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Thursday, 28 February 2013

10 multilingual parenting ideas that got thrown out of the window, part 2

6)      Having everybody on board
 I hoped that if I just were dedicated and educated- and persuasive enough, I could persuade everybody that what I’m doing is beneficial to my children. Little did I know that I would be dealing with some extremely unhelpful and judgmental people. Knowledge and dedication to the cause is not something I’m lacking but I’m too tired to waste my time with people who can’t help or support me even though I know that what I’m doing is right. Sometimes the best way to deal with these sort of people is to ignore their comments and advice, and not to try argue with them.

7)      My high expectations
I set out on this multilingual journey with the utter conviction that my children will be poster children. After all, I am bilingual myself, and I’m writing this blog for everybody to read and be inspired, and hence my children should act accordingly, right? Wrong. Again, I had to adjust my expectations to Klara’s slow speech and language development. But you know, it doesn’t feel like a failure. Instead, I am proud that my children speak all three languages. I am proud that they’re catching up and progressing. In fact, I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I just need to make sure my children are fine.

8)      Having a language plan
I can’t think of one instance where a plan proved useful. On the contrary, they fool my brain into thinking that I have done something when the only thing I did was actually writing things down. And while I can understand the usefulness of a language plan for some families, it wouldn’t work for us. We’re just trying to work out things for ourselves, and react accordingly to circumstances. It doesn’t mean however, that we don’t think about the future. Our choice of school proves it. The fact that I’m keeping speaking to them in Polish proves it. Another thing plans do is that they make you feel like we have control over everything, and we don’t.

9)      The idea that if I do things right, I would get the right results
I strongly believed that, just like in all things parenting, if you do things the right way, you will get the right results. And I believed that the same goes for raising multilingual children. Except, parenting isn’t mathematics. Sometimes you do all the right things and still get no results. You could do mistakes and your children could still turn out great. So, no, doing right things right doesn’t guarantee results. We are so desperate to believe that we can control how our children will end up, that we forget we really can’t. So, I can do my best, and hope for the best, but this is all I can do.

10)      The idea that it would be easy and natural
I have long ago heard that being a parent- and especially being a mom comes naturally. I have read about the mother’s instincts that will tell me all I need to know about raising children. And you know what happened when I had children? My mother’s instinct proved to be very shy and didn’t tell me anything. I had to learn everything from the beginning. Of course, I spoke Polish to my children, but talking to them still felt weird. They didn’t reply, they didn’t answer, and talking like that just wasn’t my thing. It wasn’t natural at all to force myself to say, for the zillionth time, “yes, this is a table”. Of course, it’s a stupid table! It wasn’t at all natural to me to change my way of talking so that my children can understand me. Argh! Sometimes I wanted to bang my head on the table. Luckily, now it’s getting better. Now I can finally talk to Klara more naturally. So I know it’s getting better, but I was in for a shock at the beginning.

What about you? Did you have any multilingual parenting ideas that had to be thrown out of the window? 
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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

10 multilingual parenting ideas that got thrown out of the window

This post was inspired by Babble’s: “10 parenting ideals that got thrown out of the window”. I’ve divided it into 2 parts because it’s rather long. I’ll post the second part later today. Enjoy!

This happens to every parent. You wanted to breastfeed only to find that your milk didn’t come in. You wanted to co-sleep only to find that your child hates it. Or you hate it. You wanted to only give your child organic homemade food only to find that your child actually eats sweets. And so the list goes. It is just so normal and very human.

The same happens to multilingual parents. It has certainly happened to me. So here’s my confession. I didn’t achieve everything I had planned to before I had children as far as their multilingualism is concerned. Here’s a list of things I either wasn’t able to do or they didn’t happen until much later.

1)      Reading from birth
As a certified book addict, I wanted to convey my love of books to my children. I was dead serious on reading to them from the day they were born, to turn them into as enthusiastic readers as I am. And then Klara was born. And you know what? I was busy doing other things. Like recovering from birth. Like dealing with a crying newborn and trying to figure out what she wanted. Like resting. Reading aloud to her just didn’t happen. I tried again later. Again, nothing. As it turns out, I resented it (I’ve always hated reading aloud), and Klara just wasn’t interested. Books are for playing, and not for reading, don’t you know? And mom, please shut up, I’m trying to explore my surroundings here. But we had tons of books waiting for her to be ready, and she played with baby books a lot. She also often saw me on the couch with a book in my hands. Now, she loves it when I read to her, and I enjoy it because we can both chose books that are fun for us and talk about the stories. On the other hand, Julia loved when I read for her, so I did that. She loved being held and cuddled, and reading went greatly with that. So, not all is lost!

