Monday, 30 May 2016

Cultural Attitudes to Chicken Pox Around the World

A few weeks ago spots suddenly appeared on my youngest son's neck and chest. There was a pox on our house, and it didn't come or leave quietly. In fact, he was really sick and his entire body was covered in chicken pox, including inside his mouth and even in his throat. At the end of last week my middle son developed the uncomfortable rash too and as I write he is home from school. Interestingly enough, I soon learnt that the Dutch have a different attitude to chicken pox than some other nations.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Expat in the Netherlands Study: Your Help Needed

Tessa Rutten is a Research Master student in Communication Science at the University of Amsterdam. She is currently writing her Master's thesis, which focuses on expats in the Netherlands. 
If you are a foreign national working/studying in the Netherlands you can help by answering a few questions. 
Tessa explains the purpose of her thesis and this survey: 
"I am conducting a study on the adjustment process to living in the Netherlands. The aim is to get a better understanding of the factors that could improve this process. The results can be used to tailor the offered support and potentially improve the work and study experiences of expats and international students in the Netherlands. 
So, if you are currently working or studying in the Netherlands and have a non-Dutch nationality and citizenship, your response would greatly be valued! The anonymous survey, which will take around 10 minutes to complete, can be accessed through the following link:  

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Why Everyone Should Have a Pen Pal

A long long time ago, in a far away land two young girls wrote letters to each other and became good friends.

Well, okay, it wasn't in a land that far away but it was more than thirty years ago. As an 11 year old girl living in England I signed up for a pen pal scheme through Jackie magazine. For those of you old enough to remember, Jackie was THE magazine for young British lasses to buy. It was a weekly magazine just for girls with features on pop bands, interviews with stars, fashion advice and of course a very extensive problem page feature. It sadly disappeared from newsagents in 1993.

Anyway, I digress, lost in the good old care free days of magazines with articles about Spandau Ballet, Culture Club and Duran Duran and teenage pimples. It was through Jackie magazine that I met my pen pal.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

6 Ways to Make Sure Your Summer Holiday is Really a Holiday When You're an Expat

For my first few years as an expat my husband and I spent most of our holiday allowance travelling to and fro to England for long weekends. Once we had three young children the ‘popping back’ for short stays stopped, but our children do not do house-jumping between various friends and family members well. It isn’t their ideal summer holiday, no matter how wonderful it is to see everyone. They find it difficult to settle and tend to arrive back in the Netherlands more tired than when we set out. So we had to get creative and work out ways to see loved ones without the lodging hopping and constant travelling.

Here’s what we have come up with over the years:

Stop half way

Choose a holiday destination that means you can stop off half way and see friends and family en route. For us this has meant holidaying in Cornwall, England with stop-offs at family on the way to and from the Eurotunnel or boat, sometimes staying a night or two and other times just popping in for lunch.

Invite loved ones

Ask your friends or family to join you in your chosen holiday venue. Book accommodation big enough to invite others to stay with you, either for a few days or the duration, or make sure you stay somewhere where loved ones can also stay nearby. This way you get to explore new sights and spend time with those that matter.

Announce your arrival and sit back

Let people know when you will be back in town and where you will be staying and ask them to come to you. This way you don’t end up traipsing from one house to another. People will usually understand that you have already done the travelling to get back and find their way to you, particularly if you have young children. It’s a great excuse to organise a family party so you can see everyone at the same time.

Explore ‘home’ like a tourist

Take the opportunity to explore ‘home’ through the eyes of a tourist. Do some planning before you return and find places you either have not been to for a while, or have never visited. Challenge yourself to see ten new things in the area you once lived and explore the local area. This way you can alternate or combine sight-seeing with visiting loved ones – a win-win situation for the children especially.

Show your children your cultural roots

Use a trip ‘home’ to share the life you led before you moved overseas and share your cultural roots with your children. Let them see where you went to school, where you used to work, where you played with your friends. Introduce them to food and events that are typical of your birth country’s culture. Encourage them to practice speaking the local language. Immerse them in your heritage.


Invite friends and family to you over the summer and explore close to home instead of traveling far. So often we head further afield but don’t visit the sights under our nose. Make a list of things you haven’t yet seen or done in the Netherlands, or take your visitors away for a short break in Belgium, Germany or France. Or you can involve your visitors in a bit of summer culture fun using their countries of origin. Either way, you get the best of both worlds.