Craft at Club Pippies

Nailed it!

Club Pippies Westfield

The club’s manager told me that they always have activities on for the kids, and that they change them out during the day. All of the staff have First Aid certificates and Working With Children checks.

I loved how the staff got the kids playing cooperatively together. Sometimes play centers can turn a little Lord of the Flies and it’s every pre-schooler for himself, but the staff kept saying, “would you like to play with Bobby?” and “Look, you and Anna can play with this together!” – and so play together they did. They remembered off of the kid’s names, and knew the particular interests of the frequent attendees.

Club Pippies accepts children from 6 weeks onward, and run extra activities during school holidays. Parents can either “Stay and Play” ($12 for 30 minutes up to $25 for 2 hours) or “Shop and Drop” ($18 for 30 minutes up to $45 for 3 hours). I asked for the full lowdown on the monthly membership because I really felt like some of my expat parents will get something out of it, so here’s the deal: For $99 per month, you can bring one child as many as 3 times per week for up to 2 hours per session. If you do the math, that’s not quite as cheap as Grandma would be, but a lot less than a babysitter or occasional care in Sydney.

**I got a little cheeky, and asked if Club Pippies could sweeten the deal even further for my people, and they said, “yep, sure thing.” So, mention Between Roots and Wings, and you’ll get $20 off your first month’s membership. (Club Pippies does require that you commit to at least 2 month’s membership, and then you’re free to cancel with at least 2 week’s notice).**Club Pippies Chatswood**I did not receive any compensation to write about our visit to Club Pippies, though our visit was complimentary.


If you go…

Club Pippies – Level 6 at Chatswood Westfield
Website / Facebook 
Email: / Phone: 9419 5050
Suitable for ages 6 weeks up.
I’d suggest dressing kids in something suitable for craft and active play.
Mention this blog for $20 off your first month’s membership.

The Introverted Expat Makes Friends

expat issues 14 Replies

Makes FriendsOur little daughter went through a shy phase awhile back. She would literally hide her face if a stranger even looked in her direction. She liked her friends, but if some nice grandmother on the bus looked up from the afghan she was knitting to give her a smile, my shrinking violet buried her head in my chest for the rest of the trip. It was a little embarrassing, but I really got where she was coming from. I’m introverted, and a shy introvert, at that, and though I’ve learned to fake it pretty expertly, sometimes new people make me feel like burying my head for the whole trip, too. I love being social and having great friends, but I like intimate groups, small talk stresses me out, and I hate being someplace loud where you can’t have a meaningful conversation.

Moving to a new country where I knew no one but my guy (who also knew almost no one, but has the distinct advantage of being the King of the Extroverts) was a particular challenge for a shy but social introvert. But, can I brag for a tiny moment? Right, thanks – so, I haven’t aced every aspect of expat life, but I feel I’ve done pretty OK on this whole making friends business, despite myself. I call some of the best and most loyal people friends today, and I love that about my life here. So, for all the introverted expats – I know I’m not the only one – these have been my best tactics:

Online Friend-Dating

When we first arrived, we hauled ourselves around to expat meetups and social events. I took classes and got out of the house every single day. That’s what “How to Make Friends” guides  tell you to do it. Except, those things are written for extroverts.

Big groups just are not the way that introverts make friends. We hate small talk, and “meetups” are about 98% “Where are you from? How long have you been here? What brought you here? And you?” I wanted to kick a wall every time we left one. And, as for classes and just walking around the grocery store, I’m about as likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger as I am to learn to love Vegemite toast.

The beautiful thing about meeting people on the Internet first is that you can cut the small talk, and when you do decide to meet in person, it’s because there’s already some kind of friend-spark. I’ve met people through blogging, expat forums, and Facebook groups.

