Austin – August 31 2013

Hi everyone,

Allison Berguin’s best friend Julie and her sister will be coming to Austin from France in August. They have never been to America before and she wants to welcome them with a big Hurrah! The French ladies will be arriving an hour after the start time…be ready to shout!
PLEASE TRY TO BE THERE by 6.30 pm at the latest! Do not miss out!

Here is the plan:

1) Theme: WESTERN. Please dress up with your nicest country attire. The more Texan you can be, the better.
2) FOOD: 2 food specials – pulled pork sliders and Jalapeno poppers!
3) DRINK: French 75 special for the evening.
4) MUSIC: Country Band, John Evans, starts at 7pm

Allison & Katya & EuroCircle Team

Vibha Deshpande – An Indian Woman @ Microsoft Finland

I wanted to interview Vibha, who lives just outside Helsinki, as her country is just about the opposite of Finland. India is huge, with many religions, languages and so on. I don’t think anyone can say that Finland is very multicultural. I was super curious to see how she had adjusted to the culture – and the climate. She has a very good approach to any issues that may be a problem for many expats! Way to go!

Where are you originally from and where are you living now (, city + suburb)? When did you move here and from where (by yourself)? Planning to stay long – or return to your own country?

Hi, my name is Vibha Deshpande (Vibha Saraf) and I am originally from India. I was born in a town called Nagpur in central India. I was working at Microsoft Bangalore before I moved to Finland about a year ago. Presently I live in Espoo. I am currently working at Microsoft Finland as a Premier Field Engineer. I am a full time employee so, I haven’t thought about going back yet! It’s just the beginning!

Why did you move; what do you do for work?

I moved because my husband was already working here in Finland. And since we were figuring out how we could live together, I started applying for jobs internally in Microsoft. Luckily for me, there was a position here at Microsoft Finland, I applied for the job and got through.

What do you enjoy most about your current city, how’s the quality of life? Any negatives? What do you miss most about home (or where you moved from)?

The thing I love the most about my life in Finland is how simple and sorted it is. There are no added complexities. People are very helpful and want to interact, though initially they’re all a bit shy.

People might say that winters are that one thing you dread living in Finland, but I don’t agree. I really enjoyed the last winter, barring the first day when I saw snow falling from the skies for the first time in my life and I was quite scared, I thought I’d be buried in the snow – Now when I look back I can imagine how silly I might’ve looked. I can now proudly say that “It is never very cold, it’s just lack of proper clothing

Is the Helsinki Metro Area safe? Are there any areas expats or locals should avoid?

As a Premier Field Engineer, I travel across the capital region of Finland and also have to visit the remote places at times. I have travelled during peak hours and also have returned late at nights. I never felt even remotely scared.

I am told that some parks are unsafe during nights, but I feel that at least in Finland, as long as you don’t venture out inviting trouble, you are pretty safe.

How would you rate the public transport? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?

I’ve been travelling across Europe and also to the states across the great pond, and I think Finland undoubtedly has the best public transport system. There are some areas that are being developed like the West Metro that will connect Espoo to the metro network and then it will be really amazing.

I travel to customer’s everyday as a part of my job and it is a different customer every day. It’s never more than one bus/train/metro (or combination) connection to reach the customer from my base.

How would you rate the healthcare and the standard of housing in Finland?

I think people in Finland live a very healthy lifestyle. Some form of exercise is a integral part of their lives. So people from India for example, who are used to taking heavy medicines find it a bit difficult. But I think coming here is a wakeup call for us to really understand how to lead a healthy life.
I have changed a few houses within Finland from Helsinki to Kerava and now to Espoo, and I found that the housing is quite good everywhere. The basic facilities are available everywhere whether you are in city center or living far away.

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

Cost of living is definitely much higher in Finland. For example food items are much cheaper in India. But the quality of products is much better here.

What are the Finnish people like; do you mix mainly with other expats or also locals? Is there anything that you find very difficult about the Finnish people to understand and accept? It is a very homogenous country which may cause issues.

I think Finnish people like to “mix” with expats only if we as expats don’t have any inhibitions and don’t push them. They want to take their own time and then they become your best friends for life!

Did you find it easy meeting people and making friends?

Initially I felt quite lost, because I did not know how to break ice, but gradually over the last year I think I’ve made very good Finnish friends.

How does the work culture differ from home? What about social culture and habits? (this is usually very interesting for most people…different customs, work culture, how people treat each other, can you trust people, do you feel safe, racial/ethnic/religious issues, culinary differences etc)

Work culture in India is quite competitive. People are always competing to win! Here people focus a lot on work life balance. Ensuring that private life does not get affected negatively by work pressures.
There is a lot of automation and self-reliance – It took me a while to take in the fact that I need to weigh and tag my own vegetables at the super market, or assemble my own IKEA furniture.

Is there anything else you would like to share with EuroCircle readers? For example anything that really surprised you positively or negatively (misconceptions or nice surprises or really bad surprises). Feel free to be open about it.

Come to Finland and experience simple living and high thinking. People may be shy but they are not judging you. When you trip on ice during winter, people will come and help you pick up your stuff and tell you that even they fall, after all these years and you’ll have a great laugh!

The more I know about the people in Finland and their history, I’ve have started respecting them more and more. Though shy, you must appreciate their infallible spirit of “Sisu”.

