Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Woes of a Travelling Dutchie - Hotel Beds

Continuing the Live Like a Dutchie theme this month on the blog I want to show you how to emanate Dutchness should you regularly stay in hotels whilst travelling.

You may (or may not) know that Dutch people, in general, are tall. Hotel beds across the world are not, generally, designed with that in mind. It means that many a travelling Dutchman (and woman) find themselves in this situation:

For a Dutch person 'normal' beds are actually better described as 3/4 length beds. This is something the rest of us belonging to the short arsed non-Dutch population never have to face, but it's reality for many a woeful Dutchman (or woman) who has to sleep with a chair at the end of their hotel bed. It's where their feet go. There are usually associated duvet/blanket/cold feet issues too but that's a whole other blog post.

This is the reason why my bedroom is dominated by a bed that in usual circumstances could accommodate many people sleeping head to toe. As a case in point, our bed is given up when my father and stepmother, affectionately called the Hobbits by my husband, come over from England. They can lie head to toe in our bed without their feet ever meeting*.

We bought such a long bed so that my husband doesn't have to spend his entire life sleeping with a chair at the end of his side of the bed.

*Well, that's not actually quite true but the image is hilarious and you get the drift; many Dutch people don't fit in normal sized beds. 

Tip number 7: if you want to live like a Dutchie whilst you are travelling from hotel to hotel you'll need to stick a chair at the end of your bed. 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Dutch and the Beach

If you truly want to embrace life like a Dutchie you need to head for one of the many beaches that make up the coast line of the Netherlands. If the weather is hot you need to fight for space; if the weather is cold expect the beach to be filled with four legged canines who see you as yet another play thing in the sand.

The Dutch love the beach, no matter the weather. It's as simple as that. It's the place to sunbathe, kite surf, hang out, eat and drink, walk in the dunes (with or without your dog) and of course the place to cycle.

Tip number 6: I know, I know, hanging at the beach is a sacrifice but it's one you'll just have to make if you really want to live like a Dutchie. Now, where's my beach towel......


Friday, 13 March 2015

Embrace the Whore, Hoor

"Papa zegt dat hoor!" shouts my three year old at me. The emphasis very clearly on hoor, which is pronounced whore. I can laugh now when my children yell hoor at me. I've embraced the hoor. But it remains a word that I can't quite take seriously, even though it is second nature for my children to throw it around in almost every sentence. As in "ja hoor" and "nee hoor" and "ik wil het hoor".

It's actually a stop word really, used for emphasis of the sentence verb. It can also mean 'you know', or 'yeah right' or 'sure enough' or 'yes absolutely' or 'no certainly not' - you get the picture. It's extremely multifaceted, but the best thing about it is that you can use the word sarcastically. And that appeals to the Brit in me. It makes me even fonder of the Dutch.

Of course, should we ever move to England that word will be on a ban list. There'll be no addressing people with hoor in England. There has to be a line drawn somewhere. But here, here in the Netherlands, they can use hoor to their heart's content.

Tip number 5 to help you #LiveLikeaDutchie and feel at home in the land of the Dutch is to embrace the hoor in you.  Throw it out there. Go wild and put hoor at the end of all your sentences, hoor.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The March Expat Life Linky

This post launches the second month of the #ExpatLifeLinky and it's my birthday today too so it makes it an extra special day!

My Four Favourite Posts from February

Firstly a big thank you to all the lovely bloggers who shared their links in February. There were 25 link ups and I hope this number just keeps growing.

The range of posts was vast - which made for interesting reading - from multicultural weddings, junk food in the USA and talking to Dutch doctors to reasons for staying in France as an expat and celebrating eleven years in Mexico. If you didn't catch up with all of the posts head back and take a peek.

I said I would choose three of my favourite posts, but I have actually chosen four. It's my blog, I make the rules right? So here are four link ups that are worth a special mention - in no particular order.

