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!
Yes, I am a parent as well so sometimes, I´ll post about children and parenthood .Playgrounds are a big thing here in Germany.So grateful that we lived in a city where child-friendly spaces are limitless and abundant. But sometimes, as we explore other places, we got lucky as well!
I think playgrounds grows with your child and it´s a vital place for any childhood.Around 500 meters away from where we lived we find a new rows of Kindergarten and Krippe ( Daycare center for small children) and they are building another playground.One small talk over breakfast made me realized that way back in Kuwait, there is a fast food center for every 1 kilometer radius.Name it, a Shawarma, Döner-Kebab stall, Mcdonalds, Pizza Hut, Burger King and not to mention those Arabic Bakalas where they sell local snacks and drinks.
Compared here, there is a playground or Spielplatz every 1 kilometer radius!
Looking for playground is always on our top to do list whenever we are out. I must say that here in Germany, it feel like I am commiting a big sin if I don´t take out my child into a playground. Regardless of the weather, we should head out.There was a time when playgrounds were banned and restricted due to Covid, it´s terrible. Thankfully, we are able to enjoy outdoors now at least.
Going to a playground is an automatic navigator, and in the end, a powerful stress reliever , just like I kknew that it would be a nice day if I had a run in the morning. For parents like me, you know exactly what I mean. Part of our daily walks in time of pandemic is a pit stop in a playground and it would surely make everyone smile.
When we visited Austria the last time, we find this amazing place, Wildpark Ferleiten , a wild park with a petting zoo, a very large playground, trampolines, Go Karts, water play areas and a lot more. Of course there´s a restaurant and a Biergarten as well. It´s located just at the foot base of the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse .
Photos are not enough but my daughter had a blast here, so did we. The weather was perfect and it was not too crowded when we came. Back in those days, no Covid yet so I guess we are worry-free. Made me think if I would be able to feel the same after Covid lockdowns and travel restrictions…
There´s a part of this park that has a direct view of a cascading waterfalls in the middle of a lush forest. It looks so peaceful and yet, the only sound you hear are the screaming joy of children. The petting zoo was properly layed out and following the trail is actually exciting even for adults.
From time to time, I am reminded that here I first saw a real Edelweiß, the national flower of Austria.
“It is a happy talent, to know how to play…” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
I took a walk with my daughter last weekend through our neighborhood.The weather was great, I mean, for us here, it´s bearable than rainy and grey-cloudy days. Golden October finally said goodbye and we are finally approaching Winter. We are not really looking forward to the cold but Mr. Frost finally came,few days ago , he had a short visit, leaving us with a notice that he´ll stay longer next time.
We have a beautiful Autumn feel in our neighborhood. I´ve seen far better views in other regions but during this Pandemic, the new norm is simply keeping distance, only-must-do travel and almost in isolation. I am still grateful.I am still in positive mind state so I am not complaining. Nature have graciously reminded me that everything will be alright soon.
My daughter goes to school now. She is an active first 1st Grade pupil .Here they normally refer to them as ” Shulkind“. A week ago, we received a letter from the school principal that one girl from other class have tested Positive from Covid-19. The next day, a teacher from the after-class day care is also Positive and then the following day, another pupil from another class tested Positive.
Do you get my message? It´s like a domino-effect and I just can´t stay still.
Children in school are separated in groups so the affected groups went to Quarantine.I think any parent would feel the alarm, a heartache, a tiresome worry that this Pandemic had brought to all of us. I was talking to my husband that you will never feel the weight of the stressfull times that Corona brings not until you are in that situation where you feel the threat for the life of your loveones.My daughter wears her masks from 7.30 am to 3.30 in the afternoon until she walks out from the school when I picked her up. they learn, they study, play and do everything with a masks!
There is indeed a kind of Hush feeling all over the world.
But the loud silence we are hearing when we are out in nature is quite different..It is calming and somewhat juvenating.Of course we needed that, lots of it!