Connect with Vibha Deshpande at Linkedin

New York – Pasquale Maio, New York Italians

Meet Pasquale Maio – Founder of Italians of New York and EuroCircle Member. I – like just about anyone else – really love Italian food, music, design, language and nature. I have been to Italy multiple times and would love to be able to speak Italian. Almost anything in Italian sounds romantic – not the case in Finnish. Try saying “I Love You” in Finnish…ugh!! It is “minä rakastan sinua”. You do not have to say minä (=I), you can also just say rakastan sinua. I don’t think an average person thinks “romantic” when they tink about Finland – Italy is the ultimate romantic location for many of us.

Who are you and what do you represents in New York and what is your role with the group?

My name is Pasquale Maio and I am the founder and executive director of New York Italians, a volunteer based non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, promoting and celebrating the rich culture and heritage of Italy and its people through outstanding cultural events and culinary programs, language classes, educational lectures and charities.

I live in NYC with my wife and children. As an Italian attorney, I mostly represent Italian companies and individuals seeking to do business in the Unites States as well as Americans interested in doing business in Europe and Italy in particular.

I have been here in NYC for 4 years. After living together in Italy for 10 years, my wife received a job offer and we chose New York City as the next step in our life’s journey. My wife and I have known each other since we were three years old. Her mother is originally from my hometown Orria, on the hills of the Cilento National Park, one hour south of the enchanting Amalfi Coast.

Italy is a lovely country – it is loved by most people for its culture and language compared to countries like my country Finland. How many Italians do you think (or know) there are in the NYC metro area and how is your membership etc. My guess is you are one of the biggest if not the biggest European group in NYC area.

I honestly don’t know the exact number of Italians living here but surely I can say many J. According to the Italian Consulate in NYC approximately 90,000 Italians reside in town in 2011 but unofficial sources say around 200,000.

What I know precisely is that my organization, New York Italians, has 11,000 subscribers. We receive many emails and request to do more and we will definitely try.

Membership is vital to support our mission and achieve our goals. We have 3 levels of memberships:

Student at $10 per year; Member: $20 per year; NIAF-NY Italians Dual Membership at $40 per year.

Partners: $250 per year.

Members receive a” special treatment” in terms of advantages, discounts and better conditions in reference to the services provided by our partners. Dual Membership with NIAF gives the opportunity to get advantages and discounts in the whole United States not just in NYC.

Resources donated are used to fund our projects like the “New York Italians Scholarship” (in collaboration with Fordham University, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures Department starting September 2013 we created a fund to encourage the study of the Italian language, preserve Italian traditions and benefit students enrolled in Italian programs at Fordham University providing scholarships.

Resources raised will be given to the top 5 students of The Fordham Acting in Italian course) and the “New York Italians Free Mammogram Screening” In partnership with the American Italian Cancer Foundation, we are very happy to be hosting a free mammogram screening on September 29th in Union Square. This is a NO COST digital mammogram and clinical breast exam. This free service is for under insured and under privileged women.

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

New York Italians is organized for the purpose of providing a benefit to society as a whole, developing opportunities for our members, advancing US – Italy business, offering internships for younger members and networking events for professionals. In establishing closer cultural relations between the United States and Italy, we pledge to create a stronger face-to-face community to preserve Italian heritage and strengthen the common thread between the Italian and Italian-American populations.

The New York Italians Mission includes:

Encouraging the study of Italian language and culture in America
Preserving Italian and Italian American traditions, culture, history
Promoting closer cultural relations between the United States and Italy
Educational programs and scholarships
Grants for cultural preservation and advancement
Engage the community in innovative programs and advocacy issues
Cultivate partnerships with academia
Medical research
Disaster relief
Other Special Projects

I am really happy about what we have done so far.

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

What is the most captivating thing about NYC for you?

The energy and the awareness that nothing is impossible if you work hard and really want it.

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

To walk around without any destination and listen

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

My two daughters.

Is there something that annoys you about NYC?

Not polite NYers

Do you have any favorite restaurant/s in NYC – for Italian food or other cuisines?

Too many and all owned by friends, so I better skip this question

Where do you go in NYC to chill out?

At home.

What do you miss most from your own country? (any place to find real Italian atmosphere in NYC for you etc)

I honestly don’t miss Italy: I go there 4/5 times a year and when in NYC I am surrounded by Italians, speaking Italian and eating Italian food all the time.

How often do you go back to Italy?

4/5 times per year

Pasquale, you lived a long time in the USA. If could choose would you still live in NY, NY – elsewhere in the USA or go back to Italy?

I have been in NYC for only 4 years and I love it, before I move back to Italy one day, I will be here for a while.

Have you connected with the other international groups in NYC?

We did collaborate with you guys of Euro Circle to promote women rights and celebrating the international day of women last year. We would love to do more. We also coordinated few lectures with two Asian organizations in NYC.


Austin – Heli Bergius, Finland: Mom, Editor, Writer and Realtor

Heli Bergius was probably the first Finnish person I connected with when we moved from Manhattan to Austin about 3-4 years ago – and that was almost a year after we had moved. I finally decided to start EuroCircle Austin with the kind help of Carla Wilkenfeld whom I met on the trail next to our buildings. Carla’s dog Capote recognized a dog lover and greeted me.
Imagine what a surprise at the first event at the Austonian to find out Heli comes from the same area in Finland as my family – that has never happened to me in the USA!

Who Is Heli Bergius– and what does Heli do/where? (education, some personal details, kids etc)

Mom, editor, writer, journalist, Realtor… in that order. I have been working as a Realtor in Austin for 6 years, and enjoyed it a lot! It has been kind a similar task as being an editor – help people to find their dream home, when as an editor I help them to write the book they have been dreaming of.

Both are “people” businesses. If you do not like people, choose another path and profession!

