Austin – October 31 2013

Thursday night Departure Lounge is “Your Place to Escape to SPOOKY Destinations”!
Halloween costume is NOT required but greatly appreciated. Let’s make it red/black party for the others – most people have something black/red and it works well with Halloween – and the stylish surroundings. Not to mention the haunted images you will be seeing on the screens….the best costume around at 8 pm will receive a little “surprise”.

Our special featured guest hosts are Taryn Hall and Finn Sigurdsson (Iceland) – ísARK Studio! Iceland in my opinion has something eery about it…beauty, such extremes, emptiness, glaziers, volcanos and hot springs.


From 4-7 daily, Departure Lounge offers reduced priced wine “flights”:
**$6 for a test flight (three 2-oz. pours) or $12 for a full flight (three 4-oz. pours).
**These are regularly $10 and $20 each. So anyone coming in before 7p can enjoy that offer.

From 7 to close, you’ll be offered $1 off any glass of wine or beer.

They have the following food options:

Gourmet sandwiches
Pita/hummus plate
Cheese plates

Keith Waldon, formerly Virtuoso’s vice president for business development, has opened the upscale coffee and wine bar Departure Lounge. Departure Lounge also happens to be a travel agency staffed by outside contractors. Keith has a quite a transition from consortium executive to entrepreneur. At Virtuoso, he helped to rebrand the entire $9.6 billion organization, formed numerous strategic alliances making Virtuoso a household name (households worth $1 million plus).

Vienna – Oana Vasilescu from Romania

I am always looking for people to interview in Vienna and was super happy to find Oana who is originally f

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

My name is Oana Vasilescu and I come from Bucharest, Romania. I studied International Business at the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest, Romania. I benefited from a time with lots of opportunities for Eastern European Students to study abroad in early 2000s. Being friends with one of the best students at my university, who had an entire list of scholarship possibities, abroad, I could live the “dream” of any student: pick the top university of your choice, receive a scholarship and go study there. My life has been a chain of happy coincidences. I came to Austria, thanks to a Summer University at the WU (Vienna University of Economics and Business). I really liked the international study atmosphere- even if at the beginning I hardly understood at the beginning the typical Viennese pronunciation and dialect. I fell in love with the WU library with an immense number of books for the same subject. Whereas at my home we had to stay in line for weeks to get the latest edition of any course book in English from the library of the neighbored British Council, the WU library felt like paradise. The happy coincidence happened just one hour before I was leaving back home from the summer university.

Wanting to thank the organizers, they offered me the possibility to apply for a study program called JOSZEF. I filled out the necessary paperwork without any expectation of being accepted. I went back to Romania, finished my university education and – surprisingly for me – received an acceptance letter from the WU.
So I came to Vienna with no specific reason, other than do what I liked most, which was to study in one of the top economic and intellectual environments. I could not have imagined it to have been different.
I stayed after having received a second scholarship for studying Quality Journalism and receiving the first employment opportunity with the Danube-University in Krems.

Do you think living in Vienna in any way enhances your work and life experience?

Vienna is one of the best places to live and work, a true “village”, small but diverse, highly accessible thanks to great public transport infrastructure, safe and conservative. It has a slow life rhythm, which relaxes. It is a quiet city, with little noise level. One hardly hears noises on the tram – people are very cautious when speaking to each other they are rather quiet. People are very polite and helpful when asking for directions on the street. It is a clean city compared to any other European capitals.

Working here adds the internationality to one’s CV. There are international organizations and companies that benefit from top trained and skilled people. Work culture is different than in Easter Europe. People are more relaxed, are not measured by the number of extra hours they work, competition is not always that fierce as in Eastern Europe. The Austrian economy does no longer need to overcome lack or underdevelopment; it had already reached its peak and enjoyed stability for a long time. Therefore, there is a general attitude of “things will work out in the end” that may come from a past in which people had in general all that they needed. In Eastern Europe people are still very worried about their lives and jobs, which is less the case in Vienna. Not hit by recession as hard as Eastern Europe, Austria benefits from an economic situation with less volatility and uncertainty.

What is THE thing about Vienna that captivates you the most?

One can visit Vienna in a couple of years from now and still find his /her ways. Whereas radical change is not really welcome, this makes the core of the city to stay same and gives it a special charm. It is a city that stops in time, still letting change (e.g. in architecture) happen. It is impressive how buildings facades are kept clean and maintained from year to year. So what really captivates me is the mixture of change whereas the core stays same.

If someone asked you what I should NOT miss while in Vienna what would reply? (food, experience, scenery, music…)

Vienna is the place to be for all types of experiences, from culture to food and sports. In terms of culture there’s the State Opera for classically staged operas, the Theater an der Wien for modernly staged baroque opera. There are a number of museums that are worth visiting and still not that well marketed like the Bezirksmuseen.

