Miffy or in Dutch called “Nijntje” is a character created by Dick Bruna, a Dutch children´s book author and illustrator .He have written almost 30 books about different adventures of Miffy.His books were translated into 50 languages and have sold more than 85 million copies worldwide.In Holland alone, Miffy is a part of every child´s imagination and childhood.
Well,Miffy is a girl white Bunny wearing a little dress. Before I thought it was from Japan or somewhat similar with Sanrio and Hello Kitty but then I was surprised that it is of Dutch origin. Miffy was created in 1955 in Egmond aan See , the place where Dick Bruna painted Miffy for the first time, so that makes it 66 years old now .
My daughter loves Miffy and grow up with it.I love how simple the character, uncomplicated,and perfect for every little minds.Her books tells about children´s daily activities like going to the zoo, Miffy´s birthday, at the playground, in the snow, etc.The layout of the books is also very simple, with primary colors mostly, plus images of Miffy is so sweet.It is really a book for children. My daughter loved it,she is a voracious reader,and when she found a good book, she´s absorbed with it.
Now that she is 6, she is crazy about Ninjago and Lego but then she reads more further, with topics of History and Science. The truth is she never liked Barbie or any other dolls.One time she was given a Mickey mouse stuff toy but then she doesn´t like it and I don´t know why. I find it funny at first but then I realized that her preference was really not on girlie things.The first time that we have met Miffy was 2015 in Amsterdam . Luckily, it was there that they held theMiffy Art Parade to commemorate the 60th years anniversary .Rows of Miffy statues were displayed right in front of the Rijksmuseum and it was wonderful experience to see different Artist´s interpretation.
But then seeing more of Miffy up close and personal in the Miffy Museum in Utrecht is far more than we´ve expected. If you have kids, I am sure you would love to bring them here.We love the Easter Bunny in Easter, but then, we appreciate Miffy in so many ways.
Here are some snaps I took of our visit in the world of Miffy and her friends in the Museum.
The whole place is really a miniature world for children. Everything is built as per children ´s ergonomics and function. It´s quite lovely to walk into this place realizing how great the world is, from a child´s view.No worries, no social distancing,everything is beautiful, safe and yes–no fear of virus whatsoever! Mini houses, kitchen,garden, animal fun zoo, art room, play areas and many more are just some of the fun places where children can experience the basic things in life as they grow. It´s a lovely place where they can feel “I belong here” or” this really fits me..”
We´ve got ourselves our own Miffy, the one painted by Mies van Out, “Ik voel met zo” or ” I feel so..”. Funny, but according to Chinese and Japanese Astrology, the author Dick Bruna was born actually in the Year of the Rabbit.
” I create a world that children fill with their imagination…” -Dick Bruna
Before Corona, taking videos and photos inside the museum is still alowed, but then nowadays to avoid congestion, it is prohibited. I got lucky that I was able to take some snaps of the museum and how does it look inside.We practically spend half of the day roaming around here and exploring the place.My daughter can´t get enough of each room, so she would go back a few more times. It was not particularly crowded that time so we even have the room just for ourselves.Also, I´ve noticed that there were quite a lot of Asian tourists, knowing that Miffy is quite famous, especially in the UK and Japan.
Children unleashed their energy and hop from here to there and just having fun.It was really a day full of fun and creative playing.
While waiting for our turn to enter the other side, we roam around the grounds near the museum.The views around Utrecht is pretty amazing and has a very coolSpring vibes. There are lots of trendy shops along the canal and it is not so crowded as in Amsterdam.People sit by the canals ,families eating toegether, drinking, and enjoying some cool spring sun. We busied ourselves admiring the Dutch gable houses and people watching to kill time.
Our favourite so far was the room where children can dressed up as doctors and nurses and play pretend going to the doctor . She had so much fun wearing all those costumes and I just can´t stop smiling how fun it is to let her go by her own imagination. How sad this simple fun cannot be enjoyed by children now because of Corona restrictions….
I wonder when can we go again to such places without the fear of being infectedand enjoy the fun while traveling...
Of course, there is a Miffy souvenir shop and cafe adjacent to the building .The shop offers almost everything from books, to tshirts to pens and mugs. I love their children´s Miffy necklaces and lamps. It´s really a one stop shop and a great place to shop for souvenirs and gifts. The museum restaurant offers a good coffee and Dutch cakes, organic juices and a wide outdoor play area for kids as well while their parents can have a breath of fresh air. A bonus,they even served Miffy pancakes!When you are in Holland, you´ve got to try their Dutch apple pie, it´s really a piece of heaven!
What a better way to end our trip is having some Miffy ice cream!
This post is actually inspired by recent events in my life. I recently had this painting done inspired by current situations and I thought it might be a good idea to relate it to ” a day in the life of a Mother”. I have done quite a lot of painting to survive the lockdowns and so far, it has taught me great lessons about motherhood as well. Now you know why I love this subject for my artwork.
Maybe not everyone can actually relate to Motherhood subjects and all about Mother and son/daughter stories but then at least it´s our own story. Mother and daughter is not always full of sweet moments, reality can be tough, it can also be stressful, chaotic, tiring, and yes, just too much to handle.
All parents love their children, there´s no question about that but how to teach them to learn without the classroom. For a fact that in Germany, Homeschooling is actually illegal since 1919 ( European Court of Human Rights).But not in the times of Corona.This article even had quite notable explanations.
Homeschooling is not so “cozy” as it sounds. Because of Covid-19 Pandemic, we´ve been through so many Lockdowns, before and after Christmas actually. And now, in the middle of Winter, with zero public life, schools stays closed along with playfrounds and libraries. Lockdown is supposed to end by Feb.14 but there´s no bright lead yet when will our lives return to normal.We are waiting…
I realized that I don´t even have the right to complain.Afterall I only have 1 child. There are more parents who juggles between their dayjobs and household responsibilities, and yes, they are bearing more load than I do.I do have high respect for them. I´ve known a friend who even had twins, and had more children to handle.A dear friend of mine just had her baby recently born, and she also have another Grade schooler, a very active one.She bears all these with her two full hands.How do they do that is simply amazing and praiseworthy!
But imagine the chaos…. the “heartfelt” agony.
Homeoffice seemed to be the newest trend nowadays. Working from home has its own benefits, but hey, have you ever tried working while your kid shouts and screams on your videoconferences? Funny as it may sounds but with us, life and struggle during Lockdown is real. I am sure I am not alone in this.
The moment we sit together in the table to go with Home study program doesn´t eventually ensures success in every subject.There has been fights, screaming, yelling and yes, pencils and papers flown in the air. The drama is real and so as the dilemma. The biggest problem that we faced is maintaining her focus and this has been challenging for both me and my daughter.
When I was in college, I did a part-time job tutoring kids from 6-10 years old. I normally help them with the main subjects and help them with their homework. The stress was different. With this Lockdown, the challenge was different as well.
No I was not blaming the virus. Honestly ,sometimes I blame myself as well. Maybe I was not prepared for this and my patience limit is so small that I excuse myself for a meltdown as well. I am tired and in need of a break but yes–motherhood knows no such breaks.I don´t like this isolation anymore and I wanted it to end.
Anyway,one time while we are learning about the seasons of the year ,we encountered this song ;
” Es war eine Mutter” song by Nena ( originally in German)
Es war eine Mutter ( There was one Mother) Die hatte vier Kinder ( She had 4 children) Den Frühling ( Spring) Den sommer ( Summer ) Den Herbst und den Winter. ( Autumn and Winter)
So motherhood and seasons of the year have one thing in common, right or maybe I just carried away by nature that I correlate them with Homeschooling and everything.The great thing is, life evolves and I was reminded that this too, shall pass and everything should not be permanent.Soon, everything will be over and chapters of our lives will also evolve, in other words, we are in a journey together.
Homeschooling might feel like Autumn and Winter right now.Parents struggled as well as children but then its not the end.Spring soon will come and Summer too.
Der Frühling bringt Blumen ( Spring bring flowers) Der Sommer den Klee (Summer brings clover leaves) Der Herbst bringt die Trauben ( Autumn brings the grapes) Der Winter den Schnee. ( Winter brings snow)
Und wie sie sich schwingen ( and how they swing together) Im Jahresreihn ( all year around) So tanzen und singen ( Dancing and singing) Wir fröhlich darein. ( we are all happy with it..)
Homeschooling and on line learning is something that we´ve all embraced this year.There were more time spent in front of computers and tablets instead of actual class participation.Here in Germany, I must say that they had quite handled the crisis well when it comes to distance learning.My daughter spends almost 8 hours in a mask at school before.Washing their hands and divided in groups were her previous routines, then she was confined at home, with homeschooling and with me. I am grateful that the school had a precise plan for this crisis and have given us enough support that we´ve needed and another thing is, we have an access to technology which can be challenging in other countries.We received a weekly Plan for each lessons, and even with a timetable to achieve every day. There was enough Learning Platform offered and the activities listed are varied ,so children won´t feel bored and too squeezed. I particularly appreciate the online help and daily accountability as well. Some of the apps that helped us go through Homeschooling is Antolin app and Sofatutor.They even have Tablets to lend if families are without so everything comes handy.
Lessons learned and experiences gained, so as struggles were credibly overcame.Yes, we´ve been tired and fatigued, but we´ve never given up.As a mother, teaching my child is like feeding them. Its like nourish or undernourish them.Once again, it´s the choices that we make that affects us the most.We´re not yet there but I am sure, the end of the tunnel is not far behind.
Have you had any experience about Homeschooling? How was it?
It’s time to get to know another awesome Expat-Mama!
We had an amazing series of wonderful Expat -Mamas & Papa around the World last year, and to start off this year, we have a very interesting feature —Victoria, an American Expat-Mama living in Tokyo, Japan with her husband,Nicholas, and their handsome young man, William (2.5 years old).
Konichi WOW: Parenting in Tokyo, the World’s Largest City
Tokyo in a glimpse
Tokyo-The most populous city , probably the most bizarre and yet fascinating metropolitan with more than 35 million people living in it.Tokyo is not only known for iconic city that was chosen by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to host the 2020 Summer Games,but it is also one big magnet for Expat families. Japan regularly touted as the safest for children and was the 4th (fourth) best place to raise children, according to HSBC’s 2014 survey results.Tokyo is one of safest capital cities in the world, too.
Only in Tokyo that people reserve their seats in Starbucks by leaving their wallets and designer bags on the table! In general, residents respect personal space and privacy, and public spaces are remarkably clean.
Victoria is the Lifestyle Travel Blogger behind teafordinosaurs.com. Originally from Chicago, she spent the past ten years of her life living in Milwaukee. When her husband received a job offer in Tokyo, they chose to embrace the adventure.
