Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Expat Life and The Lost Art of Comparison

I have been living in the Netherlands so long now that I can no longer accurately compare life here with life in Britain. I have been walloped with that realisation a few times over the last few months.

Most vividly recently was during an interview for the LiHSK (the Dutch national organisation for Highly Sensitive Children). I was asked about schooling in Britain and the only personal experience I can refer to is my own schooling. And believe me, that was a long time ago. A long, long time ago.

I had it a lot during my three pregnancies too when people asked about the maternity system in the UK. I cannot talk about that from personal experience either. All three of my sons have been born in the Netherlands. I can tell you everything you'd care to know about the Dutch maternity system but ask me about the English one and I will falter.

When I first landed on Dutch soil I spent more time than I care to think about now comparing my new life here to the one I had left behind.

"You wouldn't see that in England," I would mutter time and time again. "THAT would never happen in England," I'd say to the Dutchies in my life.

And then, although I'm not sure when exactly, it stopped. It's not something I consciously did. I came out the other end of culture shock and it just stopped. I started living in the now. I adapted to how things are done here in the Netherlands. I stopped thinking about how it would be done in Britain. I stopped seeing things as 'wrong' here and 'right' there. I just started doing things like they are done here. Except birthday parties - there are always limits.

And now I realise that my life in Britain is so far behind me I couldn't compare it to my life here and now even if I wanted to. I have no idea about the nitty gritty of life in Britain to be honest. I watch the  BBC news regularly (so yes I know there is a general election coming up, that the live TV debates set up was a fiasco and that Nigel Farage is a dick) but the details of real life are lost to me. I can no longer compare the Dutch way to the British way.

Well, except in the realm of health and safety. When it comes to health and safety I can still often be uttering that a (life threatening or at the very least mildly dangerous like this) situation I come across here in the Netherlands would never happen in Britain. But now I don't mean it in quite such a positive way as I did fifteen years ago.......

Do you still compare your passport country to the country you now call home? Is it in a positive or negative way?


  1. Yes, infact, after reading your post I think I must be incredibly annoying. My newest thing this past few weeks is comparing B & Q to the likes of Praxis/ Gamma etc as we are in the process of buying a house. I've only been here just under 8 months though so hopefully my Dutchy forgives me! Layla

  2. Hahaha, yes it can be annoying but indeed hopefully those around us understand that a little adaptation requires a little comparison and a little moan.... And don't get me started on Gamma..... lol.