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A1 Exam: How To Pass The First Grade

By February 23, 2017 Home, Travel


The A1 exam is a test to prove basic languages skills to get through everyday life. It includes listening, writing and speaking. As a requirement for some visas/residents cards this is a must. Here is a list of helpful tips to pass the A1 Exam. While it is seen a very easy exam; it is one of the most important exams a foreigner will take if it is a requirement.

Take a Language Course Before Leaving Home

Having some language skills will give a base that can be very useful upon arrival. Taking a language course at home will help reduce the effects of culture shock. Your instructor will be able to explaining similarities and differences in cultures. Thus, getting you into the mind set needed to pass the A1 exam and allowing for time to study.

Use a Phone App

Duoling is a great example phone application that can be used to learn any language. It is portable and can be downloaded on any smart phone. A great way to learn on-the-go and keep accountable for everyday learning. While this application does not take the place of speaking or book learning. It will help a person become acquainted with new words.

Speak with others

Part of the A1 exam is the ability to carry on with simple conversation. Most people in Europe will have some English. In a multicultural setting, it very easy for people to divert to this language. Since most people speak the language they are introduced in; speaking German can feel awkward. Resist the temptation to use English. Rely on close family/friends to take the time for slower conversation. They will be the best people to help correct problems speech problems.

Side Note:

Many cultures perceive native English speakers as having better English language skills than the average American actually possesses. Proof of this fact, are the thousands of under qualified English instructors around the world with a TOFL certificate making a living. These people would never get the chance to teach stateside competing with those who have actual education in the English language and training.

Listen to Everything

This becomes even more important outside major cities. In rural parts of Europe, many communities have their own dialect. The only real way to learn dialect is through listening. Tuning out what is hard to understand is easy. Learning a new language means developing stronger listening skills. Spend sometime listening to the alphabet. Find language books with CDs, try listening to books on CD, music and TV. Part of the A1 test will require verbally listening to direction. Pepper Pig translates great in any language 🙂 Also, Youtube has some great videos for beginners.  

Take a Language Course Upon Arrival

This maybe be a requirement of your visa or resident card which would make it the most important reason to take a course. Some countries require this for good reason. Welcome to the first grade. Everything needed to pass the A1 exam will be worked on class. This is the beginning, everyone in the class is new to the country and finding their way. It is a great place to make friends with people who are sharing similar experiences.

Make Time 

For most people, 100 hours of in-class study and 200 hours of at-home study will be enough to win the race. Make sure to create enough time to pass the A1 exam. This exam is vital to the living situation one creates in a new country. Aside from gaining a resident card, continuing to study the new language will help be a gateway into friendships, education and careers that will create a fulfilling life. DO NOT RELY ON ENGLISH TO FIND FRIENDS AND WORK!!! Many native English speakers do this and their lack of effort will be reflected in lifestyle. The most important aspect to passing the A1 and learning a new language is not to give up. Keep trying everyday and do not feel overwhelmed by the process. If one happens to fail this exam; it can be retaken and with a better understanding of weaker areas to study.

Buy This Book

If you are taking a test for A1 certificate than this book shows the format of the exam. Study this format layout and make sure all questions can be answered accordingly will make it almost impossible to fail this exam. Some of the questions for the A1 exam will come from it. PROMISE! Be sure to have someone who is fluent in the language go over the directions with you, because they are written for someone who can reader at a higher level than beginner.

      Somedays learning a language will come easier than others. This is a list on how to pass the A1 exam and essentially the first part of your language experience. The important thing is to stick with the new language and enjoy the learning process. Learning a new language is a beautiful way to break social barriers and improve the quality of your life in a new country. People always migrate for one reason. A better life; with time and effort assimilating to your new home will become a reality. 

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Austrian Mama VS. American Mommy

By February 23, 2017 Home, Mothering, Travel

In my first couple weeks in Austria, I met women who are bound to become my new friend. They are the long time friends to my husband and people that I am bound to run into during social events. A huge benefit to moving to a small village that my partner has spent the better part of his life in was a built-in friend group that zero effort for me to obtain. They are warm and welcoming; even excited about adding new person to their group. While most of the conversation I do not understand; the people who make an effort to speak English with me made me feel welcome. During casual conversation, it has become quite apparent that every culture has their own outlook on the delivery experience.

