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For a Third Culture Kid, birthday candles are easier to come by than the Christmas kind

Tiffany Xmas Collage_dropshadowBorn to German parents in the United States who later moved the family to the UAE, Tiffany Lake-Haeuser learned very quickly that unlike birthday candles, Christmas candles only happen if you’re living in the right place. She joins us today to tell her tales of Christmas Past, in New York and the UAE, and Present — in Germany. (Hmmm…what will Christmas Future will hold for Tiffany — the world having already been her oyster in so many ways?!)

— ML Awanohara

There have been two events I have always looked forward to since I was a little girl, my birthday and Christmas. Luckily for me, those are perfectly spaced so that in the summer I have my birthday and in the winter I have Christmas.

My fascination for the two events was different, though. My birthday was special to my family, my friends and me; the decorations were left up for a day and it ended almost as quickly as it started. I generated most of the excitement, with others joining in.

Through my travels I have come to learn that this is not the case with Christmas — which is a group affair. At least half the Christmas spirit depends on the people around you and the widespread anticipation of that one magical night or morning.

Although I am German, I was born in New York City, and that’s where I remember having my first Christmases.

New York’s love affair with Christmas

I think no city does Christmas decorations like NYC.

My family lived in Battery Park City, and I remember when I was just a little kid going to the Winter Garden Atrium in the World Financial Center, and seeing that huge light switch that turned on the lights on the an enormous Christmas tree.

Later, when I was a little bigger, I recall walking the city streets in my coat and mittens and hat and feeling in every bone of my body that Christmas was coming.

Of course my German family celebrated a little different than the Americans. In Germany we celebrate on Christmas Eve; families get all dressed up and have a nice dinner before opening all their presents.

But when I was younger I didn’t notice this difference. It was only much later, back in Germany, when our American friends came to spend Christmas with us, that I noticed this (and other) differences.

Discovering Weihnachts

Now that I’m back living in Frankfurt, I keep thinking how much more old fashioned and traditional Christmas seems in Germany compared to in America. We take pride, for instance, in our hand-crafted ornaments and their old-style workmanship — the kind you can buy at our Weihnachtsmarkt. Not for us the fantasy luxury windows of Bergdorf’s.

Christmas in Germany is tied very closely to religion. We don’t say “Happy Holidays” here. And we emphasize nativity scenes in our decorations. My family has its own little crèche — and on Christmas Day my older sister and I get to add Baby Jesus.

But probably the most striking difference of all is that we don’t really have Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas (“Nikolaus”) visits German children on December 6: we put our boots in front of our door, and they get filled overnight. This tradition commemorates when Nikolaus gave a cold, homeless man his coat.

It’s true we do have Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus), but the concept came from outside and is part of popular German culture. Das Christkind (Christ Child, or Baby Jesus) visits on Christmas Eve with presents.

…but after an Emirati interlude

Before repatriating to Germany for the second time, my family lived in Abu Dhabi. I was 13 then and for me, Christmas temporarily lost part of its appeal. There was no cold, no snow and barely any Christmas trees.

Believe me when I say, you don’t understand the importance of a Christmas tree until you don’t have it anymore. Instead, we had a little metal frame that was supposed to represent a Christmas tree.

The cold I used to have a love-hate relationship with in New York (Germany, too) was now non-existent; and though I didn’t exactly miss it, it did take away a big part of the anticipation of the holiday — of the winter solstice.

With very few people around you getting excited for Christmas, it was much harder to even remember that Christmas was nearing. It snuck up on you and then disappeared, much like birthdays — but without any of the accompanying fanfare.

* * *

Living in Germany had renewed my awareness of Christmas traditions and the sense of community they bring. Nowadays I actually enjoy the build-up to Christmas as much as Christmas Eve or the day itself — the markets and the decorations. For me, this is what makes this age-old holiday so much more than a time to give presents.

* * *

Readers, especially those who are Third Culture Kids, or TCKs, can you relate to Tiffany Lake-Haeuser’s competing visions of Christmas? She would love to hear your comments. You can also follow Tiffany on her blog, Girl on the Run.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s displaced Q, on stogy holiday foods.

