1 box ticked, 50% done for 2020

Can you believe it’s already half way through 2020? Blink again a few times and it will definitely be Christmas!

Over 3 months in quarantine and now coming out of it (maybe not for the first or last time), whilst it was quarantine for me, it did feel at times as though I was the only one taking it seriously in my neighbourhood/area. I’m certain I didn’t my house for the first 6 to 8 weeks. I have to say it has been interesting. I’ve completed all of my DIY tasks, my DIY skills have definitely improved and now sit somewhere between ok to really good, depending on the day and if I get it first time right. I have a proper she-shed now, I absolutely adore my shed. If I could just get all my tools covered in Hello Kitty, I’d never leave! I completed the cat wall and made bug screens for all of my windows from scratch. Sadly, this doesn’t mean that I’ve completed all of the tasks for the house, I’ve just completed the ones which require power tools (ie, the fun jobs).

window screens

I have to admit that having a garden and shed has provided me a bit of sanity during lockdown. Having the space for fresh air without having to ‘leave’ my house has been fantastic. I had moments where I just went to the garden to gather my thoughts and have a few deep breaths. I thought I was doing really well and was ‘not affected’ until I had two break outs of cold sores (fever blisters) within a month and one of the break outs was the worst Ive ever had. It forced me to realise that I was stressed and not coping as well as I wanted to pretend that I was. I even had a few days of pure exhaustion where I just slept 18 hours straight a few days in a row. Mental health has been incredibly important during the pandemic to staying healthy. I used the lock down time to try new things, reconsider some opinions and surprise friends with my new approach on a few topics, it worked!

Freezer cookies, Im obsessed! The concept is that you make an entire batch of cookie dough and then freeze it. You bake the cookie dough from frozen, so that you always have freshly baked cookies on the fly. It also means that as a single person, when I make a batch of cookies, I no longer need eat all 30 in one go or throw away the majority. As I mentioned, Im obsessed. One of my friends recently told me that her husband misses my baking (awww, sweet!), Ive also been splitting every batch of cookie dough I make and freeze it for them. However, this means that I now have an entire drawer in my freezer that is nothing but freezer cookies! It’s also shows despite doing a good bit of exercise Ive been doing in lock down, how I’m not coming out skinnier…. I’m blaming the cookies!

freezer

Corona has ruined a lot, it cancelled Eurovision (I’m still very upset at this), cancelled my sun holiday and delayed my sky dive. Delayed is the magic word. When I heard lockdown was easing, it was one of the first things I looked into booking. Whilst I had a few friends who initially were keen to join me, in the end, it was just me. Luckily, a friend and I turned it into a girls trip, withs lots of horrific car karaoke and laughing. She watched firmly from the ground as I was thrown 13,000 feet from a plane strapped to the front of a man. I had tried to go sky diving 12 years ago in England and she was there with me but unfortunately, do to bad weather, the jump cancelled, so it does feel as though we’ve come full circle now.  I opted for tandem sky diving, as I really don’t trust myself with my own life, it felt a much safer bet to put my life in someone elses hands! Corona rules did it make it slightly odd, as you have to wear a mask and then a piece of cloth over that, to ensure the mask stays on and then gloves, which are an absolute nightmare to try to keep on when you’re falling from the sky.

sky diving

Two things have been on my list this year to do, sky diving (tick, tick) and Wadlopen (I was able to see the area from my sky dive, which was amazing). I’m now 3/4 of the way to ticking all my boxes! I’m excited, as 5 friends have agreed to join me for Wadlopen and a weekend away in September. I thought it was an excellent idea to make it a group thing, make memories and have tons of fun…. Invites were sent out and then I realised that I never mix my friends (something I’ve very consciously never done), so panic set in that now I’m literally mixing all my friends and people are accepting the invites but dates dont work for them and now I need to host a preweekend evening for everyone to be introduced before the weekend away… What initially felt like a fun idea, has really turned into quite a lot of effort and work on my behalf. I laugh and cringe at the same time when I think about it but it will be fine. I managed to find hotels next to each other for all the rooms, transport is still a bit of an issue but yeah, I’m looking forward to it, almost as much as I’m looking forward to being done with it.

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Dating and Corona, two things which are completely incompatible and rightly so. I took the lockdown seriously but my experience is that many Dutch people didn’t. One of my friends offered to be my Corona buddy, which I still find funny. My attitude is if we’re not compatible in ‘normal’ times, I think its unlikely we’ll be compatible during a world pandemic locked in a house together. I gave video dating a go, which was unique. I think video dating works quite well for a first date, you know if you have a connection, if you have enough stuff to talk about and most importantly if you’re compatible. Ultimately if you dont have a connection, video chat or face to face, it makes no difference, theres no future.

Over 3 months in lockdown, Ive survived it, so far and am looking forward to coming out of it. Ive achieved a good bit, still have my sense of humour and ticked a few boxes along the way. Im looking forward to creating more memories and having more fun with whatever the rest of the year holds.

3 months in an ‘intelligent lockdown’

I realised over the weekend that it’s been 3 months since lockdown started, any plans for the near future were cancelled and I truly became a home body. The Netherlands opted for a ‘intelligent lockdown’.

What are the rules of an ‘intelligent lockdown’?