You do have to put yourself out there on the Internet. You can’t just be a “watcher.” It’s good to try to get the lay of the land when you first join an online group or forum, but once you’ve picked up the tone, jump in on conversations you find interesting, and be yourself. We introverts are often at our best in writing, where you can avoid, “I can’t believe I just said that,” “oh my god, I have no idea where this story is going…,” and “did I just snort when I laughed? Did she notice? Why? Whyyyyyyy?!?“.

Online friend-courtship is your chance to make a great  impression, showing off your smartest and wittiest side long before your first pig snort laugh.Computer

Be the Cruise Director

Here’s the secret about making friendships. Almost everyone wants new friends. Very few people want to be the one organizing the get-togethers where you’ll meet new friends. It’s a pain to organize things. You have to stick your neck out and get everyone to agree. You have to pick a date. And get everyone to agree. You have to find a venue, which is ridiculously hard. And get everyone to agree. Then, people will want to change the time, find out if they can bring their sister, or just cancel at the last minute. This is why no one wants to do it.Cruise Director

Nonetheless, I like to be the Cruise Director sometimes. For 4th of July, we threw a little party for American families in our section of Sydney. That’s a pretty limited group, which is exactly how this introvert likes it. We picked a spot and time, told everyone to bring a dish, tossed up a few balloons, and I think everyone had a nice time. We had 5 families in total, which is the perfect number for me – enough to feel festive, but not so many that you get that crushed in a crowded room feeling. When you host, people will naturally talk to you, which is half of the shy person’s battle.

Sometimes it’s as simple as asking someone else to coffee. I think “we live in neighboring suburbs, we both have toddlers, and that thing you said online made me laugh” is more than enough reason to suggest meeting up. I can’t remember ever being turned down for a coffee date. Sometimes they go nowhere, but sometimes it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Identify a People Connector

There are people in this world who love nothing more than meeting new people and putting them together with other people. A Friend Emissary, if you will. If you’re an introverted expat trying to make friends, you should do your best to befriend at least one of these people. Luckily, I’ve met a couple, and I can trace almost my entire network of friends back to these people. The good news is that Friend Emissaries love making new friends, so if you’re open, there’s a good chance that you’ll get one in your corner.People Who Need People

Fear Not the Extroverts

Real life talk here: Extroverts often stress me out, and I can feel myself immediately trying to back slowly out of the room when I come across some of the particularly boisterous members of Tribe Extrovert. I always thought that I was just choosy about people until I read a quote that, to paraphrase, said that introverts are sometimes wary of extroverts because we feel that they “steal our energy.” That was a ding-ding-ding moment for me. The other thing about extroverts that, for me, is hard to understand, is that they are so social, have so many friends and obligations, that it’s hard to feel that you are an important part of their life. And so, consciously or unconsciously, I have tended to keep extroverts at bay, in terms of friendships (which is crazy because I married an extrovert!).Extrovert

It is only recently that I’ve realized how unfair and limiting this bias has been. Yes, there are shallow “energy thieves” in this world – and we’d all do well to steer clear of them – but that’s not all extroverts. I’ve discovered that I need to manage my interactions with extroverts, where possible, and be together in smaller groups or one-on-one, rather than at large gatherings. This has the dual benefit of allowing me more introvert-energy to commit to the friendship, as well as allowing me to feel like we’re connecting on that deeper level that we introverts crave. I have some very close extrovert friends, and they all understand that I’m always good for a lunch date, but probably going to pass on the big party where I know no one else.

Oh, and don’t forget – the Friend Emissaries I mentioned above – pretty exclusively extroverts. Love the extroverts, and they will love you back.

Don’t Chicken Out!

There’s a joke that introverts think, “I love making plans so that I can cancel them.”Canceling Plans

I’m always enthusiastic when I make plans, but then the date comes closer, and it seems like a lot to put on the clothes, catch the bus, find the restaurant – every part of the event that isn’t me in yoga pants watching Nashville. Many of us introverts imagine our energy being sapped long before it’s even happened. And, if there are going to be new people there, even more so.

