Konichi-WOW: Parenting in Tokyo,the world’s largest City |Expat Mama in Japan

 

 

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Victoria and her adorable son, William, a Lego Aficionado! (AmericanExpats in Japan)

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

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Living in Tokyo- the largest, and probably the most fascinating 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.

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Adventures with a toddler on the move

Victoria’s Background

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.

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Livin’the Expat life in Tokyo!

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.

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Enjoying a train ride with Daddy !

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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…

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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.

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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.

On Preschool

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.

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Where is ‘Home’ for an Expat Kid? 

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?

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Off to a new adventure, new chapter!

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.

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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 )

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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!

P.S.

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 justbluedutch@gmail.com or leave your comments below!

 

 

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Postcards from a Wander-full Life | Expat Mama in Johannesburg

 

 

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!

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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.

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Josefine, posing for Isabell N Wedin in Chamonix 

Aside from enjoying outdoors, Josefine writes on best of both worlds! Her practical tips on Exploring a New City ,enjoying the Italian coffee and Finding those Little Gems and her OOTD’s tips for trendy outfits are worth checking out. Josefine is a natural model and posted for a photoshoot with her childhood friend  Isabell N Wedin, a Malmö (swe) photographer |Harvest Agency. One of her bohemian flair photoshoot is shown in one of the worlds best photography museums – Fotografiska .

 

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.

Josefine’s Background 

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.

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Taking it slow, savoring life’s goodness

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.

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Exploring the Cape of good hope and Cape town with a Toddler!
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Beautiful journey through Motherhood

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.

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The privilege of raising a little girl in another culture!

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.

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Baby wearing is the best way to explore with a Baby!

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.

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Postcard from South Africa
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Enjoying the scenic landscapes and the South African sun

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.

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At Bois Cheri Tea plantation in Mauritius

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?!

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One fine winter day full of sunshine in Jo’burg!

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.

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Claudine’s bonding times with Daddy!

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.

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Follow Josefine to get updates on what is trendy & chic comfy outfits for those who are expecting and always on the go !

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.

P.S

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.

Have you enjoyed this post?  Make sure to check out our other Expat Mamas & Papa stories in The Netherlands, Kuwait, Philippines, Thailand, Berlin , Saudi Arabia , China , Italy  and of course, how a German-Finnish Expat Papa take on how to Raise a Kung Fu Baby in Germany .

We have 10 amazing stories of different Expats mamas & Papa for 2016. I am looking forward to have another series of stories next year so stay tuned!

Make sure to follow Justbluedutch & Pinays in Germany  for more of my  Expat stories  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 justbluedutch@gmail.com.

Are you on Twitter?  follow me on my  Twitter  and my Instagram  for more updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.Thank you for reading friends!

A Chinese girl’s journey to know the Florentines | Expat Mama in Italy

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.

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Meet Sasha Wang – a stylish mama behind  Stai al Borgo

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.

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Love for the Florentines

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.

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Florence : The beautiful city of Art & Architecture

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.

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Sasha’s travels : What a violet day! Spent the whole day doing a road trip in Provence and visiting the lavender fieds.

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.

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On top of the Doumo , in full spirit and pride ,claiming the new city of Florence!

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.

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Florence : My second home

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.

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Instant band playing in the corner of Borgo  San Jacopo

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!

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The Best of my year 2015  flashbacks and snaps ( May 21015-April 2016)

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.

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On Summer holiday with the Little one this year

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”.

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With Chinese Grandparents on a family trip in Bologna

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.

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Father and Son bonding – Sasha’s husband showing a photo that he took to his son

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.

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Celebrating Life in Florence  : When Sasha’s son turned 1 and also their Anniversary

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!

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Coffee in Italian way

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.

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Florence as a place to raise kids where you can get close to nature as this.

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.

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With the fellow Bloggers on  Tuscany among the Stars Blog tour

 

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.

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My little one in front of a table in Kyoto, Japan

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.

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Raising my son in two different cultures

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.

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On being a trendy Mama : Sasha in her signature Sunnies who always get her a second look from the locals!

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.

 

Have you enjoyed this post?  Make sure to check out our other Expat Mamas & Papa stories in The Netherlands, Kuwait, Philippines, Thailand, Berlin , Saudi Arabia , China and of course, how a German-Finnish Expat Papa take on how to Raise a Kung Fu Baby in Germany .

