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.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Dutched Up! Book Review: Jo Parfitt, She Say Yes!

It's always a bit nerve wracking when you ask someone you respect to review a book. It's always a bit of a gamble when you ask someone who is a bit of a celebrity in the expat writing world to take a look at an expat anthology and then give her honest opinion. But that's what happened recently when Olga of The European Mama asked Jo Parfitt to take a peek at the Dutched Up! book.

And it's a bit like waiting for the man from Del Monte......

Luckily Jo Parfitt, she say yes too!

"I loved it. I devoured every story. They were compelling, well-written and entertaining."

Jo has more than thirty books to her name and is one of the Summertime Publishing team members. She provided me with the springboard I needed to follow my passion to become a writer when I attended one of her workshops in a beautiful farmhouse in Voorschoten many years ago - the rest, as they say, is history. And as it was with Jo that my writing career started, I felt particularly honoured to also get a mention in the review.

"I'm a grumpy and cynical old goat, jaded too, from reviewing too many mediocre books, but this one, I promise you, is a goodie."
Jo Parfitt, Dutched Up! Review
So, if you have not yet got your hands on your own copy of Dutched Up! it's really time you did. Seriously. Don't take my word for it...... read what Jo has to say over on Summertime Publishing.


Dutched Up! is also available on Book Depository!
Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository

Monday, 25 April 2016

Everything You Need to Know About King's Day in the Netherlands (And Some Stuff You Probably Don't Need to Know)

This week sees the Dutch putting on their party clothes and heading out en masse on to the streets.  If this is your first King's Day, then you are in for a treat. For the more seasoned expats I'm guessing nothing surprises you on King's Day anymore.

The Why

King's Day is a national celebration of the Dutch King's birthday. Think of it as a birthday party which Willem-Alexander invites the whole country to.

The What

"Oh oh, did you say Dutch birthday party?" I hear you ask. I did, but don't panic, there are no chairs or circles involved in the King's party. Well, at least not that the general public gets to see. There is a possibility that once Willem-Alexander has finished his public duties he returns to the palace, places his throne strategically in a circle of posh chairs and awaits the servings of soggy crackers and coffee. But no fear, you have no role to play in this merriment.

Instead you get to dress up and attend the biggest annual street party you'll see in the Netherlands.  

Thursday, 21 April 2016

How Two Peuterspeelzaal Teachers Changed How I Parent My Sons

I am the mother of three highly sensitive sons. I myself am highly sensitive. I learnt this fact because of amazing teachers at my eldest son's peuterspeelzaal. They recognised traits and behaviours in him at the age of three that are consistent with being highly sensitive.

Goodbyes in school were heart wrenching for him from day one. It took months for him to get used to being left in school. And because it was such an emotional hurdle for him, it was incredibly upsetting for me too. No parent likes to leave a child anywhere when they are crying, kicking out and obviously feeling lost.

The Day I Became the Mother My Sons Need Me to Be.
However, as the weeks went by it took my son less and less time to 'recover' from me leaving him in the peuterspeelzaal. I had immense faith in his teachers that he would be okay once I was gone. And if he wasn't they would call me.

One day, when my husband picked my son up from school, everything changed for my little family because two Dutch teachers did their job exceptionally and they took the time to really see my son. They uttered the words 'highly sensitive'.  It was the start of a parenting journey that I am still on. It's the reason why Happy Sensitive Kids was born. The reason why the peuterspeelzaal will always have a place in my heart, even though all my boys are now in primary school.

"The term ‘highly sensitive’ meant nothing to me six years ago, back when I was the bewildered mother of a three-year-old boy who seemed unable to tolerate the world around him."

You can read the whole story over on Mamalode: The Day I Became the Mother My Sons Need Me to Be.

Monday, 18 April 2016

The Beauty of the Dutch Flower Fields

At the weekend we decided to take a drive over to the flower fields near Lisse in the Noord-Holland province. It's a sight that even after fifteen years never fails to instil awe. The Dutch flower fields are beautiful. Truly mesmerising. If you haven't yet visited the fields in full bloom, put it on your travel bucket list.

True to Dutch spring form we had to dodge the showers, but when the sun made an appearance it was well worth the wait. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

A Visit to the Science Center NEMO in Amsterdam

Have you been to Science Center NEMO in Amsterdam yet? Well, if you haven't then putting it on your to do list is a must, particularly if you have curious children who wonder how the world around them works.

We visited just before Easter and my three sons loved it (they are 9, 5 and 4). The museum is a showcase of science and technology and great for children to understand the how, why and what.

They can do experiments in a laboratory, discover the science behind emotions and the human mind, learn about space and water power and there's a special exhibition about teens running at the moment for those of you with hormonal older children. And lots lots more. The whole centre is highly interactive, fun and educational.

During the weekend of the 23rd and 24th of April there's even more reason to check out Science Center NEMO It's the grand opening of the Energetica exhibition on the museum rooftop and entry to the museum is free. Expect it to be busy though (remember the importance of gratis in the Netherlands?)!

The museum is within walking distance of Amsterdam Central Station.

I'll let the photos do the rest of the talking!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

A Kid's Journal to Encourage A Child to Write in a Second Language

We're raising our three Dutch boys bilingually, with the primary aim that they are comfortable speaking English with their British and American family. I am always on the look out for fun, interesting ways to encourage my sons to speak in English, listen to English or read English books. The biggest challenge however, is getting my nine year old to write in English. I was delighted when a great opportunity for him to practice his English penmanship fell into our laps.

I'm a fan of journaling for many reasons, and I believe it is a valuable tool for children as well as adults. The Time Capsule kid's journal turned out to be not only great fun and insightful, but a great way to get my eldest voluntarily writing in English. Without me pushing or nagging my son chose to write in his second language.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Amsterdam Mamas 'Dutched Up! Rocking the Clogs Expat Style' Book Review

I am chuffed to bits that Amsterdam Mamas has published a review of our expat anthology about expat life in the Netherlands, "Dutched Up! Rocking the Clogs Expat Style".

I am even more chuffed to bits that it's the type of review that makes an author feel warm and squidgy inside.

And the icing on the cake is that my piece about welcoming kraamzorg into my home was something that Robyn Grafton, who reviewed the book, could relate to.

"..... and sentimental tears of happiness over a description of the kraamzorg service, reminding me about my first week of motherhood and my own amazing kraamverzorgster. By the time I turned over the last page, I felt I had just been enjoying a kopje koffee with some girlfriends, swapping stories about our lives in the Netherlands. Can a book feel gezellig? Zeker weten!"

So without further ado, head on over to Amsterdam Mamas and read Dutched Up! Book Review in its entirety for yourself......... and then buy the book!