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Toni Hargis

Columnists > Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis

Keeping The Home Fires Burning

Posted by: Carole on Monday February 18, 2013 (02:03:04)   (1929 Reads)

Toni Hargis

As a Brit in the USA, married to an American, and having children all born and raised here, it’s important to me that they feel “half British” and understand where I came from. Fortunately, by dint of husband’s many air miles, we are able to visit England every summer for several weeks, if not months. The kids get an annual dose of Englishness in the form of decent sausages, Robinson’s fruit juice and Walker’s crisps, as well as lunches in ancient pubs, shopping at Marks and Spencer and Coronation Street on the box.

Sadly, my children are also well acquainted with British summers; last year possibly being the pièce de résistance since it rained for all but two days of our visit and the mercury never rose above 60F or 15.5C. We were in England for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee River Pageant (watched on the telly), and we bonded with the rest of the nation in wondering how Her Majesty and Prince Philip could possibly stand for three hours in the freezing, horizontal rain. (Wasn’t that the very epitome of “stiff upper lip”?)    more ...


Columnists > Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis

Finding Your Feet In Chicago

Posted by: Carole on Sunday January 20, 2013 (00:00:06)   (5011 Reads)

Toni Hargis

Like many serial expats, especially the “trailing spouse”, it can be hard to keep a professional career going. This month I’m talking to Veronique Martin-Place who has re-invented herself, professionally speaking.

Veronique, can you tell us what your expat background is?

I am a French citizen and I started my journey as an accompanying spouse in 1999! Wow, just saying this date makes me jump off of my chair! So I have been following my husband for 14 years abroad. I lived three years in Norway (1999-2002), three years in Sri Lanka (2002-2005). Then we moved back to France for three years where I experienced the repatriation process, which is far from being the easiest! Then we packed again to Chicago where we stayed from 2008 to 2012. Our family relocated to Shanghai in China during the summer of 2012 and we are now posted there until 2015! Phew!!!    more ...


Columnists > Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis

What’s In A Name?

Posted by: Carole on Friday December 14, 2012 (01:28:01)   (2517 Reads)

Toni Hargis

As an expectant expat, there’s a lot of thought required when choosing baby names. If you speak the language, but with a “foreign” sounding accent, chances are, the way you pronounce your kids’ names will be a little foreign too.

When thinking of names for my three offspring, a handful of possibilities were immediately off the table because of pronunciation issues. Looking at the list of possibilities, I see “Paige” was briefly on one list; it lasted about three seconds not so much because of my English accent but because most of my in-laws are Texan, which would have rendered the name more like “Pige” to my ears. In addition, I’m from the north east of England, where her name could easily have become “Peeyage” in the thick Geordie accent.    more ...


Columnists > Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis

Seeing “Home” Through A Different Lens

Posted by: Carole on Tuesday November 20, 2012 (04:19:19)   (1332 Reads)

Toni Hargis

I wrote in in my last piece that no matter how long you’re an expat, there are things you’ll never quite get used to in your host country. The other side of the coin is that on going “home”, you often see things through a different lens.

Take pizza. Although I ranted last month about the way Americans often eat without a knife, I must confess to a smirk or two when I see a fellow Brit attempting to eat pizza with a knife and fork. Come on – if pizza isn’t finger food, what is? Or attempting to eat teeny tiny peas by spearing them with the tines of a fork? Apparently even the Queen eats peas with an upturned fork, so I think it’s acceptable these days.

I’m not one to shout about the customer service in the US, it’s certainly fast but it’s often not what it’s cracked up to be.    more ...


Columnists > Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis

Some Things Just Don’t Grow On You

Posted by: Anonymous on Monday September 24, 2012 (11:20:16)   (2500 Reads)

Toni Hargis

No matter how long you’re an expat, there are certain things that you’ll just never get used to. Having lived in the States for twenty-two years now, you’d think that most things would be second nature to me. I have embraced baseball, I understand the school system, I can even say “bay-zil” without cringing, (although “tomaydo” is taking things a little too far). There are still a few things that have me shaking my head however.

Like ironing, or rather, the lack of ironing. I swear nobody irons here. When I married my American husband, the iron he had was still in the box and was actually the one he took to college ten years previously. It had traveled twice across the Atlantic without even being taken out of the box. Part of the reason for this national lack of ironing is that most people take their clothes to the cleaners. Part of the reason is also because a lot of people use tumble dryers and apparently if you’re right there when the cycle stops, the clothes come out perfectly crease-free. (I wouldn’t know as I always forget they’re in there.) It’s also partly because people don’t care about creases as much as we Brits are trained to. here    more ...


