Expat Voices: Charlotte Buskens on living in the Netherlands
Expat mum Charlotte would like to see Dutch supermarkets and childrens clothing stores offering a wider range of goods.
Name: Charlotte Buskens
City of residence: Amstelveen
Date of birth: 1 January 1978
Civil status: Married
Occupation: HR Professional
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: Friends and family
Lived in the Netherlands: since November 2000
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
The first time I visited the Netherlands I was as a student. I found it a great place to go out in, very relaxed and full of expats and friendly people. It did not feel like abroad, it felt like a ‘second home’
What do you think of the food?
Having lived in France, my initial reaction to the Dutch kitchen was not one of overwhelming joy. But over the years I have grown to like it and quite enjoy a meat-potato-vegetable dish from time to time.
What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
Supermarkets are pathetic in comparison to the selection in the UK. The hypermarché concept definitely has not found its way to Holland. As a mum, I have an 18-month old baby girl and twins on the way, I find the selection of children’s clothes in the UK is greater (and cheaper) and the scope of baby accessories in the UK is also broader. I find myself ‘stocking up’ on cherry dummies, cellular blankets and gripe water when I am in the UK.
What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
You do not have to have a car. Everywhere and anywhere is easily accessible by bike or public transport.
Photo right: Charlotte with her twin sister Victoria (also based in the Netherlands) take a snap to show the family they've really arrived.
What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
The language. I have finally succeeded in learning Dutch, but in the past, I found that my lack of fluency in the Dutch language stopped me getting selected for the most desirable jobs in my profession (HR management).
What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
Dutch people complaining that English people do not speak Dutch, when, as soon as you open your mouth and try to speak the language, they reply back in English!
[Editor: Charlotte -- Read the reactions under Learning Dutch is a must! You're not the only one who feels frustrated about this.]
I will miss school uniform when my children go to school. How will I manage to find three trendy outfits every day by 8am!
How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
Roughly the same. I think in comparison to the UK I have found the Netherlands slightly cheaper and less rowdy. It’s more relaxed, and I like the laid back way of life.
When I lived in France and found the terrace-in-the-sun culture and fresh food markets divine. I miss that.
If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
The rain! The politics too. I often feel that its’ too liberal. An example of this is people committing crimes and getting very mild sentences. I would like to see a stronger judicial system here.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Join in as many social events as possible in the beginning. Build up a good network of friends and professional contacts if you want to stay awhile. Dutch social groups are often hard to break into so you will have to rely on expat friends in the beginning.
Would you like to add anything?
Having had a baby here, and twins on the way, I can say that the Dutch midwife system has a very ‘au naturel’ approach in comparison to other countries I have lived in.
Charlotte sticks to bottle feeding with Lidewij
Unless you are considered high risk, you will see only a midwife throughout your pregnancy. Some midwives can do echo’s but in general expect only an echo at 12 weeks and 20 weeks of the pregnancy. The Dutch are also very pro home birth, water birth and breastfeeding. After the birth of my first child I was encouraged to give breastfeeding a chance, even though my husband and I wanted to share the joy of feeding and had therefore opted for formula. We were made to feel bad for doing this.
Be aware that unless you have a medical reason to give birth in a hospital you may be charged if you do opt for a hospital birth.
Joining Expat Voices
If you would like to share your perspective about life in the Netherlands and contribute to Expat Voices, send an email to editorNL@expatica.com with 'Please send me an Expat Voices questionnaire' in the subject line. If you would like to share your perspective about life in the Netherlands and contribute to Expat Voices, send an email to editorNL@expatica.com with 'Please send me an Expat Voices questionnaire' in the subject line.
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