Living with a Dutchie
We find out how English expat Miranda Boers set up a group for expats with Dutch partners.
'Living with a Dutchie' is an English-speaking social group, specifically aimed at expats who decided to move to the Netherlands for the sole purpose of being with their Dutch partner. The group gets together every two weeks, alternately in The Hague and Rotterdam, and once a month in Amsterdam and Eindhoven. They meet for casual drinks on a weekday evening, in a centrally located café or bar. It's that simple.
Miranda Boers is the group founder and host of The Hague meetings. Living in a small village close to Gouda, she has found it hard to break into the tight group of Dutch friends her husband has there. So, after going to several different expat groups and events, she set up the group to seek out others who had also moved to be with their partner and made the same sacrifice she had.
Don't other expat groups cater for these people? Miranda found that a lot of expat gatherings have different people each time, making it hard to create friendships. Plus, many of the people who attend these events live and work among expats only, and aren't exposed to the Dutch way of life.
Miranda personally hosts the meetings in The Hague, with another member from Rotterdam hosting the 'Living with a Dutchie' meetings there.
What happens when the novelty wears off? It hasn't so far. These meetings have now been running for two years. When people started to contact Miranda from all over Holland, she enlisted the help of group members who lived in those areas. As a result the Amsterdam and Eindhoven meetings came into being - both of which have been running over a year. The total number of members across the Netherlands is about 150 plus.
People from all nationalities and all age groups come to the meetings. The gatherings are informal and open - a balloon is used to guide newcomers to the right table.
Dutch partners are left at home (a stipulation created for 'freedom of speech') and the conversations range from talking about specific cultural differences to difficulties with the language, as well as exchanging advice on where to study, where to shop, and even how to find work. They also talk about themselves; interests, hobbies, travels and work etc.
The point of the group is to make people feel less lonely and isolated. It can be overwhelming to move permanently to a foreign country, where you have to change cultures, take on a new language and even raise children in a completely different environment to your own – solely for the purpose of being with your partner. They find that being among others in the same situation helps them cope better with settling into life in Holland; they no longer feel like they are on their own.
Miranda hopes that in some way the group helps to prevent any possible resentment members may feel toward their partner for moving to Holland - in that they can release them within the 'Living with a Dutchie' group rather than at home. In the group they can find others who understand and who are sympathetic, enabling them to create their own friends and support systems here in the Netherlands.
Is this an anti-Dutch group? This question is asked occasionally by people who assume the members of the group meet simply to criticise or complain about the country and its people. But this is not the case at all. Miranda points out that all of the members are actually here because of their love for a Dutch person.
Miranda has found it quite interesting fielding some of the emails. Many non-native English speakers misread the advertisement for the group, thinking that it is a way to gain a Dutch partner – passing on their credentials to her; others think that this is a group they can go to, to learn Dutch - one learning centre even had her email address on their notice board as someone who gave Dutch lessons!
Here's a selection of comments by members of the group:
"'Living with a Dutchie' has made a big difference in my life as I now can share stories and problems with people who really understand. Also, it has been very good for making friends which is never easy to do in a foreign land if you do not come here for work reasons." - Kate (joined August 2004 and now runs Rotterdam group)
"Miranda's group has helped a lot of people to make contacts and build social relationships. In fact, her group has helped people who’ve felt alone here for months even years, after settling with a partner here. We all came here with the best intentions, a little naively, and in love. But then after a honeymoon period face a myriad of complications including, culture shock, language barriers, and difficulty finding suitable work. Getting into touch with other 'Dutchies' can sooth this process, bringing us a few steps out of it into the world again." - Lila (joined March 2004)
Eindhoven: (Run by Jo Nowell)
"In the States I tried like crazy to find something for me in Eindhoven. Such was my fear of moving to this place where I would not know the language and not have friends. Just before I moved I found Living With a Dutchie Eindhoven. My Dutch family couldn't believe that after only two weeks in Eindhoven I already had my own thing to do! I think there were eight of us there that night. Three of those became my best friends here. I have been to a wedding. I was there for a pregnancy and a new baby. We have had countless meals together. My child has had countless play dates with their children. I can't imagine my Eindhoven experience without those friends and meals and play dates. It would have been so much harder and lonelier. I have to admit I've stopped going to meetings as I am too busy - or perhaps I'm just too busy enjoying the relationships I already formed through my 'Living With a Dutchie' experience!" - Meilani
"The only comment I can make about the group was that in a time of desperation it showed me light at the end of the tunnel, and I didn't feel so alone in my experiences of Dutch life!" - Tracey.
[Copyright Expatica 2006]
Subject: Living with a Dutchie; expat clubs in the Netherlands