Category Archives: Expat Life

Tips and tricks any Expat should know. Not that we are trying to tell you how to run your life or anything. We just thought you might want to know.

Special Dutch Days – King’s Day, Dodenherdenking and Bevrijdingsdag

At the end of April and the beginning of May three typical Dutch events take place every year. I noticed that these events often raise questions to internationals living in the Netherlands. If properly explained, internationals can more easily relate to the Dutch behavior during these days. Understanding the customs and rituals also helps to emotionally connect with the Dutch during these days and take part in the celebrations. I therefore will try to bring some clarity on the meaning of these events to the Dutch and  explain some of the customs, habits and rituals that can be seen during these events.

Continue reading Special Dutch Days – King’s Day, Dodenherdenking and Bevrijdingsdag

Our members recommend – Almere Veertje!

Special guest post by Katie Schmitt!

Our experience

My husband and I had the pleasure to be part to take a trip this year on Almere Veertje , and now I am eager to share our experience from a newcomer to Almere’s point of view!

The almereveertje website provides all necessary information, unfortunately exclusively in Dutch. So if you are still working on your Dutch language skills, my suggestion would be to opt for contacting the ferry staff via e-mail, or just give them a call. It won’t be a problem for the staff to answer your questions in English. Continue reading Our members recommend – Almere Veertje!

Member Recommendations – Festive Season Turkey and Goose!

We asked our members recently about where to find the best turkey, goose and poultry in Almere for the upcoming festive season – and here’s their best picks for you!

Hans v.d. Bor – On the market in Stad (Wednesday and Saturdays) (turkey and goose)

” I got a big turkey from the market in Stad last year” – Michelle 

 “I always get it from Hans in the Market” – Christina

Kalkoen Express
Poulier Slagerij j. Tromp (Purmerend) (turkey and goose)

“Tromp is awesome!” – Tanja

Kalkoen Bestellen
Poelier Rijlaarsdam Almere (turkey and goose)

“We got turkey legs and rollade here last year (also kipfilet) and it’s great quality too!” – Brenda

De Worstmakerij 

“There’s a great wholesale butcher in Lelystad, who’s dirt cheap and has the best pork belly! They do turkey too.” – Maarten

Don’t forget, you can still get turkeys from Albert Heijn and from Jumbo (frozen), and closer to Christmas you can also get them fresh in the supermarkets!

Internationals in Almere are welcome at the FREE music festival this weekend – Popronde Almere 2017!

Guest Post by Jens Lendering, producer of Popronde Almere!

This Saturday (September 30th), the city centre will transform into a music festival landscape as the Popronde will land there for the eight time. The newest and hottest upcoming Dutch (and international) acts will present themselves for free (gratis!). Popronde Almere hosts 38 shows at 15 different locations with stages within shops, restaurants, bars, cafés and even on the street. If you are an expat living in Almere, this is the perfect opportunity to get to know great locations within Almere as well as new bands that may even break through and become big artists. After reading this guide, you will know everything you need to get started! Continue reading Internationals in Almere are welcome at the FREE music festival this weekend – Popronde Almere 2017!

An update from our sponsors at Beacon Financial Education.

This is a sponsored post and may contain affiliate links.

Blacktower Financial Management Group and Beacon Global Group announce strategic agreement in The Netherlands

 January 25th, 2017

Blacktower Financial Management International and Beacon Global Group today announced a strategic agreement to support the more than 45,000 Americans living in The Netherlands with financial planning and investment advice.

Financial planning and investing for Americans has become harder in recent years with the IRS & FATCA causing Americans to be unwelcome at many financial institutions. It’s caused difficulty opening bank accounts, closed U.S. brokerage accounts, complex and changing tax codes, confused & fearful financial advisors; and few quality investment options.

Continue reading An update from our sponsors at Beacon Financial Education.

Reap what you sow – a message from our sponsors.

This is a sponsored post from Beacon Global Advisers and contains affiliate links.

Autumn has arrived, the harvest season has begun. Only a few weeks away until the holiday season officially starts. Thanksgiving sets off the holiday season for Americans across the globe. 

shutterstock_361361252Let’s take a moment to consider what it is you would like to reap when you have reached the “autumn stage” of your own life. What would you like to cultivate? 

Start planning now, and plan to harvest! Think like a farmer: determine what it is you Autumn has arrived, the harvest season has begun. Only a few weeks away until the holiday season officially starts. Thanksgiving sets off the holiday season for Americans across the globeeventually need and when. Weigh out your options, consider potential (financial) crisis and other unforeseen events, do not leave things to chance, and evaluate regularly.

Make sure, you sow now,… in order to live a comfortable life, and enjoy your retirement, later on.

 [Contributed by Beacon Global Advisers]  Continue reading Reap what you sow – a message from our sponsors.

Important Venue Change Announcement!

As you may know by now, our traditional home of First Friday Night Drinks, the Apollo Hotel is closed for renovations until December (and we can’t WAIT to see what their new look is going to be!)

We’re so lucky in Almere to have other great venues willing to come on board and take us – so we’re happy to announce our temporary home is none other than the fantastic CafeOp2 on the Stadhuisplein! (Members will still get their first drinks on us).

So why not pop on down to the Stadhuisplein on October 7th at 8pm, check out our temporary digs and enjoy a drink with some amazing people!

new-ffnd-poster

Holiday Season Appeal – Can you help us?

It’s August, and being the busy little bees we are, we’re already planning ahead to December and our annual holiday festivities.

December’s holiday season is is a difficult time of year for our families.

Many do not have the opportunity to travel back to their home country, and often spend the holiday period alone, thousands of miles from their loved ones. We aim to try to alleviate this by hosting events aimed at keeping the festive spirit for everyone.

Every year, we plan 2 parties – one for the kids of the group, and one for the adults.  The kids party has magicians, crafts, gifts and a visit from Santa. The adults party is a sit down, 3 course dinner designed to provide a night of  relaxation and a festive atmosphere before the stress of the holiday period starts.

It’s increasingly difficult financially to put on these events, without eating into our reserve funds.

This year we are looking for a little help from all of you to spread our message and make our 2016 Holiday parties the best ones yet!

We are specifically looking for donations of raffle/tombola prizes, financial donations to help subsidise the cost of the children’s event, sponsoring a family in difficulty (financial, medical etc), or even just volunteer some of your time to help us organise the event, approach potential sponsors or be there on the day to help run an activity.

Ultimately, it all comes down to the amount of support we get as to how awesome the party is, and more importantly, how cheap we can put it on for.  We are a group of volunteers, and we very rarely call out for help – but this time we need you! If you can help us in any way – donations, financially or volunteering – click here and send a message through to us about how you can help us make 2016’s December events the ones to remember! (And don’t forget to share the message – the more people who see it, the more chances we have of people helping us!)

christmas appeal holiday webpage email

US Fatca Compliant Investments

So I guess the first thing everyone is asking is why did an Australian go to a seminar about US Investments and Pensions?  Well, I see the questions going up in our group all the time, and in other groups I belong to, and I hear some of my friends from the US cursing the beast that is ‘FATCA’.

So purely out of curiosity, I went along to find out a little more about the beast that has people quaking in their boots, as well as to find out more about what our new sponsors do, and what they can provide for our members. Continue reading US Fatca Compliant Investments

Another shock win at Quiz Night!

In another exciting night of Quiz Night, the Upside Downers were again knocked off their perch by another new team – De Slim Club!  With first place taken with 69 points, a clear 11 point margin over second place, is it time to call the days of domination by the Upside Downers ended? Are we seeing a new trend?  Only one way to find out? Come along next month and see who will take the title!

quiz200516-7

“Buiten Mums” Night!

What an amazing night out in Almere Buiten!  October 19th saw us getting together at an old, but favourite haunt of ours – the GrandCafe Seventies Eighties.  The night proved to be a popular one, so you’ll now find us there on the second Wednesday of every month.  You don’t have to be a mum, or live in Almere Buiten to join us either – the idea just came from a group of Buiten based mums who thought it’d be nice to get out on a weeknight!  See you all on November 11th (maybe for a well earned drink after Sint Maarten? )

buiten mums october promo

International Almere

International Almere – Connecting Expats In Almere

Welcome to International Almere!

We’re a group of volunteers from all over the world whose mission it is to help others connect and meet in Almere.  We all know what it’s like to end up in another country and try to find a social network – so come along to our events (or feel free to contact us on info@www.internationalalmere.com ) and meet us.

We started with humble beginnings in 2010 – a group of ladies meeting on Friday nights for drinks, and over the past 5 years have evolved into a large group covering many nationalities and cultures, with  families, singles and couples.  Building a social network can be difficult for expats, and we aim to try to ease the transition into life here in the wonderful city of Almere.  International Almere is a volunteer based, not for profit organisation that creates opportunities for expats, internationals and internationally minded locals to create and foster friendships through regular activities and events.

We host a monthly Friday Night Drinks (held on the First Friday of every month at the Apollo Hotel, Almere Stad – Koetsierbaan 2, 1315SE Almere). You’ll find us in the restaurant area – and we’re hard to miss!

We also host a monthly Quiz night on the third Friday of the month, also at the Apollo Hotel.  You can find more details about our events by clicking here or by emailing us at events@www.internationalalmere.com . .

We also offer a membership package (which is now open for 2015!) which provides you with discounts on specified events, advance notice and registration on some events, and your first drink at our First Friday Night Drinks for free. More information, including an application form, can be found here.

More questions? Don’t be afraid to email us at info@www.internationalalmere.com

Looking forward to meeting you soon!

The Board, and Members of International Almere.

