THIS MONTH’S SPOTLIGHT IS ON LAURA NORIEGA, an expat lawyer for 20 years in the UK, US, Austria and the Far East
- How has it felt to return to Madrid after 20 years abroad?
I found it hard at first as I underestimated how tough it is to return to a familiar place laden with memories from the past. It took a while to adapt and being a member of the INC helped as I started to create new memories in those same places.
- Did you have any funny experiences whilst adapting to life in any of the countries you’ve lived in? As a Spaniard abroad it felt odd to be greeted with a hand shake or sometimes nothing as opposed to two kisses. Ironically, on returning to Spain I became the odd one myself by not greeting people with two kisses.
- Do you have any tips to share on how to adapt to other cultures quickly? It’s easier to start with an blank canvas. Just feel the place by walking and talking to people. Do not compare it with the countries you know. Take the new country as it is and you will be rewarded.
- How did you meet your Chinese speaking, Austrian husband?
Watching La Traviata at the Vienna Opera House in the standing area! I fainted due to the heat and continual standing. It made quite an impression!
- How do you think being dual nationality parents affects your family life/your three children?
It is an enriching experience that sets us apart wherever we go and that hopefully will enable my children to see people for who they really are beyond the surface of their nationality.
- Have you incorporated any elements of Austrian, Anglosaxon or Oriental customs into your life here? Many. I carry within my heart all the beautiful things I’ve learned in each country. I enjoy high teas with Oolong tea, cucumber sandwiches and Austrian cakes.
- Tell us about your exciting roles in security and disarmament in Austria.
I was delighted to contribute to the values and aims of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Band Treaty Organization, CTBTO Preparatory Commission, and the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, for 14 years. It enabled me to appreciate the difficulties that countries face to keep peace and honour international treaties.
- How do you enjoy having your own law practice here in Madrid? I am thrilled to be able to put my knowledge of international public law to good use. In addition, I have some private clients with international commercial or family law issues.
- What is your secret Madrid? I enjoy the Retiro Park and the areas around the north and east side. There are many shops like Purificación García on Serrano, and Ursula Mascarón on Claudio Coello; restaurants like Level on Menéndez Pelayo or Garten on Castellón, as well as the Archaeological Museum which also houses the National library – I have fond memories of studying there.
- Tell us about the cathartic experience on life you have when you give your “Freedom for a Happy Life” talk. The INC asked me to give a talk and I decided to share some thoughts on what is important to me: Freedom and Happiness. We all think we are happy while doing all sorts of activities until fear comes along and we are no longer free to be happy. Yet, wherever we are, no matter the country, we can be happy. I had done a similar, well-received talk in Hong Kong. Here I was pleasantly surprised by the level of audience participation and I learned a lot that day.
Group Photo: Laura Noriega and Mareni Pichler with their respective husbands: Marcel Aschenbrenner and Fernando Die