“Are you sure you’re French? But where is your home?” This question is one that author and multi expat Florence Chabert d’Hieres has heard frequently in her life; having been adopted from Colombo, Sri Lanka when she was 3 weeks old. Florence, a cross cultural coach, trainer, and facilitator refers to herself as an “adult third culture kid,” raising her three children to be third culture kids as well, having lived in many cultures on 4 continents during 6 expatriations through the last 10 years. In her beautifully written new book “I’m A Citizen Of The World,” Florence Chabert d’Hieres draws from her personal experience and her global work with expatriate families to explore the ways we prepare our children for experiences in different cultures, while finding that “home” is wherever they are.
Author Florence Chabert d’Hieres writes, “Being an expat parent can sometimes feel like driving through a bumpy road. I’m A Citizen Of The World will not give you the magic formula to becoming the perfect expat parent; however, it will provide you with tips and tools that I have learned.” Her hope is that parents and families will enjoy reading her book as much as she enjoyed writing it!
Bebe Voyage had a chat with Florence to talk to her more about her what drove her to write her book.
Bebe Voyage: Where did you grow up? How did your childhood shape who you are today?
Florence Chabert d’Hieres: I arrived in Lyon, France at three weeks, and was brought up there. I went to an international school, where I learned English, German and Spanish. I used to travel a lot in order to learn those languages, and I guess I fell in love with multicultural environments very early. My experiences allowed me to later obtain a Master’s in Marketing Management from Pace University in New York City, and later an intercultural coach and trainer for adults and children and to create my own Company Coach4expat.
What do you love about living abroad? Do you enjoy raising your family overseas? Is there anything you miss about back home?
Being from Lyon, France, the capital of gastronomy, I miss my wine, cheese and other Lyonnaises specialties. And of course my family! Living abroad has surprisingly strengthened family relationships. My sister is in Hong Kong and my sister in law in Chicago! What I love most is meeting so many people from diverse nationalities. My daughters have friendships regardless of nationalities and backgrounds. It’s a real asset of being an adult third culture kid raising little burgers!
Talk to me about how you came up with the idea of the hamburger?
I have to admit I love burgers, and it occurred to me while training children,that it would be easier to explain to them who they are with food. A burger is fairly easy to find all over the world. The bread is a metaphor for the home country. No matter where you are, the bread is always the same. By moving around in expat life, expat kids just add more and more ingredients, which represent host countries, to become a tastier burger!
I love the idea that “home” is wherever you are. Can you expand on that a bit more?
I figured out that to be happy in your expat life, you have to make the most of it; nobody will do it for you! If you are constantly making comparisons to what you are missing or to what you are not able to do because you are not there, you will miss so many things. Home is where your heart is and you heart is where your family is, so home is wherever you are.
How do you balance exposing your kids to the world while providing them with roots, a sense of belonging?
I’d say this is the most challenging part of being an expat parent. To create a sense of tradition while moving around, I guess language, food, and creating your own family culture are the best pieces of advice I could give. This is why our children belong to the world and bond with other burgers much more easily than with their cousins, for example, who live in their ‘country of origin.’ They have more in common with their multiculturally diverse peers who understand their life and experiences.
Do you think you’ll continue to live abroad after Dubai? Where else would you like to live?
Yes, we are a nomads! After 10 years in the Middle East, we would like to live another experience and maybe going to Europe would be great. My girls can’t wait to put on their rain boots and jumpers.
What have been some of your favorite countries/cities to visit with your children? Any particular spots or outings that stand out for you?
We just came back from Kenya and it was amazing! It was kid-friendly , wild, and spectacular. I’m not sure we will go to a zoo anytime soon after seeing that! Of course, the Middle East with its deserts and dune bashing is awesome, and Shanghai, with the high speed train to Beijing and the Great Wall, was breathtaking! All of this without mentioning France and Switzerland that are at the top of my list.
How have your own children adjusted to culture changes as you’ve moved?
I think that we often make the mistake of feeling we need to settle our children first and then take care of ourselves as parents. Based on my personal experience and my 10 years of training burgers, it is the opposite! If you feel comfortable – or at least try to – it will be easier for your children to adjust, feel confident, and safe as they deal with change.
Any must-haves when you’re traveling with little ones?
Club Bebe Voyage for sure! A good stroller and ‘Soupe en brique bledilait’ that we can put in the bottle directly as well as ‘bledine en dosette’ (delicious French baby cereal) and lots of coloring books and stickers. I just found also an App called Tinytap that is educational and you can download ‘homework’ to use when you are not online. It is in every language and appropriate for all ages.
If you had only one piece of advice for parents preparing for an expat experience, what would give?
Stop, look, listen, and learn! Choosing only one piece of advice is too short! The reason why I wrote my book ‘I’m A Citizen of the World’ is to help you learn how to be resilient even if you are not a first time expat. Even in our 6th expatriation, we always learn something new!
Bebe Voyage wants to thank Florence for her time and for sharing her knowledge with us. If you would like to purchase ‘I’m A Citizen of the World,’ click here and for more advice from Bebe Voyage to help your family prepare for your next adventure, head on over to our advice page for tried and true tips and gear recommendations!