Expat life with a double buggy: Stuck in the middle
'I'll never be mistaken for being Dutch, yet I don't feel that England is my home anymore' writes Amanda van Mulligen about life as an expat.
I recently wrote a blog post about how expat life is like Tom Branson moving into Downton Abbey. A wise reader commented that she could relate:
'Especially the part where he is not the same driver he once was and yet is not really posh yet. I am not the same girl who left my country, but I am not really the same as the girls here yet. I am in the middle.'
In a recent interview for Expat Mamas, I also described how I feel that I live between two worlds – I'll never be mistaken for being Dutch, yet I don't feel that England is my home anymore. Living life being stuck in the middle is a strange idea, but one that is all too familiar for many expats.
No longer a fully fledged Brit
When I was asked by Expat Mamas about part-time working and schooling trends in England, I struggled and could only really refer to my own personal experience – how it was when I went to school as a child, how it was when I left the country 15 years ago. Any other answer would be based on what I read in the media or the little bits I picked up from friends and family but certainly not based on any personal knowledge. I don't know firsthand how it is to live in England anymore.
Of course, I watch the BBC News and keep broadly up to date with current affairs in Britain. And when I say broadly, I mean I know who the prime minister is, who the opposition leader is, who the main cabinet members are, and what political scandal is hitting the headlines. But I can't say I know how it is at ground level in Britain. The news coming out of the country generally doesn't directly affect me anymore. That's not to say I didn't feel pride watching the 2012 Olympics or the Queen's jubilee celebrations, or real shame watching the London riots. But it's emotion from a distance.
Whenever I go back to England I am often amazed by the changes: some little, some much bigger. Some revolve around neighbourhoods I grew up or lived in, how they have been redeveloped, or the shops that have disappeared on what was my local High Street. Laws and rules have evolved. Basically, things have moved on but I haven't moved on with them – the England I think of is the one from the year 2000, the year I left.
Not yet a true Dutch
The details of my daily life are now in Dutch. What is reported in the Netherlands on the news generally does have some influence on my life. Legislation changes involving schooling influences my family. Child benefit payment changes affect my household. Now I live in Dutch, not English.
However, I am not Dutch. Nor will I ever be. I don't have the cultural background, mentality or history to be Dutch. My cultural background, mentality and history is British through and through. So I fall into a void. Locally, I'm accepted as one of the gang, but I sometimes feel like an impostor, like I stand out, like I'm different. Which I do and I am.
The void I fall into has got smaller over the years. I dangle a little more precariously over the gap these days and most days I could fall either way – or directly in the middle perhaps, as an adopted Dutchie with a British flag emblazoned on my chest.
But, the thing is, I also no longer feel lost in that void between the two countries that make me who I am. Like Tom in Downtown Abbey – no longer a chauffeur, but never 'upper class' or posh – I, too, found a middle path to connect who I was to who I am now. I have found a way through the middle by moulding my past to my present. I may no longer be a fully fledged Brit, but the truth is I will also never be Dutch. And I can live with that – there are much worse things than living life 'stuck in the middle'.
Amanda van Mulligen is a British expat who has made the Netherlands her home. She has three Dutch sons who are tinged with Britishness, and a pure bred Dutch husband. She is also a published author, freelance writer and blogger. You can read her blog at Expat Life with a double buggy where she scribbles about her expat way of loving, living and parenting. You can catch up with her on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.
Thumbnail credit: ParenthesisX.
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