The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

Tag Archives: Ask Mary-Sue

Up, up and away: The Displaced Nation turns three today (no foolin’!)

TDN Birthday CardWal-lah! The Displaced Nation is turning three today. Yes, our birthday is April 1st—no foolin’!

To celebrate, we would like to invite you to a virtual “hot air balloon” party.

Yes, a hot air balloon party—no foolin’ on that score either, though you could have fooled me as I had never heard of such a party until a day or so ago. Back in my day, when I still celebrated birthdays, ordinary balloons would suffice. As Winnie the Pooh once put it:

Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.

But surely they can be even less uncheered with a hot air balloon—or so I’ve come to be persuaded.

What’s more, I’ve come to realize that hot air ballooning represents most of what we’ve been up to on this site over the past three years. Here are the three observations that led to this considerable epiphany:

1) We are full of hot air.

I won’t point the finger at anyone in particular. We are all guilty. But if I had to start somewhere it might be with:

2) But we’ve steadfastly adhered to our goal of putting air under the wings of international travelers and residents.

Just because we’re full of hot air, doesn’t mean everyone else has to be. Tellingly, our most inspirational posts tend to be by our current crop of columnists. They produce monthly tales of international residents who’ve used their time creatively. Who can fail to feel uplifted when reading about individuals like:

And these are just from the past month! Thank you, JJ Marsh, James King, Lisa Liang, Joanna Masters-Magg and Meagan Adele Lopez (her column comes up tomorrow!) for the critical part all of you have played in keeping us afloat.

On this note, Kate Allison deserves special mention for keeping us entertained with her serial expat novel, Libby’s Life, for the entire length of this voyage. She recently posted its 90th episode! The thought of writing that much fiction online is enough to puncture anyone’s balloon, but not Kate’s!

3) We go wherever the wind takes us.

As regular readers will realize by now, we don’t really steer the balloon, because, well, we can’t. And to be honest, we never had any particular destination in mind. We started out with monthly “themes” of global residency and travel, in hopes we would one day land in an island full of great wealth and fantastic inventions, the kind of place where our themes could become memes. Everyone there would say, how right you are, we international travelers are all writing our own versions of the Alice in Wonderland story! Let’s have a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party to celebrate. As a matter of fact, let’s turn it into an island-wide holiday!

As it turns out, however, we have yet to share the fate of retired schoolteacher Professor William Waterman Sherman. We have not yet found (or founded?) the utopian displaced community of our dreams. Thus, on our second anniversary, we rebranded ourselves as something a little tamer: a “site for international creatives”: fiction and nonfiction writers, artists, entrepreneurs, and activists.

But we kept two categories that pay tribute to our original concept: Pot Luck and Just for Laughs. And to this day, we enjoy lurching towards the odd (you can say that again!) thematic post. We just can’t help ourselves! As most regular readers know, we still give out monthly “Alices” to those with a special handle on the curious and unreal aspects of life as a global resident or voyager. And, just last month, we embraced a new heroine for the repatriate challenge many of us have faced: Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz!

Is it any wonder we are throwing a Hot Air Balloon Party?

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I’ve just now heard that the band has arrived. They’re called The Fifth Dimension—what could be more appropriate for take-off?! Up, up and away!

Hey, even if you’re not a balloonatic yet, we guarantee that this is the most fun you’ll ever have in a wicker basket. (And perhaps the most fear…)

Before leaving, let’s all raise our glasses. Here’s to another good year aboard the Displaced Nation Thermal Airship! Three cheers! Hip, hip, hooray!

Readers, if you have any posts that you particularly enjoyed in the past three years, please let us know in the comments. We can see if we can produce more of the same (depending on which way the wind blows, of course).

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s fab post from The Lady Who Writes.

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

Image courtesy of bulldogza / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bulldogza / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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 thedisplacednation@gmail.com

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!

1) FOOD — BE CREATIVE WITH YOUR LEFTOVERS

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!  

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2) WEATHER — HOW TO GET THAT CHRISTMAS FEELING

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.

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3) ROMANCE — FOR A TRULY GREAT HOLIDAY, KEEP THINGS ROMANTIC

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.

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4) GIFTS — DON’T BE A SCROOGE McDUCK

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.  

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5) TRAVEL — USE THE HOLIDAYS TO VISIT FAMILY

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.  

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6) HOLIDAY ENTERTAINMENT — WHEREVER YOU ARE IN THE WORLD, CONSULT YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS

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.

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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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DEAR MARY-SUE: One expat’s horror story is another’s delight

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 thedisplacednation@gmail.com

Shoot! Is it October already? I don’t know how the time flies. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of fall. Who would be living in Tulsa. It just gets grey here, no burnt ochres like in Vermont. In fact, I wouldn’t know a burnt ochre if I saw one. Is it like a vole (please don’t feel the need to write in. I’m not that stupid. I know it’s not a rodent). Anyhoo, on with this month’s questions.

Dear Mary-Sue,

I can’t resist asking you: how does the Wallace household celebrate Halloween? I can imagine it’s quite an occasion!

