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!

 

 

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!

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.

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Expat -Mamas around the World

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Becoming a parent let alone becoming a mother doesn’t happen with a blink of an eye. But once you’ve become One, you can’t turn your back. But how does one do it when she’s a first time Mom on a different ground? or  as an immigrant in another side of the globe? or working under contract then becoming pregnant in a place of different language from her mother tongue,or  in a world  totally different world from where she grew up with?

These are the reality bites of the ‘so-called fantasy life of an Expat ‘, the stuff that mothers doesn’t tell you easily over a cup of tea, the untold stories of Expat Mama..and Papas too!

 Are you an Expat Mama?

An Expat  { shortened for Expatriate} Mama is someone who is temporarily or permanently residing in a foreign country other than that of their citizenship or nationality.

Being an Expat Mama myself  ( An Asian by birth that lived temporarily in the Middle East and now settled  in Germany ) makes this new section of my Blog special for me. Subjects about motherhood & raising tiny humans becomes a next to my kin, like a second nature. Just like most of you that I have known here,  motherhood dawned upon me 2 years ago,  and I am still learning so much from it , a complete work in progress. I still sweat out during feeding times & putting my child into bed. Potty training? Yes, it’s challenging. I am totally hopeful to pass through the amazing yet busy  toddler years.

As an Expat, my tongue eventually picked-up a second language  while I was in Kuwait, and now I’m  learning Deutsch. Being an Expat can be intimidating & frustrating, that is why  learning the local language is the focal point of being a successful Expat, whether it be for work, or just to survive the hustle & bustle of being a parent every single day in a new culture.

I have my own story to tell  about being an Expat mama myself  in Middle East where I gave birth to my daughter & raise the 1st year of her life there.  Right now, in another culture,we are slowly integrating. Everyday  I face ups and downs of being a parent, It’s challenging, and drains me physically. I didn’t know how would I ever made it without my ever-supportive husband, who is likewise, an Expat-Papa. I became a mother in a totally different culture than my own and now Raising my child as a Third Culture Kid, a little Dutch-Filipino girl born in Kuwait but growing up in Germany, which helps me to appreciate even so much more the amazing beauty of being a parent.

Oh Yes, I hear you, including all the dirty messes and chaos with it. I have never been so tired and sleep-deprived in my whole life until I began raising a tiny human. Believe me, it is one hell of a ride everyday. Can you relate?

So here’s a new addition to my Blog— E x p a t  M a m a s   A r o u n d    t h e  W o r l d. My own personal gallery  of interview stories of different Expat Mothers. They don’t boast their titles , they are just special humans in superhero bodies. They could be the normal  stereotype Mama you see in the grocery shop, in the park chasing their toddlers, commuting from work, always rushing & working their ass off  in the office, while they  turned into Super Moms in the kitchen whipping up dinners to feed their children while doing the laundry and still having time for herself. Super- Mom right?!

Eventually finding themselves strong, driven and passionate home maker, and as a woman of substance.

Does this sound like you?

If so, Do you want to be featured in this Blog?

If you are an Expat Mama and you want your special Expat story to be featured in here, please drop me an email @ justbluedutch@gmail.com , Expat Papas are welcome too! Send few photos of you and your Expat motherhood/fatherhood moments or a link to your Instagram feed if you have.  If you are an  Expat Lifestyle Blogger like me then I would love to connect with you through the link of your website. I would gladly welcome you to our gallery and love to hear your story.

Get to know our first featured Expat Mama, Ann of Grubbsncritters with her amazing story about parenting in the cycle capital of the world, The Netherlands. If you’re interested, you can read her story Here.

Are you on Twitter?

Follow me on my Twitter page Here .

If you enjoy this post, you might want to check out the Parenthood in  The Philippines and why raising My Daughter is a TCK ( Third Culture Kid )   is a great experience.

 

 

ExpatsBlog.com - Where Expats Blog

For someone we called ” Mother”

Motherhood : All love begins and ends there….

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I long for my mother's bread,
My Mother's coffee
Her touch
Childhood memories grow up in me
Day after day
I must be worth in my life...
A One and Only Mother
Hundreds of stars in the pretty sky,
Hundreds of shells on the shore together,
Hundreds of birds that go singing by,
Hundreds of lambs in the sunny weather.
Hundreds of dewdrops to greet the dawn,
Hundreds of bees in the purple clover,
Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn,
But only one mother the world-wide over... 

This is excerpt from Mahmoud Darwish in his  1964 panegyric to his mother, A Palestinian poet and a short poem that I can accentuate how I view Motherhood ever since I become a mother.

It’s Mother’s day this month and it’s just timely that we look back with thanksgiving & gratitude from whence we came.There is so much poetry about Motherhood but it cannot really immortalize the actual feeling you have when you become one yourself. I wouldn’t even knew the deep essence of Mothers Day before, but now that I become a mother, I understand and have great respect for all Mothers around the world.

