San Francisco – Hanna Sophie Simmons and, German PhD

Hanna told me what she was researching and I wanted to help her to get the word out for her PhD – the topic is close to many of our members. Her research project on the relationship between expatriation and career success!! Does it help or hurt your career to expatriate… by the way, click on the photo above and you see her face…

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

My name is Hanna Sophie Simmons and I was born and raised in Germany. My parents are avid travelers and took my 3 siblings and I all over the world from a very young age. This instilled in us an open-mindedness to other cultures and customs, which I am very grateful for. We simply aren’t afraid of new adventures and the experience of new places. Between High School and College I travelled to Hawaii, where I bumped into a handsome American guy at a party. Little did I know we would shortly thereafter move to North Carolina together where I would finish up my Master’s degree in American Studies, Rhetoric and Newer German Literature which I had started in Tuebingen, Germany. From there I was off to Denver, where my husband completed his MBA. We then travelled back to Germany and moved to Munich for 5 years, where I started and finished my second Master’s degree in Psychology of Excellence in Business and Education at the University of Munich (LMU) and had my first daughter. We were off then to beautiful San Francisco where we had our second daughter and I started my PhD remotely for the University of Munich (LMU).

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

I firmly believe that I would not be the same person, had I not married a person from a different country, culture and mindset, and left Germany two years ago to start a different life with him and my little family. It is not easy starting over in a new country with a toddler and a baby bump, leaving behind people you love and who support you, building a new social network and at the same time trying to have a successful career of your own. I believe that the struggles we had to overcome as a family, the not-giving-up mentality we have formed, the understanding we had to learn for each other and the unconditional support we have built for each other has not only enriched my life, but has also had a positive effect on my work ethics. I used to think how much easier my life would be in Germany, where my mum would happily babysit the kids and I would have the safety of a more interactive and structured PhD program. Now, two years into it, I think about all the ideas I would not have had, all the moments I would not have shared, and all the independence and strong-willed-ness I would not have developed had I not stepped out of my safety-zone.

Tell us about your PhD research you are currently doing and why did you choose this topic? is a research project on the relationship between expatriation and career success. The question of whether spending time working abroad boosts or hinders your career has been with me long before I started my PhD, but regained prominence when picking a topic to investigate deeper. I have always had a passion for people, their ideas, motives and goals on the one hand, and for business on the other. So figuring out if and why people think working abroad is a good or bad idea with regards to their future career combined these two interests of mine and guaranteed an exciting research process. At the moment I am collecting data and invite everyone to visit . The best thing about my research is that I am examining the topic from various angles and thus EVERYONE can participate (no matter if you are currently on assignment, have returned from one or have never worked abroad at all). It is my goal to help better inform those who are debating whether or not to relocate for work, as well as their companies, with up-to-date and relevant data.

What is THE thing about San Francisco that captivates you the most vs. other places you have lived in?

Apart from its absolutely stunning scenery and incredible portfolio of activities, the Bay Area still surprises me sometimes with its liberal approach. Live and let live seems to be a mantra here with most people. The homeless lady living in front of our supermarket donates all the money she collects, and does not need to satisfy her most basic needs, to charity. She is valued as a part of our neighborhood. The playground communication is a mix of at least 5 languages. This year we celebrated Hanukah with our neighbors to then go and pick out Christmas ornaments together. Where I at her age asked for Pasta, my 3 year-old request Pad Thai, Sushi or Indian curries for dinner. I feel like we live in a place where we not only coexist with other cultures, but also truly live with them and I feel like it makes our kids smarter than we were at their age. How else do you explain that my 3 year-old already figured out that Santa is “only pretend” based on the fact that out of the three she met this year, one was Japanese, one was African-American and one had bright red hair?

What do you do in San Francisco when you feel like you just want to chill out that you cannot do in another city?

What many visitors don’t recognize about the bay area is how many Microclimates we live in and that each has its own special qualities. We receive daily and hourly variations of sunlight, fog, wind, rain, heat, cool, summer, winter, spring and fall. In England they say: “If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes!” Here they say: “If you don’t like the weather walk a few miles!” There is always a beach within reach to relax at, or a curbside cafe to catch up with friends at. The challenge is to find it.

What really annoys you about San Francisco?