– Ian (a British fan of yours) in Iowa

Dear Ian,

Well I can tell you that we don’t celebrate Halloween like the Larsons across the street. She gives out fruit to the kids in the neighborhood. Why would you even do that? It’s just cruel, isn’t it?

No, it’s a time of excess over at the Wallace household. That’s why I wake up the day after Halloween and don’t have to worry about finding the trees outside my house covered in toilet paper.

I buy plenty of Reese’s peanut butter cups because who doesn’t love them? I hear in Europe they have what they call food mountains when they have too much of a particular food source, well let me tell you that the Wallace household ends up with a Reese’s peanut butter cup mountain come Halloween.

You should come along and grab yourself a treat.

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Dear Mary-Sue,

My wife and I have lived in the United States since last May, and I must say, she is throwing herself into the life here with considerable vigour. She is now talking about hosting a Halloween party for some of our fellow expats, and inviting a few of our American neighbors. She has suggested that she and I dress up as an Elephant and a Donkey, in celebration of the American election season. No pun intended, but that would make me feel a bit of, well, an ass, to use the local dialect.

I wonder if I could talk her into going as a Milkman and Pregnant Lady instead? At least that would be true to our native (British) culture.

– Stephen in St. Louis

Dear Stephen,

So let me guess this right regarding your Halloween costumes, your wife was to be satirical and you want to be lewd? Gee, what is it with you Brits. You always think your jokes are funny and yet they always just seem to be about sex. Just go as something horror related and stop trying to over think it. If you really want to be true to your native culture why not go as King George III. Bam! Yes, I went there.

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Dear Mary-Sue,

My husband writes mystery books for a living. He and I have decided to live in England for a few years while he does research on his latest story. He insists that we look for an old isolated cottage somewhere deep in the heart of the countryside, where he can be free to write. But I feel certain that those oldy-worldy thatched roof places may be haunted. And what if I have to stay in a house like that on my own, should he be called up to London to meet his agent or give a talk.

Do you think I’m strange to be so afraid of (admittedly English) ghosts?

– Susan of Savannah, Georgia, soon to be of Suffolk, East Anglia

Dear Susan,

If you’re going to be living in East Anglia I’d be more concerned with the living than the dead. They’re a scary in-bred bunch, though coming from Georgia you should be able to handle it. I kid, I kid…well not about East Anglia.

*****
Dear Mary-Sue,

Do Westerners see Western ghosts, Chinese see Chinese ghosts, and Africans see African ghosts, or can we see each other’s?

– Just Curious

And does Just Curious see ghosts of low intelligence?

*****

Dear Mary-Sue,

When I first saw the farmhouse in Tuscany that my husband and I are now renting while we look for a place to live for our retirement, I thought to myself: Frances Mayes, eat your heart out! However, we’ve just now found out from one of our neighbors that a murder took place here about ten years ago — and ever since, the house has always been rented to expats. I’m thinking we should consult with the local Catholic priest about whether he could perform an exorcism — casting out evil spirits and all that. But my husband says, don’t be silly — it just adds to the atmosphere.

What do you advise?

-Victoria of Vulterra (formerly of Wellington, NZ)

Dear Vicky,

First thing I would be doing is renegotiating a lower rental fee and not thinking about calling the local Padre.

*****
Dear Mary-Sue,

In my opinion, Asian ghosts are far freakier — and hence scarier — than Western ones. Especially the Japanese kind. I mean, what’s a vampire compared to a wailing Asian woman with a very pale face and long, jet black hair? Actually, I’m scaring myself even as I write this…

– Ted of Tsukuba (formerly of Texas)

Dear Ted,

Yeah, I mean Casper has nothing on the Krasue from Thai legend. Now that’s freaky. I’d like to see Stephen in St Louis go to his party dressed as that.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s episode in the life of our fictional expat heroine, Libby. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.) 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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DEAR MARY-SUE: Can you tell me how to stomach other countries’ bizarre food obsessions?

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 thedisplacednation@gmail.com.

Well, this month I’ve been asked to deal with your food-based queries. That’s pretty easy for this gal! I love to chow down. Not in a Paula Deen kinda way, you understand, but I sure do love a refined meal and am pretty well known on the Tulsa culinary scene.

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Dear Mary-Sue,

Fermented salted herring — how does that sound to you as a national dish? [Not great. Think roadkill cooked up in the finest Ozarks tradition sound preferable, if I’m being honest – M-S]  As an American living in Northern Sweden, I have yet to acquire the taste let alone abide the smell. However, a friend at my new church has invited me to a party where they’ll be serving surströmmingsklämma — that’s a sandwich made with slices of surströmming (the name for this fish — quite a mouthful, too, though at least it’s not fermented!) between two pieces of the hard and crispy kind of bread they love so much up here. The bread is buttered and there is a further layer of boiled and sliced or else mashed potatoes.

What to do? Do I accept my friend’s invitation or pretend to be busy “settling in”?

– Mary-Louise from Umeå, Sweden

Dear Mary-Louise,

You don’t have to pretend to be Anthony Bourdain if you don’t want to be. Look at Samantha Brown, she travels all the world and never once leaves her comfort zone or experiences something new.