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 from top left): Candles in Tiffany Lake-Haeuser’s German home, Christmas 2011; birthday candles (Morguefiles); the crèche in Tiffany’s home, Christmas 2011; Bergdorf Goodman Christmas windows, courtesy Flickr Creative Commons; the rare Christmas tree in Abu Dhabi, courtesy Flickr Creative Commons; the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center (Morguefiles); and Tiffany in front of the tree in her German home, Christmas 2011.

Catching up with this year’s Random Nomads over the holidays (1/3)

RandomNomadXmasPassportThe holiday season is here — the perfect time for the Displaced Nation to catch up with the expats and other global voyagers who washed up on our shores in 2012. Remember all those Random Nomads who proposed to make us exotic meals based on their far-ranging meanderings? Not to mention their suitcases full of treasures they’d collected and their vocabularies full of strange words… How are they doing these days, and do they have any exciting plans for the holidays? First in a three-part series.

In the first part of 2012, quite an array of Random Nomads arrived at the Displaced Nation’s gates, including:

  • Toni Hargis, a Brit married to an American and living in Chicago (she goes by the moniker “Expat Mum”);
  • Megan Farrell, an American married to a Brazilian and living in São Paulo;
  • Liv Hambrett, an Australian moving cities in Germany to be with her SG (Significant German);
  • Lei Lei Clavey, an Australian working in New York City’s fashion industry; and
  • Annabel Kantaria, an Englishwoman living in Dubai (one of the Telegraph Expat bloggers).

Unfortunately, Liv and Lei Lei cannot be with us today as they’ve both headed back to their native Australia. Lei Lei is living in Perth with her boyfriend — and still feeling somewhat displaced as she’s from Melbourne. (Still, her mum, one of our featured authors, Gabrielle Wang, is glad she’s a little closer.)

Liv — who has moved her blog, A Big Life, over to her portfolio site — says she is “now hopelessly pulled in opposing directions by my home country and adopted home, Germany.” Back with her family in Sydney, she is planning a return to Germany in early 2013. Between now and then, SG will have completed his maiden voyage to Oz to pay her a visit.

But now let’s start the party with the three Random Nomads who still qualify as expats. What have they been up to since nearly a year ago, and are they cooking up anything special for the holidays?

ToniHargis_Xmas1) TONI HARGIS

Have there been any big changes in your life since we last spoke?
Yes, I got a new gig writing for BBC America’s “Mind the Gap” column, which is very exciting. I have also just completed a 55,000-word manuscript for a new expat book which should be coming out late Spring 2013. Can’t give any more details at the moment I’m afraid.

Where will you be spending the holidays this year?
We have been going to Copper Mountain, Colorado for the last few years and this year will be the same.

What do you most look forward to eating?
My husband goes mad cooking “skier’s dinners” as he calls them — gumbo, lasagna, chili etc. He will also probably take care of most of the Xmas dinner. Unfortunately, I usually suffer from mild altitude sickness so food isn’t always at the top of my list!

Can you recommend any books you read in 2012 that speak to the displaced life? 
Yes, I read three great books this year on that theme, all from Summertime Publishers:

  1. Expat Life Slice by Slice, by Apple Gidley, which is memoir style and chronicles her (so far) amazing expat adventures.
  2. Finding Your Feet in Chicago, which is a great book for newly arrived expats to the Windy City, by Veronique Martin-Place.
  3. Sunshine Soup: Nourishing the Global Soul, by Jo Parfitt, which came out in 2011 and is a lovely novel set in Dubai about expat women there. (Jo is the founder of Summertime Publishers.)

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions for 2013?
Hmmm…. I try not to make resolutions because it can just be a set up for failure and bitterness (just kidding). There will be a lot of background work to do on my upcoming book, so I suppose my resolution should be to keep my energy levels up and work hard while not ignoring my children for too long!