Coming from a very safe environment (I didn’t even know what mugging was and thought shootings happened in movies until I was in my teens), I can’t stand that some areas here seem really safe, but then walk down a block or two and the street is closed due to a shooting. Thinking about my girls one day being out there at night by themselves scares me. The other thing that has repeatedly ticked me off is that with most blessings there seems to come a curse. The great Microclimates are due to the shifting of the tectonic plates, which also could evoke the next big earthquake. The fact that people are so open and communicative leads to random people giving you (sometimes unwanted) advice, like the lady handing out flyers to mother’s saying “Your baby wants to be held facing inward!”

What do you miss most from Germany? And what not, as we all have stuff we do not like about our country?

I miss my family and my friends. I miss the love and support I could receive from them directly, as compared to over the phone. I miss being there for them in critical situations and sharing the happy moments in life with them. I miss their influence in my children’s lives, their hugs, their kisses, and their simply being there.

With regards to food, there is really not much that I miss, as we have an amazing supermarket, Trader Joes, just around the corner (which is Aldi North) and therefore get many of the German delicacies such as Rittersport Chocolates, Christstollen, Pfeffernuesse, or Spekulatius for almost the same price.

What I definitely don’t miss about Germany is the long, grey, muddy winter and unpredictable summer. I love sunshine and I love being outside. We would definitely not have bought our kids an outdoor playhouse for Christmas and told them we would assemble it before New Years if we still lived in Germany.

What do you think about the cost of living in San Francisco?

When we first moved to America, I pictured us living in our own beautiful house, with luscious garden and big French doors overlooking the Bay. I was determined to send our daughters to the excellent German private school here, where you can even do your German Abitur. Reality check? We live in a two-bedroom apartment (It’s good the kids are close in age) and between daycare, health insurance, and the insane rent we pay, even families with two incomes struggle to make it work. Life is expensive here. Going an hour ice-skating last night ended up being 60$ (15$ for adults and 10$ for children (age didn’t matter) plus rental fees for the fun Seal you push around to not fall over. A 2-bedroom apartment in a decent area is never under $2500/month and there is no government support for parents (in Germany you receive monthly money for each kid you have plus a high percentage of your former income for at least one year if you stay home with a child). School doesn’t start until you are at least 5 years, but in contrast to Germany, preschool or kindergarten isn’t free…it is expensive. Oh, and don’t get me started on Healthcare!

What is the biggest difference between studying in America and Germany?

In Germany, studying at a University is (now again) free. You have to get accepted into the desired program, but after that all you have to worry about is finishing your class work and covering your living expenses. Once you have completed your degree, you are usually debt free (except of maybe a little debt to BARFOEG or relatives).
In America, going to college is one of the biggest expenses you will face in your life. An undergraduate degree from a public university easily costs you up to $20,000 per year (double or triple that for private schools), not including room and board. Thus, I feel like the critical time in life when you are trying to figure out what you want to do in your life and who you want to be (I took classes in subjects that now I have nothing to do with anymore at all), is in the U.S. dominated by having to be done fast (as to not spend more money), as well as having to start out your business life already many thousands of dollars in student-loan debt.

On the upside, during my time at Chapel-Hill, I really felt like the school was a service provider trying to make your life easier and your abilities shine. Where I had to write literally fifteen emails to professors in Germany to get a response or not, at Chapel Hill, professors could be called or emailed day and night with a guaranteed response within the next 24 hours (yes, also at Semester-breaks). There was an assigned staff-member for everything (e.g. housing questions, academic support questions, psychological questions: anxiety, depression, work-life balance), and an incredible array of extra-curricular activities.

If money wasn’t an issue – how would you live your life and where? What would you like to do for work if you could choose any job?

If money wasn’t an issue, I would do exactly what I am doing now: Being part of the most incredible family, raising two beautiful girls and trying to answer research questions that matter to me, trying to improve the life of others. I would live right here (though maybe in my own house with a second place in Munich for vacation…oh and a real garden).

Connect with Hanna Sophie Simmons:
At the moment Hanna needs our help to collect data and she invites everyone to visit

New York – Dec 31 2013

Join EuroCircle as we ring in 2014 in style at Celebrity Hotspot the Hurricane Club!

Attire: Dress to Impress!

Highlights include:

Premium Open Bar 9pm-2am
Live DJ performance
Live DJ 2014 NYE countdown
Midnight champagne toast
NYE party favors
Passed hors d’oeuvres. Menu to be announced shortly.

This is a ticketed event – you must buy a ticket to attend!