When I was about to give birth to my daughter  Natalie, I was in the hospital for almost 3 days being induced for labor. Now for someone who doesn’t know what Induction of Labor   means, it is literally the process of forcing you to go on labor through various medical interventions. I tell you, It’s  nerve-wrecking, exhausting, pain-filled time  of my life and yet it was also the most wonderful time knowing I would finally meet my child. I could recall all the time I just lie down in pain between contractions and  I thought a lot about my Mother. I was alone there and all I could think of is wishing She was just beside me.She gave birth for 6 humans, all natural at home and without any medical interventions.How on earth did she do that?

Are mothers superheroes in disguise?

She is one amazing, strong, resilient person that I ever known in my life. For the past year, I have found out so many surprises in Motherhood that I asked myself; Why did no one ever told me about this? let alone my own Mother?

Here’s some surprises to name a few :

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Before I was a Mother –
Definition of “Real Sleep “. I slept as late as I wanted and never worried about how late I got into bed. I lounge in the bed during weekends until my back aches from sleeping and oftentimes I would dozed off & had naps in the afternoon after watching some movies. Since I gave birth to Natalie, If there’s anything that I really missed, it is : Sleep.

I thought I knew what “Tired “meant before I had a baby. I once heard my mother said her back hurts..now I see myself uttering these words to my husband.Now I knew why.

Before I was a Mother –

I would see babies as cute, cuddly, but bothersome. Why are they  crying so loud? and makes so many messes. I would never know ( or want to know) as much about another human being’s poop and pee schedule as I did in those early years.It becomes an obsession in checking too much, too little, and loads of graphic considerations that I wouldn’t dream of discussing in public now.It is a clichè ,but true that many of the baby “essentials” that magazines & celebrities promotes for new Mums are just bunch of waste of money! The walker? Only after 2 weeks of use, she was already climbing out and she is dangling when I saw her. A total waste.

Before I was a Mother –
I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn’t want to put it down. I never felt my heart-break into a million pieces when I couldn’t stop the hurt. I never knew that something so small could affect my life so much. I never knew that I could love someone so much. I never knew I would love being a Mother. How many times I just lie beside my daughter and just kissed her. Many times. When she sleeps, I found myself randomly poking her just to check if she was breathing–Insane but true. My mother never told me about this,but I am sure, She did the same.

Before I was a Mother –
I didn’t know the feeling of having my heart outside my body. I didn’t know how special it could feel to feed a hungry baby. I didn’t know that bond between a mother and her child. I didn’t know that something so small could make me feel so important.The love & hate relationship that Me & my daughter have when she is soooo clingy. She literally live in between my legs.She likes it there, dangling, swinging around wherever I go. The space between my skinny legs fits perfectly with her small cuddly frame.

Before I was a Mother –
I had never gotten up in the middle of the night every 10 minutes to make sure all was okay. I had never known the warmth, the joy, the love, the heartache,the physical pain & numb arms. The wonderment or the satisfaction of being a Mom. I didn’t know I was capable of feeling so much before I was a Mother. Why on earth my mother never told me about her struggles raising 6 children, without maid, without any hired help, even without an iPad to entertain the crazy toddlers?

Before I was a Mother –
I had never been puked on – Pooped on – Spit on – Chewed on, or Peed on. I had complete control of my mind and my thoughts. I slept all night.How did I managed to not bother about make up & fancy clothes when you have a baby pulling out your sleeves? I have gone out with a pants with cookie stains and I don’t see any problem with that. I don’t even wanna wear white right now because I know there will be shoeprints there within seconds, and bling- bling? I can’t afford for a necklace & dangling earrings to be pulled out painless!  I could spent countless hours in a mall but I was too busy buying baby stuff and little clothes.This is the new retail therapy for me. My mother would absolutely agree.
Before I was a Mother –
I never held down a screaming child so that doctors could do tests…or give the vaccination shots. I was there in every appointment & Doctor’s visits. I never looked into teary eyes and cried. I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin. I never sat up late hours at night watching a baby sleep.Motherhood have taught me to become prepared to go to very strange and random lengths just to appease my crying child. Did I mentioned that I broke my iPhone screen 3 times already just to get into that Bob the Train nursery rhymes the minute she start to squirm?

Before I was a Mother I had no idea that Motherhood would be the hardest , the most tiring,the most rewarding, the most precious gift in my life.Now I knew why my Mother never told me these surprises..She wanted me to discover & experience these all by myself. All through out this journey, I got to know more of her, I got to know her “world “when the time that I never fully understand her. I got to know her completely, more than I could ever write about her.And guess what, even if I had known early all of the above,I wouldn’t swap a second of it for anything in the world!

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The first years really go fast. Before I knew it, she climbs up into the table by herself within seconds, throws all her toys with one hand in seconds.Before I knew it, it will be her first day in school.These fleeting moments can never be replaced.Remember the first tooth, the first step, the first time you can have her hair into ponytail? The time she said “Mama”…They are truly precious.

For someone we called “Mothers” …They are precious.

 

How does this post made you feel? Do you feel special that you are a mother?

When was the last time you called your mother just to say Hello?