I diverted my thoughts and focus on the beautiful scenery in front of us.The small river in front of us is like a life size mirror with all the reflections of the trees, foliages and blue skies…It was magical! I imagined that it would be a total winter wonderland if this area would freeze and we can skate over here.There are ducks all over the place and they keep on doing their sounds.We forgot to bring old bread to feed the ducks so we just call them.
Quaacckkk Quaacckkk shouted my little girl!
I think it did the trick because the ducks and swans swam freely to us and made their stunts.They are beautiful…some things can be quite so simple and yet so meaningful!
While we were walking, she told me that she is waiting for her friends to go to the nearby playground. I explained to her that maybe they come or maybe they don´t. She said she hopes that everything returns to normal soon. I heard her…I wished that too.
As expected, a walk with nature always change our mood.We were busy looking for autumn leaves and looking at water reflections. The crystal clear waters of the Danube river and the area near the Glacisbrücke is really awesome. I walked further near to the bank and snap this photo.
Some trees are already bald, stiff and looked dreary, but some trees hold their leaves tightly, refusing to let go.Against the sunshine they remind me of my Autumn paintings.There is a lot of golden ochre yellows and rusty oranges colors that I see.I am telling you, as a self taught artist, I still find it so difficult to replicate the beauty of nature in landscape paintings.
I spotted these beautiful fragile beauties. I don´t know its name but hey reminded me of Cotton candy. It´s not yet covered in Frost but anyway they looked lovely.
My head can fit in this hollow hole of the Tree!
Have you taken a walk lately? How was it?
Please wear your masks and I wish you all a great start of the week!
Let me define to you what hyper active means in a toddler-friendly vocabulary.
Not that she’s medically diagnosed with hyper activity disorder type— NO, she’s just super active.She has this thing like a green-blue-yellow-purple goblin inside her that makes her moves so fast, so lithe, always on the go and full of energy. She’s a picture of curiosity,touching, exploring, wiggling, running, climbing hyper-type of toddler. An active fireball monkey disguised in an angelic face. I remember so well that when I was pregnant with her, I always hide my bump in my desk at work because she makes my bump looks like there is an alien about to pop. She gets hard numerous times in a day and my bump looks scary. Maybe that’s the reason why she’s in transverse position and did not rotate even though I was induced for labor for almost 3 days!
She started cruising early , learned to walk at 10.5 months I think, and already attempting to run. She climb out of her crib and fell once so we immediately switched her crib into a bed. Back then in Kuwait, we live in the 7th floor, she loves to climb the flight of stairs by herself automatically. I know that she’s a climber when at 11 months,she mastered climbing the steep Dutch stairs.
I thought only boys are active. I am mistaken. What I read online was a LIE.
My little girl has the stamina, speed and enthusiasm of a toddler-athlete. Always on the go.She runs everywhere.She can’t sit still for longer than a minute especially during feeding so a high chair for us is a must, but not too long.Later on, I saw her standing on her chair, she managed to remove the strap, I don’t know how, but she did it. She runs like crazy the moment I let go of her hand and start looking into my purse for my keys. I dropped my iphone three times already and changed the screen because of panic that she might be ran-over by a car or that she bump into something. She can dance and jump in muddy puddles the entire day and still jumps around once we get inside the house.
Whenever we are out, I am always doing ‘the check’. I look out for doors that can she can open, handles that she can turn, open stairs, glass doors, and especially breakable, fragile items she can run into. As of this stage, it would be a disaster if I go grocery shopping without a stroller, alone. I am afraid that I might pay for damages for broken things. In a restaurant, my eyes scanned the area for any possible danger zones, or things that she might find ‘interesting’, like a table already set-up with knives and cutlery. She can easily get loose if nobody’s watching her. One time I caught her licking the knife!
My real definition of horror: She managed to run so fast while I am closing the door while we need to get into the elevator in our building. She’s on top of the stairs, scaring the horror out of her already-half-traumatized mother. I screamed so loud and cut my lips when I tripped myself running like amok to grab her before she make the next move. I was shaking after that incident and never leave her loose in the hallways. EVER. Not again!