Last but not least, do you have any upcoming travel plans?
Other than Colorado, I have no definite plans but there will be the annual summer trip to England and perhaps a trip somewhere else in Europe if we can fit it in.

meganfarrell_xmas2) MEGAN FARRELL

Hi there, Megan. Have you had any big changes since we last spoke?
I am currently writing a book, titled American Exbrat in São Paulo: Advice, Stories, Tips and Tricks to Surviving South America’s Largest City, which will be available via Amazon in the next few weeks. And we moved from Jardim Paulista to Higienópolis. The Higienópolis neighborhood feels much more family friendly to me, without losing options for great restaurants and activities.

How will you be spending the holidays this year?
For the holidays, we will be visiting Petrópolis (Brazil’s “City of Emperors” and a lovely mountain resort) and Búzios (known for its magnificent beaches and crystal-clear water), both towns in the state of Rio de Janeiro. I am looking forward to the beach and mountain time.

What’s the thing you most look forward to eating?
Churrasco (Brazilian style barbecue)!

Can you recommend any books you came across in 2012 that speak to the displaced life?
Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown, by Paul Theroux. I’m also reading Eat, Pray, Love again, but this time in Portuguese (Comer Rezar Amar).

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions for 2013?
I do. My resolutions are to spend more time working on my writing projects and further develop my business. I currently guide executives and managers in their business communications to help them gain advantages in the global market, but I really need to expand my marketing strategy. I also have a large list of São Paulo experiences I have yet to enjoy.

Do you have any upcoming travel plans?
I’m hoping to get back to the States early this year and hit not only Chicago but also Los Angeles and New York City.

AnnabelKantaria_Xmas3) ANNABEL KANTARIA

Have there been any big changes in your life since we last spoke?
None to speak of.

Where will you be spending the holidays this year?
We love to spend Christmas in Dubai as the weather is exactly how a British summer day should be: clear, sunny, blue sky and temperatures of about 28°C (around 82°F).

What’s the thing you most look forward to eating?
We always have a big Christmas lunch in the garden with friends. This year another friend is playing host to us. I feel very lucky as she is practically the “Martha Stewart” of Dubai and I just know the food, decor and company will be divine. I’m vegetarian, so I won’t be eating turkey — I think we’re barbecuing this year.

Can you recommend any books you came across in 2012 that speak to the displaced life?
I read a new book called The Expats, by Chris Pavone, but I was more inspired to revisit old favorites such as White Mischief, by James Fox.

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions for 2013?
To finish writing my book, find an agent and/or publisher and get it published!

Any upcoming travel plans?
We usually go away in the February half-term holidays. Last year we visited family in Kenya before taking a few days in the Seychelles. This year I’m looking East — maybe Thailand, Malaysia (I’ve always wanted to go to Langkawi) or perhaps Bali.

* * *

Readers, before we lose these three Random Nomads to their various holiday (and half-term) adventures, do you have any more questions? Perhaps some of you are wondering, like I am, how they manage to be so productive — each of them has children but also a book to publish in 2013!

STAY TUNED for another 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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Images: Passport photo from Morguefile; portrait photos are from the nomads.

Oblivious to controversy, this expat author stirs up tales of violence, romance and tragedy in the Middle East

Alexander McNabb isn’t afraid of ghoulies, ghosties, long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night — which, as Kate Allison announced the week before last, is this month’s theme at the Displaced Nation.

How do I know he isn’t afraid? Because he is too busy tuning into other sources of thrills, chills and excitement for his books — namely, Middle Eastern politics and intrigue.

Though he doesn’t seek controversy, he doesn’t shy away from it either. His books are violent, explosive, and deadly. One has actually been banned in Jordan.

I now have the pleasure of giving Mr McNabb the floor to tell us more about his affinity for such dastardly topics. Don’t worry, he doesn’t have fangs but is a gentle sort with a great sense of humo(u)r… He is also a lively conversationalist, with his own radio show in Dubai, and a cook.

Welcome, Alexander. Shall we start out with what should be a basic question (though it rarely is for us displaced types): where are you from?
I was born in London, in Edgware General Hospital, which they have since knocked down, presumably to stop lightning striking twice. I grew up in various countryside areas north of London and was unwillingly educated at The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School in Elstree.

