My name is Anne Galloway and I’d like to share a small part of my story of becoming an expat for the first time in the hope that it can help and inspire other expat spouses. I am married with two children who were 10 and 7 when we had to move. I gave up a job I really enjoyed and took my kids away from their friends and all because of my husband’s work.
My husband moved to Holland in April 2006 and the children and I followed in the summer. The day after we arrived was the start of 2 weeks of thunder storms and non-stop rain – you might think that I’d be used to it coming from Scotland but honestly we don’t have that much rain!We didn’t have too much trouble finding a house. My husband looked at a few and then I took the best piece of advice I was given which was to find a house within cycling distance of the school so this really limited our choice as there was not much available to rent in Bergen at that time. I didn’t see the house prior to moving in, apart from photos on the internet, but luckily I knew that I could trust my husband on that one! I have to say that the rental process was nothing like it is in the UK where there are very strict rules for renting out property. The letting agent wasn’t at all helpful and we were basically handed the keys and left to get on with it – the letting agent wasn’t interested in any questions/problems that we had with the property once we had the keys and with the owner living the other side of the world it caused a few problems especially when the heating or the cooker didn’t work and the water tank leaked!
We later approached the owner with an offer and now own the house that we were renting.
Having given up a job I enjoyed to move to Holland brought several challenges for me. Since graduating from university I have always worked either for large companies or more recently for myself and even after having children I went back to work on a part time basis. So the thought of having an extended ‘holiday’ in Holland sounded intriguing, fun and maybe even a little daunting.
My children started at the European School in Bergen where they very quickly settled in and we all made some great friends. However I knew that I could never be ‘a lady who lunched’ – well not every day anyway! After always being busy juggling work and family commitments I soon realized that I needed something more but how could I work when I couldn’t speak much Dutch? It took a lot of soul searching and wasted days before it dawned on me that before moving to Holland I had always set myself goals – both work and personal – so why should it be any different here. If I can jump out of an airplane for charity (and believe me that was a huge goal for me as I am scared of heights!) then I can get a job in Holland. And so this became my next goal.
I spent a lot of time on personal development as I realized that I needed to expand my skills and start putting to use all the knowledge I had of setting up and running my own business. I enrolled in correspondence courses, transferred my business from Scotland and got a new website while continuing to make time for all my new friends and attending Dutch lessons twice a week. I joined the local International Group which meets once a month to do workshops, museum trips, canoeing, cycling etc and the International Cooking Group which is a group of amazing women who are not only great cooks but who give up a lot of their time to raising money for various local and international causes. More recently I have become involved in a new professional networking group with Connect North Holland.
What do I like about expat life? Meeting some fantastic, inspirational people who have done some amazing things since moving to Holland. They haven’t let the language barrier stand in their way whether they have taken up new interests in pursuit of a career, have got a job that has forced them to speak more Dutch or started their own business. One of the things they have in common is that they have all achieved so much more than they realize themselves.
The thing I like least about being an expat is when the friends I have made here up and leave to their next expat post – this can be hard and also for the kids. I also think that as expats, we do tend to stick together and maybe not get as involved in local life as we should but then no matter where you are if you have children a lot of your life is centered round the school so to really be integrated we would probably need to send our children to Dutch school.
I will admit that I had some very big ‘lows’ in the early days and when the kids had a bad day it was always my fault for having moved them here but life is short and you have to grab opportunities when you can, and make the most of them.
As for the future, who knows? But I do miss the mountains!