Also, you’re in Sweden, not some village in the third world where they are honoring you by offering you a slice of roast anteater rump. I’m sure you won’t be insulting anyone by politely declining. Just be graceful and say you’re not big into fish.

Mary-Sue

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I know you’re very pro-USA, but as an English expat who has just spent his first summer in the United States, I haven’t been able to get the hang of some of your summer desserts.

Take, for instance, strawberry shortcake — overly sweetened strawberries on a sweet biscuit, which should actually be called a scone. Whose bright idea was that? I guess that person hadn’t heard of strawberries and cream?

Moving right along to that traditional American Girl Scout favorite, s’mores. The chocolate and graham crackers are fine, but a roasted marshmallow — that’s OTT. Please, sir, can I have no-more?

I could go on about the American obsession with eating ice cream in a wide variety of sickening flavors, when there’s absolutely nothing wrong with chocolate and vanilla (okay, strawberry, too, if you like) — but I’ll stop there.

Here’s the thing, old girl [??????? M-S]. I would love to tell my various American hosts that nothing beats a tall glass of Pimm’s on a summer’s day, and a slice of summer pudding, but I’m guessing that wouldn’t go down too well.

Nigel of Nevada

Dear Nigel,

Old girl??! Why, aren’t you a little slice of honey pie? I’d certainly like to beat you with a tall glass of Pimms. It actually isn’t too difficult to get hold of a Pimms cup here in the land of the free. As for the rest of your letter: yeah, we like our desserts to be sweet. What a surprise!

Mary-Sue

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I’m originally from Winnipeg, in Manitoba, Canada, and am teaching English in Korea. The other day one of my students went so far as to tell me that the reason the Korean economy has gotten strong is because they all eat so much kimchi.

I wanted to tell him that I think there’s something strange about a nation being so obsessed with what is essentially spicy fermented cabbage.

I mean, can’t they think of anything else to brag about?

– Sally from Seoul

Dear Sally,

First Mary-Louise’s problems with fermented fish and now this. I don’t know what it is with foreigners and fermentation — seems crazy to me. The Mary-Sue rule is that unless you’re fermenting something that I can make into a mimosa or margarita, then it’s best not to bother.

My hubby, Jake, is always going off to the Korean barbeque in town. If the owner is sending back all the money he makes off dear ol’ hubby, well, it’s probably that that’s keeping the Korean economy strong.

Mary-Sue

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Dear Mary-Sue,

Oh. My. God. Do people really eat this stuff? I’m an American student staying with a British family as part of a semester abroad, and they SERIOUSLY just offered me the most foul-tasting stuff imaginable on toast. I thought I was going to spit it out. I mean, it was soooo salty! And then they presented the jar to me as a GIFT! What am I supposed to do with it?!?!?!?

– Patti in Plymouth

Dear Patti,

I’m assuming you’re talking about Marmite. I wouldn’t worry too much, it probably won’t make it past customs when you return to the land of milk and honey.

Mary-Sue

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Anyhoo, that’s all from me readers. I’m so keen to hear about your cultural issues and all your juicy problems. Do drop me a line with any problems you have, or if you want to talk smack about Delilah Rene.

Mary-Sue is a retired travel agent who lives in Tulsa with her husband Jake. She is the best-selling author of Traveling Made Easy, Low-Fat Chicken Soup for the Traveler’s Soul, The Art of War: The Authorized Biography of Samantha Brown, and William Shatner’s TekWar: An Unofficial Guide. If you have any questions that you would like Mary-Sue to answer, you can contact her at thedisplacednation@gmail.com, or by adding to the comments below.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post by Jack Scott.

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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Dear Mary-Sue: Expats face tough come-down after Olympics high

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 thedisplacednation@gmail.com.

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! That’s been the chant in the ol’ Wallace homestead these last two weeks. We took on the world and we whopped its ass — just as it should be. All very exciting — and some of those swimmers! Well, let’s just say they can come round to Mary-Sue’s pool to practice their doggy paddle anytime they want.

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I was watching the closing ceremony of the London Olympics last night, and at one point the commentator said that it was a great tribute to British individualism and creativity. But why don’t we just go ahead and call it eccentricity? Because that’s what it is, right?

Former expat in Britain, now happily repatriated to USA

Dear Former Expat,

Hmm, if my understanding of British culture is correct, and bear in mind that I am no expert like Mary Carillo, but I don’t think there was enough cross-dressing for it to technically count as British eccentricity.

Mary-Sue

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Dear Mary-Sue,

At the conclusion to the London Olympics, Sebastian Coe said: “Britain did it right.” But then why were the Spice Girls involved in the closing ceremony?

A happy repatriate to the USA after several years in Britain

Dear AHRTTUASYIB,

How many years were you in Britain and yet you never learned their famed sense of irony? Two weeks Mary Carillo has spent there and she has got it all sorted. Shows what you can do if you apply yourself.

Mary-Sue

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I’ve been watching my home country, Britain, host the Olympics for the past two weeks, and now I’m really homesick. What’s the cure for this? (I’m allergic to chicken soup.)