Thanks to the diverse landscape and the fact that Viennese people are interested in keeping in shape, the sport lover has lots of options: row in one of the rowing clubs at Alte Donau, run in the Prater, wakeboard on the Neue Donau, play beachvolley and swim in the Danube, bike and mountain bike on one of the Viennese “mountains” that are only 300 meters high . In spite of the lack of a proper sea, Vienna is the place to be, the Danube and the Danube Island compensate this.

What do you do in Vienna when you feel like you just want to chill out?

In summer the city can be best viewed from one of the heuriger on the Kahlenberg. The heuriger are places where one can simply take the refuge into the almost peasant life, where life seems to take place as it is supposed to be. These places are idyllic, picturesque and make one feel good. In the city, I especially like the coffee houses with live piano music like Diglas. There is a special “homelike” atmosphere that one gets to taste together with a good coffee.

Anything truly memorable that has happened to you since you have lived in Vienna?

I found it really flattering that once in the Burggarten, amidst wonderful roses, a couple of American tourists asked me to sing for them. I wondered why and they told me that they saw me on stage last night. I realized that they mistook me for Anna Netrebko. This could not have happened anywhere else but in Vienna, I think.

What really annoys you about Vienna – or maybe nothing does?

This might sound funny, but around the Stephansdom the “perfume” of the horse carriages is something that can be appalling to tourist. For a country with a great waste management programs, neutralizing the smell from the horse pee in the city center could be something to be improved. With this one exception, there is something about this city that never makes you want to leave. The city has a certain retaining energy, once you come to leave here, you stay.

Do you have a favorite Vienna restaurants/areas/places and why? What do you think about the typical Austrian/Viennese food and cuisine in general…what stands out for you?

In terms of food and drinks one should not miss the “Stelze” in the Schweitzerhaus in Prater, the “Tafelspitz” in Plachutta, the Eismarillenknödel in Tichy in summer and of course the coffee in any Viennese coffeehouse (e.g. Hawelka).

Do you miss something from Romania in particular? And is there something you really would like people to know about Romania/Romanian people and culture?

I miss most my family and friends. I miss the Romanian spirit of making jokes even in the hardest situations. The Viennese mood is different, a bit black and with a morbid tendency. In Romania, no matter how dramatic things are, one’s outlook on life is that he/she can find the way out. I miss the Romanian humor and creativity, optimism beyond anything. The Viennese humor is more cynical and closer to the British one. There are however lots of other Romanians in living and working in Vienna, we have restaurants, churches and other places of encounter, so this makes me miss my country less.

What do you think about the cost of living in other countries vs Vienna– and the standard of life and life style?

The living standard in Vienna is still very high, whereas the cost of living tends to increase each year due to real estate prices. The quality of service and the diversity of activities that one can embrace make Vienna a really great place to be.

What do you think about the cost of living in other countries vs Vienna– and the standard of life and life style?

At times I miss a special progressive spirit e.g. in modern art exhibitions and clothing style. While Austrians in general admire Italians, they also reckon that in fashion, whatever is new in Milano this year arrives in Vienna three years later. At least some Austrians told me so.
I miss therefore the quest of excellence and progressiveness, the spirit of grandeur of other European capitals.

Curious what is the biggest misconception/s you think people have about Vienna (or Austria/Austrians generally vs. Bucharest/Romania/Romanian people?)

Many foreigners – especially with little education level – come to Vienna without a working knowledge of German, thinking that they can get a job without working level of German. Knowing German and understanding Austrian culture play however a very important role in getting a job.

Anything else you feel you’d like to share with us about Vienna or yourself?

Vienna could be described as a very well kept beautiful lady, once a beauty queen, and now quieter, balanced, but still young at heart. It is a city one can learn from, to grow and develop oneself in beauty

Connect with Oana
LinkedIn: Oana Vasilescu

New York – Oct 31 2013

Social Life Halloween Party

9th Annual Halloween Party
Costumes Recommended
Presented by Social Life Magazine
Thursday, October 31 | 8pm to 1am
Private Loft – 267 Fifth Ave, 11th Flr, Manhattan

Purchase Tickets Here:

The Social Life Halloween Party…
Spend a night to remember at The Social Life Loft… an unforgettable evening! Bespoke lighting, sounds by DJ Lee Kalt, with cocktails & passed hors oeuvres by Elegant Affairs. Enjoy 180 degree views of Manhattan and the Empire State Building. This annual event sells out quickly, so be sure to reserve your spot.
Please Advise: VIP Tickets are Limited. The Social Life Halloween Party … Join us!

Los Angeles – Sara Sulander, Actress & Singer from Finland in Los Angeles

Who Is Sara Sulander – and what does Sara do/where?

I am Sara Sulander, and I’m a 23 year old actress and singer originally from Finland, travelled to a lot of places, even lived in Australia for a while, and now for the last 3 years settled down in Los Angeles, California, to pursue my dream full time. I have done singing and acting in all my 3 “home countries”, but now in L.A. I have found an additional passion; stage managing and producing.

At what age did you know that you wanted to be an actor/singer ?