But, then I get there, and 98% of the time, it’s really fun. Is that your experience, too?

Repeat after me: Don’t cancel. It will be fun, and it will be worth it.

Follow Up

I’m not great at this, and should really heed my own advice. You found someone rad to friend-date because you made each other laugh in a Facebook group. You had coffee, and the conversation flowed nicely, and you were both like, “hey, we should try that new hot chocolate and brownies pop up cafe that’s opening next week!” (*If only*).

Then, maybe you go home, and you think, “well, I had a good time, but I did say that one awkward thing, and also I snort-laughed, so I wonder if I came across as kind of weird…?” She’s probably super busy, anyway. And, then you think you’ll text tomorrow … the next day … after the weekend … and it just gets away from you. Here’s the thing – there’s a very good chance, that she went home and thought some of the same things.

There’s a bit of a narcissistic tendency many of us introverts have to think that we are the only ones with self-doubt and insecurities, and I think we probably need to try to get over ourselves. Be the one to pick up the phone, write the text, be brave enough to say you had a fun time, and set up the next get-together.  Making plans

Allow For One Flake Out (Way More If You’re Parents)

You’ve made the plans, and you’re psyched for the hot chocolate and brownie cafe on Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday at 10a.m. she cancels because she’s “not feeling 100%”. That’s a bummer (but also a tiny bit not because Nashville is not going to watch itself, am I right?). Reschedule. One flake out is allowed. Maybe she’s cancelling because she changed her mind, but maybe she’s about to come down with a raging flu, or maybe she’s going through some tough stuff at home that she’s not ready to talk about, yet. Let it slide. But, when the flake outs become regular, that’s not on. No adults need that in their lives. One flake out, totally fine. Multiple flake outs – probably time to move along.

UNLESS. Unless you’re both parents. Then, the flake out rule goes to, I don’t know, 7 in a row? 9? Because, let’s get real, you’re going to be pulling the, “sorry, Kenny has a runny nose, and it’s clear, but – I don’t know – he’s just not acting like himself” line out plenty of times in this friendship, too. Sorry I Was Late

Keep At It

Unfortunately for us introverts – and, especially we introverted expats – this work of making new friends is never done. It’s like laundry. As long as you want clean clothes people to spend quality time with, you have to keep at it. Friendships ebb and flow, and the reality of expat friendships is that someone is always moving on. But, the fortunate part of this cycle is that you never know what extraordinary person might walk into your life tomorrow. Keep at it. Be bold. Do the work. The really special people make it all worth it. Ghost friends

The Expat Family Photo Book

expat issues, Little Aussie 14 Replies

Expat Family Photo Book

There was a moment during my pregnancy when our midwife asked if we had any family to help with the new baby. I don’t know if I’d ever felt so alone as I did at that moment when her face momentarily registered horror and concern when we said that, no, we just had us to contend with the tiny hurricane that was soon to enter our home.

While it’s true that having family help on deck to help with a newborn would have useful, I’ve come to miss having our families nearby much more acutely as Hushpuppy has gotten older, able to interact, and eager to sort people into categories. Surely, if you ask almost any expat family the biggest challenge of living abroad, they will tell you that it’s the sadness and guilt that comes with lost time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

We’ve logged plenty of airline miles to ensure that Hushpuppy has spent time with both my family in the U.S. and Partner-in-Crime’s family in Serbia, and she sees them on Skype when we’re able; but I wanted a way for her to see family anytime, and to help her understand who fits where in relation to her.

So, I made my little Third Culture Kid a gift I hope she’ll hold dear – a personalized family photo book.

To create the book, I simply used a photo editing site (Snapfish because they had a good sale on, but I think most sites have good photo book editing software these days). Along with a multitude of layout choices, there were also a lot of stock images and accents to choose from to make it a bit adorable, so I just spent an afternoon playing around.


I divided the book into U.S.A. Family, Serbia Family, and Australia Family, giving a page to each relative, and scattering the accompanying pages with photos from moments she’s shared with each of them.

