The Displaced Nation

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CLEOPATRA FOR A DAY: Fashion & beauty diary of Third Culture Kid Tiffany Lake-Haeuser

Let’s all line up and curtsy to the 16-year-old German-American Tiffany Lake-Haeuser, who has just disembarked on the shores of The Displaced Nation. Born in New York City to German parents, this Third Culture Kid returned “home” to Germany when she was six and then at age 13, moved with her family to Abu Dhabi, UAE. Now back in Frankfurt, she divides her time between this city and Paris, where her father currently resides. Today she will play the role of Queen of the Nile and let us in on the fashion and beauty secrets she’s collected from her travels.

BEAUTY STAPLES

I’ve become a big fan of black eyeliner after living in the Middle East. (The real Cleopatra would approve!) The more conservative Arab women in Abu Dhabi and the rest of the UAE don’t wear eyeliner, but those who are more modern or Westernized often wear quite a lot. They all have such nice eyes and long eye lashes, so it always looks striking. Eyeliner easily takes an ordinary make-up to something special.

BEAUTY TREATMENTS

Living in the Middle East also taught me that eyebrow shaping helps frame the face and makes people look elegant. Even though it’s painful, I get my eyebrows done regularly.

And from my various travels, I’ve learned how important it is to take care of one’s skin and hair, especially since those are two things people notice right away when they they meet you.

HAIR

My hair has been very long, but I recently had it cut to much shorter. I have pretty much done everything with my hair from long to short to all different kinds of bangs. The only thing I haven’t done is dye my hair, because I am afraid it will be damaged.

FASHION

My favorite piece of clothing from my travels is not so exotic. It’s a big dark blue woolly cardigan that I bought at the Urban Outfitters in London. I love that sweater because it is so comfortable. Sometimes it can be hard to combine with an outfit, but I’ve discovered some ways I think work well.

LINGERIE

I have never bought lingerie in any country other than my own but I would imagine South America to have nice lingerie so I would definitely keep an eye out for that if I ever travel there.

JEWELRY

My favorite piece of jewelry is a ring my mom bought me at a market in Sharjah (the capital city of Sharjah, one of the emirate states). It has a black smooth stone and a silver frame; the stone is slightly bigger, too. I really like the fact that it doesn’t come from a store that mass produces their stuff, but instead it’s different and individual.

WEARING RIGHT NOW

I am wearing a pair of black jeggings, which I recently got at the German clothing store People’s Place. In my opinion, they are flattering and you can never really go wrong with a comfy pair of skinny jeans. I am also wearing a light green sweatshirt, which is the softest piece of clothing I own (also from People’s Place), and a slightly cropped pastel-pink shirt. It’s also amazingly soft — it’s from a Roman boutique called Brandy Melville, their store in New York City. For accessories I have on a feather necklace from the Urban Outfitters in Frankfurt and a black flower ring that comes from a small jewelry store on the outskirts of Frankfurt.

DAILY FASHION FIXES

I always read Glamour magazine, especially since it has so many versions: German, British, American and Australian. I like to see the differences in fashion around the globe. (British and French magazines have the most cutting-edge fashions, though.) And I read a lot of fashion blogs: for instance, Birds of a feather flock together — by Cailin Klohk, an 18-year-old half-Irish, half-German girl who lives near Frankfurt — and Snakes Nest (an American one).

Actually, I created my own blog at the end of last year as my dream now is to become a fashion journalist. It’s called Girl on the Run. I chose the name because of my many moves and travels, which makes me feel like life never stands still and I am constantly discovering new things.

STYLE ICON

Alexa Chung is very present across Europe — I think she has a beautiful and individual style. She mixes some pieces no one would think of to mix, yet they work so wonderfully together. Also, she seems to follow her own instincts instead of being a slave to current fashion trends.

STREET FASHION

I like to go to the Zeil/Hauptwache area in Frankfurt to people watch; there are so many different kinds of people and fashion-forward styles. I especially like to look at people’s bags as I have a slight obsession with bags.

TOP BEAUTY/STYLE LESSON FROM TRAVELS

From all my travels, I have learned that it is important to follow one’s own tastes and cultivate one’s own style instead of just mimicking fashion trends. There are so many beautiful ways to dress in the world, and seeing them has really opened my eyes and made me open to experimenting with what really suits me.

Tiffany Lake-Haeuser is an 11th-grade student at Frankfurt International School with an ambition to become a fashion journalist some day. For more of her fashion impressions and beauty advice, follow her blog, Girl on the Run, which she plans to update regularly now that it’s spring break!

STAY TUNED for Monday’s post, a celebration of The Displaced Nation’s one-year anniversary!

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Images: (clockwise beginning with large picture on left): Tiffany Lake-Haeuser on the balcony of her father’s apartment in Paris, sporting her shorter hairdo; applying eyeliner; her Emerati ring (a gift from her mother); and a side view of her beloved cardie from London (Urban Outfitters).

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An Italian with a passion: How to live the Dolce Vita, with Barbara Conelli

Barbara Conelli is a woman on a mission — a mission to bring, as she puts it on her website, “Fantastic Fearless Feminine Fun into women’s lives.”

A prolific writer, with one book already published (Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita, a journey through Italy), another coming out in May, and other writing credits galore, Barb “invites women to explore Italy from the comfort of their home with elegance, grace and style, encouraging them to live their own Dolce Vita no matter where they are in the world.”

While many of you will be familiar with her writing and blog, others will know Barb from her popular Chique Show at Blog Talk Radio, where she interviews authors and talks about life in and her passion for Italy.

Today, though, it’s Barb’s turn to be interviewed.

Thank you, Barb, for agreeing to be interviewed! Can you tell us a bit about your background — where you were born, where you grew up, where you studied?
I was born in London to an Austrian mother and an Italian father. My background was incredibly multicultural and the fact that I had relatives in different countries who spoke different languages encouraged me to start learning the languages they spoke, and when I did, I realized some of the relatives were much nicer when I didn’t understand them. But it was too late; at that time I was already speaking eight languages and traveling around the globe, a passion that turned out to be totally incurable. I tried hard to be a homebody but it never worked.

A chronic gatherer of knowledge, I studied at several universities in Spain, Portugal, Italy and the US, and when I got my second PhD I realized the academic career was totally killing my creativity and my soul. (As you can see, realizing important stuff too late was a pattern in my 20s.)

Although I’ve had many homes away from home, Italy has always been my real home. Grandma Lily, my paternal grandmother, made sure I grew up to be a real Italian – food-loving, high-spirited, untameable, capricious and addicted to shoes. I frequently visited my cousins in Italy already when I was a kid, and when I got my heart-broken by an Italian at the age of sixteen, I knew there was no turning back. I was an Italian. Until today I’m not sure whether it’s a blessing or a curse. (Thanks, Grandma Lily!)

You split your time between New York and Milan, correct? When did you move to Milan, and why there in particular?
That’s right! Grandma Lily was born in Milan. She left the city and the country with her parents when she was a little girl and she never went back. However, the city stayed in her heart. I visited Milan many, many times, but I decided to actually get a place there and make it my home when I started to think about writing a book about the city. I wanted to really live it, breathe it, be it. I couldn’t live in Tuscany and write about Milan. That would have made me a tourist, not a Milanese. And I wanted to be one with the city and become familiar with its many faces.

Your first book, Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita, was published last year, and your second, Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore, is due to be published in May. Can you tell us a little about your new book?
Yes, I’d love to! I’m so excited because my editor has just sent me the final version of the manuscript, and I’m totally in love with the book! In Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore, I share my unexpected encounters with the capricious, unpredictable and extravagant city of Milan, its glamorous feminine secrets, the everyday magic of its dreamy streets, the passionate romance of its elegant hideaways, and the sweet Italian art of delightfully falling in love with your life wherever you go. This book is very informative and contains lots of factual information about the city, but at the same time it’s very poetic, lyrical and romantic. It shows that Milan is the perfect city to have a love affair with.

And what happens after Dolce Amore? Another book? Can you give us any hints?
There are several exciting projects I’m working on. Later this year, I’m planning to publish a collection of selected articles and essays I’ve written about Milan and published in magazines and on my blog. I’m also putting together a travel anthology that’s going to be released in the fall, with travel essays and short stories written by sixteen amazing, wonderful authors.

As far as my Chique Book series is concerned, with Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore I’m leaving Milan and venturing into Rome. The next book is titled Chique Secrets of Dolce Far Niente, and in this book I’m going to reveal the hidden face of Rome and share with my readers the Roman art of pleasant, carefree idleness.

My books always have a deeper message and I love using the city I write about as “the stage of life”, a creative space where we can learn, grow and get to know ourselves. Milan is about loving your life and finding beauty in simple, everyday things. Rome is about being fully present in your life instead of exhaustingly focusing on doing, doing, doing.

