Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Book Review: Pixie's New Home

Pixie's New Home, written by Emmanuelle Payot Karpathakis and published by Summertime Publishing, is aimed at children between the ages of three and five who are moving to a new home.

Pixie is a donkey who learns that she will leave behind her friend Lila to move to a garden where the grass is greener. At first Pixie is curious about the adventure that lies ahead of her but is then sad at what she will lose. However, she is quickly comfortable in her new environment and makes a new friend, but keeps her old friend in her heart.

The story is short and simple and allows children to follow the emotional stages of a relocation in language they understand. It also sends them the message that it is okay to be sad when they move to a new place.

Furthermore the book is beautifully illustrated in striking colours that is sure to captivate any little globetrotter. At the end of the story there is a colouring page and space for a child to draw their current home and how they imagine their new home will look.

The author has lived in five different countries and has four children of her own as well as being a relocation coach - all factors that qualify her to write this wonderful little story to help young children wrap their heads around the idea of moving.

Pixie's New Home is a great resource to get parents and children talking about relocation and to explain to small children that they will make new friends and adapt to their new home.

Monday, 18 May 2015

The Culture of Health and Safety: Ever Been Tempted to See What Happens if You Put Your Head in the Path of a Plane Propellor?

I recently returned to England for a couple of days and for the first time in many years I actually flew. The idea was to fly to Southampton from Amsterdam but some wise guy apparently thought parking our plane in the vicinity of Rotterdam was easier. Hence we were bussed from the Schiphol airport departure lounge to the plane. (For those not au fait with the British sense of humour, the plane was not actually parked in Rotterdam..... but it might as well have been given how long our bus ride was.)

We piled off the bus onto the Schiphol airport tarmac and formed a semi-orderly queue to go up the plane steps. (The reason I say semi-orderly is because there were Brits and many a Dutchman queueing. I think we all know which nationality was orderly and which nationality needs some serious queueing schooling and no one needs to be publicly shamed. Toch?) 

The plane was a little one. Not like a 'two seater' little one, but it certainly wasn't a jumbo jet. The little plane had little propellors, which were slowly turning while we queued to get onto the plane.

Surprisingly no one leapt from the queue to put their head in the way of the propellors, just to see what would happen. In fact, no one moved out of the semi-orderly line at all and instead continued to shuffle forward to get on the plane. No deaths, beheadings, or even slight mutilations. Common sense and self-preservation prevailed.

My return flight from Southampton a few days later involved us walking a few meters from the departure gate to the airplane steps. Same type of airplane. Little. Same little propellors except this time there was no movement from them at all. However, we were all mighty relieved to know despite their non-movement we were kept safe by British health and safety measures.

Thanks to a fluorescent green band placed strategically around the side of the plane no passenger could end up in a dangerous life threatening incident. No passenger could any closer to the plane than the steps leading up to its front door. No chance of a confused pensioner heading for the back of the plane, no possibility that a tall Dutchman should bang his noggin against the wing and certainly no room for a freak accident involving a propellor and a curious passenger.

And if we hadn't seen the fluorescent green tape lining the plane perimeter airport personnel donned in fluorescent green jackets were strategically placed to ensure no passenger straying. In short, the only way any passenger was getting anywhere near the plane was upwards via the steps.

I've heard lots of expats living in Britain talking about the craziness of health and safety policies there. I've also heard lots of things from family, particularly when they are over here in the Netherlands and pointing out situations that would NEVER be allowed in Britain. They comment that the British are no longer allowed to rely on common sense to keep themselves out of dangerous situations.

And my airport adventure showed me how justified those feelings are. The Dutch authorities trust that no one will be tempted to put their head into the path of a plane's propellors. The British authorities remove the temptation altogether with fluorescent tape and staff in fluorescent jackets. Because you just never know. 

Has British health and safety gone too far? What are health and safety measures like where you live?

