Monday, 23 February 2015

Ten Ways to Test if Expat Life is the Life for You

Maybe not everyone is cut out for expat life. Want to know if life abroad is for you? Want to try before you fly? Test the waters before you cross them? Here are ten ways to judge if you can hack expat life before you actually become an expat.

1. Put Yourself in Isolation

Spend one month in almost complete physical isolation from your family and friends. In fact, if you want to go for the ultimate test, isolate yourself from anyone who speaks your language. You may Skype, Facebook, text or call loved ones but absolutely no visits in person. This is how it feels when you first move abroad. Feeling lonely?

2. Think Back to Toddler Days

Think back to when you were two years old. (This one is easier to do if you are a parent.) Can you remember your capacity for language back then? Revert to that level of communication for a week. You can use your hands, mime your wishes and use two word sentences to express yourself in public with other real live human beings. The only proper verbal conversation you may have is with your family via the phone or Skype (see 1). This is how it is to live in a country where you do not speak the language, and they don't speak yours. Frustrated yet?

3. Gobbledygook Shopping 

Let's move on to shopping. Imagine going to your local supermarket one day and all the words on all the food items have been turned into gobbledygook. You do not understand a single word on any of the products and so have to do your grocery shopping entirely based pictures on the labels and how the product looks. Fruit and vegetables are probably easy, but what meat are you buying? What ingredients are actually in that tin? Still managing to put healthy, delicious meals together every night?

4. Sorry Sir, We Don't do Your Size

Imagine going to your local shoe shop to be told they don't make adult shoes in your size. Your feet are too small by local standards - perhaps you could try the children's section? Now head to a clothes shop and try on a pair of trousers. The leg is so long you could actually get one and a half of your own leg in one trouser length. But you have to buy them because that's the best fit you're going to get. You can pay a tailor to fix them for you later right?

5. Eating Goodness Knows What Out

Go to a restaurant and ask for the menu. The entire list is incomprehensible to you. The waiter doesn't understand what you are saying (see number 2), has no other menu for you and you are clueless what he means when he waves his hands around at you. You must choose something to eat. Now. Had a good meal?

6. A Glass of Froth

Go to a bar and order a glass of your favourite beer. Oh wait, they don't have the beer you usually drink. Order any beer you think you may be able to drink. Point to the beer tap and mime drinking to order your beverage (see number 2). The bartender presents you with a small glass of what, when all is said and done, is mainly froth. Drink it. Will you get used to it?

7. Nothing is Familiar

Imagine you wake up morning after morning for a week and when you look out of your bedroom window you recognise nothing. You step outside your home and nothing is familiar. You feel a deep, primal ache for just one little thing that feels familiar but you know you are months away from that happening. That's culture shock and homesickness.

8. An Administration Headache

You need to open a bank account but have no idea where to start; the forms you need to fill in are in a foreign language and you need to show documents you don't have. You need to get your electricity, internet and telephone switched on but you need to have a bank account to get connected. You are no longer allowed to drive a car until you have a new driving licence, which means you must take a new driving test, so must learn to read road signs and learn the rules of the road in a language you don't speak. Got a bureaucratic headache yet?

9. Stop Working

You love your career. You've done well for yourself. However, you are now, with immediate effect, no longer allowed to work. That vocational qualification or university degree you have spent years earning? It's suddenly not valid so you can't practice your career anymore. So you decide to do something else, you're multi-skilled. First, you need a permit to work. That means more paperwork, including showing documents that you don't yet have, and when you get hold of them getting them certified to show that they are genuine. It will take months before you can do any kind of work, and it will likely not match your education and qualifications. That ok?