Make sure to follow Justbluedutch & Pinays in Germany  for more of my  Expat stories  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 justbluedutch@gmail.com.

Are you on Twitter?  follow me on my  Twitter  and my Instagram  for more updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.Thank you for reading friends!

Hot Dog and Chicken Nugget Eaters in a Dumpling World | Expat-Mama in China

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.

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Meet the Zulaufs : Suzanne, Andy , Lee & Mara – Hotdogs & Chicken nugget eaters in the land of Dumplings

How does an American Mama cope in the land of Dumplings when her daughter only eat chicken nuggets, mac & cheese?

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Postcard from New York – view of Central Park, the world that the Zulaufs left behind
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A pie chart representing the percentage of the population that effing loves dumplings!

Suzanne’s Background 

2016-08-24_063931466_7c025_iosSuzanne 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

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Pudong Skyline
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Shanghai’s local sightings

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.

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Shanghai’s skyline at night

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.

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Lee & Mara’s drawing of China

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.

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To Squat or not to squat : Source

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:

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Surviving traffic in Shanghai

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).

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Integrating as much as possible

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.

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Grocery shopping in Shanghai

On Food 

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

file_000-19As 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 !

Have you enjoyed this post?  Make sure to check out our other Expat Mamas & Papa stories in The Netherlands, Kuwait, Philippines, Thailand, Berlin , Saudi Arabia and of course, how an Expat Papa take on how to Raise a Kung Fu Baby in Germany .

 

 

Follow Justbluedutch & Pinays in Germany  for more of my  Expat stories  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 justbluedutch@gmail.com.

Are you on Twitter?  follow me on my  Twitter  and my Instagram  for more updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.Thanks!

 

Making memories in the Arab World | Expat Mama in Saudi Arabia

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!

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A portrait of the true essence of being a Woman

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.

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On Life raising Two Boys

Expat Mama Story : Making memories in the Land of Arabs

 

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Happiness radiates in her

Abeer’s Background

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“.

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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.

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A day in the life of an Expat Family in Saudi Arabia

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

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Babywearing while amazed by the stunning Wazir Khan mosque-Androon, Lahore

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.

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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.
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Expat thoughts : Road less traveled
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.
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Holidays in Australia
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.
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Madina travel treasures
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!
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 !
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Covered but not controlled
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 .
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Travelling with kids
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.
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On the life of brothers & siblings
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.
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The perfect place- their Happy corner!
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.
Make sure to follow Abeer’s life in photos in her Instagram page and connect with her in Facebook.

Have you enjoyed this post?

Make sure to check out our other Expat Mamas & Papa stories in The Netherlands, Kuwait, Philippines, Thailand, Berlin, and of course, how to Raise a Kung Fu Baby in Germany.

Follow Justbluedutch & Pinays in Germany  for more of my  Expat stories  and Hey, if you are an Expat Mama, your story might be the next one to be featured in this Blog for our series on Expat Mamas around the World! Drop me an email at justbluedutch@gmail.com.

Are you on Twitter?  follow me on my  Twitter  and my Instagram  for more updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.Thanks

Adventures with the LeBlancs | Expat-Mama in Berlin

Few more days & it’s  Halloween!

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.

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Meet the Le Blancs! Spreading their Southern charm from Atlanta to Berlin

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.

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Little Red Riding hood from Atlanta arrives in Berlin &  all set for Halloween!
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Little Miss Payton with her Pumpkins in their Balcony in Berlin

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.

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The LeBlancs exploring Europe in colors

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

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All love starts & ends here

Christy’s Background 

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.

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Expecting baby Girl # 2 in November 2016 in Germany

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.

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Up close and personal in Berlin Wall

 

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!

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Experiencing cold, long German winters

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.

 

 

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.

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Why it is awesome to be a Kid in Germany?

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!

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More quality time with the 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!

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What to expect when you’re expecting

 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.

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The Life of a Southern Girl in Berlin

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?

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Raising  a happy, independent, Bilingual Third culture 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.

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Integrating into German Culture & making an Impact as an Expat-mama

 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.