  • Everyone is asked to keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres (5ft) from other people and groups of more than three people are banned in public with a possible fine if this is not adhered to
  • People should work at home if they can and stay home as much as possible. 
  • Bars, restaurants, museums, cinemas are closed– essentially anywhere where large groups of people gather or convene
  • All organised events, such as festivals and football matches, have been banned until September 1 at least
  • BUT shops, including non-food, have not been closed, and people are still allowed to go out for a walk and get some fresh air

The idea is to give people freedom to make the ‘intelligent’ choice to stay home and not spread the virus. My experience was that expats took this more seriously than many Dutch. To the extent that on a number of weekends a number of beaches, nature reserves and parks (including the roads to get to them) had to be closed, as too many people were visiting them to allow them to keep the 1.5 metre social distancing rule. 

I chose to take the lockdown seriously and only left my house essential shopping, where I absolutely had to, I dont think I left my house for the first 2 months, thanks to online deliveries.

Whilst I was fortunate enough to remain in work, working from home rather than the office, I have to say that the Dutch government offered an excellent package to those who were unable to work. The amount of what individuals could claim ranged on the business they were in, profession, standard wage, etc. However, the average furloughed employee has been able to claim 90% of their wage.

Lock down has been officially eased in phased stages from the 1st of June, with restaurants, museums, cinemas and childrens schools returning with social distancing and other rules in place. Some businesses have now allowed employees to go back, however, the official stance from the RIVM (National Institute for Health and Environment) is to work from home as much as possible, to avoid spreading the virus.

It’s crazy to think all the plans that have been cancelled and really how life changed completely for everyone around the world. Welcome to the new normal…

2020 and who would have thought we’d all be in worldwide pandemic fighting for toilet paper over tissues

I cant believe we’re already basically a third of the way into the year and what a unique years its been already. I’m pleased to say that the year has been entertaining so far and Ive had tons of fun. Last year gave me closure, acceptance and clarity on a level I’ve never had before and it allowed me to ensure that 2020 will be what I want it to be, fun mostly. Ive done a ton of dating and Ive had absolutely priceless moments with my friends.

Dating, I decided to get back onto the dating bicycle, so I created a cute and humourous  profile for online dating and had went on a LOT of dates over 6 weeks and then hit burn out. To be clear, Im still very much so single but do you know, I had fun. Theres a show called ‘First Dates’, where single people basically go for a blind date over dinner, it seems most countries have this show, including the Netherlands. My Dutch colleagues often tell me that the British version is better, I agree. However, after my dates I’ve realised its not just the show but the Dutch take dating very seriously and they dont really seem to laugh or have fun on a date. If you cant have fun on a date, its unlikely you’ll have fun in the relationship and for me thats a red flag. I met a lot of really ‘nice guys’, unfortunately there just wasn’t a connection. I previously was a bit of a Dutch dater and took it too seriously, this time I decided to say ‘yes’ to everyone as long as there were no obvious red flags and the goal was to have fun. I treated it more like findafriend.com rather than youmeforever.com, which also took the pressure off. Luckily for me, there were no horror stories for dates but a lot of stories that make me laugh. A few examples are when I ruined a date making what I thought was a funny science joke with a date but he didn’t find it funny and it killed the date or the time a guy told me we couldn’t have a future because he didn’t like pets, the irony being he didn’t even realise what level of crazy cat lady I really am. Turns out guys really like burgers (great, so do I!) and I have a restaurant/bar that Im fond of because they do excellent burgers and even better cocktails, I went on a number of dates to this restaurant and one of the staff members pulled me to the side and said ‘why do you have a different guy every time I see you? Go girl!’ I laughed and explained it was my date bar and whilst I enjoyed myself, clearly my dating wasn’t going that well if each time it was a new guy, we both laughed. After around date 20, whilst I was still having fun, I could feel a shift within myself that I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I had previously and that I was starting to get cynical and jaded. I also went on a date with a guy who was negative about his dating life and I really thought to myself, at no point do I ever want to be on a date saying these things, ever. This is was my red flat that I needed to stop dating, take a break and re-evaluate. I decided my priority should be my friends and making memories with them over strangers on dates. For now, dating is on hold (which is bad timing given the current global situation and free time, it feels like a great time to be swiping) but I absolutely believe in fate and think if something is meant to be, it will, regardless of what app I’m on or not.

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Speaking of friends, I cant say how much I adore mine! I really have had a ton of fun with them. I think Ive laughed more in the first three months of this year, than I did all of last year combined, which is also kind of sad that last year as such a bust. This year I want to go tandem sky diving and its booked in, so I threw the idea out to my friends to join me, make a day of it and make memories. Three friends got very excited and were totally on board for it until they thought about it for two weeks and decided it was too hard core for them but its an activity I’d definitely enjoy, bless! What I also love about my friends is normally I can throw any idea at them and we go for it, even for things I expect they will say no to. Once we’re over social distancing tango dancing is the next thing on my list to try, the question is which friend can I get to join me?

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Corona…. who would have thought that in the year 2020 you’d need the mentality of a cage fighter to be able to buy toilet paper, rice and bread? The irony normally being when you have the flu you need tissues for your runny nose, not for toilet paper for the other end. There are many conspiracy theories and of course I have my own but that hasn’t stopped what is essentially the flu bringing the entire world to a halt. Its cancelled my holiday plans to Egypt, forced me to work from home for 3 weeks minimum with a dodgy everything connection and whilst Im ok with self distancing, I’m quickly realising that my cats are selfish arseholes (but I still love them).

If this is the first quarter of my year, I can only imagine what the next three quarters will bring. Im hoping for far more fun and laughter and less viruses and disease.

 

2019, I’m so ready to say goodbye

2019 has been a crazy chaotic year for me, I knew last year that it was going to be challenging and it most certainly didn’t let me down in that aspect, at all. It was officially my second year in the Netherlands and a year that saw changes in every aspect of my life.