The moment you take a walk with her, she zoom like a fireball, cruising like a maniac and touching everything that goes on her way. Leaves, walls, garage doors, trees, plants–anything.We have a garden but when I let her play there, she climbs the gate leading to the main side street and crawl to the holes in the hedges where the cats go. She’s a pure genius! She can even roll the lawnmower If i will just let her. She loves anything that wiggles, ran after a dog, and count all the cars in our neighborhood plus I need to say the color of each cars.
She climbed out from her crib at around 9 months, you see that photo above, yes, that’s her trying to do acrobat stunts, testing how sturdy her crib was, or was she looking for her Poo bear that fell out. She has a very strong grip of things that she stayed in this position for a minute I think. One time that I let her be alone, she’s already on top of the table, dancing, and playing with the roller shutters.
Going into a friend’s house can be a daunting experience, especially if they don’t have kids like her or they don’t know my daughter’s personality. Our decors and furniture now were set to minimal. Nowadays, we can only eat in peace out in a restaurant if there is a play area nearby. Nearby means it’s beside our table–that is why we love dining out in our local restaurant here that has a play area, like for example in Dinea in Galleria, or doing some shopping in DM where in they have a play area right inside the shop. Total lifesaver!
Honestly, I love to but I don’t really feel comfortable leaving her to be watched (even for a short time) by anyone who doesn’t know her REALLY well. Even friends who we regularly see don’t necessarily realize the speed at which my daughter can do, and how quickly she can get herself into precarious situations due to attempts at climbing, investigating, or get herself drowned because she wanted to dive right into every fountain she sees.
We’ve enrolled her in a dancing class and guess who becomes famous the very first day? Yup! She doesn’t need introduction because everyone knows her name in an instant. We became the center of attention from other parents and kids because we ‘make the best moves ‘ all the time!
Does this sounds like your kid too ?
If this looks like your tot, here are some practical things we do to handle the worries and anxieties and embracing the energy of my hyper attached tiny Goblin. I realized that not all mothers do the “check”as I did, only those parents with an active child. So here it is:
Treat your child like a dog! – We make it a point that she goes out at least an hour everyday and let her loose in a place where in she can climb, run like crazy and just burn her energy. This way, she can sleep fast because her energy is depleted.
Avoid putting yourself and your child to uncomfortable situations– Make playgroups outdoors, as much as possible in places where your child can have more freedom of spaces where she can be herself without damaging yourself and your child be branded as ‘misbehaving’. I try not to bring her to functions where in there is limited activity or crowded places that she might easily get bored and create scenes. I am so thankful that here in Germany, we have play grounds ( Spielplatz ) in almost every corner. We avoid libraries and crowded malls.
Choose activities which feeds her curiosity and the ones you can comfortably handle – We are engaging in Creative Dancing Class or Tanzmaus. Here in Germany, there are so many activities that are suitable for active kids to satisfy their energy such as gymnastics, swimming etc.Find one that suits your schedule best.
Embrace the positive side of being an active child – Her hyper activity makes her personality so different, so unique and special.She is the perfect companion in my Wandertags. She loves nature and being out so you can count on her being out for longer hours. Give her a box of Duplos, Legos , wooden blocks, and books and even by that she can still rock! I can’t count numerous times that we got comments from strangers on her being so friendly and sweet, she could be active, but she’s not the annoying-agressive type.
Remind yourself that toddler stage is temporary – Every child will outgrow toddlerhood . Eventually, you won’t be running after your child anymore. You will realize that time flies so fast that your adorable munchkin no longer asks for your company and becomes independent. I know things will change for her this year that she’ll be in Kindergarten soon and she’ll have more educational and social interactions.
My life with my active toddler had been a roller-coaster ride for the past 2 years. Our long haul flights together are as unforgettable as it could be and she is such a jet-setter! I know that it’s still early years of her toddler life, but the wisdom of just being around such a positive energy is both challenging, yet the most fascinating joys of motherhood.
Have you ever been around with active kids?
Photos in this post are from my Instagram feed. If you’re on Instagram, follow me for more Expat life stories ! Thank you and see you there!
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.