Have you enjoyed this post?  Make sure to check out our other Expat Mamas & Papa stories in The Netherlands, Kuwait, Philippines, Thailand, and of course, how to Raise a Kung Fu Baby in Germany.

Follow Justbluedutch & Pinays in Germany  for more of my  Expat stories  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 justbluedutch@gmail.com.

Are you on Twitter?  follow me on my  Twitter  and my Instagram  for more updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.Thanks

 

 

Raising my Kung Fu Baby | Expat-Papa in Germany

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Raising the Kung Fu Baby in Germany { Timo with his son, Nathan }

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?

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Aside from multiple languages, this is an indicator of an Interracial couple raising a Interracial Kid

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.

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Meet the CrazyChineseFamily interracial couple , in a snapshot before Nathan comes in their world.

Here’s my interview-Story from Timo, His own Expat-Papa story;

Expat-Papa Story : Raising my Kung-Fu Baby in Germany

Timo is the Blogger behind the amazing Blog CrazyChineseFamily“. His superb writing skills grab him the ‘NepaliAustralian Blog Award’for Best personal Blog for 2015. His Blog is creating such a stir in the web ever since He wrote in humurous yet  beautiful sarcasm about life revolving around with a Crazy chinese family &  the overwhelming crazy stuff of his  one-of-a -kind MIL ( Mother-in-Law) .

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.

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This is how a day in the Neumünsterzoo during Winter looks like.

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.

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When a Blonde Gentleman from the West said “I Do”to one beautiful lady from the East.

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.

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Old  German wedding tradition : Cutting a log represents the first obstacle that the couple must overcome in their Marriage. They must work together to ‘overcome’the obstacle by sawing through the Log.

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.

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The coolest Baby Monk ever!

Have you seen how Nathan’s room turned out after long hours of hardwork? Don’t you think this  Totoro theme is cool?

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Nathan’s Totoro -themed room-A pure labor of love & hardwork 
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Journey together as Father & Son 

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 .

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.

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.

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Nathan is already a jetsetter baby when He cross continents & visit relatives in China.

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.

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Baby butts & Split pants culture in China for babies (Photo courtesy of Travel Bug Juice)

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.

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Family holidays in Finland

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.

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In the medieval market in Germany

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.

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Nathan with her Mama

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!

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The Kung Fu baby during holidays in Finland

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.

Have you enjoyed this post?

Make sure to follow our Expat Mamas around the World series and read how our Expat Mama in The Netherlands, Kuwait, Philippines, and Thailand are doing a fair share of living as an Expat parents.

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 justbluedutch@gmail.com.

Are you on Twitter?  follow me on my  Twitter  and my Instagram  for more updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.Thanks!

Pinay’s journey to Motherhood in the land of Smiles |Expat Mama in Thailand

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Meet the Rochanaroons ; Journey of one Expat-mama in the Land of Smiles.

Do you believe in College campus romances?

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.

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Seascape Love at Hua Hin, Thailand

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 ) and Luke (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

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All wide smiles in the land of Smiles

Rann’s Background

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.

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A Bibliophile’s ultimate dream : Spending a day with books in a cozy place & of course, a warm cup of coffee!

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.

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University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus : The place where it all begun.
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Buddhism as part of everyday life in Thailand.

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.

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Physically & Emotionally integrated in Thai’s 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.

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A Pinay’s journey to Motherhood  (Escapades in Nong nooch tropical Garden )

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.

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Floating Market 
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James Bond island – Beautiful coast and Beach culture of Thailand

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.

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A working Mama who knows how to enjoy – Don’t forget that you are woman too, a friend, and a Sister.

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.

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Pink and Yellow sheep in the Sheep Farm -A child’s Haven for learning

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.

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Mothers are the first Teachers for their children

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.

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Family comes first,in everything.

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.

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Setting your foot firmly : On Living and Loving Thailand

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 Bangus every 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.

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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.

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The benefits of growing as a Third Culture Kid

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.

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Make an impact in your own child’s life and you’re making impact in the world .

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.

Did you enjoy this post?

Are you an Expat Mama and would like to share your own Expat Mama story with us? Drop me an email at justbluedutch@gmail.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 .

 

 

 

 

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Raising my blonde kids in the Philippines | Expat-Mama in PH

Is it just a cliché  talking about Bringing Up Bébé in the Philippines?  or is it a renowned global myth that French kids eat everything? I really wonder about this.How about trading hiking the Swiss Alps for the beaches in Bantayan Island in Cebu?