Pre- baby, she was a Marketing Director for a nonprofit organization. In her free time, she managed an online shop and danced professionally for the Milwaukee Brewers. Post- baby, she chose to be a stay at home mom. She continued to manage her eBay shop and added an Etsy shop to the mix. In preparation for their move to Tokyo, she closed up both shops and shifted her attention to creating a blog about travel, expat life and parenthood.
Share something about the current country you are living in and notable aspects – (food, leisure, nature, quality of life, childcare, education etc.) local customs & culture, attractions, family oriented activities and raising your kids as an expat.
Tokyo is quite different from Milwaukee as you may have guessed. The streets are crowded, there is a language barrier, driving is weird and we are away from our friends and family. However, it is also very safe, surprisingly quiet, and extremely accessible even with a toddler in tow.
On City Living
For the most part, I love living in the city, especially Tokyo. There is always something to see or do even with a toddler in tow. Our apartment location couldn’t be any more convenient with a metro station right outside and 24 hour valet parking at our building. Still, getting around via train or car or taxi just takes a while. I miss walking out my back door, hopping in my car, and being somewhere, anywhere, within 15 minutes. The train is always at least 4o minutes for me because I’m traveling with William, and although traffic isn’t crazy, it goes slow and there are a ton of traffic lights. Having said that, even walking places takes a while due to all the lights and the fact that no one jay walks. People follow rules here and jay walking is illegal…
The Kawaii culture
This is the Japanese word for cute. We hear it a lot due to having a blonde, two-year old in tow. Of course everyone wants to hear that their kid is cute but a couple of times people (harmless) have rubbed William’s head which is pretty strange. I just hope they’ve gone on to receive plentiful riches from the good luck they’ve acquired.
Tokyo is very kid-friendly. Restaurants have kid settings and cups. Train stations have elevators. Department stores have play areas. Family bathrooms are everywhere. Talking about food, It’s all good, and you can find any cuisine you want.
One of the first things you learn about parenting in Japan is that even very young children are expected to be independent and self-reliant enough to go to school unaccompanied, even if it means taking a city bus or train and traversing busy streets.
We decided to send William to school about three months into living here. We wanted him to interact with other kids his age, become familiar with listening and following a routine outside of our home. Plus, let’s be honest, Momma needs a break! I toured roughly ten different schools and on the low-end figures were coming in around $6,000 – $8,000 a year for two, half days a week. I’m all for early education but that is some serious cash to shell out for 7 hours a week! Eventually, I found a nursery school that fit our budget and needs for this year. It’s not my dream preschool, but we like it and it’s perfect for William’s first “school” experience.
On Language Barrier
It’s not impossible to get around or enjoy Japan without speaking any Japanese. Most signs and the entire metro system are also in English. Hotels speak English and restaurants usually have an English menu or the point and nod works. Still, when you’re actually living here and say, want to return a sweater, it’s frustrating. More so frustrating because we take a language lesson once a week and I still feel like I don’t have the words when I need them.
Or relocating with your kids to another country? What are the common adjustments or struggles you’ve overcome?
Relocating with a two year old was relatively pain free (aside from breaking the news to your family and friends). Our son adjusted remarkably well and now at about 2.5 is starting to grasp the concept that we have two different houses that are very far away from each other.
My parenting style hasn’t changed too much since living in Tokyo. If anything, I am much more relaxed about letting my son explore and interact with new people. We are fortunate to live in a huge city that is extremely safe, of course it’s not perfect but it’s much different from the constant “stranger danger” mentality of the States.
On Work-Family Balance
One of our biggest challenges was adjusting to the work life balance (or lack thereof) in Japan. My husband works much longer hours than back home and it took a few months to really find a groove and get acquainted with our new normal. I think what helped the most was allowing our life here to be something entirely different from we were used to back home. New place, new routine.
What is your opinion about raising your kid as a third culture kid? ( TCK means a third culture that your child is growing up with compared to the culture of your husband/spouse )
Are you happy that you are raising an Expat Kid?
I am very happy to be raising an expat kid. We have been able to show him so much of the world before he’s even turned 3! Although he may not remember all of the experiences, I absolutely believe it has strengthened his ability to communicate, problem solve and understand the world around him. An obvious downside is being away from family, with such a huge time difference, phone calls can be tough. Going home twice a year and having family come to visit us here in Tokyo is a huge help and makes the time go by much faster also. As a bonus, we’re getting really good at taking looonng flights!
How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?
At about two months in to living in Tokyo, I realized that making friends would take some effort. I created a playgroup via Facebook to bring together expat families within our area of the city. I enjoy planning the monthly events and love that the group members are able to network with one another. It’s always nice to know you aren’t alone especially when you are all in the same boat of trying to figure out life in a drastically different place.
Thank you so much Victoria for being part of this amazing series and sharing your life with us. It is a pleasure to meet you!
All images used in this post are owned by Victoria and TeaforDinosaurs Blog. Should you want to use it, please mention or do inform her.
Want to follow TeaforDinosaurs ‘s Expat adventures in Tokyo? Follow Victoria in her Instagram account Here and her Facebook page .
Enjoyed reading about Expat parenting story like this? If you love this post, please share it with your friends and if you wanted to share your own Expat Mama/Papa story, please drop me an email in email@example.com or leave your comments below!
For our 10th series of Expat Mama interview stories for this year,I am excited to feature another amazing Expat Mama all the way from Sweden but making wander-full postcards from Geneva, up to her new-found home in South Africa, in the city of Gold, the eGoli, or locally known as Jo’burg–or what the world known as Johannesburg!
Josefine is a Swede Expat Mama living abroad with her husband Tobias, her dog, London and her 1-year old adorable daughter, Claudine. She blogs about her wanderlust and travel adventures from Switzerland/France and shares her interests on expat life, food, wine,fashion and all things beautiful. Her expat-life right can be summed up into these words: Across the world with a baby, husband and a container full of furniture. Her Blog –Postcards from Josefine is an epitome of today’s modern woman’s world –beautiful, whimsical, and full of zest about exploring new horizons in life as part of embracing motherhood.
If you’re a jetsetter as well as have a dog and wanted to bring your dog to Geneva then you might find her tip on travelling with Pets Here.
I was born in a tiny village in southern Sweden where the forests where dense, the fields endless and the freedom was absolute. I was born as child number three in a line of four siblings. My world revolved around the horse farm where I grew up, school and my friends and the walls of my room was covered with posters of horses, Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys. I vividly remember the smell of fresh hay in the summers, the warmth of a horseback underneath me riding through the snow and gazing up at the stars in winter, hours and hours spent in the stable with my friends. Everything outside of my little village felt extremely far away, even Denmark that was within an hour from us felt very exotic and distant.
It was first when I was 13 years old and my sister moved to London for a year that I realized that there was a world outside of my little bubble. The longing of getting away grew stronger and stronger. At 17 I went to Italy to work in a stable outside of Venice for a couple of weeks, at 24 I did the research for my Bachelor’s essay in Bombay, India. At 25 I started working for as Relocation Consultant in Stockholm, helping families moving to Sweden with everything from housing to bank account, registrations and schools. The same year I met my husband and shortly after we met we started dreaming about moving abroad together. A year into our relationship he was sent to Johannesburg, South Africa for 5 months. I stayed in Stockholm for work but visited him for a month and he proposed. Shortly after we got married and then we moved together to Geneva where he had signed a new job contract for one of the banks. I got pregnant during our time in Geneva and as we lived on the French side of the border, spent a lot of our time in Switzerland and I had my midwife in Sweden it was truly a challenge because of different cultures and recommendations.
On wearing the harmony ball and Längtan
A gift from my mother is a beautiful necklace with a pendant harmony ball. The harmony ball has the inscription “Längtan”, Swedish for ‘longing for’ or ‘to long for’ which is very suitable as we really are longing for this baby to arrive.Harmony Ball Pendants worn as necklaces have been used in various cultures for centuries by pregnant women and hence harmony balls are often called pregnancy harmony ball pendants. Pregnant women in Bali and Mexico are known to have traditionally worn these harmony balls when pregnant.
A Harmony Ball typically is made from sterling silver and contains a small bell-like item that emits very subtle but audible chimes with movement, not unlike the sound of wind charms in a very soft breeze.
It is said that from about 16-20 weeks into the pregnancy that the unborn baby will hear the soft chimes sound coming from the harmony ball.
On when Life give you lemons…go for the next adventure!
When Claudine was 3 months my husband called from work and the bank he was working for was cutting down on consultants which meant that he only had one more month of work there. My world totally fell apart. I loved the little French village we lived in and my friends there and I totally didn’t want to move, especially not with a three-month old baby. The next couple of months we mentally moved to six different countries in three different continents and when we finally signed the contract for Johannesburg, South Africa I had already cried for a week just thinking about moving to the other side of the world, far from everyone and everything I knew. Becoming a mother changed me more than I ever could have imagined. What pre-baby would have been an adventure that would have made my heart skip a beat and the blood run faster in my veins now totally scared the crap out of me.
On the reality Bites of an Expat Life
Being an expat and a mother is great! I’m so lucky to be able to spend so much time with my baby girl and our whole life is an adventure! To meet new people, to see new places and to get new perspectives. I’ve grown so much as a person these last couple of years abroad. We’ve also grown much closer as a family after relocating as you really have to be a team to make it! However, I’m not going to lie – this kind of life has its challenges. Relocating can be stressful, scary and lonely. Every time Claudine learns something new, every time she gets taller, gets a new tooth or says new words I wish my family back home could see her evolving. Next time they’ll see her it’s been 6 months since the last time we met and it sometimes makes me sad that they’ve missed out on so much.
On Life in Johannesburg
There’s absolutely pro’s and con’s living as an expat mom in Johannesburg. The biggest con with living here I must say is safety. We live in an extremely safe estate with high walls and to get in you need to swipe your finger. They say living here is safer than the Buckingham Palace and so far I can’t disagree. However, you’re very aware of things going on in this town as you hear new stories everyday about people getting robbed etc. I’m always very aware of safety when I leave the estate. I always put my bag where it’s not visible in the car, never wear jewelry and would never ever take my eyes of my baby when outside of these walls. It’s very different to live here compared to Europe and the inequalities in the society is huge, you have people living in shacks next to luxury estates. We could never go anywhere with public transportation but have to take the car everywhere and you would never walk outside of the estate. I miss just being able to go outside and go for a leisurely stroll, walk around without a plan, maybe stop by at a coffee shop for a take away coffee or a shop that has a sale.
On Johannesburg for Babies
We managed to sign Claudine up for four different activities a week – swimming twice a week, Bouncing Bunnies (gymnastics for babies) and Music Box (music and dance class). She loves all the activities and she’s having so much fun with the other babies! She’s at a stage right now where she screams of excitement as soon as she see’s another kid, haha! It might sound crazy to put a 15 month old in swim school but considering how much time you spend in the water in this heat it’s really good to teach them early! Claudine is already kicking, going under the surface, climbs out of the pool and last week she took her first swim strokes – need I say this was one proud mama?!
