Monday, 1 December 2014

The Expat Parent (series 3) - It's Ilze's turn, reporting from Let the Journey Begin

Today it is Ilze's turn to let us know what being an expat parent means to her and her little family. Like me, she has done a big chunk of her education in a country other than her home country and got stuck there, in terms of partner, and, different from myself, in terms of location as well. 

Enjoy the good read! 


Hi, I'm Ilze. Originally from Latvia, I have been living in Northern Germany for the past seven years. Two education degrees, a marriage, and a baby later I am beginning to learn calling Hamburg my home. Head to my blog Let the Journey Begin if you want to read more about my adventures in tri-lingual and multi-cultural parenting, with a little expat life, travel, and cooking thrown into the mix.

First of all, let us know how you ended up as an expat parent?
I was first an expat, and only then a parent.
After my plans for doing an ERASMUS semester during my BA studies didn’t work out, I decided to do the whole Master’s abroad and begun applying for universities. I got accepted by several, including my dream university in Edinburgh, but ended up choosing Germany, specifically Bremen, as studying in the UK would have required taking a pretty big loan. I loved the study experience and quickly established a close group of friends, but had no intention of staying longer than the two years necessary for finishing my MA studies.
But two things happened during my second year of studies. First, Latvia was severely hit by the financial crisis causing the unemployment to skyrocket and everyone, including my own parents, were suggesting to delay my return so I began looking into PhD programs. Second, a month before graduation when I already had a one-way ticket back to Latvia and no clear plans for the future, I met my future husband. I found out that I have been accepted for a PhD fellowship a day after we both had decided that we want to be together and the rest, so to say, is history. We got married in 2012 and our baby girl arrived in the spring of 2014.

How does the fact that you or your partner are expats affect your parenting style?
Our little family is quite the cultural mix: while I am born and raised in Latvia, my husband’s family is part German, part Malaysian Chinese. Do our backgrounds have an impact on our parenting style? Difficult to say. It’s likely that this multi-cultural mixture contributes to our rather relaxed approach to parenting. You see, there are so many approaches to every single aspect of raising a child across different countries and cultures. So we don’t even try to do the “right” thing, we simply try to find what works for us and our baby.

What do you enjoy most about being an expat?
Moving to Germany meant fulfilling my dream of living abroad. And I loved it from the start: speaking different languages, having close friends from all over the globe, travelling somewhere new every few months. But, especially the last few years, have also been a time of growing up – finishing my education, getting married, creating a home of our own, and having a baby.

What do you find most difficult about being an expat, and an expat parent?
I never really miss places as much as I miss people. And, ever since having a baby, I miss being closer to my family back in Latvia. Bi-weekly Skype calls and visits once or twice a year sometimes feel like too little, especially since the little one is growing up so fast.

What would you recommend other parents, who are considering becoming expats?

Although it may not always be easy, it is worth to learn the local language, make new connections and even grow some roots. That is the only way to truly get to know the country that you have chosen to call your home and the people who live there. Plus, as I have recently discovered by consciously embracing pregnancy and baby’s 1st year German style, “going local” can be quite fun.

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