Chicago – Jun 14 2013

SOIREE D’ETE: Summer in Chicago is finally here (kind of!) and we are celebrating with a special euro/disco event at the newly remodeled Y Bar- now featuring a dance floor! Complimentary admission for EuroCircle members and a hosted bar from 10 to 11 just for us!

I can’t wait to see everyone, including all our NEW members!

Barcelona – Jamie Legum

Tell us about yourself – who are you and what would be the short story of your life?

My name is Jamie, and I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. I am a Southern Belle at heart, but have been living away from Atlanta for almost 25 years visiting regularly twice a year. I have a Masters Degree in TEFL and have been teaching for 20 years in Spain. In addition to that, I am also in the Matchmaking arena. I am always on the lookout for connecting people, having new experiences and opportunities, especially ones that can bridge the USA with Spain.

People always ask me what brought me to Spain, the reason is that the very day I finished graduate school in New York, there was a recruiting session for a language training job in Barcelona. The year was 1990, 2 years before the Barcelona Olympics and the position was teaching English to public officials, like the police force, body guards, etc. in preparation for the 1992 Olympics. I applied, got the job and started my profession as en EFL” profesora de ingles.” I taught for 2 years, but went back to New York City before the Olympics, missing all the excitement that even to this day, people still talk about. Funnily enough, the Olympics just after that one was in Atlanta-my hometown, and I missed that one too! After working a couple of years in New York, I decided to go back to Barcelona, and I have been there ever since.

Tell us something how life is different in Barcelona compared to the USA. Work/entrepreneur/unemployed/home environment/customs…what’s different.

Living in Spain is completely different than living in Atlanta or in the US in general. I would say the key differences in everyday life for me are the timetable and the customer service. In Spain, we eat lunch starting anywhere from 1:30-2:00 and finish around 4:00. Lunches are sacred, and rushing through this mid-day meal is almost criminal-like! Dinners are much later than in the USA, starting around 9:00 or 10:00 and sometimes we can see bewildered tourists hovering around restaurants at 6:00 or 7:00 wondering a) why a top-rated trip advisor restaurant is closed and b) why there isn’t a soul yet.

The days are long in Spain and the nights even longer. There is truly more life to be lived.

Customer service is totally different as well. As an American, it is maddening to try and be “right.” Let’s say you have a gripe to make with the electric company, the customer must pay for the call which is rather expensive. Once you complain, there is no apology, no consoling, but rather a lecture! Customers are not inherently right as they are in the US. Shopping is the same way. If you are dissatisfied with a purchased item and want to return it, you’d better have the patience of a saint! You must explain and demonstrate why you are unhappy, which is nerve wracking at times. I tell my friends how I can return an item with no receipt months after a purchase with a credit or even cash and they are in disbelief since in Spain it is practically unheard of to get one’s money back and if you are lucky–a store credit that can expire too soon!

What challenges did you face when you first moved to Barcelona and how did you resolve them?

When I first moved to Spain, there were definitely major challenges like having moved to a bilingual/bi-cultural area and picking up not only Spanish, but Catalan as well, dealing with all of the highly sensitive issues related to using one language or another. A double whammy when moving to a country with language battles is something to be reckoned with, but after time, you get all sides to the story, the situation and learn to be diplomatic and perceptive, make friends on both sides of the field.

Did you experience ‘culture shock’ in Spain? How different is it from your USA?

Of course there were all sorts of culture shock incidents when I first arrived, like being an extremely punctual American. I remember when I first arrived in Barcelona, I was invited to a friend of a friend’s child’s birthday party. They had told me to be there around 1:00, so thinking I was being very polite I arrived just on time. When I got there at 1:00 sharp, I was shocked that not only was I the very first to arrive, that nothing had been prepared yet. I was embarrassed and wanted to come back later but the house was very far from the city center and they “invited” me to help them set up the decorations, cook, prepare and the other guests finally arrived at about 4:00 or 5:00 “after lunch.” I have never arrived on time ever since!!

How has your life as an expat influenced your personal and work life?

Being an EFL professional, I work with Spaniards every single day. I have the pleasure and opportunity to teach them not only English, but American culture too. Every day is a day to do with cross-cultural issues and lessons. I learn from them and they learn from me. A pure intercultural exchange that I value with each class and every student.