Columnists > Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis

Schools Abroad – Another Expat Challenge

Posted by: Carole on Tuesday August 21, 2012 (02:19:54)   (3192 Reads)

Toni Hargis

If there’s one aspect of living abroad that reminds you you’re an expat, it’s the kids’ school. At this time of year many British parents in the USA are in shock at the three months of summer thing, - and then you get the school supply list.

After a 15-year career as a school parent, it’s not so much of a mystery but in the past, the arrival of the school supply list has filled me with dread. A “trapper-keeper?” What on earth? If I had been living in a non-English speaking country I would have asked a sales assistant for a translation, but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to do that in Chicago. (OK, I could have faked a French or Greek accent but I have a feeling the kids might have noticed.) Although to me a “trapper keeper” sounded like something vaguely science-y, it was number four on the stationery list, so off to Office Depot I went. And yes, I finally found it – amongst all the other loose-leaf binders. Why it has to have a different name is beyond me, but according to Wiki there is a reason.    more ...


Columnists > Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis

The Class System – Alive And Kicking In England

Posted by: Carole on Friday July 06, 2012 (00:45:23)   (5028 Reads)

Toni Hargis

Like something out of Louis XIV’s French court in the 1600’s, where only persons of the highest rank could even sit on a stool in the king’s presence, Queen Elizabeth II recently updated the curtseying protocols for the Royal family. Officially called the “Order of Precedence of the Royal Family to be Observed at Court”, these protocols were last updated in 2005 when Charles married Camilla Parker-Bowles. Although Camilla was generally recognized as posh, she is in fact a commoner and apparently certain “blood Princesses” (namely the Queen’s only daughter, Anne) refused to curtsey to her. Now that all three of her sons have married “down”, the Queen has the task of updating the protocols to avoid hurt feelings and embarrassment.

Although Kate Middleton, is now the Duchess of Cambridge and a future queen, she must curtsey to Princess Anne, (a blood Princess who works very hard, I have to say), and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie (grand-daughters of the Queen, who do very little and wear ridiculous hats and towering heels).    more ...


Columnists > Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis

Expat packing

Posted by: Carole on Tuesday June 12, 2012 (02:35:47)   (1983 Reads)

Toni Hargis

Like many expats, when I visit my “homeland” I’m traveling a long way, and staying there for more than the usual week or two. Although we usually have access to laundry facilities, these days we all have severe restrictions on checked luggage, which calls for some very strategic packing.

Here are some tips from a few experienced expat packers:

• A few weeks before departure, start a list of what you plan to take. Add to it as you remember things and don’t be afraid to cross things off. (Keep this list in a safe place, by the way!)

• Pack your “important” items first, to make sure you have room. For example, I’m attending a family wedding and a posh cocktail party on this trip, which involves two completely different outfits, plus shoes, bags and jewelry. (Ideally, the one outfit would do double duty, but alas, not this time.) I am also taking three summer birthday gifts, which go in first.    more ...


Columnists > Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis

Been A Long Time

Posted by: Carole on Sunday May 13, 2012 (01:09:09)   (1878 Reads)

Toni Hargis

This month will mark twenty-two years of living in the States! I can’t really believe it, and yet somehow I still don’t feel like a native. While I don’t mind using American vocabulary, there are still some things I don’t think I’ll ever get used to:

Like men being called “Dana” (pronounced Day-na). It wasn’t a very common name growing up in England, but it was never, as far as I can remember, a man’s name. Here we have comedian/actor Dana Carvey, rapper Dana Dane, and the character on Desperate Housewives, Dana Taylor to name but a few. Interestingly, the one female Dana that springs to mind is the CNN White House politician Dana Bash (I know, what a name eh?) and it’s pronounced Dah-na.    more ...


Columnists > Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis

Expat Life Slice By Slice

Posted by: Carole on Wednesday April 04, 2012 (17:17:27)   (2610 Reads)

Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis interviews Apple Gidley author of "Expat Life Slice By Slice"

I have written before about static and serial expats , and debut author Apple Gidley is the epitome of a serial expat. As a child, wife and mother, she has moved twenty six times and lived in twelve different countries. I first met her several years ago at a FIGT (Families in Global Transition) conference in Houston, Texas. Her life has always fascinated me, as has her attitude to “getting on with it” and making the most of life’s opportunities.

Her book, “Expat Life Slice by Slice” has just hit the bookshelves, and I devoured it in less than two days.    more ...