Guest Interview, Part 2: Séverine Dehon

Guest Interview, Part 2: Séverine Dehon

As promised last week, here is the second part of my interview with Belgian expat, Séverine Dehon. Can’t wait for you to get to the end to learn about her upcoming project! Keep your eyes out for her car too!

Question: What or who inspired you to start writing?

There are two bloggers that have a strong influence on me: Isabelle and Zhou.

My friend, Isabelle, has a blog called www.FromSide2Side.com. She is an amazing friend. Her fridge is always full of delicious cheese and she always has good bread (survival tip for Belgians in the U.S. – befriend a French citizen and eat their food. LOL!). She shared with me her writing perspective among other things (including her food, poor Isabelle) and encouraged me to start my own blog. However, I always felt that her writing was so spot on and fair that nothing needed to be added. (She writes in French so, unfortunately, Americans don’t have access to her perspective unless they speak French.) I would often tell her, “I was going to write about that, but you just did it.” She insisted, and still insists, that I have my own voice and what I have to say is worth being said. Finally, 6 months ago, homesickness and rejection pushed me to launch my own blog, www.SeverineInKC.com. Isabelle still encourages me and teaches me about blogging, web design, everything. I think you could say she is my mentor.

Another writer that I correspond a lot with is an American Expat in China, and his blog is excellent. His writing name is Zhou (since he blogs from China, he needs to be a little more cautious then us). His blog site is http://cupofzhou.iblog.com.

Zhou and I talk a lot about blogging ideas and culture shock. He is very supportive. If you think that moving to the U.S. from Europe causes culture shock, try an American moving to China! Zhou teaches me that even culture shock is relative.

Question: What inspired you to write this blog/book?

I was extremely homesick and felt too European to be comfortable in the U.S. yet too American to be comfortable in Europe. I was trying to share my profound discomfort with those around me and felt misunderstood. It was too easy for me to be offended by the American ways, and I wanted to take a more proactive approach, exposing myself for who I am and to take full ownership of my experiences The most amazing things come from the darkest nights.

I also wanted to show the real deal: what it means to be an immigrant–the good, the bad, and everything in between. Through my blog, I do not want to make people dream, I want to educate them about what it really means to live abroad. I talk a lot about nomadic identity and long-term immigration challenges. I try to do it with humor and pragmatism.

While at first my target audience was Americans, writing in English has enabled me to reach out to the Belgian Community in the U.S. Belgians speak Dutch, French and/or German; English gives me a more universal outreach. I guess it works too since the American Expat community is joining in. I would love people in the Midwest to join!

Question: Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I just quit my regular job so I plan to write an article a day. However, my passion lies more with photography than writing. I prefer the language of pictures over the language of words. Even better is using photography to talk about cross-cultural issues! I’m giving myself a year to try to make a living out of these two passions, writing and photography.

Question: Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next work?

I am beginning a documentary about the nomadic identity. I’m going to tour the U.S. for a year and interview my fellow Belgians about how they feel about the U.S. and Belgium now. The project is called “Sign my Car.” Each time a Belgian meets me, they can sign my car (as you can see, it is a very old Toyota with 230K miles on it). I already have a few signatures on my car! I hope to start another blog about the photos that I take and the people I meet. It will probably end up being called SignMyCar. We will see in a year where I am! I need to have faith that the dots will connect along the way!

Question: Where can someone find more information about your writing?

You can visit my blog at www.SeverineInKC.com. Once there, you will find two types of articles: articles written by me about delicate issues regarding living abroad (the price tag of being here, the sacrifices in international relationships, the changes of identity) and cultural interviews (I interview my fellow Belgians on their experiences because there is nothing more dangerous than a one-sided story).

My writing is pretty serious; you won’t find a guide for the best restaurants in Kansas City on my blog. My friends have confessed my writing touches subjects that are so serious they prefer reading Isabelle’s blog, at least for their daily feed, because she talks about daily life and shares her extensive travels. They read my blog when they feel they need a sociological or psychiatric study. LOL! Oh well, someone has to do the dirty work and talk about the taboos in a respectful manner. As a writer, I think it is hard to find one style that fits us entirely because we are more than one thing.

Photo by Séverine Dehon