2)      High-quality time in Polish every day
I was so set on making every day a day full of high quality Polish language input. And then I found that having a child is actually beyond exhausting. There was crying, sleep deprivation, and my deep need for me-time. But whenever I had some or strength, I jumped on the opportunity. I talked to her. I took her with me wherever I went and explained, explained and explained. And I talked, and talked and talked some more. At the end of the day I was even more exhausted and took the next day to relax. Luckily, my husband helped a lot with the quality language input. Also I think that while multilingualism is important, there are other things that are important as well: like letting the children play by themselves. Like being silent for a while and resting. Like just holding your child. Multilingualism is not all. And I think that quality time doesn’t always mean talking. I already see that wherever I spend a lot of time with my children (talking or not), they are more likely to speak Polish.

3)      Consistency
I was going to be so consistent! I would only speak Polish, sing Polish songs, read Polish books and never talk another language with my children. I would also make sure that everybody else behaves the same. And what happened? I still only speak Polish with my children. But some of their favourite songs are in German/English or Dutch. Some of their favourite books are in German- even though I translate them. I also sometimes have to translate something into German so that the girls can ask their father something. The girls hear me speaking English, Dutch, German and Polish on a daily basis. But I keep thinking that maybe they will see that multilingualism is cool that way.

4)      Polish as their primary language
I really thought that Polish will become the girls’ primary language. After all, they spent a lot of time with me at home, and if only I spoke enough Polish, they’d pick it up. And after all, I am their mom, so that would automatically make my language their language? Wrong. It didn’t happen. Instead, German is becoming Klara’s favourite. Maybe it was due to my not being able to provide enough good quality Polish in input. Or maybe because Klara’s daddy’s girl. Or maybe because children just make language choices that are different from ours. Who knows? The important thing to me is that they speak it.

5)      Saturday school in Polish and Polish playgroups
I was desperate to find another source of Polish for my children, besides myself. I even became part of a Polish-speaking mom’s group. We met once a month at one of the mom’s places, and it was good. But the children were much younger than Klara, and it was important to me that she had somebody to talk to. And, as it happened, most of the moms went back to Poland, and the group was no more. I then found a Saturday school, and for a while I was convinced that this was the way to go. But well, a Saturday school, as fun as it may seem, is just that: a school that you attend on Saturday. Also, while it is every second Saturday, the children get kicked out if they miss class more than twice. We were pretty sure that with our traveling schedule Klara would surely miss more than two classes, so we decided not to go through with this. If we wanted to, we can still do it later, but since children in the Netherlands start school early- at the age of 4- we thought that maybe we should give her a break. After all, speaking Polish should be fun, not a chore!
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Monday, 25 February 2013

Can we take this multilingualism thing too far?

Just yesterday, I watched this video. It shows a mom whose 5-year old daughter supposedly speaks 7 languages. On top of that, she plays 6 instruments and knows 2 types of dance and sports. Now, to be frank I am always in awe of moms who are able to achieve this kind of thing with their children. Who are so committed to doing the best for their children that they basically sacrifice everything.

That’s the reason I wasn’t so critical of the Tiger Mom who raised their children to be musical progenies. See, I am far, far too lazy to do this kind of thing! I want to sit down and read a book, not force my children to several hours of practice (do you know how many books I could read in that time????). And while I would still raise my children to be bilingual if I were in Poland, I wouldn’t do it like that. As I say, too lazy.

So, in this video, we see a mom who has the time, and the resources to introduce her daughter to several languages, instruments, dances and sports. She knows about the benefits of multilingualism and is passionate about it. She knows that it’s a good idea to start early, and that children are perfectly capable of learning several languages.

Now, I’m asking myself: is she not taking it too far? First of all, I notice the obsession of turning our children into geniuses, and we’re so afraid that if we don’t start them early on learning maths/learning languages/playing instruments/sports they may not reach their full potential. This is the theory. But our children are little human beings with their own preferences, talents and weaknesses- pretty much just like us. While it is true that our young children are capable of learning at the speed of light, it doesn’t necessarily make them geniuses.

