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You are here: Home Moving to Getting Started How to make expat life work: tips from an expat veteran
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09/12/2010How to make expat life work: tips from an expat veteran

How to make expat life work: tips from an expat veteran Jeannette Jordan sits down with American 30-year expat, singer and songwriter Janice Harrington for insight on how to wrap her head around expat life and identity.

I have been living the expat life for almost two years now and still don’t feel like I’ve quite mastered it. Yes, I know how to get residence permits; I know how to find good restaurants, markets and dry cleaners. But what I can’t seem to get is a firm grasp on what it really takes to fully embrace this 'expat' living.

Instead of continuing with my trial-and-error method, I recently decided to look to someone with experience in this expat thing. That someone, a successful singer and actress, has been living this expat life for the past 30 years.

I met Janice Harrington at the train station in Hamburg, Germany after reading about her online. I was actually looking for ticket information on her upcoming ‘New Orleans style Christmas' concert; that’s when I found myself glued to her website and listening to the free demos of her music.

Harrington is the woman known internationally as the “Lady of Blues, Jazz and Gospel”. She’s lived quite a few places, entertained thousands of people and has plenty of stories to tell. I had the pleasure of hearing some of those tales over lunch at the upstairs café of Karstadt department store.

“I was working in Vegas,” says Harrington; flashing a grin of obviously some memory that stayed in Vegas. “I was singing with a group when a friend told me about a job in Norway, singing blues.”

Janice was born in Ohio, so Las Vegas was already a stretch. Norway was a long way from home, but it wasn’t out of Harrington’s reach. It was 1980 when Harrington moved to Norway to sing the Blues.

 “I have five children, 20 grandchildren, and six great grandchildren; my great granddaughter just finished medical school,” said Harrington. “I always taught my children to never be afraid of anything. I taught them early on, when we were living in Los Angeles, that they can do anything."

"When I moved to Norway, I did not take any chances. For me, it was an opportunity.”

That opportunity led Harrington throughout Europe and down the aisle a couple of times.

“I met this Norwegian guy in 1980 when I first started singing in Norway. We were married in 1981 and divorced in 1982,” Janice laughed.

“So, how did you get to Germany,” I asked. Germany is where Harrington now lives with her German husband of 21 years.

“I was traveling one day when I met this lady from Norway who was also a singer. I told her that I was a singer as well, and she told me about a gig in Germany. I moved to Germany and started to sing at clubs for diplomats, or wherever I could find work.”

I ask about how she manages her career, marriage and maintains family relationships with all but one of her children still living in the US.

“How do you do this,” I ask.

“You make it work. They come here, I go there, you make it work,” she tells me. Like motherly advice, Harrington continues: “You need to join every group that makes sense to you, and you need to be open to meeting new people all the time."

"Look at this as an adventure and you have to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. I believe it‘s all about timing and being in the right place at the right time.”



I say "Amen" to this lady of blues, jazz and gospel. When your life is all about keeping the right beat, then timing really is everything.

What I took away from this lunch, besides a full stomach, was a full lesson on expat living. I learned that wherever you live you have to move in and own it. You can only be in one place at a time; so why not be in that one place at this one time?

After all, the ‘Lady of the Blues, Jazz and Gospel’ did say it’s all about timing.

 

 

Jeannette JordanJeannette Jordan is an American journalist and Erasmus Mundus Global Journalism fellow. She is currently based in Hamburg, Germany. Jeannette has worked as a television news writer, producer and researcher for CNN, NBC, FOX News Chicago, FOX News Atlanta and CBS Atlanta.




1 reaction to this article

Hamburg English Pages posted: 2011-08-30 23:37:49

Well written and informative journalism. Thanks for your contributions so far. We would like to see you on our Facebook pages. Many of our visitors would welcome the occasional link or post. www.englishpages.de. Keep up the good work!

1 reaction to this article

Hamburg English Pages posted: 2011-08-30 23:37:49

Well written and informative journalism. Thanks for your contributions so far. We would like to see you on our Facebook pages. Many of our visitors would welcome the occasional link or post. www.englishpages.de. Keep up the good work!

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