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. “ – Nelson Mandela

The first 7 months were spent incredibly sick. No good deeds goes unpunished and I brought back an infection from my Christmas charity work in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately it took me being hospitalised to be given antibiotics that I should have been given in January with the first infection, the ‘joys’ of living in a country that really refuses to give antibiotics, even when you are legitimately sick. I think I surprised myself with being able to keep going despite feeling less than 30% of myself for such a long time and having such a utterly buggered immune system that I was literally going from one infection to the next.

“If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.” – H. G. Wells

Buying the house has been a big thing this year (as you’ll know from the previous blog posts) and I’m at the point where I can take a break until the Spring. I equally love and loathe my house, every time I think it’s sorted, something pops up to remind me that my work is never done and there will always be something – the joys of being a home owner (The irony still being that I bought the house on the basis that it literally needed no work doing to it).

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” — Fredrick Douglas

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My friends have become a true highlight of the year. They have proven more than once what an amazing support system I have and they truly make my life more entertaining, fun and enriched on every level. I am so incredibly lucky to be able to call them friends (and other inappropriate terms that we use amongst ourselves).

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” – Albert Schweitzer

Callie and George, my two very pampered Maine Coons, did not master potty training in 2019. George completely got it and was totally on board, if only his sister had even half the enthusiasm! Callie is absolutely me in the cat form, shes autistic and hates any form change and went out of her way to let me know was not having any of it. She gave me false hope on a few occasions but mostly she left me a gift at most front door every morning and nothing gets your mornings going like cleaning up cat mess before you can leave the house. I’ve now read a more cat forums that I’d like to admit and this will be a 2020 goal with a very different approach and time scale attached.

“If we start being honest about our pain, our anger, and our shortcomings instead of pretending they don’t exist, then maybe we’ll leave the world a better place than we found it.” – Russell Wilson

Mental health, this is such a taboo issue, which is unfortunate and sad. We will all be affected by mental health, our own or someone elses in our lifetime and yet we choose not to talk about it openly. This year has been a year that has tried me on every level possible, I’ve had more sense of humour failures than I can count and questioned my own sanity a number of times. Towards the end of the year, I realised that I needed to address a number of issues which were affecting my mental health if I wanted to be healthy. Progress is hard and addressing issues (painful or not) is never easy and takes determination but ultimately it’s been incredibly rewarding for me. I can see the progress that I’ve made, the feeling of weight being taken off my shoulders and it’s been incredibly enlightening in ways I didn’t even expect.

“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

2019 has been unique in so many ways, I didn’t find lasting love but I did find some very impressive DIY skills and now have a shed full of power tools (woohoo!). I learnt more about myself than I ever expected. I had some amazingly shit times (7 months being ill) but equally I had some really fun times, where I laughed until I cried, make up completely ruined. Oh and it turns out I’m a complete mini golf addict despite the fact that the more I play, the worse I somehow seem to get. I’m ready to go into 2020 with a positive attitude and a new respect for my needs and wants in life.

New home, new problems

is what Ive put on my whiteboard in my kitchen and it is incredibly apt. I generally adore my home but equally there are sometimes where I wonder if its purposely testing what tiny amount of patience I have.  I can laugh at a lot of experiences Ive had with the house.

In the Netherlands, houses really dont come with lights, you buy a house and you literally bring your own lightbulbs and light fittings. I have to say Ive done really well picking up electrics as part of the move! So far zero for being electrocuted and I’ve changed practically every light fitting and electrical outlet in the house but I am still stuck on a proper 3 way light. For 2 months, it was summer and I was able to not need a ceiling light in my living room. Winter is coming and with it, much shorter days. I bought a light fitting and attempted to fit it. It did not go well, at all. All patience was utterly lost and a completely new light bought. This was all around 8pm on a Saturday, I was absolutely determined to fit and have light in my living room. I get home with my new light and it was getting dark. Im very safe when it comes to these things and always turn off the main power, however, that meant I was then in the dark. I used the flashlight on my mobile to light the ceiling, so that I could fit the light (I would also like to add this is the first time Ive ever used this feature! I kind of thing that having a mobile is taking cat pics and sending memes and thats basically it). What this really meant is that I needed my hands free and ended up sticking my phone in my mouth so that I could fit the light, whilst up a ladder, swearing quite a lot, 1 hand holding the light fixture whilst the other hand had the screw driver. This was naturally not straight forward either, so add quite a lot of drool coming down the side of my mouth as I had the phone in my mouth for no less than 45 minutes (Id like to add that my phone is still not quite over this drooling incident).  Eventually the light was fitted and I’m delighted to be able to turn on a light. It was kind of weird getting back into the habit of being able to turn on a light.  I even giggle with excitement at being to turn on the light…yes this is how truly exciting my life has become!

 

I have two parts of the house that are covered in movie posters, it came this way and was one of the features that I adore about the house. The stairway that goes to my bedroom has some ok posters (and Chuck Norris) but the downstairs cupboard has Jaws, Alfred Hitchcock etc and a friend came by and had a quick look at the cupboard and was like ‘what I like most about your house, this cupboard’. Even now it makes me laugh for quite literally the 100s of hours of work put into the house for people to find a 1.5 metre cupboard the best feature of my house.