Something that comes across loud and clear in the reviews of Dolce Vita is your talent for writing descriptive prose and storytelling. What made you decide to write non-fiction rather than a novel?
A good question! I’ll be honest with you: I am working on a novel (okay, looks like I’ve just come out of the closet and admitted I’m a shadow novelist). However, I find writing fiction much less appealing. I love exploring the real world, I love talking to people, I enjoy discovering their stories, understanding what makes them tick. I’m incredibly curious and inquisitive, and I always look deeper, beyond the obvious, the visible. My readers often say that when they read my book, they feel they’re actually there with me, experiencing the same things, tasting the food, submerging themselves in the atmosphere. My books are like a magic carpet that takes you to beautiful places enabling you to live a beautiful adventure sitting in an armchair and wearing your jammies. I truly believe that being able to give this to the reader through the pages of my book is a miracle, and it makes me endlessly happy.

What audience did you have in mind for Dolce Vita when you first wrote it, and did you end up attracting those sorts of readers?
It’s an interesting question. I write primarily for women and I wanted my book to appeal to experienced, avid travelers as well as to those who dream of Italy and desire to explore this beautiful country. I definitely succeeded in connecting with my audience and I’m very grateful for my fabulous readers and fans from all around the world who give me lots of love, support, encouragement and wonderful feedback. However, I was very surprised to see that my book attracted also many male readers who totally enjoyed my writing. I just love that.

To which aspects of your writing have readers responded the most?
When you read the reviews, there seems to be one strong common denominator: “I felt I was really there with the author.” I’ve been so touched by this, and I feel very blessed because it means I’ve been able to get my message across and bring Italian beauty, charm and grace into the lives of many women. This is my definition of success – doing what you love and touching other people’s hearts by sharing your passion with them.

Have you written anything else?
I have two previously published books on relationships and self-love, based on my coaching career. I have also written screenplays for TV shows and scripts for TV talk shows. And I’m a movie translator – I have translated and subtitled over 800 feature films, shows and documentaries for major movie studios, TV channels and distribution companies. I have also translated several fiction and poetry books. Yes, I’m a typical “slasher” – a multi-talented person with many careers. But if you ask me who I truly am, my answer is I’m a writer and traveler. That’s my soul’s calling.

I first heard you — and heard of you! — on your blog talk radio show, the Chique Show. How long has the Chique Show been running?
Chique Show has been broadcasting for about a year. It has gained incredible momentum and today, just 12 months later, we have over 5,500 listeners, recently adding more than one hundred new listeners every week.

Is a radio talk show something you have always wanted to do?
When it all started, it really wasn’t my goal or dream to be a radio hostess, although I had always found this medium fascinating. Chique Show was meant to be just another platform to promote my new book but I immediately fell in love with it, and today it’s much bigger than I ever imagined. Chique Show is a great connector, a wonderful opportunity to meet new people, and my way of giving back and bringing authors closer to their readers.

How would you like to see it evolve?
I would love Chique Show to become a featured, branded show that would broadcast every day on a variety of topics. You know, one of my mottos is the words of Donald Trump: “If you’re going to think anyway, think big.” And Eleanor Roosevelt’s: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” I’m a visionary, and there’s not just a branded radio show on my vision board, but also a magazine and TV channel. I love challenging myself and pushing my own boundaries. My mum says I decided I was going to be a success story already as a toddler. I’ve always been stubbornly creative and free-spirited.

You’ve had a lot of guests on the show. Have there been any particularly memorable moments?
You know, I really love those moments when my guest and I totally click. When we find a topic we’re both fascinated about, we chat, we laugh. There’s a fantastic vibe and irresistible energy that totally fill the radio waves, and our listeners can feel it. We are just wonderfully connected.

I’ve also had deeply moving moments on the show when my guests opened up and talked about their life experiences, their struggles, their pain, and how they managed to overcome adversity and follow their dreams.

One of my favorite shows is the interview with author Lyn Fuchs that you featured here on Displaced Nation a couple of months ago. I love smart, talented, open-minded and humble people who are not afraid to do their thing and stand out from the crowd. Lyn is one of those people and having him on the show has been a real pleasure.

Is there anyone you would *love* to interview on your show — a “fantasy” interviewee, as it were, be they alive or dead?
Leonardo da Vinci: the most fantastic “slasher” in history. I wrote about his years in Milan in Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita, and I find him fascinating. I believe his genius is still undervalued. Madeleine Albright, a lady who epitomizes feminine power and wisdom. And Grandma Lily — the sage of my family.

With March being Fashion Month, many of our recent posts have been fashion- and style-related. Now, if you’ve actually read any of those posts, you’ll have realized that three of us anyway are the last people on earth who should be advising on fashion. I poke fun at haute couture, Anthony’s fashion advice begins and ends with chinos and a shirt, and Tony’s staple apparel is shorts and T-shirts. As someone who has made her home in two of the world’s fashion capitals, can you give us any tips about where a couture-challenged person can start?
Okay, my fantasy’s running wild here. Chinos make me think of Indiana Jones (a.k.a. Harrison Ford at his best). And shorts and a t-shirt? Matthew McConaughey. Hot, sexy, juicy! (May I join your team like right now?)

I love fashion because to me it’s yet another expression of creativity and art. It’s also one of the easiest ways to say who you are. You can use fashion to make a statement and I’m totally non-judgmental when it comes to people’s choices.

The best piece of advice is, be yourself. You don’t need to choose one style or color palette and stick with it forever. Fashion is a game and it’s meant to be played and enjoyed. Fashion is not created by designers, it’s created by you, every single morning.

In my closet, you’d find little black dresses and faded jeans, pantsuits and colorful skirts, white shirts and t-shirts with wild patterns. Lots of scarves and hats and other accessories. My wardrobe has as many faces as I do because I may be different every day but I always insist on being myself.

To sum it up, stop flipping through fashion magazines and show the world how beautifully unique you are!

OK, so we’re following your advice and doing a bit of retail therapy in two continents. Where would you suggest as first stop for shopping in Milan?
I suggest you leave your Lonely Planet Guidebook in your bag and start exploring. I love Milanese vintage stores, visiting them is a real adventure. I can recommend “Cavalli e Nastri” in Via Brera, or Oplà in Via Vigevano. For original jewelry, Vigano in Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle. And a Borsalino hat is a must!

And then we take a transatlantic flight and go shopping in New York…where’s our first stop there?
Tiffany & Co., of course! Okay, just kidding. The Tiffany store in both Milan and New York plays a very important role in the last chapter of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore where it turns into a spicy matchmaker. Plus, I love Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

I almost never shop for clothes in New York but I love New York bookstores. I live on Broadway and I’m addicted to the Strand Book Store at the corner of Broadway and 12th Street.

And on Saturdays, I love going to the Greenmarket at Union Square, the most wonderful outdoor market in New York whose atmosphere reminds me of Italy.

Splitting your time between two countries as you do, do you find it difficult to settle into the ways of one country after a length of time in the other?
Actually, it’s funny because when I come to Milan, my friends usually tell me: “Stop being so American!” It takes me a few days to slow down and return to the spirit of la dolce vita. It always reminds me how fast we actually live in the States, and how we allow life to just pass us by.

When I return to New York, it takes me about a week or two to get used to the bustle of the city. I love New York, it’s an incredibly vibrant city, but it can truly wear you down. You need to manage your energy really well and set your boundaries. Although New York is said to be the city that never sleeps, a New Yorker needs to get some sleep at least every now and then.

What aspect of Italy would you like to transplant to New York life — and why?
The art of taking the time to actually live. Experiencing life with gratitude and a sense of awe. The sweetness of human experience. Achieving great things is wonderful, but your life needs to be balanced, and that’s what New York sometimes misses. We need to stop and smell the roses more often.

What about vice versa? Any aspect of New York life you would like to transplant to Italy?
The glitz, the flashiness and the flamboyance. New York is a self-confident brat and it would be fun to see more of that in the easy-going, laid-back Italian way of life.

You’ve traveled extensively — have you discovered any other places where you’d like to live for a while?
After living in Middle East, Africa, in the Australian outback, in stunning European cities and wonderful metropolises of this world, I would like to create one more home-away-from home in French Polynesia. Sleep, eat, dance, swim in the ocean and write books. My idea of writer’s heaven.

Your suggestion about joining the TDN team? Yes — on condition we can all descend upon your new home in French Polynesia… Heaven indeed. Thanks, Barb, for talking so honestly to us!

We will hear more about Barbara Conelli in a few weeks, when we review her new book, Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore, and subscribers to the Displaced Dispatch can look forward to another exciting giveaway!
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Image: Barbara Conelli

Why you can’t help being jealous of new author and Parisian style guru Jennifer Scott

Before getting started, I have to say something, something rather catty — which is that Jennifer Scott makes me jealous.

