I grew up on a dairy farm in country Victoria, Australia. I loved growing up on a farm and was very close with my parents and three younger sisters. Sixteen years ago, as a very naive nineteen year old, I boarded a plane for the first time and flew to Europe to work on cruise ships. A small girl in a big world, and I was excited to discover it.
During my first day onboard the Holland American Line cruise ship, the MS Statendam, I met a Dutch man. He was completing his apprenticeship onboard as an officer/engineer. We worked hard and played hard. Our first date was in Acapulco, Mexico and our second date was in Maui, Hawaii. Quite soon, we realised that our relationship was serious and, so began, the ten year long dilemma of “Where to Live – Australia or The Netherlands?”. Both countries are great in their own ways. We actually had a luxury problem, two wonderful countries to choose from.
In the first few years, we just went with the flow, living back and forth between Australia, The Netherlands and onboard various cruise ships. We just went with what worked for us at that point in time and tried not to think too much about where our long term future may lie.
After seven years together, we were married in Australia and the urge to ‘settle down’ became stronger. But where? We were in love with both countries, we had family in both countries and we could see many positives (and negatives) for each country. Both of our families of course wanted us to stay with them, in the country we each grew up in. We knew we could never make both sides of the family happy and that eventually, we would have to choose one country or the other. My worst fear was that we would end up continuously moving back and forth and would then, as a consequence, feel as though we didn’t belong anywhere. I needed to plant some roots. Friends and family would make their point of view clear, pointing out the negatives of the ‘other’ country, hoping to persuade us in their favour. The pressure of trying to make the ‘correct’ choice was, at times, unbearable. We were living in limbo, and the guilt of knowing that one day, we would hurt those we love by moving to the other side of the world was chewing away at my insides.
After ten years of indecisiveness, and two children later, we realised that we could not make the decision for everyone else. We had to do what was best for us at that time. What was best for our little family. No one else. Just us four.
We had two young children under three at the time when we sold our house in Sydney and relocated to the Netherlands. We realised that we could make a better life for ourselves in the Netherlands due to the work opportunities for my husband and other various factors. Turns out there were not all that many opportunities in the maritime industry in Australia. In addition, my husband had worked hard at university for his marine engineering degree and it was not recognised in Australia. The land-based maritime employment opportunities in the Netherlands were endless with Europe’s largest harbour being in Rotterdam.
During our fifteen years together, we have lived 50% of that time in Australia and 50% in the Netherlands. We now feel that we have a good feeling of what it is like to live in both countries and have thoroughly enjoyed our time in both. However, I am the one who has left my family and friends behind and I still feel a pang of guilt at times. These are the moments when I just need to focus on the positives of the Netherlands and remind myself that we did what was best for our little family.
Everyone is quick to judge. When people here ask me where I am from and I tell them Australia, I always get the same reaction with a look of disbelief, “Why on earth are you living here in the Netherlands?!”. Many of the dutch know Australia only as a holiday destination and relate to this experience. Sometimes it is difficult to stay positive, especially during this time of the year when we are headed into a long, dark winter here in the Netherlands and I see all the sunny pool and beach photos from my family and friends in Australia on Facebook. But of course, the European winter also has its charms to it. I am looking forward to things such as the arrival of Sinterklaas, snow sledding with the kids, the warmth of an open fire place, the gezelligheid of fairy lights everywhere and the smell of a real Christmas tree in our living room.
Everyone wants to justify why they chose the country they chose to relocate to. I am not going to do that. We now know that there was no right or wrong choice. Home is where you make it. We have come to the conclusion that both countries are just as good as each other. They are both wonderful, wonderful countries and I feel privileged that I have been able to experience living in both.
28 thoughts on “Australia vs. The Netherlands: Kristen’s story”
Great story, wonderfull what love beween two people van do. Live your live, and go one.
Thank you so much Jaap.
What a wonderful story bubs. You know I love you and always always missing you, but at the end of the day, if your happy I’m happy! Xxoo
Thanks for best the best sister anyone could hope for and thank you for always supporting the decisions we make. Love you and miss you too xxx
Thank you for your story. I am still struggling. I like what you say about no right or wrong choice. Currently I am still in Australia, but it might turn out The Netherland is the best choice.
Thanks Pieter. Always remember, there is no right or wrong choice, only the choice that is best for you and makes you and your family happy. Good luck with your decision.
