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Columnists > Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis
Toni Summers Hargis is the author of The Stress-Free Guide to Studying In the States; A Step-by-Step Plan for International Students (Summertime). She is also the author of 'Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom' (St. Martin’s Press) and blogs as Expat Mum.

Toni Hargis

Expat Writing – A Veritable Minefield

Posted by: Carole on Sunday January 12, 2014 (00:08:07)   (3477 Reads)
Toni Hargis
I’m been writing about US/UK stuff for about ten years now, so what have I learned? (My spellcheck is American, by the way.)

You can make fun of your home country almost ad nauseam and you won’t get much of a backlash as long as it’s well informed. Being a British expat makes it easier because of our well-known self-deprecating sense of humor – most Brits chime in with me. Viewing the UK from afar as I do these days, I can see the strengths and the weaknesses possibly more clearly than I did when I lived there. I can also voice my opinion on the weaknesses without fear of insults, obviously as long as I’m not implying “I’m so glad I’m out of there” as some expats do. That must get irritating to read if you’re actually living in that terrible place.    more ...

Toni Hargis

Sticking To Our Roots – Or Doing Our Children A Disservice?

Posted by: Carole on Friday November 15, 2013 (15:15:01)   (4033 Reads)
Toni Summers Hargis
I was in an online ‘expat’ conversation the other day when someone suggested we do our children a disservice when we don’t assimilate to our host country. I agree with her, and go one further to ask if perhaps, even when we try to instill a “bit of the old country”, it might not help? It’s a fine line.

Expat Brit, author, blogger and artist, Emma Kaufmann has lived in the States for thirteen years; she is English and her husband is Irish. She says – “I think a lot of whether you assimilate or not depends on what state of mind you are in when you come to this country. A lot of spouses are brought here with their husbands (I have seen it the other way around but it is mostly thus) and they are homesick, so cling like a drowning (wo)man to the old country.    more ...

Toni Hargis

“Why Don’t You Just Go Home?”

Posted by: Carole on Tuesday October 22, 2013 (16:30:40)   (5726 Reads)
Toni Hargis
No one likes a whiny expat. There are books upon books written for expats relocating to yet another new country, and one of the most common themes is “Don’t criticize”. Australians even coined the term “Whinging Poms”* for the legions of Brits who’d go out there and then complain about everything from the heat to the spiders. Reminds me of an old joke - A Brit had almost saved his fare back to the UK but needed another quid to buy a ticket. He asked an Aussie "Can you give me a quid to get back to the UK?" The Aussie said, "Sure, here's a fiver- take four other whinging Poms back with you."

*Whinging is a word of British origin meaning whining or complaining. The “g” is soft, like a “j”. A Pom is a semi-derogatory name for Brits; the etymology is somewhat vague but this is a great explanation.    more ...

Toni Hargis

Blame It On The Host Country

Posted by: Carole on Tuesday September 17, 2013 (03:47:18)   (3046 Reads)
Toni Summers Hargis
I read a charming post the other day that really got me thinking. Ms. Caroline, who writes the Asia Vu blog had just returned to Seoul after spending the summer in the States. As many of us do (wherever we live) she was having a bit of a moan, and recognized that, like many expats, she was blaming a lot of her woes on her host country. And don’t we? I’ve been in the USA for over twenty years and I still somehow convince myself that many daily problems would instantly disappear if I lived somewhere else.

Jennifer Howze, blogger and co-founder of BritMums, is an American in London. “I know this syndrome. Usually it manifests in me thinking that life was so AWESOME back wherever I used to live. I never got stuck in traffic there! There's always loads of parking there! It's easy to find a hardware shop that carries that particular thing I need!    more ...

Toni Hargis

Helping International Students Study In The States

Posted by: Carole on Sunday August 18, 2013 (15:57:30)   (2657 Reads)
Toni Summers Hargis
UNESCO statistics reveal that the US attracts 21% of all students studying abroad. Furthermore, the US saw a 49% increase in foreign students in the decade 2000 to 2010. “The United States is the global hub of higher education,” concludes senior policy analyst Neil Ruiz of the non-profit think tank Brookings Institution.

The problem is, the US education system is very different from many other countries’ systems, meaning that the entire application process can be utterly exhausting and overwhelming for international applicants. The jargon is different, - What the heck are “transcripts”? What’s a “GPA”?, and the academic requirements (SATs, ACTs and APs) aren’t what many students have.

