Tiny Expats, moving abroad with kids

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I started this blog […] to collect here any useful information I would find about living with the kids in Pardubice (Czech Republic ). As this town is so small, there was not enough information available in English. Hope, my Pardubice Directory section helps any newcomers to feel more at home.

Tiny Expats are two little girls who accompany their family on their experiences abroad. They are growing up in an international environment, learning languages and enjoying changes with their excited parents.

The mother and author of the blog, Yuliya, comes from Ukraine and began her expat life in UK when she was only 17 years old. During her studies in London she met her husband, from Russia, and decided to settle there creating a family. But soon began the preparations to move together to Hamburg, and later on Shanghai, Moscow and the Czech Republic. Tiny Expats already had many stories, new places and trip memories to tell the world.

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What is creating an expat family? Do you think living abroad join together the household?

I’m sure that moving around together, as a family, has definitely brought us closer. I can say that my husband is my best friend, as we share joint goals, plan our future travels and relocations, support each other during the tougher periods of life. As for the kids, I think, they benefit from our lifestyle as well. We travel a lot and I don’t mean just the major relocations (although, we had a lot of those as well – right now we’re planning a relocation, which will be the fourth for our older daughter and second for our younger one). We also take them on short trips and weekend breaks around the place, where we live. Travelling with kids gives you opportunity to bond with them as well as broaden their horizons.

Another great thing about expat life is that it keeps relationship with your partner fresh, gives you a chance to escape your daily routine. It doesn’t mean that expat life is all sweet and cheerful, it might be a trial for you as well, as you would have to go through lots of complication, but if you manage to do it, you would only be stronger as a family.

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Could you tell us the details of keeping your traditions, festivities and values acquired in your home country abroad? 

Main differences arise when it comes to religious holidays. We celebrate Christmas and Easter according to Russian Orthodox calendar, which is an older version of the modern one and it’s about two weeks difference between Catholic and Orthodox holidays in most cases. We explain this difference to our daughters, stating that the holidays are essentially the same, but traditionally we celebrate them on another day.

We do adopt some changes along the way to make it more fun for the kids. For example, we would put a Christmas tree earlier, before the Catholic Christmas, as all the shops and streets would already be decorated and the girls would usually want to have that festive look in our house as well. Or when there’s an Easter egg hunt in the kindergarten, our girls are welcome to join as well. Our older daughter was also fascinated with all the noise and sparkle of Chinese New Year celebrations, when we lived in Shanghai.

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Do you think it’s easy to make new friends abroad? Normally, are they of your same nationality or different?

So far, I always found new friends in every country we lived in. I can’t say that they’re mostly of the same nationality, but quite often they’re also expats. I think, being an expat and having to deal with the same issues brings people closer together. You can share tips and tricks about living in your new host country.

We were lucky that, when we moved to Germany, we straight away knew some guys, who went to the same uni with us in London. Our friends lived in Holland and it was just a 4-hour drive away. I became friends with a lady, who I met in a baby’s group, when I had our older daughter. During our time in China, I socialised with expats, who were living there, and I am still in contact with them via Facebook. Making friends in Moscow was easy and hard at the same time – I’m a Russian native speaker, but I had our second baby girl while we lived in Moscow as well and, you know, socialising gets pretty tough with a new born around. I still found some friends I keep in touch with even now, after we moved away. Finally, Czech Republic – most of the people I know here, I met through my daughter. Kindergarten, language classes, play dates. Children are great social facilitators!

During all these changes, have you ever had some assistance or maybe used a relocation company to help you searching for a new home? 

All the previous moves we had were arranged by us privately – we researched shipment companies, booked them, dealt house hunting on our own, just as with all the other relocation issues. However, this time, when we’re planning a relocation to UK, we’re doing it with the assistance of a relocation company (paid by the new employer) and, let me say, there’s a huge difference to the level of comfort this arrangement provides! A large team of professionals arranges a house hunting trip, books the shipment, helps you to sign up the kids to a school, find a doctor, open a bank account. I’m sure, we would’ve been able to do everything by ourselves, especially, considering that we lived in UK before, but it’s just so much easier to do it with the help of a professional relocation company.
To anyone planning a relocation, my advise would be to find a relocation company. If it’s paid by a company – brilliant. If not, you might spend more, but you will save yourself lots of trouble and go through the whole process with a lot more ease.

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Could you tell us how your daughters live the moves? About his adaptation abroad, learning a new language and culture… Are they so excited about the changes as their parents?

I think, children pick up parents’ feelings and attitude. If you show them that you’re excited about the move and talk about it in a positive way, the kids will also think about it as an adventure. For example, right now we’re discussing what interesting places we would like to visit in UK, how much fun we will have jumping into the puddles wearing rubber boots (English weather is not too exciting, but we at least try to find something positive about it) and our older daughter is looking forward to our relocation.

Of course, it is always hard to say goodbye to friends, but we try to keep in touch with them – Facebook and old fashioned letters go a long way. It can also be hard to find the new ones, but so far our daughter managed to find best buddies everywhere she went. Even language isn’t such a big problem, when it comes to kids – in just a couple of months of going to the local kindergarten, my daughter used a mix of Czech and English to chat with other kids.

What are your predictions for the near future and growth of your daughters? Would you like to look for stability or do you enjoy the enriching life of expat?
We really enjoyed moving around. It changes you in so many ways. Right now, it’s a bit hard to imagine what our life would’ve been like, if we spent all these years in the same place. However, it’s time for our older daughter to start school, so our plan is to slow down and stay settled a bit longer. We’re in the middle of relocating to UK, so it looks like the next few years we’ll be spending there. Who knows what will happen next? Only time will show.

If you want to know how the adventure of Yuliya and her lovely family continues: Tiny Expats !

EXPATS IN BELGIUM

If you’re starting your own adventure expat in Belgium, you need expert information or to meet people that are in your same situation, join the e-community of Settle & Connect !

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