Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Little (and Big!) Changes Expat Life Brings

When I boarded a ferry more than fifteeen years ago and left the UK to start a new life in the Netherlands, I never really stopped to consider how different my life would actually be.

I knew there was a new language to learn, one that I'd mistaken for a strange German dialect during a summer holiday in Turkey. 

I was, of course, aware of the typical Dutch associations with clogs, windmills, cheese and tulips but I shrugged that off as stereotypes. I learnt that the old adage 'no smoke without fire' is alive and well and there are actually a fair few windmills in the Netherlands, some farmers do wear clogs (as well as father-in-laws working in gardens) and the Dutch do happen to grow a tremendous number of tulips.... and they like cheese. But these turned out to be the least of the differences thrown at me when I embraced an expat life in the Netherlands. 

These are all the little ways my life has changed since moving from England to the land of the Dutch:

I own a bike - before I moved here it had been decades since I owned my own personal two wheeler. I think my bum was a teenager the last time it sat on a bike seat prior to becoming an expat. Not that my bike sees the light of day every day, week or even month..... but I can assure you that had I remained in England no bike would be in my list of possessions.

Birthday Circle
I have endured the Dutch birthday circle on more than one occasion. I think it has made me a stronger person, slightly traumatised, but definitely stronger. 

Birthday Calendar
There is a birthday calendar in my downstairs loo. Never before in my life have I owned a birthday calendar let alone displayed one in the smallest room in the house. In fact, I was not aware of their existence before I moved to the land of the Dutch. I now know just how essential they are.

Expat life turned my career on its head. I abandoned the disillusioning world of Human Resources to become a writer. I can now say I am a published author - made possible by my contribution to Dutched Up!, an expat anthology about life in the Netherlands and upcoming book Once Upon An ExpatThis is quite possibly also not something that qualifies as a 'little change' but it did happen in a gradual, step by step sort of way. 

Fried Foods
I have been subjected to the most bizarre combination of fried foods you could imagine, from Dutch snacks such as kipcorn, bitterballen and frikandel to oliebollen at New Year. This is coming from someone who grew up in the land of fish and chips and deep fried Mars Bars......

I feel like an "in-betweeny". I am certainly not Dutch (see birthday circle and bike entry above) but I no longer feel 100% at home in England. Probably not even 50% at home in England.

Mother Tongue
I speak in a second language on a daily basis. Actually, this is no small way my life has changed. It's huge. It means that when I am trying to speak my mother tongue I often struggle trying to find the word I need. I am also prone to directly translating a Dutch word into an English word which doesn't actually exist. It's also not uncommon for me to the verb at the end of my English sentence put. 

I network with amazing people that I ordinarily would not have met had I stayed in England - both Dutch and expat.

I visit the supermarket every other day. I used to shop once a week, twice at most in England. Here, if I want vegetables or fruit without mould I have to shop more regularly. 

What are the little (or big!) changes that expat life has brought into your life?


  1. I can identify with so much of this. I know for a fact I had not been on a bike since I was a teenager before I came here. I was also used to weekly shops too before I moved here. One of the other small changes I have experienced is that I regularly get the Carnival theme from Efteling stuck in my head.

    1. Well thanks for putting THAT tune in my head..........