10. See the World Through Different Eyes

Pretend you are heading off on a huge adventure where everything you see is new, every new sound sends jolts of excitement through you. Imagine that every person you meet is new, and that they all have a fascinating story to tell from all the nooks and crannies of the world. Every experience you have, from the mundane day to day to the one off breathtaking events, teaches you something valuable about yourself and the world around you. You see a world so different to the one you have lived in so far. You learn different ways to do things. You try new foods, new ways of cooking, new ways of shopping. You experience new climates, new religions, new traditions, new customs. You see the world in new colours. Seem like fun?

If this all seems like a walk in the park, pack your bags and go. If number 10 is enough to counteract every single one of the other 9 then what are you waiting for? Expat life awaits!

Of course, this is tongue in cheek - my point is that expat life is not a bed of roses. At times it is damn hard, harder than you can imagine but the payback is huge. Life changing. And worth the jump if you are willing to overcome the obstacles!

Post Comment Love
A Cornish Mum

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Sunday Roasties

Sunday in Britain is traditionally the day for a roast dinner. The childhood memories wrapped up in a Sunday roast lunch are precious and numerous. When my mum made a roast beef with all the trimmings it was heaven on a Sunday lunch plate. Yorkshire puddings the size of houses. Gravy. Mustard on the table. And the crown on the plate - roast potatoes: crispy, juicy, hot.

Now that I am a mother trying to instil a little Britishness into all four of my Dutch boys, I realise just how much work my mum went through every Sunday to have a roast on the table for us. But, oh, they were and still are so appreciated! 

If you are a British expat: do you miss Sunday roasts? Do you still cook them where you are? If you are not British - have you ever had the pleasure of a traditional roast?


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Why Dutch Doctors Are Stingy with the Drugs

Dutch doctors have a notorious reputation amongst expats as being a tad stingy with dishing out pills. No matter what ailment you drag yourself to the doctor with the answer to your problem is invariably paracetamol. (There is a fabulous chapter in Dutched Up!: Rocking the Clogs Expat Style on this topic written by the wonderful Lynn Morrison which you need to read!)

Until I moved to the Netherlands I really had no idea about all the different varieties you can get paracetamol in - factors pertaining to strength, format (i.e. where you can stick it) and target group. A whole new paracetamol world opened up to me when I became an expat here in the Netherlands.

I also learnt that if you want a Dutch doctor to take you serious you must have already gone down the paracetamol road. Otherwise don't dare to darken his or her doorstep with your ailments.

Photo Credit: Richard Dunstan
However, when you are in pain, really in pain, the kind of pain that leaves you hobbling in to your doctor's office in tears, your pain will be rewarded. I was recently prescribed diclofenac for the pain caused by what my doctor thought was a possible hernia - and told to take it with paracetamol three times a day. (Paracetamol is never replaced, it just gains a friend to join it along the road of pain.)

I took diclofenac and lo and behold I felt no more pain. I could walk again. However by day five I felt like a bus had side swiped me. My head throbbed, I felt like someone had blown me up like a balloon. My stomach cramped and ached. I constantly felt like I was going to vomit and I felt so damn tired.

So I stopped with the pills. And carried on with paracetamol only. And a little over twenty four hours later I felt more like myself again, and was almost pain free.

Two weeks ago my husband had keyhole surgery on his knee. He can't take the usually prescribed naproxen which is prescribed in these 'pain' situations as the side effects make him very ill, usually feeling much worse than the ailment itself so instead the surgeon prescribed him morphine based pain relief.

Which make him sleepy and irritable and which play havoc with his stomach some days. He also keeps scratching himself like a flea ridden monkey - but his post-surgery pain is considerably reduced.

If you read up about the drugs I have mentioned above you may (or may not) be alarmed to read warnings about usage and an increased risk of a stroke or heart attack, or fatal stomach or intestinal bleeding. The long list of possible common side effects for each pain relief medication leave your eyes bulging and mind boggling.

Photo Credit: Niels Rameckers
Oh! Wait a minute.... is this perhaps, maybe, possibly, why Dutch doctors don't dish out these pills like sweets? Maybe, just maybe, this is why Dutch doctors make you try everything else first......and save the strong stuff as a last resort. Maybe. Just maybe.