Well,I am going to tell you that one French Expat- Mama juggles on pursuit of zen, balance & rumbling through the whole foods section in the supermarket and at same  time raising her Blonde  Third Culture Kids in  South east Asian culture. How on earth she’s doing  it?

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Estelea’s Blog post :  Where is Home for my Multicultural Kids?

On our next feature for Expat Mama around the World series, we go to far away South Pacific where  Estelea,an ex-Red Cross workaholic femme, enjoys the tropical sun and hopping the tricycle mania in their island life. She and her Swiss husband, Marcel, are currently based  and living the not-so-ordinary Expat life in Bantayan island in Cebu, Philippines. Together they trot this place upside down with their 2 adorable  kids, the Attilas;  (aka Maëlle 5 y.o and Léandre 4 y.o.).

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Enjoying the exotic Jeepney Ride in the Philippines

With a bubbly spirit, a pocket full of wisdom, she shares her big heart to her host country, the Philippines through her meaningful writing such as “All we need for Christmas is a roof over our heads” . Aside from her Blog, she tell us how to handle the fanatic Filipino craze on Karaoke, the not-so friendly-typhoons and the hustle of being tagged as Parisian-stage-mama to her kids at school . Here’s her very own Expat -Mama Story: Raising my Blonde Kids in the Philippines

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Stephanie on Raising Blonde kids ( The Attilas )  in the Philippines

Estelea’s background

Estelea is the woman behind Estelea’s Blog, a French Mama of 2, A yoga enthusiast and a budding teacher,a dreamer, a beach lover and a humble humanitarian rolled into one. Stephanie is  a minimalist by nature ,Vegetarian by choice, and makes it a point to have & enjoy a good kind of laugh.Everyday. Living almost 3 years in the Philippines, she still can’t believe that it’s for real that she’s living a life in the shores of the pristine beaches.

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It is more fun in the Philippines – Towering coconut trees! The backdrop of everyday Expat Life in Bantayan. Not as grand as the Eiffel tower, but actually more rejuvenating. In dire need of fresh air?, inhale, because it’s always Free.

Estelea is a  good friend of mine..from a far. Thanks to technology that we became modern-Penpals. When the Attilas gives her a break-time from being their super-mama, she wrote a whole lot of inspiring, funny, and down-to-earth posts about motherhood,Expat Life, and family oriented adventures.

Tell us About your Background

I am French, originally from Fontainebleau, a beautiful historical town by the forest, about 60km from Paris. My job from the years BC (Before Children) definitely took me to places, from Eastern and Western Africa to South East Asia, when I was working for the International Red Cross. We are now based in the Philippines and for the first time in decades, I am not working. I mean, technically…I mean, for a paycheck.

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Raising the Attilas and wearing flip-flops ( Tsinelas) all year around !

On Life as a Full time & Stay-at-Home Expat Mom 

I am actually working full-time every single day of the week, no day off, as a Stay at Home Mum. My very very significant other got a job on the little island of Bantayan and the kids and I are living some 6h away, on Cebu island.

For visa reasons, I can not work in the Philippines, and it has been pretty challenging to adjust to this new kind of lifestyle. A door closed but another open as I had no excuse to finally dwell into more significant yoga practice. And here I am, just completed a 200hours yoga teacher training, and I gave my first class just 2 days ago . My kids’s teachers are very interested in teaching yoga to their little students too, so aside from my adult classes, I am so excited to work on classes for children.

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It’s more Fun in the Philippines: Expat Life in the Beach

How  Yoga changed your life

Yoga is about exploring and discovering who you are (peeling the layers of the onions, as our teacher would say). Being kind to yourself so you can be kind to others too. Be sincere, be healthy without pushing you to your limits.Yoga to me is such a powerful vehicle of change. Through the toning of my body and my mind, I build strength and I start to believe in my own potential. My whole experience of change through Yoga is written Here.

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Journey with Yoga

Share something about the current country you are living in and notable aspects of life.