Then, there is parent involvement. We like to believe that we have control over our children’s lives and development. And, to a certain extent, we do. But our influence is not as big as we like to think. And while it takes a lot of work to raise multilingual children, success is not guaranteed, regardless of the amount of work.

And, there is the fact that children need to do nothing for a while. They need to play idly by themselves; they need some unstructured play time. They need to spend quiet time with their parents, they need to be silly, instead of having courses, tutors and teachers. Does this girl have this time to herself to do nothing? I hope she does! Also, the article says that the father works 16 hours a day to cover all the tutors- how about father-daughter time?

Also, it seems to be that this girl is rather talented, hence her readiness to comply with this schedule. Also, her family has the resources to pay for classes and manage the time. What about parents who can’t afford this? Wouldn’t their children be at a disadvantage? Also, it seems to me that sometimes parents are too overzealous with managing their children’s education- and who knows what characteristics and languages will be sought after when she grows up?

And, last but not least, there is the question: why? Mabou’s family is already multilingual- with English, French and Creole as family languages. By this, they’re already laying a solid foundation for the girl’s language development. Why more languages when they are not family languages? Can’t they wait?

These are my thoughts on this video. What are yours?
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Friday, 22 February 2013

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, just one more month to go!

Tomorrow, I’m officially 36 weeks pregnant, and exactly a month away from my due date. Considering all the circumstances, I am doing well- both baby and I are healthy and growing. I am missing my feet very much. I haven’t seen them forever. I am strongly considering setting up a Facebook page for my feet so that I can know what they have been up to.

My list of pregnancy-related annoyances is also growing, and now includes sciatic pain and strong Braxton Hick contractions (on top of exhaustion, acid reflux, sleeping problems, and many more). The contractions are so bad that I spend yesterday doing nothing but lying in bed, reading and resting. I also had my midwife come over and check on me because they came so frequently. Today seems to be better, luckily.

On the bright side, however, baby Y stopped feeding on my brain waves and moved on to a steady diet of milk and cornflakes. And funny thing, I don’t even like milk, but milk with cornflakes is just fine because it is the only thing that doesn’t give me the heartburn.

Also, I have never felt so creative in my life. I have already written several blog posts for my blog and others, have several more to write and don’t feel like this is overwhelming. Or maybe, just a little bit. But I am working like crazy because I don’t know how much time I have left.

So what will happen is this. I will probably post less frequently now to focus on my other assignments. And I am very lucky to have several blogger friends who have agreed to write guest posts for me! It’s such an honour! I am looking forward to these posts and can’t wait to share them with you!

If possible, I will continue writing my own articles, but my belly is growing bigger and makes writing difficult. I should consider using it as a lap top desk. That may help.

Other than that, I’m looking forward to meeting the little man in my belly, and hope all goes well for the rest of my pregnancy and for the birth. Wish me luck!
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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Expat children are children first!

So for a year and a half I’ve been blogging about raising children abroad and why they differ so much from all other children, and why they’re so special. As it turns out, they aren’t. I mean, of course they are special, but for totally different reasons.

Our little world citizens are not special due to their multilingualism (although it is an important aspect), or the fact that they are raised in another culture but because they are children. So here you have it: our little citizens of the world are just that: children.

What does it mean? It means just that they - and we as their parents - go through the same challenges as parents and children who are raised with one culture. We deal with temper tantrums, sicknesses, runny noses, poopy diapers and a plethora of other child-related issues.

It also means that we love them and try to choose the best for our children without losing our sanity in the process. It means that we spend a lot of time with them. It means picking the best parenting method that works for our families. This means we face the same decisions that other parents do: how do we feed them? Where do they sleep? Will they go to daycare? Are we going back to work or not? The decisions are endless.

It also means that just, like other parents, we have the joy to watch them grow and learn and explore. We revel in the way our children laugh, and the way they hug us with their little chubby (or in my younger child’s case, somewhat less chubby) arms. We love to listen to them sing, and tell us what they think about the world. And I can tell you that a three-year-old already knows a lot about the world!