I have a MA in comparative literature, and I have been working as an editorial manager in several publishing houses in Helsinki, Finland. After moving from Finland I have been able to work remotely, as a freelance editor, but could not go work in an American publishing house, since my native language is not English. I reinvented myself in Real Estate, studying first the degree for Interior Design, and then getting the Realtor´s license. Currently I work with Goldwasser Real Estate, a company where the revolutionary real estate model puts the customer first.

Kaisa’s comment: She also has written several non-fiction books (a total 11), out of which four are cook books. Heli is a wonderful chef, I cook and occasionally it works ‘well’- she is more like a chef.

You grew up in a very different area compared to Austin. Can you tell us more about it?

I grew up and lived in Finland until year 2000, when we moved to London, England for two years. Finland is always my home country, no matter how long I stay away from there. Actually Helsinki, my Finnish home town for the longest time, is not so different from Austin except the weather. Compare Alaska and Texas, then you see the difference..

What has been the most exciting “thing” or role that you’ve covered during your career or should we say careers?

I would have to repeat myself a bit and say that the most exciting and exuberant thing has been working with people. As an editor, I have been helping people to write a book, and fulfill their dream. As an Realtor, I have done the same by helping them to purchase their dream home. The fundamentals are the same.

Is there any particular story, moment, an award or an achievement throughout your career or life that you are particularly proud of?

Those are the moments when I got my three wonderful children. They are the absolute highlight of my life, and everything else fades when compared with them. (Kaisa’s note: Heli’s youngest child Charlotta will stay in Austin while Heli is moving to Finland in September 2013, Joonas just graduated from a Dallas college and lives in NYC. Niklas studies in Finland)

What would you say is the biggest misconception that people have about your profession (writing/editing)?

The role of an editor is invisible to the reading audience. Therefore most people do not know what kind of huge transformation a manuscript goes through on the way from the writer´s hand to the finished book. On most cases nothing is the same, when the editor has done her/his work.

What do you enjoy most about being a real estate broker vs. your previous life? What the worst about being a real estate broker….

The best part of being in real estate is the flexibility of my working hours, ie. I am not fixed to the 9 to 5 corporate hours. I can work only few hours a week, or the total 24/7. On the other hand – I am also working during the weekends and evenings, when my clients (and my family!) will have free time.

Kaisa’s comment: The best and worst thing about Heli is that she does so many things. She has two lovely dogs, Prince (dachshund) will stay with her daughter in Austin. Pippin, Cavalier King spaniel, will move with Heli to Helsinki in September 2013.

What have you found to be the biggest difference between living in Finland and Texas? Just out of curiosity loved to hear something about your UK/London experiences too.

Weather! The weather is the biggest difference, but same time it restrains people same way. In Texas we do not go out during the summer when it is too hot. In Finland we do not go out during the winter, when it is too cold. But overall, the amount of the sunny days in Texas is just awesome!

During the years I lived in England I miss few things: the politeness of people, the quantity of history around, and the immense beauty of the nature. And I love the English food as well! High tea! Mash and bangers! Biscuits! Cheeses, curries, piccalilli, Ploughman´s sandwiches!

What kind of people survive and do well in this field of work (real estate broker vs. editor/writer) in your opinion?

People who like people and have great networks = connections. If you are not comfortable in working with people, think about some other career…

Are there any books that you would hate to edit?

Hmmm… not really. The only genre that comes into my mind is very technical books. The better the editor understands the subject, the better work she/he can do. The work gets difficult when you have to struggle to understand the subject.

What advice would you give to other aspiring European real estate brokers aiming for success in Austin?

Networking is super important – the more you know people, and they get the message that you work in the real estate, the better. Find your country men and let them know you can help! As European we have the advantage to speak other languages than/on top of English, and other Europeans love to do business on their own language!

The Finnish community in Austin is small – and it will really miss Heli when she moves to Finland in September 2013 with her Cavalier King Charles puppy Pippin. She has been a wonderful friend to many of us, always there for you when needed. In addition, given the circumstances in which she raised her three kids she has done a tremendous job – the same can be said for her kids. The Bergius family is a great family with good values. Heli’s mom Annikki suddenly passed away in January 2013 – I had the pleasure meeting her in Finland before her death as did my mom and sister Kirsi. Annikki will be fondly remembered in Austin as she made us these wonderful socks that in our highrise building make people always ask “where did you get those socks?” I just wear socks to go to the lobby to get coffee. Gary’s absolute favorites!
Heli’s daughter Charlotta graduated from high school this spring and she will stay in Austin with their dachshund Prince (who is a charmer) to study here. We wish both them a happy journey in their new roles.

Connect with Heli Bergius
EuroCircle website: Heli Bergius
Facebook: Heli Bergius
Website: Goldwasser Real Estate

Expats in New York – Sinem Saniye, From New York to Istanbul with Music

I asked Sinem to answer a few questions as she is such a nice multicultured person – and talented! Well, judge yourself. Sinem’s Turkish name translates to “deep from within my heart, or my heart, my love”. Sinem translates that feeling into her lyrics and reflects her sensuality into her music. Well, judge yourself.

Please introduce yourself (name, country, where are you from and what do you do, where do you live, what did you study and what, family etc)?

My name is Sinem Saniye, I live in New York, and have been a new yorker since I was 3 years old, but I was born in Germany, and my heritage, is Turkish. My family is all over the world, we are quite the international bunch. My brother is out in Colorado with his family, my cousins, in NY, in Izmir and Istanbul, Turkey, and one is even living and working in Bermuda right now! I studied Music in college, Skidmore College that is, and one year of grad school at New York University, studying recording Engineering.

