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Category Archives: Dear Mary-Sue (series)

DEAR MARY-SUE: Reconnecting with old friends (the year in review)

Mary-Sue Wallace, The Displaced Nation’s agony aunt, is back. Her thoughtful advice eases and soothes any cross-cultural quandary or travel-related confusion you may have. Submit your questions and comments here, or else by emailing her at

There’s chestnuts roasting on an open fire (well, baking in my Jenn-Air 48″ Pro-Style gas oven) and I’m sipping on a glass of eggnog while listening to Michael Buble’s take on some Christmas classics Yepsiree, it’s a Mary-Sue Christmas!!
Christmas is an important time for the ol’ Wallace homestead. Hubby really goes all out with the Christmas lights and we’re now something of a seasonal event in Tulsa. People come from all over the state to see hubby’s lights. Must say, I’m not happy when I see the electricity bill.
Anyhoo, on with the final column of the year (time hasn’t just flown this year, it’s broke the sound barrier. It’s like that Austrian Lee Majors who fell from space in a Red Bull balloon).
Now, I know from you regular readers that one thing you’re always asking me about is what happened to those who wrote in to me. Did they follow my advice (yes, if they had any sense). Well, as it’s the end of the year, let’s see, shall we?
First up is Sharon who wrote to me for advice on whether spending time at an ashram in India was necessary for her spiritual enlightenment. (She had just read the book Eat, Pray, Love.) I advised her to go for a hike or take up watercolors (she lives in Texas), or if she just wanted to escape, sure, take a plane trip to India. Here is her story since then:“A lot has happened since I sent you that letter in January of this year. I took your advice and went on a hike rather than going off to an ashram. Unfortunately, during the hike, I got a nasty snake bite. After eight months in a deep coma, I finally woke from it at the end of August. Every day is now a blessing, and I’ve come to the realization of what I want to do in my life. That’s why in the new year, I am off to India where I WILL join an ashram. Why, I figure, let my fear of what other people think get in the way of me living my life.” 
Lot of snakes in India, Sharon … a lot of snakes
* * **********************************************************************************
Another letter that received a lot of votes was the one from Lars in Los Angeles. He couldn’t fathom what it meant when someone in that fair city wished him a Happy Anti Valentines Day. I told him it was a sign he should get the heck out of LA and move to Tulsa. Did he take my advice? Let’s hear his story:

“I did come out and visit Tulsa to see whether I could make a life for myself out there. I had a look round … let’s just say it gave me a whole new perspective on life in LA.”

Your loss, Lars.* * **********************************************************************************
There were also some votes from Patti in Plymouth who wondered what she should do with a gift of a jar of Marmite from her host family. I told her not to worry as it probably wouldn’t make it past customs. But is that what happened?“Actually, I did get past customs with my Marmite jar. And you know something else? Everyone hated it. I however douse it all over philly cheesesteaks.”

They’re going to run you out of town, sweetie.

That’s it from me this year, dear readers. Here’s hoping your misery and confusion keeps me occupied in 2013 as I was in 2012! God bless us all!
STAY TUNED for next week’s post, some more Random Nomad highlights.

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DEAR MARY-SUE: 6 jolly holiday tips for expats (& other global wanderers)

Image courtesy of bulldogza /

Image courtesy of bulldogza /

Mary-Sue Wallace, The Displaced Nation’s agony aunt, is back. Her thoughtful advice eases and soothes any cross-cultural quandary or travel-related confusion you may have. Submit your questions and comments here, or else by emailing her at

Woo! That’s Thanksgiving over and I am still full to busting. Oh readers, your Mary-Sue has been one greedy piggy, she is one stuffed turkey — but it was all worth it as she had a lovely time with her family. Yes, she is one mucho happy Mary-Sue.

My oldest child and middle child were back home for the holidays and so I got to feed them and my three lovely grandkids — bliss. Even my youngest was able to extract himself from World of Warcraft and his basement room to join us for dinner.

We had a great time watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on NBC. Other than the Kermit balloon, my favorite part was watching those delightful Kidz Bop Kids sing on a float. Don’t you just want to feed their adorable little faces full of cranberries and mashed potatoes? I do!

And then there’s Matt Lauer hosting the parade. Mmmmh, mmmmh. I know what I am giving thanks for this year. . . Matt’s dreamy eyes. After watching SkyFall this weekend, I think that when Daniel Craig hangs up his tux, Matt’s the guy to replace him. Not only has he got the looks, but you believe he can kill a man. . . with his bare arms!