I’ve been reading a lot about the acclaimed ‘Why Dutch kids are the happiest Kids in the World’as it was sensationally supported by Experts who study about this subject and made some interesting statistics. I was even more thrilled when Rina Mae Acosta, a Filipino-American freelance writer and the Blogger behind ‘Findingdutchland‘ , who also happens to be married to a Dutch guy, recently published her book–” The Happiest Kid in the World“, Bringing up children the Dutch way. There’s something about this subject that resonates my interest on Dutch culture and oh well, their crazy ways.
This triggered my curiosity , and made me wonder if it was really the case in a normal, average, Dutch childhood. Are Dutch kids really happy? What’s the measure of their happiness since I find the subject of Happiness being subjective. I am also raising one Dutch kid, but the thing is, we don’t live in the Netherlands, we live in Germany and she is growing up in a German environment.
Does it mean that my daughter grow up less-happy? or what?
As the old adage say ; ask a local and you’ll get real answers, or better, get to know one!
So one fine morning while we sit in the table for breakfast, I say it’s a fine one since I was able to sip my coffee before the toddler wakes up. I chatted with one former Dutch kid. I’m talking about one particular Dutchie who lives under one roof with me : my Husband , a.k.a BlueDutch.
Husband’s reply really made sense :
“It’s simple. We don’t like complicated things. Everything is simple.So we are happy, I was a contented kid and I had a happy childhood and even now as an Adult, I am living a simple life, but a happy one.”
Does doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg or just act normal, that’s already crazy enough, rings a bell?
Less is really more for the Dutch
My husband is the third child of a family of 3 children. He is the only boy and this alone makes him the apple of the eye of the whole family. He was born in a cold December night 2 weeks overdue for his birth. As a true Dutch protegé, he was born in their home, a typical way of giving birth in the Netherlands. His mother, my amazing Mother-in-law is strong, and one proud Mama who is very hands on to her children. He learned to stand in his Baby Playpen box in their living room which is another typically Dutchin raising children. Dutch parents normally put their babies in this box in the early days up to the time he can’t walk yet. In it were toys,and other things for the baby to play on, spacious enough to wiggle and convenient for mothers while doing other chores.
He grew up riding ponies, playing in the sand pit, and getting dirty as most kids do. He began taking swimming lessons at the age of 6, basking in the beach,and watching Top cat after school. A typical dutch kid is baptized into “Dutchness“with two important things : Riding a bike & playing football (or Soccer in America).
As what Holland is famous for, He eats Hagelslag since he is allowed to eat solids. Oh yes, did you know that Hagelslag is chocolate sprinkles in solid form? He still eat Hagelslag up until now, we have boxes of this precious sprinkles courtesy of my generous parents in law. It’s a big panic if we ran out of this ‘staple‘. He had to share this now with my daughter who also devour toast covered in sprinkles.Everyday. He grew up developing a serious fondness with ‘Patat‘ and the magic meat balls (Gehaktballen) his mother makes. This is normally eaten with boiled potatoes (again!) and some beans and gravy or pepper sauce. I successfully stole this recipe to continue the meat balls saga in our family. He is Dutch but he denies the existence loathes of cheese and eggs. Sometimes I think he is just pretending to be Dutch! He can eat Pannekoek for dinner,enjoys Drop with delight, and drink chocolate milk more than he drinks water.
Just like any typical Dutch kids, he played enormously with his Duplos, wooden blocks, & his beloved Lego. He had a wooden bike which he got when he was 1-year-old and this has been passed on to our daughter along with his wooden plate with his name engraved on it. I find Dutch’s simplicity navigates to their source of worry-free happiness, take for example Dick Bruna’s Ninjtje (or Miffy ). A symbol of a cartoon character so simple and yet so good, without the complicated animation. Celebrating birthdays as a kid is more of a family celebration. It’s enjoyed with simple ‘Taart‘ and sitting in circles with friends and family. There is no pressure of throwing off a grand party either.