6.What have you learned from being an expat? Positive/negative (WHY?)

What has been interesting as an ex-pat is that you leave your country to take a break, to escape the ins and outs of daily life in your original country but really abroad, you are constantly representing your country and being associated with it. In my case, in many situations as the token American, I am frequently being asked questions about life in America, to compare and contrast, so ironically, the place you are trying to disconnect from is the very place that you wear like a crown on your head every day.

Have you done anything since moving to Spain that you never would have expected?

I never expected to raise my child in Spain. I am the mother of a 16 year old and I have had a tough time balancing my American expectations and values with the given ones in Spain. For example, many teenagers in Spain stay out until the wee hours in the morning without a blink of an eye from their parents. It’s very difficult letting go of my more conservative instincts thereby telling my son to be home at 12:00 when all the other kids don’t go back until 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 maybe 6:00 in the morning.

What’s the best food discovery you’ve made as an expat?

Being a major foodie I am absolutely blessed to be living in a country like Spain. To this day, I am simply amazed at the fact that practically each neighborhood has its own fresh food market that is a wonder in terms of quality, price and value. The markets are the heartbeat of the surrounding restaurants. There are so many fusion cuisines that are up and coming and Spain is on the frontier of creation. My very favorite way to eat is a tasting menu whereby a chef designs and prepares little taster plates based on the freshest products of the local markets. We went to a restaurant the other day where there is no written menu, the chef/owner comes out and doesn’t ask anything, in fact, he tells you what there is. Perhaps for some of the courses he will give you option A or B, if you are lucky; otherwise, no say, just obey. I love the fact that I don’t need my glasses to read the menu. It’s a very exciting way to eat!

What was the biggest misconception you had about Spain when you moved there? (good/bad)

I had always imagined that the Spanish were extremely open and friendly warm and hospitable people. However, when I first arrived, I was shocked at how reserved and unwelcoming people were in general. Where I live in Spain, the local government had to actually put out a publicity campaign to remind locals to smile and be friendly to tourists due to the fact that they were bringing lots of income into the local economy. On the other hand, when I go back to the USA, people seem overly friendly at times, and since I am not used to strangers talking to me, I feel a bit taken back at times. I must say that when one is fortunate to be friends with a Spaniard/Catalan it is 100% and usually for life!

What do you miss from USA?

Having said what I did about Americans being over friendly at times, I do miss the simple chatting while waiting in line at the supermarket, the smiles and joking between strangers and the daily “howya doing” -it helps with cheering up one’s day! I miss the fact that shops are opened all hours all day whereas in Spain, shops close lunch time and on Sundays. It’s very limiting on the one hand, but on the other, the fact that practically all businesses are closed on Sundays forces you to relax, take the day off, and head for the beach, a walk in the park, a hike, or just sit on a sunny terrace enjoying the peaceful day.

What’s the best thing and worst thing that has happened to you as an expat? (what really annoys you and what do you really love)

Something that I admire in Spain that I don’t see in the USA is the integration of ages at any given place/ event. For example, if you just look around at an outdoor cafe in the city center, you can see generations of people sitting side by side. Teenagers sitting next to young couples in their twenties sitting next to two mothers with infants, sitting next to a group of middle aged women sitting next to elderly folks. It is harmonious and all ages seem to be respected with no apparent discrimination. Everybody enjoying the sun, the food, the drink—life.

What is best about the area where you live…any other cities you would like to live in??

Barcelona is undoubtedly one of the best cities in the world to live in. We have the sea, the mountains, some of the most interesting and beautiful architecture in the world, incredible design, urban innovation, fabulous restaurants, museums, unstoppable nightlife, zillions of neighborhoods to be explored just to start with..The climate is enviable, very mild in the spring and fall, somewhat chilly in the winter, and slightly hot in the summer-but no extremes, no natural disasters to worry about, unlike in the south of the USA–tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, and an out-of-the blue snowstorm.

When people come to visit Barcelona, they see the Gaudi sights, the modernist routes, the gothic quarter, and all of the other major landmarks, but there are layers upon layers of treasures to be found. There is no other city that compares with Barcelona, at least, I can’t think of one.

Connect with Jamie Legum at Facebook

Chicago – Kirk R Miller

EuroCircle “Member of the Month” is back! This month meet polyglot KR Miller, who has been with us since our inception! Many thanks to Kirk for participating and for his years of ‘cocktailing’ with us!