I’m jealous in part because she has self-published a book, Lessons from Madame Chic: The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris, that is doing very well for itself. Nearing the top of Amazon’s Paris Top 10 list, it has just been reviewed by The New York Times (Thursday Styles) and featured in The Daily Mail.

But a much bigger part of the reason for my jealousy of Scott is that she’s such a quick study.

Let me explain. As an American woman who lived in England and Japan for many years, I could identify with many of the lessons Scott picked up from immersing herself in the everyday life of a fine French family: that there are other — more stylish and more sensible — ways to cook and eat, keep house, entertain, wear clothes and put on make-up than those we’ve been taught in our native land.

But just how long was Scott in Paris? Six months! C’est incroyable!

It took her just six months to pick up so many life lessons? At first I wondered: can it be because the French are such good teachers? Scott after all benefited from exposure not only to her host family, whom she calls Famille Chic, but to her boyfriend’s host family, Famille Bohemienne.

But then I decided that, no, the French aren’t so much great teachers as Scott is an avid learner. You see, there is something else she gets right, exquisitely right, with this book — she captures the moment when an expat goes from feeling uncomfortably displaced to deciding she can take something of value away from the experience. Scott may be ignorant, but she isn’t arrogant — an observation that does not by any means apply across the board to newbie expats. (Dare I say, the combination of ignorance and arrogance is an American speciality, especially when we venture abroad!)

There is an incident at the heart of the book that conveys this evolution in Scott’s thinking — I speak of the moment when Madame Chic (the redoubtable matriarch of Famille Chic) turns to her American charge and says: “That sweater does not look good on you.” Stunned by her host mother’s frankness, all Scott can think of to say, in English, is:

Really? But it’s a silk and cashmere blend.

But it’s not the quality Mme Chic has in mind but the color:

It does not suit you at all. It washes you out. You look…sallow.

For Scott, this is the beginning of an epiphany. She feels wounded but then has to concede that Mme Chic could be right — she’s never liked the sweater (it was a gift) but more importantly, why is she bothering to wear colors that don’t suit her?

For the past four years — initially through her blog, The Daily Connoisseur, and now through her new book — the precocious Scott has been making the case for rejecting the typical American life of mindless consumerism. As she learned at the well-manicured feet of Mme Chic, it’s important to make sure the clothes you wear, the food you put into your body, and the items you bring into your home are things you love and that actually suit you. What’s more, living a well-edited life frees up our time for other — artistic, cultural, intellectual, philanthropic — pursuits.

Such sage advice — and from one so young! But enough of my giving vent to the green-eyed monster. It’s time I introduced you to its object — or shall I say, bête noire? — the très très charmante Jennifer Scott. She graciously agreed to answer some of my fashion- and style-related questions, along with a few that relate to the concerns of the Displaced Nation’s “citizens.” The following are some highlights from our exchange. Enjoy — and see if you don’t end up with a case of Scott envy as bad as mine!

The decision to write a book on refined and elegant living

Thank you so much, Jennifer, for agreeing to this chat and also for generously offering to provide two signed copies of your book as a giveaway to Displaced Dispatch subscribers. Let’s start by having you talk a little about your background — where you were born, what you studied and why you went to Paris.
I grew up in the Inland Empire of Southern California, studied theatre and French at the University of Southern California and currently reside in Santa Monica. My junior year of college I studied abroad in Paris, which was a life changing experience and prompted me to write my memoir/lifestyle book, Lessons from Madame Chic.

What made you decide on the format of a how-to book — which as you say is also something of a memoir on your semester abroad?
Since 2008 I’ve been keeping a blog called The Daily Connoisseur, where I explore all facets of how to live well. I did a series on my blog, “The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris,” where I examined the lessons I learned in Europe and shared how I translated those lessons to my California lifestyle. The series was so popular, I realized there was a strong interest in the application of these lessons — not just in the lessons themselves — so I decided to record my observations in a book.

What audience did you have in mind for the book?
The audience I had in mind was anyone who wanted to live a more refined and elegant lifestyle. I know this sounds broad and general but it’s true. Sure, different parts of the book appeal to different people and age groups, but overall the message is that life should be lived beautifully and passionately and I think that is a universal message.

What portion of the book — the fashion and beauty tips, the lifestyle advice, the memoir — have readers responded to the most?
Most readers say the last third of the book, the section on how to live well, inspires them the most. But I get a lot of great feedback on the beauty, fashion and diet portions of the book, too.

Capsule wardrobes, clothing collections, colors & other tips

I really liked your advice about the capsule wardrobe of 10 core items, based on how Madame Chic and her family dressed. But many of us who’ve been expats in other countries eventually find ourselves drawn to native fashions — sometimes to the point where we start building collections. Last week, for instance, long-time expat Anastasia Ashman told of her collection of silk kebayas (long, fitted jackets) from Malaysia. Are fashion collections a no-no?
I think the idea of a fashion collection is very cool. I don’t personally have one but if you have traveled, or if you live abroad and find yourself drawn to a cultural fashion piece, I say, why not? My only advice would be to make sure your collection is not verging on becoming clutter. Still keep a discerning eye.

Another famous displaced American woman, of course, was Jackie O. What about her habit of buying ten sweaters in different colors — thus saving time and/or disappointment when the style is discontinued, or in the case of international travelers, for fear that you’ll never get to that part of the world again?
This mentality can be tricky and I say that from firsthand experience! A few years ago I realized I was buying everything in threes. If I liked something, I would buy it in three colors for fear I would never find something like it again. I found that the multiple purchases just became clutter in my wardrobe and oftentimes I would change my mind down the line and decide I didn’t actually like the pieces that much after all! I would suggest practicing restraint here as well.

I enjoyed the passage of the book where you recalled Mme Chic criticizing you for wearing the wrong color. When I had my “colors done” in Japan, I was told in no uncertain terms never to wear fuchsia! At the same time, though, I can relate to another remark made by Anastasia last week. She said that because color choice reflects the place where ones live, people like her, who’ve gone back and forth between very different cultures, find themselves varying their palettes rather widely.
I do agree that color choice can be influenced by geography, but I believe one should always go with their passion rather than trying to conform too much. If you love color, by all means you should wear it, even if everyone around you is in a sea of black. Style is about being happy and comfortable with what you are wearing, if you are trying too hard to fit into your surroundings, it doesn’t come off as natural.

Skincare and diet

Moving on to skincare, in your book you mention how careful you are to apply SPF to your face, neck and décolletage — but is that a habit picked up in the U.S. or in France? I was under the impression that French women liked their suntans!
Applying sunscreen is a habit I picked up in the United States but I do believe French women protect themselves on a daily basis with sunscreen as well — they perhaps aren’t so zealous about it as we are. Although everyone is different. I remember when I spent six weeks in Cannes, I loved to observe this French woman (a local) who went to the beach everyday to sunbathe. She was a deep bronze color and her skin was quite leathery so she clearly wasn’t concerned about wearing SPF!

I also identified with the part of your book where you say that French people stay thinner than Americans do by not snacking in between meals. Likewise, I learned to snack less when living in both England and Japan — I lost weight in both countries! That said, I also got into the habit of taking afternoon tea breaks, sometimes with a biscuit (cookie). In your view, is teatime permissible? (Please say yes as it’s a founding principle of The Displaced Nation!)
I adore tea time! I actually spend a good part of every year in England, as my husband is English, and we have tea and some sort of cake or biscuit every day during this charming ritual. Tea time is enjoyable and if you relish it and take it in moderation (only one slice of cake and not two) there is nothing wrong with it. Maintaining a healthy attitude towards eating and not beating yourself up over small pleasures is key. The French equivalent of tea time would be the goûter, which is taken at 4:00 p.m. and can consist of anything from a cup of tea and a slice of cake, to a hot chocolate and a biscuit. Delightful.

The impact of repatriation

Like me, despite your love of foreign countries, you’ve chosen to live in the United States. Have you changed your mind about any of the fashion principles you learned in France since coming back here, or do they still hold fast?
I still utilize the fashion tips I picked up in France through the years — especially the French concept that comfortable doesn’t have to equal frumpiness.

For me, one of the biggest changes I’ve made since coming back to the U.S. concerns shoes. Though I never lived in France, I had somehow imbibed the French preference for ballet shoes or low-heeled pumps, instead of athletic shoes. I don’t think I owned a single pair of sneakers when I first arrived back here! In the past couple of years, though, foot pain and aging have made me concede that athletic shoes are much healthier for the foot, especially when one travels and does a lot of walking…
By necessity, I have to wear an orthotic most days. I still wear chic day shoes like ballet flats and driving loafers, but buy them in bigger sizes so my orthotic fits. Voilà! Comfort and practicality meet style. I love being comfortable but for me it’s about being creative and going about it with style. There are so many comfortable yet stylish alternatives to traditionally comfortable things like sneakers, sweat suits and yoga pants.