My love for music is so vast, I was kind of all of the place with my studies! In undergrad, I was a Music Major with concentration in Classical Voice, ie Opera, with a wonderful teacher, David Reeves. I also studied Music Technology with my other favorite teacher, Anthony Holland, and took Jazz guitar lessons on the side right before I graduated, with the incredible, Chuck D’Aloia. When I came to NYU for grad school, I veered from the program yet again, because I met Jazz voice guru, Janet Lawson, who changed my life. She’s a Grammy-nominated vocalist herself, and I still work with her in New York City to this day! Learning never stops.

When and why did you start playing/singing – and which instruments do you play?

Well, when I was 3 years old, I would put on a little “show” for my mom and whenever we had company, and pretend to be Michael Jackson. I’m an MTV generation kid, so I was influenced by the pop greats at a very early age. I started singing at home, I had a little electronic keyboard, and wrote my first song at age 5. It was terrible! But that’s where I started. It was only later in life, much later, high school and college actually, that I started performing publicly, my songs, and other people’s songs, and picked up a guitar for the first time. I’m a late bloomer, but I experienced so many other great things as a child (I was on the gymnastics team, then varsity soccer, dance, and traveling) that I don’t really have any regrets. I play guitar now, and a little bit of piano, but mostly for composing purposes. I can also bang on the drums if I’m feeling adventurous, hehe.

What was the first tune(s) you learned?

The Star Spangled Banner, in school, in the second grade! Then I got to sing it at Staples Center before an NBA game in Los Angeles, for the LA Clippers in Dec of 2010, for 20,000 people, a capella. What a full circle moment that was…

Is your family musical? Describe your family member’s musical interests and abilities

Ha! No one was playing any instruments or was musical at all in my family when I was growing up. Isn’t that funny? There certainly was a love of music, mostly classical, but no active musicians. I found my own way. Luckily I had a family that pretty much let me do whatever I want at home, and I didn’t have any siblings close to my age so I was left to my own devices, and with a keyboard, a kid can get creative. The songs are bad ofcourse, I was and am no mozart, but it got the juices flowing, and made me realize that’s what I wanted to do in life. I love writing music! I found out later, though I never got to hear/ see it, my mother was a successful pianist in her youth, before I was born, and that my grandfather, dad’s dad, played the violin a bit. I wish I could have experienced their music.

Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?

Jeff Buckley, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, Amy Winehouse, Frank Sinatra, Yves Montand, Edith Piaf, Michael Jackson, Astrud Gilberto, Antonio Jobim, to name just a *few* of the musicians I greatly admire who are no longer living. Their artistry is timeless. Their talents, out of this world. The music? Gives me goosebumps. I’m not sure any living person comes close to these legends. But I love and admire all kinds of music. Stravinsky, Debussy, (i’m still naming dead musicians!) .. of the newer artists, I think Regina Spektor, Leanne La Havas, Emilie Sande, Koop, Eliza Doolittle, are all lovely, and my guilty pleasure, is….. Katy Perry.

What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? In your neighborhood or town?

Oh gosh, there are so many. I can almost say, every moment. Looking back, even the tough times, say in the studio, or when I’m trying to learn something new on guitar and it is frustrating, becomes a fond moment when I conquer it. The feeling of “I did it” is out of this world. Constantly challenging myself, and overcoming, is the best. But there are certainly some other moments, that I still pinch myself thinking about. Singing the national anthem at the NBA for 20 thousand people in an arena is one of them! Performing at the NYC Turkish-American Parade, again to thousands, is another. Seeing my music video on MTV Europe for the first time, opening for Lisa Loeb, going on tour in the US, recording with amazing, Grammy-award winning producers, performing in amazing venues, and with amazing people, all very fond memories. One of my most dear memories is meeting the legendry, late producer and music mogul, Arif Mardin. It was very early on for me in my musical journey, but he was an inspiration. He supported me, and was just the sweetest, funny, and most intelligent person. I am so grateful to have been in his presence, even if it was for a short while.

Were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?

At home, my dad was always playing classical music, both Turkish and American, but my favorite record he played a lot was the soundtrack to West Side Story. Then we watched it in school when I was 7 or 8, and I knew all the music. It was an amazing feeling. However, I was most influenced by MTV (back when they actually were playing music videos!) because that’s what I would watch everyday after school. Billy Joel, Madonna, Billy Idol, Bruce Springsteen, Pat Benetar, Cyndi Lauper, Michael Jackson, Guns and Roses, Jon Bon Jovi, were always on.

Who are your favorite musicians? Groups? CD’s? Since you are multicultural, you may have more varied likes/dislikes. Describe your own musical ambitions.

That’s a great question because my CD collection is an organizers nightmare. I think I have everything but Polka. Lol! Seriously, I’ll start naming a few: I have Wu-Tang Clan, Korn, Colby Caillat, Tori Amos, Sheryl Crow, Madonna, Tom Waits, Astrud Gilberto, Buena Vista Social Club, Brazilian Girls, KT Tunstall, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, Metallica, Spanish flamenco music, Astor Piazzolla, tango collections, The Frames, Radiohead, Bebel Gilberto, John Mayer, Jonatha Brooke, Miles Davis, Lester Young, Lena Horne, Opera’s Greatest Hits, Greek folk music, Turkish Ottoman music, Turkish Pop music,my friends’ CDs, and all the artists I already named above, including Janet Lawson’s CD, and many vinyl records, mostly obscure. I think the most obscure CD I have is an album of African thumb piano music. But what is obscure? Over there Taylor Swift would be obscure, most likely

Have you been in competitions? Any prizes?

