Life Lesson Number N: Never Swear At Strangers On The Train

We couldn’t help laughing at this story out of the UK. In a nutshell, Person A, who was running late to an interview was extremely rude to Person B on the London Underground, and found out that Person B was his interviewer. Needless to say, there was some awkwardness when both parties arrived at the interview.

The story resonates with us at Advanse for several reasons:


Crowded metro platform in DC - via Brownpau/Flicrk

Yeah, this happens a lot on DC’s Metro. (via Brownpau/Flickr)

[Read more…]

Snowday! Yay! Sorta….

Did you wonder why people were so grumpy on the metro last week? Why people kept refreshing their screens to see the latest operating status update from OPM? Or what the Capital Weather Gang’s forecasts say? Maybe some people brought their kids to work and left early cursing “snowdays” and fretting about “make up days” and you can’t completely understand why? Or they began obsessively following someone named Ryan McElveen on twitter? Let’s explain, beginning with “Welcome to the DC-metro region’s winter-related woes.”

A Random DC Street

Kinda hard to get around DC for a bit when this happens…. (via Jim Kelly)

[Read more…]

Mid-Term Elections, Coming To A Conversation Near You

Hello KItty for President 2012

It’s a political town in election season, right down to the cupcakes. (via Christian Lau)

Ah Washington DC, where democracy works. Regularly. Even though the citizens of the District of Columbia can’t vote for Congress. But that’s an irony better suited for another blog. Instead, what we’d like to point out to you in this post is that there is nearly always an election in play in the US. And soon there will be an election coming to a conversation near you.

2014 is an important year, because this year we’ll see mid-term elections. [Read more…]

Thanksgivukkah 2013

its a wonderful life

Is “It’s A Wonderful Life On”? Then it’s probably holiday season.

There used to be a time, not that long ago, when holiday season in the US began at Thanksgiving. That’s when the stores used to put up Christmas trees and holiday decorations. And in a colleague’s immortal words, it was the most wonderful time of the year because you could find It’s A Wonderful Life playing on a TV no matter when you turned it on. Well, sometime in the last twenty years, that changed. Drastically. Now retailers start marketing Christmas in in the summer. And the public has actually begun to resent it. By the time Christmas Day rolls around, there are no secrets about Santa.

But we’re lucky in Advanse’s backyard. Because here we still have much to discover in holiday season as a result of the DC-region’s cultural diversity. People come here from all over the world – diplomats, students, corporate executives, immigrants looking for a better life. Which means holiday season here includes visible, informative, and inclusive celebrations from many faiths and traditions you might be unfamiliar with. You probably already heard about Deepavali. But in addition, between now and January 30, 2014, you are also likely to hear of Hanukkah, the Solstice, and Eid (the *second*) of the year. And because many of them follow lunar or luni-solar calendars, they’re often a pleasant surprise on the calendar. Not everyone’s Christmas is on the same day of the year, and even then, Christmas may not look the same in every church. You don’t have to go far to see the rest of the world. [Read more…]

Memorial Day

Memorial Day Flags

Image by Eddie Acolyte

Are you confused between Memorial Day, which is this weekend, and Veteran’s Day, which is in the fall? You are not alone!

Briefly, Memorial Day honors those who have fallen in battle. Veterans’ Day (called Armistice Day elsewhere) honors all who have served in the military.

Although both are national federal holidays, in the last decade, Memorial Day has probably been a more somber day in Advanse’s neighborhood – which is home to not just Washington DC, but the Pentagon, as well as several major military and defense institutions, bases, and communities. Because between 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq II, Memorial Day reminds us like no other, of what many of our neighbors have lost. And because Memorial Day honors all fallen American soldiers, you will also see a lot of Rolling Thunder motorcycles and parades. In particular, if you take Metro this weekend – or even otherwise – the observance will be evident with information and signs pointing to the Rosslyn station on the Blue line, which is how you get to Arlington National Cemetery.

Always sacred ground in the American psyche, Arlington is a particularly poignant place on Memorial Day. It is a unifying moment, one during which people put aside how they may have felt about the politics, or the wars. Do not be surprised if you see people of all ages, some very properly dressed, somewhat subdued, on their way to pay their respects. Definitely do not be surprised if you see entire troops of Scouts and similar community organizations on their way to Arlington – they are probably going to hand out carnations to those visiting the cemetery.