Dutch kids indeed have an enchanting childhood. Now who wouldn’t be thrilled when Sinterklaas comes on 5th of December. The sight of Kruidnoten, Spekulaas, Marzipan, and the yummy chocolate letters are everywhere. Typical dutch kids are showered with gifts and threats on this day. Sinterklaas is celebrated favorable in the Netherlands than Christmas. The sight of the Zwarte Piets (Black Peter’s ) seemed perfectly normal for all Dutch kids where it could be a daunting sight for others.
Growing up, he was also brought up visiting his Oma frequently, (Dutch for Grandmother). Grandparents are a big part of Dutch culture. It’s very typical for dutch kids to spend time & have a healthy connection with their Omas & Opas. The feeling of security and being well-taken-cared off comes naturally among Dutch kids since it all starts from their family.
Once a year they go on a holiday as a whole family and here you can see that travelling is part of a humble Dutch culture. My husband has 8 thick photo albums filled with vacation photos and stories of his childhood. He climb mountains and earn medals for Wandern , going on a sled in winter, visiting castles,exploring the gorges, or just roasting having barbecue in their backyard during summer.
What I have also learned about my husband’s childhood is the unique approach on education in the Netherlands. Homework is unusual in Dutch primary schools and students have one afternoon a week off school ( usually on Wednesday) which means kids have lots of time and space to be … Kids. Spending their childhood without worries.They only have homework in their Topography subject where they learn about cities, rivers & countries.
Dutch children are given lots of autonomy and the freedom to explore, while parents aren’t burdened with the expectation that their child has to be the best in order to succeed. This made me gasp since my childhood is totally different from him. Remembering that in Philippines, kids have huge backpacks filled with books and we always have homework. Even preschoolers! Imagine the early strain on kids having the high expectation to excel and achieve more than what the average kids does.
Based on these, I could sum up that growing up in a Dutch household is pretty awesome. His own story of childhood and growing up ‘doe maar normaal‘ makes him the relaxed, easy-going person He is right now. I presumed that the big factor why Dutch kids are simply happy apart from the significant aspects that the studies have proven, is because their parents are also happy. Statistics have shown that Dutch women and Kids tops it all but I can only write about Dutch people who I knew. Maybe the daily doses of drop, stroopwafels and Bitterballen adds to their vigor and their adrenaline boost is the result of their bodies intertwined with their bicycles. Believe me, they don’t have the time to worry, because their time is already spent discussing about the weather, making their agendas and shopping for orange clothes!
With Dutch, less is simply becoming more.
How can you describe your childhood in one word? Feel free to share!
To tell you frankly, I didn’t appreciate parks & playgrounds until I had a child of my own!
If you have an active toddler like mine, I am so sure that playgrounds have become your best friends. Either indoor play yard or an outdoor sandpit, it always saves your day. It’s one happy place where your kids just let go of their steam and for a moment, you’ve got the chance to inhale and breathe. I know I’m not alone in this,but when your child is happy, you are happy too!
There are play areas for Kids..Everywhere!
As a new Expat, you search for grocery shops or bakeries, but for me, one of my early priorities is to look for playgrounds for my daughter to play. Well, Germany is famous for its abundance of outdoor activities and play areas for kids & toddlers. I must say that being a kid here is awesome and has a lot to offer. I was really surprised to find that in almost every neighborhood, there are Spielplatz or play areas for kids. Isn’t that amazing? In the Bike shop, supermarkets and groceries, in Biergartens and restaurants, they always have a play area where kids can play. There are trampolines & rockers along the busiest shopping streets . Some even have a changing area where you can breastfeed, feed or change the diapers for free!
The one in dm-drogerie is our favorite because you can shop while your kids play. Great thing about dm is it’s absolutely free and very convenient. Did I mention that even in the Rathaus ( or the Town Hall) they have kid toys placed in the walls along the corridor. Very kid-friendly especially during waiting time.
It’s beautiful, natural, safe ,full of creative spaces, and best of all, it’s all FREE!
Changing area inside DM, very convenient, and what’s best, it’s all free.
Great place for Mommy & kids pit-stop after grocery shopping.