I want to wish a Happy Special Mothers Day to all my lovely, strong mothers & women that I knew. Great respect to all of you. X

 

Sacrifice

Raising a Book-Lover in your child

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My Third Culture Kid, A book lover, a wide reader at age 3

“Children are made readers on the lap of their parents “-Emily Buchwald

Do you read books to your child?

Being a first time mother, I am ever-curious, almost for everything. From baby care to fun activities with children up to how to raise your child to read and love books! Thanks to the internet that information is just a finger’s tap away. This is the reality of an Expat life without the luxury of having your immediate relatives living nearby. You learned how to deal with almost everything by yourself.  Even when I was still pregnant, I read that reading is one thing that you could do with your child as a special bonding time. I hope for the best in raising my child , which I understand  is a universal wish of every parent. Early habits are formed during the growing years of childhood and this includes the ways we teach them every single day. What happens every single day inside your home is the fundamentals of her early development years. There’s no greater peace you can find from having your child on your lap and exploring the wonderful world of reading.

I set up a goal for myself and my daughter : I want her to love reading. I don’t know how is it going to be in the future but I ma living each day materializing this goal. Books should be an integral part of her childhood and it is my responsibility as a parent to guide her in this.

I’m a firm believer that inside our home is where the first learning starts. Reading to infants and babies at an early stage has a great impact on the receptive and expressive language development, whether it’s for learning, character building or literacy purposes. Be it plain reading ,story-reading, reading -out-Loud, Picture Book Reading, Joint-Reading, Shared Reading, playing while reading ,really , it doesn’t matter. As long as you incorporate books into your child’s  daily routines . Trust me ,it’s proven to have long term results.

There’s no greater joy for me than to see my daughter flipping the pages of her books everyday at the same time eating them! The moment she woke up , she ran up to her basket of books and start “making  messy-reading “.  I dunno why she do it, but she just loves to throw, snuggle, crash, and throw all her books all around her. We started to read to her as soon as she was born. Every single day, every single morning. Does this sound boring to you? Trust me, it will soon pay-off!

Every single moment of her playtime, or anytime we feel like grabbing her books. When we go out, we always stash a book or two for her to read and play. She’s just 17 months old ,and I know that she still cannot read, but the fact that she’s so engrossed with books and shows signs of loving it more than she loved her toys really made me smile.She knows the character of the stories, the sounds, and the pictures. She even have her all time favorites!

I was lucky that my daughter was gifted with a bunch of books. Since then, I tried to make time for her &  set a goal to read aloud to her,  reading the picture-books to her everyday, flipping the pages for her dreamy eyes to enjoy the colorful images and gobble on it eventually. I even put a book on her bath time. With the presence of iPads, iphones & TV nowadays,it’s easy to give in to this threats. The flashy screens are so tempting and attractive for your toddlers, But I tell you, there is no greater gift to your child than to read a book to her while in your lap.

This really made a daily bonding time between us.

So how to raise a book-lover in your child? Here’s how I’m doing it and loving it so far;

  • First, Start early. -There’s never too-early to read to your child.If you let her be exposed to books and the habit of reading at an early stage, the better. Soon she will catch it all by herself. She will have a body clock calling for reading!
  • Make your own Baby-Library. -I put out all her books in one basket that is accessible to her on her tummy time and during the time that she can actually grab it and flip through the pages. Investing on great, classic pieces is always a good idea. I’ve never been so aware about children’s books & stories since I began reading to her. It has been a learning phase for me as well. I had to memorize the characters of the story so I can read a loud better.
  • Make it a habit.- Stick to your routine. Babies picked up fast when you do it in repetition. They will eventually memorize the rhymes, the covers, the texture,the sound, and your voice while you read it with them. Do it before going to bed,after napping, or even while you snuggle with your child.
  • Create a Reading Haven.- In your Home or in a tiny quiet corner in your house.Yes ,create a cozy reading area  or a little corner/nook for you and your Little One.Put on some throws pillows and spread a mat and get those books for you to enjoy and linger on each moment.Soon, she will learn that special  place is place for her to be absorbed with books. This place should be free from distraction.You can even do this while having finger snacks for her too. Sounds absolutely fun!
  • Visit a Library and Bookshop together.- Let your child explore and choose the books she like.In this stage she will for sure play, scatter and bite on those,Just let her let go of her steam. We brought our daughter to a bookstore in Amsterdam once she was just 9 months old and we were quite astonished to see  her delight when she saw the bookshelves filled with books. Of course she plays, throws, rambled on the books but there’s no price in the  gleam in her eyes.
  • Be an Example. -There’s no better way to teach your child good habits than from the way you yourself show. Maybe you’re not a book lover, or you find books boring. But doing this with her won’t let you become a bad parent either. Based on my experience, Whatever works best for you, investing on reading is never wasted.

 

Hope you have wonderful time spent reading  with your kids. Looking forward to hear your own success stories!

Note to myself: I will do a follow-up post on this matter to share with you how is it with my daughter and her road to loving books? Will she love it? or will she hate it? So for those of you whose following my Blog, and the stories I am writing about “Raising Natalie”, stay tuned for the upcoming updates!

Thank you  all for reading!