Category Archives: Italy

Flag facts

When we’re asked what flag is our country’s one, my children (and I) have a similar reaction like when someone asks us “where do you come from?”.

If you ask my three children which country or culture they feel more close, they would tell: Swiss, Dutch, German, Italian, British…

When my son was asked lately to indicate the flag of “his country” for a yearbook, he hesitated. It took him a few days to fill in the blank and he finally decided for the Tricolore, the Italian flag. In a restrictive way, our family has the deepest bonds with Italy (where I grew up and my son was born), Switzerland (where I’m born and my husband’s passport country) and Germany (my passport-country).

When fellow blogger Becky Mladic Morales from Multicultural Kid Blogs asked for contributions to her June MKB blogging carnival about the topic “flags”, I decided to write down a few informations about the three flags that are the most important for my family.

The Swiss flag

The Swiss flag is a red square with a bold, equilateral white cross in the center that does not extend to the edges of the flag. The dimentions of the cross are formally established since 1889: “The coat of arms of the federation is, within a red field, an upright white cross, whose [four] arms of equal length are one and a sixth times as long as they are wide.”

The origin of the flag is described in several medieval legends: it is first attested at the Battle of Laupen in 1339 where the troops of the Swiss Confederation used a white cross. The modern design of the white cross in a square red field was introduced only during the Napoleonic period. Its first use was in 1800 during the Hundred Days by general Niklaus Franz von Bachmann – he used it in his campaigns of 1800 and 1815 – and was introduced as official national flag in 1889 after having been introduced at the federal treaty of 1815.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-06-09 um 21.05.56

The shape of the cross in the Swiss flag is the base for the Red Cross symbol, a red cross on white background. It was “the original protection symbol declared at the first Geneva Convention, the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Armies in the Field or 1864. According to the ICRC the design was based on the Swiss flag by reversing of the colours of that flag, in order to honor Switzerland, where the first Geneva Convention was held, and its inventor and co-founder, the Swiss Henry Dunant.” An interesting fact: no historic record has been found of an association of the Red Cross emblem with the flag of Switzerland earlier than 1906.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-06-09 um 21.15.32

The German flag

When Germany’s feudal states tried to unite in 1848, the first flag of Germany was adopted, even if the union didn’t occure. The flag consisted of equal widths of black, red and gold. Those three colours appeared also on the uniforms of the German soldiers during the Napoleonic wars. When the states finally united in 1871, the colors were replaced with black, white, and red until 1919, after the defeat in World War I (during the Weimarer Republik), when the German republic was declared, the black, red, and gold flag returned.

After a little more than a decade later, the flag was retired in favor of the Nazi party flag, which also became the National flag until World War II, when the tricolor flag was welcomed again. During the time when East and West Germany were divided, East Germany added its coat of arms to the flag. Since 1989, the German flag returned like the original tricolor.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-06-09 um 18.17.59  Bildschirmfoto 2014-06-09 um 18.18.51

There are different theories about the colours black-red-yellow/gold:



The combination of the colours black, red and gold goes far back in the history of the German Empire. The coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation showed a black eagle on golden ground.
Its claws and the mouth were coloured in red since the 13th/14th century. Oldest witness for that is the ca. 1300 created “Heidelberg Song Manuscript Manesse“.

Already in the year 1184, on the Hoftag (court day) in Mainz, the colours black, red and gold should have been named as “German Colours”.

In the year 1212 Archbishop Siegfried III. of Epstein crowned the Staufer Frederic II. to the German King in the cathedral in Mainz. Here Frederic weared a coronation coat in the colours red, black and gold. That coat was in use for the most coronations of the German kings and emperors until the end of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation (1806). (Flaggenlexikon)

Codex Manesse; Meister des Codex Manesse (Grundstockmaler) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Some do explain the three colours by the uniforms of the corps called “Luetzow Hunters” (Lutzower Jäger): ” This military unit was recruited from non-prussian voluntaries, consist therefore in voluntary fighters from many German states, and count in this way for the vanguard of a national inspired people’s army” and which Karl-Theodor Koerner (1791–1813) described in his poem “Luetzow’s wild, audacious hunt”, where “their black uniform with the red cuffs and golden knobs with the black caps and the black – red – golden cockade thereupon” as very popular. (cfr. Flaggenlexikon)

The Italian flag

The flag of Italy is a tricolour (il Tricolore). It consists of three equally sized vertical pales of green, white and red. It’s current form is in use since the 19th of June 1946 and it was formally adopted on 1 January 1948.