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Belgian Beer for Children: My Sunday Photo

During the May school break we headed south to our neighbours in Belgium. Whilst there we visited a local beer brewery and tasted a little of the homemade fayre - both liquid and something a little more substantial.

Whilst browsing for something for our three children my husband and I had to do a little double take when we saw this:

For those non-Dutch speakers amongst you I am talking about the kinderbiertje on the menu - literally beer for children. It's a brown beer with caramel - with low alcohol of around 1%. Just in case anyone was worried about serving beer to their children.......... I'm guessing this is a Belgian thing?

Needless to say our children had chocomel.........


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The May Expat Life Linky

It's the second Wednesday of May... and that can only mean one thing - time for this month's Expat Life Linky!

Last month the link ups were as varied as expat life itself from Korean meals and multicultural schools to the stages of learning a new language, reflecting on six months of expat life and from the fun of house hunting to helping bilingual children speak the 'right' language.

My three favourite are as follows:

7 Habits for 7 Years in Germany from Let the Journey Begin - a great insight into the German culture and I love the Sunday morning bakery custom which I had honestly associated with only the French and not their neighbours. And I now have a cunning plan for a post for September when I mark 15 years living amongst the Dutch......

Original Fish 'n' Chips Rennes by The Lifestyle Diaries - come on, it's a post about fish and chips. How could I not like it? It's fish and chips people. Since moving away from Britain it's the meal I associate most with my passport country and makes me nostalgic for those days walking along Blackpool's promenade with my grandparents eating fish and chips out of newspaper.

The British Accent from Bringing up Brits - do you enjoy mocking your expat friend's accent? Think again. This hit a nerve because an American friend told me recently that the Dutch copy her American accent when she is speaking Dutch. Not cool people. Not cool at all.

You can find all the posts from last month here or check out the Pinterest board for an overview.

May Link Up

My expat related post I want to put in the spotlight this month is Do You Have an Expat Mask? Can expats be authentic when they have to adapt so much to survive in a new country? What do you think - head on over and let me know.

Right, over to you. Ready?
  • Add the linky badge (below) to your expat related post (old or new), link up and then leave a comment on the post linked before you using the #ExpatLifeLinky
It's as simple as that. Please do not dump links and run. Tell your expat blogging friends. Spread the word on social media. It would be great to grow this link up!

Expat Life with a Double Buggy
I look forward to reading another great collection of posts!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Life with Dutch TV Subtitles

These days, after nearly fifteen years in the Netherlands, I struggle when I have to watch television without Dutch subtitles. It doesn't matter whether it is a film or a programme but reading along whilst watching TV has become second nature and it feels like something is missing when there are no words at the bottom of my television screen.

Except if the programme is in Dutch. I don't need subtitles when the TV show or film is in Dutch (unless they are talking with a very heavy regional accent, or in Flemish then those rolling words are a blessing!)

There have been so many occasions when I am watching a British or American programme and something is said and the only reason I know vaguely what the word uttered was is because of the Dutch subtitles at the bottom of my screen. Then the conversation on our couch goes like this:

It's why my Dutch constantly improves but at least a word a day falls off my English vocabulary database.

You can also imagine what our television viewing evenings are like when there are no subtitles. And it's even worse if it's a BBC series with regional British accents. My poor Dutch husband sits dumfounded on the sofa clueless, shrugging his shoulders in exasperation, asking me every two minutes what someone said. Like me when a Dutchman from the very south or very north of the Netherlands reels off a speech.

And that's why Dutch subtitles rule.

They really do.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Bonbon Break & Buckets - Helping my Highly Sensitive Children Carry Their Emotion

In March, Bonbon Break asked for submissions relating to the theme of "Fill your Bucket"in association with Our Pact. Anyone that has been following the "highly sensitive" aspect of my blogging will know that I LOVE buckets so I happily obliged.

I was delighted when my piece 'Helping my Highly Sensitive Children Carry Their Emotions' was chosen to be published.

