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.
Dutch Australian Rachel shares her story. Can you help? Comment below!
I remember the time that I realized that I wanted to go to Australia. I was at work at Heineken in Amsterdam as a tour guide and we had loads of Australians visiting. I immediately picked up their laid back and easygoing characters and always enjoyed chatting to them. We spoke about the country, the great surf and nature and I was sold on the spot.
And so I knew, I didn’t just want to go for a visit, but actually wanted to experience the country and culture. It was a dream I had…. and a dream that had to come true. So I worked hard and saved all the money I had and left the Netherlands on the 16th of November 2012.
My journey was going to take me to Canada, New Zealand and would end in Australia. I planned to travel for 6 months but 6 Months became a year, and a year became quickly two years.
All the expectations I had about the Lifestyle of Australians became reality and I truly fell in love with the country. I settled down in Noosa Heads QLD, for most of my time. As a passionate kiteboarder, this was a unique opportunity to develop myself in the sport. And so I did, while working as a marketing assistant I got my kiteboard instructors certificate.
Unfortunately, I had to leave due to the fact that my visa expired. I felt heartbroken, Noosa became my home for the last two years and I didn’t want to leave. Being back in the Netherlands is more difficult than I ever imagined. All the great memories, and friends I made, I was forced to leave them behind. In return, I got to see my family and friends in the Netherlands again, who I missed for two years.
Still, I feel incomplete. My experience in Australia has changed me. Being back in the Netherlands makes me realise how much I miss the lifestyle down under, the “no worries”, and the relaxed atmosphere. The not living on the clock, and being able enjoy the little things.
So, I am looking for a way back. To be able to have back what I can’t have in the Netherlands. It feels like I have outgrown the country that I have been born and brought up in.
So I’d like to ask the readers for advice. Do you know companies around the sunshine coast that gives Dutch citizen the opportunity to be sponsored? I have a degree in International Business and Management and approximately a year experience in Marketing. I love sports and hope to open up my own kiteschool one day. But for now I’d like to work in my field of studies and live the lifestyle.
I really hope and would highly appreciate it if there is someone that can point me in the right direction.
Rachel Lamberts (26)
This article is part of a series sharing the stories of Dutch Australians. Today I have the pleasure of introducing Siobhan. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Siobhan a little via this email interview and also through another article that will be published on Dutch Australian soon about her business Clogheels.
Here’s her story….
Name: Siobhan Katherine “I am not an Irish Catholic” O’Toole
Place of birth: A small country piece of heaven called Cobram, Victoria Australia
Current place of residence: Bondi, Australia aka “The bubble”
Previous place/s of residence: Amsterdam, Netherlands; Den Haag, Netherlands; Brussels, Belgium; Douglas, IOM; Melbourne, Australia; San Antonio, USA.
Connections to Australia: Born and raised here
Connections to The Netherlands: Lived in Netherlands for 5 years and have a Dutch husband, Marcel, and countless lifetime Dutch friends.
What is your level of fluency in English/NL? Fluent Aussie, Dutch conversational, English basic
Family background: English/Irish
What are your feelings about Australia?
Dorothy MacKellar said it best
“I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!”
There are things that drive me insane about Australia but mostly it is one of the greatest countries to live.
What are your feelings about The Netherlands?
Love of orange – I had never worn orange until I went to the Netherlands and now my wardrobe has multiple orange items, not limited to football jerseys.
Love of the Dutch people – everywhere. I decided to move to the Netherlands because I had met Dutch people all over the world – from Syrian deserts to African savannahs. I had liked many that I had met and had an opportunity to work in Europe, so Amsterdam it was. I loved how much more socially conscious I became. I had reverse culture shock coming back to Australia where equality has quite a different meaning. Dutch understand what friendship is and understand respect for others and more oft than not for themselves – which also resonates in business. It is not a culture where you are only a man if you can hit something hard, chug down beer and demoralise other humans.
Love and Hate of Schiphol Gate D56 – 40 mins walk from the entrance – can’t we all have Segway’s ? Yet it is so close to Amsterdam.
Depending on which country you are based in, do you visit Australia/The Netherlands at all?
I visit every year and would like to spend more time in both countries (at least 3 months a year) where I am actually living. I was hoping that Richard Branson would focus less on space travel and focus his efforts on a direct flight of less than 16 hours between Europe and Australia.
We are working on business ventures that will keep us between Amsterdam and Sydney on a very frequent basis.
Do you celebrate Dutch/Australian holidays/traditions if you are living in the alternate country?
Melbourne has a great Dutch community with events that I attended regularly including Queens day 2012. Who could pass up the opportunity to eat bitterballen, drink overpriced Heineken and listen to obnoxiously loud Dutch music whilst dressed in the ever so flattering bright orange.
Since I moved to Sydney I have been less involved as I have been working on the importation of my very own Dutchy – Marcel – whom I met in April 2013 whilst launching my business ClogHeels. www.clogheels.com We were married in May this year!
Any other information you’d like to share on your Dutch/Australian connections?
I admire Dutch in business; they are known to be good traders but they also get involved in many ethical projects and spearhead innovation.
Thank you to Siobhan for taking part. Would you like to share your story? Please contact us!
Image source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_HOBr8H9EM
I’m a huge TED and TEDx fan – if you’ve not yet watched any of these incredibly inspiring talks, visit TED.com to find out more.
Last year, we interviewed Dutch Australian Tania de Jong and I’ve just watched her TEDxMelbourne talk on How Singing Together Changes The Brain. I’d highly recommend you watch it too, this 20 minute video is full of simple but valuable information that could change your day – or even your life!
