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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When I was growing up my parents' house was 'home', and so it stayed during my early uni years. Towards graduation 'home' meant the town I grew up in. When I started travelling and living abroad 'home' meant England, then a couple of years later the UK.

After seven years 'out' I don't consider the UK to be my home anymore, although I'm not sure where I live in Austria is really 'home' for me either. France has long been very close to my heart, since my parents bought a second home there 22 years ago. We're planning to move to Biarritz area in the next couple of years, will I finally be 'home'?

As expats do we have the same comprehension of the notion of home as those who remain in their 'hometown' or country for their whole lives?
 
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I suppose 'wanderers' never have real roots, in the way that people who stay in one place all their lives do... with family and friends nearby throughout. Sometimes that's something I wish I'd had - travellers can be a bit isolated, and in times of need, there's not the same support at hand. But on balance I'm happy, wouldn't have it any other way. Home is where the heart is, and even when the kids have all grown up I'm not too worried about how things will turn out. More travelling, I hope!
 

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Lu C,
I wrote a response to this thought provoking post yesterday, but my computer crashed and I see now it was lost.
Ah well.
Better to not get too "attached", eh?
I wanted to thank you for bringing up this topic as it is so often on my mind.
I have two kids and one of them has moved around England, around the US and around France with me and now both are with us as we take on France again.
I have moved around for much of my life and I do think, for me, that has given me incredible skills (like adaptability) as well as certain barriers (unwillingness to totally commit to a place or a feeling or a person).
I think I mostly wonder for my children what it will be like to be kids of expats and to move around and how that might effect their sense of identity.
But then what is 'identity'?
Anyway, I wish you luck in your possible future move to the Biarritz area (we are currently in Pau).
Take care,
Beth
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Lu C,

I think I mostly wonder for my children what it will be like to be kids of expats and to move around and how that might effect their sense of identity.
But then what is 'identity'?

Beth
For me you've hit the nail on the head Beth. How will our children be affected by our lifestyle choices?

For my part I've always lauded the ability to speak multiple languages, and much of my choice to stay away from the UK is to open my children's ears and eyes to European languages and cultures under the belief that the more we understand of each others' culture the more accepting we are.

Provided that we create a solid, reliable home life our children will adopt whatever traditions best suit them. Family is tradition far more than cultural tradition. The family choses which of the cultural traditions to follow. How many different nuances are there across the UK as far as Christmas is concerned, for example?

Thank you for your good wishes in our move to France. We're visiting next week on holiday: it's quite the adventure! We're catching the sleeper-train from Munich to Paris then the early morning train to Biarritz. I'm very excited and my 3-year-old can't wait. His train-set is out a lot at the moment :)
 

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For me you've hit the nail on the head Beth. How will our children be affected by our lifestyle choices?

For my part I've always lauded the ability to speak multiple languages, and much of my choice to stay away from the UK is to open my children's ears and eyes to European languages and cultures under the belief that the more we understand of each others' culture the more accepting we are.

Provided that we create a solid, reliable home life our children will adopt whatever traditions best suit them. Family is tradition far more than cultural tradition. The family choses which of the cultural traditions to follow. How many different nuances are there across the UK as far as Christmas is concerned, for example?

Thank you for your good wishes in our move to France. We're visiting next week on holiday: it's quite the adventure! We're catching the sleeper-train from Munich to Paris then the early morning train to Biarritz. I'm very excited and my 3-year-old can't wait. His train-set is out a lot at the moment :)
Thanks.
Travel well--ah, to be 3 again:eek:
~Beth
 

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Great subject,
Thought being from two different backgrounds created that feeling/situation of not belonging however I can see that even those who have one nationality don't necessarily identify with it. I've noticed that those who don't travel and just stay in the same place their whole lives seem to have a lot more fear about things. They never go out of their comfort zone and seem to be convinced that their opinion or their world is the written word. It's strange to witness that because as a traveller you get to see and experience so many diverse cultures and ways of living and thinking that you are always aware that everyone has their own reality. I guess you become open minded, more tolerant of differences and stop making assumptions about things. Definitely good qualities to have.
Very interesting topic. Hope others share their thoughts.
 