On Philippines as a Child-Friendly  country

If you were to choose the most child friendly country in the world, Philippines would definitely be in the top 5. I never ever heard anyone complaining because my kids are loud or “slightly” active. And it is not because my little Attilas are incredibly behaving, the real reason is that people love children. Kids are everywhere, there are playgrounds in each and every mall, and they are genuinely welcome by all the staff of the resto and hotels. It’s pretty unique I must say!

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Meet the Blondie in Bantayan Island – Future Miss Cebu?

On emphasis on Family and splurging on Kid’s birthday parties

Filipinos are very family oriented, they go out on weekends all together, and I can’t recall the numbers of times we have been invited to share food just because we happened to be around. One has to attend a kids’ Birthday  party to get my point loud and clear. Their Birthday parties look like our kind of engagement or even wedding party back home. It’s grand compared to the way Europeans do. They take it incredibly seriously, there are so many clowns, presents,  games and they invite the whole neighborhood along with the whole clan. There is no way you would leave the party without a big bag of food and give away presents. It is very heartwarming for expats like us, so far from home.

On Motherhood starts at a young age

Philippines has a a very high (TFR)  Fertility rate, ( as per 2016 World Factbook CIA report) ranking at # 53 ( 3.09)  compared to France # 110 (2.08)  or Switzerland, # 188 (1.55). Of course there are lots of differences, most of the women have their kids in their 20s and many young couples drag their progeniture everywhere, day and night. My kids’ friends have watched so many scary movies my children won’t watch before they turn teenagers!

On overwhelming  Exposure of Filipino kids to all kinds of media

The media exposure is so overwhelming here. They are exposed at a very young age to me, and they learn to perform on stage from 4 years old and the beauty pageants start very early. This is maybe because Filipino kids are exposed to realities of life at a young age. Little children are up-to-date watching all the tele-novelas and primetime shows in TV where they see all the hard realities of life,including the funny side.Ask any young children in the street about the current dance craze or the reigning Miss Universe and they will answer to you blatantly!

 

 

On borderline of personal privacy

Filipinos adore “Blonde”babies and kids they treat them like dolls!  It could come as a compliment but also could come across as crossing the borderline of privacy. Don’t be surprised if people take pics of your children without asking, it is just because they find them “gwapo” (cute). Nobody is shocked but the expats actually,we in France are very veery yy protective of our privacy and that is quite a cultural shock. We don’t want foreigners to take pictures of our children, let alone selfies! But you can always get your point with a nice smile.

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Celebrity baby!

On the debilitating Karaoke culture of the Philippines

Nobody, nobody, sleeps when the karaoke is on!

It is very easy to live in the Philippines as a family. The only minus being the karaoke that is so loud, night and day. But tell you what, after a couple of years here, where singing is like breathing, the kids and I are very competing with taxi drivers when the radio plays a song we know. That’s another great thing with living in the Philippines, how easy it is to laugh for anything and everything. Very very different from Europe!

On food diversity

Foodwise …Philippines is very diversed and Filipinos are definitely meat eaters. And I am vegetarian. Voila! People really used to look at me as if I had just fell from the moon when I refused the legendary “lechon” (pork) or “lechon manok” (grilled chicken). They gave me the same look when I said my kids can’t eat pastas with condensed milk and sugar or sausages with marshmallows. When it comes to junk and sweet, you can tell that the American did not leave the best behind when the Philippines became independent . But things are – slowly changing, and there are now many vegan options that are very good! And thanks Pinterest for teaching us to make the best out of the vegetables and the fruits we can find on the market (try me on eggplants and bananas 😉 )

How is it being pregnant, giving birth and raising your child away from your home country? Or relocating with your kids to another country? What are the adjustments, struggles you’ve overcome?

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It’s more fun in the Philippines : French touch in Cebu directed by Bright Expats and Action!

 My kids are 4 and 5 and it is super easy. They are little sponges, absorbing the cultures, the languages, and they don’t feel foreigners in spite of their blonde hair and their long eyelashes – that always impress Korean women!

Especially now that they can speak some of the local language. You should see them in the jeepney (local bus) talking with the driver in his language, they make every one laugh so hard!

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Bilingual kids

My daughter was born in France so when I was expecting her brother we wondered for a little while if we should get back to Europe. But I am so glad we did not. All the beautiful prenatal yoga classes, the perfect attention of the medical staff of the Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok were beyond all my expectations. Plus Thai people really care for pregnant women, I felt like a super VIP all the time! Everything was cheaper and far better quality than back home.

