Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Straying From The Path to Now

Unknown to my younger self, I am sure that the path I have been on since I was a teenager was one leading me to a life abroad. It just wasn't a direct path. Sure, there were signs, hints and indications in my youth that a life beyond the borders of my birth country was something I should prepare for. That my later life would involve speaking a second language should have been clear to me at an early age.

My first trip abroad was a family holiday to Tangiers in Morocco. The unfamiliar sounds of an unknown language spoken all around me, the rich vivid colours of North African wedding attire sparkling in the glaring evening sun, the enchantment of a music so different to Western pop, the smells of exotic food cooking in the streets all served to pique my curiosity about life beyond the borders of my home land.

A school trip abroad to La Rochelle started my long lasting love affair with France. I homed in on modern languages, namely French and German for my GCSEs and continued my French to A-Level. My love of the French language went beyond the allure of my Liverpudlian French teacher. A school trip to Berlin a year after the wall fell enticed me to be a part of something bigger, it lured me to take a closer look at the world away from my own doorstep. Foreign languages became an integral part of who I was, who I was to be.

I centred my university degree search around being able to use my French. I eventually picked a European Studies course in Bradford, which included a study year in Toulouse. I use the word study lightly. It was less of an academic study year, more of a cultural immersion. I loved the smell and bustling of the local bakery every morning, I loved watching the old man in a beret that shuffled to the local supermarket in his well worn but clearly loved checked slippers, I loved browsing at the snails in the freezer compartment as I did my grocery shop - week after week failing miserably to pluck up the courage to actually give them a try.

After graduation jobs with companies like Michelin kept my French alive but when I later chose a career in Human Resources the need to speak a second language soon dissipated. My path seemed to change, leading away from where I had been sure I would go.

As a teenager I’d envisioned a life for myself abroad, in France, where I spoke the language and loved the culture. Somewhere along the way I got distracted and forgot where I was headed. My linguistic mind stayed with me, laying dormant but patiently waiting whilst I strayed from the path I should have been on.

And then one day my little brother met an American girl, online in a chat room. I was clueless. I had no computer of my own and had no idea how you could ‘meet’ someone in a chat room. After what seemed like no time at all he announced he was moving to Long Island, NY to get married. One family globetrotter fled the nest. But my own path kept me firmly rooted in England.

I needed to write a dissertation to finish my Post Graduate Diploma in Human Resources but the absence of a computer at home made progress slow but Father Christmas (disguised as my father) saved the day and I became the proud owner of a personal computer. It became my indispensable companion. It was to put me back on the right path.

For a reason I no longer remember nor can imagine looking back, my brother’s once uttered words, “go try a chat room. It’s fun” popped into my head one evening. I did a search and ended in a chat room talking to a Mexican. Just as I was getting bored with the whole 'chat room' experience a pop up appeared from another chatter. This time it was a Dutchman. My boredom vanished.

Christmas and the millennium were closing in and my days were filled with MSN Messenger and an endless string of emails. After that fateful evening I never entered a chat room again. Online chatting turned into a phone call on New Year’s Eve. Talking on the telephone turned in to visits to each other’s homes in foreign lands.

Seven months later my wonderful boss moved on and in his place came a woman who had a reputation for clearing the decks and bringing in her own people wherever she went. Business trips that were planned months ahead were suddenly superfluous and I whispered to my dad that something was afoot. I knew something bad was looming. He told me I was being paranoid.

Then one evening, sure enough, I was summoned to the dragon’s den. She informed me that my position would end in two months. Walking home with tears streaming down my face I made a call to the Netherlands with my mobile phone. I shared the lowlights of my evening and told my Dutch partner that I needed to find a job fast so that my mortgage didn’t become a problem.

“Or instead of finding a new job there, you could move to the Netherlands…” he said and I could hear the smile on his face.

And suddenly I was back on the path I was destined to walk on.

Lou Messugo

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Dutch Peanut Butter or Nothing

Photo Credit: Crystal Alifanow
It's that time of year when the Dutch nation leaves home en masse and heads for sunnier climes. It's a bit of a standing joke that Dutch people pack their hagelslag and pindakaas to take on holiday with them.

Except that it is real. Apparently the peanut butter sold in British supermarkets is not good enough for my Dutchman. He mutters,

"It looks like wall filler, and it's the colour of...."

"Yes, okay, I get the picture!" I say.

"It's Calve or nothing. Crunchy pindakaas. Not that British swill that sticks in your mouth," he says, doing an impression of what looks like a dog dry heaving.

So Calve pindakaas goes into the holiday crate, alongside the hagelslag. The peanut butter on the British grocery list that is to be delivered to our holiday cottage in Cornwall is taken off the list.

It's Dutch peanut butter or nothing I learn.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Brits on the Beach

"don't understand this settlement behaviour," my Dutch husband uttered as we plonked ourselves down on beach towels on Daymer Bay beach in Cornwall, England.

There were couples, groups and families camped out on the overpopulated beach around us armed with fold away chairs with built-in cup holders, light portable tables, tents in every size and colour you could imagine, multi-coloured wind breakers, portable radios, enough reading material to make the nearest library more than a little jealous and large cool boxes brimming with enough to satisfy the most ravenous of hungers for many days should the world's food chain suddenly implode. One group parked on the other side of the beach to us had even brought their own full size BBQ and looked like they had no intention of leaving anytime that summer.

"You don't see this in the Netherlands," he muttered, genuinely bewildered as he looked around the beach.

Anyone beg to differ?

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Doe Normaal Doesn't Apply to Sports

The phrase 'doe normaal' is widely heard across the Netherlands, and if it is directed at you then you have certainly crossed the invisible Dutch line of what is acceptable and what not.

You may also hear, "Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg" which in essence means "behave normally - that is crazy enough". Both common sayings make it very clear that there is a high regard in Dutch society for behaving 'normal', however you may wish to interpret that.

These sayings are in line with the reputation the Dutch have for not liking to stand out in a crowd - everything should be a bit average, a bit middelmatig. There's no need to boast about things, show people how exceptional you are in a particular field. There's no need to take yourself that seriously.

Unless of course you are the sporty type. When you can speed skate at gold medal level, play football or hockey to the highest of levels or swim like a world class fish then you can shout about it, or more accurately the people of the Netherlands will shout about it for you. Oranjegekte will take over and carry you to sporting wonderland.

Take the last winter Olympics and the unbelievable speed skating success of this little Dutch country. Look at this year's World Cup and the outpouring of pride that a third place bronze medal created, the happiness that a fantastic run and being so close to playing in yet another World Cup final brought to the land of orange.

For such a little country the sporting achievements are truly remarkable. And it is the one area of life it seems that doe even normaal really doesn't apply. And thank goodness it doesn't!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Is my Child Introvert or Highly Sensitive?

Understanding whenever your child is highly sensitive or an introvert can help parents get a better grip on the emotions of a child and how to get the best out of them whilst allowing them to remain true to who they are.

It's a fine line though between introverted and highly sensitive. it can be hard to see the wood from the trees.

I was asked to write a guest post on this topic for The Piri Piri Lexicon and what with it being a topic close to my heart I was delighted to oblige.

Head over to the Piri Piri Lexicon to read about the differences between introvert children and highly sensitive children. And then head back here.....

Is your highly sensitive child introvert or extrovert? Is your introvert highly sensitive? In what ways do you see it?