What is the trend with doctors where you live - pill happy or stingy with the meds?

Monday, 16 February 2015

9 Weird British Things

I recently shared a picture on my Facebook page of a Pizza Hut pizza with a Cadbury's Creme Egg crust. Seriously, I couldn't make this up. The response was mixed - some thought it was a culinary adventure that needed to be embarked upon (including my eldest son whose eyes lit up at the thought of a pizza and chocolate combination) and others, the majority, turned their noses up. It got me thinking about other weird British things.......

1. Weird British Food

The British are not automatically associated with haute cuisine....
The British are not really known for their haute cuisine, but that is not to say there is some damn good nosh coming out of the British Isles. However, I will be the first to admit there is also some weird food stuff going on.

Where shall I start? How about with a deep fried Mars Bar? This originated in Scotland when some bright spark thought they would cover a Mars Bar in the batter that is usually reserved for fish and sausages and then deep fry it.

According to Wikipedia:

"The product has not received support from Mars, Inc who said "deep-frying one of our products would go against our commitment to promoting healthy, active lifestyles."
Not sure what is funnier - the reaction from Mars, Inc or deep frying a Mars Bar in the first place.

Then there are many cases where the food itself may not be off the wall but the names certainly are. Here are a few examples: toad in the hole, spotted dick, Welsh rarebit (or rabbit), stargazey pie (which looks weird too).

I rest my case.

2. Weird British Words

Then we have weird British words and there are so many I couldn't possible cover them all here. But two that spring to mind are arse and buggar (or bugger).

You won't hear the word arse used in US (unless my brother has managed to convert his wife) but it means pretty much the same as ass, though maybe just a tad ruder. If you hear a Brit say, "I can't be arsed" it means they cannot be bothered, they do not have the required enthusiasm to complete a task. If you are called an arsehole it means that someone probably doesn't like you very much. If a Brit mutters the word ass he is likely referring to a donkey.

Buggar (bugger) is also worth noting - it's a word my husband fell in love with not long after we met. The actual meaning of buggar is often not known by the younger generation (origins in someone engaging in sodomy) and using it around the older generation may not go down too well.

It is a word used as an exclamation of surprise (as in 'oh bugger me!'), anger, frustration or to dismiss someone in a way that is slightly less mild than piss off. You may hear "he's a lucky bugger" or "he's a little bugger" meaning he has got off lightly with something and he's a little mischievous respectively. Either way, great but weird British word.

3. Weird British Sayings

Similarly the British have some great sayings that mystify the rest of the world. Take the English saying 'Bob's your uncle' as an example. Someone asks for directions so you say, "Go left, then right, around the roundabout, then right and Bob's your uncle!" It means 'there you go', or 'everything will be sorted'.

If someone tells you to 'get stuffed', they are asking you to go away, get lost or shove it somewhere the sun doesn't shine (which is another classic saying).

Lastly I want to share "it's the dog's bollocks" because quite frankly how could I not? If something is the dog's bollocks it means it is really, really good. But don't use this phrase if your mother-in-law cooks you a good meal for example - you'll make her eyes pop out or the vein on her forehead throb.

4. A Weird British Habit

One weird British habit (and I fear this may be more of an English thing than a rest of Britain thing) is not saying what we mean. You hear, "Okay, I will give it my utmost consideration" and think, "Ah good, he's going to think about it" but what he actually means is, "What a waste of bloody space and I have no intention of giving it another thought."

Here's another example from the brilliant Very British Problems twitter account (and there is also a wonderfully amusing book Very British Problems: Making Life Awkward for Ourselves, One Rainy Day at a Time):

It's because we are so polite and don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or cause conflict.
So what is said is probably not what is meant. But don't let that put you off talking to the English!