I have been enjoying looking at this book with her so much. We carefully go through each page, naming everyone, and talking about things they’ve done together. It certainly doesn’t replace having all these special people nearby, sharing her growing up together, but I hope that this book will be a special keepsake for her to always remember that her family is near in heart, if far in presence.


Seychelles Mama

More on our expat family life…

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Sydney Expat Interview Series Question 9: What Do People At Home Think About Australia?

expat issues, Sydney Expat Interviews Leave a reply

Last month, I shared some of the the things that Sydney expats have been asked about their home countries. This month, I’ve flipped it and asked the expats to share the funniest or strangest things they’ve been asked about Australia by people from home. 

Australia … I’m not sure the world feels safe around you, mate!

This is the 9th in an 18 part interview series with expats living in Sydney. Please make sure to visit the fantastic websites of the participants, and follow me on Facebook for much more on expat life in Sydney. Sydney Expat Interview Series Question 9 - What is the funniest thing people from home have asked about Australia

Question 9: What is the funniest or strangest thing that people from your home think about Australia?

Name: Dido
Country of origin: India
Lived in Sydney: 1.5 years 

That Foster’s is the best Australian Beer

File under: Things I’ve Never Seen in Australia (Source)

Name: Julia
Country of origin: UK
Lived in Sydney: 6 years

That everyone just wears thongs and board shorts all year round!!

Name: Ashley
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: 2 years (in Newcastle)
Visit Ashley on Instagram

This has to be all the deadly animals. They assume that every single deadly animal is crawling around my backyard and hanging from my house! In truth, I’ve only seen maybe 10 redbacks (all in unlived rentals), no snakes, and nothing deadly in the water. Yes, they are here but I think it’s rare to come across them. My husband did say there was a brown snake in his work parking lot though. *shudder* And I think because Australia has so many unique animals, people think they are EVERYWHERE. Sure I’ve seen kangaroos, koalas, and wombats but pretty rarely and only kangaroos in the wild, not the others. And no, the kids don’t ride kangaroos to school!

Name: Debbie
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 10 years

I think people in the UK think we have ‘roos bouncing down our streets all the time – either that or we’re constantly battling poisonous spiders and snakes.

Name: Victoria
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 5 years
Victoria blogs at The Freedom Travellers

Probably that people think there are deadly animals and insects at every turn in Australia, something I thought too before I moved here!


Name: Caitlin
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Caitlin blogs at Where’s Wallis 

That you can’t leave your house without being confronted by a spider or a snake!

World’s deadliest snake … at the zoo.

Name: Rachel
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 3 years, 11 months

That it’s not safe to live here you in Australia, it’s full of potential dangers and deadly insects and you will immediately die from either a snake bite, spider bite or extreme temperatures.




Name: Melissa
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 11 months
Melissa blogs at Leche Love

The bugs! I have gotten so many posts on my Facebook about spiders and insects.




Name: Kirstie
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: Since September 2013
Kirstie blogs at Venga Vale Vamos

Hey, Australians, we don’t really think you all have pet kangaroos and koalas, as great as that would be. I think the biggest misconception Americans have about Australia is the size – it’s definitely not easy to see the entire country in one trip!

Name: Erin
Country of origin: Texas, USA
Lived in Sydney: 6 1/2 years
Erin blogs at TexErin-in-Sydneyland

Just this May my cousin was asking me about the climate and scenery. He thought it was basically beaches and red dirt. He didn’t believe me when I told him that there are some rolling hills and thick trees. Then again, many Australians have assumed Texas is dirt and tumbleweed, so I think we’re even. Ha!

Name: Shane
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Shane blogs at Sea Salt Secrets

That there are kangaroos hopping down the roads and koalas hanging from trees. And that every animal here can and will kill you. Bogus. Queensland is where all the dangerous creatures reside 😉

Welcome to Queensland!