I’ve been really grateful with the awards I’ve received thus far, for my first album, “When I Don’t Sleep..” and the songwriting awards for that album. The most prestigious of which, was the *Grand Prize* win in the International John Lennon Songwriting Competition, started by Yoko Ono herself! That was in 2006. Since then, I’ve continued to collect awards, all of which are listed on my bio site, under Awards. I’d love to add a Grammy to that list one day

Where do you perform in public? Describe those occasions? Concerts, radio, TV?

I’ve performed everywhere. Festivals, events, weddings, galas, parades, radio, TV, large stages, small stages, all of the country, and all over the world. Every experience is different, and fun. Of course I loved performing at the EuroCircle events too!

How do you balance your music with other obligations – mate, children, job?

It’s just me and mama now, and my boyfriend, and it definitely isn’t easy balancing it all. I make time in pockets, for my music, for my family in Turkey, for my friends, and that’s how I’m able to balance it. Of course my number one priority is my mom. Her happiness, her health, her well-being, means more to me than anything. If she is not well, then I am not well. Mom is number one, the rest follows.

I think you told me once that you spend time every year in Turkey? Are you still doing that? I always wonder how would it work if you – having spent most of your life in the USA – if you fell in love with a Turkish man who is a fundamentalist. That might be hard, right?? I guess I am asking also would you prefer staying here in the USA no matter what (If yes or no, why…)

I am in Turkey right now, actually! In my beloved Istanbul. Like in the previous question, I make time in pockets, for everything to happen, and for me to be balanced. I have to come here over the summer to see my family, my cousins, the little kiddies, and for peace of mind.

Even though I was born in Germany and raised in NYC, these are my roots. I can feel it whenever I come here, and I love it. Plus, there is the boyfriend factor. I have to keep coming here for that to work. Lucky for me he isn’t a fundamentalist, and not all Turkish people are. But as a general rule, you’re right, that wouldn’t work for me, for a fundamentalist from ANY country for that matter. We have some in US as well. I’m open-minded, love the arts, don’t believe in prejudice, or judgement, and am a bit of a mischevious, free spirit. So, I’d prefer staying around people in an environment supports this. I don’t know if I’ll stay in the US forever. I’d like to try new places. Time will tell!

Could you share with us how you first found out about EuroCircle?

You are actually the only NYC member who has visited me in Austin – I was so happy to see a familiar face when I hardly knew anyone here at the time!

Hmm… I think it was Ozgur Madak. He was also one of the first Turkish people I had met in NYC, and he took me under his wing and supported me so much, as you have supported me, and I am eternally grateful for that!

Likewise, going to Austin and being with you, a familiar and warm face, for me as well, in a sea of strangers at SXSW, it was a haven, and a pleasure to be with you in Texas. I thank you and Gary eternally for that experience, and for having me! EuroCircle I think is a fantastic organization. It’s the perfect group for someone like me, who is an international citizen. To be able to go to the events, and to interact online, with like-minded international people of various ages, from various countries, and in various fields of work, is amazing. Even in NYC, you can feel alone. With EuroCircle, I feel like I belong. Thank you for starting and maintaining this fabulous group, and for this interview! It was an honor. xo

Connect with at Facebook

Email: Sinem_net(at)
Management: 1 646 894 9300

Video links:


Expatriates: Meet David Lowe @ Uberpong – Austin’s Own Ping Pong Master from UK

We interviewed David Lowe last year and wanted do a follow-up interview for many reasons – you’ll find out why. Keep reading…

David, you are originally from the UK? You moved to Austin, TX last summer 2012, didn’t you – and we found you via EuroCircle if I recall correctly?

Yes, I was born and raised on the Lytham St. Annes, in the north-west of England. As cheesy as it sounds, I moved to America to live the American Dream. I was determined to succeed in business and knew this was the country to do it in. I just had to pick the right city to call home and to launch my startup Uberpong. I chose Austin and arrived here in February 2012. I found EuroCircle whilst networking like crazy after getting here. I knew one person so had to get out there and hustle!

Did you move with a spouse/children?

I moved here with my wife Diana.

Why did you move; what do you do so everyone knows that?

I moved for many reasons. One was to start my business (I am the Founder and CEO of Uberpong – designer and custom ping pong paddle specialists. Another was the weather which looked more appealing than the infinite gray skies of London

What do you enjoy most about Austin, now when you have more experience, how’s the quality of life compared to UK?

Quality of life is a lot better than the UK. People work hard here but make a point to have a life outside of work. With 300 days of sunshine, people are passionate about cycling, tennis, running and of course ping pong!!

Usually there are some negatives, what are the ones for Austin that really stand out for you personally?

Myself and my wife are allergic to dogs so the massive amount here and fact that a lot of bars and restaurants let them inside the venues has been testing. The city is not designed for walking and with the mounting traffic congestion, the city badly needs a mass transit system. The drivers are very aggressive here and drive erratically. Almost everyone I see either talks or texts on their phones whilst driving which is alarming. I miss culture and proximity of England to mainland Europe.

Do you feel Austin is a good place for you as an entrepreneur right now? Are there any areas expats like you might like in the USA in your opinion (entrepreneurs? WHY?

Yes. San Francisco is a little saturated but I hear Vcs/angels back startups faster than in Austin. This has to change if Austin is to truly become the next startup hotspot in the US. It is also a little frustrating that the majority of networking events are for tech industry people.

How would you rate the public transport? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?

