Monday, 21 May 2012

You Know You're An Expat Parent in the Netherlands When...

Being a parent abroad means facing situations that you probably wouldn't face if you had stayed in the country you were born in. Being an expat parent means adapting...... Here are twenty things that make me realise I'm a Brit parenting in the Netherlands.

  1. You actually consider a home birth as a viable option.
  2. You think you can give birth without the help of pain relief.
  3. The whole idea of a maternity nurse spending a week in your home directly after the birth of your child is inconceivable. You reluctantly commit to her coming a few hours a day (half of your entitlement) but make sure everyone knows you are giving in begrudgingly. When your second is born you sign up for your full entitlement and dream up elaborate ways to get more hours out of your maternity nurse.
  4. When the well-baby clinic recommends your child eats six slices of bread a day you involuntarily take in a sharp breath.
  5. Your three year old speaks Dutch better than you do. 
  6. Your five year old actually corrects you when you speak Dutch.
  7. You are floored by the way your toddler can roll their "r's" and say "Scheveningen".
  8. You're amazed because there is no complicated school enrolment system* for your children. You fill in an application form and the school informs you within a week or two if they have a space for your child or not. You can't believe it can be that simple.
  9. When your child starts school you have no idea how the school system works because it's not the same as the one you grew up in. 
  10. You cannot get to grips with the idea that eating in a pancake house is "going out for dinner" and still see those Dutch pancakes as eating dessert before the main meal.
  11. You stop calling your GP for every minor ailment your kids get because you know the answer will be "Take paracetamol and if he's not okay in three days come back."
  12. There is more paracetamol in your medicine cabinet at any one time than you would conceivably use in a year in your own country. What's more you have paracetamol for every possible age range and for every orifice and  - you're not afraid to use it.
  13. Your kids cycle better and more than you do.
  14. The phrase you use most whilst walking to and around the local playground is "Watch out for the dog poo. I said WATCH OUT! OK, you can clean that when we get home...."
  15. Your children eat sprinkles on bread for breakfast.
  16. Your child brings home a different friend book to fill in on a weekly basis. But of course your child cannot yet write so guess what you spend your weekends doing....
  17. You wouldn't dream of driving to school. Instead, you join the masses and walk or cycle with your child to school.
  18. You have an impressive array of attachments for your bike, including a bike trailer and child seats.
  19. You race to the nearest lake when the temperature drops so that your children can wear their ice skates.
  20. Your child has a tendency to find the idea of poo sandwiches hilarious. 
*except in Amsterdam.....
    11. You don't call the GP....
    Photo: Andrzej Gdula

    What have I missed? What makes you realise you are parenting abroad, which ever country you are parenting in?


  1. You child asks for a boterham or worst for lunch instead of a warm home-cooked meal.

  2. You consider serving "beschuit met muisjes"(a kind of rusk with sprinklers with aniseed on the inside) to celebrate the birth of your child. Ofcourse pink and white for a girl and blue and white "muisjes" for a boy.

  3. I love this list, it so made me chuckle, I agree with every point! My only child was born in the Netherlands, but I am and remain very British. I'm torn every day between loving and hating certain things here, but apparently Dutch children are the happiest in Europe and I know it's a good place to bring up my son, even though I'm now alone with him.... keep up the great posts!

  4. Yes, bread, bread and more bread for lunch!!! And indeed, eating the cracker things with crunchy aniseed bits is certainly as Dutch as you can get - (three times blue for us!)

    Thanks for the encouragement Yorkshire Cloggy :-) and quite something that you stayed in NL anyway!!! Courageous for sure.

  5. Hahaha! Funny post!I see I'm not there yet: no cycling, no my three year old's Dutch is not better than mine, we don't eat sprinkles on bread, but yes: I loved the kraamozorg, considered a homebirth, had no pain relief, and I have lots o Paracetamol in my drawer.I think I would add that your idea of bread is very different one from what the Dutch call bread- for me Dutch bread is plastic with air- I make my own one out of desperation. I guess I will have to wait some more to realize more of these points- my children are still little and don't go to school yet.

    1. Bread! Yes, I thought that was me being fussy.... when I am back in England I notice how bad the bread I've been eating here has been then it fades again. Plastic with air... good description I think!

      I'm pretty sure as my 3 get older I will discover tons more differences......

      Thanks for sharing.

  6. I have another one: your definition of "good weather" changes from "sunshine" to "no rain". No, you're not being fussy. Dutch bread is just plastic and air, although the sweet stuff is pretty delicious!

  7. Our GP is partial to nose spray...

  8. Our kinderarts was partial to that too Cathy!! :-)

  9. Great post Amanda! Yes, number 14... every week in the beginning when we lived here...
    Being Belgian, we also eat sprinkles on bread! :-)
    I like the cycle paths here, the cheese, the water (I like kitesurfing), the directness of the Dutch people and much more.
    What I miss are big supermarkets and hills, everything is so "flat".

  10. Ha ha ha!

    You think its normal to let your 3 year old ride his bike into the main city centre with you and to let them wander out onto a frozen lake with a small chair.....

    Your Dutch raised child questions why the train is so expensive in the UK ;)

    Or why there are so many fat people who look like potatoes ....

    In the UK he can't buy the licorice he loves nor does chocolate milk taste the same :(

  11. Hi Amanda,
    Great post.
    I would add: You take your child to their pre-school activities and can't sing along with any of the songs, even though some of the tunes are familiar.

  12. Great list, I really enjoyed reading all of these!

  13. Fab! Can relate to 6 and 9 and I love number 3. I remember being told that before and couldn't believe it!!

    1. Yes, I saw your post on the British education system- it's a tough one for sure!!! And yes, the maternity nurse was certainly one of my favourite parts of childbirth here 😀

  14. I love lists like this and must get around to doing one about France. My son went on a school trip to The Hague recently, staying with a host family, and thanks to blogs like yours and a few others in Holland, I warned him he might have sprinkles for breakfast and he was delighted on the first morning when he was offered them. He knew what to expect thanks to you! N° 14 is certainly something I can relate to in France, we have the same problem! #expatlifelinky

    1. Ha ha that made me smile!! Nothing like being forewarned when you're going to be ambushed with sprinkles :-)

  15. This list made me laugh. I will have to do a reverse at some stage. Bringing up my children in the UK (where our older two were born) felt very strange to me. I did not know any nursery rhymes (although I can sing St Maartens songs about cows with tails and the Dutch ABC, I have no common frame of reference for toddler TV programmes (what on earth are the Clangers all about!) and why on earth is poor Nijntje called Miffy. My mum sorted out Muisjes for our son's birth but she was dead by the time the girls were born so I missed out there.

    British people thought I was serving unhealthy food on playdates when I gave hagelslaag sandwiches and could not get their head around the sheer quantities of apple sauce I smother over everything. They are also very confused by my tendency to mash potatoes whenever possible. I have never worked out how British people make cheese sandwiches as they don't use a cheese slice. Grated cheese or big thick hunks just don't work for me.

    The dog muck is definitely not something I miss, some of the enduring memories of my childhood are the bellows of 'watch where you walk'.