On breaching the South African Culture
The biggest pro’s are definitely the weather! The sun is always shining and you spend lots of time outdoors. There’s so much activities here for kids and a lot of kiddie friendly restaurants with playgrounds. All expats I know have a helper that takes care of the house and babysits, it’s also a way to give back to the community. The South Africans we’ve had the pleasure to get to know are very much alive and live for the moment. They are very open-hearted, generous and welcoming – the total opposite of people in Sweden and Switzerland. There’s always something new to do or to see – restaurants, markets, lion parks, mountain biking, horseback riding, golf or just enjoying the sunshine and taking a dip in the pool.
On making an impact as an Expat Mama
When we left Europe earlier this year I was on the plane with insomnia so I watched Out of Africa. In that movie Meryl Streep keeps repeating the phrase ”I had a farm in Africa”. This has kind of become my mantra and everytime it feels difficult to be here, everytime the home-sickness lingers over me I think of this phrase. One day I’ll think back on the time we lived in Africa and I know I won’t regret it. We try to enjoy this moment as much as we can as we know it’s not forever. One day we’ll move back to Europe but the experience and the memories will stay with us forever. I will think back on the time when I had exotic birds in my garden, that I once almost hit a wild peacock on the way to swim school, that there are lions just a 10 minute drive from us (well, well, in a fenced in park but still), that because we’re here we can support the locals with job opportunities, that I had a fundraising to support a local organization who helps exposed women and children in the neighbouring township and that I’ve managed to start a life on the other side of the world.
A Wanderer who had once a restless nomadic soul finally finds HOME…
I also know that my restless soul has found my place in life, it’s not a geographic spot it’s with my little family.
All photos and images are owned by Josefine & Postcards from Josefine’s Blog. Should you wish to use it please kindly inform the owner.
If you wish to get to know more of Josefine and her OOTD & Fashion- Life hacks for Mommy’s out there, you can check out her Instagram and follow her Blog-Postcards from Josefine.
For our 9th series for our Interview-stories for our amazing Expat Mama around the World, I am so thrilled to feature Sasha Wang, a Chinese Expat Mama who makes waves and living La Dolce Vita with her Italian-Tuscan husband and her 2 years old son in the beautiful classical city of Florence,the capital of the Tuscany region in Italy.
Her story is a closer look on another inspiring tale of a WMAF (White male, Asian Female) love story, who beats the odds of living as Expats in Hongkong , raising their bilingual kid and finally finding Florence as new home. But how does one Chinese lady explores Florence like a curious tourist and get second looks from the locals?
Is it because of her flamboyant fashion style? or is it because of her eye-catching Sunnies?Let’s get to know Sasha and her adventures as she falls in love with her new country with a beautiful smile while decoding the Gelato madness and chasing her frenzy toddler with style.
Sasha’s Profile :
Sasha is a full-time mom, as well as a Travel and Expat Lifestyle Blogger behind the Blog –“Stai al Borgo”. She loves Fashion,modern arts, road tripping, doing Blog tours and exploring the off beaten path destinations in her second home-Florence. She takes her passion for photography seriously and her Instagram feed is well worth of follow. Sasha is a natural food lover, whipping gastronomic delights infused with Asian & European influences such as her deconstructed Insalata de Riso or her own version of Linguini Carbonara!
From China to Hongkong and now in the heart of the Tuscan sun, in Firenze she flairs with her own style and blogs on how to fall in love with Florence while raising her tiny human, with the best of both worlds. Sasha finally claimed her place in the internet when her Blog got shortlisted last May 2015 on the Italy Magazine for the Best Travel Blog Awards 2014 . She also appeared in one of the Locals I love interview from Girl in Florence.
Tell us About your Background
I was born in Shenyang, a city in the north-east China. I lived in Hong Kong for 8 years before moving to Florence. I met my husband, a Tuscan Italian, in Hong Kong. We used to visit Florence for holiday, and we both like the city a lot. In 2015 we decided to move and start a new life in Florence. “Amore” is the reason I am here now.
On view of Florence from a Chinese curious eyes
Florence is definitely a tourist ‘s place. It is considered as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe as well as a fashion hub. As a place filled with classical beauty, renowned Architecture, and great food, the real Tuscan food.The countryside is beautiful and definitely picturesque. The wine is fantastic and sitting in cafes can be a leisurely past time. Sitting in ancient piazzas and seeing beautiful works of art can be breath-taking.
One of the things making the life in Florence “La Dolce Vita” is the flexibility to travel around! Since we moved to Florence, every weekend we try to arrange something. Either meeting friends in the city for coffee or dinner, or me and my husband will drive to places nearby for a lunch or a walk, or we take a one or two-day trip to another city. Tuscany already has so much to be discovered and see, no need to mention other cities/ regions as adventures! Even with a toddler, it did not stop me from traveling, exploring and getting into the local culture as much as possible. With great network of friends and fellow Bloggers, I was able to establish a connection with my new city through Blog tours, food tours, photo walks and other social meet-ups. It doesn’t mean that when I became a mother then I’ll stop to do my passion. Life has been more meaningful with our travels with our Little one.
On the Birth of Stai al Borgo
Stai al Borgo came into life when I decided to share my Expat experiences as a curious resident and showing the beautiful side of Florence. In case you are curious what my Blog name means; Stai is the Italian word for Stay;Borgo refers to Borgo San Frediano.
We have a small apartment in Borgo San Frediano. The first time my husband and I lived there was the New Year’s Eve 2012. We were visiting Florence as tourists back then, but the experience brought me the idea of starting a blog writing about my life/trips in Italy. That’s why I named the blog Stai Al Borgo, because Borgo is where the inspiration came from.
It is interesting to live as an expat, because you are a tourist and resident at the same time. I blog about interesting places I visited as a tourist, also tips for daily life. For example my latest post is about my favorite items for home-cooking from supermarkets.Now we’ve put that apartment in S. Frediano to rent. I use the blog as a channel to promote the apartment and the lifestyle as a resident. If you are planning for a holiday in Florence, you might want to check out our Apartment for rent and I would be your willing host as I introduce you to Florence.
I am working on something related to Chinese tourists here. I’ve registered a website in China, and started my Chinese blog there. I hope to attract those Chinese, who travel independently in Tuscany, and show them different sides of the place, rather than the well-known tourist attractions.
Share something about the current country you are living in and notable aspects .
On my Expat life in Florence
One of the best things of being an expat is that you live in a city with heart of a tourist. Florence makes my expat life so easy (so far) as there are lots of interesting stuff going on. I am constantly surprised by this city for all the new things happening. Last May 2015 we farewell our friends in Hong Kong, packed our past 10 years into 30 carton boxes, took our 11-month old boy with us on a flight, headed to our new home: Florence.
Florence and Hong Kong are two cities with completely different lifestyles and cultures. Starting a new life here can drive you crazy, especially when you are a non-Italian speaker who are used to fast life pace in a modern city like Hong Kong.
Bureaucracy here gives me the biggest headache. Thank God my husband is an Italian, and he is always so supportive and be there for us (me and our son) all the time. The first year, aka the transition period, was the hardest, but we managed to take it easy and settle things well.However being an Asian expat here, although I’ve been married to and lived with an Italian for 5 years, I am still adapting to the Italian (or should I say Florentine) lifestyle!
On raising a Bilingual child
When we moved to Florence last May, our son was just 11-month old. The whole process has been easy for me, because he was too little to be affected by the different lifestyles. And I am happy about this move, as Italy overall is a much more family friendly place than Hong Kong.
Meanwhile the biggest challenge for me is introducing Chinese culture to my baby. I’ve been talking Chinese to him, and he seems to understand even though he replies me in Italian all the time. But I’d like to keep going and let him be able to talk & read his “second mother-tongue”.
Now our son goes to the local nursery during the day, and he develops the skills of playing and communicating with other kids day by day. It has been easy for him, and now he is turning into a little Italian man.
On getting around with a Toddler in Florence
I love my son and I love fashion as well so I am one of those mothers who made an effort to find the best and Unique Baby shops in Florence.I recently discovered an App called “BabyOut Firenze”. It suggests you places to go for the entire family, such as entertainment places, events, restaurants, even pharmacy, pediatric hospitals, etc. It is good to know what are the baby-friendly places around.I also love to watch Family Food Tube, where many parents sharing their baby food recipes. It is a good channel to get new ideas for cooking.
On the absence of Lifts/Elevators in buildings
For people used to live in a city like Hong Kong, lift inside apartment building is like bread, you have it! But as an antique city as Florence, especially in the city center, most of the building doesn’t. From my apartment hunting experience, I did visit one (only one) apartment in the city center with a lift! But it was soooo small. If it is only used by one or two persons at same time, it is still OK. But if more than three, you really need to squeeze yourself in! Well, it can be a good way to know your neighbors.
It is fine I feel exhausted after a long day at work, and still can spare little energy climbing some steps. But if I have my one-year old, his stroller, and grocery all at the same time, it is not funny! Luckily nowadays most of the supermarkets provide home delivery service, but before I get my Italian credit card and start shopping online, I still need to play it in the traditional way.
On the Italian coffee culture
I love coffee. Anytime of the day. But coffee here is too short. Here coffee by default is an espresso, even the “lungo” version is just in a small coffee cup. As Chinese we don’t really have a culture of drinking coffee, but I used to have coffee from Starbucks while living in Hong Kong. Now I really miss those days that I could walk around the city with my coffee in a tall paper cup.
What’s even more shocking? My Italian husband misses the Starbucks too!
The idea of Starbucks was inspired by a coffee shop in Milan, however there is not a single Starbucks in the whole Italy! I miss those days when I can take my coffee in a paper cup and walk from bus station to the office. Here everybody drinks espresso: bottom up, pay and leave. To me it is like taking shots: too fast and too strong.
On the course of Integrating into Italian-Tuscan Culture
I knew I can’t claim Florence by heart if I can’t speak the language so I decided to learn it. I enrolled myself to a two-week Italian course which I found to be very beneficial & smart thing to do. The learning part was great, but the thing I enjoyed the most about attending language school was that I got to go out, meet new people, and built up social life of my own! I was not sure if attending school made me feel older or younger, since all other students in my class were around 20, but I was just happy every morning to pass Ponte alle Grazie, greet Ponte Vecchio and walk alone to Borgo Santa Croce. I started to feel Florence was my city.
Another thing that helped me to love my new country more was when I was invited to join “Tuscany Among The Star” blog tour organized by Fondazione Sistema Toscana. Together with other four content creators, we visited towns among Tuscany, had lots of special moment and experiences together, which was not only mind opening, but also made me falling in love more with this piece of land.
