Articles by carrie

Gabriela: Born in Pakistan, raised Dutch and French, now living in Canada

Today, we have the pleasure of hearing from Gabriela van Rij. Gabriela’s life has been, by definition, a cross cultural one. She was born in Pakistan, but raised in Europe and North America by her adopted diplomatic family. Currently, Gabriela lives in Canada, and works with a multicultural team promoting her book, With All My Might, which chronicles her life story and experiences and shares how she overcame adversity and came to terms with her own identity.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How would your friends or family describe you?

I am a self-made woman that has worked hard to get where I am today. Family is very important to me however, being adopted has not always given me the family I had wished for. My friends are terrific and mean the world to me, I have had them in and out of my life throughout which is amazing to me. Long lasting friendships with individuals from various cultures have become a surrogate family for me.

Where do you live? Where are you from? If those are different, can you tell us a little about what inspired your move?

I live in Vancouver, BC, Canada. I am originally from the North of Pakistan and lived most of my life in Europe and North America. I never knew any better than to be on the move in a diplomatic family. It teaches you to adapt for survival. What is even more important is that you learn to depend on yourself and that home is where you are. Living in Canada is quite amazing and diverse. Vancouver is an enormously safe place compared to some places in the world.

If you would describe yourself as multicultural, tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why. If you have kids, what culture do they most associate with?

I have identified most of my childhood and teenage years with the Western culture, but the older I get the more the fingerprint and identity of the ingrained and inherent culture come out which is Asian. I identify with the Western culture as that is the one I know the best. I have a child who is multicultural and has two ethnicities. It is not always easy for them either to identify which is which. I feel that most of them welcome more the Western world as they perceive it as better. This tends to be very true, at least for now, with my own daughter. She tends to feel European as do I.

 Can you describe a typical day for you?

Wow, nothing I do is typical; I get up early (between 5:30 and 6) and throw on clothes and go for either a long walk or jog on the seawall with my dog. Then I get ready for work at my consulting job and work 3 hours for one specific client before my We Open Door’s team gets in. On a rather interesting side note my team is multicultural.  I have been fortunate enough to employ individuals that embody my own uniqueness and diversity.  My team is comprised of one young lady from Chile, one young lady from Australia, one man from Vancouver originally from Italy, one young man from India, and two agents from the US.  Upon the arrival of my four-member office team we work solidly to promote my book With All My Might and before I know it is 4:30 PM and I should be writing my children’s book.

 What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?

The best part is the enormous diversity and safety. The worst is that every culture seems to stay on it’s own and that true diversity of mixing the cultures still has to be created.

 What books or films would you recommend someone who’d like to know more about your country?

I am not sure which movie you need to see to appreciate Canada. But the Winter Olympics in Vancouver 2010 showed the world that they were strong and resilient and that they support the dream of the athletes. What amazed me is that in these events every ethnicity, every one of all walks of life come together for one common good “the athlete”. No racism, no bullying, nothing, just a coming together of nations for the good of the athlete! Incredible experience! Canada you rocked!

 What language or languages do you use on a day to day basis?

I use French and English daily, and I try to keep up my Dutch.  But from a promotional standpoint I also incorporate Spanish on a large scale.  I am preparing to release my book With All My Might in Spanish and will do so at an event in Las Vegas in mid June.

Tell me about a national hero in your country. Who are they and what are they admired for?

Having four countries that I call home makes it very difficult to choose anyone “hero.” Pakistan is rich in history and culture. The Dutch are known for their dikes and engineers. The French are known for their food and wine. Canada has produced some of the most famous entertainment personalities and athletes (especially in the arena of hockey) that are widely known in the US.

Tell me about your favorite holiday, and what cultural traditions you practice to celebrate on that day.

Every national day of most of the above countries I celebrate usually at the embassies. I celebrate the French, the Dutch, the Belgians, the Germans, the US and the Canadian national holidays. As these are the countries I know best. I would say the 4th of July will always be special together with the national Queens day in the Netherlands. Tradition in Holland is to drink bitter drink that is orange to celebrate the house of Orange. The Dutch are traditionally not very shy and party like crazy on that day. The French 14th of July is amazing and a bit traditional.

 Describe a favorite typical meal from your country.

The Dutch are not very known for their cooking. They are known for the pancakes, which is a sweet dish. The French cuisine is one of my favorites as it heightens all your senses. Amazingly enough the Indian/Pakistani cuisine I have come to appreciate very much. I could live of ‘tidka dahl’, which is a yellow lentil dish nice and spicy.

