On Becoming an Expat

In the 7th article in our new series exploring  views on Europe from women living elsewhere, academic and free thinker Cherise Charleswell explain why she is destined to become an expat.

I always had a great deal of curiosity about other cultures and people. One of my favorite and most prized Christmas gift was a globe that my mother gave me. I was so excited as I would spin the globe, close my eyes, and place my finger against it. Whenever the globe stopped, I would make a note of where my finger was located, and would rush off to do a little research about this place that I was “destined” to travel to.

Fast forward a number of years later, and I am realizing that my inquisitive nature, education and degree in cultural anthropology, love of geography, architecture, and nature, penchant for memorizing world history facts, fascination with current events world politics, and highly liberal, socialist, progressive socio-political views; is making it impossible for me to continue living in the United States. America has a sordid racial history, and it is far from being Post Racial. The election of President Barack Obama actually amplified and made this country’s deep seated racism more visible. Despite having a white mother, President Obama has been viewed and treated as “The Other”; and thus subjected to racial stereotypes, prejudice, threats, and unfair treatment.

In this supposedly Post Racial America, the world has bear witness to the unjust race-based murders of African Americans:

  • Oscar Grant
  • Trayvon Martin
  • Renisha Mc Bride
  • Rekia Boyd
  • Mike Brown
  • John Crawford

And this list unfortunately goes on-and-on……

And while we are on the topic of murder, let me state that I am truly disgusted and annoyed by the American gun culture, and reports of yet another school shooting. The basic problem with Gun Rights in this country is the constant and erroneous interpretation of the Second Amendment. The Concealed Carry laws are especially ridiculous. Apparently we need to make it easy and legal for men who have a need to prove their manhood (and possibly compensate for their diminutive penis) to carry weapons into bars, stores, and wherever they please.

Then there are the following (In no particular order):

  • Healthcare costs, premiums, and lack of a national universal healthcare system
  • Those Gun Nuts and Gun lobby (NRA)
  • Race-based industrial prison complex (Black girls have the highest rates of incarceration)
  • Skyrocketing tuition and student loans
  • Citizens United and the monied influence in American politics
  • The ineffective two-party system of government
  • The laughable bias, and horrible news media

Let me just stop here, as I really have too many points to mention.
Essentially, I know that I want to leave, but the problem is deciding — where to?

There seems to be so many factors involved in making this decision:

  • The possible language barrier and having to learn a new one fast!
  • Race relations
  • Cost of living
  • Job opportunities
  • And of course frivolous things — like how easy will it be for me to find hair products for my natural afro-textured kinky-curly hair, or will I be able to find restaurants and markets that have vegetarian food options?

I have told myself that I have to write a formal Exit Strategy and begin the initial steps towards emigration. When I travel abroad, I try to engage the locals as much as possible to learn more about their country or city. It is as if I am taking mental notes, and sometimes I actually take physical notes. I do the same when I frequent social media groups, blogs, and websites for expats or those who share my love of travel.

This commitment to research certainly pays off. By the time that I travel to a foreign city, I already know what to expect, how I may be received, what I should see and experience, what I should avoid, what are the tourist traps, and of course what foods I should sample; as well as that the men in that city may be like (apparently some things are not a myth or a stereotype).

After stepping off of the plane for a long layover in Rome, I was immediately approached by a gentleman as soon as I entered the terminal. Despite his very limited English, he began to try to make conversation, started trailing me, and began exclaiming bellissima! Before visiting Athens, my Greek friends felt the need to warn me about the great deal of attention that I would get from Greek men, and they were correct! I was approached on numerous occasions or just was stared at. Men would turn completely around while dining at cafes, as I walked by, and some would slow their vehicles to gaze. However, not once did I experience what is known as street harassment. The men were not vulgar, and those who approached me, did so in a respectful manner, inquiring about my name, where I was from, would I accept a drink, would I like to join them at their table, how long would I be staying, and so on. One overzealous and quite handsome restaurant owner on the Greek island of Santorini, provided me with a complimentary meal and a number of drinks. It was unfortunately my last night on the island, and I had plans to meet up with a friend at a nightclub.

