Who are you?
Hello, my name is Eugenia Jäntti. I’m a 3 kids mother who has lived an expat life since I was married. Actually I think my expat life began when I was born. At that time, I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but I lived my first two years in a small city at 300 km (190 miles) from Buenos Aires, called Azul.
Then we moved to Salvador, Bahia (Brazil) So I started my early school days there, learning Portuguese. Four years later we went back to Buenos Aires, where I finished school, went to University and got married.One year after I got married, I had a one month old little princess and I was already living in Sao Paulo (Brazil).
The following year we had our beautiful second princess, and we moved again; this time our destiny was Basel (Switzerland). Four years later came to our life the little one, another princess who spent some months in her native country but we soon moved again to Brazil. During the following years we spend some time in Berlin (Germany) and then we went back to Brazil.
Reading this I realize how many times we have changed our house, our routine, our mind, our emotions, our thoughts…Everything change each time you move to a new country.
Where and when did you move abroad?
Now we are living in Montevideo (Uruguay) since February, 2015. It was the first time we moved with 3 children, a dog and a cat!
I’ve learned that no matter how many times you moved from one country to another, you can always learn something new. We move around because of my husband´s international assignment. He had a well-established international career, and this was another great opportunity we decided to take.
What challenges did you face during the move?
As I mentioned before, each move is different and you learn always something new. It’s not the same traveling with children than with teenagers. Certainly you will face different challenges and feelings. Each child has different reactions and age influences them. And this time, we face a completely new challenge, we moved around with our pets, a dog and a cat.
There’s a lot of papers you must care about, and it’s not so easy. You must be very careful if you don´t want to have a surprise at the airport!
How did you find somewhere to live?
Fortunately we met a relocation service in Montevideo and they helped us not just arriving in the city, but also looking for our property and giving us a lot of local tips. Even though this time was easier for me as I speak the local language, and that’s very helpful by the time you are looking for you property, managing with school or doing shopping. So I could search the properties I was interested and arrange the visit to them. We knew we were looking for a peaceful neighborhood, not so far from my child’s school and my husband’s work. Fortunately as the city is not too big, there were a few neighborhoods to look around. So after visiting some properties, we met the right one: a beautiful old style house, with wooden floors and perfect location. We have a supermarket just around the corner, and a few meters ahead you find everything you need, as pharmacy, restaurant, laundry, etc.
Fortunately we had a well and quite renting process and the owners were very friendly and approachable.
Are there many other expats in your area?
I can see there’s a lot of expats in the city, but I don’t know yet where they are located. It seems they are not in a specific area; they might be all around the city, depending on their activities.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
Local people are very nice and helpful; I’ve never had any problem with them. They are friendly, calm, and love taking their “mate” everywhere (a kind of drink prepared by steeping dried leaves of yerba mate in hot water and is served with a metal straw (bombilla in Spanish) from a shared hollow calabash gourd.
What do you like about life where you are?
The life here is very different from the last city where I come from (Sao Paulo, Brazil) It’s calm, no traffic, more secure. I love the entire thing you can do in the city without needing to drive. You can walk or go walking at the beach (with your dog if you have one), you can ride in your bike, take your rollers, skating and so on. This may be normal for some people, but believe me, there are cities where you can only ride in your car.
At evening you see a lot of people doing some exercise near the beach, it’s very nice to see so many people taking care of their health, having fun, just enjoying the nature the city offers.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Expat life is beautiful and very interesting as you can learn a lot knowing different cultures and countries. But if you have kids, surely you´ll face some extra challenges when you move with them. Depending on the age of your kids, they´ll have to leave their school, friends and their life. And sometimes this farewell can be very hard to go through.
Another challenge we might face on with kids is the new school at the new location. Of course you hope they´ll soon make some friends. But things do not always go so well. Sometimes they can suffer from bullying or isolation. This can make them feel very sad and they may have emotional consequences and scars.
There are lots of facts that any money in the world will pay for. And for me, the main fact that any moving, any compensation, any job or any salary from the company will pay for, is the one that affects the emotion of your family, either of your children or your partner.
Some couples, who move around, can face other challenges. Usually if one of them is being assigned to a new job, the other one who trails him may feel alone, bored, demotivated, and sometimes depressed.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
Each country has their culture, their own history and their own costumes. For sure it depends whether you are an adult or a kid, your challenges are going to be quite different. As an adult, we have our own culture inside, and when we met another different culture, we can understand them, we can like them or not, we can adopt some customs or not. But definitely we are not going to lose our own culture. We are always trying to find some food we know, and we try to cook our traditional dishes. And that´s not bad, because we can survive our expat life knowing and learning a lot in a new country, without losing our traditions.
On the other hand, kids live a different way of expat life. They are third culture kids, those who have spent a significant part of their developmental years outside the parents’ culture. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into their life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background. That makes them special and different from local kids. May be good If they build good relationships, but it can be difficult to keep them.
What do you think of the food in your new country?
The food you find it’s always some kind different, because each culture has their own way to cook and to eat. In some countries, you are going to find different fruits and vegetables, depending on the climate and the soil type. Also the type of meat you eat depends on the country livestock.
What are your particular likes and dislikes?
Montevideo is a vibrant, eclectic place with a rich cultural life. It is a small city but you have a lot of things to do. With a moderately temperate climate, free of intense temperature extremes, it offers various alternatives for tours, entertainment and shows for all tastes and expectations. Transportation is quite varied and efficient. Buses, taxis and chauffeur-driven cars enable you to move from one place to another in a few minutes.
The city’s big love is its river, which gets dressed up, as a sea or an ocean depending on the direction of the wind. This is a beautiful scenario to watch at any time of the day.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Leaving your country, family and friends is not an easy first step you might do whenever you decide to start your new life in a new country.
Although it can be seen as an opportunity to experience new and unknown situations, there are many challenges you might need to overcome, as new languages, food, costumes, working rules, climate and may be they are a bit confusing, difficult or embarrassing to you.
Having the time of your life as an expat is largely a matter of having a positive mental outlook, especially when things get challenging.
Living abroad offers so many opportunities to learn, travel, grow, experience the world, and become part of a truly global community of people. I was able to experience different cultures, learning to deal with joys and frustrations. I met different cultures, people of diverse origins and customs. That opened a window into my life, because I discovered the greatness of the human being. I found that cultural or regional differences are external, but inside each and every one of us we are all equal humans.
I believe all expatriate who dares go beyond borders, has a more global view and a more complete life.
What are your plans for the future?
We never know what will happen in the next years. That part of the emotion of living this expat life. I know many of you may think this is not life, but what’s the meaning of your life if you don’t follow your dreams?