Nice to know there are more Aussie ladies in the same boat! My husband and I struggeled in the same way for many years and came to the same conclusion. Now living here in Nederland for 4 years and still feel it was the right decision. Hope all goes well for you all and Welcome to Holland!
Thanks Rebecca. We also moved back to NL in 2011. Glad you are still enjoying life here. Where are you guys located? Would be great to meet you one day. Always open to meeting new people and making new friends 🙂
It is always good to see you are not alone. I am Brazilian married to a Dutch man.
Welkom in Nederland!
Thanks Helena! Thats the great thing about sharing my story, it also helps me to realise that I am not alone in this situation. So many others have to go through making those same tough decisions.
The doubts about which country is best is so recognisable! We’re in Australia at the moment but thinking about going back to the Netherlands. But it’s hard to decide. Good on you for making a decision for your own happiness!
Thank you so much Arina and good luck with your decision!
Thank you Arina and good luck with your decision.
You may live all the way over the other side of the world hun but you will always be that girl from the small town and you are choosing life for your Family that is real love rite there xxxx
Thanks Justine, you are so right. I will never loose those small country town values. What we do for love hey 🙂
Your story mirrors my own! I’m an Aussie and my husband is a Dutchy, we had 7 years in the UK, 8 years in Melbourne and we are now coming up to 7 years in Brabant! Our children are now teenagers which means we are firmly grounded in Holland for the time being. I never rule out moving home but I do try to enjoy all the privileges of living in Europe. Life is short and I am grateful for all the experiences living abroad has afforded us! When I miss my family and friends, I thank God for Skype 🙂
Hi Janine, thanks for your reply and it is so nice to know that others are in the same boat (so to speak). Brabant is such a lovely area of the Netherlands and I wish you much happiness.
Thanks Kristen for sharing your story. Having lived 16 years abroad and having being married to a non-Dutch myself I realise only now how that impacts the rest of your life, your children. We are getting more and more ‘hybrid’ citizens.
Thank you Marga xx
having migrated from rotterdam with my parents to wollongong in ’57 i can share u’r thoughts still feeling the connection with my birthplace . i’ve been back several times but living there ?even thou i still speak the lingo , getting used to that pietepeuteruge life in ned i could not get use to.but than being in my 70th’s all my aunts &uncle’s from there have past on and don’t really know my cousins as i was to young(13) when we left .australia has still a lot of adventure to offer if u are willing to pursue it .ps my wife was on the statendam last year really enjoyed it around cape horn etc . cheers arie
Tough decision but you did it! Wish I had done the same when the opportunity arose. I admire and am happy for you and your family. Dora
Thank you so much Dora.
I can relate to the pangs of guilt you feel. I am from New Zealand and have been in The Netherlands for almost 5 years and still struggle most days.
I think you made a good choice
As you said , you are really privileged to have had a choice between two places, each of them great in their own merit. I am an Australian PR holder who ended up working in NL for last 3 years and constantly thinking where my 6 year old daughter would have a “fuller life” . Both places great for raising family – so tough choice.
Thanks for this article. I’ve been following you on Facebook for a while now, and always enjoy your posts. My husband is Dutch and we met in Australia. We thought it best that he migrate here due to my job. He has since made a great life for himself here and found a job and opportunities in his industry that he wouldn’t be able to find in the netherland’s current economic climate. However, I read your blog and always wonder if we’re doing the right thing, as despite the home and life we have created here, we would love to raise our child around my husband’s family in The Netherlands. Hopefully one day….
I am reading many blogs on people relocating to different countries, but they are allot younger than us. We would like to know if we can do the same even though we are both 57 but we are young 57 years old. Hear is my story
My name is Monique and I live in Brisbane Australia.
I was reading your blogs and I was very interested to read your story on your move to the Netherlands from Australia .
I was born in Eindhoven and migrated to Australia when I was 8, back in October 1969
Have been back a couple of times and all my relatives are still living there. I am 57 in May still speak Dutch, read & write but it’s simple , no big words . LOL
My question to you is
My Australia partner and I are seriously thinking of moving to Holland to trial living there and work
I work in the medical administration side of things and Tony is a Carpenter
Is there still hope for us that we could relocate to another country at our age., or have we left it to late. ?
We have worked so hard we feel it’s time while we are young at heart and healthy to explore different avenues in life and to enjoy life to the fullest.
We can self fund ourselves for a period of time.
Could we still find work and could we survive living and renting in Holland at our age?
Hope to hear from you what your thoughts are.