While awaiting an outgoing flight on Liat airlines at St Maarten’s Princess Juliana International airport, I struck up a conversation with a pair of Dutch men who were on an extended holiday, and were visiting numerous Caribbean islands. They were witty, funny, and flirtatious, and shared information with me about The Netherlands having large expat communities. Thus, they peaked my current interest in visiting The Netherlands, a nation where many of the residents enjoy a favorable or high standard of living and this includes the fact that crime is so low that the country has been closing prisons .

There have been other trips, experiences, and conversations that have renewed my desire to emigrate. I will continue to travel as I work out my strategic Exit Plan, and of course, I welcome any tips along the way!

Cherise Charelswell

Cherise Charleswell is a self-proclaimed Wombanist and reluctant “academic”, who is also a self -and- internationally published author and writer, activist scholar, radio show host and producer, as well as a model; who openly and actively pursues these various interests and endeavors due to her refusal to be placed “in a box” or limited by societal labels. She is a Biocultural anthropologist and public health practitioner. Cherise is of West Indian descent, with heritage from numerous Caribbean islands, such as St Thomas, St John, Puerto Rico, Tortola, St Kitts, and Anguilla. She is the host of Wombanist Views, a radio program that focuses on women of color, and is currently working on the book projects: The Link Between Food, Culture, & Health Inequities in the African Diaspora” and “Walking in the Feminine: A Stepping into Our Shoes Anthology”.

 

8th Annual summer school on Black Europe

Now accepting applications for Black Europe Summer School Program 2015

June 22 – July 3, 2015, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Summer School on Black Europe

Now in its 8th year, the overall goal of this intensive two-week course is to examine the contemporary circumstances of the African Diaspora in Europe. We will focus on the historical and colonial legacies of European countries to discuss the origins of Black Europe and investigate the impact of these legacies on policies and legislation today.

This course addresses the dimensions of race and ethnic relations that are unique to Europe; examining the ways in which conceptions of the “other” are institutionalized and reproduced; the rise of xenophobia in various EU countries; issues such as global racisms, everyday racism, and epistemic racism; the legal definitions and discourse surrounding the conceptualized “other”; and examining the ways in which each country has dealt with issues of race and national identity. Issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality are central analytics, and scholars from the social sciences and humanities and NGOs working against racism and xenophobia in Europe are encouraged to apply.

Applications due February 1, 2015.

Visit our website for more information.

Visit us on Facebook.

Email anytime with further inquiries:

blackeurope@dialogoglobal.com

In her own words: Tina Turner on life in Switerland and selling Swisscom services

Hat tip on Swisscomm commercial: Lorraine Spencer via For Harriet

Discover why Tina Turner turned down her US citizenship and became Swiss. What’s discretion, privacy and the iO communication app got to do with it? Please find out, share and comment.
Exclusive: the yodel version of “Simply The Best” ringtone on iO.

Follow Mrs. Tina Turner-Bach’s blog.

Catch the last of UK Black History Month

Source: Official Black History Month 2014 website.

LONDON  HIGHTLIGHTS

HowNigeriaBecame

30th September – 25th October 2014

Rachel – Finborough Theatre

Rediscovered by Finborough Theatre Artistic Director Neil McPherson, Rachel is a genuinely lost landmark of American theatre – the first play by an African American woman ever produced professionally. Directed by exciting young director Ola Ince, as part of Black History Month, the European premiere of Rachel opens at the multi award-winning Finborough Theatre for a four week limited season.

 

More…

BOTC Muscovado rachel3002 Holy&Horny 2014 image

HOLY AND HORNY Written and Performed by Tonya Joy Bolton

London and Nationwide throughout October

 

 

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Memories of Mermaids

Get national listings.

Call for nominations and sponsorship for the 5th Black Women in Europe™: Power List – A List of Our Own©

2014 Black Women in Europe™: Power List – A List of Our Own©

To mark the list’s 5th year we will celebrate 5 women who have inspired us to be more than we thought possible.

Call for Nominations

Who do you think should be on the 2014 Black Women in Europe™: Power List – A List of Our Own©? Is she a politicians? Performer? Educator? Engineer? Judge? Advocate? Community leader? Designer? Author?

View our previous lists for inspiration and send your nomination to contact@blackwomenineurope before 31 October 2014.

