For our second CultureBaby Mom profile, we head to Dusseldorf, Germany to meet Marie-Anne Sampeur Caye. Raised in the UK by French parents, she then married a Frenchman, gave birth to an American and is now anxiously awaiting the arrival of her second in Germany before packing the whole crew off to Shanghai later this year. Doesn't get more CultureBaby than that!
Where are you living now and with who?
I am currently living in Dusseldorf, Germany with my husband Jean-Philippe and my daughter Jeanne. Prior to this, JP and I lived in Phoenix for 2 years where Jeanne was born in October 2010. She was 6 months old when we moved.
What brought you there?
Jean-Philippe works for a German company which keeps giving him opportunities to work abroad. Our next step is Shanghai, China! I am lucky enough to now be working in the same company as him which means that I am still able to have a career of my own.
What languages do you practice at home?
We speak exclusively French at home but try to expose Jeanne to English through games and bilingual cartoons. When we move to Shanghai, we plan to enroll her at the British International School. It is very important for us that she speaks English since she has dual citizenship (French/US). Currently, she speaks French and German since she attends a German daycare 5 days a week.
How have you exposed your children to the culture of the country you are living in?
Jeanne goes to the kita (this is the German word for daycare) where she communicates exclusively in German. Her language skills have evolved gradually. She spoke more German than French in the beginning (since she spends more time in daycare than with us) and would sometime use German to communicate with us. This was sometime challenging as JP and I barely speak the language! But now she speaks the two languages equally well and does not use German at home anymore. In fact, she only uses German at the kita. One of her friends is also bilingual and they communicate in German in the kita and in French outside of it!
How have you adapted your personal and professional life to living overseas/to moving frequently?
Professionally speaking, I work in an international company and try to target regional roles where English is the main language. For sure the way of working will changes from one country to another, but I've found it fairly easy to adapt.
Personally speaking, it can be more challenging. If you are not able to communicate then not only do you struggle to integrate and deal with everyday administrative things but this can also impact your social activities. I also think that when you are moving every 2 years like we do, it can gradually become difficult to invest a lot of effort into integrating and the risk is that you end-up living in an expat bubble everywhere. But we try to learn the languages so that we are able to get by and to get a feel for the local culture by traveling.
Is raising your children as global citizens important to you?
Absolutely. I think this is a very enriching approach and makes one much more open-minded to cultural differences. You learn to understand instead of judging which for me is an important value in raising my children.
I want them to experience this life-style as long as it is compatible with their educational needs. I think that once they are a little older, we would like to settle down somewhere in order for them to have a stable educational system and also for them to create a sense of having roots somewhere.
How do you encourage this and how do you think this will help them later in life?
For the time being, I have Jeanne interact with kids from all-over and try to stay away from the French-only communities. Eventhough my German is very basic and Jeanne’s teachers so not speak English, I try to stay in close touch with what she learns at her daycare so that we can pursue this at home. For example, I have purchased CDs of all the songs she learns there, she also has German books to read etc. I think it is important that even if we only speak French at home, Jeanne understands that she can bring everything she learns in German back with her. However, I make sure this remains entertaining for her and that we do not put too much stress on her to keep up with language skills.
I think that all these experiences have so far made her a very social and adaptable little girl and hope she'll keep this up later on in her professional and personal environments.