Epidural Please!

Yes, there are thousands of women who have gave birth naturally, no drugs and felt all of the pain. These women do not live in United States. While I have personally known American women to go the all natural route; this is becoming an alternative lifestyle in American culture. More than half of all women who take the plunge use an epidural. When I told my new Austrian friend that I wanted to be numb from the waist down, she was very polite and did not throw figure or facts at me. In Austria, doctors and midwifes do discourage women from using pain killers. My American stance on this issues: Do You, Boo! The less I know the better.

Hand Sanitizer VS. Soap

My mother bought me all these sweet smelling hand sanitizer before coming to Europe. The idea that I would bath my hands and potentially whole body in it 😉 Thus, reducing the chances of ever getting myself or the baby sick. On a night out on the town (a local village pub), using the bathroom for the third time in one hour made me a bit lazy about hygiene and I used some of the hand sanitizer that my mother gave me. A girl ask me “What is this?”. There I found myself explaining what hand sanitizer was a to group of European adults that just over heard my request to take drugs during labor and now viewing my alcohol based bathroom paraphernalia with a bit of mystery. One guy joked that it must be used to get high with 🙂 I offered some to my new friend who politely declined. I must admit their assumption of hand sanitizer was not completely wrong. Unless it is hospital grade and has a very high percentage of alcohol, it is doing nothing more than spreading germs around. My “Christmas morning” smelling hand sanitizer that I was possession in, was mostly not going to make the cut in any hospitals and was in fact spreading bacteria around my hands verses killing it. It seems like these folks already knew the best way to kill germs, fight infection and live to see another day: USE SOAP!

Placenta: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Several of my American girlfriends talk about having your placenta encapsulated to take after pregnancy. This would help wean my body off all the hormones that a pregnant person grows accustom to in last nine months and a new way of preventing postpartum depression. My Austrian friend gave me some advice “We know American’s do this; we do not eat our own organs in Austria. Just tell the doctor that you want to keep it and do not tell them why. Maybe bring a beer cooler to bring it home in?” Okay, maybe I exaggerated what she said; it was not that far off from the conversation. In my personal experience, making a placenta is one of most exhausting thing I have ever done in my whole life. If there is anyway to reduce energy, reuse my placenta and recycle it for the next pregnancy then that is the path I would like to take. In fact, I would like to take pictures of this organ with my phone and post on Facebook as one my greatest achievements. Since this is not social acceptable in earthier cultures then “Yes, I would like to use it for any nutritional value it may have.”

While all of this conversation is meant to be a generalization, not hard science and certainly not anything to taken too seriously. It is apparent that cultures have their own way of doing things. I see it in the way my friends approach motherhood. Both my American and European friends want whatever is best for their families. Their are just differences in how this goal is achieved.

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Cheap Ways To Travel: Baby-Moon In New York City?

By February 23, 2017 Money, Mothering, Travel

It may seem like NYC is a city only for singles. It is also a great place for a baby moon with your partner on a budget. While New Yorkers have a reputation of being rude, I found many smiling faces while pregnant visiting this city. There are some great things to be done that will still keep up until after midnight that do not require a alcohol. Here are some ideas for cheap ways to travel to New York City while pregnant. Since the Zika virus may have killed any dreams for a tropical holiday.

Research items online. Groupon.con is a great place to find cheap one a done deals and one my favorite websites in America. Since baby-moons are often done when money starts becoming tight. (This how I found tickets to Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway for half the cost) Many people who work in tourism, work on commission and can be flexible. Do not allow people to pressure you with TIME! Be prepared to walk away if they do not honor prices found on-line or through competitors.

AirB&B is a great way to find cheaper and unique accommodation. Since the hosts will specify what their space is like; the hosts will know who will be arriving. It is a great way to avoid staying in hotels that do not create a atmosphere that makes you feel unwelcome

 Central Park (FREE) is a great way to spend quality time and saving money. It can be done anytime of year. If the weather is right, make a picnic or look for events going on depending on time of year.