Ive been trying to toilet train the cats (think Mr Jinx from Meet the Parents). According to the shiney all singing kit I got, its a quick and easy 30 day process. I really wanted them toilet trained before the move but unfortunately due to multiple issues, it didn’t happen and kind of started before the move. I shouldn’t have started it before the move. I should have just waited for one solid smooth process. My female Maine Coon is most certainly me, in the cat form. Shes stubborn, ornery and hates any form of change. What really did not go in my favour when getting to step 3, me being absolutely delighted and her not realising they had been upgraded to step 3 and then promptly falling in the toilet when she went to use the tray.

potty training

30 day process it is not and if I get them fully trained in under 3 months, I will accept it as a win. Potty training has had to restart all the way back at back at step 1 (as a direct result of her unfortunate nose drive into the loo), we’re now on step 2 (above) and she still has ‘accidents’ roughly every other day, so not great and my downstairs toilet has been completely sacrificed but if I can pull it off (quite literally God willing at this point), I would like to think it will be worth it. Ill never forget the Ikea delivery man who tried to use the toilet and them came and got me and was like ‘I dont understand THIS.’, whilst pointing at the toilet. Oddly enough my male is great with it and has no issues and uses whatever is there. If only his sister were are open and accommodating to change.

I cant believe its November already! This year has truly been nuts balls crazy, has gone so quickly and its also a year I’m ready to see the back of.  Im taking two weeks off at Christmas to literally sit my pyjamas and do nothing and I dont think Ive ever quite looked forward to doing nothing as much as I am this.

Moving house and adulting

This year,  has been crazy busy… thats my excuse for not blogging. I have had a few messages of disappointment at my distinct lack of blogging. I can always trust my friends to harass me and put me back on the right path!  Having said that, so much has happened in the last 5 months that my head is still spinning. I cant say it enough, I knew it was going to be a crazy year but it seems to be the year that just keeps giving.

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I was dating a nice Dutch guy but unfortunately neither of us was prepared to compromise on what we both considered a deal breaker and it truly turned out to be the deal breaker (it was, of course, more complicated than this, as these things are but thats the shortest version of the break up). However, I discovered the best way to get over a break up is to buy a house. It meant that I simply didn’t have time to wallow or self indulge and my priority really hasn’t been to date. As with most things in life, I think if something is meant to be, it will and never say never.

I found a house that I fell in love with in the suburbs Amsterdam (I’m an Amsterdamer now!), that ticked the boxes for my cats and everything fell into place and I’m now a home-owner. It felt bitter sweet, as I thought it would be a home I would create with my partner but that was just not meant to be. However, I still truly love the house (for the most part). However, I wont lie, it has been incredibly stressful and reiterated that the only way I’m leaving this house will be in a coffin. I really dont do moving well at all, Im too autistic, routine oriented and dont deal with chaos at all. The house has been series of unfortunate events and literally everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. I bought the house thinking that it needed nothing at all and planned to redecorate one room. Every room has now been painted from floor to ceiling, along a new fridge and a variety of other things. I’ve had a number of sense of humour failures with it and even suggested that burning it down and starting from scratch might be an easier. I’m still surrounded by boxes in every room (over a month in), have a list of things to do that is a long as I am but it’s slowly getting there. The best part for me is that I’m now actually closer to work. My previous commute to work at 35 minutes door to door and now if everything goes smoothly its like 15, it tends to be more like 20 but at least my alarm clock is no longer set for 04:50 each morning!

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I’m incredibly lucky in as much as I managed to get truly fantastically amazing neighbours. The sellers did tell me that I would be getting great neighbours but I wasn’t sure if this was sarcasm or honesty. Turned out it was true honesty.  They have two very large dogs, which my cats take great pleasure in antagonising and the neighbours were beyond kind enough to cat-proof both sides of the fence to stop my cats going into their garden, without me asking! My first meeting with them did make me laugh as it was like they had google searched me or something similiar. ‘We’ve heard about you, you’re a brit but not a brit, on your own with two maine coons, which we’ve already googled to understand what they are and you’ve lived in the NLs for 2 years, welcome to the street!’. It was quite sweet. My neighbour thinks its great that I do everything myself and occasionally ask to borrow his power tools, something about women normally preferring the men to do ‘such jobs’. I always just laugh and say if I dont do it, then no one will. They are also new members of my weekly cake club and we’ve swapped grape recipes.

Just a brief overview of several very crazy months. I do look forward to going back to the quiet boring life and having time and the energy to blog again!

 

2019, where have you gone?

I cannot believe it is seriously almost June already?!?! I recently received this message, which reminded me that I’ve been neglecting blogging. It made me laugh but it was a reality check that it has literally been months since I put my preverbal pen to paper and a month later I’m taking action on the message. Screen Shot 2019-05-26 at 20.15.41

2019 and I have really haven’t gotten on. Last year, I knew coming into the year, that it was going to be a busy and challenging year, it has not disappointed in either area.  I literally am unable to tell you where the first half of the year has gone.