I don’t remember my exact age, perhaps 5, 6 years old, but I remember the exact moment and the exact feeling. I was sitting on the floor of my grandparents’ living room, watching a movie, not really understanding what was going on in the movie. But I was admiring the work of the actors, and all of a sudden I was filled with this feeling of passion and eager and excitement, and from that moment I KNEW that I am going to be an actress.
With singing it was a little bit different, I’ve always had the passion for singing, but when I was younger, I couldn’t sing very well. I kept practicing by myself, until I was 10 years old I joined a choir and at 14 years of age I started taking private singing lessons. I have worked hard and trained a lot to develop my voice from basically nothing, to what it is now.

What has been the most exciting “thing” or role that you’ve covered during your career or should we say careers? I think you do some other stuff as well??

This is a hard one, there’s too many. But if I have to choose one, it must be when I was under 10 years old and I was acting in a scene with two boys and the performance day arrived, but the boys didn’t. I had to improvise the entire scene – talking to a doll. It was an extremely exciting moment, and at a really young age and early in my acting career, my acting and improvisational skills were put on blast.

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

What I’m most proud of is the fact that against all odds, against some of my friends’ and family’s opinions, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my career in singing and acting.

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

I have three big ones for you Kaisa; 1. actors are stupid and bimbos 2. singing and acting is just play time and not hard work and 3. it is not a real job. First of all, what is a “real job” anyway? And if you want to be as great and successful actress and singer as possible, it is very hard work, physically and mentally, and you need to be extremely intelligent – both book smart and life smart.

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

In my head I have been an actor and singer my entire life, so there is no “previous life”. At this point in my career I enjoy pretty much all aspects of being and actor and singer. Irregular schedule, working with so many different people so intensively, all the things I need to learn for my roles and performances, need to be in physical and mental well being, everyday is so different, performing in front of a live audience or a camera, and most of all I get to do what I love everyday. The worst about this career choice is that there is no one path on how to approach it. Say if you are a doctor, you go through medical school, get an internship, become a resident, attending and then you’re a doctor. There is no such path for this business.

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 Australian experiences too.

I honestly don’t think I have enough experience or recent experience in acting in Finland and Australia to answer this question.

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

Intelligent, confident, strong, humble, determined, independent but able to work well with others, a person who can transform him/herself to many different characters and styles, a person who can differentiate who wants to help you/work with you and who wants to use you for something and very importantly a person who is truly passionate about this field.

Are there any roles that you would hate to cover?

I wouldn’t be too thrilled to play the blonde “dumb” role, because I don’t want there to be a risk that I’ll get marked as the dumb blonde girl. I want to be recognized mostly for my intelligence, secondarily for my blonde hair and my looks.

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

Academically speaking a piece of advice that I wish someone would have told me a long time ago, keep records of everything you’ve done, make sure you get copies of all contracts and waivers you sign, copies of all articles, reviews, interviews anything written or recorded of you. All of this is very useful when applying for visas or green card. Practically speaking, find good people around you to support you and cheer you on, because there are times when you need that. Keep yourself in physical good health and mental good health. You need to have very good people skills; you need to know who is a fraud, and who is real. Most importantly be sure that this is what you want to do in life, and just go for it. As I said before, there is no one right way to do it, every individual approaching this career need to find their own way.

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

In the world of performers, there are a lot of things and people about it that captivates me, but if I need to choose one person I think it would be Beyonce. I admire her voice, looks, style, music, music videos, performances and the fact that she’s not on the cover of every magazine all the time with ridiculous drama and gossip about her personal life.

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…

My Grandma, is what I miss the most! And Finnish chocolate, ‘Fazerin Sininen’, rye bread, ‘Ruispuikulat’, and Finnish cheese, ‘Oltermanni.’
The Finnish community is pretty great here in Los Angeles. When I moved here I was obnoxiously thinking that I’m the only Finnish person here, and about a year later I met the first fellow Finnish actress and she got hooked me up to the “Creative Finns in Los Angeles” group on Facebook and then I became familiar with the semi large Finnish community in L.A. Everyone is extremely helpful towards each other and try to share their own knowledge so other people can take use of it – great teamwork.
About returning to Finland, I used to have a definite answer – NO. Now I feel like Los Angeles is the place to be, and I’ve settle here very well, and I feel like I will stay here for ever, but who knows?

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

It’s hard to compare, because there isn’t one Finnish or one American culture/people. Both countries have variety and both positive and negatives aspects to them. Right now Los Angeles culture and people feels more suitable for me.

Is there anything we need to know about you??

Yes, I will be publishing my cover songs as soon as I get a big enough selection, on both YouTube and Facebook. I will be connecting my YouTube and Facebook accounts with my ImDb and my website, so just keep an eye on my name, Sara Sulander, and soon projects will be coming up.

Connect with Sara Sulander:
EuroCircle: Sara Sulander profile

Houston – October 30 2013

EuroCircle Houston is now two years old. Come celebrate it Halloween style!

It’s been two wonderful years of getting to meet amazing friends from all over the glob. So let’s blow those candles together at The Bird & The Bear Bistro! Cake is on us.:)

The Bird & The Bear will provide some complementary appetizers to EC members plus extended happy hours!