Have you sung today? As Tania says, many people – myself included – at some stage in our lives label ourselves. “I can’t sing”. So I didn’t. However once I had children, this changed. My babies didn’t really care if I was self-conscious singing them lullabies or nursery rhymes – they loved it. Slowly I stopped worrying about what I thought about my singing and instead I now sing regularly with and to my children. One of the delights I enjoy regularly is listening to my 6 and 4 year old make up their own songs! After watching this video, I’m going to sing more, are you?
Dutch Australian is a community of those with connections to both Australian and The Netherlands. This blog follows the adventures of our Dutch Australian family as well as highlighting information and articles of interest to dual nationals. You might like to read more about me, get to know other Dutch Australian people and explore other articles on the blog. Come and chat to others over in the Dutch Australian Facebook community, we’d love to meet you! If you’ve enjoyed this post, I’d really appreciate you taking the time to comment below or share. You can also contact me directly and sign up for our e-newsletter to keep up to date.
Name: Carole Overmaat
Place of birth: Arnhem
Current place of residence: Melbourne
Previous place/s of residence: Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Leiden
Connections to Australia: Live here and have a Dutch TV program
Connections to The Netherlands: All my family still there
What is your level of fluency in English/NL? Dutch is good, English is average
Family background: Mum is born in Indonesia, because of the dutch colony. Dad is born in Arnhem.
If you have children where were they born? 2, Joerie in Leiden and Antonie in Melbourne
If you have children are you raising them bilingually? Yes
What are your feelings about Australia? Great country to live in! Very relaxed.
What are your feelings about The Netherlands? Far away, customer service is low. Not ready to go back.
Depending on which country you are based in, do you visit Australia/The Netherlands at all? Yes, the Netherlands once in 1,5 year
How do you communicate with family in the other country? How regularly?
My dad by msn or By skype. My dad just contact me whenever he sees me. So that can be every day.
Do you celebrate Dutch/Australian holidays/traditions if you are living in the alternate country? Yes.
Any other information you’d like to share on your Dutch/Australian connections?
I started Dutch TV 2 years ago. It is a program about Dutch people in Australia.
It is based in Melbourne now, but would be nice to cover more from the rest of the country. It is more about interesting Dutch people and what there influences are in Australia in their field. So a lot of topics coming along.
From music, theatre, art, sport, favourite Dutch meal, Dutch language etc.
It is screened at Channel 31 in Melbourne at 7.30pm, but the rest of Australia can catch up at: www.dutchtvonline.com
I recently started film and editing lessons for kids from 8-12 years old. Will be interesting to see what will happen with that. Because sometimes you just need a few tips to make your film just that little better. When adults want some lessons that’s possible as well. So do you live in Melbourne please contact me via the website (you can click on the image below).
Image source: www.dutchtvonline.com
This is our first guest post totally in Dutch language! Thanks to Petra de Jong for submitting this piece which first ran in www.metrocolumn.nl
Geef Nooit Op
“Vergeet je plannen om naar Australie te gaan”, zei de man van het Emigratie Advies Bureau. “Met jouw werkervaring en opleiding maak je geen kans. Ga terug naar school en doe iets anders”. Ik was teleurgesteld en stuurloos. Kortgeleden was mijn vader overleden: 1 jaar na zijn 50ste. Ik had een langdurige relatie verbroken en mijn vaste baan opgezegd.
Na drie jaar avondschool haalde ik mijn VWO diploma, terwijl ik via uitzendburo’s werkte. Ik maakte indrukwekkende reizen naar Zuid-Amerika en West Afrika. Nog altijd had ik geen idee welke richting ik op moest, toen mijn moeder een advertentie van een Australische universiteit in de krant vond.
De vrouwelijke stem aan de telefoon antwoorde: “Nee” op mijn vraag en het was alsof de deur van een brandkast met een geheime combinatie open sprong. “Nee, je hoeft geen 18 te zijn om in Australie te studeren”. Een VWO diploma en voldoende geld om voor de opleiding te betalen. Gezondheidskeuring; studenten visum; vliegticket. Baan opzeggen; spullen opslaan. Afscheid nemen en vertrekken…
Op zijn Hollands, kocht ik een fiets om naar de universiteit te gaan. Al zwetend peddelde ik de heuvels op. Met de stadsplattegrond en de vacaturepagina op tafel zocht ik een baantje en ondekte dat ik een ‘buitenlander’ was met een accent, leeftijd en CV die niet in een hokje pasten. Na het afronden van mijn studie diende ik een aanvraag voor emigratie in en een simpel A-viertje in de post vertelde me een paar maanden later dat ik mocht blijven!
In hetzelfde jaar dat ik mijn levenspartner vond, kocht ik mijn eerste hond en werd kleine zelfstandige. Na jaren sparen, gingen we op zoek naar een stuk land buiten de stad. Het was vijf uur rijden om een klein huisje met twee hectare grond met de makelaar te zien en we waren direct verkocht. We vulden zware dozen met ons stadsleven en reden met een geleende aanhanger heen en weer om in onze nieuwe wijde wereld alles uit te pakken.
Na twaalf maanden in ons eigen paradijs hebben we behalve de drie honden, twee schapen ook een hok vol kippen. We planten fruitbomen en kweken onze eigen groenten. We genieten van dit prachtige stukje aarde met vele vogels, groene kikkers en kangaroes. We leven zuinig, zodat we minder uren hoeven te werken en lekker thuis kunnen zijn. “Ach, wat heb je nou uiteindelijk echt nodig als je grootste dromen uitkomen?”