5. Weird British Place names
There are so many there could be a book written about silly British place names but here are a few:

Shepherd's Bottom
Happy Bottom
Whipper Slack
Cock Alley

6. Weird British Customs

Charming, quaint, insane - all words that could describe those weird British customs that you just won't see elsewhere. Like morris dancing, cheese rolling, welly throwing, maypole dancing, wife carrying, burning barrels and straw bears.

7. Weird British Laws

There are also many weird British laws that are still in existence today. For example, it is actually illegal to die in the House of Lords (the second chamber of the UK Parliament) and in case you are wondering you can't wear metal armour there either.

You may not herd cows along public roads between 7pm & 10am (without permission from the police commissioner) and it is illegal to be drunk in charge of cows, horses, steam engines and carriages.

And lastly, if you stick your stamp upside down you are committing treason. However, I can testify that should you accidentally on purpose stick a stamp on an envelope upside down nothing happens. You are not arrested in a police dawn raid and put in the Tower of London. Or maybe I am just an incredibly lucky buggar.

8. A Significant But Weird British Day

There is one particular weird day celebrated in England that is worth mentioning and that is the 5th of November - Guy Fawkes or 'Bonfire night' as we lovingly call it. It wasn't until I started explaining to my children the background to this very English celebration that I realised just how weird it is. We burn an effigy of a man whose plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament was foiled, set off lots of fireworks and eat sausages and burgers.

9. Other Weird British Stuff 

And one last weird thing that baffles even me. A public school in Britain is actually not public at all, it's private.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Behind the Sss-scenes at Blijdorp

For my eldest son's birthday we organised a behind the scenes tour of the Oceanium section of our local zoo in Rotterdam - primarily with the aim of learning a little more about his favourite animal the penguin.

Unbeknown to me this tour also included a close up and personal with a snake. As we were guided round learning lots about fish, puffins and baby jellyfish I kept seeing signs for snake bite emergencies but at no time thought anything much of it, except that it seemed a weird place for it behind the scenes with the fish.

And then suddenly our lovely guide invited us to grab a stool and sit down in front of some glass tanks. And I suddenly had the nightmare realisation that she was taking a bloody snake out of its glass encasement and was intending to share the thing intimately with us.

My backward walking was perfected in seconds and I got as much distance between the slithering reptile and me as possible, without actually diving into the deep fish tank next to us. It crossed my mind.

My father looked rather shocked by events too - (hence scientifically proving that a fear of snakes is genetic and inbuilt. To further prove my point, one of his sisters, my godmother, is petrified of snakes. I mean petrified).

Our guide asked if anyone wanted to hold it. I mean seriously: half the adults in attendance looked close to passing out, one looked a little uncomfortable and one admittedly looked neutral. So she said maybe we'd like to touch the snake, run our finger over it.

My youngest obliged by tickling it and trying to give it a good squeeze, my middle son ran a finger along the snake, as did my husband. And then I summoned up supermama strength, faced my fear and actually touched it. I touched a snake. And a little bit of my fear for snakes left me.

And then my husband freaked us out surprised us by taking the snake off our guide and letting it slide over his arm. He did get a bit tetchy when the snake tried to find somewhere dark and warm to hide and started heading up his coat sleeve........He was retrieved and put back in the glass case.

My husband said, "I don't particularly like snakes, but I sat thinking maybe I'll never get the chance to hold a snake again so if I don't do it now, I'll never do it."

And when it comes to snakes, I'll be happy if the chance to hold a snake never presents itself again (I said the fear had dissipated a little - the fact that I can actually look at this photo is a HUGE step!) however, I think his philosophy is a good one to stroll through life with:

"Live like you'll never get the chance to do this again"
And on this note, if you get the chance a tour behind the scenes at Blijdorp is definitely worth it - we all enjoyed the peek at the bits you don't usually get to see as a zoo visitor.