Where are you from originally?

Green Bay, WI USA

How long have you been a EC member?

Since 2000!

What line of work are you in?

Enterprise IT and telecommunications sales.

What languages do you speak?

French, Portuguese, Spanish and English.

Favorite European destination and why?

Barcelona! When you find a good tapas place, sangria, the staff gets to know you, you speak fluent Spanish and the sun!!!

What’s your favorite hangout in Chicago?

The Lakefront.

Travel plans for the summer?

Cape Cod and St. Petersburg Russia.

Favorite EC venue so far?

Vertigo Sky Lounge at the Dana

Madonna or Lady Gaga?

Easy, Madonna. Reminds me of when I was young and I admire her staying power. Je suis desolé Gaga.


Expatriates: International Swede – Meet Emilia Sixtensson in New York City

I got the privilege of interviewing Emilia Sixtensson – one of the leaders of International Swede (ISwede) in New York. International Swede has been around since 2002 and they are hosting the annual roof top summer party with EuroCircle in July 2013 (like last year).

What is International Swede?

International Swede is a collective for young, expat Swedes living in New York City and Los Angeles. We gather for sport events, live music, parties and Swedish holidays. We believe in a modern view of Sweden but enjoy some nostalgia from time to time (especially when it comes to music) and we are always welcoming of non-Swedes to share our culture and way-of-life with. We have a few big events every year, Midsummer being the biggest with up to 1000 people, where our members and their friends gather at a nightclub venue somewhere in Manhattan to celebrate the Swedish spirit and dance the night away. We also invite a famous Swedish Music Act from Sweden every year and that is always a highlight.

When and why did you start International Swede?

Thomas Noe founded ISwede in 2002. I joined in 2003. We were both lacking a place to meet other young Swedish people. There were plenty of organizations for the older crowd and the business community, but nothing on the social level. Thomas, who is also a DJ, also wanted an audience to play Swedish music for and that became a huge attraction at our events.

What is your role with the group?

I am more on the event organizing side and Thomas handles anything related to music and sports.

What challenges have your faced and what are your best accomplishments?

We aim for perfection at our events which is always a challenge when being forced to trust venues and suppliers, but we have learned a lot over the past 11 years and I am proud to say we are very close to achieving our goal.

What kind of events do you have and how often do you have them?

We have between 6 and 10 events per year of different sizes and themes.
Apart from our Swedish Midsummer Party and other similar dance events, we do a yearly traditional crawfish dinner where we gather 150 people on long-tables to eat, chat and sing schnaps songs.

We also organize locations for our community to watch Soccer/Ice hockey games and the Eurovision Song Contest. Whenever there is a famous Swedish DJ or band in town we are the first to announce it.

How many members do you have and where is your member base from?

We have 10,000+ members and most are Scandinavians living in the New York and LA area.

Is International Swede in any other US or International cities?

Only New York and Los Angeles for now.

When you aren’t planning events what fun things do you like to do in New York City?

There are so much to do, but I like catching up with friends at house parties and dinners, grabbing a show or feeding my intellect with an interesting TEDx lecture or movie screening (accompanied by cocktails of course).

How is New York different than Sweden?

I’ve lived here for almost 50% of my life now, so I’m at a point where I remember only the good things about Sweden and idealize them, but I would say Sweden is more structured (in mindset and system) which could prove very helpful and efficient when playing by the “rules” but less so when trying to work/think outside the box.

When is the best time of year to visit Sweden and how often do you go and visit?

Summer! Summer! Summer! I don’t go as often as I would like to for sure.

How long have you lived in New York?

Since 1996

Are you involved with any other groups in New York? If so which ones and for how long?

I like to follow all the European networks here in New York. EuroCircle, NL Borrels, Made in Italy, French Tuesdays, etc. I used to attend a lot 5-6 years back, but I’ve had to scale down. Too much partying. : )

How can people connect up with you?

You can follow us on Facebook page “Swedes in New York” and of course sign up on the website also

International Swede – ISwede Website:

International Swede – ISwede Twitter


Expatriates: An American in Budapest

Please meet Phil Done. After fifteen years of turning jump ropes, singing times tables, and wearing his bathrobe on Pajama Day in California public schools, he decided to follow his dream and move to Europe. With two suitcases, one guidebook, and zero knowledge of Hungarian, he moved to Budapest in 2000 where he has lived, taught, and torn open care packages from home for the last decade. An award-winning writer, he is the author of 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny and Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind. To learn more about his adventures in Budapest, please visit him at

Where are you originally from and where are you living now?