Featured Hosts: Alana George, USA
Alexandra Spirer, USA
Sherry Kumar, SERBIA
Keti Chitashvilli, GEORGIA

Hurricane Club is the creation of the masterminds behind Quality Meats. The venue itself is fun, flirty and oh so sexy (just like its clientele!). Feast your eyes on the luxe-Polynesian décor accented with dramatic 20 foot ceilings and a labyrinth of rooms each with its own ambiance, it’s like no other in the city. Hurricane Club sets the perfect backdrop for exotic escapades this New Year’s Eve. We’re taking it up a tiki notch!

We hope you join us in ringing in the New Year in style!

Alexandra and the EuroCircle NY Team

For any questions please email Alex at

Austin – December 27 2013

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

Happy Holidays dear members!

Drinks: 5 different Holiday specials (they also serve coffee)
BYO Food: Make your own Smores! Icenhaures will have a table set up close to the fire pit. Please feel free to bring any chocolate bars, biscuits and marshmallows (napkins, plastic wear, stick for marshmellows, plates) to cook! Or something easy to snack without cooking like chips etc POTLUCK SPIRIT (use EuroCircle RSVP page for comments)

Bring your Holiday spirits and let’s celebrate the end of 2013 together over nice treats, good company and an ocean of laughter!

Allison, Katerina & EuroCircle Team

Chicago – Dec 27 2013

Have you been naughty or nice this year? Hopefully a little bit of both!

Please join us for our final event of 2013 and enjoy a little break from the holiday craziness to meet up with old friends, make some new ones, and have some final fun before we all make our new year resolutions!

Featuring DJ’s John Curley and Henry Castro

Free admission until midnight with password “EuroCircle”!

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Maria & EuroCircle team

Austin – Jer Rem, Dutch with a British Employer in Austin, TX

EuroCircle will have its 15th Anniversary in Jan 2014 and celebrate it at the Netherland Club of New York City. To honor the Dutch we decided to interview other Dutch members in different cities. Jer actually attended the first EuroCircle Austin event in November 2010 @ The Austonian.

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

My name is Jer Rem, I’m originally from the Netherlands. I received my bachelor’s degree in Marketing there. During my education, I also spent a year studying and working in the UK. In 2001 I was relocated to Los Angeles for my work and in 2006 I moved to Austin, still working for the same employer, but now working remotely. In those 7 years I have lived in different parts of the city. Currently, I live in Round Rock with my fiancée Samara and our two dogs.

We know that your work is very important for you – could you tell us more about you work and what makes you “tick” workwise…

I work for BT (British Telecommunication) as an application manager. Due to the international environment of my employer, I deal with co-workers from all over the world. It is an interesting blend of technology and cultures.

What is THE thing/s about Austin captivates you the most? If someone asked you what they should NOT miss while in Austin, what would reply? And what I really SHOULD miss….

Things not to miss in Austin are South Congress, especially on a Sunday stroll, maybe for some brunch at Perla’s or South Congress Café and do some people watching. Going for a run or walk around Town Lake. Both Town Lake and Lake Travis are some nice places to cool off during the summer.
Having lived most of my life in Europe, I am not into American Football, just the real football. As a result, I am not much into the tailgating or watching the Football games.

What really annoys you about Austin – or maybe nothing does? Netherlands..same question?

What really annoys me about Austin? It has been mentioned before by others, the lack of public transportation. Another thing that annoys me sometimes is the overuse of “keep Austin weird”. I get it, but it doesn’t mean you have to show up in shorts and flip flops for a fancy dinner.

What do you miss most from The Netherlands or Europe…in addition to the family and friends? Food, culture, life style…

I do miss my family and friends, but through Eurocircle I have met some people that have become some of my best friends.
Of course you cannot beat the bbq from here, but I do miss the diversity of food in Austin. Luckily there are constantly new restaurants and food trailers opening here offering new types of food. What I do not miss from the Netherlands is the weather. Even with the heat in summer, it is still nice to be able to wake up in the morning with bright blue skies, plus you do not need to plan ahead about bringing an overcoat or umbrella.

Do you have a favorite Austin/area restaurant?

I think Justine’s and Estância Churrascaria would be my favorites. Both of them are just something different and are able to deliver some of their culture to the plate besides tasty food.

What do you think about the cost of living in the Netherlands vs Austin, TX – and the standard of life and life style?