So are there any fashion or beauty ideas that American women get right?
American women have great style and get a lot of things right! I think where we go wrong is in editing our wardrobe. We have too many things in our closets and sometimes that clouds our fashion identity a bit.

Cross-cultural marriage and the California life

Moving on to another topic of interest to many “citizens” of The Displaced Nation: cross-cultural marriage. You’ve chosen to marry an “eccentric” Englishman, as you call him in the book. What do you think is the biggest challenge about marrying someone of another culture?
The biggest challenge, for me, is food! My husband and I have very different tastes in food. He loves traditional English food like roasts, fish and chips, shepherd’s pies and other hearty dishes. I tend to like lighter fare. I also adore Mexican cuisine as it plays a big part in California culture and he is not so into it. So when we cook dinner at home, it is always a compromise.

One more question from an expat perspective: have you completely readjusted to living in the United States, or do you still pine for Europe?
I have definitely adjusted back to American culture. I love my Californian lifestyle — which is why I’ve chosen Santa Monica as my main place to live. It’s been over a decade since I’ve lived in France but I still travel to Europe every year. I enjoy taking the best lessons I learn from these travels and incorporating them into my life back home. This is really what my book is about. And doing so has helped me to lead a very rich existence, indeed.

Next is a mystery…?!

Finally, what’s next on the writing front — are you currently working on another book?
My next book is a mystery called Divina Wright and the Case of the Missing Rubies. It is a stylish, vintage take on a modern mystery.

Thank you so much, Jennifer Scott, for engaging in this tête-à-tête! Readers, do you have your own questions for youthful connoisseur? Hurry up, before she gets invited to host her own style series on Cable TV. (Reeooow. Hisssss… I can feel another crise de jalousie coming on!)

STAY TUNED for Wednesday’s interview with another displaced style maven (but providing an Italian perspective!), Barbara Conelli.

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5 ways to rejuvenate when you’re on the road — a blokey bloke’s perspective

I’m not big on spas. In fact I’ve never been to one. Perhaps because I’m a bloke (and quite a blokey-bloke at that), I just can’t see the appeal of drenching myself in yoghurt or putting cucumber on my eyes. Well, not unless I’m going to a fancy dress party as a Greek salad. 🙂

But that doesn’t mean I’m not on the eternal quest for self-renewal and youthfulness. We all are! Well, anyone over the age of 21, anyway! It’s just that some of us would prefer to avoid the lotions and potions, if alternatives are available.

Here are 5 fail-safe techniques I’ve discovered for feeling younger:

1) Try martial arts — or if all else fails, work out at the gym.

I love yoga — so much so that I practiced it once at two thousand meters at 5:00 a.m., on a tiled floor in a house with no heating. Suffice to say, there were parts of me that remained stuck to that floor long after I was ready to give up! But I believe in yoga’s rejuvenating power, both mental and physical — just not enough to carry on doing it!

Instead I’ve found something more to my tastes: martial arts — specifically Wing Chun kung-fu.

Millions of people around the world practice some form of martial art — can they all be wrong?

Kung-fu offers me the chance to push myself physically. It also challenges me with its spiritual and philosophical components, which are based in passivity and meditation. Manipulation of the invisible life-force or energy flow — known as (also chi) in traditional Chinese culture — is a big part of it, with much of it done through breathing as with yoga.

My advice:

  1. Try it.
  2. Then try it some more…

I can’t think of anything better to be hooked on! You’ll feel happy and amazing and the years will start to pour off.

(If you can’t stomach the idea of punches to the stomach, then try going to the gym — treadmills and all that. It’s odd, but on the days I work out, instead of feeling tired I have the energy of a man ten years younger. It’s all those endorphins!)

2) Travel slowly.

A change is as good as a rest, or so they say. Who “they” are in this instance I’m not sure, but they certainly had a clever turn of phrase!

It’s a lie of course — try having a week’s holiday in Fiji and see how rested you feel after two international flights, separated by five days of jet lag…

A rest is the only thing as good as a rest, which is why I love to take my time as I travel. Luckily for me, I can. These days I make a bit of money from writing, and I’m always keen to try new work experiences as I go. I’ve been a diving guide, a medical guinea pig, a toilet cleaner, a yacht delivery man, a gardener…

Living in a place for a while and taking a job is a great way to meet people and make friends, to get to know an area and its population — it’s also an endless source of ridiculous stories that I can spend the rest of my life turning into books.

If it’s not possible to simply vanish into Asia with a CV and a backpack, I fully understand — but then take longer holidays, with no fixed agenda (even if it means taking fewer holidays). Two weeks away gives you the time to properly relax, and your body will thank you for it.

And just imagine what a month in Fiji would be like! Sunny, is the answer. 🙂

3) Take long walks.

I walk a lot. Even in my bedroom I pace, but that’s not exactly rejuvenation!

I find it revitalizing to be outdoors. I now live in Perth, Australia, where I try to spend an hour or so each day roaming the streets, usually in the evenings (it’s a little on the hot side for casual strolling in the middle of the day).

And yes, I do sometimes get stopped by the police! Fortunately for me, Western Australia doesn’t have a version of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. When I walk, I feel totally free. The rest of the world goes away, or at least becomes quieter, and I can finally think clearly with all that noise gone.

Some of my best writing has popped into my head spontaneously as I walk — almost as though it were there all along, just waiting for my mind to be still enough to tune in.

And if you’re looking for the ultimate rejuvenation, do a big walk! My wife, my sister and I are still reaping the benefits from hiking the Bibbulmun Track here in Western Australia. It’s 600 miles and took us two months.

After the first week you run out of things to say. After the second week, you run out of the desire to say anything anyway. By the time you’re done, I guarantee there will be peace in your heart and a youthful smile on your face. Because you’ll either be a strong, confident individual as a result of conquering such an epic challenge — or you’ll be dead.

I can’t recommend it enough!

4) Tap into the healing powers of universal energy.

In the course of my many wanderings I’ve acquired a fairly eclectic collection of beliefs — among them, Reiki, a spiritual practice developed in Japan. A sort of laying on of hands to unleash one’s inner energy and help boost the body’s healing system.

I did my Reiki practitioner’s course a few years ago. Though some of it was esoteric, it wasn’t too big a leap for me to imagine an invisible energy field inhabiting the body that we can gain access to, or the notion of supplementing someone else(the patient)’s energy with your own (as the practitioner). It somehow made sense to me, but the proof was in the healing: it really worked!

Feeling skeptical? I can relate — I have friends who chant to the angels and friends who believe in the power of color as a healing medium, neither of which do anything for me.

Still, I recommend giving Reiki healing at least one go in the interest of rejuvenating your body. It’s the furthest I’ve ventured into the bewildering variety of New Age therapies, and the closest I’ve ever gotten to feeling The Force — fantastic! And no, you don’t have to get naked! 🙂

5) Cuddle a furry creature or two.

Anyone who knows me, knows my passion for all kinds of animals. I have volunteered in animal refuges while traveling around and have met some amazing people. I’ve also been shot at, bitten, clawed, mauled, temporarily blinded — and head-butted in the balls by a wild pig. Hey, I never said it was easy!

But as the English writer George Elliot put it in one of her stories: 

Animals are such agreeable friends — they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.

Having a dog or cat (or three!) to come home to after a long day at work is one of the best ways to soothe one’s fears about the world, and stay sane. But — before you indulge — be sure you can look after a pet, particularly if you travel a lot.

Oh, and if you rescue an animal from a shelter instead, you get double karma points!

STAY TUNED for Monday’s “Ask Mary-Sue” column.

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Images (clockwise from top left): Our family dog, Meg; on a loooong walk with my wife in Western Australia (no going back!); the fun Fiji scenery; Kung-fu Tony!

RANDOM NOMAD: Annabel Kantaria, British Expat in Dubai

Place of birth: London, UK
Passport: UK
Overseas travel history: United Arab Emirates (Dubai): 1998 – present.
Occupation: Former journalist and one of four official expat bloggers for The Weekly Telegraph
Cyberspace coordinates: Telegraph Expat blog (Annabel Kantaria) and @BellaKay (Twitter handle)

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
Despite being 100 percent British, I never felt at home in England. As young as six years old I used to wake up feeling “displaced.” I was unable to identify that feeling until I moved to Dubai and realized that the feeling had gone. To be honest, I think “home” could be anywhere that has a positive attitude, hot sun, blue sky and a glittering sea.

Was anyone else in your family “displaced”?
My father grew up in India as the child of expat parents and so my own childhood in England was full of stories of hill retreats, jungles, hot sun, ayas and curries. My mother was born to expat parents in Romania. My aunt emigrated from the UK to Canada.

