Monday, 10 November 2014

An Expat Blogger's Reality: My Untypical Expat Life

 I was struck recently how one expat blogger's sense of reality differs so starkly from another and it reinforced for myself that I cannot write posts or show you photos and pass them off as 'typical of expat life here in the Netherlands'.

The train of thought started when I saw photos on my Facebook timeline. The snaps were taken in the Netherlands and posted with the word 'typical' in the title of the post.

A typical Dutch view. A typical school. A typical Dutch house. A typical Dutch person.  Typical? What does that even mean?

The 'typical Dutch view from my window' on my timeline was beautiful, but not one I could identify with. It didn't look like the scene that greets me when I open my blinds each morning. It isn't the view that most Dutch people wake up to. Yet, if you don't live here in the Netherlands, how would you know that?

So, I was hit by the fact that one expat blogger's reality is personal, often unique. Their photos and blog posts are an insight in to their reality. But not mine. And not yours. Another expat's photos do not depict my expat reality. Their photos are not representative of the view outside my kitchen window. They are not representative of the rooms inside my house. They do not represent the street I do my shopping in. The Netherlands may be small but there is still a world of difference between one expat blogger's life and another's.

If I live in a mansion in Wassenaar my sense of 'this is what life in the Netherlands is like' is very different to the one I have living here in my modest eengezinswoning in Zoetermeer. If I live in the middle of Amsterdam, my daily life looks very different to the one I would have if I lived on the island of Texel. All Dutch. All different.

What's my point? My point is there is no typical expat life. My point is that if you are researching what expat life would be like for you, don't read expat blog posts and look at photos of someone else's expat life and assume that is how expat life is for everyone living in the Netherlands, or how it would be for you.

Expats, wherever they are located, are different. We expat bloggers shouldn't even attempt to paint a sweeping, generalised picture of expat life. Each post we write, each picture we share, represents our own personal expat life, not the expat life of the thousands of other expats who have made the Netherlands their home.

So in future, I'll be sure to make it clear I write about my expat life. I share photos of the reality that is my expat life. It's not typical. It won't be the same as yours. Nor is it the same as any of the other fabulous expat bloggers in this little country.

And that is why the world of expat blogging is a fun one to be a part of - we're all expats but we're all different. We're all leading untypical expat lives - and don't let anyone convince you otherwise.


  1. Great post! My expat husband tells his Dutch friends and family what is typically American. But since he only shares what folks do in our small village in Louisiana, that is not "typically American." I learned that I could not say "in America we do ...." Now explain to me why the Dutch use the expression "typisch" when they mean something odd or unusual. I heard that for over 27 years while living in The Netherlands and never understood the "logic."Linda@Wetcreek Blog

  2. expatsincebirth.com10 November 2014 at 20:06

    I completely agree. I feel the same when I read that kind of posts and it really feels alienating because so different from what I experience. Expat life is interesting and fascinating because of its different facets. I prefer talking (and reading) about habits and traditions and about what someone observes or experiences. – Thanks for writing this.

  3. Thanks for this. Maybe I saw the post, or not, but I have often felt that disconnect when other expats describe something as typically Dutch. I have a fairly big, diverse Dutch circle and these "typical" observations never seem to match my own observations. Yes the Netherlands is country of "only" 16 million but it's far too big for the casual generalizations that are so often thrown around. Thank you for sharing your views.