On a much lighter note, Memorial Day also marks the beginning of summer. [Read more…]

Judge Not: Bill Gates’ South Korean Faux Pas

Did you hear about the one where Bill Gates didn’t get the memo and came off as a goober?

First, let’s define the word goober….it can mean an assortment of things, including a peanut. But when you call someone a goober, you’re essentially using an American southernism to call that person an unsophisticated person, a yokel, a rube. And in fact, the first time I’d heard the word used hilariously and disparagingly was to describe—wait for it—Bill Gates! His offense? He was on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” and once again, didn’t get the memo. Guests on any show usually wait for the host to go to commercial before they exit the stage. Gates? Not so much. When the conversation was over, Gates just got up and left. This being a comedy show, the result was even more hilarity, with Stewart milking it for laughs.


The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Bill Gates Crashes
Daily Show Full Episodes Indecision Political Humor The Daily Show on Facebook

But the next morning, as we laughed about it at work, my boss said, “Once a goober, always a goober.” [Read more…]

How Much To Tip?

funny sign that says "tipping is not a city in china"

An old restaurant joke! image by mayhem

Do you tip where you’re from? Do you leave a little extra cash on the table for your waiter before you leave a restaurant? A bit for the cleaning staff at your hotel room when you check out? An extra fiver or tenner for your hairdresser or manicurist on the way out the door?

If you don’t, you are not alone. Because tipping is not a universally uniform practice. And in fact, there are many places where it doesn’t happen at all. But tipping is the norm in the US. And many an international student or visitor will find him or herself marked as the outsider, unpleasantly so, upon leaving no tip. [Read more…]

Endure, Boston

boston marathon 2013 stretcher

image courtesy of Aaron Tang

We are so deeply saddened by the attacks on the Boston Marathon yesterday. The first few hours were spent alternately tracking the news and avoiding it entirely. A day later, once the brain processed things a bit more, the enormity is beginning to sink in.

There are many marathons in the world. But the Boston Marathon is a world-class, storied race, one of the oldest in the world. It is open to everyone who can qualify. Which means that the runners who show up have to earn their way in. They have to train for months, sometimes years, to make it over Heartbreak Hill.

Boston Marathon 2013

Boston Marathon men’s pushrim wheelchair winner Hiroyuki Yamamoto of Japan crossed the finish line at 1 hour 25 minutes and 32 seconds on Monday. (Micaela Bedell/BU News Service)

They come from all over the world, and have to fund their airfare, accommodation and health insurance to make their participation happen. They are women, men, able bodied, disabled, young, old, all races, all religions. There is only one aim – to finish what you started. And you get very little for it. Because the vast majority do not run to win prize money. They run to endure, finish, triumph, and then collapse to nurse an exhausted body for days after.

The attacks yesterday were particularly sickening because this year’s marathon was dedicated to the memory of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting not four months ago. And for us at Advanse, they came a day before the anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings.

It is almost too much to bear. But that is not how you finish a marathon, is it?

Our hearts are with the survivors of the three victims, the nearly 5000 runners, the hundreds and thousands of spectators, the first responders, and the untold good samaritans.

Tax Day – Your “International Visitor” FAQ

More than the Ides of March, Americans dread the Ides of April, aka Tax Day, April 15. For that is when we all render unto Caesar and pay our taxes. And although Advanse’s students are not affected, this is still a useful post to read and file away. If nothing else, you’ll know what not to say, particularly to fellow international students who might be affected. Because more than one international student will find themselves unpleasantly surprised this week, especially since FICA’s been nibbling away at their small F1-Visa allowable 19.5-hours-per-week-maximum paycheck all year long.

Image of tax prep - papers, glasses, pen, coffee

What you need to do your taxes – your paychecks, a calculator, patience, and coffee. Coffee always helps.

“What do you mean I still have to pay taxes?!” [Read more…]

Fire The Groundhog

It’s spring break in much of the DC region. The Cherry Blossom festival’s on. Tonight’s the first night of Passover. Holi is on Wednesday. Easter is next Sunday. And yet, it’s snowed today?! Clearly, the groundhog was WRONG.

Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil

What groundhog, you say? Welcome to one of those interesting, oddball, very unscientific – and this year clearly inaccurate – American traditions: [Read more…]