Ben in Boston

Dear Ben,

Epcot, British pavilion. Just like being in Britain, but with actual customer service!!

Mary-Sue

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I noticed that the great Brazilian footballer Pelé made an appearance in the closing ceremonies when Britain was handing over the Olympics flag to Brazil for the next Summer Games in 2016. As you may or may not know, Brazil will also host the World Cup in 2014. As much as I like the Olympics, in my opinion, that’s a far more important and prestigious event — even though America, my new country, doesn’t participate. Would you agree?

Pablo from Pittsburgh

p.s. Viva España!

Dear Pablo,

No.

Mary-Sue is all about those tasty swimmers. Is Ryan Lochte (yeah, he’s an idiot, I know) going to be at the World Cup? Thought not. Pelé may have been a great soccer player, but all I know about him now is that he does commercials for Viagra. Give me Lochte any day.

Mary-Sue

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I noticed that one of the Displaced Nation writers, Anthony Windram, was criticizing the NBC coverage of the Olympics. He even went so far as to call Bob Costas the “ugly American.”

Though I now live in England, I’m sure it couldn’t have been any more partisan than what I witnessed over here on the BBC.

Wasn’t Windram just being churlish and if so, why was the Displaced Nation giving him so much “air time”?

Bob from Britain

Dear Bob,

I agree Windram is a blight on this site. I actually have to deal with him. I ask for Ryan Lochte and they send me that chump Windram. I wanted a wet athlete and they give me a wet fish. He called Bob Costas ugly, I know which one I’d rather wake up to on a cold winter’s morning.

Mary-Sue

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Dear Mary-Sue,

At one point during the Olympics, tensions between Kiwis and us Aussies here in the Netherlands reached an all-time high because they were winning more medals than we were. But all’s well that ends well, or at least that’s the way I and my fellow Aussies see it: we finished 10th, with 35 medals (of which 7 were gold), as compared to their 16th-place finish with 13 medals, of which 5 were gold. However, some Kiwis continue to lord it over us despite these stats. Until now, we all got on quite well. How can we repair the rift?

Ethan of Emmeloord

Dear Ethan,

Wait, Australia and New Zealand are different countries? Well, I’ll be a monkey’s Aunt!

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Dear Mary-Sue,

Why did NBC show Russell Brand singing but not Ray Davies?

Baby Boomer in USA

Dear Baby Boomer,

As one of the 800,000 people to have experienced at first hand the debauched ways of Mr Brand, I can attest that while his whole Pied Piper aesthetic is unusual, his spindly body has an unusual sexual-voodoo pull on others. I’m guessing that Russell was awarded a gold in bedroom gymnastics by Mr Costas, and that Costas then made sure Russell was included in the final broadcast. Ray, by contrast, probably wasn’t able to be heard by the 17-year-old athletes, like Missy Franklin, who were screaming in excitement for One Direction.

Mary-Sue
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Anyhoo, that’s all from me readers. I’m so keen to hear about your cultural issues and all your juicy problems. Do drop me a line with any problems you have, or if you want to talk smack about Delilah Rene.

Mary-Sue is a retired travel agent who lives in Tulsa with her husband Jake. She is the best-selling author of Traveling Made Easy, Low-Fat Chicken Soup for the Traveler’s Soul, The Art of War: The Authorized Biography of Samantha Brown, and William Shatner’s TekWar: An Unofficial Guide. If you have any questions that you would like Mary-Sue to answer, you can contact her at thedisplacednation@gmail.com, or by adding to the comments below.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post with some cooling thoughts for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere who, after sweltering away under the summer’s record heat waves, need a boost to get through the remainder of August.

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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Dear Mary-Sue: Should expatriates do patriotism, even if it is July?

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 thedisplacednation@gmail.com.

I hope you’re having a better July than I am, Mary-Suers. Ol’ Mary-Sue is not a happy bunny, let me tell you that, NOT A HAPPY BUNNY AT ALL. Some neighbor of mine — let’s for the sake of argument call him Gary Geshke, and while we’re at, let’s assume that this Gary Geshke was the most incompetent realtor in town, and let’s also assume that most of the women in the neighborhood wonder how Linda Geshke can stomach staying with him.

Whoops, I never finished my sentence. Anyway, this “Gary Geshke”  was struggling — as usual — to do the most basic tasks with just the tiniest of competency. This is the sort of guy you worry is going to chop off a toe when mowing his lawn. Well, he was having a fireworks party for the 4th and instead of blowing an arm off, as would be more in line with his reputation, he managed to have one of his fireworks land on my roof nearly causing the whole thing to burn down. Thankfully hubby Jake was quick on the scene before we nearly had a disaster on our hands the likes of which we haven’t seen since The Towering Inferno.

Gee, I could skin that guy alive. I know his wife sometimes visits The Displaced Nation, so if you have are reading this post, Linda, Gary is an ingrate.

Anyhow, I’m in a FOUL mood so let’s get the July questions over with quickly so I can get back to watching some soap operas as well as the marvelous summer barbecue that I am going to organize and pointedly not invite Gary and Linda to.

Yeah, you read that right, Linda!

