Parenting

How to be an Expat Parent

24 September, 2013

In the second of the series, How to be a _____ Parent we have the wonderful Emma of a Bavarian Sojourn giving some advice for those contemplating a family move. *gnashes teeth* Yep, I’ll be needing these in a few months!

This is by no means an exhaustive list. You don’t have the time to read one, and I don’t think I could write one if I tried, as I am still learning new things, even after four years as an Expat! This list is however aimed at those who have just undertaken their first move, or are seriously considering it – but if you are doing neither, it might give you some idea of what it is like. Enjoy!

  • Patience. Something you absolutely must have as an Expat parent. You will find yourself calling upon it almost every day!;
  • Research each new destination thoroughly. This will not only give you a good insight into a place, but will help you settle in faster as a family;
  • Take as much time as you need to make decisions about important things such as housing and schools. Don’t be forced into signing something by pushy estate agents, relocation consultants and the like. If something doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t.
  • Help prepare your child for a new country with stories, films and books. We love Miroslav Sasek’s β€œThis Is” Series. Whilst Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Sound of Music might not actually be factual, they gave our children some idea of what the countryside looks like in this part of the world at least!!
  • Bear in mind that the first few weeks of your new life will be taken up with hideously frustrating bureaucracy. It will soon be a distant memory, don’t worry.
  • Do expect strange but lovely gifts from your new neighbours. We were given bread and salt when we first arrived here – a traditional Bavarian house warming present – particularly welcome as we hadn’t then found the bakers!
  • If you are not on a work Expat contract, but are there for the long term, look at local schools as a good alternative to the International variety. Your children will be fluent in the local lingo in a matter of months (and this will help you no end!)!
  • Keep an open mind with everything. You will experience cultural misunderstandings from time to time, but don’t immediately assume that it is intentional (something I have to remind myself often!)…
  • Expect that things will be different to what you are used to, and you won’t go far wrong. Things might make more sense the way they are done at home, but you are not at home.
  • Expect the unexpected. From odd and often unnecessary doctor’s appointments that arrive in the post, to strange cultural playground rituals. It’s all part of the fun!!
  • Don’t imagine that Expat Parenting is not competitive, it is. From how many languages your children can speak, to the contents of their lunch boxes. You would be amazed!
  • Enjoy meeting people from thousands of different countries and backgrounds. Don’t just stick to Expat circles either, it can take more time to get to know the locals by attending local functions and events, but it’s worth it. Get to know your neighbours too, even if you can only communicate via sign language at first!
  • Prepare your children for how different basic things like birthday parties can be. Not every country celebrates with cakes or offers party bags for example! Likewise, if it’s your child’s party, don’t imagine anyone will know what on earth you are talking about when you suggest Pin the Tail on the Donkey or Musical Statues.how to be an expat parent
  • You will experience eye opening situations such as lit candles on classroom tables, School trips in almost -20 conditions, and forest schools in the snow. Things that could possibly make tabloid headlines at home – embrace the differences!
  • In the same vein, get used to super relaxed (or almost non existent – to us anyway) health and safety rules. This might sound slightly worrying, but it’s usually more refreshing than anything, and I am holding out hope that one day my children will thank me for their more free range childhoods!
  • Learn the language together. I don’t usually advocate watching TV, but it helps more than you think it could, and speaking the language will help you feel like less of an outsider.
  • Join online groups for your area, always helpful when looking for recommendations for doctors, dentists and the like.
  • Install Skype, What’s App and anything else that helps you keep in touch with home. And get the guest room ready quickly, you will be using it a lot!
  • But perhaps most important of all – enjoy yourselves! Start a blog, take thousands of pictures and experience absolutely everything you possibly can – for who knows these days how long such an experience might last? And on the days that you find things tough, remember that it’s more than likely than not that one day you will look back on it and laugh… Promise!

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3 Comments

  • Reply Domestic Goddesque 24 September, 2013 at 10:06 am

    I grew up in an expat household- moving country every three years at the whim of an organisation who didn’t seem to care that my brothers and I had good friends! I wouldn’t have changed it for the world, but it’s only now as a parent that I realise what a mammoth proposition that must have been for my parents. Relocating to a foreign country with your children and trying to integrate them whilst you are all at sea yourself. Anyone who does it should be applauded.
    Domestic Goddesque recently posted…{Why You Should} be all over the Pinterest Moms Linky!My Profile

  • Reply MsXpat 25 September, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Very helpful and honest post. Good luck with your arrangements.
    MsXpat recently posted…I want to grow roots…My Profile

  • Reply Emma 26 September, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Thank you for including my my post Lucy, I actually might make this my subject on Master Mind! You will be fine, don’t worry! πŸ™‚ Thank you Ms Xpat too, and Domestic Goddesque, thank you, I LOVE your comment! πŸ˜€
    Emma recently posted…Tarte au CitronMy Profile

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