Monday, 15 December 2014

Book review: Dutched Up! Rocking the clogs, Expat style

My only experience of the Netherlands consists of a two days training in Amsterdam. I stayed in a hotel near the airport, went out in the town for a meal and that was pretty much it. During that intense experience I noticed that the "bike" culture wasn't a myth. While walking towards the restaurant, I saw a multi-storey car park FULL of bikes, literally thousand of them. How are you supposed to find your own in this mess? 
I would have also liked to try one of the famous coffee-shops, but being with my boss, I didn't think it was a great idea. We eventually ate in an Italian restaurant, went back to the hotel and that was it. The following day I went back home. The stay was so short I feel I didn't have time to experience anything really "Dutch". And despite all my efforts in bribing my superiors, they never sent me back there for more training.

For the past year or so, I've been reading Amanda's blog, a British mum of 3 boys, who has lived in The Netherlands with her Dutch husband for the past 14 years. She was recently a featured author in the anthology "Dutched Up! Rocking the clogs, Expat style". As you might know, memoirs are my favourite type of books, so I had to give that one a go. Who knows, I might go back there at some stage.

The book is a collection of stories from women expats who live in the Netherlands, and it's divided into topics: Culture shock, language learning, food, working, marrying someone Dutch, pregnancy and birth, and so on...

Even though my own experience of the Netherlands is very limited, I took a lot of pleasure reading about anecdotes and stories about foreigners trying to settle in a new country. I learned a lot about Dutch culture, from "open to view" houses (they apparently don't put curtains on their windows over there), to drug-free births. It seems the Dutch are a very direct, no bullshit kind of people (that would probably disturb the Irish a bit as they usually don't mean what they say and don't say what they mean).
There's one thing Irish and Dutch have in common though: Doctors who don't prescribe medicine or antibiotics unless you are dying in front of them. Usually bread and rest solve everything in the Netherlands. I've experienced exactly the same here... quite frustrating sometimes.

I think the hardest thing when you move to another country is learning the language and re-building a whole new social network. The authors explain those barriers very well and how they overcame them. This is what made the book really interesting. Real people, real experiences.

This book is definitely a must have for anyone who, like me, loves reading about other expats stories, and also for people who want to move to the Netherlands and would like to know more about what it's really like living over there.