My name is Camilla Quintana. A love for different cultures, languages, and traveling has always defined me and motivated me to live, work and study (International Relations) in several countries. My most recent move has been to Bilbao/Spain where I currently live with my Spanish husband and 2 multicultural, multilingual boys. In my free time, I tend to be absorbed by literature related to personal growth, but I also love music, cooking, crafts and spending quality time with my family and friends.
Where are you originally from and where do you currently live?
I’m originally from Vienna/ Austria and grew up in a multicultural family, being the granddaughter of an Austrian diplomat and a Spaniard on one side, and an Italian and Viennese on the other. Following my family’s pattern, I also got married to a foreigner and have moved around in a 3-year rhythm ever since I finished high school. I’m currently living in Bilbao / Spain with my husband and 2 boys.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your career path?
I studied International Relations and European Studies in the UK, followed by an MBA in Spain. After graduating I worked for an international congress organizer for many years before enrolling at a Life Coaching Institute which absolutely changed my life. Not only because it’s become my greatest passion to grow and to help others to drastically improve the quality of their lives; but also because being a Life Coach allows me to take my practice to the different destinations we move to and work online.
My passion for different cultures, languages, and traveling has surely defined me and my interests a great deal: in my 20s I recorded a self-written Salsa album; I love cooking recipes I’ve picked up in different countries and by friends of different nationalities. I have a fable for Korean skincare and dramas. I’m also an avid reader and read one book a week, mainly related to my field. Most importantly, I enjoy spending quality time with my friends and family.
What have been some of your biggest challenges and hurdles as an expat in Spain? What about the other countries you lived in before Spain?
I’ve lived in Madrid twice, once as a single student and once as a new wife and mom. The experiences were completely different for me: the first time I was there by my own choice, with a lot of freedom and enjoying this incredibly vibrant city.
The second time, I had followed my husband’s career to his hometown and felt pressured by the dominant culture of his surroundings. This is what I consider one major difference between Spain and Austria for example, where people generally have a more individualist approach to lifestyle or parenting and where personal space and boundaries are more respected. On the upside, thanks to my husband having grown up in Madrid, I could easily meet people and made some amazing, long-lasting friendships.
Now that we live in the Basque Country – an independent region in the North of Spain with its own cultural identity and language – we identify much more as expats and are on “neutral ground”. This has pros and cons. On the one hand, we can make choices quite freely without feeling pressured to adapt to a certain way of doing things; on the other hand, we’re starting from scratch, without a network of friends or support.
When I lived in England, my biggest hurdle was making meaningful friendships with people I could count on; many of my friends were internationals who were there for a period of time only and while I was always surrounded by people I often felt lonely and craving deeper connections.
We spent a short period of time in Munich where we mainly struggled with house-hunting, contracts and logistics.
And talking of hurdles: I’m also very familiar with the difficulties of repatriation, as in two occasions, in between my stays abroad, I came back to Vienna for a few years. It’s a weird situation because you’ve changed, others have moved on with their lives and yet everyone expects things to be like they used to be…
What is one thing you love about Spain?
The friendliness of the people. Even random people on the street, in restaurants or stores, will generally treat you in such a warm and forthcoming manner… they’re also incredibly nice to kids, even whiney or screaming ones 😉
What advice do you have for other expat moms who are bringing up multicultural or multilingual children?
To create a strong and yet open and inclusive family culture. I personally believe that kids benefit from having strong roots in order to be able to fly and to fully experience other influences. Now, what does it mean ‘to have strong roots’ for a multicultural or third culture child?
I’d say a healthy connection to their immediate family members and to all of their cultural heritage, including their parents’ countries as well as the ones they’ve lived in. Knowing them, valuing them, and having “inside experiences”, for instance by traveling there frequently, by maintaining relationships with family members or friends there, by incorporating elements of these places into your family culture because each place shapes you and your children in many different ways.
Some fun ways to continuously honor those influences are to have national theme nights, where you pick one of your countries of influence and cook traditional dishes, decorate, speak the language or tell stories from your time there.
You can create mixed playlists where each family member can add the songs they loved the most or that remind them of the different places your family has lived in.
And I love to invent “multicultural bedtime stories” for my kids (in our case, about an Austrian garbage man who moves to Bilbao but has troubles finding his way around). Needless to say, these stories should be light and amusing, making your kids feel easier about culture shock and adaptation, but never judgmental or hostile towards a country.
The point is: when you accept and honor all of the cultural influences that shape your kids (they might be different from the ones that shaped you!), you show them that you accept and honor them and teach them to do the same for themselves and others.
Tell us about your business and how you can support our network?
I run an international and multilingual coaching business, dedicated to empowering women who live abroad (or repatriate after having lived abroad) to create a truly fulfilled and meaningful life. I do that by two means:
- By developing their “inner happy place” – a term I coined to describe a state in which you feel whole, connected and at home within yourself. In this state of mind, we become more detached from the things that ultimately cause us pain, more intentional, more authentic and infinitely more content! It means growing conscious and investing in the relationship to ourselves in order to show up better in our other relationships and create much stronger bonds to our loved ones.
- With my signature 4-Pillar Approach. This is the practical approach to complement the one above. Because, while committing to your personal growth is vital, it is not enough to be happy and fulfilled abroad. The 4 Pillars are: Radical Self-Love & Acceptance, Resilience & Resourcefulness, Relationships & Family Life and Meaning & Purpose. I work with my clients on improving all of those pillars and the results are not only remarkable and measurable but more importantly sustainable!
What is the one piece of advice you would like to share with other entrepreneurial women across the globe?
That many things seem impossible until someone does them. As multicultural entrepreneurs, we’re able to look at the world through differently tainted lenses, to compare the markets and people of different countries and be inspired by them…. Amazing business ideas are born that way, as well as unique, blended approaches to doing business. Don’t let anyone discourage you and tell you “this can’t be done” or “this is not how we do it here” – find a way, your way, to make it happen!
Learn more about Camilla’s business here: www.camillaquintana.com
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