2/10. Buses very infrequent but on time. Metrorail has a bizarre route going east instead of through downtown and over to South Congress. I don’t drive but I feel the pressure of not having a car.

Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Austin as an expat?

Hard to say. We started in downtown as that’s where the majority of events happen & I’ve met a few Europeans at these. We are keen to move to Rosedale as it has a nice community feel without being in surburbia. It really depends what you’re in to.

Do you go out a lot – hobbies? Or is everything about work right now?

Uberpong just got Nike as a client and we are directing a huge event in San Francisco next month that will feature Apple and be at the new headquarters of Airbnb. We are also releasing a new Uberpong branded paddle very soon. Add to that a big distribution deal that could be happening with my other company I feel like I’m hitting a workaholic phase but you’ll find me at my favorite local bar Tiniest Bar In Texas chilling out at the weekend!

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

The cost of living is actually a lot higher than I expected in Austin and the rental rates and property prices are skyrocketing. Eating out is generally cheaper in Austin but when you add the tip on, it can come close to London. Gas prices are lower.

What are the locals like; do you feel you mix mainly with other expats? I guess this is a bit easier for you since you speak with a wonderful British accent!

Very laissez-faire and not bothered with what people think. They actually don’t make a big deal about the accent compared to other states in the US. I mix mainly with people from the north-east of the USA but have a few friends from Austin. I have a South African friend who is the drummer in my band but apart from that only really see expats at EuroCircle.

Did you think it is easy meeting people and making friends in Austin?

It depends where you hang out. Compared to London, definitely yes.

What’s the economic climate like in Austin, how would you compare it to the UK? Why? How does the work culture differ from UK?

Buoyant. People will frequently ask, “What recession?” Salaries are lower than most states but so is the living cost (although this is rising fast). Texas has survived the recession well and I think the UK could learn a lot from Austin.

I run Uberpong and have never worked in a US company. I gather that dress code is generally very informal due to the heat. My work style drifts dramatically between smart/casual for meetings, networking events and interviews to ridiculously casual for photo shoots and everyday work.

Did you have any misconceptions about Texas that have turned out to be super wrong….or vice versa, you thought something will be great and it is exactly the other way around?

I thought the police would be very relaxed but heard they can be brutal (my friend got a fine for jaywalking on an empty street and another friend was racially abused when he got pulled over for no reason).

Do you think your career (business) would be the same in UK – or does this work better for you? Either way, please explain more.

No. I stand out more here for several reasons and I like the low operating costs, the tax breaks and general entrepreneurial mentality of the people. They believe things can happen and see opportunity rather than risk (the British typically think the opposite way).

What are your favorite restaurants/bars here in Austin – why ?

Tiniest Bar In Texas – low key, my kind of music (alt/psych rock) & nice bar staff. Ruth’s Chris – we know them well & they always look after us. Rounders Pizza – good movies/vibe/music. Easy Tiger – for ping pong.

Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals or contemplating a move to Austin?

Say yes to any invite you get when you first get here. Get to know the locals and key players and just get stuck in and enjoy life here!!!

Connect with David Lowe and

Twitter: – @davidjlowe @uberpong

Photo credit – Ryan Pollack:


Los Angeles – Anna Easteden, Actress & Model

I asked Anna Easteden to answer a few questions as she is such a cool woman – and pretty! Well, judge yourself. At the end of the interview you find a couple of more links to her videos.

Who Is Anna Easteden – and what does Anna do/where?

I started out as a model, I continued as an actress and now am also a TV -host for Wipeout Finland. I live in Los Angeles and love to travel. I have worked with the United Nations Human Commissioner for Refugees in Bratislava, Slovakia, which I am very proud of.

At what age did you know that you wanted to be an actor ? Keeping in mind that you used to model for years, right?

I started out as a model at the age of 12. Then I sort of drifted to becoming an actor. As a model I did some TV -commercials and music videos and then before I knew it I was doing theatre and then took some acting classes in Chicago and in Los Angeles. So, it was sort of a path that took about 10 years without really having a defining moment of when it is that I became an actor, but now I do consider myself more of an actor than a model.

What has been the most exciting “thing” or role that you’ve covered during your career or should we say careers?

The most exciting thing for me is traveling and exploring different places. I have been very lucky to work in many, many different countries. Getting to shoot anything in Guam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo etc. is a dream come true for me. I really live for adventure, and any role that brings me adventure is very exciting. I got to spend a month in Argentina this year shooting “Wipeout Finland” and once again I fell in love with a new place. I love that.

Is there any particular story, moment, an award or an achievement throughout your career that you are particularly proud of?

I am very proud of many things. One of them is just the fact that I was born on a farm in the middle of nowhere not speaking English and by the time I was a teenager, I was living across the globe in Asia speaking other languages, and making way more money than my $5/week allowance at home on the farm was! I also have been nominated for an acting award as well and have won some modeling competitions, but usually I end up being the proudest of the most recent “cool” job I have done. And it is my dream to achieve something even bigger and better in the future as well to blow all my achievements up until now out of the water. LOL. 🙂

What would you say is the biggest misconception that people have about your profession (acting) or modeling?

Some people think it’s easy. And to some degree it is easy. There have done some very easy jobs that I have loved. But the competition is absolutely crazy, and it’s not necessarily always easy booking the jobs. Many actors are the hardest working people I know. We don’t get paid to audition or to rehearse most times. So, you got to love it to keep dedicated, as the days you’ll actually get paid are few and far between.

What do you enjoy most about being an actor vs. your previous life? What the worst about being an actor….