In the US, it is generally cheaper to live than in the Netherlands. The price of real estate was one of the main reasons for me to move from Los Angeles to Austin. Besides real estate, the day to day items are in general are cheaper here as well. Take for example a gallon of gas. It is almost 3 times more expensive in the Netherlands. I have noticed that people tend to go out for food more often here, especially fast food. While in the Netherlands it is more common to eat at home, or at least that is what I recall from 12 years ago.

If you could change something about Austin – what would it be?

It would be nice to have more of a patio culture as you see in Europe. You see this happening on Rainey Street more and more but is of course limited due to the heat in summertime.

What are the biggest misconceptions (or perceptions that turned out to be correct) you had about Texas when you moved here– and vice versa you think many of us have about the Dutch/Amsterdam/food etc?

I guess the misconception that I had about Texas before I moved to the US, was that I thought it would be a flat desert like you see in western movies. Fortunately, the Hill Country proved me wrong.
I have met some people here(outside of the EuroCircle) that think when I say I am Dutch that I am from Denmark or that Copenhagen is the capitol of the Netherlands or Amsterdam is all about coffee shops and red-light district. Sure, just like all people over here wear cowboy boots and ride horses……..

If there are some things you think everyone should know about the Dutch people, country, food, culture, drinks, music – what are those things to you personally? I don’t even know how many Dutch people are here in Austin, do you??

To be honest, I have no statistics on how many Dutch people live here, but there are quite a few. After living here for 7 years I still run into new Dutch people. Obviously, you will have exchange students coming over here to UT and the tech industry here in Austin attracts them as well. A sure place to find Dutch people will be at Fado’s during the upcoming World Cup. There is a group on Facebook called “Austin Dutch Club” that started about year and a half ago and has about 70+ members.

Anything else you feel you’d like to share with us about Austin or yourself? Plan to stay here….

I would like to recommend everyone to come the monthly events, it is a nice informal way of meeting new people, plus having these events at different establishments provides you with an opportunity to see new places in Austin as well.

Connect with Jer Rem:
Jer at EuroCircle:
Jer at Facebook:
Jer at LinkedIn:

Fabrice Jaumont – A Pioneer in Access to Bilingual Education for Children

Meet Fabrice Jaumont, the Education Attache to the French Embassy, whose passion for education and relations between the US and France has won numerous achievements for his work! He also runs an online community call New York in French NewYorkinFrench.

Who am I?

A native of Valenciennes, France, I moved to the Big Apple in 2001 to become the French Embassy’s Education Attache in New York. My work at the Embassy has focused on fostering educational cooperation between France and the United States, campaigning for the study of the French language in the United States, and providing training and resources to school teachers. I have given talks and presentations on the French language, the French educational system, French culture and French-speaking communities in the United States and throughout the world. I also founded an online community which now boasts 10,000 members.

The Bilingual Revolution

Since 2007 I have helped parents and their children gain access to much needed French-English bilingual education, and together we created several bilingual programs in public schools. I have become an advocate for bilingual education and initiated the French bilingual revolution (a very positive and pacifist one I promise!). With a group of parents and dedicated teachers and school principals we started offering French-English bilingual programs in public schools, first in New York and now in several other cities. We have now graduated our first cohorts of fifth graders and are moving on to bilingual middle and high schools. This work was featured in countless media outlets, particularly for the work done with developing bilingual programs in schools throughout the United States, and in New York in particular. Here are a few examples: NY Times, Nouvel Obs, NY Daily News, Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, French-Morning, France-Amerique, VDN, etc.

I am trying to raise funds to support this movement. I am learning a lot about fundraising and crowd-funding. I have launched a campaign on Indiegogo as part of a larger fundraising strategy. Take a look at it and spread the word.

I want to bring the benefits of bilingual education to as many children as possible, including those in under-served areas in New York City. I believe that with more funds readily available I can open new programs in primary and secondary public schools throughout the city. Schools hosting these programs also benefit from the diversity of the population they serve and the diversity of the teaching staff, able to incorporate linguistic and cultural differences into their pedagogy. This model is also rich in cognitive advancement and beneficial to the brain’s executive control functions as illustrated by neuroscience researchers. In April 2013 I organized a conference on the advantages of bilingualism. This conference discussed and explored, via multiple fields and perspectives, the concept of “vivre bilingue” (living bilingually). It shared European and North American perspectives from experts in bilingualism, psychology, psychiatry, linguistics, nutrition, multiculturalism and education on the advantages of living with two languages. You can watch it here.

I am so grateful to have met many people who helped me a lot feeling at home, and with whom I shared part of my journey.