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Raising a  Blonde Third Culture Kid in the Philippines : So far, so good.

It is been really easy and fun, I feel it would be much more challenging if we had to relocate to Europe – France or Switzerland. We have lost our mute button a long time ago, and the kids hate wearing socks ..

 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?

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Core values starts at home.

I wrote on this topic https://frenchtouchincebu.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/what-does-home-means-for-multicultural-kids/ and to me, it is “so far so good”. There are endless benefits of raising children abroad, they become fast learners, they adapt very fast and don’t know the meaning of racism.

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Leading by Example : This is how a lady should be treated, as shown by her Father.

So far so good because I am not sure of the benefits of this lifestyle in the long run. We are going back to France and Switzerland once a year, and it is not enough to build the kind of memories I have built with my cousins and grand parents for instance. Bless Skype, Whatassap and Viber, for sure! But nothing can replace a real big hug. That’s the reason we are planning to relocate in a country closer to home, at least a few hours by plane (direct flight!). Cebu- Paris takes us about 20h, it is definitely too far. Can’t have it all !

How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?

We are legends! People think we have countless helpers, a driver available 24/7 and we spend our days in SPA… And most of them have no idea of where the Philippines are!

I don’t think I am making any impact actually. Some of my friends would definitely think I am living the easy life, simply because I don’t work. They google “Cebu” and see pristine beaches. I’d rather leave them with the illusions, not mentioning the rainy season, the insane Manila  traffic, how small the expat circle is here. And that the nearer beach is some 5 hours away ..

Interestingly enough, the expat life made us reinforce our links with our family much more than with our friends – unless expats themselves.

Disclaimer : All photos are owned & of personal property of Estelea, special credit to her FB page and should you wish to use it, please mention the owner.Thanks!

Inspired by this post?

Have you ever wonder how an Expat-Mama is raising her Kids in the Netherlands? Or what about a Muslim mother raising her child in the oil-rich desert country like Kuwait?

If you want to get to know more about Estelea and like follow her Expat Life, you can add her in her Facebook page Here and follow her Expat adventures in her Instagram Here.

Are you an Expat Mama and have a unique story to share, feel free to email me at justbluedutch@gmail.com and don’t forget to follow my Expat Life in my Twitter for more stories of Expat Life like this.

 

 

 

 

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Expat-Mama in Kuwait

Today, Sept. 12, the whole Muslim community around the world is celebrating one of the holy festival in Islam, known as ‘Eid al-Adha’( or the Feast of Sacrifice). Eid -al-Adha is a festival that marks the end of the Hajj -an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia that lasts three to four days. The Koran recommends all Muslims make the journey    (or Umrah)  at least once in their lifetime. Worshippers typically slaughter an animal like a goat or sheep. Imagine close to 10 million animals are slaughtered in Pakistan on Eid, how about on other countries?

So in time of Eid-al-Adha festivity, for our next Expat Mama around the World series, you will get to know more of surprising facts about motherhood in  Kuwait especially from a Muslim Expat-mama perspective.  Kuwait is a  Muslim country  where there are 2.4 Million Expats  despite that the summer heat could rise up to 50 degrees and where oil is cheaper than water.

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Rechiel’s Story : An Expat Mama  Raising  her third- Culture kids with core values of Islam. (Photo credit: Aysha Aldrini)

 

There are roughly 180,000 Filipinos living and working as an OFW ( Overseas Contract Worker) ,in Kuwait and Rechiel is one of them. She left the Philippines for work  since 2003, so basically, she lived more than a decade in the Middle East, imagine that!  Kuwait has been her 2nd home for a long time now. Surprisingly, she and I happen to go at same school in High School.  (which I only found out later when she told me) She is a dear friend of mine and here she shares her Expat Mama Story :  A Muslim Expat Mama journey to Motherhood in Kuwait.

Rechiel’s Background

Rechiel is a Filipino Expat Mama of 3, and working in Kuwait for almost 13 years now in a Shipping/Logistics Company. Unexpectedly, she found love and eventually got married to her Egyptian husband ,Wasim, who is also an Expat in Kuwait. They have 3 beautiful daughters namely  Cha, Salma & Maryam. She is an active member of the Anchors Toastmaster’s Club in Al Bader Company. She loves  swimming,photography , and Karaoke of course!