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I grew up Catholic in Northern Ireland, I was only too happy to get out of Belfast when the opportunity arose to take off for Canada came along.  I’d never have to deal with nonsense like The Glorious Twelfth.

That was before I realized Canadians are mad about Canada Day on July 1.

I know, I know, it could be worse. I could be in the heartland of American watching people wave flags on July 4, or in Paris on July 14, not able to cross the streets because of the Bastille Day pomp and circumstance. But what is it about July that makes people embrace their motherlands? I just don’t get it…

Brendan, Nova Scotia

Dear Brendan,

April is the wettest month. July is the most patriotic. November is the most miserable, but June is the sexiest. March is chaste while September is outrageous. May oftentimes pretends to be coy, while October smells like an old man’s pipe. January is nice-looking, but her acting in Mad Men was wooden.

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Dear Mary-Sue,

As an Englishman in the United States on July 4th, I thought I should hide my accent. I made a few jokes about this to my American friends, but they didn’t seem to get it. They told me July 4 was for barbecues, so just have a hamburger and enjoy myself.

I ask you, did we fight a war or didn’t we?

Henry, Houston, Texas

Henry,

I normally have time for Limeys, but I’m not in a great mood at the moment. Who does an agony aunt write to? That’s what I really want to know.

Anyway, on your minor case, I would say, “let it go.” People invited you into their homes. They were nice to you. They watered and fed you. Yes, they didn’t laugh at your jokes. Do people often laugh at your jokes? Seems like you were going for a way-too-obvious topic, so I would wager no. Hubby Jake makes me laugh because he does an amazing John McCain impression that’s always a hit at parties. Perhaps you could work on something similar. Or you could just be really clumsy and knock over a jug of Sangria — as seems to be Gary Geshke’s party trick.

Also, if you want everyone to start bringing up that time their country had a war with England, pretty soon the only people you’ll be able to speak to will be the Portuguese.

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I’ve heard it said that you make the best 4th of July potato salad in the world. What is the recipe and method? Would love to try it. *hint,  hint, hint.*

Susie-May, Arizona

Aw shoot!

Susie-May!

And you were doing so well in following the restraining order in not making any contact with me. First, there was the incident in Krogers on Tuesday — and now this! Also, don’t think I don’t know it wasn’t you who sent me some hair clippings in the post. That’s just weird Susie-May. Get a grip!

Anyhoo, it is true that my potato salad is the best. Secret is never use mayo. Mayo is the devil’s work. Or Paula Deen’s — one of the two.

Also don’t parboil the potatoes — that’s a rookie’s mistake. You just want to steam them. After steaming, crush them a bit, not too much. Then season them with salt and pepper. To that, add a dash of olive oil, a dash of cider vinegar, and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Then throw chopped up green onions and some fresh cilantro. Mix it all together and then squeeze some lemon juice over it before serving. (Gary and Linda Geshke wish they could have some of that!)
___________________________________________

Anyhoo, that’s all from me readers. I’m so keen to hear about your cultural issues and all your juicy problems. Do drop me a line with any problems you have, or if you want to talk smack about Delilah Rene.

Mary-Sue is a retired travel agent who lives in Tulsa with her husband Jake. She is the best-selling author of Traveling Made Easy, Low-Fat Chicken Soup for the Traveler’s Soul, The Art of War: The Authorized Biography of Samantha Brown, and William Shatner’s TekWar: An Unofficial Guide. If you have any questions that you would like Mary-Sue to answer, you can contact her at thedisplacednation@gmail.com, or by adding to the comments below.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s Random Nomad, who is attempting an epic expedition…

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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Dear Mary-Sue: The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee — not the most sparkling of times

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 thedisplacednation@gmail.com.

Another month passes us by, Mary-Suers. It seems only moments ago that I was penning my New Year post and yet here we are at the beginning of summer. Really, where does the time fly (and how many air miles does it have)?

Anyhoo, let’s get on with the show. We were running low on submissions this month, but this week’s jubilee celebration in Ye Olde Englande seems to have got The Displaced Nation readers all a-fluster.

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I don’t understand all the palaver about Queen Elizabeth II and her 60 years on the throne. Why is it such a big deal when the Britain she presides over now is much reduced in prestige from the one she inherited? I mean, it’s not as though her reign has heralded a second Elizabethan Age!

Curious from California

p.s. Yes, I am an American, just like you, but that’s not the reason I hold these opinions. Most of our fellow Yanks worship the British monarchy (don’t ask me why).

Dear Curious,

Do you have any travel-related queries or are you in need of any relationship advice? That’s kind of the point of the column, honey!

Did you send this to Tina Brown first and get no response? She’s always good for some royal chit-chat.

Write back when you have some juicy sexual problem for me to pontificate on. If it involves Tina Brown all the better. Although in fairness, a lot of the relationship letters I receive seems to involve Tina “man-eater” Brown.

Mary-Sue

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I’m an American expat in England, and the Diamond Jubilee celebrations that just took place were my first big exposure to how the Brits treat their royal family. Frankly, I think they could have done better. I mean, put most of the Royal Family on a boat in the middle of the river? It’s almost as though they were setting them up as a target for anyone who would like to dispose of them in one go. And I also kept thinking that the boat could easily capsize (what in heavens name were all those other boats doing there?).