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Great subject,
Thought being from two different backgrounds created that feeling/situation of not belonging however I can see that even those who have one nationality don't necessarily identify with it. I've noticed that those who don't travel and just stay in the same place their whole lives seem to have a lot more fear about things. They never go out of their comfort zone and seem to be convinced that their opinion or their world is the written word. It's strange to witness that because as a traveller you get to see and experience so many diverse cultures and ways of living and thinking that you are always aware that everyone has their own reality. I guess you become open minded, more tolerant of differences and stop making assumptions about things. Definitely good qualities to have.
Very interesting topic. Hope others share their thoughts.
I read this thread with interest, and felt i just had to reply as I think I may be the oldest "wanderer". I started travelling with my then fiance at the age of 17, immigrating to australia, returned to ireland, immigrated to canada, back to australia, then back to canada, to Ireland and now back to Canada Phew!!! during that time I have had 3 children (all grown up now with their own kids). The reason I am writing is to compare how the kids coped with it all!! My eldest girl is now married and has 3 children of her own, she is very settled and I think because of her own background had decided she will never mess her own kids schooling ect: she seems very grou nded but feels she missed out with making lifelong friends ect: my son was completly messed around, a quiet, studious boy, I only ever got good reports from school ect: he attended university and graduated, now married, 3 kids, has never felt he belonged and had a problem relating to his cousins ect: I feel we deprived him of a steadier childhood and it has come back to haunt us, my youngest was just a baby when we semi settled so she is fine, but would not move around like us. All in all I would say too much moving, while giving your child another outlook on life, can make them feel isolated from their peers, and in the long run a feeling of not really belonging anywhere prevails. If I had it all to do over again yes i would travel, but on holidays while my kids were in school, or move once to another country, it's not fair on the kids
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I read this thread with interest, and felt i just had to reply as I think I may be the oldest "wanderer". I started travelling with my then fiance at the age of 17, immigrating to australia, returned to ireland, immigrated to canada, back to australia, then back to canada, to Ireland and now back to Canada Phew!!! during that time I have had 3 children (all grown up now with their own kids). The reason I am writing is to compare how the kids coped with it all!! My eldest girl is now married and has 3 children of her own, she is very settled and I think because of her own background had decided she will never mess her own kids schooling ect: she seems very grou nded but feels she missed out with making lifelong friends ect: my son was completly messed around, a quiet, studious boy, I only ever got good reports from school ect: he attended university and graduated, now married, 3 kids, has never felt he belonged and had a problem relating to his cousins ect: I feel we deprived him of a steadier childhood and it has come back to haunt us, my youngest was just a baby when we semi settled so she is fine, but would not move around like us. All in all I would say too much moving, while giving your child another outlook on life, can make them feel isolated from their peers, and in the long run a feeling of not really belonging anywhere prevails. If I had it all to do over again yes i would travel, but on holidays while my kids were in school, or move once to another country, it's not fair on the kids
What an interesting insight! I've heard similar things before: that expat kids find it harder to settle and understand the psyche of those who never leave their home town.

Our plan is to make our next move the last until our children are old enough to go off and do their own thing. We aim to give them that feeling of belonging, even though it's not in the country we grew up in. They will grow up in France having had their very early, pre-school years in Austria. We're very lucky in that our choices are our own, we don't need to consider moving beause a company is telling us to.

Eldest is off toboganning with kindergarten this morning, so we better get going.

Thanks everyone for chiming in on this discussion, it's interesting to see so many opinions and reactions.
 

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I guess I would argue that kids are who they are and grow up to be a bigger version of what reveals itself early on in childhood.
I stayed in one place from the age of 5 through to the end of High School then started moving around and staying put for different periods of my adult life. My mum is from the UK so we often visited family, but only ever on school holidays.
Still, I always felt a little out of step with the other kids in my schools--though no one could probably tell as I was very good at appearing "normal". I have grown up to enjoy moving around, I love meeting new people and learning (well, trying to) new languages. I don't feel like I benefited from staying in a small town with a mediocre education system and very little cultural diversity.
I am sure it is very much down to the individual when all is said and done and us parents can say "I wish I had" or "if only" a thousand times, but I believe creating a loving home and open communication NO MATTER WHERE WE ARE is the best we can do.
Our kids will just be with us for a while and then move on to create the realities/homes they choose for themselves.
It's a crap shoot.
I know I am just trying to do my best, but I do like showing my children different cultures/languages.
~Beth
 
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It's a bit complicated, as moving around geographically is only part of the story. It's all about security and stability, which can be afforded to one's kids in different ways. The child's natural temperament is another factor. A solid family, supportive throughout, and a wandering expat's child can grow up as balanced and as 'rooted' as the one raised in a community where his family has been for generations. It's just not quite as easy.

An outgoing, gregarious child is going to be able to integrate more easily in new surroundings. The loner sort is more likely to retreat into himself. I've seen both with my kids - including one who is introspective and particularly shy, another who is naturally outgoing, positive, drawing other children to him and who are looking for his friendship. The rest are somewhere inbetween...

