Welcome to my world where nothing really makes sense.
Because, with our 2 little critters under 5 and our 3 not-so-normal cats, we have come to expect the occasional unexpected warped logic. Cutest things on earth, but they drive me up the wall! Add that to a decade of our “temporary stay” in Bangkok earning our bread and butter as the clueless foreigners where Thai logic applies (I coin it Thaism), making it that much more perplexing. It does qualify us to give you some insights on Thailand, though!
“This is my life in an orgnanised chaos of trying to be a super-wonder working Mom, juggling life”. Ann’s blog is an hilarious place to learn and enjoy about parenting challenges, intercultural cooking, expat adventures in Thailand and much more.
Expat family, and also multicultural! Could you give us a short presentation of your family (animals included)?
Our family could not have been more mutt than we already are! Being a mutt myself, hailing from Singapore with Javanese-Japanese –somewhat Portuguese parentage, who was born and bred as a Singaporean with an education system that is rooted from Singapore’s British colonial past, grew up being bilingual and being pretty conversant in Singlish as well as being able to completely pass-off as Thai, Filipino, Chinese or even Hispanic to some, with an Indian or Indonesian sounding real name, others could not find me more confusing.
Add my Dutch husband to the mix, and together we produced a pair of pretty authentic breed of “muttified” kids (Spud, our 5 year old daughter and Squirt, our 3 year old monkey boy) who have now added Dutch, Thai, some Tagalog and cat-language in their everyday conversation.
We have been living in Bangkok, Thailand for 10 years now in a chaotic household with 3 crazy cats: A 9 year old Scottish Fold, an 8 year old American Shorthair and a 7 year old Domestic Shorthair. They have been our source of amusement until the kids came along.
Both my husband and I work full-time. My husband is a geek personally and professionally while my career has been pretty much rooted in the advertising industry for almost 2 decades. It’s really hard to explain what I do, but as a context, I am an integrated communications practitioner in the agency world who has been lucky enough to work with global advertisers and partners in my course of work. I wear many hats and the unofficial ones include being a “certified fire-fighter” and a “psychologist in-training”. There’s no room for boredom or the luxury of a down-time in the office.
How did you meet your husband and how your globetrotter adventures started?
It must have been fate at play! And I’m not just saying that in jest because, till today, I still think our story is kind of creepy. Long story short, we met in a club on one of my business trips to Bangkok. He was here as an exchange student then and was riding out his last few weeks in Bangkok before heading back to the Netherlands while I was due to fly out the day after. He was a random stranger.
Somehow, we got talking. I was as nonchalant as a nail and was neither interested nor looking for any possibility of being in a relationship ever, and, for all the time we chatted that night (we chatted for a long, long time), I never asked his name or where he was from. I only found out he is Dutch and was going back home permanently in a matter of weeks when I told him that I had booked for my travel to the Netherlands and Belgium for my year end vacation.
In fact, I don’t think we even asked for each other’s name until he asked for my number as he wanted to meet up again the next day before I flew out. I agreed just because. We met up, we chatted, we parted and I never thought anything more of it after that. There was never going to be any possibility of anything.
But he kept in touch, quite consistently even after he left Bangkok, and before my trip to the Netherlands. We met up again when we were there and this was the creepiest part: Before I got on the plane, my boss had a chat with me on the possibility of my transfer to Bangkok. She had asked me to think it over and to let her know after my trip. It was not something I had expected, but basically, the job was mine if I said yes. I never told anyone about that conversation.
72 hours later, the first thing he told me when we met in Amsterdam was that he got a job offer in Bangkok too! My jaw literally dropped to the floor, and I had to tell him the same, lest he’d think that I was stalking him for whatever reason should he discovered that later. I think we both were speechless for a while. But because nothing was concrete, we left it at that and decided that it was probably best that he focused his efforts to being my tour guide and interpreter for the next few days. We got along very well. We just clicked.
We parted again for the second time, still with no expectations or interest for any relationship in my mind. He continued to keep in touch consistently, yet we never really broach the subject of moving to Bangkok. The next thing we knew, we both got a concrete offer, we both moved to Bangkok one week apart of each other and we both started our job on the same day – all this without knowing what each other’s plans were. It took some 2 years later before we became a couple, and we’ve not looked back since.