 

Getting to know – Connie Koorevaar

Where were you born?
Stoughton, Wisconsin, USA

 

Where have you lived?
USA and the Netherlands (Hazerwoude-Dorp, Leiden and Almere)

 

Where can we find you online?
I’m very active on facebook and pinterest

 

 

Almere is an inter­est­ing and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of liv­ing here.
I’m the poster-child for Almere…I love this city.  Here I’ve lived in a small village, a university city and now Almere….it’s the perfect city.  Nature everywhere, village feel to the neighborhoods but in a short time by bus you’re in a center of your city be that Buiten, Haven or Stad.   The transportation system is amazing.  Most everything is just a bus or car trip away.  It’s not big yet, but it’s got plans.  It takes time for cities to grow up and I’m older than this city….I have faith it’ll eventually have something for everyone.   And if I feel I’m missing the “older” bits, in about 20 minutes I’m downtown Amsterdam.  I love that this city is always thinking about what it can do, it’s not so old that it thinks it’s done.  I’d be even happier if some of those plans actually got built, but I’ve still got hope.

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?
Nothing beats dinner and a movie or to the theater.  We’ve got good choices for dinner and I’m happy with many different ones, such as Yamas, Buddha, Cubanita, Bobby Bear.

Would you define your­self as an expat, an inter­na­tional, or some­thing entirely different?
I’m not a classic expat since I didn’t come here for work and I’d not call me international either since I’ve only lived in two countries.  In 2010 I became a dual Dutch citizen and even before that if people asked me where I was from I’d not hesitate to say Almere…..luckily I’m usually around others that remind me my answer should be America.  I’m a globalist at heart so where I live is my home and where I’ve lived are the experiences that have shaped me into me.

How long do you plan on liv­ing here for?
Until we retire and then I’d love to seek out a warm less rainy patch of land to live on.

Tell us how you found Inter­na­tional Almere?
Petra, the wee Scottish woman.  We decided we would meet up with IA, before it became a formal organization it was just a group of women that would meet up the first Friday of the month in the 70’s/80’s bar in Buiten a long time ago.

Have you been to any Inter­na­tional Almere events? Which was your favourite?
Yes, I’ve been to numerous events.  Helped plan many.  I loved our first years picnic and the second year I loved the Halloween Party and Christmas party.  I love the family events.  Getting to see everyone again and having a great time as a group going out and having fun.

What advice would you offer to oth­ers who are think­ing of tak­ing the plunge and mov­ing to Almere?
Do it!!!  Almere is wonderful!!!  Join a group, preferably International Almere!!

What has been your biggest chal­lenge since arriv­ing in Almere?
I was hit very hard by culture shock.  I had a very hard time learning the language and I couldn’t understand why the Dutch did many of the things they did.  I missed my customer service.  I don’t think I’m lying when I say it took about 4 years for me to settle into the country.  It took 4 years to be happy with my Dutch and not feel guilty that it isn’t perfect.  It took 4 years to understand that the Dutch do what the Dutch do cause that’s how the Dutch do it and they’re not likely to ever get customer service….hahaha.  But that’s culture shock and it’s by far I think the one thing we underestimate how it’s going to affect us and becomes our biggest enemy while trying to adapt to living in a foreign country.

If you had to leave tomor­row and could take only one thing – any­thing – from Almere, what would it be?
What couldn’t I do without….my friends!

What is your favourite Dutch tra­di­tion, and how do you cel­e­brate? Do you still cel­e­brate hol­i­days and tra­di­tions from your home country?
I most definitely celebrate my American traditions, no matter what happens, I’ll always be American and though I’m a bit more Dutch, I don’t think I’d feel good if I gave up celebrating Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.    My favorite Dutch tradition is probably St. Maartin because it’s so much like Halloween and I just get a giddy childish glee when the doorbell rings on the 11th of November.

Margreet Kwakernaak

Getting to Know – Margreet Kwakernaak

Margreet KwakernaakMargreet Kwakernaak, teacher and owner of Suitcase talen

Who is Margreet Kwakernaak? Though teachers have to answer many questions, they seldom have to answer this question. The role of the teacher is to help other people to learn and not to focus on themselves.

I was born and grew up in the beautiful town of Delft. My father was as well a teacher of German as well as an assistent director at two schools: one at daytime and the other one at night. My mother rose the 4 children (3 boys and 1 girl) and run a very well organised household. My father was mild, my mother was strict. I think I have both characteristics.

After secondary school, I left home to study in Amsterdam. I studied Spanish language and literature at the University of Amsterdam and, in the evening, arts at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy.

During the first 21 years of my career I always have been teaching Spanish as well as handicrafts and drawing. After 21 years of unruly teenagers I left secondary school to continue teaching Spanish at an adult school. It was the work with adults that I really liked and I started Suitcase talen in Almere, with help from my partner. As we both had jobs during daytime, we started with English and Spanish evening classes.

I am a workaholic but my partner was not, and Suitcase talen was the end of our relation. I moved to an industrial estate in Almere Muziekwijk. In the first year a was responsible for the construction of a building of 436 M2 and as soon as it was finished, Suitcase talen started growing. With a team of 20 free lance teachers Suitcase talen offered English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Russian to employees of the international companies in Almere
In 2002 we started experimenting with Dutch. I did the intakes and sometimes had to replace my teachers, and with some extra schooling and help of my collegues, I learnt to teach Dutch. It was not difficult after teaching Spanish for so many years.

When I got a new neighbour, an instruction pool for children, hell started. 7 days a week there was the constant clapping of doors of many cars, on the parking places of the building where I worked and lived, on weekdays form 8:00 until 21:00 and in the weekend until 16:00.

In 2006 I wrote the first of 7 textbooks on Dutch, Dutch for Dummies. I loved to dive deep in this writing task during the weekend, after my daily organisational and managing work.

In 2007 I was happy to rent my building to gemeente Almere. Long before I moved to the actual location in Almere-Haven, I had decided to stop managing and that I wanted to have a small school and teach rather than manage other teachers.

And so it happened that the smaller Suitcase talen became, the better got its reputation. My decision to specialize on highly educated students, finally, after 15 years of not feeling at home, reconciled me completely with Almere. Interesting students, Almere becoming a real town with good sport facilities, a growing international group- I love to provide you with quality classes for now and the near future.

Introspection: why it matters to teach children to think about their thinking

By Lana Kristine Flores-Jelenjev

When I was teaching psychology to college freshmen one of the questions I often asked my students was “what is your favourite color?”. Soon enough after they answered that question, I then proceeded to the next question, WHY?

How about you? what is your favourite color? Why do you like it? What about that color that speaks to you?

Perhaps we can also use another question, when out on a date and your partner asks you, where do you like to eat?  Or what?  How much of a struggle do you have with making such a decision?

Now let us put it on a bigger scale, when was the last life-changing decision that you made? How long did you deliberate on it? How did you come about making that major decision? How did you know that it was indeed the right choice?

The ability to weigh options and make decisions are skills that as adults we sometimes grapple with. But if we look closely to what those skills are and the building blocks that are needed for them- one essential factor is present. These skills are based on our ability to introspect.

Some people might think that time used reflecting on one’s self is time wasted. But nothing could be further from the truth. Knowing yourself and having awareness of yourself is very important. Introspection and its byproduct, self-awareness are essential to any decision-making (be it small or life-altering), focus, prioritization and action. It is the reason why there are a lot of self-help and psychology books aimed at finding and knowing one’s self.

Another way that we can emphasize on the importance of introspection is through this activity. Think about a behaviour that you do quite easily or naturally, like opening a can of soda. When you pull the tab, what else do you do? Do you put the tab all the way back or do you let it up? Why do you do this? Habit? How did it become a habit? How did the daily things you do become so? How did you form thoughts, ideas and ideals about friendships? About justice? About parenting? About anything you value? There must be a reason why you cry foul over certain issues, or why you say, there are certain issues that you can let go. Introspection is the core in which we learn to understand ourselves better.

Now let’s do another scene and this time consider other people, when was the last time you paid attention to the way your child think? Hopefully not in a belittling way, but seriously, when did you say to your child, I like how you think? Or I like how you solved that problem?  It can even be as simple as “I like how you did that”

These questions are essential in teaching children that not only are we aware of their actions, we are also “present” as parents in our interaction with them. Asking these questions and saying these dialogues open up the opportunity for children to be reflective as well. Asking themselves, “what did I do? What did I come up with? What did I solve?

Perhaps as adults we tend to think of children specially younger ones as not fully capable of introspection because if we think hard about it, when do we really see the first signs that children can reflect on their mental state? Children’s ability to notice and reflect on their own mental states and experiences, and go further up a notch, be able to attribute such states to others, seem to be too big to expect from young children. UC Davis researchers Simona Ghetti, assistant professor of psychology at UC Davis and Kristen Lyons, a graduate student in psychology at UC Davis proved this notion wrong with their studies on metacognition in early childhood.

Their study showed that preschoolers aged 3-5 are capable of pointing to a photo of a confident-looking face when they felt confident that they had the correct answer to the question gave, and, they were also able to point to a photo of a doubtful looking child when they were not as confident with their answer.

This study provides a clear picture of how children use introspection, showing them more capable of such a skill than what we gave them credit for. Results of the study showed that children can introspect about their doubts or more specifically their awareness of their uncertainty for that moment.

Wouldn’t it be grand if, children grew up mastering such a skill? Self-awareness is a prerequisite for a wide range of milestones and decisions. For example,  how to choose the best career? Or why get into a relationship with someone? What can you do to make yourself happy? At the heart of all these questions is our ability to introspect and find the answers.