The worst thing about being an actor is the downtime between jobs. The times when you’re worried about the next job coming. You end up having lot of time to think and that’s not always good! I like to keep myself busy at home with projects around my house. I have kept remodeling my 1926 home for three years now. My vegetable garden always has something new growing in it. And I dedicate some time to homeless cats too. 🙂 I enjoy the actual work of being an actor most. I enjoy a job well done and knowing that I gave a performance that the director and producers liked. I also love it when I am so much a character that I forget that I am me!

What have you found to be the biggest difference between acting in Finland and Los Angeles? Just out of curiosity loved to hear something about your Japan experiences too.

I thought there would be a big difference between Finland and LA when it comes to film making. I went to Finland to shoot a film with director Mika Kaurismaki and I was very surprised how similar everything is between the two places. I honestly don’t find that much difference in working in the two countries. The lovely thing about Finland is that the directors call “Please” and “Thank You” instead of “Action” and “Cut”. Japan in itself is a whole different experience. If you have seen the Sofia Coppola -directed movie “Lost in Translation” where Bill Murray’s character does a commercial in Tokyo – working there is EXACTLY like that. I laughed so hard watching that movie because I could relate to everything!

What kind of people survive and do well in this field of work (acting vs. modeling) in your opinion?

I think the survivors are those actors and models who are determined, don’t give up, and don’t have a back up plan or a second love of some other field.

Are there any roles that you would hate to play?(good/bad)

I honestly don’t think so. I enjoy being other people and seeing life from someone else’s view point. “Bad people” are sometimes the most interesting to play, because there aren’t many chances in real life to be really mean or evil without feeling bad about it later.

What advice would you give to other aspiring European actors aiming for the stars in Hollywood? Or models…

Go for it! If you want to come to Hollywood, come on over. You might regret it later if you don’t give it a try.

What and who captivate you in the world of the celebrities – and why?

So many of them are super talented, very captivating and lovable. I love Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Marilyn Monroe, Jack Nicholson etc. I’d get absolutely star struck working with them. Both their on-screen and real life personas are fascinating.

Since you are Finnish – must ask what do you miss most from Finland – think you ever return to live back there? And how is the Finnish community in Los Angeles…

I think I miss the usual stuff most Finnish people miss: sauna, salmiakki (salted Licorice) -candy, rye bread and clean air. I have fixed some of this though: I built a Finnish sauna inside my house, and I found an awesome alternative rye bread from my local Whole Foods. I meet up with a lot of the Finnish community at the Finnish Consulate events. I love those. Otherwise, I don’t meet with that many Finnish people on regular basis.

What do you see the best about the Finnish culture/people?

I find Finnish people very reliable and trustworthy. That’s a very good trait to have! Finland as a country is very clean and pure. I love clean air and water. Very basic things in life, but unfortunately those are not a given in the rest of the world.

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Anna Drama Reel:
Anna Finnish Reel:
Comedy Short About Finland:


Helsinki – Christian Erickson & Family, From Texas to Finland

Christian is from Austin where I live right now….and believe me, it is a VERY different environment. After watching the videos about his family, I’d say those kids are fearless and will do well anywhere.

Who is Christian Erickson and your family – and what does Christian do/where?

Christian Erickson, a native Austin, Texan (AHS 1990 Loyal Forever), and his wife Amy moved to Espoo Finland in January 2012 with their then four and five year old daughters. Since 2006 Christian had led all the marketing activity for Tekla’s North America operations as well as managed the Latin American website. During 2011, Tekla’s headquarters learned that their marketing director was expecting. In addition, there was already one marketing manager and another was expecting in early 2012. Tekla HQ needed some help! So Christian packed his bags (and a few more items) and moved his family to help Tekla get through these long maternity leaves. None of the three returned before a year – long maternity leaves in Finland!

You grew up in a very different area compared to Espoo, Finland. Can you tell us more about it compared to Espoo? Most people would know Helsinki but not Espoo, or at least most Europeans would know where Helsinki is I probably should say.

The biggest difference for me is naturally the weather. I’d say that the weather is flip flopped from Austin. In Austin, we had short winters (if they ever came) and long summers. Here the winter is long and the summer (if it ever comes) is short. Then you have the long summer days and the long winter nights. This is certainly different! The people in Austin are more outgoing. In Espoo and Finland they are more reserved. Other differences include the homes as the Finnish home is typically much smaller and the sports that people follow, we love our Longhorns and they love their hockey.

What has been the most exciting “thing” or role that you’ve covered during your career or should we say careers?

I certainly enjoy the international part of my job. Working with different cultures and time zones energizes me. It’s a challenge but I’ve gotten good at it and it’s wonderful. There is so much to learn when you are working overseas and I love learning. One example was co-hosting and leading Tekla’s first Asian Marketing Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam last year. The young Asians were very energetic and interested to learn more about marketing.
A “thing” in my career that was exciting took place during my second startup, Biz4Kids. I pitched a story to the Wall Street Journal, got the journalist interested, which resulted in two stories and my picture in that famous WSJ headcut drawing.

Is there any particular story, moment, an award or an achievement throughout your career or life that you are particularly proud of?

I can’t pin it down to “one.” For me, it has been a slow, steady climb – and I know I’m not finished. The more I learn the more there is to learn. I believe that that “one” great accomplishment is still out there. This will outshine all the others.

What would you say is the biggest misconception that people have Finland vs. America in your opinion? How does your family feel about that?