Monday, 9 February 2015

5 Expat Life Lessons From 'Global Mom'

Melissa Dalton-Bradford has lived in more countries than most of us would even dare to think about moving to - eight to be precise, and has had twice as many addresses. Her memoir, Global Mom, published by Familius, starts in Paris with a beautiful pine Norwegian table that proves to be a family anchor during twenty years on the move, two decades during which her family grows, as does Melissa, as am individual, a wife and as a mother.

From a typical Norwegian barnepark (a word and a concept I will never forget) to desperate poverty on Tonle Sap Lake in Singapore, Dalton-Bradford takes us on an unforgettable journey.

Global Mom is the story of one family physically moving from one country to another, about Dalton-Bradford's journey as a mother, about how a family grows and moulds together. It's a book about community and about home. It's about thriving with no roots. It's about loss and living and surviving in the frightening, dark land of grief. And it's about everything in-between.

(Amazon UK link)

Here are five life lessons I took away from reading Global Mom:

1. Expats Need to Adapt to Thrive 

What resonated with me more than anything else was the fact that living overseas is a story of adaptation. Dalton-Bradford illustrates beautifully that thriving abroad is about resilience, about going with the host country flow. It's about accepting an alternative culture, learning the local language, and fitting in as best you can - embracing the local way of life rather than shunning it and trying to live like you would in your base country.

This is no better highlighted than when Melissa's family move from Norway to France. From a Norwegian barnepark where a child's independence is a priority, where people co-exist with the dominating force of Mother Nature and where no-nonsense and practical goes above appearance, the Bradford family suddenly finds themselves immersed in a school system where restrictions, bureaucracy, rules, regulations and traditions are everything, where the imperfect loops a child makes when learning to write is cause for more teacher concern than it should be.

A fiery Norwegian winter dawn - where Mother Nature rules
Photo Credit: Grethe Boe
Melissa's experiences of child birth in the two countries also serve as a mirror for the contrast between the Norwegian lifestyle and the French way of doing things. Describing her natural birth in Norway with the assistance of her earth mother to her French friends made them "slap their foreheads and drag their hands over their eyes in disbelief" she recounts.

"Those poor Nordic women are too naive to know they have modern options. Right?" said one French friend.

Two worlds - set apart by culture, yet the Bradford family adapt to both, Paris in fact transforming into a haven for the family, a place they could later picture themselves permanently living.

2. Living Globally is Not Easy

To be able to travel around the world and set up home in several countries, to live globally, is an honour. However, it is no bed of roses when a family has to pack up and relocate time after time. Melissa sums it up wonderfully (P168),
"Every time I built something - established myself and our family in Norway, penetrated Versailles with my children in local activities, or renovated our first home ever and buttressed and held up my children - in the very instant I'd gotten to that spot, this international job track levelled what I'd built."
Saying goodbye to friends that have accumulated over the years, feeling rootless, the stress of organising a move and re-establishing a life. Melissa dealt with stress-induced depression on more than one occasion. A global life is about falling and then picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and trying all over again.

3. Retaining Your Personal Identity Needs Work

A life on the move means putting a tremendous amount of energy into setting up the day to day every few years - and then building on those foundations. As a mother of three, Melissa was busy setting up a home, helping her children establish themselves, emotionally and physically, getting the practical things organised in each new country they moved to. She orchestrated re-building a life from the ground up with every new address; she was the driving force behind reshaping their lives to adapt to their new surroundings.

That takes a lot out of a person, but Melissa, once the basics were in place, learnt to look after herself too. Eventually. She reached out to those around her, busied herself with the local church community, continued with her singing where she could (having left a stage career behind in the US when the family first moved overseas). She embraced her musical talents wherever she lived, and used them to build up a community around her. Melissa put herself out there, even when she didn't have the heart or energy to do so. And by doing so it felt whilst reading that she retained her identity - albeit reshaped and adapted. 'Be true to yourself' I hear her whisper from the pages of her memoir.