Welcome to Queensland!



Expats – what’s the funniest thing that people from your home country have said to you about Australia?

Read Part 1: Expectations vs Reality
Read Part 2: The Most Memorable Sydney Day
Read Part 3: Your First Day in Sydney
Read Part 4: Drinking Like an Aussie
Read Part 5: The Birds of Sydney
Read Part 6: Australian Christmas
Read Part 7: Off the Beaten Path
Read Part 8: Questions About Home

How To Mentally Prepare For a Long Haul Flight With a Toddler

expat issues, Little Aussie 22 Replies

In a couple of weeks, Hushpuppy and will be boarding flights for the long trip back to the States.

My current panic level: Moderate to calm

Hushpuppy and I have clocked a lot of long-haul miles together, and my increasing familiarity with travelling with a toddler is the only reason I’m not in the Red Zone. Last year, I very nearly cancelled our first trip home because of my anxiety over flying alone with a then-22 month old firecracker of a lap baby. I would have missed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my brother’s wedding, all because the thought of the 21 hours in transit alone with a feral toddler had become an anxious obsession. I was having nightmares every time I went to sleep.

Thankfully, I turned to the wise advice of other expat mothers I knew. Long haul travel with children is the well-trodden territory of expat mothers, so these marvelous women talked me down and convinced me to go. And, honestly, is was fine. Mostly fine. In any case, far, far more fine than all the personal apocalypse scenarios I’d been playing in my head.

So, I wanted to write this post for anyone who is going to do long-haul with a squirmy, rat-bag toddler. There are millions of excellent posts out there with advice on how to physically prepare for air travel with young children – what to pack, how to get the best seats, and so forth. You have Google. I won’t repeat that here. This post is to help you mentally prepare for the trip, so perhaps you won’t lose quite as much sleep as I did.

How to Mentally Prepare for Long Haul Travel With a Toddler

You Need Mantras

I am serious. My expat ladies loaded me up with an arsenal of mantras to keep me going. I wasn’t sure how much words would help me, but knowing that there were skilled travelers behind these personal cheerleading moments made me feel like I had a small army backing me up. So, please consider me part of your team, and let me give you a few of the mantras that get me through.

  1. You Can Do This!!! (Simple, but imagine a whole marching band and drill squad singing this. You Can!)
  2. It’s only ONE DAY of your life.
  3. You will never see these people again.
  4. If any idiot shoots you a dirty look, just remember how lucky you are to have this awesome kid. Their life is empty. Empty and loveless. You are winning.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Everyone Does Not Hate You

A lot of my anxiety came from the idea that I was going to walk down the plane aisle to a chorus of sighs and eye rolls, that I was going to make people mad, and just generally that everyone was going to hate me for being the mom with the baby on the plane. I packed bags and bags of chocolates to give to flight attendants and seat neighbors (most of which I never ended up giving out), and braced myself for being the Most Hated Woman in the Sky.

But, none of these fears came true. Here’s what actually happened. Lots of people offered to help. Flight attendants helped get me the best possible seats and brought me food when I missed a meal. The businessman next to me, who I apologized to for my very presence before I even sat down, played iPad with my kid and was kind as could be. When my kid cried for 20 minutes at landing, people came up to me after and said, “you did great, Mom” and “I remember those days with my kids.”

I’m not saying that no dirtbag will ever cross your path with an ugly look or snide comment, but most people are decent human beings with compassion and empathy.

Ask for Help

See above.
Yay – society works!
Also, accept help when it’s offered. People like to help. Let them.

