A Spanish-Malaysian-Chinese-Australian Family Walks Into a Bar: My Cambly Story

By: Tutor Rey

It’s no secret that Cambly tutors come from all walks of life, backgrounds, and cultures. It just so happens that I come from a bunch of them! 

As I’ve hinted at in the title, there has been a solid multicultural element my whole life, so perhaps I’ve been in training for Cambly from the get-go!

The Cambly Wire is all about sharing our unique stories as tutors to make us all feel more connected, despite not having a “traditional” coworking environment. 

I wanted to shine some light on my experience growing up in a multicultural environment, which ultimately inspired me to quit my job, pack up my family, and move across the world.

In my travels, Cambly found me at precisely the time I needed it. 

I hope my story allows us to open up a conversation about just how small our world is and how we shouldn’t wait to do the things we’ve always wanted.

Here’s My Story with a Spanish-Malaysian-Chinese-Australian Family

I grew up in Australia, sometimes walked barefoot to school, and tried hard not to be flattened by the big kids while playing Australian Rules Football. 

At home, we spoke Spanish, I loved European football and American basketball, and many of my friends were from non-white Australian backgrounds. Confusing? Yes, but fascinating!

As fate would have it, I married a girl whose ancestors left China centuries ago and settled in Malaysia and ended up in Australia with her family. 

So our kids are Australian, of Spanish and Malaysian Chinese descent. That’s one hell of a rich and diverse background!

My Life in The Land Down Under

Australia is a very multicultural country, with over 40% of Aussies being born overseas or having at least one foreign-born parent.

My home city, Perth, Australia.

I grew up in the west of the country, in a multicultural city called Perth.

My parents migrated to Australia as adults, and they never quite got their heads around the English language. 🧐

So my brother and I became pretty adept at translating for them.

It was excellent training in explaining concepts and ideas in a different language and bridging two or more cultures. However, it was sometimes just plain confusing!

As an adult, I worked as a graphic designer for many years and enjoyed collaborating with Indian, Swiss, English, Chinese, Lebanese, and even the odd Australian! It made for a fun time at work. 

Though we all communicated in English in the office, this time provided another fantastic window into different cultures and traditions.

And there’s nothing better to bring people from different cultures together than having a beer and complaining about the bosses!

Despite all of the fun times at work and Australia’s multiculturalism, I still felt that there was more to see and learn.

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain

Four years ago, my wife, much to my amazement, approved one of my stupid ideas; that of quitting our jobs and heading off to Spain with the hope of settling down somewhere new for a few years. 

It was a big dream, but like most of my plans, the details were quite sketchy. Perhaps not the best way to do things, especially as we had two little people with us.

One of the main reasons we wanted to live overseas was for our kids to learn a second language and what better way to do it than to move to a different country. 

Our home away from home in the Spanish coastal town, Ribadesella.

Thus we found ourselves in the north of Spain, in the very green, very wet, and very mountainous province of Asturias. 

Using a highly sophisticated technique that involves checking out Google images, spotting somewhere lovely and saying, “We should go there”, we found ourselves in the small picturesque seaside town of Ribadesella.

Home Sweet Home?

And so we settled into life in a small town with 5,000 people, no traffic lights, two town beaches, and confusingly, over ten hairdressers!

It still boggles my mind why this little place needs ten hairdressers. 🤷🏽‍♂️

Spain holds the European Union record for most bars per capita, and Ribadesella was no exception. So we set about trying to sample all the tapas and try all the coffees. We’re still going.

The kids were dumped in a Spanish school, and as kids usually do, they swam rather than sank. In a couple of months, they were speaking decent enough Spanish with their classmates. Now they are fully bilingual. 

We adults got busy settling in, and after a few months, it felt like home.

Spain is weird! Foreigners are weird! Come to think of it, everyone is weird!

We set about getting used to living in a foreign country, and the locals tried to get used to having us around. 

I quickly developed a reputation as the village idiot, as I insisted on wearing shorts no matter the weather. 

Well, it’s better to be remembered for something rather than nothing, I thought.

The locals calmed down once winter really set in, and I finally pulled out a pair of jeans! 👖

One thing we’ve learned while living in Spain is that the big meal of the day takes place at midday, anywhere between 2:30 to 3 pm! And it is a BIG meal. You end up so stuffed that a “siesta” (nap) is needed for a good hour afterwards. 

With so much food in your stomach, people don’t get around to eating again until the late evening. Needless to say, Spaniards are not usually morning people.

During our time here, whether staying local, traipsing around Spain, or driving or flying all over Europe, we’ve been struck by the fact that the world is a beautiful and rich tapestry of different cultures. 

Although there are countless differences in customs and traditions, there are many things that unite us; that we all have in common. And now, working on Cambly, I’m constantly reminded of this.

I never envisioned myself teaching English online while living in Spain

Once our savings began running out, I set about finding any form of paid work. We couldn’t live the good life forever! 

After a couple of false starts, my wife and I ended up teaching English to some of the locals. 

Though native speakers, we didn’t have a tremendous amount of experience teaching English formally, so we learned on the job, which is often the best sort of training!

Cambly made us realize that we still had so much to learn about the world

Soon after, we dived into the beautiful world of online language education and came across Cambly. 

My wife and I have been working with Cambly for 18 months, and we are inspired daily by the incredible people we meet from all walks of life.

With Cambly, we have learned all about the taste of camel’s milk, the horrendous traffic in Istanbul, the correct way to make matcha green tea, and have had the privilege of meeting a varied and excellent cast of characters. 

It’s been great!

A One in A Hundred Years Pandemic? No Way, it’ll Never Happen……

Here in Spain, COVID arrived with a vengeance. Before we knew it, we were all locked in our homes for a total of 7 weeks.

Cambly was our saving grace during such unpredictable times. 

Not only did working on Cambly provide my family with income, but it also gave us a unique view of foreign cultures and countries during a time when we could not travel.

We encouraged, motivated, debated, and kept ourselves going.

Here are a few of the many reasons why I am grateful for Cambly, especially during these trying times: 

  • Cambly allows us to help people improve their lives
  • We’ve developed friendships with students whom we now call friends
  • It enables us to grow and be challenged in our preconceived ideas about other cultures.

If you take anything away from my turbulent story, I hope it’s that even when you think you know everything about the world, there is always more to learn. 

Only when you break out of your comfort zone do you truly begin to open yourself up to new opportunities, lessons, and people. 

I’m looking forward to the next 18 months, hopefully without a pandemic, to spice things up!

About the Writer
Rey is a fun-loving and encouraging tutor who also speaks fluent Spanish and is currently living in a coastal town in the north of Spain. He loves reading, travelling, and talking about everything and anything. He enjoys seeing how other people live, loves running, and learning new skills such as juggling, and would like to learn French. Check out his Cambly profile here!

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