My husband, whom I met at university in the UK, is also displaced — I don’t think it’s a coincidence we ended up together. Of Indian origin, he grew up largely in Kenya and did his secondary schooling and university in the UK. We were married in Nairobi and then lived in the UK for one year. My husband went to Dubai on business, brought me back a book about Dubai and said “Let’s move there!” I didn’t need any convincing. We sold our house and cars, and shipped all our possessions over and have, so far, never looked back. 🙂

So you’ve felt the most displaced in your homeland?
Yes. Growing up in England, I felt like an alien. Throughout my teenage years I plotted my escape. I knew I would leave as soon as I could. It was just a matter of when, where and with whom. Even now, when I go back, I feel like a foreigner.

Is there any particular moment in Dubai that stands out as your “least displaced”?
Probably the first weekend after my husband and I moved to Dubai — when we sitting on the public beach watching the sun go down and the sand turn from white to pink and listening to the azaan (call to prayer) echo across the beach. I had that first flutter of “This is home! We’re not on holiday!” excitement, which still continues, even after 14 years.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from your adopted country into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
A plastic mosque alarm clock that wakes you with the azaan [see photo inset].

You are invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on your menu?

Emirati food revolves largely around meat and I am a vegetarian, so I would have to broaden it to include other Middle Eastern cuisines. Rather than three courses, I’d offer you a selection of mezze (small dishes):

We’d wash it down with a rich red wine from Lebanon’s Château Musar, Ksara or Kefraya.

For dessert I would offer you a delicious Umm Ali — an Egyptian version of hot, bread pudding, served with a little vanilla sauce. And, of course, a cardamom-laced Arabic coffee to finish.

And now you may add a word or expression from the country where you live in to The Displaced Nation argot. What will you loan us?
Inshallah (If it’s God’s will) — it’s the word you hear the most when you want to get something done and you’re begging for a commitment that it will be. It’s also a word that UAE expats use, in their transient lives, to acknowledge that they aren’t entirely sure of what may happen next. “We’ll be staying here for two years, Inshallah.”

This month we are looking into beauty and fashion. What are the best Emirati beauty secrets you’ve discovered?
From observing highly groomed Arab ladies, I’ve learned the value of the perfectly shaped eyebrow – something to which I’d barely paid any attention in England. I’ve also discovered the joys of a good scrub in the hammam. It’s not Emirati per se, but does have a long history here. And although you don’t often see a UAE national lady without her shayla (rectangular headscarf), the beauty salons are full of Emirati ladies having their hair blow-dried — I’ve learned to get my hair professionally “blown” before any major social event. It gives you an instant polish that makes all the difference.

What about fashion — any beloved outfits, jewelry, or other accessories you’ve collected in the UAE?
Emirati ladies put a lot of thought into accessories such as sunglasses, handbags and shoes, given that the rest of them is covered by the abaya (robe-like dress or cloak) when out in public. I’ve picked up their habit of using a great handbag to pull a look together. I also have a beautiful, jewelled black thobe (ankle-length garment traditionally worn by Arab men) that doubles up as a great evening dress.

Editor’s note: Annabel Kantaria was awarded one of The Displaced Nation’s “Alices” for a post she composed about the need for “behavior lessons” before working in the UAE.

Readers — yay or nay for letting Annabel Kantaria into The Displaced Nation? Tell us your reasons. (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Annabel — find amusing.)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s installment from our displaced fictional heroine, Libby, who is once again on her own while her feckless husband clocks up more hotel points and air miles — perhaps he intends to be present at the birth of their twins via Skype? (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

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img: Annabel Kantaria at a polo match in Dubai; inset: her plastic mosque alarm clock, which she proposes to bring into The Displaced Nation.

Thoughts on beauty — and chinos

As regular readers of this blog are doubtless aware, The Displaced Nation always likes to have a monthly theme around which its daily posts pirouette. This month’s theme sees us turning towards the world of fashion.

That leaves me in the somewhat awkward position of having to foist a fashion article onto you all. I confess, and again regular readers won’t be surprised to learn this, that this is not a topic that I am well versed in, I am a skinny guy that has never worn skinny jeans. My own fashion tips begin and end with the advice that you cannot go wrong with a chinos and shirt combo. The shade of beige in the chinos varies and so does the color of the shirt, which can range from powder blue to salmon pink — but that’s still not very exciting, is it?  So unless you want to dress like an ITN foreign correspondent, I’m not really the person to whom you should be paying attention when it comes to fashionista matters.

Perhaps sensing my uneasiness with this topic, it was suggested by others here at The Displaced Nation that I might want to write about whether there is a universal idea of beauty.

This seemed like a better idea than my posting about fashion. I could, I quickly realized, start the article with the old cliché about how “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Once that was out of the way, I could suggest that beauty is subjective, doing so by trotting out all those usual cultural differences — very appropriate in the context of The Displaced Nation — that confuse a modern Westerner: the Kayan Lahwi tribe in Burma whose female members wear brass coils around their neck to give the appearance of an elongated neck; the ancient Chinese practice of feet binding; the Essex facelift.

Once that was done I planned to counter the idea of different cultural ideas about beauty by positing that beauty standards are in fact objective — that perhaps Plato was right and beauty exists in his perfect forms. This new point of view would necessitate trotting out the evolutionary psychologists who have conducted studies on infants as young as two months, showing that they gaze at faces judged more attractive longer than the faces of those judged ugly. This, the psychologists contend, could suggest that beauty is indeed innate, that they are objective standards. As babies tend to cry when they see me, it would also prove conclusively that I am one ugly fecker. I would then have ended the article by referencing Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” (“beauty is truth, truth beauty”) in an effort to look more learned than I am.

However, that line of argument didn’t seem so convincing. As I tried writing that post, I kept catching sight of myself in the unfortunately huge mirrors that make up the sliding closet doors in my room. They are huge and as this is rented accommodation I can’t do much to change them. So as I typed away, I would keep seeing my reflection and think hmmm, its probably bad karma for you to be pontificating on beauty, Windram. So with that in mind, I think it’s probably fairer to nudge you in the direction of the BBC Radio 4 series In Our Time — specifically, the episode that discusses the history of beauty as a philosophical topic — while I go off and iron my chinos.

STAY TUNED for an interview with Random Nomad Annabel Kantaria.

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CLEOPATRA FOR A DAY: Fashion & beauty diary of former expat Anastasia Ashman

Continuing our feature, “Cleopatra for a Day,” we turn to Anastasia Ashman, an American whose love of the exotic led her to Southeast Asia (Malaysia) and Istanbul, Turkey to live (she also found a Turkish husband en route!). Having just moved back home to California, Ashman opens her little black book and spills the fashion and beauty secrets she has collected over three decades of pursuing a nomadic life.

BEAUTY STAPLES

Like Cleopatra, I’m into medicinal unguents and aromatic oils. My staples are lavender and tea tree oil for the tropical face rot you can get in hot, humid places — and for all other kinds of skin complaints, stress, headaches, jet lag, you name it — and Argan oil for skin dryness. I take them everywhere. I also spray lavender and sandalwood on my sheets.

When living in Southeast Asia I liked nutmeg oil to ward off mosquitoes. (I know that’s not beauty per se but bug-bitten is not an attractive look, and it’s just so heavenly smelling too, I suppose you can slather it on your legs and arms for no reason at all.)

I didn’t even have to go to Africa to become dependent on shea butter for lips and hands, and I like a big block of cocoa butter from the Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul for après sun and gym smoothing — less greasy than shea butter, which I usually use at night.

I’m not really into branded products. When you move around it’s hard to keep stocking your favorite products and I find companies are always discontinuing the things I like so I’ve become mostly brand agnostic.

I just moved from Istanbul to San Francisco, and I got rid of almost everything I owned so I’m seeing what basics I can live with. Because to me, basics that do a wonderful, multifaceted job are the definition of luxury. You’ve got to figure out what those basics are for you.

Oh, and when I am in Paris, I buy perfume. Loved this tiny place in Le Marais that created scents from the plants on the island of Sardinia. And wouldn’t you know it, the second time I went they’d gone out of business. Crushing.

My favorite perfume maker in Paris at the moment — very intriguing perspective, lots of peppery notes and almost nicotiney pungencies — is L’Artisan Parfumeur. I’ve got my eye on their Fou d’Absinthe.

In another life, past or present, I know I was involved with perfume…

BEAUTY TREATMENTS

Believe Cleopatra would drink them dissolved in vinegar? In Malaysia I used to get capsules of crushed pearls from a Chinese herbalist down the street from my house — apparently they’re good for a creamy-textured skin.

I’ll take a facial in any country. I like Balinese aromatic oil massages when I can get them, too, and will take a bath filled with flowers if I’ve got a view of the jungle. Haven’t yet had my chance to do a buttermilk bath. I also do mud baths and hot springs where ever they’re offered, in volcanic areas of the world.

