How a website changed my mind!
For one expat mum, the idea of moving with her husband to Amsterdam with a baby, no Dutch language and no network of family and friends seemed ludicrous – but she found a way to make it work.‘How would you feel about moving to Amsterdam?’ my husband said at breakfast one Saturday morning in January 2008. We were sitting at our kitchen table in Islington, with our daughter, Pixie.
My immediate reaction was ‘No way! What will I do all day with an 11-month-old baby? I can’t speak Dutch! What about my friends? My family? Amsterdam? Drugs? Stage parties? No way!’
However, after my husband explained about the lucrative contract he’d been offered by a big Dutch bank, which meant we could afford a lovely house on a canal somewhere central, I began to see the advantages. After a few days I came round to the idea and started to research life in Amsterdam.
On Googling ‘Playgroups Amsterdam’, I found www.robbeburg.com, a playgroup for Expats in south Amsterdam. Within a day of emailing them I received a friendly, welcoming response from someone called Mel who told me that they had space for us, and we should come along as soon as we arrived.
We moved over in February ‘08 and started to attend Robbeburg morning sessions (English speaking) on a regular basis – there are also German and Japanese groups in the afternoons).
Within the first week I was invited to a ‘mum’s dinner’ and Pixie had received her first birthday party invite. Each of the playgroup sessions were different, sometimes we painted pictures, other times we crayoned and sometimes the kids just played and we got chance to sit and chat. I couldn’t stop taking photos of my little girl sitting with the big kids at the table eating fruit and drinking juice from a proper cup. At the end of every session the children sang songs and played instruments. It was at Robbeburg that Pixie took her first steps, said her first word (‘juice’) and began to join in with the songs and do the actions too.
For me, the sessions were an invaluable source of information on living in Amsterdam. There was always someone who could answer my questions about Dutch life and offer a few tips or suggestions for trips out of town and kid-friendly restaurants.
Nine months on we can hardly go anywhere in Amsterdam without bumping into a ‘Robbeburg person’. We have had play dates everywhere from Abcoude to Zeeburg and children’s parties dominate our weekends.
The playgroup has given Pixie confidence, taught her how to share and uncovered quite a talent for painting and drawing. I have a whole bunch of new friends, from around the globe, and a new perspective on Amsterdam – it’s not the stag weekend capital of Europe as I had first thought, but probably one of the best cities in the world for parents of young children.