In the mood for Halloween? Make sure to wear your favorite costume. It is not required, but it will make it for a fun evening.

When: Wednesday, October 30
Time: 6:00 p.m – 10:00pm
Where: The Bird and the Bear Bistro
2810 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77098

See you soon

Your EC Hosts: Shahla, Mary Beth, Juliana and Venere

PS. EuroCircle’s first event took place on Monday Jan 11 1999 so if you count the organization itself will be 15 years old in January!

Philadelphia – Lotta Nordin from Sweden, SACC & The American Swedish Historical Museum

I wanted to feature Lotta Nordin from Sweden (pictured above all the way on the right) – being from Finland myself makes me feel closer to my country to interview people from Scandinavia/Baltic countries. By the way, the members in Philadelphia should suggest EuroCircle who should be interviewed or let us know if we can interview you. All different countries in Europe is a lot of diversity.

Could you tell us about yourself ? (who are you, where are you from, what did you study, all the usual stuff that one wants to know to get a little elevator speech about you)

My name is Lotta Nordin. I was born in Stockholm, Sweden and grew up with my parents and two siblings in a suburb just outside the city. After high school I worked for six years, first as a lighting planner and then as a project manager for establishing new stores at a Swedish retail chain. I also lived for a few months in Winchester, England, as an Au Pair and that’s when I got hooked on living abroad. When I came back to Sweden I started studying Marketing, PR, Communications and Graphic Design at Linköping University, a couple of hours south of Stockholm. My last year, which was 2011/2012, I did a study abroad exchange in Singapore which was one of the most enriching experiences of my life.
Then back to Sweden again last summer, but I only lasted 6 months before I felt the need to move abroad again. That’s when I found a trainee position within Marketing at the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce as well as one at the American Swedish Historical Museum in Philadelphia. I applied, got them both, and worked out a deal where I could split my time between the two. This was in December 2012, since June this year however, I have been full time at the museum as a Marketing Assistant.

What is your typical day like in Philadelphia? Work and personal…

I live in City Center South and usually ride my bike down to South Philly and the FDR Park (close to the sport arenas) where the American Swedish Historical Museum is located. The days at the museum varies a lot, since we are only 6 full-time employees you really have to be able to wear many different hats. But that is part of the charm. My job scope includes everything from PR, graphic design, social media, web, photography, event planning, translating and fundraising to help out making waffles for the Swedish Waffle Day event. Some days it can be anything really. The museum does a lot of events based on Swedish traditions and holidays like a Midsummer fest, a Meatball contest, a Swedish Christmas dinner, and a really wonderful Lucia Fest and Christmas Market that will take place on December 7 this year.

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

It was a relatively big contrast moving here from Stockholm, Philadelphia is a bit rougher. My first day for example, I got pick pocketed in the subway, which has never happened to me before even though I have traveled quite a lot to various countries. It was annoying of course, but especially since my phone for some reason didn’t work in the US at the time either. So at that moment, in a new city without cash, credit cards or a phone I felt pretty vulnerable – but it didn’t take long to solve. Other than that it has just been small things like to figure out how an American vacuum cleaner works, that the bus stops don’t have schedules on them, and that I have to tip more frequently here than in Sweden. But I actually haven’t encountered that many challenges, most things tend to work themselves out pretty easily, especially if you aren’t afraid to ask when you don’t know.

Has your experience in Philadelphia been vastly different from what you expected compared to for example life in Sweden or other countries you have lived in?

Naturally, there are some differences. Sweden is a socialist country (at least comparing to the US) with free health care, schools, universities, and a much bigger social security net. And I knew this before of course, but living here I have realized how much I take for granted in Sweden and how tough it can be here if you are poor.

Did you experience ‘culture shock’ in USA. How different is it from Sweden or other countries you have lived in?

I wouldn’t call it a chock but I remember how I got a bit annoyed by the greetings here at first. Swedes are more reserved than Americans and we don’t tend to ask strangers how they are (or start conversations with them). In Sweden we usually just ask how someone is doing if we really want an answer. So to me it came off as a bit shallow and confusing at first, and I never knew what to reply but now I really like it.

The work place in Sweden is more relaxed in general, in that it has less hierarchy, more decisions are made in consensus, and if there is something you don’t like or agree with your boss on you can say so in a very direct way. I am still operating pretty much the same way here, but I think I have learned to be a bit more… gentle in how I say things perhaps. And to pick my fights.

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

Living abroad in several different countries has definitely influenced my personal life in that I have a deeper understanding for different cultures and why people behave a certain way. I am convinced that if people lived abroad, or at least traveled more, the world would be a happier and more forgiving place.

But being an expat has also changed me in that I am finding it harder and harder to see myself living in Sweden for the rest of my life. First of all because living abroad is making my everyday life so much more interesting, even though I have been here for almost a year, most things are still exotic to me (at least more so than they are in Sweden). But it has also opened my eyes for the fact that some things are better abroad than in Sweden, and for every time I come home now those differences are clearer.