Like with adults, children need the tools to help them hone their introspective skills. Here are some dialogue prompts that you can try at home to start engaging your child in thinking about his/her thinking:

  1. What makes you say that?
  2. What are you thinking?
  3. How did you feel?
  4. What could this person be thinking?
  5. What could this person be feeling?
  6. What made you excited today?
  7. What was the best part of your day?
  8. What was the least that you liked about your day?
  9. Why do you like it? (best followed by what makes you say that?)
  10. Tell me something that made you happy today (use the other emotion words like frustrated, sad, angry)

Remember, that as much as these prompts are for your child/children, it is also for yourself. Find the time to share your thoughts with your child or the entire family during family conferences. Let everyone know what you are thinking and feeling and make it visible. Through this children realize that the chatter that goes on in their head is pretty normal and sharing it with their family is important. It also gives each other the opportunity to talk about not just what excites them or makes them  positive but most importantly the deep, dark and ugly thoughts that keeps them awake at night and uncertain. Self-awareness is also about building self-esteem and by being able to share these negative thoughts, we also give our children the chance to reflect on their fears and face them.

 

Lana is a child development specialist focused on sharing her expertise with parents on engaging activities to do with young children at home. She is also an education consultant that emphasizes on the importance of using gifted pedagogy in the regular classroom. She writes in her blog Visibly Engaged issues that parents and teachers can relate with and shares articles that they can benefit from. Lana also recently opened her webshop Smart Tinker that promotes the use of educational toys and how it promotes multiple intelligences (M.I.)in children. She is currently writing a book on how to promote M.I. at home through simple yet engaging activities.

Getting to Know – Greg Shapiro

Meet Greg Shapiro, International comedian, actor and author, and long term sufferer of ‘Multiple Nationality Disorder’.  Greg recently visited Almere with his ‘Greg Shapiro Presents : Brendon Burns’ show which gave audiences a taste of what was to come on November 7th – Superburger, The man with split nationalities! – where he discusses at length his struggle with MND, Dutch culture and also his new book, ‘How To Be Orange’.   

Greg meets Bu, the International Almere Bear.
Greg meets Bu, the International Almere Bear.

 

1. The Netherlands is an interesting country to live in – what’s your favourite part of living here?
Biking! I love the fact that our family car has 2 wheels, and you don’t necessarily have to spend half your day in a car just to get your daily work & shopping done.
2. Do you describe yourself as an expat, and international, or something else?
I’m an expat. I’m the textbook definition. I came from Chicago, moved to Amsterdam – and stopped.
3. What advice would you offer to a complete stranger who wants to move to the Netherlands?
Do it! it feels foreign and familiar at the same time. Especially if you’re from the US. The Dutch have a history of individualism, capitalism, liberalism. So many factors that define America actually started here. I feel much more at home than I’d ever expected.
 
4. What has been your biggest challenge since moving here? 
The Dutch language is an aesthetic car crash.
5. If you had to leave tomorrow, what would be the one thing you would take with you?
My beautiful, blond, half-Dutch family. And stroopwafels.
6. What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate it? Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?
Can’t wait for Queen’s Day to become King’s Day. Someday, I hope to take part in the tradition of sticking your head through a big target and yelling at Dutch people until they pay money to throw eggs at you.
7. You describe yourself as having ‘MND – Multiple Nationality Disorder’. Tell me a little more about that.
It’s about moving to a different country and getting culture shock – but also getting culture shock when you get back home. It’s about Dutch people who’ve lived abroad, moved back and don’t recognize it anymore. It’s for the 3rd culture kids with multiple passports. When you never feel 100% at home anywhere – that’s ‘Multiple Nationality Disorder.’
8. You mention in your book about speaking Dunglish – and being fluent in ‘Google Translate Dutch’. Tell us about a time where your Dutch went horribly wrong…
I once did a performance in Dutch about what a humiliating experience the Dutch language is – for the speaker and the listener. I tried to get my all-Dutch audience to realize that their language is an aesthetic car-crash, and – as a civilization – they deserve better. They didn’t get it.
 
9. Most of us who come here have to do some level of Inburgeringscursus to maintain our residency. What was the most useful or interesting piece of information you learned in your course? What was the most useless?
The most interesting bits of my assimilation course came from the unexpected quarters, like when the woman from Turkey explained that the headscarf was banned when she was growing up so that – for her – when she wears a headscarf in the Netherlands, it’s not a symbol of oppression, but a symbol of liberation. Still, the instructor told us on the exam just write ‘symbol of oppression.’
10. Finally, you’ve visited Almere, you’ve filmed a movie in Almere … tell us your favourite part of Almere!
I quite liked the show I did at the top floor of the World Trade Center. Flevoland is a modern miracle, and you can see the whole thing from up
there.
Greg’s book – “How to be Orange” is available through http://shop.puuree.com/content/book-how-be-orange for the astoundingly low price of  €14,95.  Do yourself a favour and read it!
Want even more hilarity?  Check out Greg’s Show at De Nieuwe Bibliotheek, Almere on November 7th –  tickets available here http://gregshapiro.nl/content/de-nieuwe-bibliotheek

Getting to know us – Sarah Leonard

We all know the lady behind the numbers and the money at International Almere, but how well do we really know her?  Find out more about Sarah!

Where were you born?

I was born in Maidstone, Kent, England in 1973, yes  that makes me 40 very soon.

Where have you lived?

I spent a few years living with a friend in Belton  Lincolnshire, this was to save me travelling every weekend to party  and drink  my weekends away, this was the rebel years of my life, I  never went to uni so this was my time to be wild.

Where can we find you online?

Contact with me is easy, I can be found on Facebook,  yes I have a mobile phone but most of the time its switched off, that’s  not normal I here you say, but I like it that way.

Almere is an inter­est­ing and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of liv­ing here.

We came to Almere as my partner Kay brought a apartment  here, he brought it just from  plans on paper, we came over to  see the progress of the build about every 12 weeks, he lived in Ermelo  at the time with his parents and I was still in the UK, his sister lives  here so we knew what we was coming to, Kay gave me the key to the apartment  after I had finished doing a 5km race of life event for cancer around  my local park, in them days I was fitter and thinner.

Almere is a good place to live for us as Kay works  in Amersfoort so the train takes his strain on the daily commute, there  are lots of nice places within 1 hour drive and you can be in Germany  or Belgium in 90 minutes. Camping is a big part in our lives so it perfect  to be so close to major motorway links. Kemphaan is great and there  are many open parks so there is no need to stay in the concrete jungle.

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?

Eating so is not something we do very often, but the  places we enjoy are an the Van de Valk hotel live cooking and brunch,  Yamas and Athene in Tussen de vaarten.

Would you define your­self as an expat, an inter­na­tional, or some­thing entirely different?

Expat or international, well for me not any of these  I just think of myself as a Brit living abroad.

How long do you plan on liv­ing here for?

I think that we are pretty much staying here for a  long as I can see, Kay’s works in the private health care insurance system  and we don’t really have that in the UK so he would need to find a  job there doing something else that pays good money, travel cost and  flexi working hours. We have our apartment for sale at the moment, we  will stay in Almere.

Tell us how you found Inter­na­tional Almere?

The way I found International Almere was via a friend  of a friend, I never really used computers before I came to Holland,  so had no idea of Google, search engine etc, My friend came to visit  her friend who lives in Amsterdam so I went to meet them both for lunch,  she told me them about a group that she was in and to join up, so I  came home found the web site and asked to become a member, I was asked  to write a small piece about myself, so that’s what I did, I had many  welcomes and hello from people but the only person that lived in Almere  was Connie, She told me come meet the local group on Friday night at  Jordaan, This took me 2 months to pluck up the courage to go, that night  I took my partner  for support, I arrived at the place went to  the bar to order a drink and then stood there with my dumbo ears trying  to listen for the English people, I was nervous and really wanted to  leave but then in came Connie all bubbly so I made my move to introduce  myself, I was introduced to the small group of woman, lucky for me I  was not the only new person that night so it was a bit easier, our partners  went to another table and chatted together as at that time it was no  men allowed. I enjoyed by evening and everyone was nice and friendly,  one person stood out the most Gina smith, as she comes from the same  town as me in England but we have never met before, so I have never  looked back and have enjoyed many a night out.

Have you been to any Inter­na­tional Almere events?  Which was your favourite?

I have been to most of the events that International  Almere host, I don’t really have a favourite  as they are all  good in there own way and you always meet new people.

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?

My advice to anyone  reading  this is to come along and meet us all, it’s a big step at  first but really we are all in the same position and making friends  helps ease the journey. Trust me there is someone here that you can  connect with, if the first night you don’t find them, just keep coming  they will be there in the end. I would not have stayed here if I didn’t  make good friends at the group.

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?

The biggest challenge for me when I moved here was  not working, I worked a lot in the UK and enjoyed my work very much,  so sitting at home was not my thing, and the hardest of all was on a  Sunday when back in the days when I arrived nothing was open, supermarkets  , shops all closed, and I was used to just going out shopping on my  days off. I now work at Letterland international school  doing  the lunch duty, and I have been treasurer for this group now for just  under 2 years.

 If you had to leave tomor­row and could take only one thing – any­thing – from Almere, what would it be?

I would take sate sauce as Kay can’t live without it!

What is your favourite Dutch tra­di­tion, and how do you cel­e­brate?  Do you still cel­e­brate hol­i­days and tra­di­tions from your home country?

Dutch celebrations are not really done in my home  as we don’t have children, and Kay’s family do not do anything apart  from birthdays when I have to go and sit in the circle, and eat cake.  Christmas for me is the best I have a big tree and love to decorate  my home, I have spent only 2 Christmas days here and not really enjoyed  either, so sorry I go home to my family and open my presents, and then  enjoy shopping in the sales after.

Family is the biggest thing I miss from home, but  I am lucky as I can get home very quickly if needed, and I have a special  tariff on the phone so I can call for only 10 cents for as long as I  like .I got my 74 year old father to use Facebook so he can also keep  tracks on me and look at my photos. Marks and spencers is now here so  I can get some home comfort food when I feel  the need.

Sarah Leonard - the lady behind the numbers on our 'Getting to Know Almere' event :)
Sarah Leonard – the lady behind the numbers on our ‘Getting to Know Almere’ event 🙂
Sarah and her partner, Kay on one of their many camping trips!
Sarah and her partner, Kay on one of their many camping trips!