Coupon Book just say “No”. Unless you plan on staying in New York for five or more days, do not make the investment. Sure this is great way to pay in advance for all the touristic things a family would like to see in a trip. The questions is “Will you use them all?” When a person is traveling pregnant plan on taking things a little slower. Be sure not to create a overloaded schedule. That extra $20 being saved on a trip to the museums could cost more if all of those coupons are not used. Most coupon books in NYC expire after ten days and cannot be used on another trip. Just pay for the things that are actually of interest.

Museum of Natural History is the perfect choice for pregnant women or moms. There are lots of children around which makes families feel comfortable; ample security and safety for people with children. Avoid eating at the museum because the cafeteria is very expensive. A pre-made meal/snacks are recommended. Since the museum is across the street from Central park eating in the park can add some magic to the experience on a nice day. A place like this could fill the whole day. Start with the exhibits that are must sees to allow for time before becoming tired.

Ask a New Yorker, Americans all have that one friend or colleague who lived in New York City. Ask that person what they recommend and what they would avoid. If one can have that person on speed dial while staying in the Big Apple that is even better.

Holiday seasons are a great time to visit. New York City during Christmas is beautiful and walking around the city just to view decorations is a thrill in itself that can keep a person up until after midnight. Try to schedule times of year that will offer a great experience with no extra cost.

 Brooklyn Bridge (FREE) is an iconic place to go that cost absolutely nothing. It is a great way to see the city and the Statue of Liberty with going on a boat. Be sure to dress according to the weather.

The most important part of vacation is spreading time with the people you love. Sometimes those people act like assholes and sometimes your hormones can get the best of you. Perfect vacations do not exist for anyone. Despite those adorable pictures posted on Facebook. When I was single traveling to NYC, I wanted someone to share it with; when I traveled there pregnant with my partner, I wanted a shot of tequila. And when I go there with my daughter, I will most likely want to throw her over the Brooklyn Bridge. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am the adult and set the tone for what kind of traveling experiences my family has.


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Top 10 List For Birth Plan Abroad

By February 23, 2017 Home, Mothering, Travel

Giving birth in another country gives a whole new meaning to “birth plan”. If you decide to go this route you are not alone. Birth tourism and migrating is becoming less expensive than rising healthcare cost in America. A birth plan abroad will require more than visiting hospitals and picking out a medical team. There will be legal and cultural obligations that one will become acutely aware of. My top ten list is meant to be a universal check-list for Americans that could be used in any country. However, my own experience is based out of Austria. Please, do you own research when deciding on a country to give birth in and trust your own instincts.

  1. Check with an immigration lawyer before leaving America. Immigration laws can change greatly with political climate. Do not rely on family/friends to give advice based on how it was for “Mrs. Johnson”. Every situation is unique, find out what your family is legally entitled to. Giving birth in another country does not necessarily entitle a baby to citizenship to that country and being born to an American citizen may not be enough for American citizenship. If you are an American having a child abroad, upon leaving the hospital register the birth with the local embassy as soon as medically possible.
  2. Educate and compare healthcare systems. Healthcare outside of America can cost less money, time and can be more comprehensive. No one system is perfect. Public healthcare can create longer waits and some doctors who are more concern with the amount of people they see verses quality of work. Healthcare providers are different and developing a relationship with doctors is very important.
  3. Start learning the dominate language to the country, if you are planning migrating permanently. Languages opens door professionally, personally and culturally. On one of the most stressful days a woman will encounter, an English speaking birthing team will be a lifesaver. In some countries, one will pay more for this luxury. It is also harder to find English speaking staff in rural areas. Find a hospital with nurses and a doctor that understand English fluently before the big day. Be flexible and speak slowly. Show appreciation for their efforts when hospital staff makes an effort to explain procedures in English. Nurses will be who you spend most of your time with in the delivery room.
  4. Visit the local embassy to the country you wish to give birth in. Learn about visas, resident cards and legal rights before leaving America. If you are married to a person from that country; have them come with. The person you are meeting from the embassy will trust a native more than a foreigner and will make the process easier.
  5. Bring copies of your criminal records. FBI checks and any other documents supporting legal documents. It is easier to receive these items in the US than it is abroad. FBI reports expire after three months. Try to hold off on retrieving these until a couple weeks before leaving.
  6. Have your fingerprints archived before leaving America. This is an insurance policy for anyone living outside the US and for any reason need criminal background check. It will save time and money.
  7. Do a hospital visit. Find out what the hospital will test for after birth, policy, how long is the typical stay in the hospital, vaccination process, and whatever you find important. Hospital policy on the birthing process is not universal. There are no stupid questions when it comes to giving birth.
  8. Create a birth plan that is flexible. Try to only pick a couple things that you wish to be concern with. Lengthy birth plans are hard for a medical team abide to. Remember that the medical team is at work, they have other patients and are human. Show them gratitude for their work, even if they cannot full fill all requests. If they already have a negative stereotype of Americans, one will not want to feed into it. People work harder for people they like.
  9. Prepare for cultural norms and the unexpected. Every country has their own cultural norms that might be different from what you are use to in the US. Try to assimilate as much as possible before the birthing process to avoid unexpected stress.
  10. Air travel while pregnant can be exhausting. Plan for lots of rest, lots of fluids and good nutrition. Get up and walk around the plane to avoid swollen feet. A note from medical staff, in America will help you get through international security. Plan for extra time, in air ports to avoid x-ray machines. Waiting for a female officer to do a pat down can be time consuming. However, one maybe unlikely to encounter a x-ray machines outside of American air ports