4. We Make a Home Wherever We Go

A home is more than bricks and mortar
Photo Credit: vannmarie

Melissa reminds me, in a poetic way, that the extraordinary lies in the ordinary. She reminds us how important it is to appreciate the beauty of where we are at this point in our lives. The memorable moments of life lie in our struggles to get through the day to day, particularly when you are doing it in in an unknown culture, in a foreign tongue, in a country you don't know well.

And every time we leave a place we take a little of that place with us, and we leave our mark on the place we left. 'Global Mom' reminds us that home is a place we create in the most unexpected of circumstances. It is so much more than the bricks and mortar that give us a place to shelter. Home is about family, about people, about cultures and history, about traditions - about coming together to grow and learn. Home is the place we are surrounded by those we love, no matter where on the globe that physical address may be.

5. Tragedy Takes You to a New Land

When a family tragedy strikes it takes you to a new unchartered land, to the land of grief. Once entered, life is never the same again. This book is not a light read, it is heartbreaking. You will cry, but it is an integral part of the journey that this beautifully written memoir takes the reader on. It is a brave and courageous account of a mother's loss, of a family torn apart.

Melissa tells us how grieving whilst on the move means travelling on a lonely road - surrounded by new faces that do not know or understand what you have been through, who did not live through your life stopping tragedy with you. The grieving process knows even more complications because of a life lived in different countries. The memories are based elsewhere, the connections to your loss in another country.

"The nomadic lifestyle, with all its pluses has one glaring lacuna: community. You are again and again ripped up, ripped out, and replanted amid strangers. There is little if any continuous community. Now, as never before in our life. our family needed people who had more than a vague inkling of our story....." (P236 Global Mom)

To end, for me,  'Global Mom' is how you write a memoir. It is set apart by the weight it carries, by the emotions it instills in the reader - from smirks and giggles to floods of tears.

There is a sense of history, culture, and a feeling of the sights and sounds of every country the Bradford family lives in. There is the reality check that a nomadic lifestyle is a double edged sword, and a life lived well overseas takes work, emotional resilience and a lot of adapting. There is friendship, community, family and most of all, love.

This book is a great read for expats, wannabe expats, global nomads, parents and those with a curiosity for the power of the human spirit.

You can get a copy of Global Mom from the following outlets:

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Snow in the Netherlands: My Sunday Photo

In the land of the Dutch it snowed this week, albeit only a little compared to the photos I have seen coming out of Canada, or even the UK for example. We had enough snow in the garden to build little snowmen. And yes, I sang the question, "Do you want to build a snowman?" to my children. A lot.

There was even enough snow to warrant dragging the sledge out of the shed and I pulled my youngest to school on it to pick up his older brothers. I then dragged my eldest and my youngest back home on it - I figured I was seeing a physiotherapist end of the week anyway, so what the hell. My middle son had a lunch date, despite an earlier sledding accident in school, so he ate someone else's weekly bread supply.

We had lots of fun, despite the snow beginning to melt away by the afternoon - it's been a while since we had enough snow to actually play in it!

The sprinkling of snow from a week ago, and this week's more modest fall.


Monday, 2 February 2015

Expat Life: Loving and Leaving Where You Live

I have just finished reading Global Mama by Melissa Dalton-Bradford (you can find a review here) and all the way through the book I was struck by the sense of 'home'; her family's ability to set down roots wherever they ended up living. They didn't just live physically in new countries, new places, new houses; they lived with their heart and soul and I had the feeling that every place they left meant leaving a little part of themselves there. Truly global living.

Reading Dalton-Bradford's account of living in Norway and the cultural differences they experienced when the family made a move to Paris made me think about my own sense of home.

I take for granted now that I live in the Netherlands, that I live in a Dutch house, in a Dutch street surrounded by locals. But what does that actually mean? It's the little things around us that make somewhere unique to live. It's the secret corners, the special items of furniture or memorabilia that travel with us, it's the normality of our days in a place. It's the waves from neighbours, the familiar faces scraping ice from the cars parked in the street in winter.