Of course, there are things that are different or maybe more difficult for us. On top of the usual parenting issues, we are dealing with things like trying to teach them about our cultural identity, or to help them speak our languages. This means a lot of struggling with the majority culture and language. But in the end, we are not so different. I think that as a mom blogging about the challenges I’m facing raising multilingual children, I sometimes tend to forget that they are children first. They are funny, cute, adorable, and clever and a million other awesome things. Sometimes they are annoying.

Having children is amazing and exhausting, challenging and exhilarating, all at the same time. Never before did I find myself confronted with so many decisions. Never before have I found that my love can grow and encompass two - and soon-to-be-three little people.
Because, regardless of our children’s cultures, they are children. They play, they cry, they fight, they laugh. And just like every parent in every corner of the world, I hope that they will grow up to be good people. 
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Monday, 18 February 2013

Blogging in English when you’re not a native speaker

Maybe you remember that when this blog first started, it was trilingual. I saw it as an exercise for my mind, a way to present the different sides of me, and write about different topics for different audiences.

Then I decided I wanted to reach a bigger audience. I found that I was writing more and more about multilingualism, and being en expat- things I could perfectly write about in English. So I started looking for some advice on how to write better in English. Among others, I found this article. While it seems helpful, a lot about it unfair. First, the writer assumes, that mannerisms and “accents” in writing are a bad thing. Why? Speaking or writing with an accent isn’t necessarily bad, because it shows that we’re making an effort to speak the language.

Another thing was the warning: “perfection may forever elude you”. What does it mean? That native speakers write in “perfect” English while we do not and never will? I often find that non-native speakers often find themselves thinking about language in a very creative way, and often ask questions that natives can’t answer. And it shows in their writing. Joseph Conrad is one of the most acclaimed writers of the English language, and yet he had a strong Polish accent when he spoke it. Salman Rushdie’s command of English is awe-inspiring. It’s not always the English speakers who speak perfect English.

Many times I heard from friends that it’s hard to write in a language that’s not your own- especially when we’re talking something as personal as blogging. And it is true. I have the comparison because I already write in Polish for the website EgoDziecka. Writing in English is very different than writing in Polish- after all I write for a different audience and about different topics.

But it can be done. The fact that we have an “accent” in the way we write is not so bad. Blogging is about personal expression. It is as much about the bloggers as it is about their audience. We all have our personal styles, our way of writing. Some of these characteristics come from being a native speaker of a language that is not English.

This is who we are, and why should we be ashamed of it? After all, it is possible to write in English as a non-native speaker and still be read. I found that in most cases, people are more interested in what you have to say than how you’re saying it, at least in writing- unless you make very obvious mistakes. I very honestly say in the header of this blog that I am Polish, and my readers don’t expect perfect English from me. On the contrary, they want to read about my experiences as a Polish woman living in the Netherlands- with all that comes with it: accent, mannerisms, my linguistic inventions - “techerous” anyone?

For all that would like to blog in English but are too afraid to try, I’d like for them to try to write at least one post. You can write about any topic, and it’s a great mental exercise! For those of you who write in English and it’s not your mother tongue- don’t worry! I think the important thing in blogging is being yourself, mistakes and all.  
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Friday, 15 February 2013

Why does everybody think that multilingual children have a language delay?

“Your child has a language delay”. “Your child’s language development is too slow”. “She/He should talk more”.  Everybody has heard some variation on the above. But have you ever considered why do doctors/nurses/daycare nannies/family members think so? I came up with these reasons:

1)      Because it is a very persistent myth- everybody has heard it so everybody repeats it, and it doesn’t matter whether it is true or not.  And thus, it becomes a “truth”. Nobody questions it, even if the theory that multilingualism causes language delay has long been debunked.

2)      Because they don’t understand all the language the child speaks- When many people think of speaking, they really think: “to speak in a language I can understand”. However, not everybody in a child’s multilingual surroundings will understand all the languages the child speaks. And many people will ignore the language they don’t know and focus on what they do know- thus making it seem that the child actually lacks vocabulary, or doesn’t speak the language “correctly” due to code-switching.

3)      Because they lack the training to deal with multilingual children- doctors may be experts in medicine, and they may know a lot about how a child’s language should develop, but they lack the training in recognising how the language skills of a multilingual child should develop.  In this case, we parents are the experts, not the doctors!