What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?

They are surprised the Dutch are so open.

They are also surprised that in Vancouver everyone is overly polite.

The Americans are always surprised the French are truly rude and shout.

But all of these quirks is what makes up a culture and gives us the true flavor of multiculturalism.

May 31, 2012 3 comments

The All American Family, With a Spanish Twist

As someone who has lived abroad for over a decade and seen so many multi-cultural relationships blossom and thrive, I love reading stories like Cari and Juan Luis’s. In this interview, Cari tells us all about how she and her family happily weave together the Spanish and American cultures in their day to day family life.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How would your friends or family describe you?

I am a 38 year-old mom of three and have been married 16 years to my husband from Spain, Juan Luis Andreani. When I was in college I wanted to travel abroad and went to Madrid, Spain. I fell in love with Europe and ended up finding a job there and living for a year. I came back and finished my degree (I changed my major from Education to Spanish with an emphasis in teaching languages and a minor in Sociology), married my Spaniard and now teach English at a private high school here in Jacksonville,  Fl. I am very driven and have gone further in my education graduating now with a Masters in Leadership. My husband and I love to travel to new places and feel that the world is a marvelous place! I love learning about new cultures and exposing my children to them. My parents and family are very typical “all-American” and I am married to the only “foreigner” but my family adores my husband and the uniqueness he brings. I think he is still adorable and exotic and I have loved our journey together.

Where do you live? Where are you from? If those are different, can you tell us a little about what inspired your move?

I live in Jacksonville, Florida, but I am originally from Salt Lake City, Utah. After I moved back from Spain, I finished my degree at the University of Utah and my husband joined the American military and we were stationed first in Jacksonville. We loved it so much, we stayed when he got out.

If you would describe yourself as multi-cultural, tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why. What culture do your kids most associate with?

I think the best way that describes us is maybe “split personality”. Since we live here and we all work/go to school in American schools, we are very American, but we try to keep the things we like from Spain. For example, my husband is the chef of the home and cooks a lot of Mediterranean food.

Can you describe a typical day for you?

Because my husband has lived here for about 17 years- he has adapted the most to the American way of life. However, we visit Spain at least once every year or two and it curbs our (my husbands specifically) homesickness. We are your “all-American” family, with a Spanish side to us.

What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?

Here in the States we can have a great life. Economically, we can have a better quality of life here. In Europe, especially Spain, economic times are tough. We enjoy the quality of life and safety from living in the suburbs.

The worst part is possibly the food- we hate fast food and hate that our country is basically killing themselves slowly with a poor diet.

What books or films would you recommend someone who’d like to know more about your country?

We recently saw the movie “There Be Dragons” about the Spanish Civil War. A great movie.

What language or languages do you use on a day to day basis?

We speak mostly English but we are also bilingual and speak Spanish (Castillian or Castellano) My husband, my oldest son, and I are fluent. Our two little ones (ages 10, and 7 are not, but understand quite a bit.)

Tell me about a national hero in your country (can be anyone- living or not, internationally famous or not). Who are they and what are they admired for?

Since my husband and sons watch sports they LOVE Iker Casillas (soccer), Nadal (Tennis), Alonso( Formula One), and Sergio Garcia (golf)

 Tell me about your favorite holiday, and what cultural traditions you practice to celebrate on that day.

Christmas is the best- we celebrate Reyes Magos (the Three Wise Men on Jan. 6th too)

Describe a favorite typical meal from your country (include photos if you like!)

Favorite meal are so many things from Spain- like I said my husband cooks and he is better than any restaurant! He makes Pollo Al Ajillo (chicken in garlic and olive oil and white wine), Paella (rice dish), and Flan (custard) for dessert. My FAVORITE is Cordero (lamb) they make it with garlic, olive oil, wine (Malaga Virgen) and rosemary.

What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?

Spaniards look nothing like South Americans. They are Europeans and are light skinned and many have blonde hair. They also are surprised when they see Madrid (the capital) it is very similar to Paris and very European. I think because of the Spanish language they associate more with South American, but the truth is they are European and have more of a feel of  French than any South American country.