Another indispensable: the Turkish hamam. It’s really great for detoxification, relaxation and exfoliation. When living in Istanbul, I’d go at least once a season, and more often in the summer. It’s great to do with a clutch of friends. You draw out the poaching experience by socializing in the steamy room on heated marble benches, and take turns having your kese (scrub down) with a rough goat-hair mitt. You hire a woman who specializes in these scrubs, and then she massages you with a soapy air-filled cotton bag, and rinses you off like a mother cat washes her kitten.

Soap gets in the eyes, yes.

I own all the implements now, including hand-crocheted washcloths made with silverized cotton, knitted mitts, oil and laurel oil soaps, copper hamam bowls (for rinsing), linen pestemal (wraps or towels), and round pumice stones. (For haman supplies, try Dervis.com.)

DENTAL CARE

I’ve had dental work done in Malaysia and Turkey and was very satisfied with the level of care and the quality and modernity of the equipment and techniques. I got used to state-of-the-science under-the-gum-line laser cleanings in Malaysia (where my Taiwanese dentist was also an acupuncturist) and worry now that I am back to regular old ineffective cleanings. I’ve had horrific experiences in New York, by the way, so don’t see the USA as a place with better oral care standards.

In general, I like overkill when it comes to my teeth. I’ll see oral surgeons rather than dentists, and have my cleanings from dentists rather than oral hygienists.

ENHANCEMENTS

Turkey apparently has a lot of plastic surgery, as well as Lasik eye surgery. One thing to consider about cosmetic procedures is the local aesthetic and if it’s right for you. I didn’t appreciate the robot-like style of eyebrow shaping in Istanbul (with a squared-off center edge) — so I’d be extra wary of anything permanent!

HAIR

I’ve dyed my hair many colors — from black cherry in Asia to red to blonde in Turkey — and had it styled into ringlets and piled up like a princess and blown straight like an Afghan hound. That last one doesn’t work with my fine hair, and doing this style before an event on the Bosphorus would make it spring into a cotton candy-like formation before I’d had my first hors d’oeuvre.

I’ve had my hair cut by people who don’t know at all how to handle curly hair. That’s pretty daring.

I looked like a fluff ball for most of my time in Asia, because I tried to solve the heat and humidity problem with short hair and got tired of loading it up with products meant for thick straight Asian hair.

Now that I’ve relocated to San Francisco (which, even though it’s close to my hometown of Berkeley where I haven’t lived in 30 years, I still consider “a foreign country”), I’m having my hair cut by a gardener, who trims it dry, like a hedge. Having my hair cut by an untrained person with whatever scissors he can find is also pretty daring!

FASHION

On the fashion front, I have an addiction to pashmina-like shawls from Koza Han, the silk market in Bursa, the old capital of the Ottoman empire and a Silk Road stop. I can keep wearing them for years.

I also have a small collection of custom-made silk kebayas from Malaysia, the long, fitted jacket over a long sarong skirt on brightly hand-drawn and printed batik, which I pull out when I have to go to a State dinner and the dress code is formal/national dress. (It’s only happened once, at Malacañan Palace, in Manila!)

I have one very tightly fitting kebaya jacket that is laser-cut velvet in a midnight blue which I do not wear enough. Thanks for reminding me. I may have to take out the too-stiff shoulder pads.

LINGERIE

I like state-of-the-art stuff that does more than one thing at once and find most places sell very backward underthings that are more about how they look than how they fit, feel, or perform. Nonsense padded bras, bumpy lace, and stuff that is low on performance and high on things I don’t care about.

I got an exercise racerback bra at a Turkish shop and had to throw it away it was so scratchy and poorly performing. No wicking of sweat, no staying put, no motion control. But it had silver glittery thread — and (unnecessary) padding!

JEWELRY

I like most of the jewelry I’ve acquired abroad and am grateful to receive it as gifts, too. All of my pieces have some kind of story — and some attitude, too.

From Turkey: Evil-eye nazar boncuğu pieces in glass and porcelain; silk-stuffed caftan pendants from the Istanbul designer Shibu; Ottoman-style enameled pieces; and an opalized Hand of Fatima on an impossibly fine gold chain. This last piece is what all the stylish women in Istanbul are wearing at the moment.

From China: White pearls from Beijing, pink from Shanghai and purple from Shenyang.

From Malaysia: I got an tiny tin ingot in the shape of a turtle in Malacca, which I was told once served as currency in the Chinese community. I had it mounted in a gold setting and wear it from a thick satin choker.

From Holland: A recent acquisition from Amsterdam are gold and silver leather Lapland bracelets with hand-twinned pewter and silver thread and reindeer horn closures. They’re exquisite and rugged at the same time.

WEARING RIGHT NOW

Today’s a rainy day of errands so I’m wearing a fluffy, black cowl-necked sweater with exaggerated sleeves, brown heathered slacks, and black ankle boots. They’re all from New York, which is where I’ve done the most shopping in recent years.

My earrings are diamond and platinum pendants from Chicago in the 1940s, a gift from my grandmother.

I’ve also got on my platinum wedding and engagement rings. They’re from Mimi So in New York.

DAILY FASHION FIXES

I liked FashionTV in Turkey, which was owned by Demet Sabanci Cetindogan, the businesswoman who sponsored my Expat Harem book tour across America in 2006.

The segment of Turkish society interested in fashion is very fashion forward. I enjoyed being able to watch the runway shows and catch interviews with the designers.

If I could draw and sew I’d make all my own clothes but I am weak in these areas. In another life, when I get a thicker skin for the fashion world’s unpleasantries, I’ll devote myself to learning these things and have a career in fashion design.

STREET STYLE

In Istanbul, Nişantaşi is somewhere you’d see some real fashion victims limping along in their heels on the cobblestones and Istiklal Caddesi, the pedestrian boulevard in Beyoğlu, would be a place to see a million different looks from grungy college kids to young men on the prowl, with their too-long, pointy-toed shoes.

TOP BEAUTY/STYLE LESSONS FROM TRAVELS

In fact, I’m still assimilating everything — and everywhere — I’ve experienced in terms of fashion and beauty, but here are a few thoughts:

1) Layering: I learned from Turkish women to layer your jewelry and wear a ton of things at the same time. Coco Chanel would have a heart attack! But the idea is not to wear earrings, necklace, bracelet and rings all at once, but lots of necklaces or lots of bracelets or lots of rings at the same time.

2) Jewelry as beach accessory: During the summer Turkish wear lots of ropy beaded things on their wrists during a day at the beach — nothing too valuable (it’s the beach!) but attractive nonetheless. Jewelry stands feeding this seasonal obsession crop up at all the fashionable beach spots. Dangly charms and evil eyes and little golden figures on leather and paper ropes.

3) A little bling never hurts: I’ve also been influenced by the flashiness of Turkish culture, and actually own a BCBG track suit with sequined logos on it. This is the kind of thing my Turkish family and I would all wear on a plane or road trip. Comfortable and sporty, but not entirely unaware of being in public (and not at the gym). Coming from dressed-down Northern California, it was difficult to get used to being surrounded by glitzy branded tennis shoes and people wearing watches as jewelry, but I hope I’ve been able to take some of the better innovations away with me. I know I’m more likely to wear a glittery eye shadow now that I’ve lived in the Near East.

4) The need for sun protection: It was a shock to go from bronzed Los Angeles to can’t-get-any-paler Asia and then to the bronzed Mediterranean. In Asia I arrived with sun damage and then had lots of people helping me to fix it — I even used a parasol there. Then in Turkey everyone thought I was inexplicably pale and I let my sun protection regimen slip a bit. I’m back on the daily sunblock.

5) What colors to wear: I also used to get whiplash from trips back and forth between California and Southeast Asia in terms of color in clothing. In Malaysia the colors were vivid jewel tones — for the Malays and the Tamils especially. The louder the print, the better. Around the same time I was living in that part of the world, I witnessed a scuffle between shoppers at C.P. Shades in my hometown Berkeley, fighting over velvet granny skirts in moss, and mildew and wet cement colors. That kind of disconnect wreaks havoc on your wardrobe, and your sense of what looks good. Right now I’m trying to incorporate bright colors into my neutral urges. I’m still working it out.

Anastasia Ashman is founder of GlobalNiche.net, a work-life initiative for cultural creatives and mobile progressives that she calls “creative self enterprise for the global soul.” (Global Niche recently held a Webinar “Dressing the Inner You,” featuring psychologist and author Jennifer Baumgartner talking about the cultural displacement that shows up in one’s dressing style.) A Californian with 14 years of expatriatism under her belt, Ashman was the director of the online neoculture discussion community expat+HAREM and coeditor of the critically- and popularly-acclaimed expat lit collection that inspired this community, Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey. Catch her tweeting on Pacific Standard Time at @AnastasiaAshman.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, a contrarian perspective by Anthony Windram on this month’s fashion and beauty conversation.