4)      Because of the “silent phase”- multilingual children who attend daycare often seem silent and shy for a few weeks or months. This is because they still work on their primary languages before they can actually take on another language. And even though the parents know that their child speaks a lot (in their own languages), to the daycare nanny it may seem that the child doesn’t speak enough.

5)      Because daycares, and doctors’s visits are artificial situations- in addition to the silent phase, many children behave differently at home and in daycare. Many parents see this when they bring their children to see a doctor for a well check and suddenly realize that their child is very shy or doesn’t respond to the doctors’ prompts. This could make it seem as if the child has a delay when in fact they feel uncomfortable around the doctor.

6)      Because multilingualism is seen as the excuse to everything- somehow everybody expects multilingual children to have delays or problems, and everything is explained with “Oh yes, he/she’s multilingual”. It may seem that the doctor pays more attention to the child’s language development just because he’s multilingual, even though the problems are usually not connected to multilingualism itself.

7)      Because multilingual children are often expat children and often deal with other problems- such as culture shock, lack of sense of belonging and other challenges. This may cause them to speak less, and be more likely diagnosed with a language disorder.

8)      Because of stereotypes- some minority languages have a low status among the majority society. With these languages come certain stereotypes. This means that some multilingual children are more expected to have a language delay due to their social status or financial circumstances.

9)      Because of the focus on language development- maybe because everybody expects multilingual children to have a language delay, more of them are being diagnosed- but it doesn’t mean that they actually have delay- or that the parents will follow the doctor’s order for therapy. On the other hand, while speech and language are important, so are other areas of children’s development. These are often overlooked due to the focus on language.

10)   Because every child is different –and last but not least, every child develops at their own pace. However, doctors often measure everybody’s development using the same norms. If a child tends to develop differently, he/she may be more likely to be diagnosed with a problem. Many clever children actually are late talkers or seem delayed at some point in their lives- but it's not due to multilingualism! 

Can you think of more reasons why multilingual children often get diagnosed as delayed? I’d be happy to read them! 
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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

“Be Bilingual”- a review

A while ago I found the time to read some books. As a hopeless book addict, I will read pretty much anything, but as mom to trilingual children, I am always on the lookout for good books on bi-and multilingualism. A few months ago, I read “Bilingual is better” by Ana Flores and Roxana A. Soto and wrote a review for the book.

Now, I was very happy to find “Be Bilingual- Practical Ideas for Multilingual Families” by Annika Bourgogne. I am already a frequent visitor on Annika’s website, Be Bilingual, and was thrilled to see that she was publishing a book. When it came out, I bought it.

I found this not only a good book to read, but a great resource for raising multilingual children. It is  full of practical advice and creative ideas.

The book starts with Annika’s personal story of how she discovered multilingualism for herself and her children. I always love reading personal stories of multilingualism because it shows how different the families are, and they have their own experiences and methods of raising children with many languages.

It then goes on to present the theory behind multilingualism and the most common myths that are still out there. This part is well research without being boring. On the contrary, it is written in a light tone that makes this book fun to read.

“Be Bilingual” then moves on to giving practical tips and advice on raising multilingual children in different circumstances. It shows what resources to use, and how to find them. The books can show you how to make the most of your personal situation. I loved the extensive part on how to use the Internet and video games to make your children work in the minority language and make it more interesting to them.

Last but not least, I really appreciated the part about the children’s different personalities and its influence on the child-parent relationship and multilingualism. There is no method that will work for everybody, and the end result is just as dependent on the parent’s part as by the child’s personality and character.

While I would recommend for everybody to read this book to get inspiration, information and ideas, I would like to mention what Annika says about raising multilingual children.

First she acknowledges that children’s brains are indeed sponges that can absorb all the languages without any difficulties. But then, sponges won’t absorb anything if they’re not immersed in water or some other fluid. Air, gas, or anything solid won’t work. By analogy, it is the parents’ responsibility to provide the nurturing environment to support their children’s natural abilities.

Does it sound hard? Yes, it is- but Annika says that you just have to be yourself when raising multilingual children. I think this is a relief to read. Yes, it is hard. But yes, you can do it- Annika seems to be saying. Thank you for this great, informative book!