Measured against all this are the potential benefits of moving around. Learning to adapt to new, challenging circumstances. Encountering different cultures and attitudes, gaining a more mature understanding of the way the world works, more tolerance, less fear of the unknown.

I've particularly noticed this from the six months my kids lived with me in Thailand. Moving between Western countries certainly helps the process, but time spent in such a radically different culture, with lifestyles and attitudes that in some respects are completely alien, affected them greatly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
It's all about security and stability, which can be afforded to one's kids in different ways. The child's natural temperament is another factor. A solid family, supportive throughout, and a wandering expat's child can grow up as balanced and as 'rooted' as the one raised in a community where his family has been for generations. It's just not quite as easy.
Nail has thus been hit on the head!

Fascinating that six months in a radically different culture should have had such a dramatic effect. What specifically was affected in their personalities following that experience? (If you don't mind my asking)

I suppose the family unit must rely on itself far more in our expat world than it would in our 'home' country.

Does anyone have a consciously adopted tradition in their family that is untypical to their 'home' country's tradition?
 

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Does anyone have a consciously adopted tradition in their family that is untypical to their 'home' country's tradition?
Back in my early days in France, I belonged to a group called AAWE (Association of American Wives of Europeans), which was largely made up of American women married to French men. A big part of their program was based on raising kids in a bi-cultural (or multi-cultural) setting.

Many of the American mothers were quite set on maintaining the American traditions - English spoken in the home (and if you get France 24 in English, I think several of the presenters are sons and daughters of AAWE members), celebrating Halloween, Thanksgiving and even the 4th of July, plus summers spent back in the US with American family. (A source, it turns out, of considerable angst for many French husbands... there is apparently a fear that the wife and kids won't return from the US if allowed to remain there too long.)

France makes no secret of the fact that the schools are there to invest children with French cultural values. The AAWE moms were doing their bit to preserve their own home culture - sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. At the time it seemed weird to me, but I don't have kids of my own and I suspect I'd feel differently if I did. But looking back on my own childhood, I relate much more to the traditions we had within our own family (i.e. mom, dad and me - not necessarily the extended family). I've always been a bit of an outsider but have learned to make friends easily and quickly whether I'm in a new location or just a new situation.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Back in my early days in France, I belonged to a group called AAWE (Association of American Wives of Europeans), which was largely made up of American women married to French men. A big part of their program was based on raising kids in a bi-cultural (or multi-cultural) setting.

Many of the American mothers were quite set on maintaining the American traditions - English spoken in the home (and if you get France 24 in English, I think several of the presenters are sons and daughters of AAWE members), celebrating Halloween, Thanksgiving and even the 4th of July, plus summers spent back in the US with American family. (A source, it turns out, of considerable angst for many French husbands... there is apparently a fear that the wife and kids won't return from the US if allowed to remain there too long.)

France makes no secret of the fact that the schools are there to invest children with French cultural values. The AAWE moms were doing their bit to preserve their own home culture - sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. At the time it seemed weird to me, but I don't have kids of my own and I suspect I'd feel differently if I did. But looking back on my own childhood, I relate much more to the traditions we had within our own family (i.e. mom, dad and me - not necessarily the extended family). I've always been a bit of an outsider but have learned to make friends easily and quickly whether I'm in a new location or just a new situation.
Cheers,
Bev
That's interesting that they were so adamant about keeping their nation's traditions. With my two I'm a little worried that we're becoming a little tradition-void! We celebrate and talk abut the few traditions in the UK (Bonfire Night, eeerrmmm... I'm drawing a blank on anything else!) and are involved on the outside of Austrian traditions, but I wonder if it's not because we know we are moving in a year or so and will start our 'proper' family traditions taht will take hold when we get there.

Austria is steeped in traditions, and it's sometimes pretty hard to keep up with what we're meant to be celebrating or decorating with each week. It's wonderful though and really gives a strong sense of identity, which is something I noticed just today (on CNN!?) that the French are struggling with their national identity at the moment. It was so sweet to head some under-10s' responses: Liberty, Fraternity, Equality: way to go them I say!
 
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Fascinating that six months in a radically different culture should have had such a dramatic effect. What specifically was affected in their personalities following that experience? (If you don't mind my asking)
They came into contact with very few Westerners. It was complete immersion, and within the 'ordinary' rather the 'elite' Thai community, so the culture shock was very immediate. It was reinforced by visits to Burma, which left them with some very powerful images of true poverty, sickness and need, the likes of which simply aren't translated by images on a screen; especially as we are bombarded by them on a daily basis, to the extent that we become almost anaesthetised. Seeing and smelling it at first hand is something else.