On Italian’s love affair with their food
After living in Florence for one year, I find myself deeply missing the Asian cuisines: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, all of them! Florence is wonderful for Italian dishes, but only Italian dishes. It is almost impossible to find good Asian restaurant here. Don’t get me wrong, I love Italian food, and I don’t mind to have pasta 5 days a week. However the Asian stomach calls for the taste of my origin from time to time.
Of course the only thing I couldn’t miss in Hong Kong was the great Chinese food! And among all the Chinese cuisines, the one I missed the most was the Sichuan Hot Pot! 三希樓 is my favorite Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong. They specializes in Sichuan cuisine, which is famous for the spicy taste. In Winter, the hot pot in 三希樓 is a must-try if you visit Hong Kong!
I love cooking, and we most of the time eat at home enjoying my dishes.I adore Italian cuisine,and I’ve practiced presentable skills in making pasta and pizza at home.Meanwhile I also prepare Chinese dishes for my family.My husband and my son both like rice with sauteed vegetables dishes for meal.
Our rule is : eat alternately ,eat diversely.
What is your opinion about raising your kid as a third culture kid? ( TCK means a third culture that your child is growing up with compared to the culture of your husband/spouse )
Our son is not considered an expat kid, as he is half Italian. However we are unlike a typical traditional Italian family, which me and my husband are both very happy about.
Both of us have expat experience, and we know how important it is to have the opportunity to know different culture. That’s why I keep talking Chinese to him, and hopefully to involve him to more Chinese cultures while he grows up.
How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?
I am not sure at this moment, as it is too early to say. Rather than me making an impact, the country is making a big impact on me on how to raise a new life.
Growing up in one-child family, I almost knew nothing about what it is like to raise multiple children by one couple. I’ve seen many Italian Moms taking care of their kids, bringing them around, taking it easy when it comes to problems, etc. It encourages me and gives me confidence to expecting a (potential) bigger family in the future.
Thank you so much Sasha for sharing your wonderful metamorphosis as a Mom, woman, Writer, Adventurer, Stylist, Creator,and becoming the inspiring person you are right now.Indeed, with your style, confidence, and happy vibes about life, you are so deserving to be one of the Locals that Florence could be proud of…and now , an Expat Mama!
To me, clothing is a form of self-expression–there are hints about who you are in what you wear. ~Marc Jacobs
P.S. All photos and fine print in this post are owned and personal photos of Sasha Wang/ Stai al Borgo. Should you wish to use it, please inform her accordingly.
If you got inspired by Sasha and wanted to follow her Expat Life in Florence, you can follow her Instagram, Twitter, and add her as a friend in Facebook.
For our 8th series of amazing interview-stories of Expat Mamas around the World,we are featuring Suzanne Zulauf, an American Expat-Mama who lives in Shanghai with her husband Andy, her son, Lee (9 yrs.old) and her daughter, Mara (6 yrs.old) From their kaleidoscope life in New York as a Jewish family, Suzanne shares us to her new-found Expat-Mama adventures and bravely raising her 2 American kids in the Dumpling capital of the world,and probably the most populous city in the world– Shanghai,China.
How does an American Mama cope in the land of Dumplings when her daughter only eat chicken nuggets, mac & cheese?
Suzanne is literary coach and a middle school Language Arts teacher by profession. A super-mom of 2 kids, and adores Broadway from the moment she moved to New York. A true American by heart, she admits she can’t live without the real gooey McDonald’s sundae,peanut butter & Cheerios! Having lived in one of the most fast-paced city-Manhattan in New York, she’s hooked into running the west side of the Central Park and her passion for fitness got her into doing a half marathon and a ten-mile run.
As a huge introvert,she loves to read and find comfort in writing. For someone who is passionate about food and a good old margarita, she enjoys simple pleasures in life,like having a drink in her porch with a neighbor.
Suzanne is the Blogger behind the Blog “Zulaufjourney“ which is a personal lifestyle Blog. A firm advocate of “Remember your roots and Trust your Wings” as randomly incorporated in her parenting style and outlook in life.
Expat Mama in Shanghai : Hotdog & Chicken Nugget eaters in a Dumpling World
On first impressions of Shanghai
Shanghai is gigantic; much larger in space than New York City, and for a foreigner feels widely inaccessible.Shanghai is basically divided into two sections, East and West of the river. West of the river is called Puxi (poo-shee) and East of the river is Pudong. The financial district and Andy’s office are in Puxi, but we will live in Pudong. The airport is on the East coast of Pudong (and all of China) so it makes sense for us to live in Pudong since Andy will be traveling so much (both internationally and within China).Cars do not stop turning, even when walkers have the light.Within Pudong, we found that a huge number of expats live in Jinqiao (gin-chow), which is also called Green City. It felt the most like a suburb, with shopping centers and restaurants. Several of the other areas we looked at felt secluded and were often a 15-20 minute drive to groceries or other stores.
Shanghai’s skyline is beautiful and also in a constant state of change. If you look at photographs of the last several years, several buildings have been added to the skyline. Most famous is the Oriental Pearl Tower, which gleams purple during the day, yet is the star of the nightly light show between 6-11pm.
On the undeniable air pollution & Hygiene
Bad air quality – This is a real thing. When there is a blue sky, its like a miracle. When the rating goes above 150, I feel real physical symptoms (scratchy throat, stuffy nose, fatigue). My kids can’t go out for recess, and I worry about the long-term effects for them.People spit everywhere all the time. More Expats say that Spitting here is not a bad habit, it’s brilliant.
On living in a “Bubble”
The language barrier is by far going to be the most difficult challenge.We live in Jinqiao , literally means “the golden bridge” but locally often referred to as “the bubble”. It seems that most people native to Shanghai do not speak English. This will be a challenge.Hearing a foreign language all the time, everywhere you go is mentally exhausting. We’re all taking Chinese lessons, but it is difficult to learn and harder even when local Chinese can’t understand us when we do try to speak!
Internet is blocked by the government, so we have to use a VPN, which causes all sorts of issues with our banking and other accounts we need to access. Also with children, it is nice to have the creature comforts of favorite television shows, etc, and the shaky internet perpetually threatens our access to those comforts.
On Split pants culture for babies & Squatty potties
In China, babies wear the “Split pants”and potty training comes early. The call of nature comes by command from parents either through swift whistle and children poop or pee.This might come as a shock from a country whose definition of potty training includes hours & tedious discipline for training your child to seat on a potty decently.Chinese children (and sometimes grown men) urinate on the street or really anywhere they want to.
Often, public toilets will be “squatty potties” (or, a hole in the ground) without toilet paper readily available, so be prepared.
On having a hired help
It is normal for expat families to have an Ayi and driver, so raising unspoiled children is tricky.Living as an expat, we will be very fortunate to employ a driver to help the accessibility issue.The expat community is a “helper” culture, as is much of Asia, so we will also most likely have an “ayee,” ( same as Nanny ) who will help with grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the kids. This is a luxury that will take getting used to, and I hope that I can navigate this set-up in such a way that my children do not become spoiled rotten, entitled, or without a sense of personal responsibility.
I need to say that I’m still uncomfortable talking about “my driver,” “our ayi” and “Andy’s assistant” to people living outside China because I’m still uncomfortable with what feels like unnecessary privilege, even though it is a way of life here. We have always been self-sufficient and never had family employees. (Andy’s assistant is a KPMG employee and while he has always depended on support staff for work, his assistant here is literally getting us through life!) In these past few days I’ve realized just how grateful I am to have our driver, Yu Jian, our Ayi,Lauren, and Andy’s assistant, Terry, because I would otherwise be paralyzed with the overwhelming differences of daily life. That being said, here is how these few days have gone-with enormous help from Yu Jian, Lauren, and Terry.
Share something about the current country you are living in and notable aspects .
Shanghai is supposedly that “least Chinese” city in China, but I feel very much the impact of living in this corner on the world. None of the ‘rules’ of life seem to be the same:
On Shanghai’s crazy traffic
You can ride your moped on either side of the road in the scooter lanes, but cars won’t stop for you to cross an intersection even if you have the green light. Drivers in general don’t follow lane lines, yet will slow down at every government camera along the highway.Road signs just don’t make sense.Families of four or more while ride on one moped as their main form of transportation. No seat belts. No car seats (in cars, either).
Zebra crossings do exist in China, but don’t serve much purpose, as drivers will rarely stop when you are near one or indeed inside one, so never take this for granted.Many car drivers in China are quite inexperienced, as Chinese tend to buy their first car and get a driver’s license much later in life than Westerners.
On the unexplainable typical Shanghai culture
Since there is 0 unemployment in China, there will be 6 workers in an empty store all playing on their cell phones, but not one will help you when you come in the store.Chinese love to take photos of Western children (especially blonde ones).There is no concept of lining up for things, even at a cash register at a store.You have to have your produce weighed and get a price sticker BEFORE you go to the cash register at grocery stores or you cannot purchase your produce.At restaurants, food comes out at different times for each person at a table, so don’t expect to eat with your family members or your food will be cold
The greatest shock for me–The vanilla ice cream at McDonald’s tastes different. That is all.
On importance of education and access to International schools
Dulwich’s Early Childhood curriculum moves quite quickly and there is but there is a surprising huge difference between USA/ NYC Kindergarten and Dulwich Year 1. Those students (who would be considered Kinders here) are NOW in January writing complete sentences, sometimes paragraphs. Their penmanship is spectacular! I’m not sure what their secret is to such great academic success because we know that young students need a print-rich environment and that they thrive on having choice in their book selections.
Our tour guide from the admissions office told us that the early years students are more advanced than at other schools, but that they all level out in the upper years. I’m not quite sure what to make of this. I actually worry that students who have been with Dulwich since age 2 might totally overshadow my girl.
On Bridging the gap from families abroad
Talking about time difference, we have a 12 hour (13 with daylight savings) difference from one side of the family and a 15 hour (16 at daylight savings) difference from the other side of the family. So having quality calls or FaceTimes are hard.
We can’t drink our tap water, so adjusting to bottled water is just one more thing to get used to. My son has been very open to the food our Ayi cooks, but my daughter really only will eat chicken nuggets, mac & cheese, cereal, and yogurt. Luckily there are several groceries that carry Western items, but you pay the premium to have those things because every food item has to go through China customs.
