Monday, September 28, 2020

Review (book): "The Overseas Fabulous Pinay" by Donna Avellana Kunzler

I just put down this super interesting book, The Overseas Fabulous Pinay: A Modern Filipina's Handbook on How to Thrive Abroad. It's by Donna Avellana Künzler. She may have a foreign last name but she's Pinay through and through. Donna was born and raised in Cavite and took up accounting because all she ever wanted to be was a CPA like her dad. However, she became an Information Technology Auditor and Consultant instead. Her #ovfabpinay life started almost 20 years ago when she moved to Singapore for work. From there, she moved to the USA and then to my favorite city, London. Always because of work (how lucky is this woman?). She is now based in Switzerland, working for a Swiss global company, responsible for finance process governance and standardization in the finance organization. 

Donna's a new mommy to a baby girl and I really admire her because she was working, writing and producing a book, and making a baby all at the same time! That's amazing! I know this because - full disclosure - I helped edit the manuscript so my deadline was the most unusual in my editing career: I had to finish editing before Donna gives birth. And there's no pushing that deadline haha I was also working when I was in the delivery room with my first baby but I had already turned over most everything to my staff. A whole book is a whole different story. It's personal. It's also like a child. So for Donna to be working on her book and preparing to give birth is a whole new level of devotion.

The author is talking to the bold Pinay who wants to leave the constraints comforts of home and be on her own abroad. No mommy and daddy, no allowance, no friends, no yaya, no driver, no boyfriend or husband. Gosh, just writing that down is so exciting. I've always wanted to work in London or Singapore, far far away from everyone I know and who knew me. But - after making careful decisions - life became just too good here. No regrets! But that's a dead part of me that was prodded awake by Donna's book.

Because Donna is so conversational, even chatty, the book is so easy to read. It literally feels like I'm sitting on my couch, sipping my coffee, and chatting with a friend. Well, the author is the one doing the chatting while I'm eagerly listening.

It feels fast-paced, though. Is that a bad thing? Well, no. I just feel like the author was rattling off all her useful information (there's a plethora!) and I haven't absorbed anything yet and she's already off on her new topic. That's why I'm glad this is a book. I can go back and take notes. I feel like if this was a talk, I'd be asking her to "Wait, wait, let me just write that down!"

I think Donna anticipated this. Her book is well designed to highlight the lists upon lists of tips, advice, documents, rules, and many more. So you can easily find everything you need to know. There are colored boxes, checklists - it's really quite a useful reference book. In fact, it was a finalist for Best Interior Design at the 2020 International Book Awards. 

Speaking of awards, Donna's book is a Gold Winner at the Nonfiction Book Awards."This is a really upbeat book that is helpful and inspiring for anyone considering moving overseas. It has lots of tips, lists and questions to consider both before and after a move," the review says.

As you can tell, it's worth your pesos to grab this book and worth your time to also read it. And don't let those awards intimidate you - this is such an easy-to-read book. I do think you won't finish it in half a day since there is a ton of information to process. So take it slow and pay attention, especially when you reach the chapters of settling abroad.

Every single part of the book offers practical tips. What I found especially useful was the chapter on the unique lifestyles of each country. I've always been a tourist, staying at hotels and going to places that catered to the foreigner so I've never actually experienced how it is to be a local. 

So all of Donna's stories about paying attention to the culture was eye-opening because of course people treat tourists differently than they do people they work with, no matter what country you came from. As they say, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." I also liked all the stories on how to find a home, getting a driver's license, and being aware of rules and certain ways of life that comes from living in a cold country or a disciplined country. 

For example, I was amazed that in Zurich, you have to buy official trash bags. And they are expensive. You can't just use any trash bag like we do here in the Philippines. Trash is also segregated and you better make sure you sort your trash because if you don't, the district council will issue warning letters to you, your neighbors will complain against you, and you just might find yourself homeless. Serious stuff! 

I would've wanted to know how to find work and move to another country, though. Donna didn't address that because that wasn't her experience. She's lucky enough to have gotten job offers before moving to the countries she's lived in. But for my husband and I who are contemplating moving abroad since we're not happy with where our country is going, we'd love to know how to grab those good jobs. 

We're told by our immigration agent that we need to move first then look for a job there. That's terrifying. We're old so it may take time for us to find the good jobs and neighborhood that we can live happily in. But we have kids so we can't afford to fail. So it's like a chicken-or-the-egg thing for us. Do we look for a job first and hope the employer asks us to move there? Does one of us go first and establish our home? Do we just risk it all and move everyone and hope we don't hate our new life? Tough decisions.

Another thing I wanted to know was sure tips on how to become a permanent resident or citizen in the country we're moving to. Are there secrets? Will it cost a lot of money? Will it take years upon years? Those issues were important to me but weren't discussed. Maybe those will come up in her next book (I hope she writes The Overseas Fabulous Pinay Mom!) or in one of her online talks.

Yes, Donna has lots of online talks! Just visit because Donna always has events lined up. She has other #ovfabpinays over for chats about how to live fabulously abroad. Join the #ovfabpinay Facebook community and follow @ovfabpinay on Instagram for more updates. Donna is very friendly and encouraging of her fellow Pinays who would love to start a new life abroad.

And of course, do grab your own copy of The Overseas Fabulous Pinay: A Modern Filipina’s Guide on How to Thrive Abroad by Donna Avellana Künzler. It's a really good read! Get it at major online book shops Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Amazon for P750. 

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