How Travelling and Working Abroad has Changed my Parenting

Contributed by Mieu Phan Coaching, 22 August, 2019

Having grown up in Canada with refugee parents from Cambodia, I didn't really think much about the rest of the world. Sure, I knew Cambodia had a dark past but I thought much of the world lived like Canadians. I assumed everyone had access to affordable health care, drove cars, lived in homes with running water and electricity, were treated equally, had access to good schools, and had unlimited possibilities. Essentially, I thought the citizens of the world had whatever they needed. Luckily, I was enamored by the movie "Cleopatra and Mark Anthony". Elizabeth Taylor's regal performance combined with her character's charm and intelligence sparked my interest to explore Egypt. My inner girl love fantasy sparked my curiosity to explore the world.

The first profound experience I had that changed the way I saw the world came from when I moved to Bermuda. I started my job in Toronto, Canada for 3 months until my work visa came through. On a day in and day out basis, I interacted with Canadian and American counterparts in Bermuda. Within a few weeks of living in my own apartment in Bermuda, I saw another side of life I didn't encounter before. I saw Bermudians as entitled, angry, rude, and just unpleasant people to be around. I despised Bermudians until I talked to a fellow Canadian. Her first response was that I was a guest in this country. She then proceeded to explain Bermuda's dark history. I came away from our conversation with an insight that segregation ended in the late 70's. When the majority Black population demanded better wages, the white elites hired Portuguese workers. For this reason, as a person from an elite class, I am supposed to greet a server first and walk away with a "Thank You." For the first time in my life, I came face-to-face with racism. The person who served me behind the deli-counter almost daily just wanted me to see and acknowledge her. Even though segregation ended 20 years ago, she didn't have a chance to attend a proper school before she started raising her children.

Front St. in Hamilton Parish boasts fine-dining (with delicious assortment of seafood) and luxury items (such as Waterford Crystal, Tag Heuer watches, and diamonds).

My second profound educational experience was in Texas, USA. As I lunched with my white American co-worker, I heard him say "Those Mexicans are slow workers, and can only clear tables." Sure enough, all the employees who cleared the tables were Mexicans and the waiters were white. The Mexicans were not seen and not heard.

My third profound experience was in India. One day in particular, I was moping around our apartment feeling lonely and frustrated about the culture shock. As I looked out our balcony, I noticed two ladies having lunch as they sat on the dirty sidewalk. These ladies probably only gave themselves a 30 minutes break with a minuscule amount of rice and lentil to eat. What captivated me about these ladies was their demeanor. They were engrossed in their conversation and laugh as life-long friends. One lady carted vegetables and the other carted fruits. At noon everyday, these ladies where stationed across the street from our apartment. From all the occasioned that I bought from these ladies, they appeared at peace and happy to help.

My fourth profound experience also was in India. The first time I saw a person with deformities from leprosy, I was so shocked that I made myself un-see the person. One day as I walked to a temple, a man with leprosy reached out his hand to me. He was close enough that he could certainly grab my arm if he wanted to. It was at this moment when I refused to un-see again. During the whole time I was in the temple, I talked myself into donating. I repeated myself the mantra "You can do it. If you get it, there is a cure." I had become extremely uncomfortable in witnessing someone trapped in his own skin.

My fifth profound experience was when I vacationed in Thailand with my young family. I noticed that we were getting these stares of bewilderment. As I started to look more closely to my surroundings, I noticed many beautiful Thai women with middle-aged white men. On one occasion, our family came across six young ladies sitting on stairs in beautiful clothes. They were prostitutes. I could have easily become friends with these ladies because they were kind, warm and gentle. I assumed by touching our children, it gave them hope that they could marry well, have children, and have a bright future.

From the lady behind the deli-counter in Bermuda, I learned to not judge. From the Mexican restaurant workers in Texas, I learned perseverance. From the vegetable and fruit ladies in India, I learned that happiness is a choice. From the man with leprosy, I learned courage. From the prostitutes in Thailand, I learned to dream.

In turn, I teach my children to not judge, to persevere, to be happy, to have courage and to dream. When I hear the familiar kid complaint, "It is not fair!!" I say, "You are right, life is not fair. You have it better than most!" As I write this article, Tony Robbins comes to mind. He said "What is our worse nightmare in America is someone else's dream." The majority of the world live on less than $2 a day.

It is from these experiences that I have become a life coach to help expats, immigrants and international managers to adjust to new cultures. As a citizen of the world, I am passionate in bringing compassion because deep-down we all want to feel safe, valued, and grow. I can be reached at or +1 774-278-1987 on WhatsApp.

Tags: Lifestyle | Expats | Lifestyle |



Articles Archive