When did you first go to the Middle East?
In 1986. I was selling an insanely visionary software package put together by a directory publisher that had the wonderful idea of selling its information as an integrated database. I presented this to a number of puzzled Saudis who lost no time in introducing me to their most junior members of staff and leaving me there. It taught me an important lesson — Gulf Arabs never say “no,” it’s considered rude. And “not no” doesn’t mean “yes”!

How did you end up living in Dubai?
When that project and, ultimately, the company failed I got involved in the publishing side of things. And so in 1993 I moved out to Dubai to start a subsidiary of the publishing company I worked for. And got myself shut down by the Ministry of Information. But that’s another story…

We will talk about your trio of books set in the Middle East shortly. But first: do you have any other published works?
The first book I wrote was a spoof of international spy thrillers, called just Space. I re-read the manuscript a couple of months ago and it made me laugh a lot, so I published that as a $2.99 Kindle-only book. I worked for ten years as an editor and publisher and for longer than that as a writer and journalist, so there are millions of my words out there — lost and crying out plaintively…

No need for them to mourn as you’ve just now published Beirut — An Explosive Thriller, which is the second in three books you are writing that are set in the Middle East, called The Levant Cycle. The first was Olives — A Violent Romance and the third will be Shemlan — A Deadly Tragedy. Could you say a little more about the Levant Cycle?
The Levant Cycle was never meant to be — the three books just happen to be set in the same region, contain some of the same characters and be roughly contiguous. But they are very different. Olives is really a novel — the story follows young British journalist, Paul Stokes as he arrives in Jordan and quickly falls afoul of the law — while Beirut is a hardcore international spy thriller. And they’re independent works in themselves. I had always thought of a book that would form an interlinear to Olives, a telling of that story from another perspective, possibly that of Gerald Lynch, the British Secret Intelligence Service officer that Paul encounters. Beirut wasn’t meant to follow on from Olives and then it just did, sort of taking up from when Paul moves to Beirut. And of course Beirut shows a very different Gerald Lynch, because in Olives you only see Lynch from Paul’s somewhat jaundiced perspective. So the books can be grouped, but I didn’t want a trilogy — a cycle seemed more appropriate.

Are you now working on the third book?
Yes, I’m about halfway through Shemlan and loving it. It’s a great deal darker than the other two books. It’s about a retired diplomat who’s dying of cancer going back to his past and finding that past is likely to kill him before the disease does.

What does “shemlan” mean?
Shemlan is a tiny village high in the hills above Beirut. It’s a little-known fact that Shemlan was for many years home to the Middle East Centre for Arabic Studies, where the British government taught its diplomats — and its spies — Arabic. A lot of my research for the book has consisted of taking friends and colleagues up there for lunch at Al Sakhra (The Cliff House), the lovely Arabic restaurant in the village. I know, it’s hard…

What made you decide to center the action of your books around the politics of the Middle East?
No one else was writing fiction centered on this region. There hasn’t been an interesting Middle Eastern spy thriller since Eric Ambler’s The Levanter. Olives was intended to introduce a Western audience that doesn’t care very much to some of the more complicated aspects of life in that part of the world — to some of the human issues that lie behind the glib headlines.

I presume you aren’t afraid of controversy?
Bring it on! Actually, I was amazed at the “controversy” that Olives provoked because of my having depicted Muslims drinking alcohol and Arab women having sex with foreigners. These things never happen in the Arab World! And then the Great Naming Scandal, when my use of a real Palestinian name (Dajani, for the Palestinian family Paul gets involved with) was deemed by distributors in Jordan to make the book too hot for them to handle. It still can’t be sold there!

How about Beirut?
I was truly blown away when the UAE’s National Media Council granted the necessary “Permission to Print” for Beirut. I’m sure someone, somewhere will find some aspect of the book controversial, but I think that’s more a product of the lack of narrative literature in the region than it is any quest for controversy on my part. And yes, you do actually have to get permission to print a book here — and government clearance to import books into any country in the region.