I’ve previously been told that expats find medical care in the Netherlands to a lower standard than they are previously use to. Unfortunately I started the year sick, I came back from Eastern Europe with what turned out to be a inner ear infection and strep throat. Frustratingly, this turned out to be a 13 week struggle to get antibiotics. For many years within Europe, antibiotics use lowest in the Netherlands and Dutch doctors prescribe the least antibiotics, which is a fantastic statistic that the country regularly likes to quote. However, when it comes to being sick, its incredibly frustrating not be able to get antibiotics when you know they serve a purpose and make you healthy again. My Dutch colleagues gave me the advice ‘to add another 2 weeks on to the length of time you’ve been ill, to ensure the doctor takes you seriously.’ I think any time its a national tip that you lie to your doctor to be taken seriously, there is a much bigger problem at the core of the system. The Dutch Doctors approach is to tell patients to take Paracetamol, for everything. Do you have pain? Take paracetamol. Do you feel bad? Take Paracetamol. Do you need an amputation? Take Paracetamol. This is a pain killer that I now loathe. At the peak of my sickness, I was taking dangerous amounts (without realising), however, I am still somewhere between laughing and being highly sarcastic, so clearly no damage was done at the time. However, what I did discover was that the paracetamol was actually covering/hiding my symptoms, meaning that the doctor didn’t feel it necessary to prescribe antibiotics at the time. The paracetamol worked in a way that I would feel bad for 3-5 days and then I’d feel better 2-4 days and so it carried on for weeks (12 before I could antibiotics). Essentially the first 3 months of the year were spent feeling like a death and wondering why in a first world country,  why sick people are made to suffer when an immediate health care solution is available. I summarised from this 3 months that Dutch doctors like to see people suffer – whilst this is an exaggeration and I’m sure not true for some Dutch doctors, it was a truly horrific experience for me that has put me off Dutch healthcare. I did get some antibiotics from my doctor at the 12 week mark, unfortunately they didn’t fully remedy my issues and I resorted to getting antibiotics from another source, which I think is utterly ridiculous. However, I was no longer prepared to suffer, continue to be ill or fight with my doctor for further medication.

Adulting, I’m doing a lot of it this year! After having turned 36 in February, Im officially on the wrong the side of 35 and the next stop is 40! For the last four years, I ran a very small charity working with vulnerable individuals in eastern Europe. At the beginning of this year, my fellow trustees and I am made the difficult decision to close the charity. This a hard decision but the right one. Its taken a few months to wind down the charity, complete all the paperwork and do the necessary things to close a registered charity. I’ve had an offer through my contacts to work with their organisation and I’m seriously considering it. I think I need a break first and to buy a house and be settled but I cant imagine not being involved in charity work, in one avenue or another.

I am currently in the process buying  property in the Netherlands. After 2 years of renting in Amstelveen, I’ve realised that I am a suburbanite through and through, I like of love suburbia. I equally love being close to the city but I adore the peace and quiet that you get from not being in the city. My cats need a garden and on nice days I want to sit in and ideally hear next to nothing, which doesn’t happen in the city. Its highly likely I will end up in Utrecht but I am looking at properties and areas within a short commute to Amsterdam. This has really been an interesting experience so far. Ive been stressed out, ready to pull my hair out and wondering why no customer service exists in this country. I completely understand why people say that purchasing a home is one of the most stressful events of your life.

 

2019 has so far has been crazy for me. I sadly dont see this changing for the next few months. Im hoping that the last quarter of the year is quiet or that 2020 will be ear marked for an utterly boring, quiet and uneventful year!

Goodbye 2018

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2018, what a year! You know you’re getting older when you look back on the year and each one seems to have gone quicker than the last and you’re left wondering where time has gone and how many new grey hairs you see in the mirror every time you look (thank God for hair dye!).

Im honestly not keen or looking forward to 2019, so I’m quite happy to reminisce over 2018, it was a good year!

Dutch life: I celebrated 1 year in the Netherlands, despite all the things that I can complain about living here, I do enjoy life here. I adore my museumkaart and exploring cities and exhibits, on my own and with friends. Its great to have cycle paths and the ability to literally cycle everywhere in the country or to be able to drive to either end of the country within a few short hours, (although I do find driving here slightly strange – bigger adjustment required than initially thought). I don’t think I will ever adapt to Dutch kisses, it feels like they do three kisses for anything and I believe thats a great way to spread the black plague. I have a diary and I schedule my friends in for meet ups, who would have thought? Luckily I still do enough last minute stuff that I haven’t removed all spontaneity from my life. I think Ive acclimatised to the Netherlands quite well.

Friends: I made some amazing friends this year and had so many laughs.  I literally fell on floor laughing several times with people. Its so important to surround yourself with people who are as crazy as you are. I do like to pretend like Im incredibly serious and boring but when I have my funny 5 minutes, its great to be able to share them with like minded people. I’m so grateful to have a support network of people that I can rely on and who I can send wildly inappropriate memes to.

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Dating: I started the year single and I ended the year single. I had unique dating experiences and met some guys that I now consider good friends. My biggest take away is how important it is to have a sense of humour when you’re dating. I’m also glad that a number of my dating stories have brought nothing tears of entertainment to my friends.

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2018 was a really good year for me. I made so many memories, had so many laughs, impressed many Dutch people with my baking, experienced so many new things and the pros of the year defiantly outweighed the cons. I finished the year oh a high, doing charity work in eastern Europe. I’m sad to see 2018 go.

2019, it is an absolute year of uncertainty for me. Those who know me, know that I’m a slight control freak and like to have most things planned out. Brexit is one of my biggest concerns in 2019, I have no idea what will happen with my freedom of movement or if I will be able to stay within the Netherlands. I also have several other things happening which are big changes, so 2019 is going to be a year of change for me and I’m not looking forward to it at all. I understand the universal loathing of change.

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Going Dutch – Dating in the Netherlands

I am single and have been single for many years, I decided to dip my toe into the Dutch dating pool. This has been unique in many ways and most certainly a learning curve.

Here are the opinions from people around me on my single status and dating:

My mother:

  • ‘I’m ready for you to have a boyfriend, honestly, I was ready years ago for you to have a boyfriend. I’ve accepted that you are a crazy cat lady and wont give me grandchildren but at least give me someone else I can write about in the Christmas card.’