So several aspects marked them most, by their comments. Firstly the suffering of others is more real. They've touched it - given coins to limbless beggars with running sores, held their breath for a full minute while crossing bridges over stagnant waters in town, full of effluent, seen six year old children of hill tribes working the streets until the small hours.

Then there's another, completely different side to Asian life. The acceptance of suffering, the guileless smiles, the altruism from those who can least afford it, the fact that children hold their parents and elders in complete respect and consider it an honour and a duty to do things for them as they grow old. They were affected by all these things and more, in that they are visibly less sure of the superiority of the Western way than they once were.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
They came into contact with very few Westerners. It was complete immersion, and within the 'ordinary' rather the 'elite' Thai community, so the culture shock was very immediate. It was reinforced by visits to Burma, which left them with some very powerful images of true poverty, sickness and need, the likes of which simply aren't translated by images on a screen; especially as we are bombarded by them on a daily basis, to the extent that we become almost anaesthetised. Seeing and smelling it at first hand is something else.

So several aspects marked them most, by their comments. Firstly the suffering of others is more real. They've touched it - given coins to limbless beggars with running sores, held their breath for a full minute while crossing bridges over stagnant waters in town, full of effluent, seen six year old children of hill tribes working the streets until the small hours.

Then there's another, completely different side to Asian life. The acceptance of suffering, the guileless smiles, the altruism from those who can least afford it, the fact that children hold their parents and elders in complete respect and consider it an honour and a duty to do things for them as they grow old. They were affected by all these things and more, in that they are visibly less sure of the superiority of the Western way than they once were.
What an amazing experience to have had. Fantastic. I really don't think there is much better we can do for our children than to expose them to everything life has to offer.

May I ask, did you have any reservations taking them before you went?
 

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"home" for me is where I was born and raised and where my parents live. I left at 20 years of age to attend further education in the US, where I lived for several years. After that I moved to England with the intention of going back to my homeland after a while. I call England my "second home". It is the country where I started my career, got married, had my children etc. I'm very fond of the place.

I wish my children to have the same sense of "home" and hope France will bring this. I do not wish to move around from country to country, prefer to make roots in France and ensure my children don't forget their mother's country of origin so we visit as often as possible.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
"home" for me is where I was born and raised and where my parents live. I left at 20 years of age to attend further education in the US, where I lived for several years. After that I moved to England with the intention of going back to my homeland after a while. I call England my "second home". It is the country where I started my career, got married, had my children etc. I'm very fond of the place.

I wish my children to have the same sense of "home" and hope France will bring this. I do not wish to move around from country to country, prefer to make roots in France and ensure my children don't forget their mother's country of origin so we visit as often as possible.
We go back for a three-week stint once a year, and throw in a few short trips here and there as well. I'm keen though to avoid using all our 'holiday' time visiting family. This is the first year since my daughter was born that we're going on a family holiday without 'going back'.

That my parents no longer live in the UK all year makes it easier for me to believe we'll never live there again. Sometimes I get hankerings to live near my closest, oldest friends, but I see them several times a year anyway and unless we lived in the same town I doubt we'd see them very much more than we do currently.
 
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May I ask, did you have any reservations taking them before you went?
A few - not so much from the physical risks involved in travelling to Third World/developing nations, but because I'm not 100% sure about exposing children to situations that radically challenge preconceptions from too early an age. In the end though, as Voltaire put it, "le doute est un état mental désagréable mais la certitude est ridicule" (doubt is uncomfortable, but certainty is ridiculous). I just hope that it all works out for the best in the long run. A degree of pride in one's heritage and culture is one thing, but intolerance, and fear of alternative views, is too often the norm and cause of conflict. Sometimes I think it should be compulsory at some point in their education for all Western kids to spend a summer holiday living as guests in a considerably less privileged environment in another part of the world, minus iPod, iPhone, i-this that and the other :).
 
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<< I call England my "second home". It is the country where I started my career, got married, had my children etc. I'm very fond of the place.>>

I call england only the place I was born, the place where my values were sold out by a succession of liberal lying scheming governments whose members only wished to be re-elected, where the mediocre rose on the belief that the pound note was all-important, and people with true talent were neglected.

I could not wait to vacate the place, and on the very few occasions that I have had NO option but to return, I have seen no reason to think my decision to leave was wrong.
 

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I could not wait to vacate the place, and on the very few occasions that I have had NO option but to return, I have seen no reason to think my decision to leave was wrong.
Sad to say but I wouldn't argue with that..

On a slightly different note, fact logic and reasoning will support our decision to live elsewhere but it's at Christmas that reality bites. What was it that Hemingway said about Christmas? - that "you don't know what Christmas is until you lose it in some foreign land".

That's the one time I feel nostalgic for England.. but it's for an England that no longer exists.
 
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