What audience did you have in mind for Olives?
Olives was written for a British audience but has appealed broadly across Europe and the US as well as in the Arab World. I’ve been more than pleased at Western readers who have enjoyed Olives and said, “I didn’t know about all that stuff.” And, because I thought I might lose Arab friends, I have been truly overjoyed that so many Palestinian and Arab readers have loved it.

At one point in Olives, Paul, the British journalist, becomes romantically involved with his Palestinian coworker, Aisha Dajani. Do you think Westerners can have successful relationships with Arabs and live happily ever after?
I really don’t see it as a “Westerner/Arab” thing at all – it’s an awful cliché, but love transcends nationality, culture and, yes, religion. I have seen relationships founder on that particular rock, where the partners can’t clear the hurdle of converting to or from Islam, but I have also seen couples deal with that. And, of course, there are still a great number of Christians in the Arab world and Muslims in the West. East and West doesn’t have to be about Islam, even if it often is.

Did you base the hero, Paul, on anyone in particular?
Paul Stokes is modeled on a number of callow Brits I have encountered arriving in the Middle East over the years, most of them journalists. You get a lot of credit in the Arab World for having tried to understand things, for actually bothering to learn something about the region and its people before you go leaping in blindly, as Paul does. I have often been highly amused at the way Arab friends have reacted to the behavior of British people new to the region — funny little things like different approaches to generosity, family, children and manners. I remember once walking into the office to be met by horrified glares from the girls, all trying to catch my attention and draw it to the new Brit who was happily — and loudly — clipping his nails at his desk. Or the British staffer who labelled her things in the office fridge. To the Arabs, you just share and if we’re out of something, you get it — someone labeling a bottle of milk was a source of appalled amusement.

Paul becomes “localized,” even becomes a smoker, which is why he is so torn between “home,” represented by his girlfriend Anne, and “away,” which of course is Aisha. And she, of course, is the hero of the book. You’re not actually supposed to like Paul, really. Perhaps sympathize with him…

You characterize Olives as a “violent romance.” What does that mean exactly?
The book’s working title for years was just “Olives.” The problem with that is that when you google “Olives,” you get Crespo, cookbooks or restaurants. So I decided on a defining subtitle — and nothing else seemed to suit other than “violent romance.” Olives is both a romance and a spy thriller. Thriller readers would find it too slow or romantic, romance readers would find it a little rough was the general concern. I hate how publishing brackets and pigeonholes us like that. The love story part of it has been popular, for sure — but a lot of people didn’t know about the region’s water crisis and learned about it from Olives, which has been cool.

Will Beirut attract the same readers?
Beirut is a totally different book and I was perhaps a little gleeful at how Olives readers would react to its much more hardcore spy thriller nature, particularly female readers. I was also a little scared, because I was setting out to kill what little fan base Olives has won for me. Readers, including females, have loved Beirut so far, which has me slack-jawed to be honest. But then it shows how wrong those traditional publishing preconceptions are — women actually reading a thriller? Oh, the shock of it all!

Is that why you are self-publishing The Levant Cycle — because the books do not fit in traditional publishing categories? I ask because quite a few expat authors we’ve featured on The Displaced Nation have self-published their works.
Let’s start with 250 rejections from agents for, respectively, Space, Olives and Beirut. When London agent Robin Wade signed me, it was for Beirut. I thought I was made, I really did. 250 rejections — and then an agent comes along and makes like a scrooch owl! Robin shopped Beirut around to 14 top publishers (there’s an image of the list I had of them, one after another struck off as the news came in, posted up on the Beirut site) and they, to a man, rejected it.

Why do you think that happened?
The ignorance about the Middle East from agents and editors alike has been shocking: “We have terrorism here at home, I don’t think people want to read about that” and “This novel, set in war-torn city Beirut” were two low points. But the worst was the editor who praised Beirut’s pace, setting, style and dialogue, compared it to Le Carré — but said he didn’t think it would fly in supermarkets. After that, I decided to see what readers thought without waiting for the gatekeepers. I am so glad I did.