The Cispadane Republic used this tricolour the first time in 1797. Napoleon’s army had just crossed Italy in 1796. – The colours red and white were the colours of the conquered flag of Milan and green was the colour of the uniform of the Milanese civic guard. A common interpretation is that the green represents the country’s plains and hills, the white the snow-capped Alps and thre red the blood split in the Wars of Italian Independence. A more religious interpretation referring the three theological vitues is that the green represents hope, the white represents faith and the red represents the charity.

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If you live in a multicultural family, which are the flags you teach your children about?

This post was written for the MKB Blog Carnival of June, 

the topic being “Flags”. You can find the list of the other posts 

on the website: after the 11th of June

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One year expatsincebirth

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Yes, today is my blogs’ first anniversary! It’s been exactly a year since I published my first post and I have to say that I really enjoyed writing every single post.

I’ve started blogging one year ago because I had written about many topics just “for me” and wanted to share them somewhere. To write a book about them seemed very appealing but then I realized that I covered so many different topics, that it would have been like a jack of all trades device. A friend gave me the idea to try to write a blog. But it was a few months later, when another friend told me the same, that I really started blogging. It was during our holiday in Switzerland that I choose the name and the main cathegories I would write about.

Selecting a name for my blog didn’t take that much time. My status as an expat-since-birth did pretty much sum up the topics. I did evaluate the different definitions of Third Culture Kids, Adult Third Culture Kids, Global Nomads etc.  in a post called “expat definition maze” but couldn’t find really a cathegory I could fit in, so I created my own one: expatsincebirth.

About multilingualism:

The knowledge I acquired during my studies about bilingualism and multilingualism brought me to write several posts about these topics in the cathegory being multilingual. As a multilingual person, my home are my languages and when I got children, I had to choose which language to speak to them in our multilingual family. With the  “secret language among (my) twins” I introduced the complex linguistic situation within our family. After pointing our the different definitions of OPOL I wrote about OPOL among multilingual siblings.

I find it pretty interesting that multilingual siblings don’t necessarily have the same language preference and that the initial language plan we usually make when our children are still babies, can change for several reasons when they get older.

There are many myths about bilingualism. I didn’t want to list them all up. There are already many posts and literature about this. But one in particular did intrigue me. It’s about multilinguals having multiple personalities. I’m still collecting answers about this in order to write a paper about it. – You’re very welcome to leave a comment on my post about this.

And then there is the myth about code switching being a sign of weakness. Well, it is not, on the contrary: Don’t worry if your child does code-switching!

Those who know me, know that I’m firmly convinced that reading is very important. And it is even more important for multilingual children to read in the different languages they grow up with. For those who don’t like to read, I wrote a post about how to make our children like poetry (and songs!).

Learning new languages for expats is not always that easy. But there are some tips that can help. I did point out the five more important ones that worked for me and added another post with tips how to encourage children to learn the local language.

There are many reasons to become multilingual at any stage. We don’t have to start at a young age to become multilingual. I shared my multilingual journey and pointed out that the most important thing is to be willing to learn new languages: “When there’s a will, there’s a way to become multilingual“.

About parenting:

In my posts about parenting I tried to give some practical advices. Some more will follow but up to now I gave some advices for when the children have the flu and I shared a first-aid experience I had this summer with one of my daughters, trying to remind other parents about refreshing their First Aid skills regularly.

In the colder period of the year Indoor activities for children become more important and role plays can be fun also for the older ones.

