Bonjour Georges is one of our favorite Instagram accounts going. The person behind it is Cristina, a Brussels-based young mother of 3 adorable kids, with a 4th on the way. She certainly has a way with pictures and words; always honest, often funny, sometimes bittersweet. Following her adventures (which can be as simple as putting the kids in bath) and keeping up with Alexandre (6), Louis (5) and Colette (2) is fun and frequently brings a smile to our faces.
You’re a young mother of 3 (soon to be 4) kids and your roots are 50% Italian and 50% Finnish. What else do we need to know about Cristina? Where did you grow up? what did you study and what does your professional career look like ?
I was Born in Helsinki where I only spent a couple of weeks with my mum and grandparents because my dad was travelling a lot for work at the time. Then we spent a couple of years in Milan, where my other grandparents live although they are from Tuscany. We arrived in Brussels when I was four and I've been in love with this city - that I consider home - since then. I went to the European school of Uccle, which was wonderful. Being brought up in such a mixture of cultures created a strong sense of European citizenship in me, I’m European more than anything else. Then I studied at ICHEC for five years and during my 2 first pregnancies I completed a second master at Solvay Business School. I met my husband when I was 18 and we soon moved in together, almost 13 years ago (ouch :-)). I had a couple of years at home with the boys and then I started to work with my husband who owns BON, a gourmet snacking chain based in Brussels. It was never the plan to work together - I’ll admit that we were a bit scared at first - but it works quite well. My first ambition in life is to take care of my family and working with my husband allows me to set the kids as an absolute priority. I love going to work, we’re a small company but with a super cool team at the office and I love the absolute flexibility I have. It's invaluable!
Those roots come up regularly in your posts and comments, can you explain what makes them so important to you? Do you raise your children in different languages or are there other ways that you try to make them conscious of their heritage?
I'm totally in love with Finland and its purity, its connection to nature. People are so nice that you almost can't believe it sometimes. The architecture, the civic sense, the mentality (we should take an example for schools and work, seriously!) and living in an atmosphere of trust is priceless, as basic as it may sound. I still see Finland with the eyes of a child, everything is just magic. I still love going to the fields at night when we are there to observe moose living their nightlife or just listening to silence. I get so emotional when I go fishing with my kids there, just like I did with my dad. It's my magic place, I just can't explain it.
And then there is Italy... Come on, who doesn't love Italy? All the hugging and kissing, the food, the cultural heritage, the beauty, the loud talking, the love of children, my nonna, being best friends with the baker, the butcher and the bookseller after 2 visits. Being an expat my whole life, both of those countries were very important to me because all my roots were there.
I speak Italian with my dad and brother and Finnish with my mother 100% of the time. Unfortunately, I speak neither of these languages to the kids. I thought teaching them Finnish would be more strategic because it's SOOOO difficult to learn when you're an adult. Fred has been stuck on page 4 of his Assimil book (French company that offers language courses - ed.) for the last 12 years haha. But then that didn't turn out so well, so I switched to French. Since this summer I'm trying to catch up with Italian, they even have lessons weekly, hope we can still get somewhere.
I'm a real mamma when talking about pasta and they are forced to support Finland whenever my beautiful country is in any type of competition. Finnish passports and all 3 nationalities, of course :-)
How did the idea of an Instagram covering your daily life with your kids come to mind? You’re very open and honest, you do not try to paint the perfect picture, which I’m sure your followers appreciate. Was this a conscious decision?
I just love sharing. I'm a crazy researcher, so I spend entire nights checking new brands, looking for cool places for the next holidays and looking for cool spots and activities, it may as well benefit others is what I figured.
I've never taken this too seriously, there’s no strategy or goal. It's just whatever I want, whenever I want to. I pick what I like, don't post for 2 weeks if I don't feel like doing it and post 20 photos in 2 hours if I just want to keep all these images on my feed. I really don't want this to become an obligation or a job, I already love my other 2 jobs. I don’t need people to like me (although it’s nice when they do), I just like to share good ideas and plans for those that like finding some.