Call for Sponsorship


The Black Women in Europe™: Power List – A List of Our Own© are among the top 4% viewed on Slideshare
. Why? Because it is the only one of its kind celebrating the best and brightest, and thus we have dubbed, the most powerful black women across Europe.

Would you like to sponsor the 5th anniversary of the list by associating your brand with our success? Email contact@blackwomenineurope.com for more information.

Alice Bah Kuhnkes is Sweden’s new Minister for Culture and Democracy

Alice Bah Kuhnke
Sweden’s new Minister for Culture

Many people were disappointed with the election results in Sweden. Seems there may not be many if any mandates over the next four years. However, in my opinion, one bit of good news is the appointment of Alice Bah Kuhnkes as Minister for Culture and Democracy. She became only the second black minister in the Swedish government following Nyamko Sabuni.

Alice Bah Kuhnke

Click on the photo above to view her career in pictures on the Svenska Dagblaet website. Sure, it is in Swedish but a picutre paints a thousand words, right?

Alice Bah Kuhnke till TV4: Det var slagsmål om kulturministerposten. FOTO: Yvonne Åsell

The new Culture MInister was born and raised in southern Sweden, had a successful career in media, founded a think tank for civil society, Sektor3, worked as a sustainability manager at a technology consultancy company and was General Director of The Youth Board.

You can find out much, much more at her website:
http://www.mp.se/om/alice-bah-kuhnke

Editor’s note: The former culture minister disappointed a lot of people when she was photographed laughing while cutting a screaming, human black face cake.

An Unexpected Road to Life in Europe

In the 10th article in the “Inside View” series, Terra Robinson shares how education lead to her life in Europe.

During my undergraduate days, I decided to do a semester abroad programme in England. Little did I know this experience would be the spark that led to me living, studying and working in Europe for most of my adult life (thus far).

After graduating with my BA and spending a few years of working – mainly bouncing between Atlanta, New York and London – I decided to get my Master’s degree. My undergraduate experience studying abroad really left a mark on me. I was intrigued by the English teaching approach I experienced while studying abroad, so in 2007 I applied for graduate schools in the United States and the United Kingdom, ultimately ending up at King’s College London in the Fall of 2008.

After assuring my mother that I would be back in the United States by the end of Summer 2009, I spent a year in London exploring the city and studying international relations. While still a student, I applied for a six month competitive internship in Brussels. My work background was mainly communications (my undergraduate degree was in journalism) not international relations (the main focus of the organisation), so I figured my chances of getting the internship were slim to none.

But lo and behold, I was chosen for the internship, which didn’t start until a year after I finished my studies. So I had a choice to make: wait for a year and do the internship or try my luck at getting a paying job now and forgo the internship. I picked the first option. While filling the year-long gap between finishing my MA and starting my internship, I took a temporary job in London then relocated to France for six months to take intensive French courses (something I’d wanted to do for a while) and teach English part-time (something I’d done in the past), and spent some time with my family in Atlanta. At the end of my self-imposed gap year, I headed off to Brussels for what I thought would be a six month internship. It turned into a nearly 2.5 year stint (six months as an intern and nearly two more years as a consultant with the same organisation) in the city that bills itself as the capital of the European Union.

Funnily enough, my time in Brussels is what led me to my current job working as a corporate journalist for a Danish firm just outside of Copenhagen. Working in Brussels showed that I was comfortable working for an international organisation in a city far away from my family for an extended period of time – something I think came in handy when my boss was shortlisting and interviewing candidates for the position. A year and a half after moving to Denmark, I just passed the six year mark of living in Europe. What was meant to be a one year stint in London ended up being much more – and ended up taking me to countries I never even considered living in.

Terra Robinson

Terra Robinson is an American Black Chick in Europe. She chronicles her time living, working and travelling in Europe through the filters of being an American, a woman and black. One part travel, one part expat and one part personal blog, American Black Chick in Europe serves up tidbits and information about life in Europe straight up with no chasers. Having lived in Europe since 2008, with stints in England, France, Belgium, and currently Denmark, this American Black Chick in Europe seeks to demystify what she affectionately refers to as these crazy Europeans.