As each day passes in a house, in a town, in a country we take everything around us more and more for granted. Nothing seems particularly special anymore because we see, touch or pass it every day. Only by leaving a place do we see it's true place in our heart. Only by moving on do we appreciate all the little things that make a place special, make a place our home. And when you are not constantly on the move it is easy to forget all that.

Reading Global Mom reminded me that I was busy with a Love Where We Live journal at one point but never finished capturing the place I call home. A journal about where you live is never really finished of course - things change, you redecorate, you renew, you refresh rooms - and more importantly every day you live in a home you make new memories. But I was busy capturing the essence of the place I call home. I was busy with photos of the room we gather to eat, where we scrub our teeth, where the children play.

What makes a home a real home though is not the wallpaper, the curtains you've meticulously chosen to match the sofa, nor the well thought out shade of the woodwork's paint, but the people you share your home with.

Home is made special by the things you do together - the Friday night rituals, the lazy Sunday morning breakfasts, the ordinariness of the morning rush out of the front door. What do festive holidays look like in your home? How would all that change if you lived somewhere else? Expat life is certainly about change - from the minor to the major, from the little day to day things to life changing events. And in all that our home is the foundation, it holds things that are familiar and dear to us. It holds things that capture our memories, whether we realise it or not.

There are things scattered around my Dutch home that I brought with me from England and every time they catch my eye I am cast back to a previous life, even if for only a brief moment.

There are even special memories in the choosing of a house - the memories of picking the house that we currently live in have emotions intrinsically entwined around them. We bought a home for our future. We bought a place we could make our own, put our stamp on. Then, back in 2002, there were two of us. Now there are five of us. We have grown our family in this house. As my Love Where We Live journal reminds me the house I live in, the place I call home is special because:

"We are growing into beautiful people here."
Each day we are growing as a family, and this home is the place where my three sons have grown from babies into toddlers and are growing into school-going boys. It's their base, the place they feel safe and secure. And whilst I was reading Global Mom, it became clear to me that this house we live in is a shell for our family, for our lives, but what goes on inside will be the same wherever we should lay down roots, whichever house, street, town or country we should live in. We will take something of this place with us when we eventually move, not the physical stuff, but the emotional and cultural parts of life here in the Netherlands.

Moving away from this Dutch street, this town, or even this country wouldn't take away the memories, the love that has encased us in our home over the last twelve years, the people we have become living our Dutch life.

Imagine tomorrow having to leave the place you currently call home -  what little part of you would you leave behind? What would you take with you from the life you have lead there to your new home?

It strikes me that the furniture would all be replaceable, there'd be no tears shed about leaving the carpets we spent time deliberating over behind, but the moments we have spent getting on with life in our home would be irreplaceable, unique. These moments are currently the daily occurrences that seem so average, so ordinary and uninteresting -  the day to day that hardly seems worth noting in a beautiful journal. But I am off to do just that - because I know one day I will realise the value of all these family moments that make up day to day life in our average Dutch home in a Dutch street, in the middle of the Netherlands. I will come to realise that we have lived in this house with our hearts and our souls. And I will also realise that we will leave a little of ourselves in this home when we leave it.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

My Sunday Photo: Feeling Foreign at a Party

My eldest son turned eight a week ago and this week we had, amongst other celebrations, his kids' party. Standing in a room with ten Dutch children, nine of which speak better Dutch than I do, left me feeling very non-Dutch. A bit more foreign than normal. I was trying to explain one of the games they were about to play and I just couldn't find the right words to do it properly. It was weird. And feeling suddenly so foreign was a foreign feeling. Not uncomfortable. Just strange. Expat life in a nutshell I guess.

In case you are wondering, the part theme was secret agents and one of the games was a relay race where the children had to dress one of their team members in a 'disguise'. They then decided my husband needed a disguise. So, I introduce to you my Dutchie.