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Images: (clockwise beginning with top left): Anastasia Ashman holding her own with the ever-glamorous Princess Michael of Kent, in Turkey; with her sister Monika, rocking the traditional Turkish Telkari silver jewelry, Anatolian shawl and requisite deep Bodrum tan; displaying her hamam collection — including traditional silver hamam bowl and hand-loomed linen pestemal towels; and sporting ringleted hair (along with some fashion flair!) at the Istanbul launch of Tales from the Expat Harem.

Fashion Speak: The Idiot’s Guide to Fashionese

Although “Couture” and “Haute Couture” get bandied around to mean any new clothing items that don’t come from Walmart, technically these terms have a very exact definition:

To earn the right to call itself a couture house and to use the term haute couture in its advertising and any other way, members of the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture must follow these rules:

▪ Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings.
▪ Have a workshop (atelier) in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time.
▪ Must have 20 full time technical people in at least one atelier or workshop.
▪ Each season (i.e., twice a year), present a collection to the Paris press, comprising at least thirty-five runs/exits with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.

(Wikipedia)

In an industry that sets such a definition for what is essentially “Manufacturer of overpriced frocks for people with more money than sense” it is not surprising that this is only the tip of the iceberg — especially recently.
Fashion jargon, it seems, is out of control.

Couture or calculus?

In a statement last year, Ed Watson, a spokesman for UK department store Debenhams said:

“It’s now easier to understand complex calculus than some of the words commonly used by commentators within the fashion industry to describe garments.”

While I personally disagree with him, on the grounds that I would find the Dead Sea Scrolls easier to understand than complex calculus, he has a point.

Debenhams, apparently, had to introduce a lexicon of fashion terms so its personal stylists could translate modern Fashionese into plain English for their customers.

Sadly, I couldn’t find a copy of it online to assist TDN readers, so I’m having a go at recreating it myself.

Fashionese and How To Speak It

Parts of Speech:

When translating Fashionese, one needs to be aware that it has an extra part of speech — the Absensicoun.

That’s a contraction of three words: Absolutely, Nonsensical, and Noun.

Contracting words is how much of Fashionese is derived.

For example, the Skort (Skirt+Shorts) and Jeggings (Jeans + Leggings). While we all might be familiar with these two, some more obscure Absensicouns are:

• Jorts = Denim hot-pants (Jeans+Shorts)

• Mube = a long, tight dress (Maxi + Tube)

• Spants = Harem pants (Skirt+pants)

• Swacket = something that is not quite Sweater, not quite Jacket

• Coatigan = a cardigan that resembles a coat (presumably for people who don’t want to admit they’re wearing cardigans)

• Glittens = Gloves that roll up into mittens

• Shress = a dress that’s like a T-shirt. (They couldn’t call it a Tress because that’s already a word. “Dirt” wouldn’t work, either. See how complicated this is?)

And my favorite:

• Whorts, which are winter shorts worn with woolly tights.

Words purloined (“Worpurls”) by Fashionese

Just as the English language shamelessly pinches foreign words and gives them different meanings from the original, so do words purloined by Fashionese (“Worpurls”) take on a new dimension.
Directional —
English (adj): having a particular direction of motion, progression, or orientation.
Fashionese (adj): something that looks completely weird now but is so trendsetting that in a few months’ time everyone will be wearing it. It will look weird again in another few months, when people look through last year’s photos and say, “My God, can you believe we actually used to wear that?”

Faux pas —
French (n): Literally “wrong step”.
English usage (n): A social blunder or indiscretion.
Fashionese (n): Dressing in a way to cause minor embarrassment to oneself. Examples include shrimp cocktail toes (wearing open-toed sandals that are too small so the toes extend past the end of the shoe, like a shrimp cocktail dish), inadvertently leaving your flies undone, and all of the 1970s. (See Directional, Past Tense.)

Thrifting —
English: No direct translation, since Thrift is a noun, not a verb.
Fashionese: Hunting for vintage clothes (must be over a certain age to be considered vintage and not just last season’s cast-offs) which have taken on an aura of mystique due to the fact they were produced at the same time as, say, the Ford Edsel.

Arm party –
This should have been an Absensicoun, but it’s difficult to contract satisfactorily. (“Arty”? “Arparty”? “Parmarty”?)
English: Umm…Beats me. A variation on “Twister”?
Fashionese: An armful of bracelets, where less is less.

Covert couture
English (n): Not sure. Anything to do with James Bond’s suit?
Fashionese (n): Clothes that cost a fortune but don’t look as if they did. (See Joel, Billy; Still Rock & Roll To Me: “You can’t dress trashy till you spend a lot of money.”)

Play them at their own game.

Back to Mr Ed Watson, the Debenhams spokesman, who had this to add:

Ideally we would like to drop all these amalgamations, but our hands are tied due to the terms being used on search engines.

Indeed. So the only solution is “If you can’t beat them — join them.”
Which words would you like to see adopted by Fashionese?

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Related posts:

5 tips on how to look good when you backpack

Cleopatra for a day: Helena Halme

Dear Mary-Sue: Fashion tips for the hapless traveler

Displaced Q: What fashion souvenirs find their way into your rucksack?

Img: By mandiberg [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

BOOK REVIEW: “Asian Beauty Secrets,” by Marie Jhin

TITLE: Asian Beauty Secrets: Ancient and Modern Tips from the Far East
AUTHOR: Marie Jhin, M.D.
PUBLICATION DATE: July 2011
FORMAT: Paperback and Kindle e-book, available from Amazon
GENRE: Health, fitness & dieting, beauty
SOURCE: Paperback purchased from the Korea Society, New York City

Summary:

Drawing on her experience as a Cornell University-trained dermatologist, combined with a knowledge of Asian beauty remedies, both ancient and modern, Dr. Marie Jhin delivers an East-West guide to vibrant skin and beauty. Born in Seoul, South Korea, Jhin emigrated to Hawaii with her family when she was six (they settled eventually in New York City). She now lives in San Francisco, where she runs her own practice, Premier Dermatology. She has been rated as one of America’s top doctors for the past three years.

Review:

The first time I visited Seoul, my husband, who is Japanese, insisted that I try a spa treatment, as Koreans do this sort of thing better than other Asians, he said. Before I knew it, I was lying naked on a table with an older Korean lady scrubbing every inch of my body. Eventually, she took my hand and put it on my stomach. At first I thought I was touching a piece of terry cloth but no, it was my skin — it had come off in shreds!

I lay there thinking, “Can this be healthy?”

Having pondered these issues quite a lot — also during my years of living in Japan, where I could hardly fail to note how obsessed Japanese women are with skincare — I was intrigued to come across a new book on Asian beauty methods, by San Francisco-based dermatologist Marie Jhin.

Born in Seoul, Jhin is now settled in California. She is not an expat, which makes the title of this post a little misleading; but is she “displaced”? Yesterday she told me in an email exchange that while she doesn’t think of Korea as “home” any more, her birth country remains something of a lodestar. She specializes in Asian skincare, lived in Seoul for two years after college to teach ESL, and has been going to Korea on business of late.

But what really convinced me of Jhin’s “displacedness” is that like me, she was uncertain of the benefits of Korean skin scrubbing but unlike me, let it get under her skin, so to speak:

I grew up doing certain things beauty-wise that I wanted know the truth of. For example, … my mother used to take me to get my skin scrubbed at a Korean sauna. Back then I didn’t understand what the point was, but now, as a dermatologist, I realize that it was basically whole body microdermabrasion that they have been doing for centuries that is great for the skin.

(Good to know!)

Jhin called her book “Asian Beauty Secrets” because it covers the beauty habits of not only Korean but also Chinese and Japanese women. Her key finding is that while women in all three countries have been caught up in the quest to look more Western, they have plenty to be proud of in their native beauty traditions.

The influence of Western beauty ideals

The last time I visited Tokyo, I couldn’t always tell who was a foreigner and who wasn’t since so many Japanese youth had dyed their hair a reddish blonde (I no longer stood out in the crowd!).

Thus I was glad to see Jhin tackle the issue of Western beauty ideals. In addition to dying and streaking their hair, many Asians are getting plastic surgery in the quest to look more Western.

Jhin notes the popularity — especially in Korea, cosmetic surgery capital of Asia (and the world?) — of procedures such as blepharoplasty (double eyelid surgery), rhinoplasty (nose jobs) and surgery to correct what Japanese call daikon-ashi (radish-shaped calves).

And when Asian women do Botox, she says, it’s not to reduce wrinkles but to soften square jaw lines and/or to atrophy cheek muscles and thereby shrink a too-round face.

Jhin draws a line, however, between these procedures and the value traditionally placed by women in all three cultures — Chinese, Japanese and Korean — on having white skin. She cites Chinese Canadian consumer research professor Eric Li in stating that the preoccupation with whiteness predates colonialism and Western notions of beauty. In fact, the Japanese see their own version of whiteness as superior to the Western one!