On beating the Shang-lows & re potting the Uprooted child
As a first time Expat,the best way to pull out of those low days and to move into a more accepting mindset is to stay busy. We ventured into our new Shanghai routines from weekend soccer games, play dates, and birthday parties and exploring the city.I would say there is plenty to make us feel happy in Shanghai, especially for Lee, who has earned a spot on the Dulwich Earthquakes, a team housed at the British school, but associated with the MLS San Jose Earthquakes. With soccer, the SAS swim team, and the freedom of riding his scooter around the neighborhood to his new friends’ homes, he’s feeling mostly settled. Mara also has plenty of activities: gymnastics, Wednesday swim club at school, and will soon start some fun after school activities (Junior Olympics and recycle art).One other China bonus: our backyard! The kids, especially Lee, love that we have a space
where they can run around and Lee can now play soccer. In our yard!
Thinking that my kids have been uprooted from our old New York lifestyle , its great that they are slowly being repotted, the Shanghai way.
What is your opinion about raising your kid as a third culture kid? Are you happy that you are raising an Expat Kid?
I LOVE that my kids are learning a new language and that they are learning to accept a new normal. They are making friends with kids from all over the world. I know that raising my kids as expats in going to give them invaluable skills later in life. They are resilient and adaptable, and while they have their struggles missing family, friends, food, and their “old normal,” they are for the most part learning to appreciate a whole new part of the world. I couldn’t be happier we made the decision to come here.
How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?
I would love to find a way to continue coaching teachers and helping to bring top-rate instruction to our expat kids. I would also love to work with Chinese schools who want to improve their English instruction. I think the best thing I can do, though, is to continue and study my Chinese so that I can show each Chinese person with whom I interact that I appreciate their culture, that the ways of life here are rich with custom and history and deserve a chance to be experienced in native tongue. I think I can make an impact on other Expat Mamas as I continue to branch out and try to speak Chinese in public. I can be an example of trying embrace this life, even if I do live in ‘the bubble.’
Thank you so much Suzanne for sharing your story with us! If you want to follow the Expat adventures of Suzanne, make sure to follow her blog- Zulaufjourney !
For our 7th series of our amazing Expat Mamas around the world interview-stories, I am excited to have the chance to feature Abeer— A jetsetter Mama conquering life abroad and making memories together with her husband Aetesam, his son Hamza ( 4 years old) and Azaan (1-year-old) in the land of the liquid gold, the birth place of Islam and Arabs, in the oil-rich magnificent desert–Riyadh, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia!
So how does one Expat Mama braves the desert life, sandstorms and living in modesty in the Land of the Two Holy Mosques? Here’s Abeer’s story of sharing inspiration and everyday life in her happy corner.
Expat Mama Story : Making memories in the Land of Arabs
Abeer is a Muslim Expat Lifestyle Mama Blogger behind This Happy Corner. She was officially baptized into the Blogworld when she starts to become Contributor for the magazine and online Parenting site ExpertParenthood.com with her article “Travelling with the Littles“. She has a degree in Electrical Engineering and worked in the corporate world before she was promoted to become the SuperMom 24/7 of two boys. She’s a fast driver as well as a Crafty Stay at home Mommy. She have a wanderlust for travel , DIY projects and a talented Freelance Photographer.She’s a budding chef with her signature dishes”Traditional Greek Moussaka ” and Spinach Ricotta Cannelloni“.
On Life in Saudi Arabia as an Expat Woman
Although she’s of Muslim faith,life in the Kingdom is different from Abeer’s home country,Pakistan. “Women do not drive, we cover our bodies, we sit in the “Family Section” of restaurants (single or groups of men stay in the “Men Only” sections). We become “dependents”, hereon “sponsored” by our husbands, who are in turn sponsored by their companies, and we cannot leave the country without an exit visa.Thursdays and Fridays are the official weekends. The stifling heat and lack of cultural activities drive people into malls, encouraging endless shopping for clothes that would go under an Abaya anyway. Fitting rooms in boutiques are nonexistent, so taking the same item in different sizes and returning the ill-fitting ones is the shopping norm. There is also a glaring lack of saleswomen – making you chuckle at the paradox of a man helping you select sexy underwear in Saudi. The prayer times become as normalcy. Shops close five times a day during prayer times, sometimes 25 minutes or longer. Grocery shopping can be a very stressful chore because of this.
On incidental way of fitting-in to Arabian lifestyle
Its been a while for us in Riyadh now and we are getting used to the dry desert environment and the cautious set of rules that govern this part of Middle East. There have a been a few surprises and bummer along the way, like the time when we had to sit on the road side and eat our fried chicken as I wasn’t allowed to sit in that restaurant due to a lack of family space.We celebrated Eid here with a nice lunch together at some friends’, drive around the city and amazing fireworks later in the night right next to our place
On being a mother of two Boys
I had my first baby boy and then I took a break from work, always imagining to go back once he is a bit older. After a couple of years, I had my second one and my hands got full of them! I not only got super busy, but I also changed around that time and realized that I never actually want to go back to the corporate world, it was doing nothing for me as a person. Whereas staying home with my boys all day, gave me small windows of time to find out what my real interests in life are. I started capturing my babies and our everyday life and soon photography became a passion. I would stay up late at night for many hours taking up online courses and learning what tricks my camera could do to improve my photos. And then practice on my kids in the light of the day. I discovered my passion for cooking different cuisines, particularly Italian. And I would make the daily dinner my practice session. I started celebrating the everyday life. And then my blog happened, and i started pouring my heart out on it.
On looking back at life in Pakistan
Me and the husband lived 5 long years in Karachi .. It’s where both our kids were born so we will always have a special connection with the city. Karachi is a big, thriving, bustling city full of glamour, political drama and all kinds of highs and lows of life. The people in that region have a street-smartness edge over the people of the rest of the country. They are fast. they are clever. They are always two paces ahead of you.
Our life in Karachi was perfect, but the security situation of the city was the real deal-breaker for us. Two times in one week while all our family was in the car, a gun was pointed at us and our bags etc were snatched. Both times, I had a baby in my arms and we just couldn’t accept this kind of life for us anymore where we can’t guarantee the safety of our kids from street crime. And so we decided to move! My husband started applying for jobs in the Middle East and soon we were on our way here! We do miss Karachi sometimes, too many memories and fun times.
On the exciting and exhilarating road to Expat Life
Living in the Arab Land is very different from back home. The country is dominated by religious rules and the culture is restricting for sure. Women have to wear Abayas whenever they head out and cover themselves properly. Being a muslim, I am totally cool with wearing the Abaya and the hijab although I do feel how restricting that must feel to non-muslim expats. The thing that I really had to work to get my head around was the rule that women CANNOT drive. This was almost a deal-breaker for me as I love to drive and have been quite independent all though my life therefore waiting for husband to take me out every time was a big adjustment. Now that I have lived in the city for a while, I can easily hail a cab and be on my way whenever I want so it’s not so bad after all.
On embracing the Arab Culture
Weather here is scorching hot for most part of the year although it does get pleasant come evening due to desert all around. Which also makes for an extremely dry weather and drastic steps have to be taken to maintain your skin and hair.
The city is home to a number of big and small beautiful parks, lined with elegant and swaying Palm trees. I have had such a crush on these trees that I still look at them like a kid looks at candy.
On the family oriented values of the Saudi locals
One of the things that fascinates me the most is how the Arab culture is so family oriented! Extended families in large groups are always having picnics in parks together. They bring their rugs and chairs, they bring their food and tea, and just plop down on the ground for hours, sharing stories and love, while their kids are busy building sand castles or riding their automated cars/bikes which they always make sure to bring. They come prepared to enjoy the park! Not like us, who often forget to even bring the ball LOL!
A day in the park
I have my own Car!
On “When in Saudi, do as the Arabs do ” norm
The typical Saudi Arabian woman only wears black Abaya and they cover their face. I was told before moving here that although women do wear colored Abayas in rest of the country, but as Riyadh is the capital and hence more strict, here only black Abayas are allowed. Although that is not true now, I have seen many women wearing different colored Abayas around, for me navy blue Abaya with a colored scarf is as bad as i get !
Mall culture is huge here! There are so many of them and I haven’t been to even half of them yet. The Arab women are up to date on their fashion and style. Even hidden under Abayas and Tarhas, you can spot that their eye makeup game is the strongest among all 😉
Malls loaded with every imaginable brand and cafes definitely is a big attraction for everyone here, but sadly for me, my boys (all three of them!) don’t behave well in malls, the younger ones being too hyper active, and the older one (also known as husband) rolls his eyes too many times that i fear they will get stuck inside his head.
On a serious note, I am not a fan of mall culture as I think it just promotes materialism, and one cannot come out of it without spending 10 times more than one intended too. those never-ending sales. those motorized kids cars, those flashing and blaring humongous play areas, and all the stuff that you eat that you never would have eaten had you not stepped inside one. We prefer to take our kids to parks or anything outdoors, it’s better for the pocket and general well-being .
On Muslim’s Salah (prayer) times
One thing worth mentioning over here is that for Muslims, praying five times a day at specific times is compulsory. Here in Saudi Arabia, business closes five times a day whenever prayer time comes. Shops, cafes, everything. It has definitely helped us get more punctual with our prayers. But at the same time, if you are in a shop about to head to pay counter and prayer times comes, it can be slightly annoying cause then you will have to wait for another half an hour or so. In the start we were so bad at it, and would always reach a place when it was already or was about to be closed for prayer, but with time we have up-ed our game and through careful analyzing of prayer time slots, we can usually plan our outings better .
On re-potting the uprooted kids into a new culture
We are lucky that our kids adjust well to a change in environment, house etc and once they were here, they never asked to go back and never gave me a tough time about the new place and new everything. They get super excited in new places so it has been good for them!
After a couple of months, we enrolled our elder one (who is 4) into kindergarten and the experience has been awesome so far! I am in love with his teacher who I believe is really helping him and bringing out his best qualities and polishing his strengths, at the same time, taking care of his weaknesses in a remarkable way. His classmates come from different countries and backgrounds, and i think he will hugely benefit from this exposure to different cultures. I am definitely happy that he has been given this opportunity to study and interact in a foreign country.
On thoughts on Motherhood
Motherhood is cuddling, squeezing and smooching at every chance possible. Motherhood is waking up a little too early and going to bed a little too late… Not to mention the countless wake ups in between. Motherhood is a monster bag filled with diapers, wipes, snacks and toys. Motherhood is the worry, anxiety and stress about every cough, sniffle and sneeze. Motherhood is questioning yourself about every decision, big or small. Is he eating right? is he sleeping enough?
Motherhood is absolutely and undeniably hard. So hard that some days end in tears, some mornings also start with tears.Life with two kids is pretty challenging and messy and chaotic and down-right exhausting, but it’s also everything I have ever wanted.
How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?
Some of my most precious memories were made during this last year. Believe me when I say that it’s not double the work with two little ones, its FOUR TIMES the work. You have to take care of them individually and also their relationship towards each other in both directions. Its non-stop, never-ending and it makes you longingly look back on your single baby days. But I still won’t have it any other way. If I am given the chance to do it all over again, I would maybe have them closer in age but not further apart. The joy of it all trumps the hardships any day by miles.
