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Happy Halloween!

barack-jack-o-lantern_Feliz Día de los Muertos! Todos los Santos! Allerheiligen! La Toussaint!

How are you celebrating this weekend?

You probably already know that the name comes from "All Hallows' Evening," or the eve of All Saints. Historically, this celebration combined the change from summer to winter with the honoring of the departed souls. Some cultures prefer a somber, dignified atmosphere, others like Mexico have a hell of a party.

In the USA you'll have noticed the pumpkin, black and orange decorations for the past couple of months. Thanks to the powerful influence of pop culture, the carved pumpkin, or jack-o'-lantern, has also found its way into remote areas like Japan and India. Many Americans go a little crazy when it comes to decorating their houses and gardens this time of year, but if you think this is over the top, wait until Christmas. You ain't seen nothin' yet, my friend. ;-) Tonight, children go trick-or-treating, which means they dress up in costumes and expect to receive candy from the neighbors.

In Germany we have a similar tradition on St. Martin's Day on November 11th, except the kids don't usually dress up, but carry an actual lantern and have to sing a song or recite a wee poem to get a treat. I don't remember threatening debauchery for not getting sweets, either. I do remember collecting many apples and mandarins though.

In Celtic countries the celebrations pre-date today's All Saints, and may include harvest festivals. Many still light a candle for the dead, and wear costumes or masks to ward off evil spirits. One theory to explain the curious overlapping of an originally pagan ritual with the Christian holiday of All Saints, by the way, is the church in its early days scheduling its holidays along the same time frames as ancient pagan rituals. This made convincing heathens to take on the new faith a lot easier.

When living in Barcelona, Spain, I remember fabulous costume parties at my friends' house on their terrace, and eating copious amounts of coca. That's a cake with anise seeds and orange glaze and it tastes oh so good. For the nuttier types, this is the season of street vendors underlining your shopping excursions with the aroma of roasted chestnuts.

Here are some photos of our Día de los Muertos in Mexico two years ago, where we enjoyed a parade and theatrical performances. Their cemeteries are the only ones I know that don't look sad, but are covered in flowers and decorations of all the colors of the rainbow.

For expats spending traditional holidays in different cultures that may never have heard of your type of celebration, I encourage you to plan ahead and bring pertinent decoration material and special food ingredients with you on your trip. This will allow you to continue with your traditions, maintain a sense of stability in the lives of your children, and maybe even educate your neighbors about your own personal history and culture. Wherever you are, whatever you do, this is an opportunity to remember those who have left this earth. Visit graves, light candles, put out food for the lost souls, and let's celebrate the life we still have while we're at it.

Carpe diem!

Til next week, have a good one! Thanks to Cooper/Michael for the pic.

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Networking scams


Networking scams

Samuel Johnson said, "It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust." Happy Halloween everybody! Seems like with all of the ghosts and disguises around these days, virtual ghouls also have a way of creeping out of the woodwork lately...

A couple of weeks ago, I received a formal letter by the National Association of Professional Women, acknowledging my accomplishments and inviting me to join their ranks in order to be able to network with fellow professional women nationwide. I was flattered, and since I seem to remember the letter saying something along the lines of, "sign up for free", I went to their website, had a look around, liked very much what I saw, and signed up.

Yesterday, lovely Nadia called me to confirm my membership and check some facts about my application. We chatted about my educational background and work experience, nothing of which is a secret as I have it available on my public profiles such as linked-in and xing. The conversation was really pleasant, and I commended her on being such a passionate advocate for enhancing women's opportunities in the world. She even remained friendly every time I refused to hand over my credit card details and be charged for the many levels of elite, gold, standard etc memberships she offered. The price went down from $689 via $489 to finally "complimentary", and I'm glad this peculiarity managed to penetrate the subtle flattery she used throughout the chat, so in the end I did not bite.

Today, I received a letter from Cambridge's Who's Who directory, acknowledging my accomplishments and inviting me to join their ranks in order to be able to network with fellow professional women nationwide.

A Google-search on this latter letter quickly turned up articles on websites like and, citing numerous complaints, even information on a fine of $50,000 that the owner was sentenced to pay. And yes, it appears that the above mentioned National Association of Professional Women is run by the same man for the same purpose - cheating trusting new business owners and other vulnerable members of society out of their hard-earned money.

My message to you today is this: you ARE valuable, and your accomplishments ARE appreciated, but please DO NOT PAY anyone to validate yourself. Also: trust is good, but knowledge is better. Do your research. Websites like the above as well as the Better Business Bureau allow you to check up on shady business in case you have any reservations. If you are interested, see what I have previously written about networking here.

Til next time! Speaking of which, remember to turn back your clocks one hour, daylight savings time ends on November 2nd!


Image by Jim Staley, Flickr, Creative Commons License.