Don’t Pack All the Things

Individually wrapped toys that your kid can open each hour – that’s the advice a lot of sites will give you for keeping your kid entertained. I am here to call B.S. Do you know how much room that takes up in your carry on? A lot. I did it. It takes a lot of precious space. And, you know what? All your kid is going to want to do is play on the tablet, watch the in-seat entertainment, pull out and put back the safety information cards, and – hopefully – sleep. In all of the flights we’ve done, I’d estimate Hushpuppy has logged maybe 14 minutes of interest on crayons, 41 on stickers, 6 on books, and 2 on Matchbox cars. I’m not saying don’t bring anything, but I am saying don’t go crazy. Being able to access things you actually need in your carry on is far more important than packing half of Daiso in hopes that your kid doesn’t suffer one single moment of boredom.

The one exception to this rule is snacks. Popcorn, raisins, crackers. Pack ’em all. Pack lots.

You Probably Won’t Sleep

Prepare ahead with as much sleep as you can manage the night before. Even if you’re lucky enough for your poppet to sleep, the best you can hope for is to drift off into what I call “mom sleep” – that state of sleep where you still know every breath your kid takes, every move she makes … every smile she fakes, every bond she breaks. You’ll be watching her.

It’s OK. You’ve been there. Remember the newborn months? Or, the night before every single research paper was due in college? It wasn’t awesome, but we survived it. This is just one day. And, the good news is that you’ll sleep like a boss on the other end where there will, hopefully, be some doting and helping hands.

It’s OK to Cry

Airplane crying? Welcome to the sorority of Expat Mums and long-haul travelers. It will probably be something so small that sets you off. For me, I asked a flight attendant to help me put up my bag. She scolded me that my bag was too heavy. I sat in my seat and cried for 10 minutes. I just really needed that cry. And, then I remembered my mantras and all the women I had behind me. A little cry doesn’t mean you’re not going to get through it. It’s just another way to kill a few minutes. And, it was nothing like the ugly airplane crying I did when I watched Marley and Me on the plane a few years ago!

Drug ‘Em. Or Don’t. Who Cares.

Oh, the great Benadryl/Phenergan debate. Do you give your kid a mild sedative to ensure that they sleep, or does that make you the #worstparentever? Do you want to try it? Do it. Makes you feel ooky? Don’t do it. You’re not going to ruin your kid’s life or make or break your trip one way or the other.* Me, I had it with me as a “break glass in case of emergency” precaution. It made me feel secure, and I never ended up needing it.

But, for the love of all the air and space gods, test it out first if you think you might go that route because you do not want to find out that you have one of those kids who thinks it’s Mountain Dew. That would ruin your trip.

*All disclaimers about pre-existing medical conditions, check with your doctor, I am not a trained professional, etc, etc.

Try to see things form your child’s perspective

This may sound a little treacly, but if your kid truly does crack it and make you feel a kind of crazy, try to change the script in your head by putting yourself in your child’s place. They’re not actually acting up to make your life miserable, but because they’re tired, uncomfortable, excited, overwhelmed, and maybe a little scared. And, they may be tiny dictators, but they really are just little.

Is there anything you can do to change their reality and make it easier? If not, see if you can cut them a little slack. You’re on the same team  – Team Let’s Get Off This Airplane Together In One Piece. Go team!


Are you a survivor of long haul travel with young children?
What are your mantras?
Tell us how you did it!

Seychelles Mama

2015 Between Roots & Wings News In Review

expat issues, Little Aussie, politics, Sydney 10 Replies

5How was your 2015? Are you dragging to the end, ready for a fresh start? Or, were you #blessed? I like the ritual of having a scan back over the year, even if it’s just to say, well thank George Washington that’s over.  So, in the spirit of seeing where we’ve been, I’ve complied the Between Roots and Wings 2015 News Roundup. This is what made the news in my world of toddler-rearing, expat-living, Sydney-siding, American-being, travel-hopping, coffee-loving, and just generally interested in the world-ing.