My Big Achievements

For my work which I call the French bilingual revolution I was included in the 2012 “Top 50 Most Influential French in the United States” by France-Amérique, a French News Magazine published in the United States. I also received the honorific title of Knight in the French Order of Academic Palms in 2013. Here is a link to the speech and ceremony which was organized in my honor at the Embassy of France’s cultural headquarters in New York. It was a great moment which I will cherish forever (Here is a picture taken during my acceptance speech. My daughter decided to sit under the lectern throughout the speech).

I am also proud to have recently become Doctor Jaumont! I defended my dissertation on last November. I graduated from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education in the Ph.D. program in International Education. My research focused on the role and influence of private foundations, particularly when high impact philanthropy meets education. I have been in the United States since 1997 and, throughout my time here I have encountered many philanthropists and foundations, many of whom invest in education. Coming from France where philanthropy is not very developed and education is still the sole responsibility of the State, I have been intrigued by the role and influence of philanthropy and civil society in the United States. Educational philanthropy became a topic of research for me. At NYU I was fortunate to meet people who were involved with the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa – a consortium of seven of the largest foundations in the country (Ford, Carnegie, MacArthur, Rockefeller, Mellon, Hewlett and Kresge). The foundations spent $400 million in 10 years trying to develop African higher education and modernize African universities in selected countries. I interviewed the program officers who were involved with the Partnership. I chose an institutional lens to look at these foundations’ work, and a mixed method to visualize the mechanism and dynamics of their collaboration. My publications are accessible on my page.

My passions outside of education

I play badminton for Team NYU. I have played badminton for over 25 years. I also became a coach and got my coaching certification for the US Badminton Federation. In 2010 I received the NYU MVP Badminton award.

What are my favorite places in the New York City and why?

I am fortunate to work in front of Central Park (The cultural service of the French Embassy are located in the Upper East Side). In the summer I love eating my lunch in the park. I even host some of my professional meetings there. The park gives me inner peace.

How often do I go back to France and how long have I been in the US?

I go back once a year. It’s not a lot and I miss my family. I have been in the US for almost 17 years.

What are your favorite places to visit in France and where could you recommend our members go if visiting there?

I am a Northerner and strongly recommend Lille and other places in the North. I also recommend my wife’s Normandie which I think is a charming place to visit.

Please provide all of the social media, website and any other way for people to get in touch with you!

My page on New York in French :
My Fundraising Campaign on French-American Cultural Exchange :
My Indiegogo Campaign :
My work at The Cultural Services of the French Embassy :
My posts on Twitter :
My posts on Facebook :

Los Angeles – Dec 19 2013

Annual EuroCircle LA Holiday Party

Join us to celebrate the season on Thursday, December 19th at 7PM at

The Belmont
747 North La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90069

Dress code – chic- a touch of holiday sparks
For additional information/questions contact

We are looking forward seeing you all!!

Tanya & Ajay

New York – Dec 18 2013

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

Celebrate the Holiday Season at our Annual Holiday Party at this hip hotspot!

NO COVER with online RSVP by 4 pm on December 18!
The drink special will be $10 Absolut drinks all night. Food is available for purchase.
Attire: Dress to impress

Featured Hosts:

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

Husniye Temocin, Turkey. She is originally from Turkey. While studying her Phd in textiles, she decided to move to NY and pursue her career in USA. She is currently working in apparel industry. She is passionate about fashion and the arts and working on developing her own brand.

Juan P Zapata, Columbia –

Sherry Kumar, Serbia

Zhanna Rohalska,Ukraine. Zhanna was born in the Far East of Russia, grew up in Western Ukraine & at 21 relocated to NYC. She is a professional linguist, passionate artist, model as well as a great mom.

We hope you will join us for a fun night out!


Alexandra and Sherry & EuroCircle NY TEAM
EuroCircle New York Facebook GROUP
Like Us at /

Stay Tuned for our NYE Party and EuroCircle’s 15th Anniversary Party in January 2014 (NO KIDDING) – details to be posted on the site soon!

Check out some of recent articles/interviews:
Pascal Sabattier, New York
Marc Guillet, Istanbul
Ajay Babber, Los Angeles

Mario Berruti, Viennese & Italian Flavors Made Connecting Food and Friends via CookRadar a Reality

Many of our members have visited Vienna – and Mario Berruti lived there a while. I really wanted to have his experiences recorded – and later on I want to hear what he thinks about living in Boston which I find very different than Vienna. I never have gotten to know Boston well and would love to hear others’ experiences. In Mario’s case I am also interested in learning about his start-up CookRadar.

