Hi Renee, I’m so glad I discovered your blog and FB page! I am an Aussie who has a dutch partner (met in Indonesia while travelling 2 yrs ago) and we have recently moved here so Bas (my partner) can have a bit of Dutch time with friends family work etc. Most of our past has been spent either travelling or living in South Aus. I now have a 5yr visa with him as my sponsor. But we would ultimately like to move home to Australia in a year or two for a long period. Although we have discussed and I think will probably be similar to what you experience and not really permanently live in one country. But I am curious if you had written a bog in the past about how easy/hard it was to move internationally with children. We are wanting to have kids soon and I don’t want to have to wait just because some have said how difficult it is to move once you have a child. I read that you had one of your children for your first move. Is there anything i should know?? Did you or your husband already have work lined up before you left? Housing situation? And just how it generally went. I would love to hear about it if you have already done a blog on it, or perhaps an idea for a new one :p Looking forward to reading more! Cheers, Jacqui
I really love getting messages from the Dutch Australian community, whether that is via the Facebook page, email or comments on this blog. Here’s one from yesterday, and as she suggests, I’m going to respond with a blog post so that others who are interested can also read through my response. Thanks Jacqui!
There are a number of blog posts in the archives where I document a bit more about these questions, and in fact blogging about these experiences is one way I’ve found I can cope better with situations I have found confusing or difficult. For me, writing about stuff, and then finding that others send messages who are in the same situation, helps somehow. Find your way of tackling problems. Maybe it’s blogging, maybe it’s talking, maybe it’s just thinking them through. Perhaps it’s drawing. Find your way that works.
To be perfectly honest about moving between countries – it’s HARD. Whether you do it for love, for a job, or for other reasons, I’ve now spent enough of my life mixing with expats/internationals/lovepats – whatever you want to call us – to know that there is nobody that thinks it’s easy. Even if it is easy temporarily, particularly in what they call the “honeymoon period” where you are caught up in the excitement of living in a new country – at some point, you’ll hit a wall. Sorry! I know I’m being rather blunt but will put that down to enough years of living in Dutch culture to learn to be brutally honest.
Actually, you ask about the two and I think moving to another country has a lot in common to parenting! It’s one of those things that you simply cannot really appreciate the enormity of until you are smack bang in the middle of it. There are incredibly tough times when you wonder what on earth you are doing and why you made the decision to move across the world/be a parent. But then, thankfully, there are also these other amazing times, when you wouldn’t change it for anything and it’s the most rewarding thing you have ever done. Usually the good times outweigh the bad. When they don’t, you need to find help until they do.
Personally, perhaps I’m mixing up parenting and relocating in my head as we have mixed the two in reality! Our first daughter was born in Delft, the Netherlands and when she was 5 months old, we moved to Australia. Our second little Dutch Australian daughter was born in Brisbane, Australia, and then we moved back to the Netherlands when she was 3 years old (and our eldest was then 5 years old). We’ve been here since – it’s been more than three years now. The first time I moved here, I found it tough but manageable. The second time we moved back really knocked me down, hard. I’m not sure that was just because we had children though and in fact, because we had children, it forced me to identify what issues I was having and get out there and solve them as soon as possible. It took me about a year to “get back on my feet”, another year to “settle in” and now, after the third year, I can genuinely say I’m doing ok.
That first and second year was really mostly figuring out the practical stuff you asked about. We rented a house for the first year and chose an area near where my husband had lived before and which we knew was an area with a high percentage of internationals (The Hague). We choose a school based mostly on their nice website! I used Facebook groups such as Delft Mama and Amsterdam Mamas to ask lots of questions (and am now helping other newcomers there). In the second year, we bought a house. This will eventually get a blog post of its own, but even a year later I’m still not ready to write about it! Not as it was a really bad experience, I just have mixed emotions. Getting my drivers licence was actually rather traumatic, but that’s more a personal thing I think – and again, though it was tough, the sense of pride and confidence I have of actually having done it is priceless.
Neither of us had work lined up when we moved in either direction, though had done some research and made some connections via LinkedIn which made the process easier. My husband had work quite quickly both times, but it took me a lot longer – mainly due to the fact I also had the responsibility of caring for the children. Again, though tough, this drove me to start a business and I did write a blog post about moving my small business overseas with me! I’ve always done a lot of volunteer work and networked, networked, networked – online and off. It took me nearly 3 years, but I now have an amazing job that I love.
Finally, as you’ve said, Jacqui, some people have said how difficult it is to move once you have a child. Yes, it is. However it’s also difficult to be a parent even if you stay in one place all your life! Again, to find a similarity between the two, with both parenting and relocating, you will always hear horror stories and stories of pure joy. And everything in between.
In terms of how the children themselves have coped – I’d say quite well. I noticed that it took a lot longer for my youngest to deal with the changes, which is probably as much about her personality as it was her age. They are now 6 & 8 years old and I just realised my youngest has lived half her life in each country, and my eldest has lived more in the Netherlands than Australia. Overall, they are happy, healthy, well adjusted kids. They miss Australia but part of this could be due to my conscious effort to keep this as part of our lives. Of course, one of the biggest challenges is missing family – they talk to my parents at least weekly on Skype and we try to visit annually. In fact, just this week I was feeling a little down (maybe because of the end of summer!) and realising the kids are using more and more Dutch words and neither sound “Australian”. However then my 8 year old came home with this beautiful drawing from school. The Australian side is still strong!
So where does that leave you with decision making? You’ll hear “do what’s right for you” and as cliche as it sounds, I think that’s the best advice I can give. In relationships where partners are from opposite sides of the planet, I think that from that second you decide to be together, you really are making a choice to merge your lives, countries and cultures. On the down side, that can be incredibly challenging, and expensive if you move/travel between the two countries. On the up side, it’s amazing – for both of you and any children that may come along.
You do need to find ways to cope with the tough times and again I’ll be blunt. Divorce rates amongst international couples is disproportionately high. Throw kids into the mix and you may have near-impossible challenges to solve at some point in your life. Once you love someone though, not being together may also not be an option – and it CAN work. Find tools and ways to cope, learn to compromise, respect each other’s needs and talk, talk, talk about stuff until you find a solution.
I hope that helps. Good luck! Always great to hear from you and any readers out there. Browse this blog for more articles about the specifics, you can use the search bar and I’m working on making past posts more accessible via the categories section (on the home page). You can sign up for the enewsletter to get a summary of posts that month. Guest contributions are most welcome too.
Good luck! Succes!