Life being an Expat is challenging. You’ve got no friends yet,you barely speak the language, you don’t even know your neighbors, but your child is screaming out for tiny humans company. A bored child is a whining child so the best thing to do is take her out! Searching for parks & playground is also a perfect chance to get acquainted with the new neighborhood and making new friends.It is actually easy to make friends when you have a kid,it’s less intimidating. The moment kids starting to play with each other, it’s easy to start a conversation. This works well for me so I’m sure it can work with you too.
Fitness area in the park along Maximillianstr.
While the children play, adults can get fit, for free.
So here in Ingolstadt, we have discovered quite a number of parks and playgrounds which has helped us a lot in trying to integrate in this new culture. Here’s our list for our favourites ;
Klenzepark is a huge oasis for kids (and for adults too). This place has a large field and beautiful park I must say, with trees surrounding it and has luscious rose gardens with fountains. It is the site for the 1992 Bavarian Garden Festival and has a unique open air museum of German fortification architecture. It will host the 2020 State Flower Show so that’s something to look forward if you love nature & flowers. Ideally located along the Donau river, it’s a scenic place where you can take your kids for a lazy stroll, cycling or play in the playground.With the view of the historical Neues Schloss and with the love-lock bridge, this is our favorite spot so far.There is a fountain (Wasserspieltplatz) with huge rocks where children can enjoy playing in the water especially in Summer.The whole field is also surrounded with small water canals where children (and adults!) splash their feet in Summer.
Just beside the Wasserspieltplatz is the Natural Playground. It has wooden slides, climbing areas, rockers, swings and fun activities for kids. In the center is a sand pit where toddlers & kids playing in the sand. .It’s very accessible by bike,by walking or by bus. There is an ample underground parking and comfort rooms.Inside the park are Biergartens, cafes, and museums.
Luitpoldpark is ideal for all ages and the entire family as well. There is a forest where you can take your kids to have a short trek, stroll and have quiet walks with all the towering trees above you. This is a secluded place to jog, run and or just taking your dog for a walk. In the center was a playground with slide, rockers, and sand pit where your child can play while parents can have a picnic. I have seen many families having their birthday parties here and meet-ups.Adjacent was a football field where bigger kids can enjoy a football game as well. There is a small hill that is great for toddlers to climb up and run.
Further down Luitpoldpark is the ‘Biotoperlebnisfad and the Nazi victims memorial park. The paths are ideal for skate boarding, cycling plus exploring through the woods can let you learn more about the trees and its history & age. If you like Forestry & Foliage, then this is a great place for you.
Fort Haslang Parks and Playground
We discovered this playground by chance. While we are looking for a Pediatrician for my daughter, we decided to let her play a bit and we found this play ground nearby. It has a scenic field full of short shrubs and flowers, a cycling path with apple trees and forest flowers and in its center is a play ground with sand pit, slides, rockers & plenty of space for children to run around. A bit further is a place for bigger kids where they have ramps for bicycles, ziplines, and table tennis areas. This playground has benches for parents too. Surprisingly, almost all parks & playground in Germany always have an area for parents to sit, drink their coffee and a trash bin. You won’t even need to worry about where to throw the soiled diapers.
Wildpark am Baggersee–Oberschüttweg
This beautiful wildlife escape is just 15 minutes away from our home. Ideally situated near the Dam and you will have scenic views of the River Danube and lush forest, a lake, and a Lakehouse with lots of Biergarten & cafes. Discovering the beauty of Baggersee last Summer was one of the highlights of our first Summer here. This place is best for campers during summer, and ideal for cycling. It has 54km stretch for you to cycle til you drop. If you have a kid’s seat attached to your bike like most Germans does or an Anhänger ( Child chariot), then you can easily explore this place thru cycling while having panoramic views of the Auswaldsee. The Wildpark & Baggerseeplay area are absolutely free. The wasserspielplatz for kids is one of my daughter’s favorite and I like that it has an active water pumps where parents can do some activity and exercise.