What Asian women bring to the vanity table

We Westerners are notorious for mistaking one Asian culture for another. Jhin helps us negotiate this sometimes-fraught territory by listing some of their distinguishing elements when it comes to notions of beauty:

1) KOREA

  • Who’s the fairest of them all? In the Far East, it’s Korean women, by common consensus.
  • Korean women like to exfoliate the skin to keep it glowing and healthy.
  • Koreans have long revered the ginseng plant, a vital ingredient in health and beauty potions.

2) JAPAN

  • Going back at least to the Heian period, Japanese have celebrated long tresses — the record of that era being 23 feet! Their favorite conditioning treatment is camellia oil, thought to promote glossy hair growth without making it greasy.
  • Japan spa culture, which dates back thousands of years, favors the use of natural ingredients for cleansing the skin: eg, volcanic mud, wakame seaweed and even nightingale droppings(!).
  • Though Japanese are known for rushing around, they in fact have a tradition of enjoying “empty moments.” Such meditative practices contribute to well-being and bring out a woman’s natural beauty.

3) CHINA

  • In ancient China, pearls were a girl’s best friend: ground pearl powder was taken internally and applied topically. (Hmmm…did they get that habit from Cleopatra, or vice versa?)
  • Chinese have a saying that “a woman’s second face is in her hands” — to this day, Chinese women are meticulous about moisturizing their hands and feet.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) emphasizes certain foods for balancing yin and yang within the body. This inner harmony is thought to contribute to outer radiance.

There is also, of course, much overlap among the three cultures.. All subscribe to the belief that by eating healthy foods, releasing stress (e.g., by getting an accu-massage), and pursuing nature-based healing (TCM) on a regular basis, a woman can enhance her best assets.

The “skinny” on beauty tips and secrets

One of the reasons to pick up a book with the word “secrets” in the title is to find out what one is missing out on. On this score, Jhin’s book is a bit of a mixed beauty bag. Some of her suggestions struck me as being far fetched — and I have a reasonably high tolerance for Asian cultural quirks.

Bird’s nest soup or soup containing hasma (frog fallopian tubes), anyone? Both are ancient Chinese foods thought to nurture glowing skin (Jhin provides recipes). Um, thanks, but no thanks. I’d almost rather eat fugu (which likewise has stimulating properties).

Even more offputting is the Chinese custom of spreading sheep’s placenta on one’s face. (It’s a mercy they’ve moved on from ingesting human placenta, that’s all I can say…)

As for V-steaming one’s chai-york (Korean for vaginal tract) with medicinal herbs such as mugwort (common wormwood) — it will take more than a reassurance by a Beverly Hills doctor to convince me that such a practice doesn’t lead to other problems such as UTIs.

On the other hand, I might actually consider soothing my skin with a high-quality ginseng cream. That sounds nice. Or perhaps I’ll try facial acupuncture. It’s noninvasive and, according to Jhin, can have the effect of a mini-facelift.

Note: More secrets can be found on Jhin’s book site.

Verdict:

For me, the most interesting portion of Asian Beauty Secrets is when Jhin addresses her area of specialization: the conditions peculiar to Asian skin, such as eczema (they are more prone to it than we are) or sun damage that manifests itself not in wrinkles but in brown spots. I also found fascinating the chapter on the latest skin renewal techniques being pioneered by Korean doctors. Acupuncture meets nanotechnology with the “INTRAcel laser” treatment! (The laser reaches “deeper into the dermis for more lasting collagen production and overall skin rejuvenation,” Jhin explains.)

That said, I’d hesitate about recommending Jhin’s book to anyone who isn’t yet oriented (no pun intended!) to beauty practices in this part of the world. Instead you might try experimenting with some of the brands Jhin recommends — e.g., Sulwhasoo cosmetics (now being carried at Bergdorf Goodman here in New York) — by way of familiarizing yourself with Asian skincare methods. As it happens, I got some Sulwhasoo samples when I bought the book — and would be more than happy to report back on the effects, if anyone’s curious! 🙂

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s installment from our displaced fictional heroine, Libby. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.).

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5 tips on how to look good when you backpack

I don’t know about you, but I look terrible when I travel.

Not intentionally of course; jet lag notwithstanding, it’s impossible to look crisp and put together after an extended journey by public transport, no matter where in the world you are.

My problem has more to do with my style of travel — or lack thereof… There are two real options when you’re a backpacker: clothes that look good, or clothes that are comfy. Now, bearing in mind you’ll be spending quite a lot of time in them — alternating between the same two pairs of trousers every day until they drop off you and disintegrate — it’s not much of a choice.

Is that because I’m a guy? Maybe — see the note about my wife at the end of this post.

But I don’t care whether you’re male or female, there’s something about being a backpacker that makes keeping up one’s appearance a constant challenge. However fastidious you are about your personal appearance (and most backpackers I know are!), however much you shower before an 18-hour bus journey, you’re still going to look (and smell!) pretty bad afterwards.

So, bearing in mind the following advice from Mr Will Kommen:

If you look like your passport photo, you’re too ill to travel.

…here are five of my tips on how to look good as you bounce around the globe:

1) Haunt charity shops.

Many countries have these in some form or other, and the richer the country the more expensive and interesting gear you can pick up for next to nothing. They’re perfect for replacing an item of clothing that is giving up the will to live in your backpack; or something you’ve become so sick of wearing you daydream constantly about burning it. This shops are incredibly cheap, so you can go crazy — and then just give the stuff back when it’s time to move on.

I don’t travel with any technical clothing, so when my wife and I decided to do a two-month, 1,000 km hike, we had to equip ourselves from scratch — on next-to-no budget. Guess how we did it? Yup, “op shops” they call them in Australia — we visited every one. In a couple of weeks we had all the gear we needed for the hike — plus all the money had gone to charity! And when we were done, we gave most of it back as donations (except the t-shirts, which were too stained to be of use to anyone).

2) Adopt local dress.

Fisherman’s trousers in Thailand, those crazy-colored woolly trousers in South America — pseudo local fashions are cheap to buy, fun to wear and, if they don’t become a souvenir, easy to dispose of before onward travel. I say “pseudo local” because real locals wear the uniform of the world: jeans and a fake Nike T-shirt. Or a Manchester United strip (shirt and shorts).

3) Take any opportunity to wash.

It’s amazing how good it feels to be clean. Most people take it for granted, but then most people have never spent three consecutive nights on the same train, going backwards and forwards to avoid paying for a hotel room. Anyway, the point is there are opportunities everywhere: most major train stations have showers open to the public cheaply, almost all airports do too — and some places you wouldn’t expect, like shopping centres. Shopping centres are free to enter, with regularly cleaned public loos. A lot of them also have “mother-and-baby” rooms, with a table or fold-down shelf, a sink — in short, an open invitation for a full body wash and a change of clothes. Just be wary in Japan — a lot of the public toilets there are “smart.” They unlock and open if you’re in there for too long, which can be pretty embarrassing if you’re soaping yourself down when the door opens opposite Starbucks…

4) Take any opportunity to “dress up.”

Looking posh is a moral boost, and should be possible for most of us bedraggled travelers just by shaving and wearing all-clean clothes! I also travel with a shirt — just one — which transforms a pair of jeans into an outfit smart enough for a nice restaurant or swanky bar (well, as long as they don’t look at my feet, on which I have either flip-flops or hiking boots…).

5) Wear jeans!

The rest of the world will be. Seriously — for every sweat-wicking-fast-drying-wind-proof-mesh-venting-ThermaCELL-layering-system you own, there’s another person behind you who has none of it. And you know what? They look a lot better than you! This is why so much “technical” clothing ends up in charity shops (see above) just waiting for you to pick it up — people with lots of cash buy it, don’t use it for anything more strenuous than shopping, then realize that it looks pretty crummy when compared to clothes that were, you know, designed to look good whilst shopping. So they ditch it. You should too — or at the very least, stop paying outrageous prices for the stuff. Unless you’re headed to Everest Base Camp — in which case, buy it all from those people who’ve just realized that no matter how expensive it was, it doesn’t look right in Sainsbury’s.

* * *

Obviously, this is a bit of a male perspective on things. My wife swears by traveling with a small (for an elephant) bag of “essential” make-up. It’s the main reason she’s recently swapped her rucksack for a suitcase…but she assures me it helps her feel good about herself when otherwise she’d look as bad as I do. So I indulge her.

What do you do to look good while you travel?

Tell us in the comments section!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, a review of a new book on Asian beauty.

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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Images: (clockwise beginning top left): Charity shop in West Street (© Copyright Basher Eyre and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)  baby changing room sign and South American wool pants for sale, by Tony James Slater; backpackers (Morgue photos).

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