Anyhoo, enough with my wild thoughts and on with all your problems!

Based on the thousands of similar questions I receive this time of year, this time I am doing something a little different, spicing things up, by issuing a list of six tips for any of you expats and others out there who find the holidays befuddling.

Here we go! Mary-Sue’s top 6 tips for having an amazing holiday!


Dear Mary-Sue,

We are still trying to work out what to do with all this leftover turkey from our first American Thanksgiving. We’ve got turkey sandwiches coming out of our ears at this point. Can you think of anything more creative?

— A Swedish family in New England

Yes, nothing gets you out of the holiday spirit than eating dreary leftovers. Try and think outside the box. Why just have the leftovers for food? That’s the sort of dreary thinking of a Rachel Ray. Sandwiches, curry, it’s all boring. What you could do with your leftover turkey is use it to make an arts and craft project. It’s a great way of getting the kids or grandkids involved in the holidays, too. Think of the turkey carcass as your canvas and really go to town on it with some acrylic paint. Or why not take that turkey and make a seasonal ottoman with it — the perfect way to put your feet up while watching Hallmark Christmas movies!  



Dear Mary-Sue,

I’m finally in the Northern hemisphere for Christmas, and it doesn’t feel much different than this time of year in Perth, where I come from in Australia. Temps have yet to get below freezing; and as I’m sure you know, we had a hurricane in late October.

Sigh! Will I ever be able to have a white Christmas?

– Aussie in Baltimore

Living in Oklahoma, I can relate to this. To really get that fun, cosy Christmas feeling when temps aren’t as low as you would like, do what I do: wear tops that expose your midriff. When you get a kidney chill, that’s when you know you’re doing things right.



Dear Mary-Sue,

My Japanese girlfriend keeps hinting that I should give her a ring on Christmas Eve. By that I don’t mean a telephone call but a diamond. I told her I’m not Japanese (they have a thing about getting engaged at the end of the year), but she says Christmas engagements are also popular in the West.

Actually I always thought of her as my iki jibiki (walking dictionary — Japanese is an extremely difficult language), but if I do decide to get engaged, should I be using their cultural norms? What’s wrong with her learning ours?

Then again, there is the Cold Stone Christmas Cake I could get…

– American in Tokyo

Ah, nothing like getting pressurized into a proposal — that always works out for all involved. I like this Cold Stone Christmas cake idea, but I suggest you do an old-school version of it. I know that it is traditional in England to hide coins in the Christmas pudding and then a child eating the pudding either chokes to death, cuts open their mouth or ends up a penny richer. I suggest you do something like that and hide the ring deep into a seasonal, suet-y pudding. If she chokes, breaks any teeth or cuts her mouth, then you’ll know it wasn’t meant to be, and can renege on the proposal.



Dear Mary-Sue,

I was looking forward to being in the US instead of the UK for Christmas as I thought it might mean buying fewer gifts for friends and relations, but now I learn that everyone expects a hand-out in New York City, from the doorman to the garage guy to the hairdresser. Who knew? And how much do I owe all these people I don’t know?

– Newbie British expat in New York

You can give them an actual gift instead of money. I find signed copies of my book (“Treat Every Day Like It Counts. . .because it does” by Mary-Sue Wallace, published by PublishAmerica) and a signed, framed photograph does the trick. Don’t have your own book published? That’s okay, you can just give them a copy of mine.  



Dear Mary-Sue,

We are expats in Singapore, and my husband thinks we should use the week off between Christmas and New Year’s to travel within Southeast Asia, instead of going home to the United States to be with our families. But isn’t that what Christmas is about — family? And how can we possibly celebrate Christmas in a non-Christian country?

– The better half of an American exec in Singapore (we’re originally from Georgia)

Actually, it’s about baby Jesus, not your family in Georgia. However, I begrudgingly take your point that it’s nice to be with your family when thinking about baby J.C. You can travel to your family over the holidays, not away from them.  



Dear Mary-Sue,

I’m an American in the UK and would like to experience the best of Christmas/New Year’s traditions here. Besides Scrooge, what are they?

– Linda of London

I live in Tulsa, OK. Do they not have Time Out in London? They probably have some tradition with those Beefeaters at the Tower. Yeah, they eat beef at the Tower every Christmas Eve. It’s a very quaint ceremony — be sure to go to it — or, whatever.

* * *

That’s your dose of Mary-Sue for November. God bless y’all!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s Random Nomad, a chap who is ever-thankful for his expat lifestyle.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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