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

My name is Mario Berruti, I grew up in Turin, Italy, actually the first Italian capital: city of tradition, culture, sport, art, cars, chocolate, coffee and the city of the Holy Shroud.
I studied International Management at the University of Turin, worked for three years in an international accounting firm, and then I decided to move on and “discover” the World working and living in England, Ireland and Switzerland, before coming to Vienna.
It happened to be due to working reasons, that I moved around a lot, but, deeply I owe all to a desire of experiencing new cultures, meeting new people from all over the planet, discovering new cities like London, Dublin, Bern, and Vienna, with all the positive and emotional excitement: starting a new life, building a new network of friends, challenging myself out of my comfort zone, was not always easy: an act of adventure and courage that I am proud of having done, as it opened my view and way of thinking.
By the way, time flies and I have now moved to Boston, working on a start-up about peer-to-peer home-made food exchange, called CookRadar, “connecting people through home-made food”.

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

I think living in Vienna helped me a lot in finding a perfect work and life balance.
The artistic and cultural program offered by the Opera, the Musikverein, the Albertina, the Museumquartier area, coupled with the long and warm seasons of Spring and Summer, enjoying time with friends at the “heuriger”, at the“Biergarten” in the Altes AKH, or biking in the Wachau and Neusiederlsee region, just made my time in Vienna an happy and memorable moment of my life.
I wasn’t able to appreciate my time so profoundly, hadn’t I found a group of close Viennese and International friends, Eurocircle being one of the most representative, who embraced me and introduced me to the real Vienna.
I am so grateful to have met many people who helped me a lot feeling at home, and with whom I shared part of my journey.

Anything truly memorable that happened to you while you lived in Vienna?

What about jogging around the park of the Schönbrunn Palace on Sundays, or enjoying the Spittelberg and Karlsplatz Christmas markets or enjoying the variety of food in the summer time at the Rathau? These are little memorable things I will be always bringing with me and looking back to with great pleasure!

What is THE thing about Vienna that captivates you the most vs. your home town in Italy?

Many, many things…

Above all, the international attitude and the elegance of Viennese people. We have to remember that Vienna was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Its geographical location, exactly in the middle between the East and West, South and Central Europe, has shaped its culture and the way its people think: I have been captivated by the curiosity and the openness of the Viennese.
I loved, sometimes, when finishing late at work, passing by some of the famous Viennese cafes and being literally attracted by their warm and welcoming lights, and by the pleasure people inside were reading their books or chatting one with the other, no matter it was already late in the night!

If someone asked you what I should NOT miss while in Vienna what would reply?

The view over the city, the Danube and the vineyards from Kahlenberg.
Another place I love is the view from the “Gloriette”, in the Schönbrunn Palace park.

What did you do in Vienna when you felt like you just want to chill out vs. in Italy…??

In winter, definitely sipping “gluhwein” (mulled wine) while wandering around, through the Christmas markets with friends, as opposed to the hot chocolate experience in my home-town Turin.
In summer, simply discovering a new “heuriger” in the Grinzing area, as opposed to relaxing at the beach bar sipping ice-coffee!

What really annoyed you about Vienna – or maybe nothing does? Italy…

About Vienna: closing hours of supermarkets and shops (too early), and the sirens alarm once a year that wakes me up from my deep sleep!
Also about Vienna: the snobbishness of its cafes’ waiters, but this is attributable to a long tradition…
About Italy: bureaucracy, politicians, people who don’t pay taxes, but drive in “fast and suv” car, ideology, corruption.

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 compared to Italian…what stands out for you?

I like the “Zum Schwarzen Adler” in Schonbrunner Strasse, especially their autumn menu and their own brewed beers. Typical traditional Viennese place I used to bring my parents when visiting me in Vienna.
“Wirtshaus Zum Leupold” for its Wiener Schnitzel and potatoes salad. It was my favorite place to eat dinner with my colleagues after long hours at work.
“Schweizerhaus” at Prater, in summer: perfect place to meet friends and enjoy their Schweinsstelze with a couple or more beers.
Viennese cuisine is robust, caloric and, in my view, gives special attention to sweet, cakes and desserts: i.e. Apfelstrudel , Topfenstrudel, Millirahmstrudel, Palatschinken, Kaiserschmarrn, Germknödel, Marillenknödel, Sachertorte Linzer torte, Esterhazy Torte, etc…
Well, Italian cuisine is mainly Mediterranean, based on vegetables, olive oil, tomatoes, herbs, fish: I don’t have difficulty to say that offers more variety.