I’m not an over protective parent and like the  Love and Logic approach in parenting which consists also in doing lot of questioning in order to make the children take their own decisions from a very early stage. Also helping less helps our children more than we sometimes think, and it helps us too to realize how independent they can be (even as toddlers).

I’m very interested in e-safety for parents and children and the resources that are available about this topic. I published a few posts about  “How to reduce screen time for children” and about “mobile phones for children“.

The importance to spend one-on-one time with our children and how to manage if you have more than one child is very important in my daily life with my kids. “How to make children listen to us and how to listen to them” and “communicating is listening with empathy” are two posts where I point out the importance of effective communication with our children.

I got a bit annoyed by posts called “What not to say…” and decided to post some about “What to say”: “to parents of a child with a disability” and to a “mum of twins” because I prefer positive reinforcement.

I didn’t write a lot about twins yet, but I’m preparing a whole series about twins “from baby to teen”. The first post about this is called “Twins at school: once separated always separated?

When we spend holidays with our children we sometimes don’t really get to enjoy them as much as we would like. By giving them some chores we can easily get some holiday feeling too.

In order to lead a happier life, despite of all the movings, the changes and having many tasks around our kids, families and work, I wrote a post about the fact that our happiness depends on our selves: if we decide to be happy and take action we will succeed.

As I’m raising my children in a multicultural context and see many different parenting styles every day and I’m really fascinated in the different parenting styles across cultures I wanted to find some answers to the question “Do you think the cultures you’ve been in touch with did influence you in your parenting style?“. I’m still collecting feedbacks which I will publish in a paper. You’re very welcome to leave a comment on the post.

About expat life

I did publish several posts about expat life in general and some specific ones about the Netherlands and Switzerland. I will add some more about Germany and Italy, and maybe some other countries.

About ATCK’s raising TCK’s

Lately I got involved in several discussions about ATCK’s and TCK’s and joined several TCK groups online. I’m planning to write a small book about this and am preparing a questionnaire for ATCK’s (Adult Third Culture Kids) that I’ll soon publish on my blog.

I found out that TCK’s (and expats, global nomads etc.) often “tend to “start cutting bonds around 3 years into a friendship”” and that three is a magic number for TCK’s. Other topics in this cathegory are the good-byes, the ways “people call you“, the impossible question about “where is home” that TCK’s don’t like to be asked and “what kind of memories our kids will share with us“.

If you are interested to participate in my ATCK survey, please leave a message in the responses of my post “Are you an ATCK raising TCK’s” and I’ll get in touch with you.


The most satisfying aspect of running the blog in this first year has been interacting with bloggers and parents from around the world. I found many like minded persons and am having really interesting conversations with people around the globe that I’m really grateful to have found this bloggosphere.

 I’ve joined several groups on the internet and met some of them also in real life. The Multicultural Kid Blogs group on Facebook did even start a own blog that I strongly recommend. Then there are the fb groups Mum knows Mum, Third Culture Kids Netherlands, Expats in The Hague which meet regularly and Third Culture Kids Everywhere etc. that all give me very interesting ideas and inputs for posts.

I would like to thank all my followers for joining my blog and for leaving very interesting comments! The almost immediate response to my writings is amazing and all your feedbacks are very precious to me.

Van harte bedankt – Vielen herzlichen Dank – Con un grazie di cuore –

With a heartfelt thank you – Merci de tout coeur – Gracias de todo corazon!

La Befana vien di notte…

Three Befane with their brooms.

Three Befane with their brooms. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Italy today they celebrate la Befana. It is the Festa dell’Epifania: Epifania (Epiphany in English) is a Latin word with Greek origins and means either the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) or “manifestation (of the divinity).”

There are several legends about the Befana.