May 24, 2012 Comments disabled

Cecilia: Italian by birth, Spanish at heart

Today we speak with Cecilia, born and raised in Milan, but currently living in Barcelona, Spain. Cecilia tells us about her experiences living everywhere from Spain to Bali, and why she is loving the Spanish lifestyle.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How would your friends or family describe you?

I’d like that my friends and family would describe me as a sensitive, reliable and sunny.

You are from Milan, but live in Barcelona and have also spent time in the US and Bali? Can you tell us a little about what inspired your move and desire to live in all these wonderful places?

I was born in Milan and I lived there for 24 years. At the moment I’m living in Barcelona, Spain, since July.

I’m studying in a master of translations in the Pompeu Fabra University. I really like Barcelona because is full of art and culture, and so multi ethnic. In this city there are also a lot of events and activities for young people. It’s amazing!!!

Two years ago I went to US to study English and to work like a babysitter in an American family. I looked after the two funny children and I learned a lot of English! I really liked this experience because I had the opportunity to know many people of different culture.

Last year I travelled to Bali, Indonesia, for two months because my ex  boy-friend was working there in a Diving company. It was the first time that I saw a place so different form my country.

At the beginning I was on holiday trying to find something to do and one day I read on internet an announcement of a family from US looking for a nanny and I immediately contacted them. It was what I wished!  I love children and I really enjoy to spend time with them. I knew the family and I began to work in their house looking after their so sweet 1, 5 old boy.

Tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why.

I identify more with Spanish culture than with the Italian one.  I really like the Spanish lifestyle. Spanish people are more relaxed than Italian people (I mean the northern part of Italy), the day is larger, lunch time is at 3pm and dinner time is at 9/10 pm.

What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?

I think that the best part to live in Italy is in the countryside of Tuscany. This place is so beautiful and quiet.

The worst I think is Milan, my city. It’s very grey, industrial and the people are quite cold.

What language or languages do you use on a day to day basis?

Here in Barcelona I speak Spanish with the majority of the people and Italian just with Italian friends who are living here and in Skype with my relatives and friends who are in Italy.

 Describe a favourite typical meal from your country

A typical meal of Milan is the “Cotoletta alla Milanese”.

It’s Veal cutlet coated in breadcrumbs. It is a typical dish cooked by grandmothers! So good!!!

May 17, 2012 1 comment

Roger’s Multi-Cultural Family Living in Cape Town

 

Roger is a Kenyan currently living in Cape Town, South Africa as the proud father and husband in a truly multi cultural family. His wife is Austrian, and sons were born in Botswana and Scotland. Read more about Roger’s experiences raising children in the beautiful city of Cape Town, and what surprises people most about his home country of Kenya.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself. How would your friends or family describe you?

I’m from Nairobi in Kenya but have not lived there for almost fifteen years. I currently live in Cape Town and I’m an IT Professional working at the University of Cape Town. My family and I have moved around a bit over the years and moved here a couple of years ago from Edinburgh. We have two cheerful little boys and we hope to stay in Cape Town for the medium term at least. It’s very nice here.

I like simple things and perhaps might be described as a simple person with an open mind towards most things. I’m sure that a penchant for good ale would be added into a description of me at some point.

Can you tell us a little about what inspired your move from Kenya to South Africa?

I left Kenya in 1998 to go and study in South Africa. I quite enjoyed Johannesburg and ended up getting a job and staying there for four years before moving on to Botswana and then the UK and eventually ending up back to South Africa again ten years later. It has been quite an amazing period in my life during which, and most significantly, I got married and we’ve been blessed with two lovely boys.

If you would describe yourself as multi-cultural, tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why. What culture do your kids most associate with?

Though it might not be very obvious to my friends, I’m very proud of my culture. I come from the Kikuyu tribe in Kenya but do not speak the language very well. Why? I really can’t say. It’s just one of those things that baffle everyone including my parents who have other children who speak it flawlessly. I understand it perfectly, but the words just don’t roll of my tongue the way they should. I’ve been practicing for many years but have finally resigned myself to the fact that eyebrows will always be raised whenever I try and speak it.

Multi-cultural? I would say yes. My first born son was born in Botswana where we lived for five years, and his brother born in Scotland a few years later. We really loved living in both those countries and I would say absorbed a lot of the local culture and still have very good friends there. Oh, and did I mention that my wife is Austrian?

My kids are what I recently discovered to be third culture kids where they don’t identify with either parents culture and adopt amalgamate cultures from outside where either parent was born.

Can you describe a typical day for you?