Funnily enough, I discovered your books last month, when the Displaced Nation was dedicating itself to a series of food posts and I happened upon your collective blog about food, The Fat Expat.
Blogging became an outlet for me between frustrated bouts of writing. My partner in foodie crime, Simon “HalfManHalfBeer” McCrum, and I tried bringing others on board — but in the end The Fat Expat was doomed to tempus fugit failure. Still, I loved it while it lasted. I used to run a food magazine so am quite experienced in food preparation, photography and so on — and I love cooking.

Last month we were asking all of our interviewees: would you travel for food?
Damn right I would! Sweden this year, stunning food at stunningly high prices but you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten sour cream and crayfish on toast for breakfast. Estonia last year, a gorgeous holiday of art, museums and culture interspersed with the world’s largest, cheapest Martinis and top class cuisine — pelmeni in chicken stock, venison in red wine! But you want to really eat? There are stunning restaurants in Jordan — puffed up flatbreads fresh from the brick oven, potato pan-fried with egg and Mediterranean herbs. And, of course, Beirut — French food that makes Parisians blush alongside mountains of mezze, splashes of Armenian spice and of course Lebanese wines. I had to edit out my descriptions of Château Musar from Beirut because they crossed that threshold between what matters in a book and what readers need to know. But Musar is one of the world’s great wines. And the rosé from Château Ksara? Barmy, quite barmy. Do not, if you have the chance, neglect Massaya — a lovely wine from the achingly beautiful Bekaa Valley.

Next month’s Displaced Nation theme will be expats and politics — in honor of the U.S. elections. Do you have a horse in that particular race?
Obama. I don’t think anyone should forget that the people behind Romney are the people who took America to war against Iraq for no reason other than profit and dominance. There were never any WMDs and there was no link whatever between the murderously secular Saddam and the New Caliphate of Al Qaeda. Over a million people have died, the Middle East is lurching from crisis to crisis — and those old men are still doing three-martini lunches and planning their next move to make the world a safer place. At least Obama represents a hope of inclusion and reason.

Do you think expats should stay in touch with their home country’s politics? Do you?
Living in the Middle East, US politics are something you tend to follow because it pretty much shapes the region. I follow British politics to a degree, but it’s hard to be passionate about a system that has become so centrist and messaged. It’s something of a sitcom really.

What’s next, after the Cycle is finished?
I can’t even begin to think about what’s next, but there are plenty of contenders for next project, including a book set in Ireland and one about a traumatized teacher coming back from Iraq. Neither feature Mr. Lynch.

Readers, why not give those witches, ghosts, zombies, werewolves and vampires of yours a break and try Alexander McNabb’s wonderful cocktails of romance, intrigue, and high-stakes international politics instead?

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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Images: Alexander McNabb author image and book covers.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).

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.)

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

And the Alices go to … these 7 writers who get the curious, unreal side of international travel

 © Iamezan | Used under license

© Iamezan |
Used under license

Since founding The Displaced Nation on April Fool’s Day (no fooling?), Kate Allison, Anthony Windram and I have been coming across travel writers who understand just how befuddling the life of the global nomad can be.

We are inclined to think that they have channeled Lewis Carroll’s Alice.

Offering themselves up as examples, such writers talk about what’s it like for a crossborder traveler to be plagued with feelings akin to adolescent self-doubt: what am I doing here, and will I ever get over this feeling of displacedness?

And they’ve shown us how to emerge from such escapades as more fulfilled human beings, full of stories to tell, perhaps to our grandkids, one day…

In recognition of these models of displacedness, my colleagues and I have created a new accolade for the travel writing profession: the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Award, otherwise known as an “Alice.”

And The Displaced Nation‘s very first Alices go to…drumroll!…(listed in reverse chronological order)

1. ANABEL KANTARIA for Do we all need behavior lessons?, in the Daily Telegraph:

“Just remember, you’re not playing in your own backyard now,” my boss told me when I took my first job in the UAE. “You’re in someone else’s yard now, and you play by their rules.” It was probably the best piece of advice I was ever given about the UAE, and one that’s kept me out of trouble on numerous occasions.