  • How to Maintain Family Bonds Across Borders by Ersatz Expat: this post resonates for the reason I left as a comment on this great post which shares nine wonderful tips on how to nurture relationships with the family you leave behind when you expatriate.
  • Our French - Portuguese - English Wedding by Piri Piri Lexicon: she had me at Pimms and scones.... this is a wonderful post about blending cultures at a wedding so that the essence of a bride and groom shines through the day. Heartwarming and fun!
  • Making the Most of Worry by World Tree Coaching: great advice about how to tackle those issues that cause stress and worry, which lets face it, are part and parcel of living a life abroad.
  • How to Make Friends as an Expat by A Wanderlust for Life: one of the things that hits hard when you move abroad is the loss of your support network and saying goodbye to friends and family. And then building up a new network on the other side.... A Wanderlust for Life has some great tips for getting out there to meet new people.
This Month's Link Up

My expat post in the spotlight this month. 

And so, to this months link up. It's simple. You can link up to three posts below but please put the #ExpatLifeLinky badge on your post(s) and then head on over to some of the other links and leave a comment. Three (or maybe four) links will get a special mention next month.

This month I'd like to put a post called You Know You're an Expat Parent in the Netherlands When.... in the spotlight so head on over, leave a comment with the #ExpatLifeLinky tag and share some expat blog love around. I look forward to reading your posts. The link up will close at the end of the day on the 18th March.

The Rules - in a little more detail

1. You can link up to 3 posts per month. Please post the "Expat Life Linky" badge on each of the posts you link up (the code you need is below the image at the bottom of this post – simply copy and paste it into the HTML page of your blogging platform).

2. Please take the time to comment on at least 2 other links – the purpose is to discover and share - so hop over to other blogs and let them know you stopped by with the #ExpatLifeLinky tag.

3. It would be fabulous if you shared your post and the linky party (using the hashtag #ExpatLifeLinky) on any or all of your social media accounts to spread the word. I will retweet your posts via Twitter if you mention me in your tweets (@AmandavMulligen).

Get the #ExpatLifeLinky Badge here:

Expat Life with a Double Buggy

Monday, 9 March 2015

Traktaties - How to Do Birthdays Dutch Style

Wednesday is my birthday which, if I was to celebrate in true Dutch style, would mean having you all over to my house to sit in a circle on borrowed chairs to drink coffee and eat soggy crackers with filet americain spread lightly upon them. Lucky for you I don't roll like that. 

However, there is another tradition which the Dutch employ to celebrate een verjaardag which is far less painful than the dreaded birthday circle and that is the traktatie. In essence, that means that I bring in something lekker for my work colleagues to scoff, or my school classmates.

And the good thing about living among the Dutch is that you can take a pretty laid back attitude to what you bring in, and when you bring it in. I'm sure that there are competitive parents out there in the Netherlands, and I am sure there are Judgy van Judgesons out there too - but I am lucky enough to never have crossed paths with any of them.

My children have come home with anything and everything as traktaties from classmate's birthdays over the years, from simple to intricate to imaginative. We've had the 'bag of crisps' treat (more than once), we've had a pencil, eraser and balloon and we've had dolphins made with a banana and hot air balloons filled with popcorn.

And over the years I've also had to put my fair share of traktaties together - three sons make for some serious work over the course of a year. It's not just birthdays that require a traktatie - it's the birth of a baby or leaving a school too. So here's a few I made earlier......

So, tip number 4 for #LiveLikeaDutchie is if there's a birthday in your house don't forget the traktatie!

Are your children's birthdays celebrated in their class? Do you mark your birthday in your work place? How? I would love to hear how birthdays are marked where you live!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Play in a Speelpolder

If you want to truly live like a Dutchie then you make sure your children play. Childhood is about playing, and preferably outside. Bikes and footballs are the most obvious tools but some children are lucky enough to live next to speelpolders - natural areas where children can roam about and play. They are designed with (natural) materials to provide children with a host of things to do outside. They can build little bridges to get over token bodies of water or block them up with those infamous Dutch dams, build dens, crawl in tunnels, explore, hunt for bugs and run around.

What's so great about a speelpolder is that they are always open, cost nothing and get your children exploring. For more information about speelpolders visit http://www.speelpolders.nl.

So, tip number 3 for #LiveLikeaDutchie is play in a speelpolder - a childhood is about playing!

Do speelpolders exist where you live? 

This post is part of the #LiveLikeaDutchie series which is running on this blog for the whole of March 2015. Have you entered the prize giveaway yet? There's still time!