And this is the kind of impact I wanted to be remembered–touching the lives of my sons, shaping them for their future, and I, myself being transformed into a better version of being a wife, mother, sister, friend that I could ever be –and best of all, being the woman who chose the HAPPY CORNER of this so-called Life!
Thank you so much Abeer for this wonderful interview. Good luck and best wishes for your next Expat Mama adventures!
P.S All the photos in this post is courtesy of Abeer and her personal property. Should you wish to use it , please do inform her as courtesy.
Time for Jack-o-Lanterns to adorn the doorsteps and for giant Pumpkins to spice up the chilly Autumn days, for little kiddos to put out their creative costumes as the tale of Frankenstein awakens once again.
We all know that Halloween is typically an American thing. But Halloween in the place where The Walking Dead is filmed is even more special. A sure threat for horror & zombie enthusiasts! In Atlanta,where they host a zombie walk, zombie run, zombie convention, the Buried Alive Film Fest, and Atlanta Horror Fest. Even the movie Zombieland was filmed in Atlanta.
But how does a Southern Girl from Atlanta, Georgia a.k.a Zombie capital of the World turn her own tiny balcony in Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin into a pumpkin patch for her little Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood) to do trick-or-treating during Halloween ?
It’s time to meet the LeBlancs for us to know.
For our 6th series in our amazing Expat-Mamas around the World, we are featuring Christy LeBlanc, an American Expat Mama in Berlin, Germany. From the land of Big Peaches, Coca Cola and famed Hip hop capital of the world, Christy spreads her Southern charm into the Street Art kaleidoscope– Berlin. Christy moved into Germany last year with her husband Adam,whom she met during her college days, and her 3-year-old Miss Payton plus their King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Macy.
Here’s my Interview Story with Christy about her new found second-home & fascinating adventures as a Trail-blazing wife and first time Expat-Mama in Berlin .
Expat -Mama in Berlin : Adventures abroad with the LeBlancs
Christy is the Blogger behind the Our Adventures in Germany. She’s an Elementary School Teacher and a hands-on home maker. She loves traveling ,Crafting, Monograms, Baking & being a personal photographer of Miss Payton. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia in the US. Christy was raised in a traditional Southern home and surrounded with lots of family and grew up with home-made cooking.
On being a Southern Girl native
From a young age, I was taught to always respect my elders, have the best of manners, and above all get a good education. After graduating from high school, I moved to Athens Georgia to attend The University of Georgia. Little did I know that when I walked into Snelling Dining Hall just two weeks after starting college, I would meet my future husband! Adam and I dated all through college, began our first jobs after graduating (Adam is a CPA and I was an elementary school teacher at the time.) We got married on the 4th of July the summer of 2009 and four years later welcomed our sweet daughter, Payton, into the world.
On being a First time Expat-Mama & Expecting,again!
When Adam’s job asked us to move abroad to Berlin Germany in 2015, we jumped at the chance to travel Europe and experience life in another country! It was difficult at first adjusting to such a different lifestyle, but now we love it! We are also expecting another baby girl in November.
On Living in Berlin and getting used to walking
Living in Berlin has been such an amazing experience! We made a big change moving from a house in a quiet suburb of Atlanta to a flat in the much more urban environment of Berlin. One big change was getting used to walking everywhere and taking public transportation. We sold both of our cars when we moved to Berlin and have actually gotten along quite well without them! It is so easy to use the public transportation out here, and I have thoroughly enjoyed walking all over the city!
Life in Prenzlauer Berg, Christmas Markets & Kindercafes
We are in love with the beautiful neighborhood that we live in, Prenzlauer Berg! Our flat is located on a breath-taking cobblestone street with a view of the TV Tower and of a historic water tower from the 1800’s. We live in a traditional Altbau (prewar apartment) that is over 100 years old. Our neighborhood is very family friendly! There are “kindercafes” (child-friendly cafes that have toys and activities for children) everywhere and playgrounds on almost every block.
German wurst and brotchen
Getting addicted to Foodtrucks in Berlin
On German Childcare
When we first moved to Prenzlauer Berg and began looking into childcare, we had no idea how difficult it would be to find a spot at an available kindergarten or “kita” in Prenzlauer Berg! Apparently our neighborhood has one of the highest birthrates in all of Europe, so practically everyone here has to put their names on waiting lists for months before securing a spot. After waiting about 2 1/2 months, Payton was finally accepted into a public kita only a 10 minute walk from our flat! It is an all-German kita, and Payton is the only American child! The benefit is that she is picking up the German language very quickly! I was surprised to learn that German kindergartens are very different than American preschools. They are less-structured and favor more of a Montessori Approach. They also do mixed-age grouping, which is not as common in the United States.
On Play-comes-First approach in learning
Payton’s classroom is very child-centered and focuses mainly on free play and socialization. American preschools traditionally have more of a disciplined, academic environment than German kindergartens. As a former preschool teacher I struggled with the differences initially, but now I have embraced it! Payton has learned so much, and she is so happy at kita! In Berlin they teach the children to be independent from a young age, and I was amazed to see Payton drinking out of a cup, using the bathroom by herself, and even serving her own food at lunchtime – all at age 2!
On Germany’s generous support for Children or Kindergeld
One of the other incredible things about living in Berlin is the financial perks! German kindergartens are completely free for children to attend until they begin primary school around age 6! In the United States parents have to pay hundreds of dollars on daycare and preschool before sending their children to primary school! Berlin also has something called the “kindergeld” which entitles parents to around 180 euros per child to offset the financial costs of raising a family!
On Quality of Life for Expats and their family
The quality of life here is amazing! The living expenses are very affordable in Berlin! It is also so much more relaxed than the fast-paced life in the United States. Adults tend to work fewer hours, families spend more time together, and everyone is outside all of the time enjoying the weather! During the warmer months the cafes are packed with people enjoying glasses of wine and cups of coffee, and the playgrounds are filled with children. The companies out here offer a generous amount of vacation time and paternity leave, which is a huge difference from the United States! Also, everyone out here travels all of the time since you can easily take a short flight or train from Berlin just about anywhere in Europe for a long weekend! We have seen so many amazing places since moving to Germany!
How is it being pregnant, giving birth and raising your child away from your home country?
On being pregnant in Berlin
It has been an interesting experience being pregnant with our second child in Berlin. The medical care in Germany is excellent for pregnant women! A majority of women in Berlin see a doctor and a midwife over the course of their pregnancy. After the birth, the midwife takes on the primary role of providing care for the mother and baby. I love that the midwife will come to your home for up to 8 weeks post birth to do medical check ups and even give helpful advice on infant care and breastfeeding! I have also felt a lot more involved in my pregnancy here in Berlin as compared to the United States.My doctor and midwife both work at small practices with very personalized care. My doctor does ultrasounds at every appointment, so I have gotten the privilege of watching our baby girl grow and change over the months of my pregnancy. In the U.S. I only had 3 ultrasounds during my first pregnancy. My midwife comes to our flat for most of our appointments and has spent so much time with me explaining how healthcare in Germany works and what to expect when I give birth in Berlin.
On German Mutterpass as the Lifeline of every Expecting Mama
Another thing that is different in Germany is you are given a “mutterpass” at your first prenatal appointment which is a small booklet where the doctor and midwife record your medical history, tests results, and appointments throughout your pregnancy. You are supposed to carry it with you at all times in case you are in an emergency situation and need to provide information on your pregnancy.
On bridging the cultural Gap
It is tough raising our 3-year-old and preparing to give birth thousands of miles away from our family. It’s probably the biggest sacrifice we made when we moved out here. Luckily, our family has come out to visit us here in Berlin on multiple occasions, and we have been able to make a couple trips back to the U.S., as well. Thanks to technology we are also able to stay in constant touch with texts, e-mails, and Facetime!
What is your opinion about raising your kid as a third culture kid? Are you happy that you are raising an Expat Kid?
On the Laid back parenting of German parents
It has been interesting adjusting to raising a child here in Berlin! Adam and I were both raised in the south where parents are very hands-on and expect good manners at all times. We were expected to say “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am” to our elders and to be gracious and kind to everyone no matter what. In Berlin, parents tend to be a bit more hands-off compared to Americans when it comes to raising their children. If you go to any Berlin playground, you will notice that most of the parents are sitting on the sidelines instead of hovering over their children. Parents in Berlin believe that the best way for the kids to learn how to get along with others is by working things out on their own. Unlike American parents you generally won’t see Berlin parents intervene when children get into a disagreement with another child (unless of course it escalates to something more physical). Berlin children learn from a young age to be independent and to stand up for themselves, which are definitely great qualities!
Since we will be returning to the United States next summer, I do worry sometimes that I don’t do a good enough job of balancing both cultures. I want Payton to be able to adjust well to being in an “American style” preschool and be able to get along well with her American peers. My hope is that Payton will end up being a very well-rounded child after being exposed to more than one culture!
On raising an Independent Bilingual Kid
Overall, I think Payton has truly benefitted from the German culture! Not only is she soaking up a new language, but she has acquired so many new skills just from attending kindergarten! The teachers at kita expect the children to do daily tasks on their own and encourage creativity and independence in everything the kids do.I have watched Payton’s confidence soar over the last year. I know she is going to be very sad to leave Berlin when we move; she loves our life here and gets homesick whenever we travel back to the United States for extended visits.
How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?
I think I make a difference as an Expat Mama in Berlin by not only being open to learning all about German culture, but also by sharing some of my own American culture, as well! I have done my best to have an open mind from the start, and I have tried to embrace the new language and customs. Southern hospitality is very important where I am from in the U.S., and I love sharing that part of my American life with Germans that I meet here in Berlin. I try to do small things like deliver hot meals to new mothers (as is customary in the U.S.), bring small gifts and thank you notes to Payton’s teachers at kita, and invite neighbors over to take part in our American customs like Halloween and Thanksgiving! One of the best parts about living in such an international city like Berlin has been meeting new people from all over the world and sharing our different cultures with each other. I feel that my time here in Berlin has really expanded my views. It has been an incredible learning experience that will undoubtedly have a long-lasting impact on my life even after we return to the United States.
Want to know more about LeBlancs? Christy shares her fabulous adventures in her Instagram page and in her personal Expat Blog.
Thank you so much Christy for allowing me to share about your life as an Expat Mama and being part of this wonderful series.You have a beautiful family & I am glad to be in your circle.
P.S. All photos are of personally owned by Christy LeBlanc and should you wish to use it or ‘borrow’ it, please do mention her out of courtesy.