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Kuwait sunset from the Arabian Gulf 

On converting to Islam and raising her kids in Islamic faith

Rechiel converted to Muslim faith from the time that she married her Muslim husband. It was not a mandatory requirement, nor a legal prerequisite for marriage of Non-Muslim & Muslim but it is her personal decision to revert from Christianity to Islamic faith. By changing her views on spirituality and faith, she dressed up in modesty as  Muslim women should be, she changed her lifestyle and start to wear Hijab. For her, doing this  shows her total submission to her husband and abiding the teachings of Allah from Qúran.

Here’s my Interview-Story of her as an example of a down-to-earth  Expat-Mama who is raising her children with Filipino, Egyptian and Muslim values in Kuwait.

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Expat Kids  and Expat Mama

 

Tell us About your Background

My name is Rechiel, I’m the from Philippines and came to Kuwait as an OFW ( Overseas Contract Worker) . I got married, and gave birth of my 2 girls in Kuwait. I am literally living for more than a decade in the Middle East now. It’s been a challenge for me to work full-time at the same time being a mother to a teenager, and 2 more girls. It’s like working round-the clock. From the moment I got home, I spend productive time with my kids but cannot spare anything more than an hours’ time. My interest has always been photography but I do not have time on hand to pursue my interest owing to other responsibilities. I do not know when, but one day I definitely will find time to pursue my interest. It is hard being a mother ,that is a fact, but my life is totally rewarding raising them.

Share something about the current country you are living in and notable aspects of life from an Expat Mother point of view.

On Culture Shock and Arabic language

Kuwait is one of the most prominent countries of the GCC and like all other middle eastern countries has a lot of expats from all parts of the world working and living with their families. Culturally , I found Kuwait to have much Asian influences. There are lots of Filipino/Asian stores so when it comes to food, I felt like I am in the Philippines. In my work, there are also plenty of Filipino colleagues, so basically, I didn’t have much hard time adjusting. Believe it or not, I understand Arabic , but up to this time, I know I still need to make great effort to learn it. When you have kids and needs help with their Arabic homework, you just feel motivated to learn. My kids go to  International school where different nationalities so there is always a great culture mix-up. At home, we speak English  and Arabic so my children are all bilingual.

On the other hand, my husband being from the Mediterranean region (Egyptian) ,He, too feels very much comfortable to be living in Kuwait. But nowadays he too got confused with the living status here.We have plans to move to Alexandria but still the plans are not that concrete. Being an Islamic country Kuwait has a typical living conditions for women outside their homes. We are Muslims, so  socializing is restricted when it comes to interacting with other groups of men and women.

On leisure activities for family and Kids in Kuwait

Kuwait is a desert country, with a hot climate.There are not much greenery like in the Philippines or in Egypt. I got used to the living conditions here even when I was still single but as a family ,we make it a point to enjoy the outdoors when it is not too hot. I am thankful that at least we have the beach for us to have picnics & for the kids to play in the sand or swim. As parents, visiting the Aqua parks, amusement parks, public parks, cinemas, shopping malls, museums, science centers and all such institutions are my favorite spots in Kuwait  since both me & my kids can enjoy.

On Arab culture criticism for being Lax at Parenting

I grew up in the Philippines where courtesy & politeness is being taught at a young age. We say “Po & Opo”and respecting the elders is a vital trait. We even have GMRC ( Good Manners & Right Conduct ) subject included in the curriculum. Here in Kuwait,one unusual culture that I don’t like is when an Arab mother tolerate their kids to disrespect them in front of others. Kids are yelling at them if they don’t give something that they wanted. This is very prevalent in malls & restaurants. The teenagers are such a bully . It disturbs me at the same time challenging for me to see that my kids are exposed to multi cultural diversity and how to keep them on the right track.

How is it being pregnant, giving birth and raising your child away from your home country. Or relocating with your kids to another country? What are the adjustments, struggles & rewards you’ve made?