Finally, I found it disrespectful of the Brits to expose their elderly monarch to the cold and wet river conditions. What if she contracts a nasty cold and chest infection?

Lorrie from Lancaster

Not only that Lorri, but they made her sit through a concert featuring Will.i.am (or however you spell it) and Grace Jones. What 83-year-old wants to sit through all that? They should have got her whoever the British equivalent of Lawrence Welk is. My dear departed mother loved Lawrence Welk – and who can blame her? The man was a natural entertainer. They didn’t call him the Elvis of North Dakota for nothing.

Mary-Sue

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I’m a British expat in Dubai, and I am now suffering a case of acute homesickness owing to not being at home for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. It’s not the same to watch it on TV, and the parties held by British expats here — well, I attempted to join in but just couldn’t get into watching people dressed up like Mary Poppins or Knights of the Realm. Many of the latter were parading around in a drunken stupor bellowing out “God save the Queen!”

Do you think I’m crazy to feel this way? Wouldn’t you feel odd trying to celebrate 4th of July in Britain, for instance? I expect you’d be longing for a barbecue, just as I was for an old-fashioned street party.

Debbie from Dubai

Honey, July 4th is a holiday for the whole world.

Mary-Sue

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Anyhoo, that’s all from me readers. I’m so keen to hear about your cultural issues and all your juicy problems (no doubt all about Tina Brown) then drop me a line.

Mary-Sue is a retired travel agent who lives in Tulsa with her husband Jake. She is the best-selling author of Traveling Made Easy, Low-Fat Chicken Soup for the Traveler’s Soul, The Art of War: The Authorized Biography of Samantha Brown, and William Shatner’s TekWar: An Unofficial Guide. If you have any questions that you would like Mary-Sue to answer, you can contact her at thedisplacednation@gmail.com, or by adding to the comments below.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post. Mary-Sue has heard it’s going to be great.

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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Ask Mary-Sue: Is the mid-life gap year a good idea?

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 thedisplacednation@gmail.com.

Welcome to May, dearest readers. I’m sure like me you find this to be an absolutely delightful time of year as a long and delicious summer stretches out before us. This month’s theme is la dolce vita — or the sweet life in American. For me that means a summer making full use of my grill and dusting off my Paula Dean cookbook. Anyhoo, let’s get on with the queries that you’ve sent in for me, hopefully I can turn someone’s frown upside down — if anything, that’s the real sweet life. Ha, who am I kidding? It’s still baby back ribs!

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Dear Mary-Sue,

My wife and I are middle-aged, middle class Americans with two kids and a house and jobs. But now that our kids are grown up with lives of their own, my wife seems to have gotten it into her head that we should quit our jobs, sell the house, and have an adventure. I said, “Don’t be silly, gap years are for kids,” but she seems determined to do this. I wonder if I can talk her into taking a “gap year” at home. What do you think?

Dan from Denver

Dear Dan,

It sounds to me like you’re not that excited by your wife’s suggestion. This really needs to be a joint decision between the two of you for it to work, otherwise you’ll end up resenting your wife and she’ll feel hurt that you never shared your reservations with her initially. Talk to your wife about your misgivings. It’s a big step to quit your jobs and “have an adventure.” What does that mean anyway? Does she want you to move somewhere entirely different or travel the world? Take your wife out to your favorite restaurant, your local waffle house say, and over pistachio and strawberry waffles find out if there’s anything that excites you both. If it’s that you want to buy motorcycles and travel across the US, then maybe you could look into hiring bikes and doing a few long weekends. Find your common ground and then dip your toes a few times before you decide to take the plunge.

Mary-Sue

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I am an American who has lived in England for the past twenty odd years. Initially, I was married to an Englishman but that didn’t last. Now that the big 5-0 is approaching, I’d like to take a break from this place — having had my fill of rainy weather and jobs that don’t pay well. I’m thinking about volunteering at an orphanage in Africa or somewhere like that. I told my best friend, who is English, about the plan the other day, and she said: “Why do you want to reinvent yourself in the years when you should be winding down?” Do you think she has a point or is just being negative?

Elaine from Essex

Dear Elaine,

As a committed Anglophile with a younger son who has shown me how to download from torrent sites, I have unfortunately watched The Only Way is Essex and as such it’s my considered opinion that spending a few years in an orphanage in Africa is preferable to remaining in Essex.

Yours in commiseration,

Mary Sue

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I recently finished reading Susan Griffith’s Gap Years for Grown Ups, and now I’m torn between three different ideas for my mid-life gap year: 1) build walkways in the Costa Rican rainforest; 2) crew a yacht across the Atlantic; or 3) take a gourmet cookery course in the Loire Valley. Can you give me any advice on which one to choose? I should tell you that I’m a middle-aged German, twice divorced, and hoping this gap year will lead to meeting a significant other, preferably from a different culture.