No Matter where in the world you give birth. Expect the unexpected. Birth plans can change in heart beat. Stress comes from how a person perceives a situation and unmet expectations. The more flexible a woman is with her birth plan will directly effect her perception of her birth experience. This top ten list is way to prepare.

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Get Packing: Top 10 List for Packing to Move to Another Country

By February 23, 2017 Home, Mothering, Travel

Get Packing: Top 10 List for Packing To Move to Another Country

 If an American is moving to another country, there are certain comforts from home one must take with. Unfortunately, your mother and ranch dressing may not be coming. Here is a top 10 list for moms of things that should make your new home a little sweeter.

1) Electronics are a must! Electronics are typically cheaper in the US than most other countries; unless the move is to China. Anything electronic that a family cannot live without for an extended amount of time should come with, along with an adaptor to plug in products. It is hard to imagine, but the cold harsh reality is not every country will have an Apple Store. Some countries rely on Apple Resellers (NOT THE SAME) Please, be sure that you know your Apple ID and security answer to save time if any problems with Apple products should occur. 

2) Space is limited, choose wisely! Rolls clothes to allow for more space in luggage. Maybe leave behind valuables at a trusted persons (family or friends) that can be retrieved on a later visit. I like to think of this as a cleansing experience really letting go of what you do not need.

3) Sell furniture or anything that cannot be moved. No matter how useless that ugly dresser is; somebody wants it and $50 is more useful than nothing. Save the trip to the garbage.

4) Donate to Goodwill. This will create a tax break that could offer a financial reward when it becomes tax time.

5) Practice giving unselfishly. Friends and family may want items you cannot bring. The feeling of goodwill to others; especially family and friends may (or may not) come back. 

6) Ship what you really want! I recommend putting a monetary limit on this cost (for example, $100). Keep in mind, that a small budget may only afford a small box or couple pounds. During my pregnancy, my mother spent me care packages from the US. It was her way of participating from far away. It meant so much to me, but I often wondered if postage was worth more monetarily than the stuff inside.  

7) If your pregnant, only bring clothes that you can fit in. Why keep a visual reminder of the size you use to be 🙂  

8) Carry on is FREE!!! I repeat your first carry on bag is usually free! Take advantage of this luxury. A purse, medication and important documents should always travel with close and not with checked-in luggage. All of these thing should be included in the diaper bag if this is your carry on.

9) Most airlines will allow for extra weight when a baby is with you, will allow you bring your car seat, breast pump and stroller for free.

10) If you are a mom and do not want to give up American children classic movie or literature. Bring it with. Sure assimilating to your new culture with books and movies from that country. However, when I wanted to watch Lady and the Tramp and it was not available on Amazon Prime my heart broke just a bit.

Migrating to a new place is hard, some things simply will not make the cut. What one gives up in material possessions hopefully will be made up for in new memories. This top 10 list of things to consider when packing should help you make the most of it.

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