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Salma, her second daughter on her 1st Birthday -Little Filipino-Egyptian Princess

On Pregnancy, Child Birth and Post-Partum Care

For me, It was nothing unusual being pregnant and giving birth to kids in Kuwait as the country has a well-equipped hospitals and gives utmost importance to health care. It is much cheaper and affordable to gave birth here compared to the Philippines. The hospital that I went to was efficient and took care of me during my Caesarean operation up to my post- partum care. I could imagine that if I gave birth in Philippines then this type of service is very expensive. Pregnancy in Kuwait is also different since Kuwait has extensive Prenatal care and taking care of a newborn comes easy for me with the help of my husband and close friends. My work  even allowed me to have paid Maternity leave. Vaccination of newborns and toddlers are also within reach, very accessible.

On giving birth alone in the Public Hospital

If you gave birth in a public hospital in Kuwait, you can’t see your husband or others , not right before you gave birth. I feel very blessed to have a very supportive and able husband who arranged everything for me and make it easy for me during the time I was giving birth up to the time I am recovering. It is a normal convenience to have a “Kadama”( maid) in Kuwait so I felt lucky to have such extra help.Even without my immediate families from the Philippines, I did not have a hard time.

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Maryam, Rechiel’s youngest child (Raising a Third Culture Kid in Kuwait )

 

On expensive cost of Visa& Residency papers and Tuition fees

Although many things quite cheap in Kuwait, the high cost of living as an Expat family could make a toll on Expats here in Kuwait. The bureaucracy about paper works for a newborn to get residency and visa is quite complicated. It’s a good thing that my husband is well-versed on Arabic and  in the in& outs  being a  Mandoup , ( A liason officer and official representative of a company to transact business & paperworks in the ministries in Kuwait ) so it goes quite easy. For a non-arabic speaker & Expats, this is a big problem and takes time. Aside from the visa fee 100kd ( approx. 300 Euros/ 330 $USD) for 1 year residency  plus another 50kd ( 170 $ USD/ 150 Euros ) for Health Insurance, it is costly for an average family with 3 kids that you need to renew every year. Adding up the expenditures are the visa fees for parents, expensive tuition fees, flat rental and utilities. I knew many Expat families chose to let their kids study in Philippines or in their home country instead of expensive schools in Kuwait. Yes, gas is cheap & affordable in Kuwait but maintenance of a car is also costly.This is the reality of the cost of living as an Expat.

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Joining Walk for a cause and Socio-activities in Kuwait with friends .

On having Fewer friends and Mommy-practicality

When you’re an Expat,  got married and have kids– your lifestyle turns 360 degrees change. You have fewer friends, and limited time to socialize because your priorities changed. I knew many friends in Kuwait but being an Expat Mama, my days are filled with family, work & little time for myself. I guess, this is the consequence. I can’t even have the latest fashion & cosmetics out in the market, not because I can’t afford it, but I become practical and go beyond the material value.

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An Expat mama journey to Motherhood, from Philippines, to Kuwait to Egypt to United Arab Emirates.

What is your say about raising your kid as a third culture kid?

I am raising Filipino-Egyptian kids in a Kuwaiti environment. My kids love Adobo at the same time eat Kubz everyday, adores Kebab,Biryani, and mostly Egyptian dishes. They can speak both Tagalog, English and Arabic. Raising a Third-Culture Kid is both challenging and fascinating because for example, in school they are exposed to different cultures and social media is a big influence too. At their young age, I try my best to teach them important core values we have at home so they remain open-minded & flexible.

How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?

I’m thankful that my work have given me the chance & exposure to contribute my views. I feel honored when I got the chance to have a Speech about the role of Women as mothers in the society. It is a great privilege that a Filipino like me could have a chance to make an impact in my work, and being a  Muslim now gives me the respect from the community we belong to.When an Arab person approaches me and makes comment about how I am raising such adorable kids, it is more than money can buy. A true happiness any mother wants to have.

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Being an Expat-Mama is a privilege. It gives me the chance to raise my child in a competitive world to prepare them in their  future. It’s not always a glamorous life, but it sure does the best life I want. Wherever we are, either in Kuwait, Philippines or in Alexandria, home is where me & my family stands close to each other, and that’s what matters most.

 

Thank you Rechiel for this wonderful story of your life as an Expat Mama. It is a pleasure being your friend and this post is for you and your family and  Eid Mubarak !

 

 

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Are you an Expat Mama? Do you want to be featured in this series? Feel free to send me an email at justbluedutch@gmail.com .

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