We’re a normal family, with struggles and happy moments like everyone and I think it would be horrible to just show the bright shining side. Of course, I myself don’t like people complaining all day long so I try not to do so. We don't eat only organic food and my house is not always neat, my children are sometimes unbearable and it’s OK to say so. So, this isn’t conscious in the strategic sense of the word, it's just reality.
Where do you draw the line as to what you want and don’t want to share with the world? As your sons and daughter(s) grow older, how do you think they will look at playing a central role in all of this?
My children don't even know what Instagram is and I love it that way. We never share our last name and other precise information regarding where we live, the kids' school etc.
I personally don't think there’s anything harmful in this, I just see it as cool family moments captured in pictures. But I've had this discussion with so many people, whom often see it very differently. I accept their views and rethink this all the time because maybe one day I will change my mind, or maybe not. I try not to reveal their personality too much, they must have their own secret garden. When they will be older, we’ll definitely talk about it and see how they feel. If they would rather not be part of it, they won’t.
Being style-conscious and raising a bunch of children can be quite tasking. What do you look for when you’re buying clothes for your children? What do they themselves prefer wearing and is it easy to find the middle ground?
My boys want what everybody else (in their class) has. I want what everybody else doesn't have. They’ll go for comfortable (soft, easy to put on), I’ll go for pretty. They’re into bright shiny colors (lots!) and writings. I’m into natural colors, with only very small details.
But we have to work it out together and guess what? I let them choose. It's their thing, not mine. Obviously, I buy everything they have, but I try to imagine their pleasure more than anything else before choosing something. They absolutely love hoodies for example, so I don't buy anything else anymore (because it’s a big waste of money anyway haha).
With Colette it’s still easy now because she wears whatever I hand her, and then I will have another little baby girl who will do the same for a couple of years. I will probably be a little frustrated when these 4 little people won't let me decide anything at all, but I still have a couple of years ahead of me and then I’ll just focus on my own clothes ;-)
Having lived near (or in) Brussels for a large part of your life, at what point did you get to know Bellerose? How did you see the brand evolve through the years and what does the brand personify in your eyes?
Bellerose was my absolute favorite brand when I was a teenager! The Uccle store was only a few minutes from my house and still remember all my favorite hoodies from that time (we bought much less also). Bellerose is one of the only brands I prefer buying in-store rather than online, because of the smell inside, the architectural details and its constant evolution yet everlasting style. It’s just an experience. Today it’s our family shop. My husband dresses 95% in Bellerose and it’s the boys’ favorite brand. Easy to wear, cool and not attached “fashion trends”. I myself buy all my sneakers at Bellerose and usually go a little crazy for all the coats and jackets. I love the styles they have for little girls. Colette is still a little young, but I can’t wait (yes HUGE fan haha).
Thank you so much for your time Cristina! Just a couple of quick ones to wrap things up:
Favorite places to go with the kids? My absolute favorite place is in our beautiful garden with all of my friends and their kids and then saying out loud how much we love being together and how lucky we are. Otherwise I like to be surrounded by nature, long walks in the forest with the kids biking. We like a huge waffle at Chalet Robinson once in a while, a brunch at Garage à Manger in Ixelles and we love lunch at Cru in Overijse.
Favorite places to go without the kids? I love the brunch club by BRUSSELS Kitchen (check the dates on their website, you have to book in advance), Le 203, Bistrot Madame, Sanzaru (this pregnancy I’m obsessed with ceviches, so I could live there). Le Selecto remains one of my favorite restaurants and for a Monday evening La Gazetta of course.
Being a young mother is the best because… I think I was less stressed. I had no references so I could do whatever I wanted. No one compared haha. Lots and lots of energy, closer memories. Young grandparents, lots of friends with no kids helping out and spoiling you.
It’s OK to be tired because… life is short so I would rather live it fully and be tired than have regrets. But we expect too much from ourselves. Sometimes it’s OK to skip a bath for the kids, give them comfort food from time to time and to not follow all the rules we set for ourselves.
Pictures by Victoria Nossent
Words by Bjorn Dossche