Before we cue the soundtrack (what song are we using this year, guys? I haven’t listened to any new music in half a decade at least!), I want to thank you. Sincerely. There are so many things you could be reading right now, and that you’re here is just the stuff. My little spot on the Internet is about living away from home, seeing Sydney (and beyond) through expat and parent eyes, raising my  third culture kid, and just being interested in the world and kind to each other. Meeting other people who care about these things in this space is just a wild, affirming thing every day of the year. So, if you’ve read posts here, left a comment, joined me on the ol’ Facebooks, Twitters, Instagrams, etc., THANK YOU. I hope your 2015 has seen love, and curiosity, and laughter, and generosity. I look forward to sharing more of those things and whatever else 2016 offers us.

Happy New Year! *Cue “Uptown Funk!”*


  • I lost the first two days of 2015 to travel and the International Date line, and so, there were only 29 days for interesting things to occur in my January, 2015. #expatlyfe
  • In breaking local news, the cubby house at my favorite cafe became a news story, one which burned for a day, then fizzled. *The cubby house still stands like a fortress guarding all that’s good about childhood.*Sprout cubby house
  • Australia’s Prime Minister made a royal error in judgment  in knighting Prince Phillip.
  • Starbucks introduced the pride of Australia, the flat white, to its menu. People liked it. I know, right?!?
  • My one year old became a two year old.2yr


  • Parks and Recreation ended.
  • My two year old gave up her nap. The days became very looooooong.
  • Rosanne Cash responded in the most wonderful way to something I wrote about her, and I went, “Gah! You guys…!” rctweet
  • Australia’s Prime Minister managed to keep his job, just barely. He promised to do better, pinky swear.


  • I was probably more excited than is normal to vote in my first Australian 1 (8)
  • A family of possums took a summer home on our balcony. Because Australia.
  • Australia’s Prime Minister stuck his foot in his mouth.


  • A lot of us put our time, hope, and energies into trying to spare Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan a death sentence in Indonesia. We still mourn them. photo 2 (13)
  • Sydney had the wildest storm. It blustered and rained and gnashed its ugly teeth for days. That thing was crazy, y’all.
  • Australia’s Prime Minister had a 12% approval rating.


  • Johnny Depp’s poor dogs took a short trip to Australia
  • We didn’t know how old Rebel Wilson was. It bothered us. And then we did. Rejoice. wilsondepp
  • Prince Harry came to town, and Sydney was all like, “O.M.G., you guys! He is is SO cute!”
  • Emma and Lachie from the Wiggles got engaged, and I was all like, “O.M.G., you guys! That is SO cute!”
  • Australia’s Prime Minister was a little out of touch with the people. tony abbott again


  • The. U.S. just one day up and decided to get marriage equality. Are you kidding me?!? This was THE greatest day of the year. Rainbows for everyone! (Except Australians). I don’t say this very often (ever), but, U-S-A! U-S-A!
  • I did this interview about being an expat, which was kind of fun.
  • Donald Trump announced that he was running for President. Every person I met in Australia wanted to know – what the actual…? “Don’t worry!,” I told them. “He’s a joke candidate,” I said. …err… U-S-A! U-S-A! …?…
  • The Killing Season documentary on ABC was amazing. And, it reminded us of how charming our Prime Minister can be. tony abbott



  • Nothing happened. Seriously. It was weird.


  • Serbia
  • Greece
  • The refugee crisis
  • Oh and, fair go, Australia decided thought it would try out a new Prime Minister. Who could have seen that coming?


  • American had another mass shooting. This one was at a college. Australians to America: “Are you kidding me, bro?”


  • One guy on Twitter got his panties twisted about red coffee cups, and the Internet imploded
  • The Paris terror attacks were just too awful
  • Australian commentator Walleed Aly won the year by saying a lot of smart things


  • I gave thanks for many things. Some of my friends did, too.


  • We had a By-election in my district, or as I liked to call it a “Bye-election.” Bye to Joe Hockey, who said almost as many ludicrous things as Prime Minister #1 this year. Look out, America – he’s Australia’s new ambassador.
  • A shark jumped on a guy’s surfboard at Bondi Beach. They were both fine. ‘Straya, mate.
  • Christmas took over my life. It was 1 (23)

So, hey, that’s what my last revolution around the sun looked like.
What was the big news in your world this year?