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

I actually met the King and Queen of Sweden, Mayor Michael A. Nutter, and the Swedish Ambassador Jonas Hafström, when they visited the museum in May this year to celebrate the 375th Anniversary of the New Sweden Colony. (The Swedish Colony used to be in this area from 1638 to 1655, even before William Penn). It is pretty peculiar that I had to go to Philadelphia to meet the Swedish King and Queen for the first time, but it was a fun experience. The day after I also got a chance to work with PR for the Royal Dinner in Wilmington, where not only the King and Queen of Sweden attended but also their daughter, Princess Madeleine of Sweden as well as the US Vice President, Joe Biden. To learn from how talented PR professionals handled the event with over 700 guests and both local and Swedish press, was definitely a great experience for me.

I also very much enjoyed going out to the Amish County around Lancaster, and to meet native Americans at a Pow-Wow we had at the Museum a while ago.

What’s the best food discovery in the USA you’ve made as an expat? The worst?

There are some really good restaurants in Philly, especially the Mexican food. The worst I guess is that it is so easy and cheap to get hold of junk food here, whilst I sometimes have to go out of my way to get fresh and healthy food. And I know I probably shouldn’t say this, but the cheesesteaks are not much of a favorite.

What do you miss from Sweden or Singapore? Is there any place here you consider really SWEDISH in some way in Philly.

From Sweden I miss my family and friends of course, and the summers, which can be really amazing; a nice temperature, no humidity, and the sun is up almost 24 hours. I also miss having the ocean really close. From Singapore I miss these so called hawkers, or food courts, that you could find everywhere with really cheap and good food – we never had to cook ourselves living there. The tropical climate was nice as well, even though the humidity was really annoying at times. Singapore is also extremely safe and I remember how we could leave computers and sometimes even wallets in the library, go away for an hour or two and when we got back everything was still there. Singapore is also a good travel hub, it’s so easy to get anywhere in Asia from there and I had the opportunity to visit a lot of the surrounding countries. Good public transportation and cleanliness are something I miss from both Stockholm and Singapore.

Since Swedes were the first Europeans to have a permanent settlement in this area (the New Sweden Colony), there are actually more Swedish related places here than you might think. Apart from the American Swedish Historical Museum, there is the Old Swedes’ Church (Gloria Dei) on Columbus Blvd/Christian Street, Queen Village that is actually named after Queen Kristina of Sweden, and the Philadelphia flag of course – that got its colors from the Swedish flag. Then, if I get really homesick, there is always IKEA.

What’s the best thing and worst thing that has happened to you as an expat?

The best thing is that the whole experience has changed me as a person, my values, the way I look at the world, but I also feel more confident about what I can accomplish and that living abroad isn’t that hard. And of course – all the friends I have made.

What do you like more in this country than in your own country? Or less…WHY???

I like that there are much more going on here, lots of events and things to do, stores and restaurants have longer opening hours and Americans are more outgoing. People are also allowed to be more different here than at home, which is a good thing, Swedes can be really mainstream. Philly is also much cheaper than Sweden, and it’s a hundred times easier to find a place to rent than in Stockholm. And the climate is better – it’s always sunny, right? Sweden however is more progressive and liberal in many ways, especially when it comes to gender equality and sustainability. The food, in general, is also healthier in Sweden.

Where do you see yourself in the future? WHY?

I will stay in Philadelphia until June 2014, after that I will try to find a job in Stockholm. As much as I love to live abroad I do want to try to settle down where I have my family and closest friends so I will give it my best shot. I will probably look for a job within Marketing/PR for an international company or organization, where I hopefully could travel or live abroad for shorter projects. But I could also see myself move abroad again, perhaps to London or Amsterdam – cities I really like but that are relatively close to Stockholm.

Tell us about the international group/s you are involved with in Philly.

I am involved with the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce where I am still active as a board member; SWEA, which is an organization for Swedish women abroad – and of course in the American Swedish Historical Museum, stop by and say hi! And of course EuroCircle and another international group.

Connect with Lotta
LinkedIn: Lotta Nordin
EuroCircle: Lotta Nordin

Austin – Scandinavian Design by Finn Sigurdsson Under the Hot Texas Sun

Finn Sigurdsson is from Iceland, although folks often mistakenly think he’s from Finland – so did I. “Finn” from Finland does have a cool ring to it but his Americanized nickname is actually doing everyone a HUGE favor. Have you tried pronouncing the mouthful that is his full name (Sigfinnur Fannar Sigurðsson)? The only time I visited Iceland, I had a kick thinking why do people think Finnish is harder than Icelandic. Talk about a difficult language!

Finn and his lovely American wife Taryn run isARK Studio, a design-build firm, specializing in residential design and managing the build through the final phase of construction. Taryn says that “Design-Build allows [them] to help make great design more achievable while making sure every detail is accounted for.”

