Wednesday, 5 March 2014

5 Things I Love About my Expat Life

Welcome to this first post in this month's Celebrating Expat Life Blog Link up series. The idea is to share the many positive things about living overseas, the great things about bringing your children up in a multicultural and multilingual environment and focus on the things that make your expat life great. You can grab the link button at the bottom of this post, as well as link your own post using the InLinkz link. If you tweet about this link up please use #ELWADBlinkup. Meanwhile, here's what I love about my expat life.

Expat life is no holiday, but if you're doing it right there are a mountain of positive things to get out of living overseas. Here are 5 things I love about my expat life.

1. I Have a New Comfort Zone
My comfort zone disappearing on the horizon
Moving abroad took me so far beyond the borders of my comfort zone they became a speck on the horizon. From the moment I stepped on the ferry in England to a new life in the Netherlands I couldn't see my comfort zone, even if I squinted really hard.  It turns out that that one way ferry ticket was also a ticket to a whole new comfort zone. All those things that were foreign a decade ago are now a huge part of what makes me feel safe, at home and content. I'm not sure if my safe circle expanded or moved entirely but I do know that my expat life revealed that I am more resilient and more capable than I had ever imagined. I have taken a risk with my career and made difficult personal choices because I feel stronger and braver for having made the move abroad. Being an expat has made me challenge myself more than I ever would have back on British soil.

2. Expat Life is Enriching
I love that so many new things came into my life when I became an expat: people, food, music,

sights, language, culture, travel experiences, books, films, traditions, celebrations. Being able to watch The Bridge in Swedish/Danish with Dutch subtitles and understand 100% of what is going on gives me a huge sense of satisfaction and pride. The people I meet are colourful and culturally different from me. And I love the fact that even after more than thirteen years of living in the Netherlands I still discover and learn new things on a regular basis. Being an expat gives a new spin on the humdrum of daily life.

3. Expat Life is a Cultural Adventure
My husband was raised in a different culture to me. He grew up with different traditions and customs, he listened to music that is unfamiliar to me, he celebrated holidays I had never heard of before I moved here in 2000, he went to school in a system that I have no first hand knowledge of. I watched TV programs that he never saw, my British education had a different emphasis than his Dutch schooling, I ate cereal each morning for breakfast as he tucked into his hagelslag. Life was very different for us as children and as a couple now we try to find a middle way through both our cultures and pass the best of British and the best of Dutch to our three sons.

4. Expat Life Gives Me the Best of Two Worlds
As an expat in the Netherlands I get to celebrate Dutch Sinterklaas and British Christmas. I live my life in two languages, in Dutch and English. I eat ginger nuts and speculaaskoekjes. I can whip up (or mash up) a stamppot at the drop of a hat or prepare an English trifle. I can get off the telephone having spoken to my dad in English and switch to Dutch to talk to my father-in-law. I appreciate a good Dutch Queen's Day celebration (soon to be King's Day) and could watch the British Queen's Jubilee celebrations with a sense of pride. There are many things that were no part of my life fourteen years ago which now make up my expat world - but I still get to keep many of the things that have been part of my life since childhood. I truly have the best of both worlds.

5. Expat Life Makes me Appreciate my Roots
Most of the people I have contact with on a daily basis are Dutch. I stand out like a sore thumb, even though I can communicate with them in (my imperfect) Dutch. There have been times when I have struggled with this, but that is no longer the case. The longer I live away from Britain, the more I understand what characteristics, habits and behaviour makes me British, and why I can never wholly blend in with the Dutch - even if you ignore the fact that most Dutch people tower over me. I have actually grown to be very proud of my British roots, and the Dutch love hearing about how things are done in Britain compared to their home country. I'm the only British expat living in my street. As far as I know I'm the only British parent at my son's school. Being British makes me stick out from the crowd, and I have grown to love that.

Expat Life with a Double Buggy


  1. Amanda, this is a wonderful idea! It might even make me want to get back behind the keyboard again. Might. We'll see....

  2. Do it! :-) I would love to be responsible for getting you back ticking on your keyboard :-)

  3. Amanda, this is brilliant! I'll try to put together 5 things in the next days. I love the positive approach and hope I'll be able to contribute as much as possible.

  4. Great Ute - look forward to reading a post or two from you :-)

  5. I totally agree with your five things Amanda, especially being taken to a new comfort zone. Moving the France took me way out of my comfort zone but I've gained so much confidence in doing so as it's forced me into new situations that I probably would have avoided otherwise. And we love having the best of both worlds, we've had two pancake days so far this year! (I might try and sneak in two mother's days as well!) Thanks for letting us take part!

  6. Hi Amanda,

    It's so interesting to read your blog as I am the other way around to you! I am Dutch and moved to the UK 14 years ago and am about to (in 3 months) marry a Brit!
    I can understand everything you say in your post "5 things I love about my expat life" in a mirrored kinda way :)

  7. Ooh, La Famille Brown - I love the idea of two mother's days...... I tried it in the early years but it never caught on. No harm in trying again!!

    Marjolijn - thank you for stopping by! Ooh, congratulations - how exciting and love that you experience things in a mirrored way!!