Dutch Australian

It has been two months since we moved from Australia to The Netherlands

girls learning to cycle

Girls learning to cycle

I’ve just realised that it’s two months today since we left our “old” life in Australia and began our “new” one in The Netherlands.  It feels more like a year.

You can follow the earlier part of our journey on a day by day basis under Life in The Netherlands.   Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to comment, it’s been really lovely to have family, old friends and new friends following our journey.  Apologies posts stopped rather abruptly once we moved into our new place and had to wait a month for the internet to be connected!  But I’m pleased to say it is possible for me to survive (a short period of time!) without the internet and I’m happy to now be back online and blogging again.

Both my husband and I had just commented earlier today that we’re starting to feel a little “normal” again.  Is quite a nice feeling – kind of like being lighter and able to think more clearly. I think it’s because the pieces of our life are now falling into place.  Well…falling into place is perhaps the wrong expression, as that suggests things happening without too much effort.  Settling into life in a new country takes a LOT of time, effort and money.  Not to mention patience and courage.  The last two months have been perhaps the hardest in my life – leaving family, friends, a great job, a growing business, a nice car, and much more behind….and starting almost from scratch.

Look around you, regardless of whether you have recently moved countries or have been in one place all your life.  Every piece of your current life – from your house, car, job, friends, school for your children, cupboards, internet connection, pots, pans…EVERYTHING really takes time, effort and money to establish.

Apart from perhaps something you’ve bought recently, or new people you may have just met, most things are comfortable and familiar.  In much of your day to day life you may even operate on auto pilot.  You know which brands and products to choose for your favourite meals at the grocery store, you are in a routine with your family and/or job, you know how to get around, you feel your children are safe and happy.  Now imagine that you are going to walk out of your life with pretty much just a suitcase and go to the other side of the world.  Have you done this?  Could you do this?

I’ve actually done this several times now.  And I’m fortunate in many ways.  The Netherlands isn’t a totally new country for me.  I lived here from 2003-2007 and still have some friends here, a rapidly returning command of the Dutch language and my husband’s family is very supportive.   Many of the things that are most special to me are still with me daily – and I appreciate them all the more.  My husband (who was the one who drove this move – he was homesick for The Netherlands and wanted to pursue job opportunities), my children (aged 5 & 3 who are amazingly adaptable) and though I am almost embarrassed to put it in the same sentence with precious family relationships of this calibre….my iphone, iPad, MacBookPro and digital SLR as well!

However there is also a constant sense of loss.  My family and many of my closest friends are far, far away and my old life simply doesn’t exist anymore.  Our house in Australia has sold, my old role at work has been taken on by others, aspects of my business are in limbo.  Mostly, I’ve just been trying to get through each day and not look too far ahead.

When I look back though, we’ve achieved an incredible amount in the last 2 months.  I think it’s important for me to perhaps stop and reflect on this:

  • We searched for, found and rented a lovely place I almost feel like I can call “home”
  • My husband was successful in finding and starting a job he feels is a good career move and enjoys (and has already been on a work trip to the UK)
  • We have a new (second hand) car
  • Our 5 year old has started school, has just finished week 3 and is loving it
  • Our 3 year old began “peuterspeelzaal” 3 mornings a week and also enjoying it
  • Have managed to figure out how to book our 5 year old into TSO (staying over at school for lunch!).
  • I’ve reconnected with old friends here and made some new ones
  • We’ve organised our health care and insurances and other various paperwork!
  • Have applied for, waited ages for, complained about this (in Dutch!) and finally been connected at home with the internet, tv & telephone
  • My new moederfiets has done LOTS of kilometres already and despite a few falls (and even spraining my ankle and spending my birthday not able to walk!), I’m taking the kids to and from school daily on my bike.
  • Though I’m not likely to be the best teacher, I’ve been out giving my girls daily bike riding lessons and they are getting lots better (though still have training wheels). I’ve also taught them to think twice before stepping out in front of other people’s bikes, in front of trams and traffic etc!
  • I’ve introduced myself to neighbours and have some potential play dates
  • Have found some awesome bargains via Marktplaats and also been a regular at IKEA and our house is almost fully furnishes
  • Negotiated the process for importing our belongings and have our shipment from Australia unpacked (well it’s all in piles everywhere but it’s unpacked!)
  • We’ve experienced and thoroughly enjoyed some lovely local events such as Biesland Dagen and Taptoe Delft
  • I’ve started participating in some wonderful and very supportive expat groups such as Delft MaMa and Connecting Women
  • We’ve celebrated mine, my daughters and other birthdays and events with friends and family and have spent quality time together.
  • Have been searching for possible jobs that can fit around my family commitments and am looking into restarting my business here.
  • I learnt how to lay vinyl flooring and did most of our new house myself!
laying vinyl flooring
That’s not even an exhaustive list!  Overall, many things that I took for granted in my “old life” felt like a struggle in my “new life” but it is getting easier.  I know I post mostly lovely photos on Facebook of our new life here but want to be honest and say it has been incredibly hard work.  There have been some days where I’ve simply felt like crying for most of the day.  If I could have somehow magically returned to my “old” life I think I would have taken this option.  It’s been a huge strain on myself, and even my personality and marriage, but I’m grateful we’re getting through and I think this whole experience is going to make me super strong!  I still feel this has been the best decision for our family at this point in our lives.  It’s fantastic to watch how incredibly adaptable my girls are.  I’m proud of how much we have achieved so far as a family and am starting to feel I could be happy here.  I’m certainly going to give it a huge attempt and think I’m off to a pretty good start…but am taking tomorrow off!
Renee
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22 replies »

  1. I struggled when moving ONLY 6 hours drive from my family!
    I can only admire your strength and courage, you are truly amazing.
    I feel life sometimes takes us on jouneys we may not have envisaged. Although at times we may struggle, I feel our children are the driving force behind us. take care and keep strong xx

  2. Great to read your blog Renee, you have done an amazing job in 2 months! Kids adapt so quickly (ours were 4 and 2 when we moved here), it’s the adults who take longer. Good luck with settling further in, job hunting etc.

  3. Thank you for this post!

    I’m actually an American who two years ago moved to Australia, and a week ago moved to the Netherlands with my spouse. I knew from my experience moving to Perth that the first couple months here were going to be incredibly frustrating, and often tear inducing, but you have reminded me that it will get better. I think I may read this post often in the next few weeks.

    • Hi Beth and welcome to NL! All the best settling in and hope you find everything goes smoothly for you. Feel free to ask questions either here or on my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/dutchaustralian – I’ve just been through everything like getting internet connected, renting a place, buying a car etc (did you see my other posts from the first few weeks?). Which area of NL do you live in? So wonderful to hear I can remind others about the positive side as that’s one of the reasons I write….it certainly can get frustrating at times, I am not sure how I managed to survive a month with barely any internet! All the best for your life here and if you’re in the Delft/Den Haag area, may even meet you sometime soon! Renee

  4. Hi Renee, your story is so similar to mine. We celebrate two months in two days of being here and I identify with how much you have to do when you get here. Like you, I also lived here in NL previously (from 2001-2008) and have two children. We live in Krimpen aan den IJssel and my little boy began school for the first time this year whilst my daughter is in class 6.

    I love being back here in NL, every day is a gift and although when we returned to Australia to live in 2008 it was to be forever, I missed NL and what it offered. I went back to Australia a different girl than the one who left and couldn’t connect to my own country anymore as much as I wanted to.

    I shall look forward to reading your blog!

    Kind regards,

    D.C.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and amazing that our stories are so similar! Do you blog as well? If so love to read it! Either way, nice to hear I’m not alone in my experiences. Hope your children are doing well, mine seem to be settling in really well. I haven’t heard of where you live, I’ll have to look it up, it’s a neat name though! I am starting to enjoy living here and finding lovely things to be grateful for – the autumn leaves in particular are really lovely and even small things, like watching the local swan and geese babies grow as we pass them each day on the cycle to school, is special. I am returning to Australia shortly for my brother’s wedding so think it will be quite surreal to be there again after I’m just starting to settle here. Hope you keep warm in the winter, which part of Australia are you from? This Queenslander isn’t good at coping with cold, I’m shopping for thermals this weekend! Renee

      • Dear Renee,

        Sorry that I am replying so late to your response.