My friends:

  • ‘It could be that your standards are too high, have you considered having no standards?’
  • ‘I have no idea why you put so much effort into your personal appearance when you’re single, seems a waste to me.’
  • ‘For a lady whose had a complete stranger confess his love for her, I have no idea how or why you’re single’.
  • ‘For my own sake, I hope that you don’t find a boyfriend because listening to your dating stories leaves me in fits laughter to the point of tears. Hearing your experiences are always the highlight my week when I speak to you’.

My  colleagues

  • ‘Dutch men like a challenge, I’m surprised you’re single.’
  • ‘We’ve been asking around the office for you to see whose single and we’ve been putting out feelers for you.’ – I choked on my coffee when I heard this and then had to explain the, ‘you don’t sh!t where you eat’ theory. They laughed at this and assured me they are still on the look out, much to my horror.

My approach to dating

I recently watched on the Netflix Iliza Shlesinger – War Paint. This is hilarious on many levels and really explains the female approach to dating perfectly. I think that single men would benefit from watching this, just to have little bit more of helping hand with setting their own dating expectations. 

My approach is probably described as a guys/male mentality to dating. Im really relaxed, I absolutely don’t rush anything, I refuse to ever make the first move (unmale like, I know) on all levels and Im fiercely independent. I’m quite happy not to message a guy for days at a time. Guys need to chase me. I’m married to my job, I work long hours and am at my desk by 06:20 most mornings. I friendzone everyone as a starting point. If I like someone, I try my absolute best to put them off. I divulge and exaggerate my faults and if they hang around, they are probably worth a chance. I think if someone can accept my faults, they will be pleasantly surprised with my strengths. I know I’m a catch with a fantastic sense of humour and a fun imagination but I’m absolutely going to make the guy work for it (which I’m very honest about). It’s setting expectations from the beginning, there will always be elements of me that are awkward and difficult.

I thought I was really hard work and high maintenance before dating in the Netherlands, just look at the above. My experiences with Dutch women are that they like to be in utter control of every aspect of their relationships and their boyfriends lives. They expect guys to constantly text them, speak to their partners in a belittling way and not as equal (this can be regularly seen in any grocery store), manage every aspect of the guys life and are generally onerous. It reminds me of a strict mother with a 3-year-old, ‘you will do this’ and the 3 year old does it but instead it’s with a grown man. Turns out compared to a native woman, I’m super easy, relaxed and no effort at all. You’d think given my new ‘no effort’ status, it would be no problem finding a Dutch boyfriend, er, yeah, not quite. There are a lot of very humourous blogs about expat dating in the Netherlands. Here are a few that I could relate to and made me laugh:

How to Attract Dutch Men – I break 4 of these rules

what’s up with…Dutch men – This is interesting and Id agree on a few points

Five Differences Between British and Dutch Men – Stereotyped but true on many levels

The Netherlands and Dating: 6 things about dating the Dutch – Straight forward and apt

Lessons learnt dating in the Netherlands

Dutch guys: Lets start with the obvious, they are a entire breed of Zebra of their own. Three things that I almost instantly notice about Dutch guys: hair gel, cologne and grey socks. The amount of hair gel Dutch men seem to use, ensures that when light hits their hair, you have to instantly look away not to be permanently blinded by the shine. I also think this is a potential fire hazard but fear for my own safety to ever test this theory. Cologne, I can only imagine that it’s purchased by the litre, as it seems as though they bath in it. Sometimes the cologne is so strong that you need to hold your breath, to stop from gagging on the overwhelming smell. It reminds me of the skunk from Looney Tunes, Pepé Le Pew, who leaves a path of fumes where-ever he goes. Grey socks, like brown shoes, are the choice of the Dutch man. Given how the clothing choices can be less than exciting, I’m always secretly hopeful that they will show some of sort of fun with their socks, so far I am yet to be pleasantly surprised.

Apps: Being a young(ish) person, dating apps seem the way to go. I’ve been on my fair share and still have a semi-active profile. I’ve chatted to and met a number of guys from apps. There seems to be two types of Dutch guys on the apps, those who simply want to chat and will never meet (but fail to tell you this or admit it) and those who will meet you but want to do it instantly before they even know how to pronounce your name or you are able to determine what colour socks they wear. If you can find someone in the middle, well done! What I enjoy about apps are the profiles, the really honest ones that are so straightforward that it’s weird and bordering on cringeworthy. Dont get me wrong, there are hundreds if not thousands of really bad profiles but they’re boring and instantly forgettable, by the time you’ve swiped left, you’ve already forgotten them. I also appreciate honest messages that make you giggle and cringe. Here are two examples, one straightforward cringey profile and another of a message that I received. I did not swipe right on the profile despite its directness and honesty or making me laugh, nor did I respond to the message even though I do smell nice.

Profile     message

Dating: I know I shouldn’t admit this but I enjoy dating, even if it goes off path. Dutch men like to go to the cinema, which seems odd to me, given that there is little opportunity to talk during a film, fine if you’re like on date 3+ but for an initial date, it seems, odd. My preferred date is a place (museum, exhibit, zoo, etc), as it’s a great way to see what levels of commonality that you. If you have nothing in common, at least you have something else to look at, things around you that create conversation and you’re not just stuck looking awkward across the table from someone. I have also had several moments of ‘Dutch directness’ where I literally thought to myself, ‘did he seriously just say that?!?’. These instances covered topics from personal looks and appearance, being a foreigner, speaking the language, to random other things. I’ve found in these situations its best to smile and change the subject quickly, some things are best ignored. Or at least ignored until I chat to my friends about it and we laugh about it, a lot. Luckily I do a good enough job vetting the guys (making them prove they deserve a date) before I meet them that I haven’t had any truly horrific dates, just a couple of quite awkward ones where I politely decline a second date.