Helmut from Hamburg

Dear Helmut,

I suspect that your true intentions lie in the end of your letter where you write, “I’m…twice-divorced, and hoping this gap year will lead to meeting a significant other, preferably from a different culture.” Let’s  face it Helmut, you’re a little horny, aren’t you? Don’t be shy, there’s no shame in that. I’m convinced that Mellisa from my Tuesday night Bible class who is always so excited about going to Marrakech once a year isn’t just looking forward to her “voluntary work” if you know what I mean. Wink, wink. 

Well, let’s take each option that you’ve presented me with. This idea of taking a yacht across the Atlantic? Hmm, well unless you’re planning on dating a sperm whale, I think you might find the Atlantic slim pickings. Maybe if you ended up yacht-wrecked off the Azores you might have a chance, but really let’s forget this one. Second thought, a cookery course in the Loire Valley. Well, as we’re seeing with President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel, I’m not sure about the long-term benefits of a Franco-German relationship. So that leaves Costa Rica. Last time I visited Costa Rica I was stunned by the amount of sad, lonely, pasty-faced middle-aged men in garish Hawaiian shirts who were on my flight into San Jose. Apparently, they’re getting action, so I don’t see why you shouldn’t as well.

Mary-Sue

___________________________________________

Anyhoo, that’s all from me readers. I’m so keen to hear about your cultural issues and all your juicy problems. Do drop me a line with any problems you have, or if you want to talk smack about Delilah Rene.

Mary-Sue is a retired travel agent who lives in Tulsa with her husband Jake. She is the best-selling author of Traveling Made Easy, Low-Fat Chicken Soup for the Traveler’s Soul, The Art of War: The Authorized Biography of Samantha Brown, and William Shatner’s TekWar: An Unofficial Guide. If you have any questions that you would like Mary-Sue to answer, you can contact her at thedisplacednation@gmail.com, or by adding to the comments below.

STAY TUNED for Tuesday’s post. Mary-Sue has heard it’s going to be great.

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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Dear Mary-Sue: Mad Mad Mad expat men & their fashion & beauty quirks

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. With this month’s theme being fashion and Mary-Sue being Tulsa’s answer to Donatella Versace, she’s keen to share her sartorial expertise with Displaced Nation readers. Submit your questions and comments here, or else by emailing her at thedisplacednation@gmail.com.

You Mary-Suers are an insatiable lot, aren’t you? One big helping of my advice wasn’t enough for y’all this month, so after popular demand following my earlier post on fashion, I’ve been asked back. So that’s two lots of Mary-Sue for you this month — or “double the trouble” as Jake (or Mr Mary-Sue Wallace, as my pastor calls him) likes to say. (My how we laugh at that little joke! Well, I do and the pastor does — Jake doesn’t.)

Anyhoo, if my latest mailbag is anything to go by, I’m finding some interesting (or should that be alarming?) insights into my readership. Seems a lot of my readership skews male and weird — story of my life!

Am I right, or am I right?!

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Dear Mary-Sue,

About a year ago, I moved to the United States from the UK and find I’m now in thrall to the Mad Men series, which has just now started up again on AMC.

My obsession has grown to the point where I’m thinking of getting a retro hair style similar to Don Draper’s. I’ve enclosed a photo of myself to get your opinion on whether that would look good or if it might be too natty?

Cheers,

Tim from Tunbridge Wells via Trenton

Dear Tim from Tunbridge Wells (incidentally my cousin Janine visited there last summer – MS),

Hmmm, I’ll be honest, I’m not convinced this Mad Men malarkey is going to last. Sure, it’s the flavor of the month at the moment, but will we still be talking about Don Draper and his style in thirty years’ time in the way we still talk about Magnum P.I.?

I think not!

My advice to you, Tim, is to grow a mustache like Tom Selleck’s. Having seen the photo you’ve enclosed, you’ll still look like a drunk manatee, but at least you’ll look like a drunk manatee with a Tom Selleck mustache. I can’t promise that it’ll make you look good or natty, but you will definitely be a talking point.

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I’m from Germany but am now living in London. At the suggestion of my new English girlfriend, I’ve been browsing this mantyhose site (http://e-mancipate.net/). TBH, I can’t decide among the white, the military green, or the ones with patterns (eg, checkerboard, stars, or stripes). Since I’m a newbie to this trend, I wonder if you could give me your thoughts? (I’ve enclosed photos of myself in the mantyhose.)

Hans from Hamburg via Holland Park

Dear Hans from Hamburg,

Thank you for the photograph you sent me. (I don’t know why everyone is so insistent on sending pictures of themselves to me this week. And not a looker among you. I mean I don’t expect all my male admirers to be Tom Selleck or Richard Chamberlain lookalikes, but when it gets to the point where I’d settle for you being an Al Roker lookalike — well, that’s one slim pickings I’ve got.) More importantly, thank you for including a return address on your envelope, the authorities say that will make it very easy to track you down.

I don’t know why you’d think I’d want to see that. You must have mistaken me for Dear Prudence over on Slate.