 

Want to see yourself here? Fill out the form!

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Do expat women get judged more?

TEM logo
This is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot, but only now have I found (hopefully) the right way to put it into words. The question I’ve been asking myself is whether expat women experience more judgment than women who don’t live abroad. I think there is no definite answer to that question, but I’ll try to look at this from different perspectives.

First of all, women (and oh yes, men) everywhere get judged and shamed every day. I don’t know anybody who didn’t experience being judged at some point. Especially when you’re a mom, suddenly the whole world is watching you, to see whether you are raising your child “the right way”- whatever that means.

In case of expat women, on top of the regular parenting judgment, there is judgment based on cultural differences. Different cultures have different ideas of how a child should be raised, and expat women often raise their children differently from societies they live in- which again results in judgment. Schools, languages, friends, the topic of integration are also all common to expat women, and may also be a source of judgment.

Then, I think that expat women may experience judgment on more than one level. For example, they may be judged by people from their countries of origin, their new home country (and by their husband’s country) and by the expat community, all at the same time. Many women, who are already struggling with their new life abroad, may find this really hard. On the other hand, expat communities are often very open-minded, tolerant and less judgmental.

Then, it may depend on your country of origin. So, you may feel more or less judged, based on where you come from and where you moved. If you felt judged in your home country, you may be relieved and empowered by not feeling the social pressure anymore. It may be more difficult for you if it’s the other way round.

Another aspect is the subjective feeling of being judged. So often we feel judged even though the other person doesn’t mean it that way. Especially if we’re already struggling with some aspect of raising children, an innocent comment can make us feel judged and unsure of our decisions. Expats (and women here are no exception) often feel like outsiders wherever they go. Hence, judgment may not affect them as much- because they have learned to cope with it.

So, are expat women judged more? I don’t know. While writing this, I have realized that the problem is not in being an expat or being a woman. The problem is in judgment. So, maybe, I should ask other questions: Why are women being judged? Why is anybody being judged? How can we deal with judgment? And what can we do to stop it?

Do you have any ideas? Have you felt judged as an expat? How did it make you feel, and what did you do about it? Please share your experiences in the comments!

[box size=”large” border=”full”]Meet Olga Mecking, our regular contributor at International Almere, who is an expert in multilingual life in the Netherlands.

Olga is a Polish woman, living in the Netherlands with her German husband and 3 trilingual children. In the past, Olga has lived in several countries (including Germany, Canada and the Netherlands), and learned to speak 5, that’s right, 5 languages.

She studied German philology at the University of Warsaw, then followed by a MA in Media Cultures at the University of Bremen. Olga blogs at The European Mama and we recommend you check her out on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.[/box]

 

Children

Multilingual parenting ideas that got thrown out of the window — Part Two

If you haven’t already, check out part one in this series here.
This happens to every parent. You wanted to breastfeed only to find that your milk didn’t come in. You wanted to co-sleep only to find that your child hates it. Or you hate it. You wanted to only give your child organic home-made food only to find that your child actually eats sweets. And so the list goes. It is just so normal and very human.
Here is part two of Olga’s confession.  She didn’t achieve everything that she had planned before having children as far as their multilingualism was concerned.  What has fallen by the wayside for you as a parent (multilingual or otherwise)?

 

Having everybody on board

I hoped that if I just were dedicated and educated- and persuasive enough, I could persuade everybody that what I’m doing is beneficial to my children. Little did I know that I would be dealing with some extremely unhelpful and judgemental people. Knowledge and dedication to the cause is not something I’m lacking but I’m too tired to waste my time with people who can’t help or support me even though I know that what I’m doing is right. Sometimes the best way to deal with these sort of people is to ignore their comments and advice, and not to try argue with them.

 

My high expectations

I set out on this multilingual journey with the utter conviction that my children will be poster children. After all, I am bilingual myself, and I for everybody to read and be inspired, and hence my children should act accordingly, right? Wrong. Again, I had to adjust my expectations to Klara’s slow speech and language development. But you know, it doesn’t feel like a failure. Instead, I am proud that my children speak all three languages. I am proud that they’re catching up and progressing. In fact, I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I just need to make sure my children are fine.

 

Having a language plan

I can’t think of one instance where a plan proved useful. On the contrary, they fool my brain into thinking that I have done something when the only thing I did was actually writing things down. And while I can understand the usefulness of a language plan for some families, it wouldn’t work for us. We’re just trying to work out things for ourselves, and react accordingly to circumstances. It doesn’t mean however, that we don’t think about the future. Our choice of school proves it. The fact that I’m keeping to speaking to them in Polish proves it. Another thing plans do is that they make you feel like we have control over everything, and we don’t.

 

The idea that if I do things right, I would get the right results

I strongly believed that, just like in all things parenting, if you do things the right way, you will get the right results. And I believed that the same goes for raising multilingual children. Except, parenting isn’t mathematics. Sometimes you do all the right things and still get no results. You could do mistakes and your children could still turn out great. So, no, doing right things right doesn’t guarantee results. We are so desperate to believe that we can control how our children will end up, that we forget we really can’t. So, I can do my best, and hope for the best, but this is all I can do.

 

The idea that it would be easy and natural

I have long ago heard that being a parent- and especially being a mom comes naturally. I have read about the mother’s instincts that will tell me all I need to know about raising children. And you know what happened when I had children? My mother’s instinct proved to be very shy and didn’t tell me anything. I had to learn everything from the beginning. Of course, I spoke Polish to my children, but talking to them still felt weird. They didn’t reply, they didn’t answer, and talking like that just wasn’t my thing. It wasn’t natural at all to force myself to say, for the zillion-th time, “yes, this is a table”. Of course, it’s a stupid table! It wasn’t at all natural to me to change my way of talking so that my children can understand me. Argh! Sometimes I wanted to bang my head on the table. Luckily, now it’s getting better. Now I can finally talk to Klara more naturally. So I know it’s getting better, but I was in for a shock at the beginning.
 
 

[box size=”large” border=”full”]Welcome to Olga Mecking, a new regular contributor at International Almere, who is an expert in multilingual life in the Netherlands.

Olga is a Polish woman, living in the Netherlands with her German husband and 3 trilingual children. In the past, Olga has lived in several countries (including Germany, Canada and the Netherlands), and learned to speak 5, that’s right, 5 languages.

She studied German philology at the University of Warsaw, then followed by a MA in Media Cultures at the University of Bremen. Olga blogs at The European Mama and we recommend you check her out on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.[/box]

 

This post originally appeared on The European Mama and has been republished with full permission.

New Life

Multilingual parenting ideas that got thrown out of the window – Part One

This happens to every parent. You wanted to breastfeed only to find that your milk didn’t come in. You wanted to co-sleep only to find that your child hates it. Or you hate it. You wanted to only give your child organic homemade food only to find that your child actually eats sweets. And so the list goes. It is just so normal and very human.

The same happens to multilingual parents. It has certainly happened to me. So here’s my confession. I didn’t achieve everything I had planned to before I had children as far as their multilingualism is concerned. Here’s a list of things I either wasn’t able to do or they didn’t happen until much later.

Reading from birth

As a certified book addict, I wanted to convey my love of books to my children. I was dead serious on reading to them from the day they were born, to turn them into as enthusiastic readers as I am. And then Klara was born. And you know what? I was busy doing other things. Like recovering from birth. Like dealing with a crying newborn and trying to figure out what she wanted. Like resting. Reading aloud to her just didn’t happen. I tried again later. Again, nothing. As it turns out, I resented it (I’ve always hated reading aloud), and Klara just wasn’t interested. Books are for playing, and not for reading, don’t you know? And mom, please shut up, I’m trying to explore my surroundings here. But we had tons of books waiting for her to be ready, and she played with baby books a lot. She also often saw me on the couch with a book in my hands. Now, she loves it when I read to her, and I enjoy it because we can both chose books that are fun for us and talk about the stories. On the other hand, Julia loved when I read for her, so I did that. She loved being held and cuddled, and reading went greatly with that. So, not all is lost!

High-quality time in Polish every day

I was so set on making every day a day full of high quality Polish language input. And then I found that having a child is actually beyond exhausting. There was crying, sleep deprivation, and my deep need for me-time. But whenever I had time or strength, I jumped on the opportunity. I talked to her. I took her with me wherever I went and explained, explained and explained. And I talked, and talked and talked some more. At the end of the day I was even more exhausted and took the next day to relax. Luckily, my husband helped a lot with the quality language input. Also I think that while multilingualism is important, there are other things that are important as well: like letting the children play by themselves. Like being silent for a while and resting. Like just holding your child. Multilingualism is not all. And I think that quality time doesn’t always mean talking. I already see that wherever I spend a lot of time with my children (talking or not), they are more likely to speak Polish.

Consistency

I was going to be so consistent! I would only speak Polish, sing Polish songs, read Polish books and never talk another language with my children. I would also make sure that everybody else behaves the same. And what happened? I still only speak Polish with my children. But some of their favourite songs are in German/English or Dutch. Some of their favourite books are in German- even though I translate them. I also sometimes have to translate something into German so that the girls can ask their father something. The girls hear me speaking English, Dutch, German and Polish on a daily basis. But I keep thinking that maybe they will see that multilingualism is cool that way.

Polish as their primary language

I really thought that Polish will become the girls’ primary language. After all, they spent a lot of time with me at home, and if only I spoke enough Polish, they’d pick it up. And after all, I am their mom, so that would automatically make my language their language? Wrong. It didn’t happen. Instead, German is becoming Klara’s favourite. Maybe it was due to my not being able to provide enough good quality Polish in input. Or maybe because Klara’s daddy’s girl. Or maybe because children just make language choices that are different from ours. Who knows? The important thing to me is that they speak it.