Annika is a Finnish woman living in Helsinki with her French husband and two bilingual daughters. She has an MA in English and French, teaches both of these languages and wrote her thesis on family bilingualism. You can find Annika at her blog Be Bilingual. If you’re interested, buy the book at Amazon; follow her on Twitter and like her Facebook page.
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Monday, 11 February 2013

A secret language just for parents? Too good to be true!

When I was a child, my parents had a secret language. Wherever they didn’t want us to understand their communication, they spoke French. Wherever they spoke this language, I pretty much knew we were in trouble- or, on the contrary, we were in for a nice surprise, even though I didn’t really understand the language.

My family has strong ties with France, with my grandparents, uncle and two cousins living there. We used to go there for vacation, and my cousins only spoke French. I remember communicating with them in French as a child. However, our contacts stopped after a few years, and we didn’t go to France anymore.

However, French was always present in our household. My father listened to the news in French, read books in this language and then there was this tradition of French as my parents’ secret language. It worked very well for a few years. While I knew that it was something about us (or else they wouldn’t speak a language we didn’t understand), I didn’t really understand the words. Maybe I was too busy with German and later English? I don’t know.

What I know is that suddenly something in my head went “click”, and I was able to understand what my parents were saying in French. When I told them that, my parents were surprised, and briefly considered learning another language that would have nothing to do with the languages I already knew-for example Hebrew.

They decided not to after I told them that I would learn it much quicker than they would, and I was probably right. My parents then continued using French out of habit. Since I was an adult already, it didn’t really matter whether I understood the conversation.

Now, only yesterday it turned out that history really likes repeating itself. Klara has arrived at the point where she listens to our conversations. She asks “Mommy, what did you say?” I often find myself translating our conversations, from adult German to children’s Polish.

Yesterday, we wanted to go to the zoo, and we wanted it to be a surprise for Klara. My husband said to me, in English: “We can go to the zoo if you’re fit enough.”I replied, in the same language: “Yes, I’d love to go to the zoo!” Klara looked at us and said: “Oh, we’re going to the zoo!”. Mind you, the word “zoo” is pronounced in a totally different way in English, Polish and German, so it couldn’t have been that. It’s the first time we spoke something else but German with each other, and this could have been just a coincidence, but maybe not?

We have many expat friends and our children listen to a lot of English. I think that contrary to what the books say, children may not react to the language spoken by their parents, but it may be “saved” somewhere in their heads, helping the children to learn the language later on.

The truth is that we parents can forget about having a secret language just for the us… our children will learn it anyway!

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Friday, 8 February 2013

Do expat women get judged more?

This is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot, but only now have I found (hopefully) the right way to put it into words. The question I’ve been asking myself is whether expat women experience more judgment than women who don’t live abroad. I think there is no definite answer to that question, but I’ll try to look at this from different perspectives.

First of all, women (and oh yes, men) everywhere get judged and shamed every day. I don’t know anybody who didn’t experience being judged at some point. Especially when you’re a mom, suddenly the whole world is watching you, to see whether you are raising your child “the right way”- whatever that means.

In case of expat women, on top of the regular parenting judgment, there is judgment based on cultural differences. Different cultures have different ideas of how a child should be raised, and expat women often raise their children differently from societies they live in- which again results in judgment. Schools, languages, friends, the topic of integration are also all common to expat women, and may also be a source of judgment.

Then, I think that expat women may experience judgment on more than one level. For example, they may be judged by people from their countries of origin, their new home country (and by their husband’s country) and by the expat community, all at the same time. Many women, who are already struggling with their new life abroad, may find this really hard. On the other hand, expat communities are often very open-minded, tolerant and less judgmental.

Then, it may depend on your country of origin. So, you may feel more or less judged, based on where you come from and where you moved. If you felt judged in your home country, you may be relieved and empowered by not feeling the social pressure anymore. It may be more difficult for you if it’s the other way round.

Another aspect is the subjective feeling of being judged. So often we feel judged even though the other person doesn’t mean it that way. Especially if we’re already struggling with some aspect of raising children, an innocent comment can make us feel judged and unsure of our decisions. Expats (and women here are no exception) often feel like outsiders wherever they go. Hence, judgment may not affect them as much- because they have learned to cope with it.