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I just moved from Oslo to Oshkosh. I have a suitcase full of trousers in different colors — salmon pink, sky blue, red rose, and kelly green. Back home, these are the latest trend, but looking around here in Wisconsin, I’m afraid I might stand out a little too far in the crowd. Do you think I can get away with wearing them and if so, which color(s)?

Nils from Norway

Dear Nils,

Quite why you’re so bothered with what people from Wisconsin think of your clothes is bizarre to me. Anything other than stretch denim is probably going to draw attention out there.

What I would suggest is that you go with yellow-colored pants. That’ll probably sate your Nordic desire for garish pants. What you can do is claim that they’re your cheese pants and that you’ve picked them out as they’re the same shade of yellow as a fine (though that’s a relative term in this context) Wisconsin cheddar. I’m sure you can convince them that it’s your weird pants-based way of paying tribute to the state’s cheese industry.

Best of luck!

___________________________________________

Anyhoo, that’s all from me readers. I’m so keen to hear about your cultural issues and all your juicy problems. Do drop me a line with any problems you have, or if you want to talk smack about Delilah Rene.

Mary-Sue is a retired travel agent who lives in Tulsa with her husband Jake. She is the best-selling author of Traveling Made Easy, Low-Fat Chicken Soup for the Traveler’s Soul, The Art of War: The Authorized Biography of Samantha Brown, and William Shatner’s TekWar: An Unofficial Guide. If you have any questions that you would like Mary-Sue to answer, you can contact her at thedisplacednation@gmail.com, or by adding to the comments below.

STAY TUNED for Tuesday’s post. Mary-Sue has heard it’s going to be great.

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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Dear Mary-Sue: Fashion tips for the hapless traveler

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. Tulsa’s answer to Donatella Versace this month she shares her sartorial expertise. Submit your questions and comments here, or else by emailing her at thedisplacednation@gmail.com.

Happy March to all you Mary-Suers!! Spring is almost here and in the paradise on earth otherwise known Tulsa the sky is blue, the birds are singing and ABC have debuted GCB. Yes, life is sweet – I’ve even made it a little sweeter by making myself a nice pitcher of iced tea while I sit down on the patio and read through the Tulsa Herald to see if there are any interesting yard or estate sales in town this weekend. Anyhoo on with this month’s theme which is fashion – something little ol’ Mary-Sue knows a thing or two about.

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I’m a serial expat and just now moved to Canada from Mexico. Everyone tells met that sooner or later, I’ll have to invest in one of those ugly puffy coats that make everyone look like the Michelin Man, so as to survive the winters. Can you think of any alternative, or some way to jazz up the look?

Tatiana from Toronto

Dear Tatiana from Toronto,

The first thing you’ll discover is that the wind chill factor is a PAIN!!! Even though some days it’s going to seem clear and crisp, it is going to be FREEZING. When it’s like this, you’re going to have to weigh up which is more important to you – snugness or elegance, drabness or hypothermia.

I’ll let you in on a Mary-Sue Wallace tip, when I go on my annual Reykjavik the first thing that I pack is my alpaca hat. I got it from my cousin, Mary-Ann Banville, who lives in California and owns an alpaca farm out there. Well, she makes great hats and sweaters from the alpaca wool – she also grows great avocados as well. Anyhoo, I make sure I’ve got my alpaca hat with me – in fact, I make sure I have it whenever I go north of the 49th parallel. Hubby Jake says it makes me look like a smurf, but he’s no Brian Williams in the looks department and I’m sure you’d look darling in one.

The other thing that you need to do is earn the art of layering. Indulge in some nice autumnal colors, invest in an attractive overcoat and some lovely scarves.

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I’ve just now moved to Los Angeles from the UK, and I notice that everyone here has straight white teeth. Mine are the usual tea-stained crooked ones that English people have, so I’m feeling very self-conscious. Would you recommend that I get adult braces?

Lily from Lancaster

Dear Lily,

You’re in LA, first things first, get your cheeks, nose and boobies done first, then you can move onto the teeth.

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Dear Mary-Sue,

I’ve been in Taiwan teaching English for about a year, and I can’t get over how spoiled the dogs here are. Each of them has several little outfits. I know I should be tolerant of other cultures, but I can’t help but think it’s a ridiculous and wasteful custom. Wouldn’t you agree?

Sally from Seattle

Oh Sally,

I know you’re from Seattle and jaded by caffeine and hipsterdom, but get over yourself girl! Would it help if you viewed it all ironically?

My dachshund, Eudora Welty, has a cute little burberry coat. Yes, you’re probably rolling your eyes Sally, try to enjoy life a little more. This is why me and my girlfriends, Sondra and Tilly, are going to Krakow this summer. I’ll be sure to post a picture of Eudora in her Joan of Arc costume up on here.

___________________________________________

Anyhoo, that’s all from me readers. I’m so keen to hear about your cultural issues and all your juicy problems. Do drop me a line with any problems you have, or if you want to talk smack about Delilah Rene.

Mary-Sue is a retired travel agent who lives in Tulsa with her husband Jake. If you have any questions that you would like Mary-Sue to answer, you can contact her at thedisplacednation@gmail.com, or by adding to the comments below.

STAY TUNED for Monday’s post.

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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