When you have little children, there’s no such thing as a typical day. The morning always begins explosively with a an ever varying mixture of drama and emotions stretching from wet beds to lost cardigans as we attempt to herd our charges through the morning motions of getting them ready for school. A more complete description of a typical weekend for us can be found in this piece I wrote a while back. Are weekends with kids fun?

What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?

Cape Town is a very beautiful city that has endless opportunities for having a good time. It’s a bit like going on a beach holiday and never leaving. Having to work during the day does little to dull that feeling. Even as I write this, I’m looking out the window at Table Mountain and thinking that I will never tire of the view. Even the traffic is nowhere nearly as bad as some places I’ve lived in. It takes me twenty minutes to drive home from work.

The absolute worst thing about this place is the latent racism. I still get stared at when I go into the local pub and I’m consistently the only person of colour. I’m guessing that it will take a couple more generations to see the apartheid hangover finally end. I don’t let it bother me too much though and I go where I want, when I want, and people eventually just get on with their lives.

What books or films would you recommend someone who’d like to know more about your country?

Barack Obama’s book Dreams From my Father has a section about his experiences in Kenya that capture many aspects of our culture very well. Excellent book that. The recent movie The Third Grader is not too bad, though it only captures a small aspect of the whole culture. There’s a lot more to Kenya than that. A book that I’m currently reading – One day I will write about this place by Binyavanga Wainania – quite nicely captures my experience of Kenyan culture.

What language or languages do you use on a day to day basis?

I mostly speak English and get to speak Swahili and some Sheng whenever I meet my Kenyan friends. I very rarely speak Kikuyu. I listen to German being spoken in my house all the time. It’s almost as if I’m not there. I understand it quite well though, but shy away from speaking it unless cornered. My three year old is already better at it than I am. 

What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?

Kenya has a very vibrant night life and a populace that loves being in it. It is my opinion that it is because Kenyans are very friendly people who love their beer and love to laugh.

I think this always catches a first time visitor to Nairobi by surprise. In my opinion, that was once called humble, it is the party capital of the world.

May 11, 2012 3 comments

Mauro from Ecuador: Searching for the American Dream

Today, we have the pleasure of speaking with Mauro, from Ecuador, an immigrant living in the United States. Mauro’s story is inspiring and fascinating, and very common, from my experience, of the life of the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the US. As many of us who have moved abroad understand so well, the lure of a foreign land in pursuit of a better lifestyle is almost simultaneously shadowed by the longing for the life missed back at home. Mauro’s experience is punctuated by the difficulty of establishing himself in the USA as an immigrant, even after calling the USA home for 14 years. Mauro talks today about his experiences in the US learning about many different cultures, and shares his admiration for the natural beauty of Ecuador.

Mauro’s friend and English teacher helped Mauro to tell his story. Here is how she describes Mauro: “Mauro is one of many Ecuadorians who have settled in New York. When he arrived, he spoke little, if any English. He is hard-working, striving for the American dream. Although he has come for the experience and opportunity, he is obviously nostalgic about his home country. As his friend and English teacher, I admire his determination and ambition. He describes the many cultures he has come to observe in New York and how it differs from his home environment in Ecuador.”

Please tell us about your experience in coming to America.

My name is Mauro I am an immigrant from Ecuador to the US. I live in New York. I moved to New York in 1998 because I wanted to know about how life is in New York. After 14 years I have learned there are people from many cultures here, like Indian, Italian, French, African, Caribbean, Brazilian, Mexican and South American people. We are different in religion, in food, in clothing . For example, Indian people wear saris,  which I didn’t see in Ecuador.

How do day to day things like food differ from the US to Ecuador?

In terms of food, Ecuadorian people eat more vegetables, potatoes, plantains, (they are like bananas) rice, mangos than Americans. In the eastern part of Ecuador, which is cold, we also eat guinea pig  and chicken. In the west, which is on the coast, we eat fish. In both parts of the country we eat steak. However, like North Americans, now that I’m here, I cook a turkey for Thanksgiving.

What do you think surprises visitors about Ecuador?

I think what visitors are surprised about Ecuador is its natural beauty. For example, Ecuador has many lakes, rivers, and fauna like birds, monkeys and turtles. There are so many different colored birds, like sand ducks. For example, in Ecuador there are ducks with red chests and blue feet with black or gray feathers. There are also many turtles (Tortugas) walking in the sand that are higher than a table and big enough for an adult to ride on. They are very friendly. Flowers in Ecuador are growing naturally around the lakes and mountains. If you go hiking, you will see flowers and find fruit called (silvertre) growing wild , which you can pick and eat. In the mountains there are different kinds of flowers with different colors, like a combination of yellow white and blue.