Saturday school in Polish and Polish playgroups

I was desperate to find another source of Polish for my children, besides myself. I even became part of a Polish-speaking mom’s group. We met once a month at one of the mom’s places, and it was good. But the children were much younger than Klara, and it was important to me that she had somebody to talk to. And, as it happened, most of the moms went back to Poland, and the group was no more. I then found a Saturday school, and for a while I was convinced that this was the way to go. But well, a Saturday school, as fun as it may seem, is just that: a school that you attend on Saturday. Also, while it is every second Saturday, the children get kicked out if they miss class more than twice. We were pretty sure that with our travelling schedule Klara would surely miss more than two classes, so we decided not to go through with this. If we wanted to, we can still do it later, but since children in the Netherlands start school early- at the age of 4- we thought that maybe we should give her a break. After all, speaking Polish should be fun, not a chore!

 

What about you?  Did you have any multilingual (or even everyday) parenting ideas that went out the window?

 

Stay tuned next week for part two!

 

[box size=”large” border=”full”]Welcome to Olga Mecking, a new regular contributor at International Almere, who is an expert in multilingual life in the Netherlands.

Olga is a Polish woman, living in the Netherlands with her German husband and 3 trilingual children. In the past, Olga has lived in several countries (including Germany, Canada and the Netherlands), and learned to speak 5, that’s right, 5 languages.

She studied German philology at the University of Warsaw, then followed by a MA in Media Cultures at the University of Bremen. Olga blogs at The European Mama and we recommend you check her out on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.[/box]

 

This post originally appeared on The European Mama and has been republished with full permission.

utrecht

Utrecht: Come Visit

Utrecht is gearing up for the big celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht this week. Banners are strung in the streets and the Domtoren is getting the finishing touches for the big light show that will launch on 11 April. The list of events that will be taking place this year is impressive.

 

Utrecht, come visit
Utrecht, come visit

 

There’s plenty going on in Utrecht, even when we’re not celebrating the end of a war, but I still get people writing to me as if I live in Amsterdam. While Utrecht is only 20-minute train ride from Amsterdam, it’s still its very own city and a unique one, too. To remind you, here are a few of my past posts where I talk about how great Utrecht is and why websites and magazines and more should pay attention to Utrecht (and other cities in the country) not just Amsterdam. Nothing against Amsterdam, but in such a small country, why not check out a few other cities while you’re at it!

Reasons to Visit

Ranting, You’re Doing It Wrong

An Open Letter (of sorts) to Travel Publications

Coming up this weekend, hopefully, will be some more gargoyles and maybe a mention of the Domplein trees that have pulled up roots and moved. However, this weekend is also the spring beer festival over at Leidig Erf, so who knows what will actually get done. Anyone else going to the festival on Saturday?

This post originally appeared on A Flamingo in Utrecht and has been republished with full permission.

[box size=”large” border=”full”]Meet Alison, a woman from the southern US, who now finds herself in the Netherlands, thanks to an Italian boyfriend. Alison a native Floridian who has spent time in North Carolina, New Orleans and New York, before continuing herlove affair with the letter N and moving to the Netherlands. She is an art historian by degree, an editor by profession, and a photographer in her mind.

Alison writes at A Flamingo in Utrecht, and you can find her on Facebook, Flickr and Twitter.  We recommend that you do.[/box]

Getting to Know Us: Gerard Danks

Meet Gerard, the first bloke in our Getting to Know Us series.  Born in arguably the most beautiful of all English counties, Gez (as we lovingly like to call him) like many of us here at International Almere moved to Almere for love. Together with his lovely girlfriend and fellow team mates in the Upsidedowners, Gez is famous for reigning supreme at the hugely popular International Almere Friday Night Quiz.

More about Gez:

Where were you born?
A hospital in Truro, Cornwall, UK.

 

Where have you lived?
All over the UK, nearly! Mevagissey, St Austell, Exeter, Swansea, York, Warrington, Bristol, Blackwood, Maes-Y-Cwmmer, Oostzaan and now Almere!

Where can we find you online?
Realistically, only Facebook. I have a Twitter account (@cmdrstarion) which I might look at once a week.

 

What brought you to Almere?
Prior to Almere, Irma (my girlfriend) and myself were in a rented flat in Oostzaan. I’d been living over here for nearly two years at the time and we needed a bigger place to live. We ended up looking in Almere for houses, as they were reasonably priced for the size, it’s relatively central for visiting Irma’s family, and we’re handily not far from a train station with a direct link to Schiphol.

 

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.
I like how, as a new city, there’s been a lot of thought put into the infrastructure. For example, the bus lanes and cycle paths being separate from the normal roads, plenty of green places (even the rooftop lawns in the middle of town!), and ease of connection to the rest of the country. Though a direct road to Harderwijk wouldn’t go amiss, instead of having to drive up to Lelystad first!

 

How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?
I wouldn’t say I’ve been ‘made’ to feel at home, rather, I just feel at home here. The pace of life and the city is very similar to what I grew up with in Exeter. I couldn’t see myself living in Amsterdam (certainly not downtown Amsterdam!) – too hectic and full of klote toeristen and their bloody trolley cases!

 

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?
Can’t go wrong with Rhodos, in my opinion. It’s the Greek just opposite Almere Centrum station. The first time I came over to The Netherlands to visit Irma, we tried to go to a tex-mex place in Zaandam, but it was fully booked. As a back-up, we managed to get into a Greek, about 10 minutes walk from where she lived. I’d never had Greek food before, and wasn’t even sure what it entailed. But Irma assured me I’d like it, as it was mainly grilled meats. I found out that night that I liked Greek food, and ever since I’ve always had to go “one more time, just to make sure”. Rhodos is nice and handy too. Being right by the rail station, it’s only a few stops from us so we can both have a drink and not worry about who’s driving home.

 

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?
I’d most likely say expat. Though ‘european’ comes to mind as well. I wouldn’t go so far as international though, having never been outside of Europe.

 

How long do you plan on living here for?
For good! Or possibly till Irma kicks me out. (Love you really!)

 

Tell us how you found International Almere?
Kind of through the quiz nights. Irma had seen the IA website, and about the quizzes from there. We’d initially read that there was an email sign-up for the quiz, then Irma saw via Twitter that it was “just turn up”. So, last April, we did. And you’ve not been able to get rid of us since!

 

Have you been to any International Almere events?  Which was your favourite?
I think I’ve been to every quiz night since April, even being score-master once and quiz-master once! I’ve also been to a few Friday Night Drinks, and the Christmas Meal just gone.

 

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?
Just do it and take the plunge!

 

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?
That’d have to be finding work. I’ve not got any decent qualifications to speak of, and being nearly 38 most shops would rather some spotty college kid that only gets paid half of what it’d cost to hire me. I did work for 18 months in the Staples warehouse as an order picker, but the work dropped off, and there was no budget to keep any of the temp staff that started at the same time as me. After the required 6 month break, it hadn’t picked up enough to warrant taking me back on, either.

 

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?
Ooohh, toughie. Um, IA? Can I take IA with me?

 

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate?  Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?
Hmm. I’d say birthdays. Yes, the (in)famous “Dutch Circle Party” (don’t use that when speaking to Dutch people though – they won’t have a clue what you’re talking about!). I had the same birthday as my maternal grandmother, and it was generally during or near a school holiday. So either my parents and I would be staying up there, or they’d come to our house. Dutch birthdays are pretty much the same (though less cake + candles), so I actually enjoy them!

What do you miss from your homeland?
Waterfalls. Sounds a little silly, but I kinda like them. And The Netherlands is somewhat lacking in the vertical landscape necessary for them. Mother’s cooking is another, but I guess I’d miss that even if I was back in the UK in a place of my own. What I have found though, is I think I’d miss more from here if I ever needed to move back to the UK (or elsewhere). Little things, like bittergarnituur. Go to a pub in the UK, and you can generally get snacks like crisps and nuts, or a full blown meal. But sometimes you’re out, and you want something to eat that’s somewhere between those two extremes, and bittergarnituur fits that bill! Bitterballen, vlaametjes, leverworst, all those small nibbles that you can get. The Netherlands scores big points in my book for those!

 

More in the Getting to Know Us series:

Getting to Know Us: Stephanie Ernst-Milner

Getting to Know Us: Nicole Peetsma-Epker

Getting to Know Us: Carly Bridgeman

Getting to Know Us: Becky Riddle

 

[box style=”rounded”]Would you like to take part in the Getting to Know Us series? We would love to hear from you!

Drop us a line by filling out the form below and we will be in touch with all the details:

 

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Upcoming Workshop – Access Cancerlink

Access Cancerlink

From ACCESS:

Kyrin Hall, in co-operation with ACCESS Cancerlink, presents a workshop on nutrition and cancer.

Open to anyone who wants to learn more about healthy eating and anti-cancer diets, this workshop is especially for cancer survivors, cancer patients or anyone who has experienced cancer in a loved one or close friend.

Presenter: Kyrin Hall
Date: Thursday, 04 April 2013
Time: 19:00 to 21:00
Venue: ABC Treehouse
Voetboogstraat 11, 1012XK Amsterdam
Cost: 10 euro
Contact: Aine Campbell
e-mail cancerlink@icconnections.org or call (and leave a message) 06 2259 0772

Kyrin Hall has worked as consultant and educator in the health and wellness industry for 12 years. She produces and presents a weekly health programme for Sky TV- the ACTIVE channel, contributes to Breakfast radio 99.4 FM and writes for many health magazines.

A Canadian-trained naturopathic doctor, Kyrin has also studied food science and orthomolecular medicine and is a senior yoga teacher with vast experience.
For more information see www.kyrinhall.com.

No Impact Week 2013

NLBE-1-240x240The No Impact Week is a one-week carbon cleanse that allows participants to experience the difference lowering their impact can have on their quality of life, their community, and their planet. The No Impact experience is about discovering how living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle can increase personal fulfilment  health, happiness, and time with family and friends. Beginning Sunday March 10 participants will work through a series of eight daily challenges, from decreasing trash production and home energy use, to eating locally and sustainably. The week will wrap up with a day of Giving Back on Saturday March 16 & an Eco-Sunday of rest on Sunday March 17.

If you are an English-speaking resident of the Netherlands or Flanders that wants to take up the challenge of No Impact Week together with the other participants of No Impact Week 2013 from March 10-17, please do so! Register via this link and then send us an e-mail with a request for the English manual. We will then send you the manual used for No Impact Week in the United States. The content (especially the links) will differ, but the experience will be the same.

As most of the other participants understand English, please also participate in the discussions on Facebook! And, please send us your blogs, questions, ideas, etc.

PS Check out the news-item on No Impact Week 2010 by The Hague ExpatTV on Youtube

The No Impact Project is an international, environmental, non-profit project, founded  in the spring of 2009. It was inspired by the No Impact Man book, film, and blog. The No Impact Project was conceived by Colin Beavan, aka No Impact Man, following the success of his blog, book, and film, which chronicle his family’s year-long experiment living a zero-waste lifestyle in New York City. Central to his thesis is the notion that deep-seated individual behaviour change leads to both cultural change and political engagement. Living low-impact provides a clear entry point into the environmental movement. This thesis is the bedrock of the No Impact Project.

Follow No Impact Week: @NoImpactWeekNL

Tweet using hashtag #NoImpactWeek
Like No Impact Week NL and BE on Facebook

The original article can be found here and has been republished with the full permission of the No Impact NL and BE team.

International School Almere, through the eyes of its students

A crucial element of the Middle Years Program curriculum at International School Almere is Community and Service.  Each student in the program undertakes a community oriented project which is aimed at providing a service to their community, to help the student to develop an understanding of their place in the world and how they can contribute to help make the world a better place.

We would like to introduce Aimee and Naomi, two MYP3 (or grade 8) students from ISAlmere who as part of their community and service project are writing a short series of informative articles for You, the International Almere community.

The first in the series is an article the two students have written together describing the school itself:

[box border=”full”]The International School Almere is a really friendly school. You will notice there are people from grade 7-12 who are friends with each other. In each grade everyone is really close to one another; it’s good to know there is always someone there for you.

At this school we have parties and we recently had a Christmas ball, one of the students was the DJ and a few other students were in charge of the lights. The student council and grade 10 decorated the halls and the drama room and helped set everything up.

There are school trips as well. The 7th graders go on an introduction camp to get to know each other more. Last year they went to Belgium and this year they went somewhere near Amsterdam. On the school trip last year, grade 7-9 went to Manchester, England and grade 10-DP 2 went to Rome.

Each year has a mentor. The mentors are there to help students and guide them through their education. Every week there is a mentor class where the students meet up with their mentor and talk about their issues.

Morning assembly is on Thursday. The students should be at school at 8:30 to attend morning assembly. During morning assembly we talk about issues involving the school, community and service, upcoming school activities and other things that the teachers have to notify us about.

At International School Almere, they require the students to do community and service and finish it by the end of the year. Community and service is about helping others in the community and not getting paid for your work. There are different amount of hours and requirements for each grade. [/box]

 

If you would like to know more about ISAlmere, please check out their website here.

Coming soon, Aimee and Naomi will tell us what it’s like to be an international teenager in Flevoland, which we can’t wait to share with you..

Getting to Know Us: Nicole Peetsma-Epker

Meet Nicole, International Almere’s secretary.  Our interview with Nicole is the latest in our Getting to Know Us series here at International Almere.

Nicole stepped into the hugely challenging IA secretary role at the end of last year and most visibly is responsible for our newsletter (have you signed up for it?  If not, run, don’t walk HERE) along with ensuring that everything in the background of the ever-expanding group runs smoothly.

Over to you Nicole!

Where were you born?
I was born in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada.

 

Where have you lived?
I have lived in Simcoe ON, Fenwick ON and here in Almere. 

 

What brought you to Almere?
I came to Almere because it is where my husband lives.

 

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.
What I love about Almere is that it is one of the biggest cities in The Netherlands. Yet, it doesn’t feel cramped at all.  Plus, living in Almere Haven, it is quite pretty and peaceful.

 

How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?
The best feeling of feeling like home is when my friends surprised me at the airport when I came back from Canada the first time.

 

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?
I really don’t have a favourite place here in Almere.  I like most places.  Le Baron does hold a special place though.  It was the first place I went out to eat at when I was first here.

 

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?
I consider myself an International.

 

How long do you plan on living here for?
For the near future the plans are to stay here.  But hubby and I would like to live back in Canada one day.

 

Tell us how you found International Almere?
I found IA by surfing the net.  I had met Christina at V&D one day and my son saw that her son had a maple leaf on his coat.  So we started talking – she is also from Canada and told me about the international group.  But when I got home I had forgotten it.  So I felt like a stalker trying to find this group! LOL

 

Have you been to any International Almere events?  Which was your favourite?
I go to most Friday night drinks and Quiz nights.  I love the Quiz nights the best!

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?
I say go for it!  It’s a great city.  We may not have the old architecture, but you are close enough to other cities to see it when you want.  Best part, for being such a new city, we have a ruin! LOL (Almere Castle).

 

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?
My biggest challenge was getting over the fact of having neighbors.  I’m a country girl.  Plus, having to get over the fear of taking public transit on my own.

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?
Um… Tough question…Bus, bike and car lane system.  I really think it’s great how it’s all separated.  (for the most part). 

 

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate?  Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?

My favorite Dutch traditions are Queens Day, Sinterklaas and New years.   As for celebrating traditions from Canada, we don’t really do much of that here.  I will start though J So that my kids know those traditions too.

 

More in the Getting to Know Us series:

 
Getting to Know Us: Carly Bridgeman

Getting to Know Us: Becky Riddle

 

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The Expat Company

Local Business, Global Focus: The Expat Company

Welcome to the first in a new series of posts focusing on businesses in our local community; Local Business, Global Focus.  Here we will feature local businesses that are in the Almere area that are geared towards servicing the international community and most importantly, you.

Meet Georgina, from The Expat Company.

Tell us about The Expat Company

International Recruitment

The Expat Company started its services in 1995 and has offices in Almere (back office), Leiden, Breda and Heerenveen. We thrive to source relevant candidates that match and meet your requirements within todays changing jobmarket climates. The personal profile of an applicant is their most important asset. Companies want good communication skills, entrepreneurship, creativity, confidence. Our candidates are pre-screened and interviewed before producing a shortlist that best meets your needs.
How can we find you?
Our team has specialized consultants with extensive recruitment experience and knowledge of the targeted branches or markets. We can asses on the availability and advice on the the suitability of specialist candidates for your positions.

You can visit our office by making an appointment by calling 036-5302000 or emailing tec@expatcompany.nl

Our website is expatcompany.nl and you can join our linkedIn group Expat Company – international vacancies in The Netherlands and find us on Twitter here.

What made you decide to work with expats?

We are not only working with Expats, but also with the locals. Mostly of the time we are working with people who have an international background and/or speaks several languages. Our name has its origins from the word “expatriate” because The Expat Company works to a large extent for European or EMEA head offices of large international companies.

When somebody first arrives in Almere and the Netherlands, how can you help that person, or family, hit the ground running?

We offer several services like our recruitment and spouse career program (coaching program to guide the spouse to find a suitable job in the most efficient way). Our business partner (t&a Relocation) offers immigration and relocation services.

What makes you the company to go to in your field for expats living in Almere, in comparison to a Dutch equivalent?

We have the expertise regarding the Expats. We have gained many years of experience and built up knowledge through the years. We understand the Expats as our consultants have lived and worked abroad themselves as well.

What is the number one question your customers ask you?

“Do you have vacancies for non-Dutch speakers?”

Share a titbit about The Expat Company that we won’t find on your website or in social media.

All the consultants are from abroad or have worked and lived abroad themselves.

What’s coming up in your agenda that’s interesting for Almere expats?

We are offering a custom made program for our expats (partial on individual basis and partial on group basis). This program is called the LABOR MARKET SUPPORT PROGRAM in the Netherlands. If we have enough candidates to complete the group the program will take place at the end of January or in February 2013.

 

[box style=”rounded”]Would you like to take part in the Local Business, Global Focus series? We would love to hear from you!

Drop us a line by filling out the form below and we will be in touch with all the details:

 

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Getting to Know Us: Becky Riddle

Becky in Almere Buiten, July 2012

Welcome to our new Getting to Know Us series where we meet our members and learn a bit more about one another.

Kicking it off is International Almere’s first ever Life Member, Becky Riddle.

Becky first moved to Almere from England six years ago when an opportunity arose  with her husband’s work.  Since she arrived she has been involved with – and a huge influence on – the local expat community here in Almere.  So much so that when the opportunity arose to honour the extraordinary contribution of a member of our little community, Becky was the obvious choice.  Becky has been instrumental in shaping International Almere into what it has become today and has also taken the ABCDE Playgroup from strength to strength.

Becky has since taken a step back from her responsibilities to the international community here and is now busy focusing on new, more personal projects, of which we cannot wait to hear more about.

 

Now, more about Becky…

 

Where were you born?

Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. (year: undisclosed!)

Where have you lived?

Various places in the UK and Holland

Where can we find you online?

Sophie Snail Adventures (a blog of children’s stories – my new hobby so not much there at the moment!) Check it out here: Sophie Snail Adventures

What brought you to Almere?

I followed my husband

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.

All of it! The people, the architecture, the ease of access to so many diverse things to do and see. It is a rich city in lots ways.

Becky and her husband Neil
How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?

Through the people I have met.

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?

Oooh, lots…which shall I pick? With my family I love to go to the Kemphaan – get back in touch with nature, have a snack and you can enjoy a different experience every time you go. With my husband I like to go out to eat, socialise with friends and going to the cinema. I like ‘de Brasserij de Bergerrie’ for food.

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?

I would define myself as me, where-ever I may be.

How long do you plan on living here for?

The foreseeable future. We have no plans to move.

Tell us how you found International Almere?

I have been aware of International Almere since they were a little acorn.

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?

Get in touch with International Almere and start meeting people! Other people are the key to settling in here…someone somewhere will have an answer to most of the questions and challenges you face and it’s always good to have people to share your experiences with. Makes the move much easier than it could otherwise be.

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?

Mmmmm, being a parent and having to re-educate myself in the way the various systems/people here work compared to what I have been used to (and in turn educating the Dutch in my ways!).

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?

My family.

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate? Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?

I love Sint Maarten. I love to help the children be creative making lanterns, watch them sing around the neighbourhood, then their excitement when they get a treat  (I also rather enjoy several traditional Dutch treats myself such as oliebollen and stroopwafel – lekker!) We still celebrate Easter and Christmas and if I can find the right cut of meat I’m fond of a traditional English Roast Dinner followed by Apple Crumble!

Becky’s daughters celebrating Sint Maarten

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Drop us a line by filling out the form below and we will be in touch with all the details:

 

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Special Offer: The Guest Card

The Guest Card is the largest expat community in the Netherlands and was started as a joint initiative with the City of The Hague to help internationals with starting their lives in the Netherlands.  In 2012, The Guest Card is celebrating their 5th birthday, and their expansion to other areas of the Netherlands, including the Amsterdam area.

As part of their birthday celebrations, The Guest Card is giving away free membership to everybody at International Almere.  The card offers loads of discounts and exclusive deals especially for international people living in the Netherlands.

Here are some of what is on offer:

–          Get discounts at restaurants, theatres, museums, shops and more

–          Be introduced to the best service providers for internationals

–          Get invited to exclusive parties & events

–          Shop at Sligro with your personal Sligro card and experience wholesale shopping

–          And much more…

 Normally the membership costs €12,- for the main subscriber and €6,- for an additional partner card.

You can use this coupon code for your free registration: IA

 Get your free membership here

Go ahead and take advantage of this great offer.  It will be worth it, especially the Sligro membership.  Plus, the more International Almere members, the greater the opportunity for the team at The Guest Card to work with more local Almere businesses and service providers to get a better deal for us.

2012 Annual General Meeting Agenda Friday 02 November

Below you will find the agenda for the International Almere Annual General Meeting (AGM).  Here are a few notes on the voting process with regards to the motions that will be passed (or not).  Everybody is welcome to join and participate in the AGM, however to vote it will be necessary to register and become an official International Almere member.

How does the membership work?  As we have created our statutes in 2012 we are as yet to have an official membership list.  It has been determined in the statutes that to become an officially listed member, we will request a membership fee.  However, the long term fee is to be agreed upon at the 2012 AGM and the by-laws will be amended to reflect the decision (as we have built the possibility for change into the by-laws).

As the by-laws are yet to be approved, we as a board have agreed to request a small membership fee of €2.00 from those who wish to vote and become listed members.  This fee would then be deducted from the agreed membership fee for 2013, effectively making it free to vote at the 2012 AGM.

We will have a hard copy of the statutes and the by-laws for you to read at the meeting, however they are also  linked to the Facebook event page and can be found here:  Statutes, By-laws.

Please note that the AGM will kick off at 19.00 sharp at Apollo Hotel (apologies, I listed the incorrect time in the October newsletter).  However, if you wish to vote, please make the effort to arrive early to complete the registration form.

If you have questions regarding the AGM or the voting process, please send an email to nerissa@www.internationalalmere.com

 Agenda

1.  Welcome Location:  Apollo Hotel, AlmereDate and time:  Friday 2nd November 2012, 19.00 (7pm)Explanation of the voting procedure
2.  Chairwoman’s report An overview of the previous twelve months, including by-laws, achievements and lessons learned.
3.  Treasurer’s report An overview of the financial report (available to view in its entirety on request) including income and expenditure in the previous twelve months.
4.  Goals for the coming year Outlining fundraising goals, planned events and suggestions for new additions to the event calendar, expansion of the board (including nominations), membership package, potential charity aims, working towards a five-year plan, and finding a semi-permanent home for International Almere.
5.  Motions Election of new board members, agreeing a membership package, acceptance of by-laws and other motions raised during the previous discussion.
6  Any other business Any relevant issues as yet to be covered in the discussion.
7.  Close Invitation to join in the bar for a drink as it is the First Friday of the month.

Afrikadag Almere is back!

And this year International Almere is getting into the thick of it and running an Africa Quiz.

On the back of our hugely popular Friday Night Quiz (every second Friday of the month a the Apollo Hotel) we have been asked to run two quiz sessions throughout the day and we have been very busy coming up with fun, interesting and hard questions.

The quiz will cost €1 per person to enter and there will be a beautiful Oware game up for grabs for the winner of each session.  We will be asking the questions in both Dutch and English.  Quiz 1 will be held at 14.30 and quiz 2 at 16.30, both at the Podiumtent Centrale Tuin.  There is a 25 participant limit on this one for each session, so make sure you’re on time!

Afrikadag is a hugely popular event, founded in 1999.   The goal of Afrikadag-Almere is to bring people together with the art and culture of the African continent. To offer a more enriching image of Africa through theater, dance, music and literature.  

In 2012 the programme is no exception.  There will be fashion, Senegalese dance and percussion, jewellery making and henna painting workshops, African Batik workshops, and an interactive performance by master drummer Henri Goabi plus much, much more!

Check out the website (click the poster below) and be sure to come along to de Kemphaan on Sunday 16 September and enjoy an entertaining and educational day out.

 

 

 

Yoga, the Art of Breathing and Food

(image from Evado’s website)

Our wonderful Holiday Dinner sponsors Sandra and Eva from Evado Yoga Fit Wellness have added a slew of English speaking activities to their autumn calendar that we know you do not want to miss out on, from a combined yoga and food workshop, to meditation, to the art of breathing.

Check out the upcoming events here:

21 September – Balancing Soul Food

28 September – How to connect your breathing in your yoga practice

29 September – Interactive one-to-one breathing

29 September – How to bring mindfulness in action in our modern lives

30 September – Yoga Wonderfull

30 September – Teaching balanced vinyasa and hatha yoga suited to the individual

If you don’t know much about Evado yet, check out their Website, their Facebook page, or find them on Twitter.  Keep an eye out for more English language classes in the near future.

 

 

 

National Mom’s Night Out

The amazing moms who joined the first ever National Mom’s Night Out in Almere

Remember last week we mentioned the National Mom’s Night Out?  Well on Thursday 26 July, fifteen lovely ladies slapped on the heels and lipstick and kicked off the first ever nationwide event in style.

We gathered at International Almere’s favourite stomping ground – Apollo Hotel in Almere and sipped our mojitos, chardonnays, beer and espresso while pouring over the contents of our goodie bags and sharing kiddie war stories.

We all had a wonderful time and thanks to the wonderful Lynn Morrison of Nomad Parents for organising.  I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I cannot wait for then next one.

Keep an eye out for upcoming Nomad Parents events, hopefully the next one will be some time in October.

Don’t forget to head over to Facebook and Like Nomad Parents, or follow on Twitter here.

National Mom’s Night Out – Thursday 26 July

 

Motherhood is an around the clock job with little opportunities for a break. When you are an expat mom, finding a way to get a little “me time” can be that much harder because you may not have a good social network to support you. Going out on your own seems overwhelming, going out with your partner seems impossible (where do I find a babysitter I can trust?) and meeting up with friends requires that one of you organize an event. So what is a mum to do to get a break?

On Thursday, July 26th we are offering up a solution: International Almere, together with ABCDE Playgroup and Nomad Parents invites you to come out and join us for the National Mom’s Night Out at the Apollo Hotel in Almere. We have organized the time, date and location so all you have to do is show up. If you have some friends, bring them along! If you don’t know anyone, come and meet someone new!  This is a national initiative, with events happening all over the Netherlands at the same time.  We’ll keep things fun with great conversation, giveaways and goody bags.

You can find all of the details at: http://www.nomadparents.com and of course join the Almere Facebook event.

 

See you from 8pm, Thursday 26 July at Apollo (Koetsierbaan 2, 1315 SE Almere)!

A Day at the Zoo

 

On Saturday we went to the zoo….That’s my husband and his parents and you’re right, there’s a dog too, that’s Buffy, she’s our kid.  We went to Ouwehands Dierenpark in Rhenen.  The Netherlands has many zoos or Dierenparks as they’re called here.  Each one is just a little bit different.

Oudehands is one of the few that allow dogs in, for 2.50 your dog can spend a fun day out with you and you get 2 poop sacks to clean up any unexpected accidents, a good deal cause in the 5 hours we were there, Buffy only went once…so we even left with something for our money.

 

 

 

Buffy wasn’t too interested in most of the animals, but when she was, she could get a good look, most of the walls are low enough for a dog to look over or those glass petitions or open fencing for them to look through.  There are numerous water dishes throughout the park, we brought our own though which I think is always a good idea, so they have thought about  four footed needs as much as providing many choices for refreshment for the people which was average priced.

We were allowed in most of the buildings which is also nice…when she wasn’t we just took turns with waiting outside with her.  So we all could enjoy the whole park.

It’s  missing a few prominant animals, like rhino’s and hippos, but other than that, the zoo is beautiful, not too big that you had to run through it, we did it in 5 hours and did some back tracking to make sure we did see everything.  The enclosures are amazing and they’re currently building a HUGE primate building which will hold the big 5 in primates so we’ll definetely go back once that’s finished.