Taryn told us she started her career originally as a Set and Prop designer and Producer in film and commercials ,which is a very good background for working with an architect husband. Two of Taryn’s films have been at SXSW and one on PBS, Independent Lens. I can see how she takes pride in making beautiful concepts to come to life. As anyone who has ever done renovations or built a home – you need to understand the logistics but also design with aesthetics in mind. She is a rare exception who is able to marry those two ingredients well – art and logistics.

Finn and Taryn both feel that at the core Austin and Iceland have similar cultural climates even if have very different summer temperatures. Because of this environment his Scandinavian influenced design has been well received in Austin.

As and architect and builder, Finn thought that moving to the states would be more difficult to bring his European training into acceptance. “Growing up in Iceland it’s tough not to have an affinity for nature. Our energy is all water and geothermal powered and our drinking water comes from the glacial springs. It’s easy to see this as a beautiful fantasy especially when green building has developed a lot of hype. However, Austin actually cares about smart design and green building just happens to be a very important part of that. “Being German trained in Architecture, efficiency is always a focus of isARK Studio.” Finn and Taryn are glad to work in a city that shares this same mentality. Finn made the move to Austin 7 years ago and despite the brutal summers he’s glad he’s here. Austin’s current growth and economic boom is a factor that makes designing and building here so exciting. Having visited Iceland I can easily understand why Finn finds green building and efficient building so important. Finn also has a background in construction growing up. Personally I think that his background working also in construction makes him a better architect for anyone who wants a home that is constructed well from every perspective.

If you do not know Iceland – it is a very small country. Finn is a rare breed. The population is 319,000 (Jan 2011). An estimated 8% (25.500) of the population is of foreign-born nationality. Area wise its bigger than Hungary and Portugal and a little bit smaller than Cuba. The longest day in the year has about 21hours of daylight. Thw shortest day of the year has about 6 hours of daylight. The weather in Reykjavik is temperate and mild year round- New York City actually is colder in the winter!

A few current projects that Finn is injecting his Scandinavian flair into include a duplex with amazing downtown views (recently completed), a 1200 sq ft Lakway addition with amazing view of Lake Austin (recently completed), a 1964 Mid-Century Modern Ranch that they are updating and revitalizing. isARK Studio is also working on an extensive modern addition and remodel out in Lakeway, with amazing views of Lake Austin (or what remains in this dry Texas heat).

Finn has recently completed a duplex with downtown views and a 1200 sq ft Lakeway addition and remodel overlooking Lake Austin. He is currently injecting his Scandinavian flair into a old 1908 FarmHouse in Buda and two charming Mid-Century Modern Ranches.

Austin is a great city and keeps them busy but there are a few things that Finn and Taryn miss from Iceland. Dried fish, smoked lamb (just don’t ask what it’s smoked with) and mentholated licorice are a few. These familiar treats in the form of care packages help Finn make it through the brutal summers. Although, it’s been said that if you’re knocking on his door in the summer time give him an extra moment to answer, unless you’re ok with a scantily clad Icelander coming to greet you. Does anyone actually get used to the summer heat in Austin?

Follow along with what isARK Studio is up to:



Barcelona – Cristina Slattery, Barcelona vs. New York

I wanted to feature another lovely member from EuroCircle Barcelona. She is from the USA originally – and learned Spanish while living in Barcelona.

Cristina, can you briefly introduce yourself please (name, country, where do you live, what you do/have done/studied)? ?

My name is Cristina Slattery and I am American. I having been living in Barcelona for the past five years. I have taught English and worked at a publishing start-up while I have lived in Spain. (I have also studied Spanish.)

Why did you move to Barcelona – any other foreign cities you have lived? I think I heard you speak fluent French in addition to Spanish…

I moved to Barcelona in 2007 for a relationship and to experience a new city. Although I am no longer in that relationship, I stayed in Barcelona and I have enjoyed the experience of living and working in the city. (I do speak French; however, I have never lived in France – I learned French in high school and I have distant relatives in France that I have spent time with while on vacation.)

What do you enjoy most about Barcelona, now when you have more experience, how’s the quality of life compared to the USA given the economy in Spain?

I am actually considering moving back to the U.S., so I hope I don’t negatively influence any readers! The quality of life in Barcelona is great because people do take their vacations seriously. In the U.S., I am familiar with several ways of life – as a student, as a corporate worker, and as a teacher. My “lifestyle” differed in these periods of my life and I think that the times one struggles really make one appreciate the moments when this is not part of life. Finally, the economic recession in the U.S. cannot be compared to the one in Spain as there are jobs for educated and talented young people and in Spain there is a sense of loss of a generation that does not exist in the U.S.

Usually there are some negatives, what are the ones for Barcelona that really stand out for you personally? What do you miss most about home?

When I moved to Barcelona I only knew one other person, so the sense of being a foreigner was very strong, but exciting as well. I enjoyed learning the language and getting to understand the culture – a new world opened up. As far as what I missed from home, my family members and knowledge of “how things worked” were probably what I missed the most.