Whatsapp : The death of conversations. The dating world is obsessed with Whatsapp, I am less so. Normally within three app messages from a guy, I get ‘add me on Whatsapp, my number is X.’ This is the point where I politely decline. Sadly I have made the mistake several times of adding individuals on the Whap and regretted it pretty quickly. The Whap has taught me that Dutch men get needy pretty quickly, I can only imagine this is as a result of dating Dutch women and the expectation is set that they must text frequently with checkins. As stated above, Im really good at not instantly replying or not sending messages for days at a time. My lack of instant response drives Dutch guys nuts to the point that I get messages that say, ‘I can see you’re online, why aren’t you replying to me?’, ‘I can see you’ve read my message, do you have no response?’ and ‘why aren’t you messaging me?’. These are a of the few examples of messages Ive received, it’s just too needy to me. I could never imagine sending anyone such messages, we’re all adults, we all have lives, we work, nothings on fire, we’re not in a defined relationship, like what’s the rush? The next backward step seems to be that you can have somewhat of a proper conversation over an app and once you move to the Whap, it’s like guys now expect the female to create every conversation and provide one word responses. I think this could relate back Dutch girls dictating how the conversation will go and just seeking acknowledgement of what shes saying rather than a two way conversation. My experience is that Whatsapp is the killer of conversations because of either the expectation that I need constant messaging and I will respond instantly or the guys lack of ability to have a in-depth conversations.

These experiences have made dating in the Netherlands, interesting, unique and different. I think that it helps/hampers that I’m generally happy in my life, I have no interest to change who I am (or how frequently I respond to messages) or to be with someone for the sake of it. I have met and dated some nice guys, blocked a few numbers, made a few friends and even turned down opportunities to have relationships. Since dating in the Netherlands, my own ideas of what I thought I wanted and needed have changed entirely. I’m in the best head space with dating Ive been in years, I’m aware and honest with what I want and what my expectations are. I also believe that if something is meant to be, it will, no matter what the differences are that we might have. I have no doubt that I will continue to have experiences that I will find humourous in the strangest of ways and honestly, I dont mind, as long as Im laughing.

1 Year in the Netherlands

It’s officially been 365 days, an entire year, since I moved to the Netherlands. What a year, its had it’s up and downs and I can say unreservedly that its been an adventure.

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Brexit: This is the gift that just keeps giving, much like an STD. I literally have no idea what my future holds or what will happen with Brexit. I moved from England as I didn’t want to live in a country that isn’t a member of the EU, my opinion on this has not changed. I can see that the UK has changed as a result of Brexit and most certainly not for the better. I can only hope that I will continue to have EU freedom of movement and live in Netherlands or wherever the wind takes me.

Expat Life: I have now been a dirty foreigner living abroad for over 18 years, officially, Ive lived abroad longer than I lived in my birth country. I think it makes it easier to adapt but equally I will always feel like a foreigner no matter where I live. Being an expat means I tend to attract other expats, we have common ground. It’s great to be able to share experiences that natives/locals can’t relate to or haven’t experienced themselves. I’ve met some amazing expats living here in the Netherlands and I’m proud to be able to call them friends. I created a social group in Amstelveen, I’ve never hosted so many dinner parties, given baking lessons, or responded to so many Whatsapp/Facebook messages in my life. I’m not so proud to admit that I’m occasionally so busy that I have to book people in my diary weeks in advance, like a true Dutch person.

Art and Culture: There is more to the Netherlands than tulips and wood shoes. I love the fact that every weekend I have the opportunity to do things. At least two weekends in every four, I am taking advantage of my museum card and exploring. I’ve seen some amazing exhibits, museums, castles, things that left me in tears with laughter and I’ve equally seen things that were less than impressive. The Stedelijks in Amsterdam is by far my favourite modern art museum and if ever I have a spare hour in the city, this is where you’ll find me. Despite visiting a number of the large cities, Amsterdam is still my favourite. Forgetting the tourist, drugs and the Red Light District (I understand it can be hard to overlook these), it’s a city with history, heritage and so much to see and do.

Dating: This has truly been interesting for me. As with most things in my life, its been comically funny, not all good but most certainly funny. There are a number of blogs about dating in the Netherlands and how its a challenge for expats. Having personally experienced it, I agree. I’ve decided to do a separate blog dedicated to being single and my dating experiences rather than take up paragraphs here – watch this space.

Working with Dutchies: This has been an experience! I have to admit that I’m incredibly lucky to work with the people that I do, my wider team are fantastic. We all laugh, a lot, occasionally even being told off for laughing too loudly or worse, having too much fun in the office. They say I’ve corrupted them, I think this could be true.

There are three things that stick out to me the most about Dutch office life, the elevator, the coffee machine and sandwiches.

