Today’s Review Wednesday looks at a book aimed at expats in, or moving to, the Netherlands. However, although it is aimed fairly specifically at that one market, I would still recommend it to other expats looking to find out more about expat life in general.
Dutched Up is a collaborative effort, a book produced by a collective of writers from around the world who are all either based in the Netherlands now or who have been in the past, and therefore all able to write about expat life in that country from a personal viewpoint. This makes for an honest, as well as often very funny, appraisal of what life is really like for foreigners living in what I have always thought would be a great expat posting.
For the most part, this book doesn’t disprove my instinct. The tales, which range from what it’s like to be short in a country of very tall people to how to steal back your bike (there are a lot of very Holland-specific stories here!), are related with a gentle sense of underlying love for their host country. There are twelve sections altogether, starting with tales of culture shock; continuing on to some of the practical elements of living aboad including eating, shopping, transportation and learning the language (which apparently involves a ‘throaty G’); then through some of those really “big” subjects like work, making friends, marriage, birth and parenting; on to matters of health; some chapters about Dutch life in general and then finally saying goodbye – and what it’s like to leave a place like the Netherlands behind (clue: sad).
By the time you reach the end of the book, you really feel like you know what life is like for the typical expat in that country, whether they be settled semi-permanently and married to a local or visiting only briefly on a short posting. It’s hard to pick out a favourite chapter as there are so many good ones, plus each will appeal to different people depending on their circumstances. But as a trained antenatal teacher, I really enjoyed the chapters about giving birth, and some of the ones on parenting were very eye-opening. However, if it’s laughs you’re after, then I would recommend the Leech – a story of a house-guest who wouldn’t leave:
By the time Saturday rolled around, we were ready to kill him. So far, he’d had his hand out, been fed, had a free place to sleep, been offered endless bottles of beer and had all the Internet and telephone access a person could possibly ever want. We hadn’t seen a thing in return. He hadn’t offered to cook dinner or offered to tidy up a bit. he had just emptied our fridge, used all our toilet paper and just made a general nuisance of himself”.
Perhaps one of the reasons I like this chapter so much is because, although it is based in the Netherlands, it could have happened to any expat, anywhere in the world. I haven’t lived in the Netherlands, and nor am I ever likely to (although I have holidayed there and thoroughly enjoyed my time), so many of the stories are interesting, funny but perhaps not all that relevant to me. However, if you are an expat in Holland, are likely ever to be one, or if you happen to know someone who is heading that way, then this would be an excellent purchase. Read it from cover to cover or dip in and out of it, I am sure you will find it a great source of both knowledge and comfort before, during and even after your Netherlands adventure.
Dutched Up is available in paperback or Kindle edition from Amazon.