I’m originally from the California Bay Area. Currently, I teach third graders at the American International School in Budapest, Hungary, one of the leading international schools in Europe.

Are you planning to stay long or return to your own country?

I plan to stay. It’s a terrific job and a great school. I’m even considering buying a house here.

Why did you move to Budapest?

I’d always wanted to teach overseas. My grandma was German. I’d lived my whole life in California and was ready to see the world. In 2000, I went to a job fair in London, and the American School offered me a position. I had been to Budapest once before and loved it.

What do you enjoy most about Budapest?

I love just walking around the city. The architecture is amazing, and there are some stunning panoramas. When I first drove into the center of the city and saw the Danube, it took my breath away. The baths are wonderful, too. Budapest is famous for them. I love going to Szechenyi or Rudas baths. Hungarian food is delicious, but it’s definitely not light. Hungarians love their sour cream. Since I moved here, my pants are tighter.

What do you miss most about home?

Sometimes I miss the customer service back in California. It’s getting better in Hungary, but they have a ways to go. I miss the roads back home; they’re not good here. And I hate to admit it – but I do miss Target.

Is Budapest safe?

I hear that Budapest is safe for a capital of its size, but lately it seems that the robberies have increased. Just like anywhere, you have to be careful. I definitely feel very safe walking around Budapest. My women friends tell me the same.

How would you rate the public transport? Do you need to own a car?

You can definitely get around without a car. I went my first year without a one. The trams and Metro lines are very good here. In fact, Budapest had the first Metro line in continental Europe. Recently, I read that National Geographic named Budapest’s number 2 tram line along the Danube one of the best tram rides in the world.

Which are the best places to live in Budapest as an expat and why?

It depends on what you want. If you want green hills and quiet, live in Buda. If you want to be where the nightlife is, live in Pest. I live in the Buda Hills in District XII. It’s beautiful here. Most of my expat friends live in Buda because it’s closer to the American School, but I have several expat friends in Pest, too.

How do you rate the standard of housing in Budapest?

It runs the full gamut. You can find budget and very high end. You can find old and new.

What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?

When I moved here in 2000, Budapest was a bargain, but those days are over. Food is actually more expensive here than in California. So are utilities. Actually, I hear that the Hungary has some of the highest utilities in the EU. Gas is extremely expensive here. I’m from the Bay Area in California where housing is outrageously expensive. So, it’s definitely less here. Rents seem reasonable in Budapest. One thing that’s less expensive in Budapest is the wine – and I’m happy about that!

Do you mix mainly with other expats or also locals?

I mix with expats and locals. The school where I work employs both. The Hungarians I work with are lovely. Hungarians have lovely manners. If they see you with your lunch tray, most will wish you a good meal. It’s charming

Was it easy meeting people and making friends?

Oh, yes.

Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?

No. The American School handled all that for me.

How does the work culture differ from home?

Well, I work at the American School, so my work culture is not that different than in the States. However, there are lots of cultural differences between Hungary and America. I write about them on my blog:

Is there anything else you would like to share with EuroCircle readers?

If you haven’t been to Budapest, I’d highly recommend it! It’s so rich in culture and history, and there’s so much to see here. Every week I discover a new building or courtyard. Prague is overrun with tourists, but Budapest isn’t yet. I came here thinking I’d live for two or three years. I’ve been here for over ten and have no plans to leave!

Philip Done’s Website:

Expatriates: Meet Leena Ringvall from Atlanta Finland Society

Atlanta is a city I personally have never visited, I have friends who have lived there and I have spent hours at the airport. What do I know about it..hmm, it’s really big, lots of traffic, millions of people, Coca-Cola, Peach trees, Olympic Games, I have been told many beautiful women by male friends – and many many great restaurants. Let’s see what Leena Ringvall says about her life in Atlanta. She is originally from Finland – just like I am.

Who are you and what group do you represent in Atlanta? What is your role with the group – and what do you do otherwise?

