My last Meet a Mom interview with Lauren was so well received – I think many people found it interesting hearing from a South African living elsewhere, so I decided to interview my friend Robynne who currently lives in Belgium. I met Robs in London and we travelled to Vietnam together with a bunch of friends, where we both tried out snake wine and each bought a suitcase full of custom made clothes that then shrunk and were never worn again. Let’s chat to her…
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m South African but I’m currently living in Belgium. I grew up just outside of Durban and went to school in Kloof. I left SA when I was 22 to explore a little with the intention to return and settle down. I’ve been away for 15 years now and still choose the unexplored than return to a much missed home. After receiving British citizenship through an ancestral link I’ve been able to explore the European Continent and have encouraged my husband Daryl to take up work contracts in both Switzerland and Belgium.
I’m happily married and have 2 inspiring boys, Liam (5) and Ryan (2). I’m a stay-at-home mom trying her best to keep up with her kids’ grasp of French and all my good intentions!
What do you love about living in Belgium?
- The foreignness. There are 3 official languages in Belgium: French, Dutch and German and everything looks and works differently. I love the discovery of new ways about going about your daily life. You have to relearn admin processes like posting a letter, or paying your bills or the way rubbish is sorted and collected.
- Schooling: We’ve put our boys in a local school with full confidence that they will come out the other side with enough. The talk of the challenge faced in getting your children into the right school, back home in South Africa and in London, leaves me feeling very anxious. I like knowing that the standard of education here is stable and I can trust the system to give my children the grounding they need.
- Exploring Europe: Belgium is a small country so from where we live you can drive in any direction and you’d find yourself in a different country within 2 hours…the UK, France, Luxembourg, Germany, The Nederlands. Keep driving a ‘little’ further and you can explore Switzerland, Austria, Czech Replublic, Denmark.
- French & Dutch Pastries: need I say more? The ‘petit dejeuner’ (French breakfast) is a wonderous thing to build new friendships upon – actually I insist on meeting all new friends over fresh pastries, homemade jam, freshly brewed coffee and tangy fresh juices!
- Self-scan shopping: what a wondrous thing to be able to just scan your groceries as you go along your shop and pack them all yourself! Hand in the scanner, pay for your goods and you’re already to go in under two minutes!
- Housing: After living in London and Lausanne, it’s wonderful to be living in a stand alone house again with a wrap around garden. It’s great to experience space again, and while I’m on the topic, I have to mention basements. The Belgians know how to build houses…they have full floor plan basements, that are amazing for storing all your junk/bicycles/spare clothes in.
What do you miss about South Africa?
- Family and friends. In the quiet moments of any given day I wonder if all I’m gaining by being away from home is worth what I’m giving up. My relationship with my parents, and my in-laws, the simple moments of time with them that I’m losing out on. My children’s relationship with their grandparents, their love and wisdom. I miss my friends too. I miss my connection to my past and miss really knowing about who they’ve become.
- Friendliness: South Africans are friendly and they smile easily. They laugh at themselves, they acknowledge and greet you when you’re in each other’s space. You feel seen. Europe can be very lonely in its aloofness – strangers would never smile at you. You’ll be surprised how much a few random smiles a day can brighten your perspective, can make you feel present in this world.
- Relatively car free roads: cars, cars and more cars fill the roads of Europe. I miss South African road trips where there could be just three of you on the road: the car up ahead, you and the car behind you…with miles and miles stretching all around you…heading to places you can’t pre-discover via your Lonely Planet guide.
- Raw beauty: Europe has historical beauty: old town buildings, churches, castles. South Africa has such raw beauty: the ocean, the sunsets, the bush, the Midlands mountains, the canyons – it’s all so easily accessible and rather untouched by the advancement of man. I miss just looking at the dusty land, red sunsets, moons hanging over acacia trees, ocean spray on your face, warm berg winds. I miss Africa.
You can read all my other interviews with interesting moms here.