        I am from Victoria so I am use to the cold! I don’t blog, however love reading other people’s thoughts and feelings, especially when I can identify with them.

        My children are loving school, my eldest daughter has amazed us in that for the 4 1/2 years that we were in Australia she refused to speak Dutch and switched to English. In that time we pushed her, pleaded with her and even begged her to speak Dutch and we would always receive the stock standard response “I can’t”. Well, after two months she is now fluent and the light has switched on again. It’s the magic of wanting to connect with other children and the necessity to speak their language.

        I have enrolled both my children into gymnastics, this is a great sport for them and we have many halls in Krimpen aan den IJssel which run classes each evening. It’s also another avenue for my children to make friends outside of school.

        I am still feeling so happy to be here Renee, I realise that I had outgrown Australia, not in a negative way, but more that I need the challenge of living in another country and to enjoy a different culture. I felt when I returned to Australia I was disconnected and couldn’t connect to what was around me. As much as Australia will always be my homeland, I have realised that there is so much in the world to explore and do, so many adventures to have and I can’t have that in Australia.

        I also appreciate how wonderfully organised it is here, from the health system to the education system. I love it that the schools have such a high standard and I don’t have to pay a fortune in private school fees for my children to have a good education. We actually drove around Delft last weekend and my husband and his father also attended the Delft University of Technology and I was so excited to think that when my children are older that they have such a wonderful choice of world class universities to attend. Renee, the options for our children here are so enormous. Even to think that my daughter is learning about the history in Amsterday during the 16-17th centuries and she can visit the very houses and canals that she is reading about in books!

        I must go, I would love to hear from you. My personal email address is: d.c.sinkeler@gmail.com

        Warmest regards,

        DC

  5. Hi Renee,

    I really love reading your blog! I recognize a lot of your stories, especially as I lived in Delft and Rijswijk for years, and moved to the Sunshine Coast last year 🙂
    You guys are really doing a great job settling in, and can be proud of yourselves!
    xx

    • Thanks Nicole, it’s funny we’ve practically done a “swap”! I’m missing my family on the Sunshine Coast but coming back “home” shortly for a visit. Appreciate the encouragement, trying to stay positive and doing well most days, though it’s getting harder now it’s so dark and cold in the mornings already…and is only still September! Enjoy a wonderful spring and summer on the Sunshine Coast. Do you know about the “Dutchies Around” group there?

      • I know what you mean, the dark and cold mornings is one of the reasons I don’t miss the Netherlands! At the same token, I still find it really strange that it’s October now, doesn’t feel like it.

        I’ve been in touch with the Dutchies around, but I work most weekends, so haven’t had a chance to check it out myself 🙂
        There’s something like that in The Hague as well, not just for Aussies, but for expats and foreigners in general. They’re called the Hungry Mind, and do a lot for kids as well. They are located next to the International School (in Ockenburgh), and I know that they have at least one Aussie volunteering there, who is around quite often. If you’re interested I can give you her contact details by fb private message or so?

        Have fun when you’re coming over, and all the best with the cold and dark days coming up 😦

  6. I found your blog through the expat, I’m not a tourist competition. I just read through all your posts about moving to the NL. I’m married to a Dutchman who is also itching to get back (we live in the US). It seems like we will be moving to NL this summer but a lot can change and it seems like we’ve been talking about this move forever. We have a 5 yr old daughter so it’s been interesting to read about your girls and their transition to their new surroundings. I really appreciate your honesty and hope that I’ll be able to become an expat with as much grace & courage as you.
    xM

    • Hi Melissa and thanks so much for taking the time to comment. If I can be of any help for your move please feel free to get in touch! I’ll continue to blog here and you can also join the facebook community over at http://www.facebook.com/dutchaustralian (dutch americans also most welcome!). My daughters really seem to be doing well. Greatly appreciate your positive comments too, I certainly don’t feel I have grace and courage some days but it’s great to be building a fantastic support network here, I have some lovely friends who are helping me immensely. The expat community is really supportive. Good luck with your decision, it’s a really big thing to go through but also can be amazing.

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