Alice link: “I don’t think they play at all fairly,” Alice began, in rather a complaining tone, “… I should have croqueted the Queen’s hedgehog just now, only it ran away when it saw mine coming!”

2. SUZY GUESE for The Unexpected Benefits to Solo Travel, in Suzy Guese: Traveling with a redheaded temperament:

While I know people who travel with others can have their share of weird conversations, solo travel for some reason brings this about almost with every day. … From a musician at the Giant’s Causeway [Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site] who started talking to me by insulting my shoes, to a B&B owner who told me her “journey of life”, leaving in all of the gory details, I have had some strange encounters.

Alice link: “Your hair wants cutting,” said the Hatter. He had been looking at Alice for some time with great curiosity, and this was his first speech.

3. ANDREA MARTINS for Expat women living the high life or secretly struggling?, in the Daily Telegraph:

In mid-2005, April Davidson’s world was turned upside down following her husband’s job transfer to Mexico City. … She could not understand what was happening to her and she started taking medication for anxiety and unexplained stomach problems. Little did April realise that her feelings represented a completely normal piece of the relocation jigsaw, and that taking medication to cope with the transition process was again, not uncommon.

Alice link: “You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” said Alice, “a great girl like you,” (she might well say this), “to go on crying in this way! Stop this moment, I tell you!” But she went on all the same, shedding gallons of tears, until there was a large pool all round her, about four inches deep and reaching half down the hall.

4. SEBASTIAN DOGGART for Elegy to English shepherd’s pie, in the Daily Telegraph:

One of the things I miss the most about living outside England is shepherd’s pie. … The greatest desecration is found in Quebec, where they call it “Chinese pâté” (pâté chinois). To suggest this sacred dish has anything Chinese about it is preposterous.

Alice link: “When I’m a Duchess,” she said to herself…”I won’t have any pepper in my kitchen at all. Soup does very well without…”

5. SALLY THELEN for 4 Tips on Embracing Your Inner Weirdo, in Unbrave Girl:

This morning, when I went running [in Wuxi, China], I happened upon a group of teenagers dressed up as anime characters. A crowd had formed around them to gape at their hot pink wigs, Nutcracker-like jackets and French maid dresses.

I stopped for a minute to stare slack-jawed with the rest of the crowd.

I was baffled.

I was confused.

And, frankly, I was a bit miffed. After all, didn’t these kids know that I was the main attraction at this park?

Alice link: This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off, the Dormouse fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back one or twice, half hoping that they would call after her…

6. SEZIN KOEHLER for My foreign body: geocharacteristics of a population, in Expat+HAREM:

When I first arrived in Prague I was a size 7, had an acceptable C-cup and chocolate-colored skin. Three years later I’ve become a size 12 and an overbearing DD-cup with skin the color of weak tea.

Aging plays only a small part….

Alice link: “Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!”

7. JENNIFER EREMEEVA for Conversation is a One-way Street, in Dividing my time: finding the funnier side of life in Russia:

“Let me tell you about New York,” he [a Russian friend of my husband’s] said, “I was really impressed: the streets are completely strait, from one end of Manhattan to the other — ”

“– Well, except for the Village down to Wall Street,” I interjected absent-mindedly.

“Jennifer went to University in New York,” said my husband apologetically to the group.

Sergei squinted at me suspiciously, and then, changing tack, began to expand on the virtues of vacationing at Valaam on Lake Ladoga.

Alice link: “I’ve been to a day-school, too,” said Alice; “you needn’t be so proud as all that.” … “…[Y]ours wasn’t a really good school,” said the Mock Turtle in a tone of great relief. “Now at ours they had at the end of the bill, ‘French, music, and washing — extra.”

QUESTION: Do you have a favorite from the above, and do you have any other writers/posts to nominate for our next round of Alices? We’d love to hear your suggestions.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s interview with Random Nomad Balaka Basu. She appeals for citizenship in The Displaced Nation — and agrees to answer one Alice question!

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