Did you feel Barcelona is a good place for you as an entrepreneur/freelancer right now? Are there any areas expats like you might like in Spain better than in the USA in your opinion (entrepreneurs? Freelancers?) WHY?

I think Barcelona is a very difficult place for an entrepreneur and for a freelancer. I am sure some people are doing well in the current environment; however, I don’t think that most people are doing as well as they might like in terms of their financial goals.

What are the best places/suburbs to live in Barcelona in your opinion?

I think it depends on whether or not you have a family and what you like best in terms of your environment. I have lived in the center of the city – the Eixample – and I really enjoyed it and I have also lived a little bit further from the center and found it to be great as well since there is more of a neighborhood feeling in the areas that surround the center of the city. I also think that towns such as Sitges, Vilanova i Geltru and Sant Cugat would be great places to live, especially for families. (By the way, here is an article I wrote about Barcelona’s neighborhoods for Singapore Airlines. See:

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

I am writing you from the U.S., actually! I have not been going out that much either in Barcelona or New York; however, I plan to do more of that in the future. As for hobbies, I love reading and running, racquet sports and I like to try to ski at least once during the winter, if possible.

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

Gas (Petrol) is more expensive in Spain. Wine is cheaper. Sometimes cultural events are less expensive in Europe, which I like.

What are the locals like compared to for example people on the East Coast – do you notice any difference?

The locals are very different than people from the East Coast of the U.S. People in shops tend to talk to customers more and might say things that seem overly familiar to some Americans. (One example is a shopkeeper telling me I had lost weight – this kind of comment, even if it is positive, isn’t usually something that people who work in stores in the U.S. will say to their customers unless they know them very well.) In a sense, the interactions are warmer and there are fewer barriers although I think social barriers still exist in Barcelona!

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

I think it has been relatively easy to meet expats although meeting local residents can be a bit trickier. I have taught private English classes for some families and, in this way, I have gotten to know people who have lived in Barcelona for generations.

What’s the economic climate like in Barcelona/Spain, how would you compare it to the USA? Why?

I think that the U.S. has a lot of problems, but Spain seems to have even more economic problems. I don’t sense that these macro-level problems will be resolved anytime soon – in either case! However, this doesn’t mean that individuals and certain businesses cannot thrive. Companies need to find new markets outside of Spain.

How does the work culture differ from USA? (health care, clothing, customs, women, manners, food, alcohol, hygiene etc) Why?

I don’t think there is too much of a difference in terms of hygiene other than that medicine is less expensive at the pharmacies. In terms of clothing, Barcelona is more relaxed than New York; however, this is just a comparison of two cities.

Did you have any misconceptions about Barcelona 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 always compare cities to New York, so the fact that Barcelona is very different from New York was at the forefront of my mind. (I enjoy the differences!) Also, I noticed that residents of the city can be almost haughty in terms of how much they love it – New Yorkers are the same way! This pride is a positive attribute as it means that despite the fact that Spain is going through a serious economic crisis, the residents of the city will continue to work creatively to solve problems.

What are your favorite restaurants/bars/food in Barcelona (WHY) – and socially/workwise – what kind of networks do you attend to connect with people for business/personal life?

I have been very lucky in that I have gone to some great restaurants in Barcelona. I love the restaurants of the Tragaluz Group and I have really enjoyed Carles Abellan’s restaurants. I also like to have a coffee and a sandwich with cheese at a local bar. Finally, I have attended Eurocircle events and I have also gone to some other networking groups such as the American Society of Barcelona’s cocktail parties.

Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals at Barcelona?

I think that each person has their own period of integration into the society. As I didn’t speak Spanish when I moved to Barcelona, it took me longer to integrate. I still feel like I am a bit of an “outsider” although one of the great aspects of the city is that it absorbs outsiders!

Connect with Cristina
LinkedIn: Cristina Slattery

New York – Oct 16 2013

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

Join Pasquale Maio (New York Italians), Brian Weadick, Niina, Kristina Ann & Harriet from Arctic Circle Finns of NY and EuroCircle team for our European Fall Rooftop Party at New Hotspot Monarch Rooftop and Lounge.

Your Hosts:
Pasquale Maio and New York Italians – New York Italians is a 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.

Brian Weadick, Ireland
Hariett Kulmala, Nina Kulmala, Kristina Ann and Arctic Circle Finns of NY – The group’s goal is to bring together the various Finnish groups, organizations and people that reside in NY with similar interests.

Drink specials available throughout the night and food available for purchase

Alexandra and the EuroCircle NY Team

About Monarch

The Scandinavian-chic décor, designed by Natalia Todorova of Gwathmey, Seigal, Kaufman Architects, features an indoor lounge that radiates glamor and allures with seductive appeal, seamlessly connecting to the exterior oasis with sliding floor to ceiling glass doors. Vintage bricks, white painted hand washed wood panels on the walls, teak and grey custom Terrazzo tiles, and raw iron columns evoke a feeling of a Scandinavian summer home with accents of Manhattan elegance. Black pendants designed by Tom Dixon cast gold shadows on the natural tree form bar counter top and glass lighting fixtures project down to reflect on the modern wood walls. The modern, yet unimposing deep seated upholstered sofas invite guests to relax and bask in the views of Midtown Manhattan, with floor to ceiling silk curtains that frame the picturesque view of the iconic Empire State Building.