I’d have to say, from recent experience, that people in the USA believe that Finland has free health care for all. Yes, in a way Finland does have free health care but…Like most Finns I know, I get health coverage through my work. This is the same as in the US except there is no co-pay over here. My family is not covered and there is no option to cover them through my work. Because most families have working parents the parents get health coverage through work but not for their kids. So everyone that I know has private health insurance for their kids. We could get some coverage but because our daughters had tubes in their ears, insurance will not cover any ear or throat cases. So just a few weeks ago my daughter had a bad cough and trouble swallowing. The wait at the health clinic was more than 5 hours. When I told my peers they all said, “oh just go to the private clinic…and pay.”

What do you enjoy most about being and working in Finland vs. your previous life? What the worst about being there….and the best? What about your wife and kids?

Oh this is a tough question. I enjoy most the new experiences. I have always sought out experiences and learning opportunities. I’m a pretty upbeat person and believe that it’s important to BE where you are. So I am here with my family and we are taking as many opportunities that we can to experience as much as we can. This was the same in the USA. We don’t sit around watching TV all day – we get out. There are no “worst” things but some things that we do miss from time-to-time. Just this week college football started. We miss college football. We do have access to ESPN so that is good. We miss having a car sometimes and we do miss some items we had to leave in the US such as our Vita-mix. If you own a Vita-mix you understand!

What have you found to be the biggest difference between living in Finland and Texas? Just out of curiosity loved to hear something about your other expat experiences too. This time with a family it adds other challenges.

Yes, this is my third time to live overseas. It’s my longest time and my first as a married, family man. First time was in London. Just five days after graduating from JMU in Virginia, I left for London with a six month work visa. My work in a restaurant gave me plenty of cash and a flexible schedule. The result of good budgeting and planning allowed me to spend a month in Egypt, Jordan and Israel and two months in India and Nepal. It was amazing! Then in 2001, just a few months before my MBA graduation was supposed to happen, September 11 came along. All the recruiters I had been talking with just went silent. A professor who got to know me suggested that I work as a Graduate Assistant at Maastricht University in The Netherlands. I spent roughly five month in central Europe working and traveling.

What kind of people survive and do well in Finland as an expat in your opinion?

Those that marry a Finn; they seem to be the happiest non-native people here. But seriously, to survive as an expat family in Finland means that the spouse has to be self motivated. It’s not a popular expat destination like London, Brussels or Singapore and there is little support from the Embassy and other clubs. Even the American Women’s Club sends updates in Finnish from time to time! They do this even though most everyone speaks English and speaks quite well. Also, most all women in Finland work so there are few people for a spouse to spend time with during the day. The spouse has to be happy

Are there any stereotypes of Finns that you expected (good or bad) that actually turn out to be true?

Well, they are reserved. During my first six years with Tekla, I came over here 2 or 3 times a year so I was quite familiar with the culture and the people. Not many surprises for me.

What advice would you give to other aspiring Expatriates aiming for success in Finland? What are the traits you think Finnish people admire and appreciate?

The Finns certainly expect honesty and little small talk. In Finnish business (and in personal life) success is not only measured in money but also in quality of life. At times quality of life weighs more than the amount of money. Don’t brag; don’t center your conversations on money; do respect time; do respect the family. These are some differences that I notice more and more when I am in the USA with regard to conversations I have with people.

What do you miss most from Texas – think you ever return to live back there? And how is the American or expat community in Finland…

Oh yes, I will be back in Texas. “You can take the man out of Texas but you can’t the Texas out of a man.” That’s true. I don’t really “miss” too much because it is home and I can always go back. Oh at times I really wish I were on Lake Austin or preparing an HEB brisket or eating at El Patio or taking my girls to the Broken Spoke. Earlier today I saw a Nissan Commercial with Earl Campbell and Sam Bradford. It’s the first time in a long time that I was bit home sick – who thought that would trigger it!? There are some expat groups that look fun but are more geared to individuals and not families. So it is not in my opinion a strong expat community for families. I am sure each will have their own experiences and it is certainly not a reason not to come here for a few years.

What do you see the best about the Finnish culture/people vs. American?

They don’t brag. Some Finns have told me that they are very insecure. I would challenge that and say that most are secure. They have interests and actually take their hobbies to expert levels. I actually do like that money is not the most important thing in the life of a Finn.

Tell us about your kids? How do you feel about education here vs. Europe? Do they see much differences with kids in Finland and school?

My kids are a bit young to have a strong opinion on education. They certainly like their schools. It is a very relaxed environment for their age. School does not get serious for another two years for my now seven year old. I think my wife and I see the biggest differences; however, we are still learning about the system. My wife taught first grade in the US so she is very interested in learning as much as she can about the system here.

Is there anything else we need to know??

If you are interested in knowing about our experiences please visit my wife’s blog at and you are welcome to contact us directly with any questions!

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Atlanta – Aug 07 2013

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

Greetings everyone;

We will have our August EuroCircle Mixer on Wednesday, August 7th, starting at 7:30m at the St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead, located at Eighty-Eight West Paces Ferry Road – 30305.

We will meet in PACES HALL (formerly PACES 88) with additional access to the adjoining patio.

In addition to being able to purchase your drinks at the main hotel bar, we will also have a couple of bars set up at PACES HALL where you can purchase drink tickets to facilitate things.

Valet parking will be free as long as you get your ticket stamped (at the drink ticket table or at the bar).

Due to the large crowd expected, there will be NO APPETIZERS, so please be sure to make eating arrangements prior to attending the event or feel free to dine at the Hotel restaurant at your own expense.

Please RSVP to this event so we can keep a proper head count….

Looking forward to seeing everyone at St. Regis!!!

July 10 2013 event photos from Three Sheet are posted at HERE! Scroll down the pge to view them all.