Wishing you a fabulous 2016 full of prosperity, health and happiness.

Thank you for yet another wonderful year and for reading our blog!

Song: Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson

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Wishing you all the best as the countdown begins for the holidays. If you are feeling curious and want some fun topics for the dinner table, check out this video on the History of Christmas

And if you are in the singing mood and want to impress your family with some Christmas Carols, take a look here

Finally, 20 bizarre Christmas traditions from around the world and 29 Heavenly Christmas foods from around the world.

Happy Holidays to all of you and may you be surrounded by your loved ones!


Before we dive into the full holiday season and gather (get together) around the table for wonderful holiday food, I thought I would share a few random (unusual/unexpected) links to help you deal with (get a handle on) dining etiquette around the world. Check out this great info-graphic here: http://visual.ly/business-etiquette-western-europe

And check out this dining etiquette info-graphic

How about 10 different ways to respond to Thank you? Did you know all of these?


Finally, I thought I would give you a bonus. Here is a cheat sheet (reference card) on those IT symbols we have such a hard time remembering:


Have a great week and remember to take it easy, it’s just another holiday season and…



The holidays are upon us and to help you get into the spirit, we thought we would share our holiday traditions with you. There is nothing better than learning a little something new on how the holidays are celebrated elsewhere (somewhere else) and taking a peek into your teacher’s life…

Madeleine’s Traditions:

When I was a child, I would always enjoy singing traditional carols (songs) with my family at Christmas. One I always remember was ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ which dates back to 1780. It’s a cumulative song, so it starts with one line and gradually different lines are added to make twelve. For example, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me “. Then, the generous gifts get more and more complex, such as “ten ladies dancing” and “twelve drummers drumming,” which after a lot of repetition and a loss of memory gets very confused and funny. Especially after a few tipples! *small alcoholic drinks

(We don’t do this anymore, but I always find myself humming the tune this time of year). You can find out more about the history of the carol here: Twelve days of Christmas

Claire’s Traditions:

A tradition that goes back on my Father’s side of the family is to eat pork pie for breakfast. But it can’t be just any pork pie…it has to be from Melton Mowbray, a small English town in the Midlands – an area in the middle of Britain. For those who are unfamiliar with pork pie, it is a traditional British meat pie. It consists of roughly chopped pork and pork jelly sealed in a hot water crust pastry. It is normally eaten as a snack or as part of a meal.

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Another more recent tradition that seems to have caught on in my family is serving the Christmas Day gravy (sauce that is poured over meat) from a tea pot!!!! This funny tradition simply arose from a lack of available jugs in my house…..so a tea pot had to do! :)

Tim’s Traditions

My best Christmas tradition I no longer partake in but sincerely miss consisted of “Christmas Tree Day”. My ex-wife and I had a very big allotment (land) with lots of vegetable plots, fruit trees, chickens, and my beehives; but we also planted and grew Christmas trees to sell and raise money for charity. Every year in January, I would plant about 70 baby Christmas trees. I would mow the grass (which grows very thick and fast in Devon, England) to stop it from killing the trees and in the Spring I would prune (cut away the unwanted parts or branches) the trees with my fingers (no shears required) and then finally two Sunday’s before Christmas Day we would let friends, neighbors and the people in our village know it was Christmas Tree Day.

We would have a bonfire to keep people warm, serve warm mulled wine and hot mince pies to everyone who came (because it’s Christmas) and invite them to choose their tree and then dig it up – roots and all. We would then ask them to contribute to our charity (we set one up in a rural village in The Gambia, West Africa to provide education, health and economic development). They could give as much or as little as they wanted.

Some families have been coming every year since 1987! It takes about 5 to 7 years for a fir tree to be big enough to sell,  and after that they speed up in their growth and are too big for a house, so we sell the very big ones to schools and churches.

I loved this day because we would reconnect with our friends, neighbors and wider community in a spirit of friendship and giving. It was a long day full of hard work as many people could not dig their own trees and we had to do it for them. We would have this day even if it was storming with rain, hailing or covered in snow and ice.

Heidi’s Traditions

As many of you know, I come from a family of immigrants and traditions are not necessarily 100% North American, but nonetheless they are fun and quirky (peculiar or unexpected traits or aspects).

My mother is from Guatemala and so we would gather at my aunt’s house on the 24th of December with all of the family (over 20 people) and eat homemade tamales that my aunt would prepare. Tamales come from the Maya Cuisine and take days to prepare but are delicious. There is also something so magical about eating a dish on the night before Christmas that has been prepared since 4500 BP (or 45,000 years before present). In a way, unwrapping the tamale was like opening a Christmas present on the night before.


My mom’s family has the tradition of opening their gifts when the clock strikes midnight. Our family though, would wait till the next morning. We adopted both the Latin American tradition of waiting until midnight on Christmas Eve, setting up baby Jesus in the nativity, and the more USA tradition of hanging up our stockings handmade by mom on the mantle (fireplace) and waiting for Santa Claus to make his arrival as we slept. Do not ask me why a house in Los Angeles has a fireplace. As a child, I imagined it was only so Santa Claus could come on Christmas day.

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But to be honest, my favorite part as a child was going with my parents and brothers to look for our Christmas tree! My birthday is a week before Christmas, so I always got the honor of choosing the tree and then we would drive home excitedly to trim the tree and sing carols.

I hope you enjoyed our stories and we want to wish everyone of you readers a wonderful holiday season, no matter how you celebrate it!

From the team at Heidi Schmidt Business English Specialists, Happy Holidays!

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I just wanted to thank all of those who made it out to the gallery last Thursday. It was an honor to have all of you in one room and to celebrate all the hard work we did this last year. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and we cannot wait to do it again!

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Don’t forget to stop by and celebrate this Thursday, December 3rd from 19.00h-21.00h at Galeria Joan Gaspar with us and all of our wonderful students… We really look forward to seeing you there and ringing in the festivities.