  • The Elevator – Being British means I’m reserved, no eye contact is generally made (ok, this could be my functioning autism coming out too) but you most certainly don’t talk to people in the elevator, oh sweet Jesus, no! Ideal British elevator interaction, THERE IS NONE, we all ignore each other listening to our headphones, happy days! I also like to think having my headphones in is a sign that I’m not approachable but NO, this does not deter the Dutch. Apparently stranger danger isn’t applicable in a Dutch elevator and strangers talk to each other, in EVERY elevator. I’ve now become the kind of person that if I see someone getting in the elevator, I walk that little bit slower to avoid having to get in the elevator with them and have any form of conversation. Honestly, its kind of nice that people talk to each other, on the other hand, it’s really weird (het is echt vreemd, hoor!) and goes against all my British instincts. What I also love, quite adore in fact, is watching the Dutchies completely checking themselves out in the elevator mirrors, you can see it in their face and then all of the personal adjustments that follow suit. I would honestly say my experience is like 8 out of 10 people will do it. I take the attitude that if I don’t know what I look like by the time I get in the office elevator, there’s no hope left for me or point in looking in the mirror, it’s just too late.
  • The Coffee Machine – this is the mecca for office chat, its like a beacon that draws people in. I’ve never quite seen anything like it. Apparently chatting at your desks isn’t the done thing, no, you save it, you wait, you hold it all in until you go to the coffee machine. This makes me grateful that my first coffee of the day is hours before anyone gets in and then 10am caffeine fix is provided by Starbucks. I break all the rules and force people to talk to me at my desk or theirs and then completely ignore them if I’m walking by the coffee machine. Sometimes you have the be cruel to be kind. Yet somehow, despite this, people in my office seem to really like me and go out of their way to chat to me, away from the coffee machine.
  • Sandwiches – a serious dutch lunch. Never get between a Dutch person and their sandwich (or play hide and seek with them, lesson learnt for me!). Everyone arrives at the office with their homemade sandwiches in a plastic bag and consumes them throughout the day. Breakfast, snack, and lunch, all sandwiches. My colleagues don’t understand how I can eat a homemade chicken salad most days and look at me, look at my salad and then back to me and just shake their heads. The irony being I do the same at their sandwiches. I also eat a yogurt every morning for breakfast in the office, which also breaks the above sandwich rule.

 

Two wheels: I really enjoy cycling. Words, I would have never thought I’d ever say. Being knocked off my bike by a car was an experience I hope to never re-experience but sadly is a common occurrence in a country full of bikes and cars. I have an app that I create routes and explore the local area with. I enjoy being able to cycle the days frustrations out or attempt to anyway. I still think Dutch people who take a leisurely 40-60 ride are nuts ball crazy though, that’s not leisurely at all.

Even after a year, these things still do not seem normal to me.

  • I find this more funny than rude but its the way that men in the elevator will not make eye contact but rather you see their eyes going from my red lipstick to my chest and then back and forth at least two times. My colleague and I laugh about this most days, it’s a common occurrence and so obvious. Honestly, I do have to stop myself from bending down and staring at their crotch as a ‘return the look’.
  • Customer service – This country literally has none. I think I’m more surprised whenever I actually come across any.
  • Paracetamol does not solve the worlds illnesses, unless you’re in the Netherlands.
  • Rain! ZOMGs! So much rain! Having lived in England, I thought I knew rain but no, just no! I think on average it rains something like 30 minutes everyday, that’s a lot of rain.
  • Dog excrement. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not pro-dog but seriously, its disgusting that people just don’t clean up after their dogs, at all. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with a dog bag. It’s just a thousand levels of  laziness and grossness.
  • Sleeping badly – this seems to be a problem experienced by many expats living here. I can honestly say that I’ve had maybe 3 seriously decent nights of sleep since moving here. My nightly routine now includes taking melatonin before bed.
  • Brown shoes – brown shoes are everywhere, it’s almost like everyone is colour blind to any colour except brown. The silver lining of getting into a busy elevator is then looking at everyones shoes and 9 out of 10 will be brown.
  • Dutch fashion – this is a wide and varied topic and something that brings me amusement every day but the Dutch most certainly have their own sense of style and fashion. I hope that I never lose my sense of non-Dutch style and fashion.
  • ‘Ah-zo’! – this is a noise that Dutch people make. Generally it takes one person to say it and then the domino effect happens and then everyone is saying it. I guess I can only describe it as what they say when they are trying to fill a silence.  It’s just so weird to me and I don’t get it but it does make me laugh.
  • Compliments – Dutch people don’t give compliments. I give loads! If you look nice, smell nice, or anything nice, I’ll let you know. Turns out that my colleagues LOVE this about me. My cleaner and I were having a discussion about compliments and she says compliments just aren’t Dutch, she never gives any and finds it awkward if she feels she needs to or if people give them to her.

 

My version of the Dutch language has most certainly improved over the year. To be fair, it really couldn’t have gotten much worse. As standard with a second language, I understand more than I speak. I know that I speak Dutchlish (mixing Dutch and English) and that I speak it with such a thick English accent that people look either confused or laugh. I had an experience in Utrecht at a museum, where the lady asked if I wanted her to speak in Dutch or English and I did my usual, ‘it doesnt mater, either is fine’ in Dutch, so she proceeded in Dutch, awesome. I responded to her questions in Dutch, she then stopped me mid-sentence with a look of seeing either a pig that had grown wings and was flying or seeing a genuine unicorn riding over a magical rainbow and said , ‘Wow, you are a real British person aren’t you?’. This made me laugh, mostly because British people arent rare (entire country of them) and proved the point that my Dutch really is Dutchlish!

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This year I’ve experienced more snow than Ive seen in 25 years (the blizzard of 1993!), Ive become more social than Ive ever been and Ive laughed so much. I wont lie, it has also been tough, Ive come across challenges I didn’t expect and I still have no idea what or where my future lies. Its been a very interesting 365 days and it will be more interesting to see what the next 365 hold in store for me.