Friday, 21 September 2012

Amsterdam Mamas Feature

Following my nomination for the Expatica Expat Blog Competition, Amsterdam Mamas ran a mini-interview with me about why I started blogging, my favourite post and what surprises me about blogging.

If you want to know the answers to those questions then head on over to Amsterdam Mamas. and whilst you are there read the interviews with the other family related competition entrants, including two of my favourite expat blogs in the Netherlands, Adventures in Integration and Invading Holland.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Smoking and Children: The Dutch Attitude

In a recent 'trending topic' survey in the Dutch Fabulous Mama magazine 96,1% of those asked responded that they hoped that their children wouldn't smoke when they were older. Pretty obvious then that amongst mothers the idea of children and smoking isn't a popular or pleasant one. 75.2% of those asked in the same survey strongly agreed that smoking is a bad example for children. 14.3% followed suit with a milder conviction. 

Photo: Jorc Navarro
And yet... the place my children come in to most contact with smokers and cigarette smoke is on the school playground. A notable amount of parents stand on the schoolplein waiting for their kids with a cigarette in their hand.

It is a topic that has been raised many times by parents. The school say they are not in a position to ban smoking on the school playground (how ironic does that sentence sound?) because it is actually council property and a public area. They did state they could try and discourage it but to date aside from a newsletter bulletin asking parents to place cigarette butts in the bin after the school kids had cleaned them all up from the playground, I have seen nothing on the topic. I kid you not: kids picked up all the butts.

The common sense seems to be there. But the willingness or courage to ban smoking in certain places seems to be absent (you only need to look at the situation in Dutch cafes to know what I mean by that!).

Smoking was a hot topic here when the results of Dutch infant mortality rate were published (in the European Perinatal Health report of December 2008). At this time it was stated that 13.8% of pregnant Dutch women continued to smoke throughout their pregnancy. (A 2010 report gave the figure at somewhere between 10% and 17%). Of course there are countries where smoking is far more prevalent than the Netherlands, and smoking during pregnancy much higher, but as this is the place I live I do notice a fair few pregnant women smoking around me and it never fails to shock me.

How is smoking around children perceived where you live? Is smoking on the school playground whilst waiting for children to finish school common and seen as acceptable? What about smoking during pregnancy - is that a taboo in the country you call home or an accepted part of the local culture? 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Pregnancy Tests, Gizzards and Cycling: A Cultural View of Pregnancy

"Un test de grossesse s'il vous plaît ," I said, having consulted my dog eared French dictionary for the French word for pregnancy test.

"Oui madam," replied the petite, middle aged woman behind the village chemist counter. She opened a small drawer in front of her and pulled out a box. She babbled something fast at me in French and I smiled and handed over a fifty euro note.

Two days later we replayed the same scene, undoubtedly depleting the village's entire pregnancy test supply, whilst simultaneously getting tongues wagging about a potential impending baby boom in the area. From what we had seen of the local demographics there was more call in the area for Zimmer frames than baby products.

Two positive pregnancy tests under our belt and we were confident that I was pregnant. My Dutch partner and I were going to have a baby. And then panic set in. We were on holiday in a remote French village, suddenly pregnant in a foreign country without internet. Did we need to tell someone? Were we supposed to go to the doctor? Were there things I shouldn't eat or do? I had already indulged in the local delicacies, including wine, pate and 'gésier de poulet' (I had no idea what I was ordering, and even after a text from my dad translating gésier as gizzard I was none the wiser). Wine surely wasn't handy.

We called our GP back in the Netherlands. The doctor's assistant summed up what we needed to do,

"Firstly congratulations! When you get back to the Netherlands register with a midwife. Don't go and see a French doctor - you'll be told you can eat anything and everything but you can't. Avoid non-pasteurised cheeses, alcohol, pate and anything from the inside of an animal." Oops. She had just listed the main constituents of my diet for the past week.

Pate best eaten in moderation during pregnancy - according
to the Dutch but not such an issue for the French?
Photo: Neil Gould

"And what about cycling?" my husband asked.

"No problem. Cycling is fine. Just don't fall off!" she replied.

An English friend had been told to avoid cycling during the critical first twelve weeks of her pregnancy. However, after seven years in the Netherlands I knew that asking the Dutch not to cycle for twelve weeks would be like asking them to chop a leg off. It's just never going to happen.

Already during the first week of pregnancy I was learning that culture plays a big role in having a baby as an expat. There were plenty more culture shocks to come during the next nine months.

I came to learn how the Netherlands is very much a midwife based maternity system - a big shock for many American expats - and midwives encourage home births and natural births (in other words, without pain relief) wherever it is safe to do so. I love the mentality that a pregnant woman does not have a medical condition - and should not be treated as if she has.

Before our babies are even born there's a cultural maze to walk our way through - and that's just the beginning!

What notable differences have you noticed with how various countries handle pregnancy and child birth? 

Lou Messugo

Friday, 14 September 2012

Expat Blog Competition Nomination!

I am delighted and flabbergasted to announce that this blog has been nominated for Expatica's "i am not a tourist" Expat Blog Competition. The fact that I am sitting in a list with the most amazing expat bloggers that the Netherlands has to offer is an honour in itself. Added to the fact that this blog is a new venture that I started at the beginning of this year, I am truly delighted that "Expat Life with a Double Buggy" is already striking a chord with other expat parents out there. This blog is still in its infancy, and I'm still finding my feet with it so I'm chuffed to bits.

Writing a blog (let alone two) whilst being a full time mum to three small children is a challenge. But this kind of recognition certainly makes it all worth while.

As part of the competition I had to nominate my favourite post, and I found it tough. I eventually chose What If My Kids Had Been Born in England? A recent holiday (spurred on by my own childhood vacations) to Cornwall got us thinking about a move there in a few years. Which in turn got me to thinking about how different life would be had I not moved to the Netherlands; if my kids had been born in England. It's fascinating how a birth country can mould the formative years of a child. So that's why I wrote the post, and why I chose it as my favourite.

Voting for the Expat Blog Competition is open until 9am on the 1st October, and the three winners will be invited to the Expat Fair on Sunday 7th October. Want to cast your vote for an expat blogger in the Netherlands? You can submit your vote by visiting

Friday, 7 September 2012

De Peuterspeelzaal (aka preschool)

My middle son started preschool (peuterspeelzaal in Dutch) this week at the tender age of 2 years and 4 months. It's been an emotional week... for me at least because I was suddenly faced with a new phase and although I have been through this once before with my eldest son it still felt weird to realise my son is no longer a baby. He was delighted to spread his wings a little and start school "like his big brother" and he's far too busy even to wave goodbye once he gets playing there.