Interview: Coffee With An Expat

Given a chance to interview someone really interesting with a baggage full of stories from around the world, I didn’t want to miss the golden opportunity at any cost!

Here’s is an excerpt from my interview with Yuliya, a wonderful person who has lived in over half a dozen different countries, a fellow blogger on WordPress who shares interesting anecdotes about her two beautiful little girls and her journey as a woman, a mother and a home maker in different countries on her blog Tiny Expats

Coffee With An Expat

Interview: Coffee With An Expat

Hi Yuliya, It is my pleasure to have this chat with you.
You’ve lived in so many different cities in various countries. Starting from your childhood in Ukraine to your current life in Pardubice, can you please share what is your real feeling about moving around?

I think about five or six years ago my husband and I really wanted to have a home, you know, like in ET ‘home…’. A proper long term and not a temporary one. That was still in Germany, before China, Russia and Czech. I guess, at that point it was not meant to be. Since then I really got used to this moving around life. We lived in Moscow for two years and in the end I started feeling restless. It was less so for my husband, as he went on business trips very often, but I was at home with kids and really felt like moving again.

Yeah, That reminds me;  “Home is where the heart is“. If you were given a chance to go back to any one of those countries; which one would you choose and why?

It’s hard to say, I found some pluses and minuses in every country we lived in. I loved London, but that could also be due to the fact that those were my student years and those are usually a lot of fun, no matter where you are. I also liked Shanghai, it was definitely very different from anything else.

Where do you think you had the best moments of your life; a country which you felt at home? 

Ukraine was, of course my home. I spent my childhood and adolescence there. Other than that – UK. I lived in London for 7 years and those were already my grown up years, so I explored more, got to know a lot of people, met my best friends, fell in love with my husband. I love London.

Did you have difficulties in understanding and coping with different cultures, food and languages? 

In some countries more, in some less. UK was quite easy to live in, especially, London. There’re so many people living there, with so many different backgrounds, that nobody really pays attention to you being a foreigner. You don’t stand out and are accepted the way you are, in most cases.

It was a bit more difficult in Germany. My husband and I both learned German, although, it was still far from perfect. We spoke German in our everyday life in shops, restaurants, official organisations, but we made mistakes and in some situations people were not that happy about our lack of language proficiency. That being said, we made really good friends in Germany, who did not care (or did not show that they did 😉 ) about our language knowledge. We keep in touch with them till this day. So it’s all about being able to see past the differences and trying again and again to get in touch with the locals.

China was very different, of course. We picked up a few phrases along the way, although it was far from being able to speak Chinese and not a lot of people speak English there. But you’ll find that Chinese are often very friendly to foreigners and just find it amusing when you are not able to explain yourself. There’re questions with bureaucracy there and sometimes I wished I could find some of my favourite food, though overall I liked that place a lot.

Moscow was not that foreign to me. I never lived there, but I speak Russian, so that was already a bonus. I wasn’t fond of all the paperwork I had to deal with, Moscow’s weather (not the cold, but the grey) and quite a high level of stress, which I think you can somehow feel in this city. That said, I think it has amazingly beautiful places to visit, some of those I wanted to see since I was a child. I also made new friends in Moscow, who made it all the more a pleasant experience.

Now it’s Czech Republic. I find that Czech language is quite easy for me to pick up and people are often very friendly. I love the little town of Pardubice, I think it’s totally cute, but at the same time very convenient. I think this place is one of the easiest for me to get used to.

Wow! What is the most difficult thing you experienced?

In the beginning it was hard to get used to living far from the family. It got easier over the years, I have my own family now and it’s much easier to keep in touch now than it was about 15 years ago.

Thanks to technology! Shanghai and London are two busy and beautiful cities, one in the east while the other in the west. How was your life there?

I think my love for London is not very rational. It’s based on a lot of good memories I have of all that’s happened there. I love walking in London, especially St. Johns Wood, Warwick Avenue, Baker Street, Regents Park. Those are my favourites, but there’re tons of other places I’d love to visit again. I love British accent, although you don’t hear it that often in London with all the mix of every other accent imaginable. I love how multicultural it is and you can find anything and everything in one city. I love English breakfast and Quality Street. I love local pubs, like the one on Acacia Rd, and street markets, like Borough Market. I can go on and on!

What I love the most about Shanghai is the energy you feel. The city grew immensely within the last 15-20 years. It’s amazing how much work and resources were required to achieve that. And even today, if you drive through Shanghai, you can see building sites all around. It’s growing, it’s moving, it’s old, but it’s always new. It’s China, but it’s also so much more. It’s a wonderful city and I’d definitely recommend anyone to visit it.

That’s so cool! But being a mother of two, how do you manage your family life with so much travel and moving around? 

Not sure how I would’ve done it otherwise! My kids always moved, so hence the name of my blog – Tiny Expats. It’s a coincidence, but my daughters were both about 1 year and 4 months when they first relocated. We’re thinking now that we should better slow down and find a place for us to stay for a while as it’s time for our older daughter to go to school, but, to be honest – I’m not sure where that would be.

Interesting coincidences indeed! Makes me believe in the design of life! Can you please share one of the most unforgettable sweet incidents in any of those countries?

I guess, one of those experiences would be visiting Chinese sights during the public holidays. Internal tourism is quite popular in China, so a lot of people from distant provinces would come to see Beijing, Shanghai, or other interesting places when they have several days off. We actually happened to be in Beijing during the October holidays and in Shanghai during the Spring Festival time. That was really strange for us, I guess, I realized what it must feel like to be a celebrity! Some of these people have never seen foreigners before, so they would come up to you and ask to take a photo or snap you on their phones without asking. If you are very tall, red headed or a blond child – be prepared to be surrounded by a crowd of unexpected fans.

Being a celebrity! That’s really funny!:D Would you mind sharing one of your most emotional moments?

I think the first day at a new place can be one of the hardest ones. You are tired, stressed out, so many things to do and think of. Our first day in Shanghai was rather tough. We arrived in February and the owners of the flat that we rented decided to clean and air the apartment before we arrived. The window was left opened for a couple of days. So here we are, arriving to a long awaited home after a Hamburg-Dubai-Shanghai endless flight with a one year old child, really exhausted, only to be welcomed by an absolutely freezing place. I have to say I felt pretty emotional on that day and not in a good way. Nevertheless, I always tell myself it’s just jet lag and next day would be much better. And it always is. So just persist and you’d get settled in any environment really, just give it a time.

Wow, it must have been a really long journey! What message would you like to share with the world from your experiences as an expat?

After moving around, leaving things behind, getting used to new places, meeting people and saying good bye, I believe that the most important things in our lives are not things at all. Don’t stress over too much about not being able to buy something or having to leave something behind. Don’t get attached to material belongings – after having to wait for your container for three months, you realize that as you lasted that long without them, probably they are not essential anyways. Your family, people around you, these are the most precious things you have in your life, so this is what you have to value and care about.

Yeah, that’s so true. Thank you so much for sparing your valuable time Yuliya. It was a really nice, informative and interesting chat. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It would be my pleasure to meet you and your family if you take a chance to visit India. Hope to see you soon. 🙂