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Give in to the Gel

If you are male and want to live like a Dutchie you need to load up on your hair gel supplies. Seriously. Next time you are out and about in the straat or stad take a good look at the men around you. They either have no hair at all or a whole lot of hair gel on their head. There's nothing in between.

From their first haircut Dutch boys are encouraged to slather on the gel. The kapper always asks, "Wil je gel in je haar?" and when you are three it's hard to say no.

At first I resisted. When my eldest son had his first haircut and he was asked, at the tender age of three, if gel should be tipped over his precious little head I looked at the hairdresser as if she had asked me whether I wanted her to roll my son in dog crap. I said no. And then I sent an indignant text to my British friend to ask whether her son was assaulted with gel at the hairdressers. But no, it's a Dutch thing for sure.

By the time my youngest went for his first haircut and the gel question came I told her to slap it on like her life depended on it. Now she asks my sons directly and not me. I don't even need to glance up from my magazine anymore when I take my boys to get their hair cut. It's my chill time, the boys get a lollipop or biscuit and their hair is as hard as hell by the time we get home. Everyone's happy.

So, tip number 2  for #LiveLikeaDutchie is give in to the hair gel if you are male or a mother wanting your sons to truly blend in living in the Netherlands.

Monday, 2 March 2015

A Stuff Dutch People Like T-Shirt Giveaway: It's Gratis

I am kicking off the Live Like a Dutchie month with a Stuff Dutch People Like T-shirt giveaway. You can find all the details and how to enter below, but first a little about what is coming up on the blog in March.

This month will be completely dedicated to posts relating to life in the Netherlands and more specifically how to integrate into the land of the Dutch as an expat.

There will be posts about the essentials you will need to go unnoticed in the land where most people are probably much taller than you anyway.

There will be posts to show you that there is a lot more to the Netherlands than cheese, clogs, windmills and tulips - much much more.

There will be posts that showcase the best of the best of what other expat bloggers in the Netherlands have to say about going Dutch.

And some of the posts may even be serious. Perhaps.

What is definite is that we are going to have lots of fun this month! So now back to that T-shirt....

If you live in the Netherlands, or have any kind of tenuous link with the Netherlands but are not actually Dutch then your best starting point when it comes to integration is the Stuff Dutch People Like website. There you can learn what really turns the Dutch on.

And now you have the chance to get your hands on a Stuff Dutch People Like t-shirt - for free, which is the first lesson in Dutch integration. If it's free you need to have it, even if you don't actually need to have it. Remember this word: gratis. It's a good word. If you see gratis you grab whatever is being offered to you. Even if you don't need it. Follow this advice and you're making a huge step forward to  living like a Dutchie.

The T-shirt is a woman's XXL shirt (which is not as big as it sounds), no previous owners, straight from Stuff Dutch People Like. And it's perfect for expats who are 'Dutchies in training':

T-Shirt design on offer
*Please note that this giveaway is only open to those living in the Netherlands.* If you live elsewhere and need one of these shirts head over to Stuff Dutch People Like.

To enter: tell me in the comments section of this blog what you love most about living in the Netherlands or living with the Dutch and confirm your comment using Rafflecopter below. 

Leave a blog comment and then make sure you use Rafflecopter below to enter where you can also gain more entries by hopping over to various Expat Life with a Double Buggy social media pages. Feel free to spread the word if you are so inclined using #LiveLikeaDutchie across social media. At the end of March one lucky winner will be drawn out of a virtual orange hat! Good luck!!

So, tip number 1 for #LiveLikeaDutchie is gratis is good!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 1 March 2015

My Sunday Photo: Live Like a Dutchie

My Sunday Photo this week is all with a "Live Like A Dutchie" theme in mind - because that's what March is all about on the blog this month. 

Tomorrow I'll be kicking off a Stuff Dutch People Like Giveaway and throughout the month of March I'll be helping you with those Dutch integration issues. I'll be throwing advice around about how to be almost Dutch - with a little help from my expat in the Netherlands blogger friends. I'll be helping you think and act more like the Dutch.........honestly. And some of it might even be serious so check back regularly and watch out for #LiveLikeADutchie!


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!

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