My name is Leena Ringvall. I was born and raised in Helsinki, Finland. I came to the U.S. to work as a teacher and have taught 2nd – 4th grades in VA, GA, and NC. I currently hold a full-time job as a 4th grade teacher at a local public school in Metro Atlanta. As a volunteer work I’m also the president of Atlanta Finland Society and the principal of Atlanta Finnish School of Language 2012-13. I’m in charge of administrative tasks and creating curriculum for the Finnish school.

What does your group want to accomplish and what would make you really happy as an accomplishment with your group?

The mission for the Society is to increase the knowledge of Finnish culture and customs in Atlanta as well as maintain them and celebrate our traditions with our members. Even though we still have over 100 members after many families have moved back to Finland, I feel that some people are acclimating to the U.S. culture by blending in and putting forth very little effort to maintain the language. I would be very happy if we could set up a cultural event that would satisfy all needs of different aged people with a high participation rate.

How do you think it is working out, what are your biggest obstacles and the best surprises that have come along?

As mentioned above due to recession companies don’t send families for overseas assignments as regularly as they used to. Therefore our member list is getting shorter and shorter. There are people that have lived here for over 20 years and then young families who have just arrived. It’s hard to find something meaningful for everyone to do. Some people are set in their ways and don’t like change. It’s also hard to find volunteers to help organize events. The best surprise, however, has been the connectivity amongst the active members and the overwhelming support from unexpected distances.

How many Finnish people are there in Atlanta as far as you know??

I want to say about 120.

What kind of activities do you do and how do you fund the group’s activities?

Atlanta Finland Society holds an annual Christmas Celebration in December. This year we also had a Finnish Labor Day party. The Finnish School is under the Society and has a few events within students and their families. We work closely with SAFG (Scandinavian American Foundation of Georgia) and have events for both members. Everything is funded with membership fees.

What is the most captivating thing about Atlanta for you?

The Southern Hospitality. I can’t get enough of that. I also love the view of skyscrapers when driving in the city.

What would you tell a visitor not to miss in Atlanta?

The Georgia Aquarium. It is the largest in the world and takes about two hours to wonder through.

Where do you go in Atlanta to chill out?

As a teacher I’m surrounded by noise. When I want peace and quiet I will go hiking up in the mountains or one of the beautiful parks in North Atlanta. When I want to laugh stand-up comedy is the answer (preferably at Dad’s Garage).

What is the most memorable thing that has happened to you in Atlanta?

Getting married.

Is there something that annoys you about Atlanta?


What is your favorite restaurant/s? And is there any place we could get Finnish food there – what is it to you…

There are so many of them… For someone visiting Atlanta for the first time I’d recommend Vortex for their burgers. There are no restaurants were you could go for Finnish food but you can buy for example Fazer chocolate, salmiakki, or Aura mustard at Buford Farmer’s Market.

What do you miss most from your own country Finland?

As the only daughter I really miss my family (and friends), as a teacher I miss the Finnish education system, and in general – people being on time (Finnish people are usually very punctual), summers with endless daylight, and the beauty of nature.

When is the best time to visit Atlanta?

Early spring when it isn’t too hot or muggy between March and April.

Atlanta Finland Society Website:

Kaisa’s note: I wanted to explain – for the benefit of those readers who may not not understand why Leena says “as a teacher she misses the Finnish education system”. For the last few decades there has been a few countries that have excelled with their public education in all global tests from grades 8 to 12 – Finland, Japan and South Korea probably leading the pack


South Bay – Jun 07 2013

The Summer is no time to work, especially in Sunny California. So skip out work early and come join us at the Clubhouse Bistro in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Foster City.

There will be free appetizers and a tiny wine tasting will also take place. The Crowne Plaza is right off the 92 and has free parking. This is just a social mixer to meet and greet other Europeans.

For a big fun dance event, come to our Italian Disco Event on Thursday June 13 at 8PM at Unicorn in the Financial District of San Francisco. This will be a 80′s and Italian Disco, so think Sabrina, Koto, Max Him, Fun Fun, Ken Lazlo, Modern Talking, Eddie Huntington, Savage, Ti Sento, Scotch, Roger Meno, and many more. Some of them still sing and produce today! So dress the part, go white pants or totally 80′s prep! More info will follow!

Marc and the EuroCircle Team

New York – Sanja Bestic


Hello Sanja

Hello Sheri

So, when did you first move to New York?