Try to Picture this: An excerpt of not-so-Ordinary Life
-Your Father is German, your Mother is Finnish.You’re born in Germany and yet you’ve spent a considerable amount of your childhood in Finland. Growing up, you have a fair share of Finnish & German culture instilled in your brain but somehow you felt confused where is your real home country. On the positive side, you smile for a fact that you hold 2 passports & 2 nationalities. It’s no surprise anymore that you are Bilingual yourself. Suddenly your life turned upside down when fate let East go to the West and you fall in love with a Chinese woman. Fast forward, you got married, and now had a child growing in an interracial household and quite obvious a mixed genes. Now, you probably noticed that history repeats itself.You are raising your adorable Kung Fu baby from the Scandinavian environment to a crazy Chinese diversity and now, he is toddling back to your own roots, to the land of your father,Germany. Doesn’t this made you smile?
Above is the story of Half German,Half Finnish Expat-Papa.How does he handles all these while raising another multi-cultural son?
For our 5th feature in our amazing Expat Mamas around the World interview -stories, we are featuring Timo, an Expat-Papa, who who will share to us his perspectives about his unique Fatherhood in raising his son in Germany. We are so used to seeing Mommy Blogs and Motherhood stories, but how about Fathers? It’s not common to see a man writing about his experiences as a father and Blogs about it, let alone totally embracing the adventure of being in an Interracial marriage, right?
I am very thankful that Timo allowed me to have this interview-story and I am hoping I could do justice in sharing with you how fascinating his journey through Fatherhood.
Here’s my interview-Story from Timo, His own Expat-Papa story;
Expat-Papa Story : Raising my Kung-Fu Baby in Germany
He is already a Coffee addict before he got hooked in Blogland. Timo is a proffesional Swimmer, a gamer, a computer geek, an adventurer, and an aspiring Fantasy author that’s why why he keeps a rather exquisite Tolkien & Manga collection. His favorite Title is being the humble father & photographer to his son named Nathan, and Husband to his beautiful Chinese wife. They got married in Two continents and continue to explore places as a family. Now they are settled and live in Schleswig-Holstein in the Northern part of Germany.
Tell us About your Background
This is usually an easy question to answer but in my case it is a bit different. Sure, I was born in Germany and lived here for many years however my mother is Finnish and my father is German. Due to this I spent many years also in Finland during my upbringing resulting that I never developed the feeling of having a real home country. For example I lived until 2014 for over 7 years in Finland where I met my wife and now we both live with our little Nathan in Germany, a country which should be my home country but I always feel a bit like a stranger here.
Anyhow as mentioned before we moved to Germany back in 2014 and we are having our own little Export Business for 1 ½ years now. Though it is hard work it is much better in our opinion than our old jobs we had before in Finland, especially as we have much more time with our son.
On being in an Interracial Marriage
I can’t count the times where people stared at us and wondering why I am married to a Chinese woman.During the first year my wife got a lot of stares from people on the street however it seems most of them got used to it already. In Finland no one really cared about us or Nathan.The thing is, a day in the Life of an Interracial couple has deeper meaning for both of us now.
The funny thing is that both my wife and I couldn’t be more different when it comes to our interests. My wife just loves to relax whenever she has the opportunity in order to watch some Chinese or Korean TV-Shows with tons of snacks while I try to be doing sports whenever it fits into my schedule. This might be also due to my past as a professional swimmer all those years ago which does not allow me to rest too much (otherwise I just feel too guilty). In my opinion those differences don’t matter at all, I even think it makes us more compatible as the differences allow us also do have some time “on our own” with my wife relaxing on the couch and me for example bicycling alone for one or two hours.
On Journey to Fatherhood
During my wife’s pregnancy up to the birth of my son, I am the one behind the scenes. I make sure that I am there for them for all-time support. Of course there is MIL who insists on doing Zou yuezi for my wife , but my wife is strong enough to be in control of herself and do what’s best for our son & her recovery. So little talk about how I am handling it as I am too busy preparing everything for the arrival of my son. I am glad that when my son was born in Finland, I was physically present and we got a family room in the hospital so I could be with them. Fathers normally doesn’t say much but we just worked hard through it. I have my fair share of diaper changing & late nights on the early months but as a Father, I look more ahead for his future. The responsibility of being a role model as well as to provide for the family is my utmost concern especially now that I have a Kung Fu baby in my arms.
Have you seen how Nathan’s room turned out after long hours of hardwork? Don’t you think this Totoro theme is cool?
I for myself am planning a great future in sports for him but I will have to see how my wife will approve of it. Of course studies will go ahead of sports but we still have a lot of time to think about it. My wish would be for him to follow my steps into the swimming world or start Taekwondo .
The Little Monk-ey!
Interracial Kid in Germany
A very serious Monk!
On having the best Maternity Healthcare in Finland
The best thing about Finland was probably Neuvola, a child healthcare centre, where parents learn everything about having a baby. There the mother gets all health check-ups and after the child is born it also gets all check-ups regularly until elementary school, all for free! To make it even better mothers are getting a baby box with contains everything important for the first month with the baby such as diapers, drinking bottles, clothes (even a snowsuit!) and the box itself can be used as a baby bed as it comes with blanket and a thin mattress.This makes all mothers smile but also for expectant fathers like me.
Finnish Baby Box
Why having a Baby in Finland is so exciting!
On Germany as a Kid-Friendly Place to grow up
I myself was born in Germany and my parents raised me well. As a child we lived in the same apartment that we lived right now. Imagine the nostalgia of growing up here & at same time raising your own child. Nathan was even baptized in the same Church that I was baptized. He played with some of my old toys and during our holidays in Finland, we took him to the same Summer cottage that I used to go when I was a kid.
What I like about Germany is that there are many activities for children. It is really awesome being a kid in Germany. Everywhere you can find nice playgrounds and, at least where we live, we have many kind of parks and Zoos within short driving distance which are just perfect for little kids. For example here is a donkey park, a park for old livestock breeds, a park full of boars and deers, a climbing park and so on. To make these parks even better is that each one has great playgrounds where kids can go wild till they are too tired to stay awake for the drive home.It is very normal to put your child in the Kindergarten (Krippe/Kita or nursery school) especially if both parents are working. But the system in Germany is that you have to enlist your child as soon as possible or you’ll end up in the waiting list waiting for a slot. Even expectant mothers that are still pregnant are already listing their child for a spot.We hope to get my son into the Kindergarten soon.
On chinese Diaper-Free Culture and Unsolicited Advices on Parenting
My wife is Chinese and she have her own background of how a child is being brought up the Chinese way, which are absolutely different from a Westerner like me . When MIL stayed with us, we are bombarded with stuffs that really surprised me. As much as I highly respect my wife’s culture, things like babies wearing the split-pants and wearing too much of clothes even it is 30 degrees C just makes me crazy. It’s no fun at all having a kid in split pants and diarrhea. In Finland, it’s normal to take your kids outside even when its freezing cold and have their naps, of course with common sense to dress them up warmly. Even here in Germany, there is no such thing as a bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. In the end, we do what’s best for our child & for us.
On life Essentials in Germany
The food is some other matter…I certainly love all kind of potato dishes which are so common around here but as we live now pretty much between two seas, the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, seafood is just everywhere and I just can’t stand it. Not that I hate it but I just don’t like the taste somehow. Sure some standard fish dishes are fine with me but anything beyond that is just killing me. My wife on the other hand has no problems with seafood but she does not really like any food which is not Chinese which brings a whole new level of complications as we have no authentic Chinese restaurants anywhere nearby. Yes she can cook fabulous Chinese dishes which she loves herself but ever since we have our own business she finds very seldom time for that.
On Life in Finland as an Expat family
When it comes to nature, Finland is by far better than Germany. Germany is also full of beautiful nature & forests as well but you need to drive a certain time to reach it. I can’t think of a better nature than the place I grew up with. But living in Finland is no cheap at all especially for a family. Although the standard of living in Germany is also high, I find that the living costs here is much better than what we had in Finland. Of course it varies from different persons and lifestyle.
On German warm hospitality
For my wife the biggest difference compared to Finland was how nice our neighbours are. Many offer to take care of our son when we are too busy, they all have some small talk with us whereas in Finland there was just silence. We barely knew our neighbours though we lived at the same place for five years. That just shows how different social behavior is within those two countries.
On having a Steady support system from Family esp. from the MIL
We were lucky to be one of the privileged Expat family who have the steady family support from both sides of our family. Having a nanny is never a norm in Germany neither in Finland . We are always grateful to have extra help from my MIL visits to us in Finland and here in Germany. She is doting so much love on my son as if he is a our “Little Emperor” but my son is too young to complained from her teachings and her cooking.My mother is also very present in taking care of Nathan whenever we need extra hand. Even with so much differences on both cultures, I see that my son is endowed with much love from his grandparents.
How is it being a parent while working? How do you handle the change brought by Fatherhood ?
On being a hands-on Father
We moved to Germany when our son was just 6 months old. Back then I had stopped my freelance work and my wife was on leave from her work as a beauty consultant. Here in Germany I found rather quickly some new job at a bank but had to give it up due to health issues. During my time at the bank I would leave for work at 6.45 am and be back at home around 5pm giving me barely any time with my son. Things got better though! Since last year my wife and I have our own business and we mostly work from home giving us plenty of time with our son. I am one of the fathers who love to spend more quality time with my family and bond with my son. I love to write about my son and his growth in my Blog.For me, He is our Happiness.
On tough German Bureaucracy
The biggest struggle we had was when we moved here in Germany.The paperwork was just insane, we needed verified documents for every single office and such documents are not cheap when you need official translations of each one and go to a lawyer to verify them. The silly thing is that different governmental offices which even share the same building do not share these documents; everything needs to be handed in to each office respectively. Something like the digital age must be technology the German bureaucracy does not want to reach in the next 50 years at least. I mean in Finland when we notified one office of something all the other offices knew it immediately so we saved time and money.
What is your opinion about raising your child as a third culture kid?
This is not an easy question to answer as I have never thought too much about it. We try that he experience as much as possible from both of our cultures. With me that means I try to give him as much as I can offer about Finland with keeping the German part relatively low as he is anyways surrounded by it every single day. Nathan speaks with his mother only Chinese and she tries to teach him certain Chinese ways. I on the other hand speak mostly English with him and some Finnish besides trying to get him to love Moomins!
On Raising a Bilingual Kid
Being Bilingual is a privilege that not all kids nowadays have. Having this access for multiple language learning would be a great benefit for my son when He grows up. It is tough on adult learning a new language as my wife is also doing German Lessons but for kids, its easy for them to adapt to the culture that they are exposed with.I can’t wait what language would my son would be babbling soon!
When thinking about which country might be better for raising a third culture kid I must say Finland was a much better place, at least Helsinki, to live as an interracial couple with a mixed child. There was much more diversity there than here in this little town and people seem to be more open minded in Finland.
