Tell us about yourself
I’m Domitilla de Laporte-Biebuyck and a mum to 4 children. We’ve been expats since they were born (they’re now aged between 8 and 16). I’m an online speech therapist for French-speaking patients and multilingual expats.
Where do you live?
We’ve been expats several times (in particular, spending 9 years in Asia in Tokyo then Singapore) and are currently in East Germany in the pretty town of Dresden (between Berlin and Prague).
How did you come to be here?
I came here along with my family to follow my husband who was basically transferred over here.
Had you lived abroad before? If so, in which countries?
Yes. I’ve realised that I’ve been an expat since childhood. I was born in Belgium but grew up in France. After studying and getting married, we moved frequently for my husband’s work:
From 2000 to 2002, I lived in London (England).
Then from 2002 to 2007 in Rousses (Jura, France).
Then from 2007 to 2010 in Tokyo (Japan).
After this from 2010 to 2016, in Singapore,
And now I’ve been in Germany for 2 years.
How long have you been living here?
We came to Dresden nearly 2 years ago as a family. Thanks to the International School (which is in English), the children didn’t have too much trouble settling in. On the other hand, as I don’t speak German, it took me a lot longer to find my feet!
You’ve embarked on a project: Where did you get the idea from? Why did you choose a theme like this?
The idea came to me fairly quickly and easily: I wanted to follow a career as a speech therapist but using different tools! Some parents wanted me to offer remote support and I have them to thank for this…as they gave me the starting impetus to create a legal structure and an online office where I can meet them. On this note, the technology I use really works for the patient: communicating through video-conferencing is really effective!
I count myself lucky to have such lovely meetings! Children who grow up abroad and/or are multilingual need support by specialist people. A child who only speaks one language can’t be taught in the same way as one who’s multilingual.
Dr David Pollock and Dr Ruth Van Reken. They offer a precise and complete definition of
children from the Third Culture: “A child from the Third Culture is someone who spends a
significant number of years growing up in a different culture to that of their parents. They
develop a relationship with each culture and, to a certain extent, identify with both,
without necessarily feeling that they inherently belong to either. Even if different elements
of each culture become part of their experience and influence their system of values and
way of life, their feeling of belonging is with those who’ve had a similar experience”
Tell us how you organise your activities around your personal life?
Like many mums who work, I sometimes feel like I’m going flat out … but this keeps you young, doesn’t it? Joking apart, I’m lucky in that I have a very large house with an office attached. So, my working space is separate from my living space and my children understand the different times to my day; I’m grateful that they understand. Thanks to a time difference (I see a lot of patients in Asia, which means I work in the mornings and early afternoons), I don’t have many meetings in the evenings so I can spend time with my children.
So, you’re a very busy “Mompreneur”?
Yes, because I wear my speech therapist hat (managing appointments and consultations, typing up summary reports, liaising with families, accountability etc.), as well as my mum hat (driving to school, school meetings, medical appointments,
shopping, cooking, tidying, washing up and other joys) Gradually, on the job, I’ve learned to be organised … sometimes losing time and sometimes gaining it! I lead a fast-paced life but I think I like that!
Tell us about a sudden inspirational moment of happiness?
There are many! With time (and possibly getting through the quarantine period?) I’ve realised that I “dig” the simple moments more and more; drinking coffee (even during a video call) with someone who’s nice, seeing a ray of sunshine on my journey, time in the kitchen or garden, going for a sauna (after all, we’re in Germany!) and family holidays!
You spend a lot of time looking after your children. Can you share one of your home-made recipes with us?
It has to be waffles for tea!!! Our friends in Singapore renamed our house: WAFFLES PLACE … everyone enjoys them, both adults and children. You only need flour, butter, eggs, milk and a little yeast or beer and hops. That’s all!! (using a proper hot waffles pan)
… Some nice toppings don’t go amiss!
In addition to being a “Mompreneur”, what sort of cultural things do you enjoy right now on your own or with your family?
I like going to local exhibitions near me: painting/sculpture/theatre. I potentially enjoy everything and am rarely disappointed! I like meeting people who are passionate about what they do in any area! Passion is contagious and gives you a buzz!
Last week, I helped out at a dance and body movement performance with costumes for children…it took place in a wonderful castle on the banks of the Elbe…I didn’t understand much of what was going on but I really enjoyed the lovely music and seeing the joy on my children’s faces as they had fun with their friends.
Time for a bit of culture: Can you quote one of your favourite books or paintings?
In terms of paintings… I love landscapes or abstract paintings with many vibrant colours that blend. I realise that at home, my walls always have to tell a story: either I know the artist, designer or photographer personally or I bought the work of art somewhere that meant something to me (for charity, a photo montage of family or friends, something I bought on holiday).
My favourite books are those that can put what I’m thinking or what I see into precise words … for example: Cecile Gylbert’s “Expatriate Children” but there are many more! I’m starting to read more and more books in English on pedagogy/multilingualism/being an expat, because I think the English have a broad and interesting take on these subjects.
Can you recommend a current cultural event in your city or area?
Elbhangfest; The Elbe Festival in early summer. People are relaxed, there’s music everywhere, the restaurant terraces are open and there’s a family/festive atmosphere.
Can you summarise the way of life in the country where you now live as an expat?
I’d say that life in Saxony is good because it’s a place where things are well organised (public transport, hospitals, etc.), with bike paths everywhere and many green spaces …
it's perfect for families.