So, are expat women judged more? I don’t know. While writing this, I have realized that the problem is not in being an expat or being a woman. The problem is in judgment. So, maybe, I should ask other questions: Why are women being judged? Why is anybody being judged? How can we deal with judgment? And what can we do to stop it?

Do you have any ideas? Have you felt judged as an expat? How did it make you feel, and what did you do about it? Please share your experiences in the comments!

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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Being an expat as a family tradition

If you’re as big a fan of Bollywood cinema as I am, then you’ll have seen “Kabhi Kushi, Kabhie Gham”. In this movie, Rohan (beautifully played by the beautiful Hrithik Roshan) wants to go to London to find his brother Rahul (beautifully played by the beautiful Sharukh Khan). Their father, however, doesn’t approve of Rahul’s marriage to a woman of a lower cast (beautifully played by the beautiful Kajol), causing Rahul to move to London.

In the end, Rohan manages to persuade his father to let him go- by dropping a word that is of crucial importance to the wealthy Yash Raichand: tradition. Now, doesn’t it seem to you that going abroad and “tradition” mutually excludes each other?

At first glance, tradition is associated with having roots, with routine, with doing the same things every day, with some rules that everybody has to follow. And yet, for many families, the experience of living and working abroad has become a tradition in itself.

This is definitely the case with my family: my grandparents lived as diplomats in France and the Netherlands (and many other places). My parents travelled a lot with their families, and in the end went to live in Germany for 2 years. My parents-in-law lived and worked in France.

Multicultural marriages are also common within both of our families: my paternal grandmother is Ukrainian; my maternal grandfather was born in Lviv (which is now Ukrainian as well). My cousins are half-French. My husband’s family has roots in Poland, and his uncle is Persian.

So it seems that what I am doing is nothing shocking, or strange. I am only following a family tradition of living abroad. And, as I am married to a German man, I also followed the tradition of marrying someone from another country. It seems like such a paradox, doesn’t it?

But it isn’t. After all, each family creates their own traditions, on top on national and cultural traditions. Being an expat is my family’s tradition. And I love it.

I am also wondering how it will affect my children. Will they also become expats? I know it’s early to ask these kinds of questions, but I can’t help but wonder about this. There is a huge chance that this will be the case- see this great blog post that shows that children of expats often become expats themselves. I am curious to find out!

What about you? In becoming an expat, are you following a family tradition, or are you the first one to move abroad?  
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Monday, 4 February 2013

Women who work together grow together

Jolanda Adrianus and Cathy Delhanty
Cathy Delhanty and Jolanda Adrianus-photo courtesy of Upward Spiral

I have recently come across a great initiative, known as “Upward Spiral”. The idea is this: get 500 female entrepreneurs together for an event, let them network, and help each other grow their businesses. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

The event will be a huge conference, held in The Hague on March 3rd, 2013. The tickets are not cheap, but this is for a reason. The price for the tickets is intended to pay for the professionals and their expertise who took part in helping create the event- all of them are female entrepreneurs themselves and are located in The Hague area). It is also because Upward Spiral is specifically designed to bring the economy forward, and the deadline for the conference is extremely short- after all, it was started in January, and the conference is in March. The short deadlines are also intended to bring out all the creativity in the people, and get them to work hard thus acting as growth accelerator for the economy.

Another point worth mentioning are the high level speakers-check them out here and you will be impressed! Their workshops and hands-on tutorials are meant to help to fill the knowledge gap between men and women, and provide female entrepreneurs with the know-how to start growing their businesses straight away.

Started by Cathy Delhanty, owner of Point 6 and networking specialist, and Jolanda Adrianus (owner of Tonbo Interieurstyling), who together created Event500 to act as conference organizers, the bilingual conference targets both Dutch and international entrepreneurs living in The Hague area.

I was very impressed by this conference and by the vision behind it. I am very lucky to personally know many of the businesses and women involved in this project- among others Lynn Morrison, Molly Quell, Manuela Damant (whom I have already mentioned), and also Tonia Tzortzi and Natalia Nikolopoulou of nt squared. These ladies are all incredibly talented and together they work really hard to make this happen.

If you are a female entrepreneur living in the Netherlands, you have a unique chance to be a part of this and to make more out of your business!

Interested? Check out the Upward Spiral website, their Twitter feed and Facebook page for more information! 
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