One thing we’ve really enjoyed having lived away from our birth country is the wonderful variety of people we’ve been lucky enough to come across. It has been a real bonus to meet interesting, smart and culturally different citizens from all corners of the globe.
As I’ve mentioned before, we are not the type of expats who move from one place to the next every year or so. I suppose we could be described as serial immigrants although that does make us sound as if we’re constantly moving from place to place avoiding conflict, political regimes or because we want to make a better life for ourselves.
None of these situations have applied to us – opportunities have cropped up and we’ve gone with the flow to see where they’d take us. We’ve also, during a natural disaster, been referred to as refugees, something you don’t expect to happen in a first world country, but which has given us great empathy for those who do genuinely lose all when bad things happen.
At Harry’s school (The American School of The Hague) there are over a 1000 students from 67 different countries. You’ve read it right, 67. If that isn’t a cultural melting pot I don’t know what is. Children do not get into fights, stab each other or bring guns into school. They get along, embracing and respecting the differences rather than fearing them. They are curious, eager to learn and compare how things are done in other countries, taking the best of everything irrespective of where they have come from.
These are the children who will become world leaders in whatever fields they chose to work in as adults and I use the word ‘leader’ advisedly. They will be educated, respectful and have spent their youth in an environment where they see the person, not the colour, religion, culture or nationality they have come from. It’s an environment essential in today’s world.
Not only are these students learning to live in second or third cultures from the one they were born into, so are we, the parents of these global nomads.
Imagine a PTA committee – a nightmare of social politics in any country – consisting of parents from differing countries, educational systems, priorities in education and where English is not necessarily the first language for many. Does anything get achieved? Absolutely. It works because people are committed to the goal and prepared to do what it takes to get things done.
We have learned so much from people we would never have met, or had the opportunity to meet, if it hadn’t been for the life we have chosen. It can be scary, the continual coming and going of friends and associates, but we have discovered the world is a small place too, that friends are friends wherever they are.
As a child I would watch Star Trek and be filled with wonder at the strange worlds and galaxies Captain Kirk and the Enterprise crew would explore. I was thrilled by their mission to, ‘boldly go where no man has gone before’, awed by their bravery, curiosity and insatiable desire to reach out, learn and understand the universe around them.
I have my own Captain and crew, and although we haven’t left the planet (yet) I’m grateful every day to know there’s a world out there full of places and people we haven’t seen or met, of adventures still to come.
What could be more exciting or enriching than that?
I think that one of the great benefits we’ve found to living abroad is exactly what you described: our teens going to a school where learning is valued (by the students!) and everyone accepts everyone else and gets along. The lack of drama is refreshing. Another plus has been that ‘having the latest’ isn’t foremost in kids’ minds. Not sure how unique this is globally, but in this Dutch culture we’re in the midst of, I certainly appreciate it.