I moved to New York in 2004, chasing a dream. I came here for school, for Bob Wilson’s school on Long Island, because he was one of my idols. And, I fell in love with New York and I just decided I wanted to live here.

And what challenges did you face when you first moved here and how did you resolve them?

Well, the whole immigrant life is very challenging. In order to make it big, you need to face a lot of difficult things. In order to stay in New York as an immigrant, first. Let’s say that I went through a lot, a lot of difficult things to stay here and it was worth it.

What was your biggest challenge?

To stay legally in this country so that I can go home whenever I can need to be home. So, Sheri, when did you move to NYC?

Well, I’m a little bit of a cheat because I was born here, I moved here when I was born, but I left when I was four and I was raised in England and I moved back here in 1998.


Oh, this is going to make me sound so wet. Well, there were two reasons. One, I felt I had gotten as far as I could get in the UK. I had just played Kathleen Turner’s sister on the mainstage at Chichester and had come home to being a jobbing actor again, I had a car, I had a flat, I wasn’t attached, I wasn’t married, I didn’t have children and everyone had always been saying, oh, you’ve got a passport, you should go, you should go to New York, and I had done this job and had no other work so I though, ‘sod it, I am going to go to New York for six months’ and in the first few weeks I met the man who was going to be my future husband. And so that’s why I stayed. But, the other reason – I knew I was going to meet the man who was going to be my man. It’s the city of dreams, it’s the city where you chase your dream and sometimes your dreams come true.

Yeah, I think, basically, always here dreams come true, it’s just how hard your wish. But, I wish my story was that romantic, like yours, mine was more career, career, career.

Well, I wish mine was more like that, too, I wish I had been more focused on my career. But, then I may not have had my wonderful family, but, I think there were sacrifices I made to my career for my relationship. I think.

Do you think that is the case in life, that you have to do that?

That’s a great question. I think there are choices that you make, and it depends on what you want and how badly you want it. Obviously, I wanted the relationship more than the career.

So, no regrets?

That doesn’t mean no regrets. Did you experience culture shock in America?

Living in New York city is more different than living in any other city in the world. I think this is different from living in America because New York isn’t American, New York is, is..

An island off the coast of American-

Yeah. So, it’s just a separate country, separate world, separate dimension, I guess, so it wasn’t much of a culture shock, I am always led by the sentence when you’re in Rome, live as the Romans do, so I am a New Yorker. So, did you experience any culture shock in this country?

Well, it’s interesting because that’s kind of a hard question to answer because I would say everybody in the world is familiar with a version of New York City, through film, through pictures. It is maybe the most famous city in the world, I would imagine. So, in that sense it wasn’t a culture shock. The culture shock was, ‘oh, I’m really here. I’m really looking at the Empire State Building, I’m really here’ and the shock for me, coming from London, was how friendly and welcoming people were. I made friends really quickly, and I landed in a show in the first couple of weeks of being here and the way I got seen for that show was people recommending me to other people in the downtown scene, and I had an instant group of friends right away. Oh, and the other thing was people assumed I was really smart because of my accent whereas my accent had always been a negative thing, back home. So, that was a really nice culture shock.
Do you feel that being an ex-pat has influenced your career choices?

Not necessarily. I think here it’s not important where you are coming from, what’s important is what you have. I know that my education and my experience in theatre and film is really good and long, so I have my tools and I know exactly what I’m going for, so I was ready. And, I’m always ready for the higher goal. I came here with a plan and I’ve accomplished a lot, probably fifty percent right now, which is a lot for the amount of time I’ve spent in New York, that I’m actually in New York, but I have fifty more to accomplish the higher goal that I have in the next five years, so I think I’m on a good track. And, being Serbian, I’m very proud of it, I’m very proud of where I’m from and what I’m bringing with me. I’m very patriotic. Identity is something very important and I’m never going to lose that, that’s for sure.

Has your career here influenced your career at home?

Definitely. Because, what they say, if you can make it here you can make it everywhere, so you’re more appreciated because you are fighting in this other country with tigers and wolves who are just as good as you, so it’s a matter of how you train to survive. Because this is a jackal that’s for sure.

It’ll eat you up?

Yeah. So, for you, same thing. So, do you think being an expat influenced your career?

Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that I, as an actress, a lot of what I do is now dictated by the fact that I was raised in England. For example, I only go out for voice-overs which need an English accent even though my first accent was an American accent and I can switch very easily. That limitation is interesting. On the other hand, it has also given me an advantage. It has meant that I have a voice-over career, that I don’t think I would have had if I hadn’t been an ex-pat. And I think that’s the main thing. Other than that, I don’t think it’s made a difference like you said, I think it’s really about the work that you do here. It really is a city that can open up to you but you have to really fucking pound that door, you have to kick and it’s made of cast iron but you’ve got to keep on pounding. And, I don’t think it’s influenced my career at home.


In a way, my career at home folded because I had a career over here. I think over there – and here – they think of it as either or. For a while I tried to do both but it became impossible. So, Sanja Bestic, what’s the biggest misconception you had about New York when you moved here.

I don’t know. Everything was better than I expected, in a way. I fell in love with New York so I don’t see easily all the problems with New York, all the negative things. When some of my friends they come, and their expectations are probably higher and they see that it’s dirty and smelly and this and that. And I’m like, ‘of course, twenty million people goes round Manhattan in a day it has to be smelly’ but I don’t see that. I see some other beauty in the city and the architecture. I love the energy. I don’t know, maybe I’m really applying everything I saw in the movies to my vision in New York, so I don’t see negative things. I love everything about New York, every single beat, I love even arrogant New Yorkers, and I’m one of them right now. I have become one of them. I love the fact that people are so focused and so into careers, and that’s why we are here. We are here, all of us, different careers but all the same reason, our career. That’s why New York is not kid friendly, it’s why it’s not pets friendly, there is no time for big families. There are no houses with mailboxes and golden retrievers. You know, it’s just a city of dreams but some of other dreams, I guess. What about you? (1:44)What was your biggest misconception?

My biggest misconception was that it was going to be really, really tough and that everyone’s really mean, and that everyone’s so focused on themselves that there’s no space for friendship and that was completely wrong. It’s the opposite. People are really open here. People are always working on themselves. I always say New York is the city of self-help and grooming. I find people are much more open that I ever expected, much friendlier. There’s an energy that makes you feel glad to be alive. Of course, not everyone feels that and there’s a bunch of people on Prozac, but I find there’s an openness, a willingness that is unique to this city. On the other hand, some of the worst customer service, ever. But that was my biggest misconception. Theatre companies I’ve worked with here have been friendlier and willing to work, just showing up willing to work.

But maybe, as we’re talking about this, when I was, relationship-wise watching back home Sex & the city, first or second season, I thought it’s not possible that you can find a guy in New York City. And, yeah, now I know. It’s impossible.

It’s possible. It is possible. Look at me, I did it.

I just want to say that Sex & the City is a very good show in terms of sociology and psychology of New York City. A lot of very smart people worked on that show so what’s in the script is in life in New York City.

What do you miss about Serbia?

I made a lot of choices that are very connected to my career. And a lot of those choices were very selfish. The part that I miss about Serbia is friends and family that I left. I was lucky enough to have a lot of understanding on their side and support so they didn’t dismiss me from their lives, but I’m very aware of my focus and some kind of, like, selfishness and being very focused on my career. I did make new friends in New York, I made a love of friends which is more like a new family which is more like in theatre. But, definitely the sacrifice is big and I miss a lot and sometimes I miss my previous life in terms of all the real friends, and deep friendships that I have there, and my family, my parents. What about you, what do you miss about England?

I think I miss the connection. There’s a familiarity and ease to do with family, to do with old friends. I miss not having to translate. I know that sounds crazy but English English is different from American English, and sometimes there’s a way of joking in England-

Humor, yeah-

That uses language in a way that is different from the way Americans use language, and it’s that different way of using language that I miss. And I realized when I went back there that I don’t have to translate, that it’s my first ‘language’ if that makes sense. There’s a whole bunch of stuff I miss. It’s hard to put into words, really. Family, friends. Oh, you know what else I miss? I miss onion bhajis.
What’s the best food discovery you have made as an expat?

I am very picky with food. I don’t eat a lot. But definitely my biggest discovery is Thai food. I don’t like to explore more when it comes to food so Thai food is my biggest love in New York. Except for Italian food.