How do you make an impact as an Expat -Papa in your country of residence?
I try my best to set an example to others in this little town what is all possible in this age and that interracial relationships are nothing strange or complicated and that a mixed child is just perfectly fine. As this town is not that big some people still have different views towards such relationships. This might sound strange when thinking it is the year 2016 and not the 1950’s any longer. I know that if I am a good father & example to Nathan ,then I am contributing to the world in raising a responsible future generation.
Thank you so much Timo! Vielen Dank and more power to you & your Crazy Chinese Family. It’s a pleasure being in your circle.
If you like to know more about Timo, you can follow his adventures through his Facebook Page & Twitter.
P.S. All photos are courtesy & owned by Timo and are his personal property . Should you wish to use it, please inform or mention him.
Make sure to hit the Follow button for more Expat stories on this Blog, and Hey, if you are an Expat Mama, or Papa! , you might want to be featured in this Blog for our series on Expat Mamas around the World! Just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I mean it’s the time when skinny jeans is not yet the fad and girls don’t shape their eyebrows. Not yet. College campus days are days where you began to dream about your future, exploring your own defenses and suddenly you met the love of your life.Like a modern fairy tale where you actually end up with each other,sharing a journey together, and realizing that you are living out a dream, like serendipity… An answered prayer.
This is the story of Rann, a Pinay Expat in Thailand. Her exciting story being one Expat Mama is our next feature for our Expat Mamas around the World series. This modern fairy tale story and journey to Motherhood is set in the Land of Smiles in Asia, Thailand. Known for its exotic beautiful beaches and rich culture, It’s no surprise that my friend from Campus days, Rann, moves her marriage and lives there for almost a decade now with her husband, Pin, (who is a Thai-Filipino) and their two adorable sons, Elijah (7 ) andLuke(1).Together they search for family- friendly getaways, indulging in kaleidoscope of Buddist temples and shrines, chasing white elephants and eating too much Chia seeds.
Here’s my Interview story with Rann , her own Expat Mama story :
A Pinay’s journey to Motherhood in the land of Smiles
Rann is a lover of books, a Bibliophile all year round. A certified book shop-hopper as well as fashionable baby-wearer. A Preschool teacher and a super Mom 24/7.
Born & raised in the Philippines, she developed her love for Diversity when she married her campus sweetheart, Pin, while both studying in the University of the Philippines. They got married in 2006 and eventually hop on the Expat life & move her marriage to Thailand. Rann is a coffee drinker and has a habit of ‘Procaffeinating‘, or a.k.a not starting anything unless she had her coffee.
A glimpse of Thailand from an Expat eyes
While being on a steady dating for years, Rann already had a hindsight that moving to Thailand is no surprise anymore. Either for marriage or Work, Thailand is a great destination for Filipino Teachers which has very good command in English. It is a famous travel destination for tourists and a magnet for Expats from all over the world. The Buddhist culture of this country is a prominent identity . At the heart of everything, there are shrines, temples, and monasteries known as ‘wats’. Buddhism is an essential part of the Thai culture.
On Bangkok as a very hectic capital
Our home is in a province 100 kms away from Bangkok. We love that we are not too close but not too far from the capital city (and the airport!). Bangkok is a totally diverse place mixed in with the religious landmarks and is one of the world’s most hectic capitals. The traffic is crazier than Manila. Bangkok is a strobe-like city, where motorways have 12 lanes, markets have upward of 15,000 stalls, and restaurants are so concentrated, you’ll never be more than 50 metres away from one. Talking about living in a cosmopolitan who never sleeps at night.
Although we are not in the big city, we have everything we need here. There are places to bring the children to, good schools to go to, hospitals with superb service, it is safe and clean. I do not at all miss the pollution from the big city.
On having Quiet times and date nights as couple
Being married for almost a decade now is a milestone. Ten years are not just a number, it’s a lot of hard work, making each day a spur on our marriage. With Pin’s demanding job in the medical field, I have learned to protect our marriage. As an Expat, I have seen examples of living abroad without their spouses & children. I am grateful that we are together as a family here in Thailand. Having a preschooler & and an active toddler didn’t hinder us from having Quiet times together and having same ‘Rock foundation’ that keep us close.
On Thai’s way of greeting others
I’ve learned how to greet with the head bowed over clasped hands (wai), and not to use body language so much as most Thai people keep their heads, shoulders and arms very still.You also wai to say Thank you. Almost same as in my home culture, showing proper respect is a huge aspect of Thai culture.
On being a working Mother of a child with special needs
It becomes my number one priority to be the Teacher for my sons. I believe that it shouldn’t matter how slowly a child learns as long as we, as parents, and first Teacher to them, are encouraging them not to stop. This is not just a chore for me nor comes with a paycheck. What I teach in school came from theoretical study approach but with your own child, it’s totally hands-on,by mother’s instinct, a pure labor of love.
Since I am a preschool teacher by profession, with a degree from the University of the Philippines on Child Development and graduate courses on Early Childhood Education. I have been teaching pre-kindergarten in an international school for the past 10 years. Prior to that, I was a preschool teacher for three years in the Philippines. I got paid for teaching young kids,shaping them in their early years. But the time I’ve got to squeeze time to be a wife and mother with my sons, it’s priceless.
I am a mom of two boys, 7 years and 1 year old. My older son (E) is a gifted, loving boy with social and language challenges while the younger boy (L) is showing a strong personality but is equally sweet like his brother. No, I am not planning on having more kids. I have two hands, so I will have two kids. My husband, being in the medical field, is not always home so I am often on my own with the kids. So 2 is just perfect.
Share something about the current country you are living in and notable aspects of life.
On learning the Thai language
Thailand is a very interesting country. Some might think there won’t be much of a difference as it’s also a South East Asian country like mine — but there are huge differences. Arriving here 10 years ago, the language barrier was overwhelming for me. How can I ever learn this language when I can’t read it? Learning Tagalog is easy because if you know your ABC, then you can read it. Not with Thai. It is also a tonal language so there are words than can mean 5 different things, depending on the tone you use. As I’ve learned to speak the language, it has become better. It is still a challenge sometimes (like explaining what you’re feeling in the hospital, getting things done in the bank, requesting for information, etc.) but I am able to understand enough to get by each day. I am still hoping to formally learn the language but that has been on hold since kids started arriving.
On why Thai food is loved internationally
The food here is great! Well, I am speaking from an Asian point of view — I love my carbs (they eat rice, too — hooray!!). Authentic Thai food is one of the best. I needed sometime to get used to the smell of some food but overall, food here is the best. I do miss my Adobo and my Bangusevery now and then but it helps that you can basically cook the same Filipino delicacies as most of the ingredients can be found locally. There are plenty of Asian shops where you can get the ingredients.
On importance of Education and learning comfortably
Growing up in the busy and populated Manila and spending many years in Manila’s business district, I am very happy that we are in a more laid-back city here in Thailand. I am happy that we are not raising the kids in a condo in a high rise building in Bangkok. My kids can run outside, play with neighbors, swim anytime, touch the grass, pick up stones nearby or enjoy the beach every now and then. We have international schools around and since I am teaching in one, my kids have the opportunity to study here for free. We can only be grateful. Sending them in a Thai school is something I will not do. I believe children learn best when they are in an environment they are comfortable in, a place where they feel they belong, a place that do not put too much pressure or expecting too much from them. The Thai system is very traditional. My son, being with special needs, cannot possibly thrive in a Thai school.
On Pregnancy, Maternity Fashion and Giving Birth
When I was pregnant with my first son, we were just new in Thailand. And since we are an hour away from Bangkok, I didn’t know where to get stuff (for baby and for pregnancy) in this side of Thailand. It helped that I was skinny then. I just got my clothes from the regular ladies’ section but got them a size bigger. Pregnant Thai women love to wear tent-like dresses. Not all, but most. Even in their first trimester, they are already wearing dresses that can accommodate 3 of my preschoolers. I knew from the start that I will never wear one of those! Six years after, while pregnant with my second son, I knew better. I brought maternity clothes from home and from the US. For many traditional Thai, they believe that you’re having a healthy pregnancy when you’re big. I was skinny until my 7th month. I remember my husband’s aunt saying “You might have a very small baby, you don’t look pregnant at all.” My son was born at 3.8 kgs and 51 cm long. Not small at all.
They have lovely hospitals here so I had a pleasant birthing experience. You do need to find a good doctor who speaks good English, not just some English. I was lucky to have my sister in both deliveries to help me with the baby while I was still sore.
On having a Hired help
Raising the kids away from my country is not easy. I guess it has its advantage as well — you get to do your thing — but predominantly, it’s a challenge. It is very hard to find help (nanny) that you can trust with your kids and your home in a country where you can’t speak, read or write their language. I’ve been lucky to have a lovely trustworthy lady from the Philippines as well but there’s always that anxious thought that one day, she will have to leave and move on with her life as well.
On Thais being clannish and living together as a Family
They have certain ways of raising kids here that are very Asian and some are uniquely Thai. For one, the children are so used to being fed even when they’re already 3, 4 or 5! Also, many children grow up with their parents, grandparents and a nanny at home. These children grow up not being independent and self-reliant. They are used to having people do things for themselves. This is somewhat same back home. It is a struggle to make sure even with help around, I want my kids to grow up not feeling entitled and not being able to care for themselves.
What is your opinion about raising your kid as a third culture kid? Are you happy that you are raising an Expat Kid?
I am happy that they will grow up being exposed to different cultures and languages. It is my hope that with this, they will grow up respecting these differences. At the same time, it is my hope that they will grow up being aware of their very own culture. It breaks my heart that my older son does not speak my native language (Tagalog) but I have to choose my battle. He didn’t speak until he was 3 so I am just grateful for the fact that he speaks a lot now, although just in English.
My husband being half-Thai, I consider my kids “third culture” but at the same time, not so “third-culture” kids. At the end of the day, whether third culture or not, I believe the values they need to learn does not change.
How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?
To respect the culture they have but be secure of what I am and who I am, learn what I can learn from their culture but at the same time share what I can share from my own culture. I believe that as long as I can make an impact to my own children, then I am making an impact to the society we are in. In raising quality kids, I am contributing for a better generation in the future.
Thank you so much RA for sharing your wonderful Expat Mama story with me. Your life is beautiful because you are one beautiful soul inside & out. It is a pleasure to be in your circle.
P.S All photos are owned and courtesy of Rann. Should you wish to use it, please mention or inform her. You can follow more of her Expat Teaching stints in her Facebook and her Life as a Super Mom in her Instagram Page.
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Are you an Expat Mama and would like to share your own Expat Mama story with us? Drop me an email at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow other Expat Mama Stories around the World . Follow my Twitter page and my Instagram page for updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria .