Guest speaker at Expa(t)dition

Tomorrow night marks the start of the Breda Monkeys relaunch! After a time away juggling family life, work, and sickness, Breda Monkeys is back in town.

On Wednesday 18th January I will be speaking at the very first Expa(t)dition event in Breda. Come and listen to my story about moving to and living in Breda and about Breda Monkeys.

Hopefully, this is the start of a new year full of new adventures and who knows maybe a Breda monkeys meetup venue in the centre of town!

See you tomorrow or at one of our events this year!

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Have you heard about Mammie Talks?

When Baby Monkey and I went to the Negenmaandenbeurs recently, we got the opportunity to talk to the lovely people at Mammie Talks.

Mammie talks is a great new website http://www.mammietalks.nl which is made for and by mothers just like us!

How it works is as follows….

Two ways:  1. Are you looking for a new product for your pregnancy, baby or child? Not sure which to buy, which is the best, how it works? Mammietalks is then a great site for you, its full of real life videos where mums give their honest opinion about any product they have experienced.

2. Have you just bought a product and think that it should be mentioned? Then you can upload a video and give your opinion on it!

The site is in Dutch at the moment but there are video reviews in English (some by yourself truly) like the one below of me at the Negenmaandenbeurs.
You can sign up on the site so you can post videos and comment on other product reviews, if you sign up you get a free Greetz card.

MammieTalks is a lovely new website and I have already found out about many great products, especially  ones in the Netherlands that maybe I didn’t know about.

See you on Mammietalks and you can follow me there here

Monkey Mama back to work

The monkeys are back to school and playgroup but Mama is also back to work after a long blissful summer holiday.

Heres some inspiring products to make that back to work feeling feel more fun!

Photo Collage

From top left:

The all essential bag: I have two bags one for home and one for work, somethings swap over but over items stay only in one of the bags (ie nappy changing items! they definitely stay in the home bag, I can just imagine me whipping them out in a lecture) Prices are on the expensive side starting at 36,00 pounds but they are worth it and last forever.

I have a Cath Kidston bag. I love everything Cath Kidston, especially her bags they are pretty but still professional looking and have many great pockets for storing all the essential items.

A notebook/journal: Although I am very digital there are some things that are essential to have in “old style” and a notebook is one of them. Hema has some lovely notebooks including this one which has so many pages you could hardly ever fill it. Plus it looks nice and professional too. For 2,99 euro a lovely notebook.

Ipad coverThe digital side of me kicks in now and I always carry my ipad mini with me. This cover makes my ipad feel glossy and expensive (even if the cover really wasn’t!) Smartcover.nl has loads of really cheap and beautiful covers. Most covers retail at 12,50 euro

Notebook and Diary essentials: My life is coloured corordinated in all my diaries/notebooks etc (a post about this will follow soon) I love to use stickers, post its and washbi tape to decorate and note down all apointments ideas etc. Again Hema is fantastic for these products, there are so many it’s really hard to choose. Prodcuts range from 1,49 euro

Essential writing pen: If you take notes you need a pen that writes with you, for me I still love to write with a fountain pen, there is something special about the flow of the pen and the way it glides across the page. My silver fountain pen came from our local Bruna for 2,90 euro

Essence: Lastly I wanted to share with you a gorgeous range of perfumes that really won’t break the bank. Kruidvat have their Master parfumer range which come in large bottles and the super handy small spray bottles, perfect for your handbag. My favourites are Rose N’8 and White Lily N’26. With 7 other fragrances to choose from, there is bound to be one for every Monkey Mama and at 3,49 euro for the 15ml spray bottle, they won’t break the bank either 🙂

Cycling with a bump

I read this article in the Daily Mail a while back now, “Running whilst pregnant“, it got me thinking then and when I was 37 weeks pregnant, it got me thinking again.

I don’t run, I very proudly announce that I don’t run anywhere even for a bus. However I do cycle.
Cycling in the Netherlands as many know is the norm, it is no different to walking. In fact why walk when you can cycle.

I remember upon getting pregnant one of my first questions to the doctor was, Can I still cycle? His face was a picture! Of course you can Why wouldn’t you?

So I cycled, 37 weeks pregnant and that women who 3 years ago  blogged about never cycling again,  was cycling with a massive bump, unnerving balance and a 4 year old on the back.

So it takes some adjustment, I mean you have to, from about 34 weeks go slower, not cause you need to, you have too! Also it takes some getting used to cycling with your legs straddled out like a penguin or a duck.

Plus the whole balance thing is a bit of a tricky situation and the cobblestones in my village were most definitely going to bring on labour one day soon.

But I was better for cycling this time round, I swear that it was the cycling that has kept off the weight  and the blood pressure was kept at bay til much later this time round too.

So what on earth was all the fuss about the poor woman in the Daily Mail article about running a few miles every day when Dutch women cycle right up until there due date, some even cycling kilometres to work every day.

This article in the Guardian sums up most of this Cycling whilst pregnant

“What if I fall or crash?” may become a question that adds to the growing list of concerns. “I don’t want to risk any falls, but I don’t want to stay home lying on the couch. What should I do?”

So Cycling  being pregnant meant I had something extra to care for, but I care just as much when I have Funky Monkey on the back, isn’t it the same? I cycle with my born child on the back of bike, why wouldn’t I cycle with my unborn child?

The NCT and the NHS suggest that women shouldn’t cycle because of the risk of falling. However the Royal College of Obstetricians and Royal COllege of Midwives just advise care.

Only a few times in the last few months of pregnancy did I feel unsafe on my bike, but this iwas due to me overloading the bike with shopping and when the weather was rubbish.


In fact if you saw a woman cycling with a suitcase, a nappy bag and a breastfeeding pillow to the station, it was probably me on my way to give birth.

Pregnancy is not an illness ……

…….. Well it isn’t in Holland anyhow. It is funny isn’t how every where around the world they treat pregnancy differently. This is my first time being pregnant in Holland and it is different to being pregnant in Spain. In Spain, when I found out I was pregnant I went to the doctor who did a test to make sure! Made loads of appointments, blood tests etc. and by this time (I am 18weeks now) I had had two of those glucose drinking tests and blood taken out of every arm, ok both arms then but it felt like several. Here in the Netherlands I went to the doctor who said Ok, Congratulations. So I sat there for a bit and said is that it? Don’t you want to check? Do any tests? Ask me questions? His answer was most Dutch women don’t come to see me until they are at least 12 weeks. I was 5 weeks pregnant!! So far I am happy how it is going, I have had scans, and now see a gynaecologist and have had one blood test. But no horrible glucose drinking here yet. Its different here, but I suppose it is everywhere. There have been lots of horror stories going round the net about giving birth in the Netherlands, ie no pain relief after a certain time of day. (arggh help!!) But so far everything is well. There are many great posts about Pregnancy in the Netherlands so I shan’t tell the whole story again. I will list my favourite posts below. Parenting in Holland website has some good information. Clogs and Tulips has a guest post from Letter in the Netherlands Expatica’s Maternity Matters Letter from Netherlands new blog: Expat life with a Double buggy  What I will share though is Pregnancy in Breda and Brabant: Here are some tips and links to places things you will need in Brabant. 1. See your local doctor, depending on your medical history he will recommend you have your pregnancy guided by a gynaecologist or a midwife.  Being seen by a midwife is the most common in the Netherlands, as is giving birth at home. If you wish to be seen by a gynaecologist and give birth in hospital but you don’t have a medical condition that forces you too, ie freewill then you will have to pay through your own insurance. If you do have a medical condition or develop one due to pregnancy then your care and birth will be covered by health insurance. 2. If like me you have an underlying medical condition then you will need to choose a hospital, it is wise to also have your gynaecologist at this hospital too. (Although, another thing different here in the Netherlands compared to Spain is that you don’t see the same gynaecologist every time you go to an appointment, but they do read up on your notes and seem well informed) Hospitals in Breda and Tilburg: Amphia Ziekenhuis Lagendijk in Breda St Elizabeth Zikenhuis in Tilburg 3. If you have no medical conditions and wish to give birth at home then you will need a Verloskunde, a midwife. She will look after you during pregnancy and be at your birth. The best way to find one is to type verloskunde and your town/village into google search. You may find that like me in my village I only have one choice! Verloskunde in Breda Verloskunde in Tilburg If you don’t want to give birth in a hospital or at home, the Netherlands have varying types of Maternity hotels. These are a kind of middle step between the previous two. Kraamhotels are normally covered by most insurance policies (see number 4.) Kraamhotel de Meiboom in Tilburg 4. You should phone your medical insurance company and tell them you are pregnant. They will then register you for the obligatory Kraam pakket, birth packet. When I get mine there will be a post on this! They will also ask where and when you will give birth. You should also ask how many hours of after-care you will receive (see point 5), it depends on how well insured you are. If like me you are fully insured for pregnancy and birth care, you will be entitled to 24 hours of care. If you wish to have more than this you pay 4 euros for every extra hour. A word of advice if you are trying for a baby it is wise to check your insurance now and upgrade it to cover you for the most for Pregnancy and birth. If you work in the Netherlands your employer may have a collective insurance policy that you may wish to switch to as you will get discounts on your insurance costs, making it affordable to have the best care. 5. Register with the after-care service Kraamzorg, some insurance companies provide you with a list of companies to choose from. Wondering what kraamzorg is check out  Expaticas post on it here.  Here in Brabant the most popular are Thebe and Careyn. I also found Homecare.nl which has the whole site in English and provide English speaking midwifes and carers, though many other companies have English speaking too. 6. In Holland, pregnancy and after boxes are popular things to register for. They contain many samples of goods, some of them useless but always fun to receive free presents, plus it gives you an idea of products in the Netherlands. In Brabant many shops offer them: Prenatal Etos Kruidvat There are many more, for example supermarkets like C1000 and Plus do Baby boxes if you take in a birth card once the baby is born. 7. Join Breda Bumps and Babies, a new group for pregnant women and mothers of babies under 1. We hope to meet up for coffee, exchange stories and tips. Email me for more details I think that is enough for one post! There will be many more throughout the year, I have created a new tab where you can find all the pregnancy related posts. If you have any tips or ideas please comment below 🙂

How do expat women build an international network of colleagues and friends?

As an expatriate –  a large part of the adventure is making new friends. Meeting the other members of the expatriate community is the first step to acclimatizing to a new home.
 
However, familiarizing yourself with the people whose homeland it is can take a little more effort.
 
Taking  time to venture out of your initial comfort zone and the reward is a cultural experience and new friendships that can extend your vision of life.
 
Many women who have to emigrated abroad, have done so in the majority of cases; as a result of the husband’s work, emotional or family issues or simply because they are going in search of better opportunities. 
 
And bravely, we must leave behind our family, our friends and even our professions, without thinking much about what it would mean, that is the the adaptation process in another country. 
 
And, in the time I’ve been here, I have heard many times, several women say  how difficult it has been for them to make friends in the Netherlands.
After repeatedly listening to these comments, I kept thinking that perhaps one of the reasons is, the way we express ourselves is completely different from the Dutch. The Spanish  (a culture I am used to)  for example, are warmer, they talk with people,  and enjoy being surrounded all the time by people.
The habit of talking and socializing, then, is something that we think, is inherent in every human being. However, not everyone has the “gift” of the word, which means that if someone never speaks, it is not because they are not so sociable like us, but because they are perhaps very shy or simply grew up in a culture where they are not accustomed to suddenly approaching a stranger.
 
But  how can we know whether or not a person is friendly, if we are  trying to exchange a word with her?
A friend, of Latin origin, who had been little more than one year living here, told me that one of her friends, who had been living  for more than 5 years in Holland, had told her that the secret of making friends in a new country, is to be the person who takes the initiative and use the phone to suggest any good plan. 
 
And I think that it is true, the best way to make friends is by removing  the penalty and taking the first step,  “If you want to make friends, you have to play the game”
So making friends, consists in carrying out such simple things as starting a conversation, sending  a text message or making a phone call. Don’t let that shyness be the obstacle that prevents you  from surrounding yourself with new friends, Many times the best friendships start with the exchange of a few words and the rest is history! I met my Dutch friend at a party, and started up a conversation with her, now we are good friends and our children are friends. I have someone I can rely on, ask for help and so does she. All it took was a small conversation.
Making new friends!
 
Learn about the country where you are going to live before you go. Read travel guides and history books. See documentaries. Familiarize yourself with the culture to understand the customs, festivals, food and the environment of potential friends. Once in the country, immerse yourself in that culture, never think oh that is not me. I have a motto, If you can’t beat them join them, that motto especially worked the last few days with Carnaval!
 
2. Balance the time spent chatting with old friends online whilst living abroad, with interaction in real life with new acquaintances in the country where you live now. Make an effort to communicate with owners of shops and bars, the local residents who work in the same company that you or your spouse do. It can be easy to spend time seeing what old friends are up to and thinking about what you are missing but you may be missing things that are there in your new environment. Join the local gym, choir, groups and clubs. Through joining the choir I now have another friend and we do aerobics together, not only does it get me out, but my Dutch has improved immensely,.
 
Learn the  language of your new home. Take a class to learn the basics and then engage in a conversation based on the classes. Share photos of your family, home cooking  and stories about your own life with your companions and teachers. Show your appreciation to share their lives.
 
4. Involve your family in the development of friendships. Rather than always hanging out with other expatriates, schedule a regular time to go to the park with your children. Play with other children, meet the parents of other children. Go to local activities such as a family outings.
 
5. Ask questions, when you purchase something or explore the area, even if it is only to ask for directions. Your question opens the door to a future conversation. The market is always a great source for conversations, many Dutch women always gather round the flower stall for a chat. Even if it is only a hello every time you go back and a how are you? you will feel more involved in the community and wanted and welcomed.
 
6.Invite new friends to join you for lunch, dinner or an excursion. Get involved ask them to show you historical sites, teach you the local customs.
 
7.Ask people to visit your home. Start with sharing a simple meal and then expand to include your new friends in family celebrations and festivals. When you are invited to their house, accept with grace and bring a small gift to show your appreciation

8. Connect with your colleagues. If you are in another country for work or study, you have colleagues as well. So it is a logical step to get to know them on a more personal level and try to make friends with some of them. Don’t only keep their relationship work or study related. After work or after school, invite some of your colleagues out for a beer or something. You will likely  discover at least one or two people who really you bond with. 
 
9 Participate in meet-ups. In most large cities, there are special events for people who want to meet other people. These meet ups are an easy way to interact with new people and make friends. 
The first step is to go online and search for meet ups in your area. Choose those which work in terms of time and place and attend them. .
 
Whatever you do, do not be too demanding. The key to see the results yourself,is to participate in any event and be sociable.
 
In fact, there are many ways to meet people and make new friends.  
Put them into practice and socialise on a regular basis, and  you will  find living in another country to be much more fulfilling and happy experience. 
 
“My friends are my estate.”
– Emily Dickinson

Commuting in the Netherlands

“Dutch employees travel 50 minutes on average per day. That’s more than five minutes longer than the Hungarians and the British ” It is striking that in the Netherlands more than 20% of the workers, spent more than one hour on commuting every day. as stated by dutchdailynews.com

If you were on Twitter this morning, you will have witnessed my very angry post, relating to Dutch buses. Once I have taken the train, and got my first bus to Funky Monkey’s nursery, I have 11 minutes precisely to walk the 3 min walk to the nursery, take her in, do the usual goodbyes, 3 mins walk back to bus stop and 1 min to spare to change into Super Yummy Business lecturer mummy. This, I have down to a tee, it is worked out to the minute and never fails, making me in time for work.

BUT! It does fail if the stupid dammed bus comes 4 minutes early!!! I have argued about this countless times with numerous bus drivers and got the same answer. “We don’t have a set time to arrive, the time on the bus stop is a guidanc,e we will be at that bus stop round about that time!”  “Why?” I asked, “beacause we do this in the rural areas, so when we get to the city we can avoid any traffic and not be late at our final destination.!”Argggggh?!

You may be thinking ok, so get at the bus stop 4 mins earlier every day. I told one bus driver this and he said “oh but I could come 6 mins earlier or 5 mins late!!”! So it is just another Dutch thing that I will never comprehend or fathom.

As for boarding a bus or a train? Well, forget everything you were ever taught about courtesy or waiting for your turn. You must join the pushing throng, all trying to occupy that one space at once and position yourself, so that as soon as the doors slide open you can move forward and fight your way in. Points are given for the number of people you can step in front of or elbow out of the way as you fight for that position. And, by all means please begin  to get ona train/bus before allowing passengers on the vehicle to disembark. Allowing others to “uitstappen” (exit) before you make your move to get on may just lose you your seat.

As Funky Monkey and I await our bus in the mornings, I make sure she is nicely positioned on my hips taking up all the space possible. The worst, are the students at rush hour, they really have no manners. Whereas a young Spanish youngester would always let a mother and baby in front or even give them a seat on the bus. I have to push my way in and if there are no seats I have to ask if someone can let me sit down as I really can’t stand with a two year old!!! A problem is that, I have taken to callling them silly students to Funky Monkey and she now embarrassingly shouts in a loud voice every morning,  “Mummy watch the silly students!”oops

Yup, we’re pretty much Dutch when it comes to travelling with communters in the morning except for the bit about getting there in time for the bus.

 

I’ve shared this you tube video that I found  on Dutch Commuting.