What are you favorite Italian culinary experiences?? Wines, food…

There is an Italian culinary experience for each the occasion, (celebration, friends, skiing in the mountain, single night), weather, season and time available to prepare.
During this time of the year, winter, my favorite culinary experiences would be the valley and countryside dishes like “polenta e spezzatino” (stew), or “polenta with mixed cheeses” (gorgonzola, fontina, strachino, parmesan and butter), accompanied with Barbera wine from Monferrato and Langhe region. Another one, would be “Bagna cauda”, a warm dip eaten by dipping raw, boiled or roasted vegetables, especially cardoon,carrot,peppers,fennel, celery, cauliflower, artichokes, and onions.
I love these dishes because they are literally a culinary experience, suitable for cold weather and best enjoyed when mingled with the social aspect of dining, as the main big pan is placed in the middle of the table, perfect for communal sharing with friends: sharing is caring!

What do you miss most from Italy?

Family, friends, food, weather and the places I grew up.

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

Cost of living in Vienna is comparable to the cost of living in big Italian cities like Milan, Turin, Rome: it is still affordable when compared to big European capital like Paris, London.
It is generally known that Vienna is one of the best cities to live in, in terms of standard of life and life style. I can just confirm this result: it is reality. Lot of welfare spending for young couples, children, in terms of education, health care, social assistance.
Another good point is the transportation system in Vienna: reliable, efficient and effective covering every possible place in the city. Traffic, in Italy, is generally more chaotic.

What do you miss most from other countries or cities you have lived in before? Favorite city in Europe for you personally?

Vienna is my favorite: it has everything I can think of I need. Vienna has still a human pleasant dimension.

In your opinion what is the best time to visit Vienna and Italy?

I suggest visiting Vienna in spring: it is lovely and regenerating, enjoying Vienna’s parks in blooming season at Schönbrunn Palace park, and Stadtpark, for example.
Italy is worth to be visited, always!

Curious what is the biggest misconception/s you think people have about Vienna?

People are cold, not friendly and don’t speak English: this is the biggest misconception about Vienna. Most of the people know three languages!

If money is not an issue – how would you live your life and where?

Travelling around the world for the first part of the year, for second part, helping people in need.

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

The first, I love connecting with people and sharing experiences. The second: visit Vienna!

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Finland – Christmas Time in Helsinki

Mom, editor, writer, journalist, Realtor. Heli has lived in London, Dallas, Helsinki and Austin. She recently returned to Helsinki after several years in Austin, TX. She has a MA in comparative literature, and she has been working as an editorial manager in several publishing houses in Helsinki in the past.

In December the Christmas season really gets into full swing around Helsinki. The main shopping street of Helsinki, Aleksanterinkatu, will be decorated by the traditional Christmas lights going back to 1946, and the turning on the lights event is the official opening of the Christmas season in the city. The Christmas window display of Stockmann´s department store is “the thing” to see by children… and adults.

The Independence Day of Finland is the 6th of December. Finns light two candles in each window of their home in the evening to mark this important day. A legend has it that two candles were used as a sign to inform young Finnish men that the house was ready to offer shelter and keep them hidden from the Russians, when they were traveling to Sweden and Germany to become jägers. “A jäger” means elite light infantry, scouts and sharpshooters. Other popular tradition is to enjoy the broadcasting of presidential ball on the night of Dec 6th on the national television.

December is the time for numerous Christmas markets all over Finland, and Helsinki is famous for it´s St. Thomas Market, which takes place at the beautiful Senate Square. With over 120 booths the vendors are selling everything from handicrafts to gingerbread houses, canned food and delicious breads.

The length of the day in Helsinki during mid December is barely 6 hours. Finns are counting the days until the winter solstice on December 21st, when the daylight starts getting longer again. But before that, everyone is waiting the highlight of the year, the Christmas Eve!

To be precise here are the stats for Sunday, Dec 15 2013

Aurinko nousee / Sunrise: 9:19 am
Aurinko laskee / Sunset: 15:12/3.12 pm
Päivän pituus /The length of the day: 5 hours 52 minutes

All photos by Heli Bergius.