New york – Moza Cakrani Frankfurt, a flutist and banker from Albania

I wanted to feature another lovely member from the early years of EuroCircle. Mimoza entertained us so many times – I have such beautiful memories of her performances. When she found met her now-husband – I was probably happier than she was. My ever-romantic soul was soaring for her.

Could you tell us about yourself ?

My name is Mimoza Cakrani Frankfurt. I come from a beautiful Mediterranean country called, Albania. I have studied music professionally since I was 10 yrs old – specialized in flute and completed my BA in Fine Arts Academy of Tirana, Albania. I taught flute and also played in the orchestra and as a soloist. I moved to NYC in the late ‘90s and my whole life entered a new chapter!

What is your typical day like in New York? Work and personal…

A typical day for me starts by reading the NYTimes, getting ready for work and having a smoothie and coffee. A work day can never be predictable, so I enjoy the pace and the challenges that come with it. On a personal level, together with my husband, we try to enjoy the diversity of cultural life in NYC: Broadway shows, Philharmonic concerts, sport events, dining out and movies. We like taking long walks in Central Parks and also volunteering with some charity organizations.

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

The biggest challenge was the career change from Music to Banking. Working in an industry that I didn’t have any knowledge was like learning a new instrument. I was grateful for the opportunity, and at the same time, I was eager to learn new skills and make myself more educated in the field. I went for my Masters in Banking and that was quite challenging for me, since I was working full time and going to school at the same time.

Has your experience in NYC has been vastly different from what you expected compared to for example life in Europe?

Very different in so many ways…

Did you experience ‘culture shock’ in the US. How different is it from Albania or other countries you have lived in?

SI don’t think I experienced “cultural shock” rather than calling it an adjustment. Because of my extensive travels and visiting the US prior to my permanent stay here, I had to settle and adjust like any other immigrant. I was lucky to have many good friends in my early years here, who made the adjustment smoother. Assimilating in a new culture takes time and effort, so as I look back I am content that this transition has evolved naturally, without pushing or forcing myself to be someone else.

What’s the best food/music/other discovery in NYC you’ve made as an expat – or the worst?

I have tried many different cuisines in NYC and I have had great experiences. Some of my favorites are: Gotham Grill, Le Cirque, Atlantic Grill, Metropolitan Room, One if by Land Two if by Sea, Café Fiorello. Visiting Fire Island in the summer,is something I enjoy with my family as a nice place to escape from the city.

What do you miss from Albania? Is there any place here you consider really Albanian in some way in NYC.

I truly miss my beautiful city Vlore with the spectacular beaches and mountains, the great seafood, and nice weather. Vlore is one of the largest towns and the second largest port in Albania. I am proud to say, it’s the city where the Albanian Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in November 28, 1912 and my great grandfather was one of the signors of it. It’s well known for the tourism, fishing, agriculture, olives, olive oil, and citrus trees. I miss my family, relatives and friends that live there.There are big Albanian communities in Bronx, Astoria and Brooklyn which reminds that I am somewhere in Albania, hearing all the Albanian accents.

What do you like more in this country than in your own country? Or less…WHY???

The spirit of giving, philanthropy. Americans are big givers and support their causes they believe in, more than any other countries. Last year, when we had Hurricane Sandy in NY, I was volunteering in one of the shelters. It was overwhelming and touching to see, thousands of people called to donate, money, food and clothes, and also volunteer their time. Also, the awareness and positive attitude that nothing is impossible if you really work hard and want it!

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

I enjoy the beauty and peacefulness walking along the East River, being close to Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the quietness of the neighborhood, and the many small ethnic restaurants. If I had to live in another city, I would choose San Francisco for the cost of living, quality of life, diversity of culture, and the great food.

Music is important to you. Do you still perform?

Music is food for my soul! I would like to perform as much as I used to do. I am planning to have a concert soon. Playing the flute even for myself or family and friends, is such a wonderful and happy feeling.

Do you recall when did you first get involved with EuroCircle? I have such wonderful memories of you plating flute at the Finnish UN Ambassador’s residence and some of our other events.

I have been involved with EuroCircle as a member, since 1999. I started playing the flute in various events that you and EuroCirle team arranged so beautifully. I have wonderful memories from all the events I have performed, but the most memorable are the one that you are mentioning above and also the Holiday gala event at the UN. The acknowledgement and appreciation you get as a musician when you perform is indescribable! I also take this opportunity to thank you personally for giving me the chance to perform at so many memorable EuroCircle events and for your support! EuroCircle organization has played a big role in every expats life, professionally and personally. It makes you feel welcome and at home.

Connect with Moza Cakrani Frankfurt

LinkedIn: Mimoza Frankfurt
EuroCircle: Moza Cakrani