And how about those fees?    more ...

Toni Hargis

Is Home Where The Heart Is?

Posted by: Carole on Thursday July 18, 2013 (02:50:08)   (2238 Reads)
Toni Summers Hargis
The old saying “Home is where the heart is” can be a tricky one for expats. When you’ve lived almost as long in your host country as you did in your home country, you begin to wonder just where “home” really is. What used to be familiar on your visits home, now makes you feel slightly out of place and apprehensive. Things like (still) not having a chip and pin in my credit card for example, only serve to remind me how long I’ve been away and how “different” I now am from your average Brit.

Watching the TV or reading a gossip mag and not having a clue who Tulisa and Jodie Marsh are further mark the fact that the UK has moved on without me. Having not lived in London since 1990, not only do I have to refer to the Tube map to get from one end of town to the other, there are stations and entire lines on the map that weren’t even there when I left!    more ...

Toni Hargis

Expats These Days Have It So Easy!

Posted by: Carole on Thursday June 20, 2013 (03:54:33)   (2211 Reads)
Toni Summers Hargis
Ok, ok, a deliberately provocative title I know, but really, the expat experience today compared to even twenty years ago is so easy and don’t even talk about trekking to far off lands without so much as the promise of regular mail.

When I left my home country, twenty-three years ago, there was no Internet through which to book flights, cars, hotels etc. My sparkly, new husband rented an apartment for us without any input from me; you can imagine how the scene would have played out today. Photos back and forth, weeks and weeks of decision-making…. Sigh.

One thing that did bug me back then, was the trouble I had to get money when visiting the UK. Although there were obviously cash machines/ATMs, very few banks’ machines were actually connected the way they are now.    more ...

Toni Hargis

Expat Outer-Body Experiences

Posted by: Carole on Friday May 24, 2013 (00:46:48)   (1757 Reads)
Brit Gal in the USA, a fellow British expat, recently commented on Facebook – “Every now and then I still have days when it feels odd to be living in America…”. I was nodding my head in agreement before I even reached the end of her sentence. She’s been here for about seven years but whether you’ve been abroad for two months or two decades like me, you can bet on those out-of-body moments.

She explained, “I drove from Oklahoma to Amarillo (Texas) yesterday on a gloriously hot day through the Texas Panhandle, which scenery wise could really not be further from England. The roads through the canyons were effectively empty; I passed through tiny, off-the-beaten-track American towns and only passed pickup trucks! As I went through one town I spotted 2 elderly men sitting just inside a garage chatting and drinking tea surrounded by vintage stuff. I very nearly turned around and went back to photograph them it was just so Americana.    more ...

Toni Hargis

Dongles and Deductibles

Posted by: Carole on Thursday April 18, 2013 (01:24:13)   (1779 Reads)
Toni Summers Hargis
A recent column I wrote at the BBC America web site, touched on “going native” and switching over to the habits or pronunciations of your host country. A commenter noted that a couple of the words I’d been talking about (“hummus and Pitta bread”) hadn’t even existed in the English language when she left England, so she’d always just used the American pronunciation. And that got me thinking about other new words.

I’ve been in the USA for over 20 years now; a period of time that spans the introduction of the Internet and many other technology break-throughs. For that reason I say cell phone instead of mobile; it’s not necessarily that I’ve “gone native” – I just never knew it any other way. Likewise with computer stuff - It was only recently that I finally twigged what British friends and family meant when they mentioned a dongle; and all this time I’d been wondering if they were sharing too much personal information.    more ...

Toni Hargis

Interview With Expat Author, Emily Winslow

Posted by: Carole on Thursday March 21, 2013 (01:09:25)   (4221 Reads)
Toni Summers Hargis
I recently read Emily Winslow’s new novel “The Start of Everything”. Set in Cambridge, England, this book is a real page-turner. I’m not usually attracted to thrillers but I could not put this one down. Read all about it at the web site -

Emily is an American married to a Brit; they currently live in England, with their two children. Obviously, there were questions to be asked-

Emily, you're an American in Cambridge, England. You moved to the UK in 2006 with your British husband but you say you'll return to the US when your young sons are in college. I'm curious as to how you've decided that. Do you feel that England isn't somewhere you could live long term? Do you get homesick?    more ...

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