I Won’t Give Up My American Optimism

expat issues 16 Replies

87-1248162843HTT4I sometimes think I’m a bit terrible at “being American.” Patriotism doesn’t do much for me. I don’t care for football. I’m not religious. I’m not even overly concerned about home ownership. “American Dream”… meh. But, living and travelling abroad, one aspect of my American nature always comes to the fore – my wide-tooth grinned optimism.

Optimism is so ingrained in the American psyche that it never occurred to me that others didn’t view life with as rosy glasses as I do until I started travelling. We Americans are so wired for optimism that the “pursuit of happiness” is in our national constitution as one of our three “inalienable rights.” 19th Century French thinker Alexis de Tocqueville, who studied the United States extensively, said that  Americans “have all a lively faith in the perfectibility of man … They all consider society as a body in a state of improvement.”* 

My optimism manifests itself in every cell of my person. I’m drawn to stories with a happy ending or positive message. As someone who has made a life in stories, I realize this predilection is a little juvenile – like a diet of candy – but that’s how I’m wired. If stories are meant to instruct, I want instruction on how we might live happily. I tend to assume the best of people. When discussing the bleak events in the world, I try to know the facts, but always find myself peddling messages about hope. When I moved to Australia, I struggled with the darker aspects of the Australian sense of humor, and on our recent trip to Eastern Europe, I couldn’t make sense of shop clerks and waiters who never cracked a smile, though my husband assured me that they were being perfectly friendly.

I’ve heard people from other countries remark on American optimism with either admiration, annoyance, or an “isn’t that cute” tone you’d generally reserve for talking to pre-school children. My German friend V and I have been in a few countries together, and have a series of jokey photos we took in Paris, one called “German Tourists” where we stood grim-faced in front of monuments and the other called “American Tourists” in which we affected the largest smiles our faces would hold, coupled with ‘thumbs up’ signs.

We see things brightly, my people. We like happiness. Effusiveness is just our way.

Some people find American optimism charming or something to aspire to. Other people find it cloying, misguided or insincere. I can see how it might be annoying, and given the state of the world, quite possibly misguided, but one thing American optimism is not is insincere. I think our collective optimism stems from the focus on the individual, and the belief that we are all masters of our own destinies. If, as a society, we go forth with that premise without also believing that things are going to work out, then the whole thing falls apart. We can’t strive for a better future if we don’t believe in it.

Cultural optimism does come with problems. For one, we have far too great a tendency to diminish real mental health issues like Depression because they don’t fit our idea of how people ought to behave. And, I think we have an unhealthy fear and distaste for the darker parts of life like illness, ageing and death. We pretend they don’t exist, or we paint a positive veneer on them, when perhaps we’d all do better to acknowledge and embrace these very real elements of life by allowing for grieving and accepting the inevitability of death as part of life. Other cultures do these elements of the human experience much better than Americans.

In the face of world tragedy and looming crises, optimism is a hard trait to carry earnestly and gracefully. I have lately asked myself too often if hope is a fruitless exercise? A childish outlook? How does optimism flicker on in the face of climate change, gun violence, refugees, and worldwide terrorist violence?

Yet, my hope survives, and for me, the answer is that optimism should not operate as a lone wolf. Optimism can walk hand in hand with grief, questioning, and anger. Furthermore, optimism should always couple with truth and facts. This is a mature and honest optimism.

Optimism is hope for the future, but that hope comes from action – reaching out to someone in need, shining forth with a welcoming face, asking our legislators for the change that will make the world better. If I lift my head up to do my bits to make the world nicer, then I can carry on with the hope that enough others are doing the same. Optimism is my culture and my responsibility. I can’t give it up, nor do I ever want to.


(Credit for the de Tocqueville quote and more background for this post must be given to this excellent article from The Atlantic).



Seychelles Mama