Biergarten Künettegraben– along Jahnstraße
This Playground is adjacent to a Biergarten. Yes, in Germany, there are Biergartens which has a playground beside it. It has lovely views of the winding bridges, old fortifications, and the ponds filled with ducks. Go here early in the morning and you can enjoy the peace & quiet. Perfect for nap times too.The playground itself is frequented by pre- schoolers on their outdoor walks & play times because it is surrounded with trees, and has lots of creative games areas. There is a sand pit, water pipes, slides, swings, turntables, see-saws and table tennis & basket ball courts. They have swings made of old tires.While your kids play, parents can have a happy hour in the Biergarten as well or just feed the ducks!
This small Zoo is a one of a kind attraction for kids. It is a non-profit zoo which houses different animals which look more like a private collection. The place is a combination of a Botanical Garden and a zoo. There are reptiles and birds on the ground floor, an Aquarium and sea animals in the basement and wild birds, monkeys, and birds like parrots, owl and other birds located in the garden. It is frequently visited by Kindergarten students, visitors, and people with disabilities. Ideal for a family getaway on weekends. There are tables & chairs for parents to rest and a changing room for babies.
St. Anton play ground & Park-Münchnerstr.
This playground is very close to the Haupbanhof and just across the St.Anton Church . It is in front of a Pet Zoo shop and has a shady park & play area for the little ones. We love to walk going here. It has a huge field where people do yoga, train their dogs, or just have a lazy weekend picnic. It has a pebble & sand pit, rockers, slides, and a wooden climb & maze paths. It is one of our favorite playground because it is shady and quiet. It is surrounded with ample trees as well.
I am so thankful that we live in a place where these playgrounds and parks are accessible. As a parent,there’s a lot more to write about playgrounds here in Bavaria, they are really something to be proud of. We keep on discovering new ones each day. Play areas doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. In Germany, the approach for more green, natural, simple & safe play outweighs farther the confines of an indoor play areas.
How ‘s it been Expat Mamas? How was your move so far?
If you enjoyed this post, Make sure to hit the Follow button for more Expat stories on this Blog, and Hey, if you are an Expat Mama, you might want to be featured in this Blog for our series on Expat Mamas around the World! Drop me an email at email@example.com.
Are you on Twitter? follow me on my Twitter and my Instagram for more updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.Thanks!
The first time I saw in Amsterdam a mother cycling with her 2 kids inside a rather impressive ‘ BakfietsBakfiets‘ and’ Kinderzitje’ ( Kid’s seat attached on the rear end of a bike) I almost shrieked and laughed! How could this be, in Philippines, Bakfiets or the modern SUV in Holland could resemble much like the ‘Kariton‘ dragged by an animal ( mostly carabao) with the harvest from the farm, mostly sacks of rice. In the fields, kids play while riding it, but purely for fun. In Holland, it’s functional. Bakfiets are attached to a bike and in it, is your child, along with bag of groceries, plants, toys, you name it, it’s all in there! Such a surprising part of Dutch culture that Dutch are known for.
Here in Germany, I saw something else. As I roamed the streets getting to know our neighborhood, I saw and witnessed more and more surprising things about Parenthood that only German parents do with their kids. To tell you frankly, before coming to Europe, I thought Germans are strict, cold, and severe people, let alone being parents, but I was completely mistaken. Here are the reasons why ignorance doesn’t pay and why I love just how German Parents doing it, the German way.
Play comes first (until 6 years old!)
I saw from my friend’s feed that their toddlers & pre- schoolers are already being taught how to scribble, write, draw, count and do the academic side of learning. Do you know what German Kindergarten kids do ?
They play, play & play.
As I was applying for a space for my daughter in a Krippe & Kindergartens , we were invited to visit and have a look at their school and this is where I got the whole picture of playing as the best form of learning for toddlers until 6 yrs. of age here. Kindergartens in Germany are based on the concept that learning is a game of mind (or lernen ist ein spiel der sinne).
