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  • Awatef Zaoui

Immigrant or Expat? When DBZ strikes hard...

I was born in France in 1980 to immigrant parents who reached the “land of a better future” when they were, respectively,seven and twenty-three years old. Education was not on the cards for them for too many reasons. Whilst lacking the quality of the academics they invested in quantity. Quantity of time. Long hours of serving. Cleaning. Driving. Caring. The “better life” was not necessarily better for them, however, they nourished the ambition to do everything they could for their children.

I remember, one day, my mother buying the entire collection of Victor Hugo from a door-to-door seller, which she paid for in three instalments. I was seven years old, and this is how I got introduced to Les Misérables. I couldn’t understand it, really, it was far too complex, but I read it from cover to cover and the nineteen other volumes too, honouring the efforts of my mother.

When you are an immigrant, you learn pretty fast the necessity to fit in. You don’t want to get noticed, unless it is for your excellence. It draws your traits and sketches your ambitions. School is your stage...

Thirty years later, the irony of life led me to be an immigrant again and I was about to experience a déjà vu with a twist at the end. So, when I had my first child, I wanted books. All kind of books. Books with endless sentences, long chapters and many pages. I would make sure he would read the crème de la crème. Comics were occasionally welcomed, as long as they had the benefits, like improving a second or third language.

You see, I am an educated woman who is making particular choices pertaining to the way I want to educate my children. After all, I read so many books about how to raise a girl, a boy, a mindful human, work on a growth mindset, a healthy body… You got it…

I realise now that I was lying to myself and I was still carrying the necessity to shine, whilst hiding behind the positive connotation of an "expat". I was still an immigrant, just like my parents. I told myself I wasn’t investing in quantity, I was investing in quality, that I wasn't working hard (compared to my parents) , that I was working smart (with all that education behind me).

In retrospect, at the core of the choices I was making was my family immigrant fears. The “fit in or shine” modus operandi. Thus is the irony of life - we can’t run away from who we are.

This realisation violently slapped me when my eldest brought a Manga home. A manga. Comic books have a lot more sentences than Manga. This was not the first time that life was teaching me a lesson through my kids… However, this one was particularly memorable. My son sensed my discomfort. He tried his best to fix something he didn’t cause. He highlighted the amazing qualities of Manga, just like the door-to-door salesman: the graphics are impressive, the Japanese culture is so fascinating, the ethics and morality of DBZ is so inspiring…. Poor boy. The guilt ate me alive.

I had to stop the haemorrhage somehow and it had to be as huge as the pain inflicted on my son: I got the whole collection, traded Shakespeare for Dragon Ball Z, and read with him a few Kamehameha adventures. This was not enough (for me) so I offered to redesign his room. Animates is the theme and maman is about to excel! His facial expression was the gift I needed.

Follow me on my attempt to temper my guilt, address my fears and, eventually, create the ultimate Animates theme room for my Superhero.

Step 1: Inspiration

DBZ has recently joined the family: Shōnen manga, action figures, graphics and quotes are the new universe of my 10 year old. In the anime sphere, DBZ is someone I met 30 years ago when my little brother was all about “Kamehameha”. It was a cartoon at that timeI felt nostalgic, as I watched my son play the games my brother used to play.

Do your kids play the games you used to play when you were a child yourself?

Here are a few inspirations to start :

Step 2: Organisation

Actions figures are fragile. What an irony: they do have all those superpowers and still fail to resist an attack from my 2,5 year old’s T-rex. They also turned out to be quite pricey, especially if you have a collector. So, we needed to think of a sustainable system to keep them always accessible, safe when not being played with. If it can meet the adults’ aesthetic criteria, then it’s an absolute hit!

Do you have a functional and aesthetical storage system for your kids “high maintenance” toys?

Here are a few options.

Step 3: Get some pieces to finalize the Japanese Animates room

As details are the zest of Design, here is a selection of the three items “In My Cart”. I usually enjoy buying local, supporting small businesses, whenever possible. If it is a piece that can evolve with us, it is an added bonus.

I would love to share few gems:

  • Futon bed from Classic Furniture A minimalist Japanese Futon bed to grow with your LO. This piece of furniture will definitely take you to Japan, nation of Naruto, DBZ and more… The futon bed is customisable offering 10 different wood effects. Price is friendly, I add it to my cart!

  • Tatami Organic Cotton Floor Mat Gold from Smallable This 100% Organic cotton grown without pesticides can also be used as a small cover, or a play mat. Traditionally dyed, The products are handcrafted and you have up to 6 tinted options. Versatile, organic, just fab! I add it to my cart too.

  • The Dragon Ball Crystal Lamp from Little Things. The power of Shenron lights up your living room thanks to this Dragon Ball lamp! Place the ball on its base, set up the lamp intensity and enjoy a Dragon Ball mood at home whenever you want! Absolutely a must for our DBZ fan, I add it to my cart.

Et voila, I hope you enjoy this journey into the world of anime. There are so many aspects of our own childhood that get triggered by our own children. We do make mistakes. Let them be led by our love, rather than our fears. That is what this theme has taught me.

Creating an environment that suits your needs, offers serenity and room for possibilities are the guidelines that I like to apply when designing my clients’ projects.

I am always grateful to be part of your journey.

Thank you for your trust

1 Comment

SAN Furniture
SAN Furniture
Sep 03, 2023

I completely agree with your point about language being a key factor in how people label us as immigrants or expats. It's amazing how a simple word choice can shape our perceptions.

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