April 13, 2012 1 comment

Molly, fulfilling her dream of living abroad in Argentina

This week we hear from Molly, an American who is currently living in Mendoza, Argentina.  Molly is currently having an experience that many of us Americans dreamt about when graduating from university: living abroad, and immersing herself in a new language and new culture. Read more to learn about Molly’s experiences in Mendoza and what surprises visitors most about Argentina!

Tell us a bit about yourself. How would your friends or family describe you?

I think that my friends would describe me as a passionate and driven person.

Where do you live? Where are you from? If those are different, can you tell us a little about what inspired your move?

I have been happily living in Mendoza, Argentina for the past 6 months. I came to Mendoza shortly after I graduated from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon in October of 2011. Although I made a beautiful home in Portland during my college years, there is no place closer to my heart than Berkeley, California. I was born and raised and Berkeley and am a die-hard Bay Area fanatic. My move to Mendoza was inspired by two factors; first, I fell in love, and second I have always wanted to learn Spanish. Since I was a child I have always known that after college I would dedicate one year of my life to fully immersing myself in the Spanish language.

If you would describe yourself as multi-cultural, tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why.

I have described myself as a multi-cultural individual from a young age. As a child I grew up in Berkeley, a very diverse and multicultural community. Living in Berkeley exposed me to a variety of cultures and backgrounds. As a kid I was regularly surrounded by individuals from different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds. These backgrounds and the range of opinions that come from them, taught me what being multi-cultural is about. Today I live as a very multi-cultural individual, not only as an Expatriate living in Argentina, but as an American, a Jew, and a Christian. In all honesty I think the culture I most identify with is being from Berkeley, California. For me my identity as a Berkleyian captures my identities as a Jew, Christian and an American, because each of those identities has been articulated in a unique way within the borders of Berkeley.

Can you describe a typical day for you?

A typical day for me in Mendoza involves me waking up for work at 8:30, walking thirty minutes to my office in downtown. Here in Mendoza, I walk more than I have ever walked in my life! My time here has shown me just how car-dependent we are in the United States of America. If only summers here weren’t 40+ Celsius I don’t think I would mind as much. I work for a Tourism Agency called Malbec Symphony as their Website and Sales Manager. I find it fascinating that my first out of college job is in Argentina, in the field of tourism, and that I am getting paid a third of what I would be making in the States at a job I would never get right out of college. In just over 2 months I have learned a lot about how business works here in Argentina, and have finally come to the conclusion of what I want to get a Masters in: Business. First year out of college agenda: Check! After my tourism job I head to my second job working for a wine magazine called Wine-Republic. My work at Wine-Republic exposes me to a wide range of locals and foreigners involved in the wine industry here in Mendoza. I am steadily building up my wine repertoire. From box wines to Argentina’s finest Malbecs, I have done a full 360 in regards to wine! My third job is nannying for a truly amazing Expat family. After work I spend most of my time with my friends from my Argentine soccer team or with my “adopted” Argentine family.

What is the best part of living in Argentina? The worst?

Hands down, the best part of living in Mendoza is the calm and relaxed style of the people. Although occasionally I do find that people are too relaxed in relationship to business (I don’t know how the economy functions with a 4 hour siesta in the middle of the day, and people’s bed-times ranging from 1-3 a.m). Overall, I really like the calmness and family-oriented style of Argentine life.

What language or languages do you use on a day to day basis?

I speak a wonderful mix of Spanish and English throughout the day. I find myself hopping back and forth between the two languages in a way I had always dreamed about.

Describe a favorite typical meal from Argentina

My favorite meal in Argentina contains; empanadas, asado, matambre de cerdo and salad (tomatoes and cooked onions).

What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know Argentina?

Visitors, myself included, are always surprised by the fact that there is literally never any gas here in Mendoza. People have enough money to buy an Audi, but their gas stations don’t have gas to put in that $90,000 car.  Wrap your mind around that!!! We complain in the States because our gas prices are so high, imagine complaining because you can’t go away for the weekend because there wasn’t any gas for you to put in your car.

April 5, 2012 3 comments