We both are avid travelers and since the move to Bangkok, we travelled quite a bit together. I have always been footloose, preferring to travel solo, and having a travel companion was a nice change. One of our biggest splurge was travelling to Tanzania before the kids came and it was one of the best vacations we’ve ever had. With the kids in tow, our family travels have been pretty limited to mostly the Netherlands, Singapore or just a drive out of Bangkok or the weekend.
I’ve also been lucky to be able to travel extensively for business conferences and work meetings which has further enhance my globetrotting experience to some exotic places I would have not gone otherwise.
Can you keep your customs, language and traditions in a multicultural marriage?
Oh yes, whenever we can. However, because I’m not all that into customs and traditions myself, and although I would go along with traditional obligations required of me when I’m back home, I don’t necessarily feel the need to impose them on my kids.
This is as customary as we can get when we dress up in our traditional costumes during Hari Raya – an annual festival celebrated by Muslims after the month of Ramadhan when we visit my relatives in Singapore.
Culturally, family time and doing things together as a family comes first above anything else. A big part of my culture revolves around food – that’s huge from where I come from and my husband’s family are also enthusiastic foodies so we have a good blend of food culture going on. We always make an occasion with food out of nothing!
With our multi-cultural background, we sort of pick what’s convenient and logical to us. It’s like we created our own culture, tradition and customs altogether and then mix them up as they deem fit without even thinking about it!
Language, though is a tricky one to uphold, especially for me since I’ve always been more comfortable with English despite growing up bilingual. I try to speak Malay to my kids … Smattering – it’s so broken, it’s embarrassing! English is our default language at home, although, my husband speaks mostly Dutch to the kids and I’m picking up the language along the way.
What do you like to do in your free time apart of, of course, writing about your family adventures?
The words “free time” is almost alien to me – I hardly get any as my work keeps me off the streets! But if I do have some free-time, I love to busy myself in the kitchen, cooking up new dishes or baking so I could feed the family or anyone who cares to stuff their face into the grubs I make. If I could just sleep, eat, read, watch movies and laze around, I would do that too, but with 2 young kids, those are distant dreams!
What attracts you the most of a country?
I live for diversity! But I’m a practical person, so I’d have to go with job opportunities and the practicalities of raising kids in a family-friendly environment with a good education system.
Could you tell me a bit about your social life? And about your mummy life?
Most of my friends here are of various nationalities, with only a handful of close Thai friends. Strangely enough, I don’t know that many Singaporean expats and in my last decade here, I can’t say that I have forged any close friendship with my fellow-country folks. Granted, with my line of work, I hardly ever get to socialize so much. My routine pretty much revolves around home-office-clients’ place-home, with the VERY occasional get-together with a few mommy friends I’m close with or some networking business meetings I need to attend.
Ahh! Mummy life is a constant balancing act. I suffer from mummy-guilt especially when I have to put in the extra hours for several days on end, sometimes, that means several business trips and many late nights. Fortunately, my kids are both happy-go-lucky and like their father, social butterflies. They are also the most forgiving creatures on earth, and when I thought that I have ruined it all, they let me try again so I can be a better parent.
Despite me being a working mom, both my kids are pretty attached to both me and my husband. There may be some preference for either parent depending on their moods, but generally, it’s pretty equal, and I’m glad that they can be quite independent when they need to be, too. I’m the stricter parent as compared to my husband, and although they will push my buttons, they know not to mess with me when push comes to shove. These days, I have mastered “the look”. My husband has yet to get his certification for that and the kids push him more than they do with me.
We kiss, hug and cuddle a lot, especially with my son who is the more affectionate one. My daughter generally does not like kisses and cuddles very much. It’s touch-and-go for her.
Would you like to search the stabilization staying in your current country or are you thinking about moving abroad someday?
10 years is a long time in Thailand. We made a few good friends in the course of our stay here, but because expats family come and go every few years, the friendship we forge is temporary. It’s hard to keep up once the move away. For the kids, they hardly have any childhood friends to speak of.
Home has a whole different meaning and definition for me. It is not only about family togetherness, it is also about having a deeper sense of affinity to a place, having a house that we would be able to own rather than just renting, and a feeling much more rooted in. A sense of belonging. A sense of ownership. A sense of purpose. A place to settle so our kids would have the same feeling of belonging when they grow up. A place they could always go back to where genuine and life-long friendships are forged. A sense of stability.
The quality and cost of education are big factors for us, and with the choice that we have, we definitely are looking to move; hopefully sooner than later.
If you want to know how the adventure of Ann’s family continues: Grubbs n Critters !
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