While Kindergarten normally starts at the age of 3, most parents who are urged to go back to work immediately can already put their child ( from 6 mos) in a Krippe or Kita. I saw that the kindergarten is full of different play-areas, fun games and interactive media for kids to just play while learning. Learning to read, write and count is not being pushed. I was shocked at same time totally impressed to see a tiny 2-year-old toddler struggle to put on her socks and jacket in the corridor, all by herself. All kindergartens have a spacious outdoor playground with sand pits, climbing areas, ball pits, slides and natural maze that kids can enjoy free-play,while having fun! When they get tired, they have a nap room.
Most kindergarten kids are taken out for a walk touring around the city or just a walk in the woods for an outdoor learning. They also visit nearby playgrounds to play, outside their classrooms. They really give a whole new meaning for playing while learning.
Germans just love the outdoors so they take the kids outside everyday. According to a German saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” which sounds logical to me. The value of outside time is promoted in the schools, hence the “garten” in Kindergarten. It’s also obvious in Germany’s numerous playgrounds. In our neighborhood alone, you can go to 3 different playgrounds within 2 hours! No matter how cold and grey it gets, parents still bundle their kids up and take them to the park, or send them out on their own. I see babies napping in the forest, parks and in the busy streets. Kids are taught subconsciously the value of nature to overall well-being. Walking and strolling everyday is part of every family’s routine.
Freedom and Independency is encouraged as early as age of 2
Along the streets you see mothers walking with their kids on their walking bike at a very young age. Almost still toddling and yet learning how to balance and to pedal the bike. It’s not unusual to see toddlers already cycling at the age of 2.5 y/o and preschoolers cycling going to school. When they eventually learned to cycle, they took them cycling almost everywhere. German parents instill in the minds of their kids to be independent by equipping them with skills to explore by themselves,alone & unsupervised. As research have proved that walking around without parental supervision, or “independent mobility” is good for kids. Nobody follows a kid in the playground. If you see a mother following wherever her kids go, then she’s a foreigner! I tell you, this is what surprised me the most, I am the only mother who runs after my daughter while all the other mothers are just sitting in the bench.
In the parks & playground, mothers are often drinking tea, coffee and chatting with their friends while they let their kids climb and play. They are so lax in parenting because the safety measures and security is highly efficient. They already removed all the risks even before a child touches what’s in the play areas. Playgrounds are very safe for kids, mostly made with wood, with sand and plastics are mostly omnipresent.
Giving them Bikes instead of iPad or Playstation
German parents give less regard on tech gadgets to entertain kids such as iPad or Playstation or XBox , psp etc. I seldom see kids playing with iPad or computer games. This is because of great emphasis on playing outdoors. Almost everyone owns a Bike carrier, kid’s seat and a big part of toddler life is owning a kid’s bike. Why? because it promotes being active, functional & again, independency.
If the Dutch have Bakfiets, then Germans have their carriers. Of course, take it on German efficiency. I observed that kids are brought into an early exposure to be part of the society. The kids are tucked into their carrier, in a kid’s seat at the back of the bike or in a stroller and off they go in everyday life. There is no excuse for German parents for not bringing their kids along. I love the fact that having a kid in Germany shows that a child is not an excess baggage that you bring along with your chores or errands. Add up the efficient transport system then parents doesn’t need to worry about bringing along a baby in a stroller. Even if public transportation isn’t your thing, Germany is a very bike-friendly country. Even if with kids. Especially with kids.
Bringing their kids to Biergarten
German parents knows how to enjoy before and after the baby comes. We all know that they love (adore) beer and Oktoberfest. I was shocked to see locals bring along their kids while they socialize, drink beer and relax.In our place alone, you can find Biergartens almost in every corner. Nowadays they are transformed into a great family destination. Who doesn’t want to do things as a family on a Friday night?
Biergartens have become a go-to destination for family outings, play dates and toddler birthdays. On weekend afternoons, many transform into Gymboree-like spaces with multiple brews on tap. If beer is not your thing, then don’t worry, there are juices, lemonades and hearty bites for you. The great thing is, having a kid doesn’t hinder your social life.
What do you think of German parenting?
Do you think you can raise your own child the German way?
If you enjoy this post, make sure to follow my Expat stories in my Twitter and Instagram.