I am even more delighted that it has been shared 1.5k times to date - and if you feel the urge to contribute to that total then be my guest.

"I see his little head bobbing in a sea of infants; his teacher spots me and shakes his small hand, giving him unspoken permission to go to me. I watch my son’s face and can instantly tell he is fighting tears. I know by the look on his face that his morning in school has been too much for him." 
Go to Bonbon Break to read on.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Expat Life and The Lost Art of Comparison

I have been living in the Netherlands so long now that I can no longer accurately compare life here with life in Britain. I have been walloped with that realisation a few times over the last few months.

Most vividly recently was during an interview for the LiHSK (the Dutch national organisation for Highly Sensitive Children). I was asked about schooling in Britain and the only personal experience I can refer to is my own schooling. And believe me, that was a long time ago. A long, long time ago.

I had it a lot during my three pregnancies too when people asked about the maternity system in the UK. I cannot talk about that from personal experience either. All three of my sons have been born in the Netherlands. I can tell you everything you'd care to know about the Dutch maternity system but ask me about the English one and I will falter.

When I first landed on Dutch soil I spent more time than I care to think about now comparing my new life here to the one I had left behind.

"You wouldn't see that in England," I would mutter time and time again. "THAT would never happen in England," I'd say to the Dutchies in my life.

And then, although I'm not sure when exactly, it stopped. It's not something I consciously did. I came out the other end of culture shock and it just stopped. I started living in the now. I adapted to how things are done here in the Netherlands. I stopped thinking about how it would be done in Britain. I stopped seeing things as 'wrong' here and 'right' there. I just started doing things like they are done here. Except birthday parties - there are always limits.

And now I realise that my life in Britain is so far behind me I couldn't compare it to my life here and now even if I wanted to. I have no idea about the nitty gritty of life in Britain to be honest. I watch the  BBC news regularly (so yes I know there is a general election coming up, that the live TV debates set up was a fiasco and that Nigel Farage is a dick) but the details of real life are lost to me. I can no longer compare the Dutch way to the British way.

Well, except in the realm of health and safety. When it comes to health and safety I can still often be uttering that a (life threatening or at the very least mildly dangerous like this) situation I come across here in the Netherlands would never happen in Britain. But now I don't mean it in quite such a positive way as I did fifteen years ago.......

Do you still compare your passport country to the country you now call home? Is it in a positive or negative way?

Sunday, 26 April 2015

A Super Hero Minion Happy Birthday!

I spent Saturday making a birthday cake for my soon to be five year old. It only took me all day.... literally, the whole day *sigh*. That's my creativity used up for the week!

What professional cake makers charge suddenly seems like a bargain! However, I'm pretty sure all three of my sons will like how it turned out!

And whilst we are on a birthday theme - have you entered the giveaway for a Gadanke birthday journal?


Thursday, 23 April 2015

23 Wonderful Things about England and the English

Today is St George's Day and to mark it here are 23 things that are wonderful about England and all those who live within her.