1) Following one christian legend, the Befana was approached by the biblical magi (Three Wise Men or Three Kings) a few days before the birth of Jesus. They came to her asking where the Son of God was, as they had seen his star in the sky. La Befana didn’t know, but gave them shelter for the night. When the three magi invited her to join them on the journey to find the baby Jesus, she declined, saying that she was too busy with her housework. Later, she had a change of heart, and tried to search out the astrologers and Jesus. That night she was not able to find them, so to this day, La Befana is searching for the little baby. – She leaves all the good children toys and candy (“caramelle”) or fruit, while the bad children get coal (“carbone”), onions or garlic.

2) There is also another Christian legend: La Befana had a child whom she greatly loved. This child died and her grief turned her mad. When she heard that Jesus was born, she set out to look for him. Eventually she managed to meet Jesus and gave him gifts to make him happy. According to this legend, Jesus was so delighted, that he gave La Befana a gift in return: she would be the mother of every child in Italy.

3) A popular tradition tells that the Befana doesn’t want to be seen. If you try to see her, she’ll give you a thump from her broomstick. Parents tell this to their children in order to make them stay in bed while they distribute candy (or coal!) and sweep the florr on Epiphany Eve.

4) Another Christian legend tells that the Befana starts at the time of the birth of baby Jesus. La Befana spends her days cleaning and sweeping (she always has a broom stick!). When the magi (Three Wise Men) asked her to help them to find baby Jesus, she sent them away because she was too busy cleaning (!). But then she sees a bright light in the sky and thinks this is the way to baby Jesus. She packed some baked goods and gifts for baby Jesus in her bag and took her broom to help the new mother clean and began her search for baby Jesus. She never found baby Jesus. For this reason, she is still searching for him and on the eve of the Epiphany, Befana comes to a house where there is a child and leaves a gift. Although she has been unsuccessful in her search, she still leaves gifts for good young children because the Christ Child can be found in all children.

There are several versions of the Befana rhyme, this is the one they use to tell in Rome:

La Befana vien di notte
Con le scarpe tutte rotte
Col vestito alla romana
Viva, Viva La Befana!

The English translation is:

The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long life to the Befana!

This is one the italian poet Giovanni Pascoli (see the full version here):

Viene, viene la Befana
Vien dai monti a notte fonda
Come è stanca! La circonda
Neve e gelo e tramontana!
Viene, viene la Befana

The English translation is:

Here comes, here comes the Befana
She comes from the mountains in the deep of the night
Look how tired she is! All wrapped up
In snow and frost and the north wind!
Here comes, here comes the Befana!


How to celebrate Christmas in a multicultural expat family?

If you are a multicultural expat family, deciding which tradition to follow can become a huge issue. What are the traditions you want to maintain? Will your parents, inlaws or extended family be involved in this decision?


©expatsincebirth; Christmas decorations

In our family we opted for a colorful mixture of traditions from Switzerland, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. I’m not going to reveal all the details about how we celebrate Christmas. Let’s say that I like the “Advendskranz” (advent wreath) – a very simple form of it – and the children love their Christmas tree. But we don’t decorate it on December the 24th, like in Germany, we already set it up on the first week of December (usually after Sinterklaas/Nikolaus celebrated on the 5th or 6th of December). And as we don’t want to watch how a tree dies in our living room, we opted for a fake tree several years ago. “Our” tree travels with us: wherever we celebrate Christmas, our tree comes with us. Our children decorate it with baubles they’ve made and decorations we collected over the years. We also have an italian presepe (manger) that our children set up every year at the beginning of December and each child has its own advent calendar.


© expatsincebirth; Cheese Fondue

Italiano: Panettone milanese

The same happens with food. At Christmas we often visit family in Switzerland or Germany and there we just adapt to the traditions of the host. Sometimes we have cheese-fondue, raclette etc.; we dropped the traditional German “Weihnachtsgans” (Christmas goose) because many members of our family are vegetarians. After the festive meal that changes every year – yes, we don’t have a traditional Christmas menu – we have German home baked Christmas cookies, Lebkuchen, the Dutch amandelstaaf, Italian panettone and pandoro.

But now it’s your turn: What are the things you consider important at Christmas? Which are the traditions you (managed to) maintain?