Well, something I discovered – I’ve gotten used to it now – but the sheer amount of food here. It just feels like every store is either a food store or a clothing store-


Unless you are on the upper west side and then there are some children’s stuff thrown in there. I just remember thinking there is so much food here. And so many different kinds of food. I mean, the entire world is here. But, I grew up in London so I had a lot of those options anyway. Oh, but my best food discovery, and I’m going to sound crazy now, but my favourite food right now is raw, organic food. I feel so good when I eat it. When I eat it. I just love to eat that; I feel so clean when I eat it. I got into it when I chose to lose weight for a show last month and I loved it. Now, when I eat anything else, which I do a lot of, it feels cloying in comparison. Well, thank you, Sanja.

Thank you, Sheri.

And good luck with your show, Tesla, Sanja!

And good luck with your show, Tesla , Sheri!

Atlanta – Jun 05 2013

Photos © Eurocircle. For privacy reasons we ask you not to copy these to Facebook or other social networks

Our next Atlanta Eurocircle Get-together will take place on Wednesday, June 5th at the W-Hotel Downtown. We will meet upstairs at ‘Wetbar’ on the 16th floor and have access to the outside pool area (weather permitting).

Valet parking has been arranged for a flat $8.00 (usually $15.00 for the first 4 hours) or you can park around the hotel area. Appetizers WILL NOT be served this time around but we will have $7.00 red and white wine as well as a $4.00 beer special (Red Hare lager). Start time is the usual 7:30 pm until…

Please be sure to RSVP and we look forward to seeing you there!!!

Atlanta EuroCircle

Expatriates: Russian Speakers Society of Austin

I am interviewing different interesting, internationally minded people here in Austin. This time I targeted Yelena (Lena) Lantsova who is very well known among the international young professionals in Austin.

Who are you and what group do you represent here in Austin and what is your role with the group?

My name is Yelena Lantsova, born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia. Came to Texas 20 years ago to bring an exhibit of Catherine the Greats’ directly from the Hermitage Museum. Then fortunately received scholarship from Trinity University in San Antonio where I earned a BA in 1997. Moved to Austin in 1998 and the rest is history.

I volunteer with Russian Speakers Society of Austin, in addition to moonlighting event coordinator for the Russian House, Phara’s Mediterranean Casbah, the Gypsy Lounge, etc.
I also coordinate events for “Musical Connections” promoting concerts of various Russian and classical music, as well as local artists.

Russia is a huge diverse country – it is built on so many different cultures and languages. How many Russians do you think- or know – are here in Austin metro area and how is your membership?

I guess there are over 5,000 Russians here in Austin, but I personally only know a few hundred. Membership is free to expats from former republics of USSR.

What does your group want to accomplish?

Bringing Russian culture awareness to Austin, TX

How do you think it is working out, what are your biggest obstacles and the best surprises that have come along?

One obstacle that stands out is the smaller turn-outs at the classical music events coordinated with Musical Connections. A nice surprise is the addition of The Russian House restaurant with its extensive cuisine and authentic Russian atmosphere.

What kind of activities do you do and how do you fund the group’s activities?

Musical events, holiday activities and so on. Funding comes from grants via the City of Austin.

What is the most captivating thing about Austin for you?

The diversity, the nightlife, the outdoor beauty, and the fact that there’s a lake in any direction.

What would you tell a visitor not to miss in Austin? If they are Russians would that answer be different..?

The perspiration no matter what their culture may be.

What is the most memorable thing that has happened to you in Austin?

Becoming a productive member of EuroCircle and spreading the culture.

Is there something that annoys you about Austin?

Once again, the HEAT. That is all.

Do you have any favorite restaurant/s here in Austin?

Phara’s, The Russian House, Swift Attic (Congress Avenue), and various food trailers around town.

Where do you go in Austin to chill out?

Lake Austin is a great way to beat the heat!

How would someone from abroad benefit by coming to Austin for a few years?

The more opportunities they are looking for, the more they’ll find.

What do you miss most from your own country?

Bread, family and friends, and the architecture….

How often do you go back to Russia?

Every few years.

Yelena, you lived a long time in the USA. If could choose would you still live in Austin, TX – elsewhere in the USA or go back to Russia?

Ideally I’d spend my summers in Russia, but Austin is my home.

Austin Intercultural Network, and the Austin Jewish Film Festival.
Russian Speakers Society of Austin Website:
518 Academy Drive, Austin,TX 78704
Yelena at facebook: