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Colleen MacDonell, Baku

Who are you?

I’m Colleen MacDonell.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

We left Nova Scotia in 2000 because of cutbacks in education, especially to teacher-librarians.What challenges did you face during the move?

My husband had extreme culture shock for his first year abroad (in Lebanon). We basically left Canada with two suitcases. I was surprised at how quickly I adapted.

Are there many other expats in your area?

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No. We pretty much live in a completely Azerbaijani neighborhood.

What do you like about life where you are?

I like Baku as a city. It feels very small town for such a big city. I like getting to know my local veggies guys, seamstresses, flower shops, etc. I have found it really easy to feel comfortable in the three different neighborhoods I have lived in here in Baku. I have fallen in love with the music here. I’ve even been on TV! Playing kamancha and singing. Now, that is getting pretty integrated I think!

What do you dislike about your expat life?

Frankly, other expat teachers can complain a lot. That is a serious downer. And let’s face it – traffic and transportation at rush hour is a real pain in Baku. If I can walk, I walk.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

The restrictions on women.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Learn a bit of the language and it will transform your experience into something very positive.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to stay for the music but wonder if it is time to move on. France has always been a dream of mine.

You can keep up to date with Colleen's adventures on her blog, Speak Azeri.

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