THE EXPAT DIARIES: FAMILY POLITICS

 

Expat is a common lifestyle choice among young adults of the millennial generation. But no matter how thrilling it is to discover a new culture and establish yourself in a new country, “coming home” always feels so comforting… When a child comes into the picture though, things can get a little messy, if not completely hectic. Family reunions then become a delicate balancing act where mastering the skill of diplomacy gets inescapable.

 

The one who wanted to see two dozens of people in 3 days. When our baby girl arrived, we saw in our parents’s puppy face the desire to see their granddaughter as often as it was possible. And so began the great saga of trips to Italy and Belgium, zigzagging across the European map. After taking countless of flights and train rides with a squirmy baby who turned into a restless toddler, we have become well versed in the ‘travelling with kids’ gig. If you don’t believe me, try running after a 18-month-old through the coaches of a Eurostar for two hours.

 

Once we arrive in the homeland, our itinerary records a succession of visits to relatives, Uni pals and our parents’ friends (grandparents want to show-off). The odyssey is further lengthened when parents are divorced, like in my case. We generally have a busy schedule of dinners and drinks, and go through this social agenda like chickens roaming around in the farmyard. It’s a giant happy mess. Family reunions can leave us craving for extra holiday to unwind.

 

The one who was travelling with a semi-trailer. When we visit, our families always spoil the darling child with oodles of presents that come in all forms and shapes. This is great for our girl who jumps of excitement like a bunny on amphetamine, but daunting for us, parents, when it is time to pack. We regularly face puzzling situations of finding innovative packing strategies for our suitcases overflowed with toys, clothes and whatnot. We are yet to hone our persuasion skills and rechannel our relatives’ demonstration of love in Amazon vouchers and memberships to gratifying activities (zoo, ballet class, swimming lessons)…!

 

I personally love the Montessori spirit of neutral colours and natural materials, so bringing back flashy, plasticky, electronic toys or barbie-pink outfits can be as irritating as a ringing phone you can’t find but, of course I follow the etiquette and warmly thank for the gift.

 

Clutter is threatening every nook and corner of our tiny apartment in London, but what wouldn’t we do to make a (little) girl smile, right?

 

The one who was learning from Buddhist monks. If you were cornered by a nosy relative enquiring about your life choices / parenting practices or got a passive jab during a family dinner, how would you react? When questions become uneasy and controversial, and you can see drama ahead of you, boosting your self-control is a lifeline. (If you cannot regulate your emotions so well, it is worthwhile to prepare for confrontations in advance and rehearse how to respond to tricky situations.) Don’t forget humour: a good old trick to derive a subject to more pleasant and peaceful shores.

 

It goes without saying we thoroughly enjoy seeing our loved ones, and family visits are always flooded affection and generous care. Although we still experience the same warm-hearted welcome we have always known, this humourous article focuses on peculiar aspects of the expatriate life, when there is a baby addition to the family.

 

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