Friday, 19 December 2014

The Expat Parent (series 3) - And then there was me....

The end of my series The Expat Parent (Expat Eltern) has arrived. What a fun and interesting series it has been! Thanks to all of you lovely readers out there. 

And a big thank you to Mihaela, Marisa, Alex, Ilze, Michaela, Tanja and Miriam and their partners for the lovely contributions, support, re-tweets and sharing with their readers!

Now it is time to finish what I started and so here they are, my answers to my interview questions, in English. I figured if I inflict them on others, I should answer them myself too!  

Hope you enjoy! 

First of all, let us know how you ended up as an expat parent?
Thinking about it, I have always been an Expat. Born half-Austrian, half-American, grown-up in Vienna, studied in England, married to an Irish man, living in Hamburg and Mom of Baby.... You see, the list is long! In kindergarten my sister and I were the only two children growing up bilingual. Talk about a curiosity! I spent my childhood torn between home and wanting to live in the US, where we spent holidays. Every time we returned from to Vienna, I needed a few days to get back to everyday life. Studying in the UK, contrary to my childhood, I spent most of my time there looking forward to being back in Vienna. My most useful phrase there was 'I am European', after my American accent brought wrinkled noses with it (at the time of Bush it was not the most popular accent in the UK). I loved studying in Bristol and I met my great love there, Hubby. We moved to Hamburg and now we have my second love here, Baby. Before I had my own little family, every holiday brought the nagging question with it: 'Would it be better to live here? Do I really want to be in Hamburg?' Now I know where I want to be: right here, with my two guys. 

How does the fact that you or your partner are expats affect your parenting style?
I think the fact that we are such a MischMasch does affect our lifestyle significantly. I love peanut butter, Graham potatoes, we import our favourite foods from the UK, US and Austria or our loved ones bring some when they come to visit. Last time my brother-in-law and his partner came, Hubby was about to ask him when he said: 'Don't worry, we already have the usual, bacon, cheese and sausages.' Yumm! I can't say for sure that both of us being expats affects our parenting, as we are not super experienced yet and still making up our minds as we go; but I can say that we plan on passing on as much of our multi-cultural life as we can and that we are raising Baby bilingually, like my parents raised my sister and myself. Based on their success rate, we are following their example: we speak English with Baby and he is learning German in kindergarten. Since the only side effect of this method was that as a child I thought all little people spoke German, and attempted to get my American cousin to speak German to me for a few days before giving up, I think we will do well. 

What do you enjoy most about being an expat?
The fact that I can call many places home, take a little bit of them with me everywhere we go, and look forward to visiting them and the people we love there. 

What do you find most difficult about being an expat, and an expat parent?
That I can call many places home, and that living in one, I always miss the others. That, as a parent, as in many things in life, I approach some things differently than many others.

What would you recommend to other parents, who are considering becoming expats?
Enjoy! Learn the local language and mix with as many locals as you can. Do not stick to those who speak your own language out of fear; no one will bite you and everyone will appreciate your efforts, even if you do not speak their language fluently. Be patient with yourself, everyone else will. If you can, stay more than a year. It can take up to two to really settle in and find a new home. 

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