  1. English breakfast: the best kind of breakfast there is. Sausages. Bacon. Fried bread. Eggs. Tomatoes. Mushrooms. Yum.
  2. Queuing: the English know how to form a good solid queue, and stick to it. None of this free for all nonsense they employ in the rest of Europe.
  3. The sights of London: all the usual tourist traps landmarks make London what it is. Think Buckingham Palace, the changing of the guard, Big Ben and Tower Bridge. There's nothing like it.
  4. Fish and chips.
  5. Gorgeous beaches: whether it's sand, rocks or pebbles you like on a beach or cliffs and coves, England has it along her shores. 
  6. And whilst we are on the topic of beaches the English know how to make a real day out of a trip to the beach
  7. Marmite: England is the birthplace of Marmite, Burton upon Trent to be precise. Love it or hate it? 
  8. Bonfire Night
  9. Quaint: England is the queen of quaintness, littered with little (and big) places that can only be described as quaint. Like Haworth, Grassington, Clovelly and Stratford upon Avon.
  10. Passion for the beautiful game: the English love football. Many people live and breathe the national game, despite there being very little international success on the football pitch since 1966. That's dedication and passion for you.
  11. Pubs: English pubs are like no other. In every nation there are attempts to replicate the Englishness of a good English pub but most attempts can be written off as outright failures. 
  12.  The royal family: what is there not to love about a real life, albeit involuntary, English soap opera?
  13. Regional differences: there are amazing variations in accents, food and customs from county to county across the length and breadth of England. Compare a Cornish accent to the dulcet tones of a Geordie to appreciate what I mean.
  14. English people are bonkers.
  15. Christmas: The English know how to do Christmas in style.
  16. Life is never dull around an Englishman: The English keep you guessing and it keeps you on your toes.
  17. Green, rolling hills: oh how I miss green rolling hills.
  18. Top Gear: I'll stop right there shall I?
  19. Sense of humor: what isn't there to love about sarcasm and self depreciation?
  20. A sense of history: you can bathe in history in England - quite literally in Roman Bath, more literary in Jane Austen's Hampshire and deep down in the abandoned mines of Cornwall.
  21. Downton Abbey: any country that Downton Abbey is filmed in has to be wonderful, right?
  22. Roast dinners.
  23. Benedict Cumberbatch.
So there you have it - what would you add?

Happy St George's Day to all you English out there.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A Birthday (and a Giveaway) Fit for a Dutch King

Next week it's the king's birthday, the 27th April to be precise, and he's throwing a huge street party to which you are all invited.

The Dutch king's birthday celebrations certainly beat borrowing chairs from the neighbours to make a huge birthday circle in which to eat soggy crackers and drink coffee. His involve everyone dressing up in orange and hitting the Dutch streets - armed with as much crap from your house as you can physically carry in order to sell it from blankets on the pavements. Huh what? I hear you novices to King's Day cry. Yes really, all truth.

Of course the king himself doesn't take part in the vrijmarkten (although that would be rather amusing - him and the family sitting on a blanket selling the unwanted things from their royal residence and princess Amalia playing the flute and Maxima selling homemade cakes to earn a few cents) but he does throw toilets around. Again, yes, it's true, although in all fairness that was to celebrate his mother's birthday and not his own.

Let's face it King Willem-Alexander has the kind of birthday celebrations that are worth recording for prosperity and I have just the giveaway for him - an "It's My Birthday Journal" lovingly handmade by the award winning Gadanke.

It has room for the king to keep a birthday card from his mother (as in the woman formerly known as Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands) and those precious photos of the common folk taking to the nation's waterways in boats adorned in orange from head to toe.

There are embellishments fit for a king and an annual letter that Queen Maxima or one of his three daughters could write to him. There are writing prompts to help him review the year gone by, and a place to record the plans for the coming year - important whether you're king of the Netherlands or a regular person like you and me.

The journal is colorful, comes with a PDF document so that the number of birthdays you can record is endless, as well as 30 minutes of video tutorials full of inspiration and tips. In short, it's fabulous. And I have one to give away - to entrants worldwide. That's right, no matter where you live on the globe, whether in a palace or a humble abode, you can enter.

And so how do you get your hands on one of these wonderful Gadanke birthday journals? I figured I shouldn't enter my own giveaway - morally and ethically not done and all that - so there are three journals winging their way to me as I type and as it's my middle son's birthday next week we'll be getting to work as soon as it arrives! So you can either go order one or three like me, or you can enter to win one here on this blog!

If you, even if you are King Willem Alexander himself, want to win an It's My Birthday Gadanke journal use Rafflecopter below - there's no special treatment king or no king and you can enter until the very end of the Dutch king's birthday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Leave a King's Day or birthday related comment below for extra entries in the giveaway - I want to hear what you love about King's Day, your experience with the dreaded Dutch birthday circle or what you last took in as a traktatie. If it's birthday related, share it!

Good luck!