We hadn’t been to this zoo for several years which makes it worth taking a trip back.  Zoos are magical, or at least I find them to be, we get a glimpse into the average day in the life of animals, many of which are becoming endangered at an alarming rate.   As a “clicker” I love taking pictures and to be so close to reach out and touch some of the animals, petted a dier and a turtle, makes taking pictures of them a snap!

I can’t recommend enough going to the zoo, with or without your dog, below I’ve listed most of the zoos in the Netherlands and the star next to them means you can bring your dog.  So this summer vacation, if you’re not leaving the country, why not visit some zoos, there’s many to chose from:

*Ouwehands Dierenpark Rhenen

http://www.ouwehand.nl/Basis.aspx?Tid=168&Lid=222&Lit=TEKST&Stijl=02&Sid=808

Artis in Amsterdam

http://www.artis.nl/en/artis-royal-zoo/

*Dierenpark Amersfoort

http://www.dierenparkamersfoort.nl/english-information

Dierenpark Emmen

http://www.dierenparkemmen.nl/dierenpark-emmen

Blijdorp in Rotterdam

http://www.diergaardeblijdorp.nl/?lang=EN

Safaripark Beekse Bergen near Tilburg

http://www.safaripark.nl/

Dolfinarium is near Haarderwijk

http://www.dolfinarium.nl/en/dolphin/park_play/interactive_map.html

Taman Indonesia, near Giethoorn

http://www.taman-indonesia.nl/index.php?pagina=Home

Europa Dierentuin is now Dierenrijk in Eindhoven

http://www.dierenrijk.nl/

Gaia Zoo in Limburg

http://www.gaiazoo.nl/welcome

Overloon Zoo

http://www.overloonzoo.nl/

Owl dierenpark, not just owls, you can pet kangaroos here too, near Gorinchem

http://www.depaay.nl/nieuw/index.php

Wissel Zoo near Epe

http://www.wisselzoo.nl/

Burgers  Zoo in Arnhem

http://www.burgerszoo.eu/?ce=1

 

 

August Fundraising Update

 

 

 

 

We’re still hard at work with the  International Almere Holiday Dinner 2012 fund raising. We are already at about 50% and will continue to do our best to raise the complete amount needed, so stay tuned for more.

I cannot stress enough, that we need your help in this. If you have a personal relationship with a business or shop, please take the time to ask them for help when you are there next. Everybody has 20 EUR to spare, especially for good customers. You can also leave behind the flyer: Sponsorship Flyer Xmas

Our new sponsors since the last update are:

  • Apollo Hotel City Center – http://bit.ly/pc2nnP
  • Evado – Yoga, Fit, Wellness – http://www.evado.nl/

And let’s not forget our dear sponsors from the last update:

  • The Expat Company – http://www.expatcompany.nl/
  • Carly’s Young Almere
    Need I say anything more? The club for young expats in Almere! Stay in touch on Facebook
  • Caroline’s LWD Translations & Editing
    For all your Dutch-English-Dutch translation needs http://www.lwd-vertalingen.com
  • The Steiner-Meunier Family
    As our first private sponsors, thank you very much indeed!
  • Martha Mghendi
    With a very generous private donation, make sure to give her a big hug next time around.
  • Expat Mortgages – If you have read my post about buying a place in the Netherlands, you will already know that you can trust these guys to get you a fair mortgage deal – no matter where you are from. http://www.expat-mortgages.nl/

You can find all these companies on our International Almere 2012 Holiday Dinner Sponsor Board.

We need lots more sponsors, so if you know a company that would be interested, please point them to the sponsorship information or let us know via info@www.internationalalmere.com

Together we can make this work,

The International Almere Team

 

Education in Almere

Starting a new school, in a new country, is a huge change for anyone.  However, you’ll always have the tingling excitement on your first day when you walk in and see all the faces of your classmates you’re going to spend seven hours with five days a week!

High schools following the international baccalaureate (IB) are very different from your usual public high schools. Comparing it to Scottish education, school is a more laid back place to be. I have joined theInternational School Almere in MYP4 (Grade 9), this is part of the middle years program. The middle year’s program is for students aged eleven to sixteen. The MYP encourages students to be open-minded, reflective thinkers.

MYP uses ‘continuous assessments.’ This is where you are graded in many different ways over the whole year. This could be through debates, investigations, experiments and reflections. Exams aren’t sat until you’re in the diploma years. The Diploma program (DP) is for students aged sixteen to nineteen. DP is taught over two years and prepares students for university.

During the IB, students are encouraged to develop community awareness by taking part in a community and service project. Community and service projects help to show you the importance of taking responsibilities and allow you to find new skills and talents while making a positive difference on others lives.

This year for my community and service I had to complete twenty hours. I helped at Zumba lessons with four to six year olds. Zumba is dance and aerobics. It includes hip hop, samba, salsa, martial arts, and some bollywood moves. It showed me how hard it is to look after young children and I have much more respect for teachers after being in their position! It was a really enjoyable activity and I plan to continue helping next year too. I also helped in the flevoland hospital and the school science lab. This showed me that even the smallest things like changing the magazines in the waiting rooms and cleaning a class room can make a huge difference. Writing this blog is also part of my community and service project which I hope attracts more expat teenagers and show adults how we see Almere.

Everyone at school has different backgrounds and cultures and you make friends from all over the world. Knowing that the majority of your school have all gone through the same experience as you is really comforting. Everyone is really accepting. I visited my school for an afternoon before I moved here almost a year ago and after the visit I couldn’t wait to start.

For me, moving country and school has improved my geography. It was never my strongest subject but I now know about countries such as Indonesia, which I had never heard of, and I can even say a few things in Russian and Japanese!

chloe xoxo

Christmas Spirit – a tad early

Today, I spent a few hours talking to entrepreneurs in Almere who would like to help us by sponsoring the International Almere Holiday Dinner 2012World Handprints.

Why is that necessary?

The World Trade Center has moved away from Almere and with it, we lost the sponsorship for 2012. This means we rely on the help of private sponsors to support International Almere.

I am very happy to announce that we have the first four companies have agreed to sponsor International Almere:

You can find all these companies on our International Almere 2012 Holiday Dinner Sponsor Board.

We need lots more sponsors, so if you know a company that would be interested, please point them to the sponsorship information or let us know via info@www.internationalalmere.com

Hohoho,

Sonja

 

Lady on bike

Working Through Culture Shock

In only the last six months or so I’ve noticed a shift in my perception and attitude to life here in the Netherlands.  Confrontations or situations that earlier would have left a black cloud hanging over my head for an entire day (or a week, sometimes!) no longer seem to bother me for much longer than a couple of minutes.  Often these days I’ll have a near miss on my bike with an idiot in a car on the way to work and by the time I arrive at the office it has been forgotten.
I have been wondering to myself if perhaps, finally, I’m transitioning through the stages of culture shock.  It is generally understood that culture shock passes within a few months (certainly within a year), but I talk to people here in the Netherlands who are clearly still struggling, often after a few years.  I certainly have been!According to Wikipedia culture shock has four distinct phases; Honeymoon, Negotiation, Adjustment and Mastery.  In the honeymoon phase everything is lovely and new, bright and shiny, exciting and fascinating.  The negotiation phase tends to kick in once one realises that life isn’t actually all roses.  Differences between the home culture and new culture become glaringly apparent, and the differences are often difficult to deal with.  Language, social interaction and perhaps one of the big issues for people coming to the Netherlands is the attitude within primary health care and its magical wonder drug, paracetamol, can become overwhelming.Eventually the negotiation phase fades and the adjustment stage will begin. Wikipedia states that this usually happens between the six and twelve month mark, although if my own experience is anything to go by, it can take much, much longer.  In the adjustment phase one will develop more of a positive outlook and deal with issues as they arise instead of getting bogged down in the differences and difficulties that they would have during the negotiation phase.Finally, the mastery phase.  Basically full integration.  This does not mean losing one’s own cultural identity, but becoming comfortable enough in the new country that they finally feel at home and at ease.I had been struggling along in the negotiation phase for a very long time.  So long in fact, that I don’t even remember the honeymoon phase.  Perhaps my honeymoon phase was in the time when I was just a regular visitor, rather than a resident.  I do remember marvelling at the ING building in Amsterdam Zuid on my first trip and traversing the Oosterschelde and Afluitdijk respectively was an incredible experience for me.

ING building, Amsterdam.  Pic
But, I have so many memories of incidents and hurdles that really bogged me down.  Regular tantrums in the supermarket for not being able to find the “right” products.  Horror and anger that would last for days at a perceived slight from an encounter in public.  Throwing my homework across the room and refusing to continue at the tone of some to the integration coursework.  Uncontrollable tears when I break three wine glasses in one day because I’m just useless and can’t do anything right (that was a merry Christmas, let me tell you).  All things that should in all seriousness be water off a ducks back.  But they just weren’t.  Everything was so much harder.  I would take everything personally.  My husband has been unbelievably patient with me for a very long time and it’s really only now that I’m coming out the other end that I realise just how trying I must have been (who am I kidding, still am!).Why has the transition into adjustment finally come about after so long?  I really think that it has to do with all of the health dramas I’ve had in the past year.  As a consequence of being ill, I’ve had to put myself out there and speak Dutch.  I’ve had to be proactive in interacting with others.  I’ve had to take a good look at myself and my own attitude.Once I realised which stage I was at in culture shock I seemed to immediately recognise patterns and move through to the next phase.  It was like a light switched on in my head.  I’m happier more than I have been in almost four years of living here in the Netherlands.  I can finally have a meaningful conversation with my mother in law as I am much more confident with my level of Dutch.  When I encounter antisocial behaviour (daily) I’ll just think “sukkel” and forget about it almost immediately.  It’s almost to the point where I can just laugh almost everything off.By no means does my new outlook make me reflect and think that my old attitude was ridiculous and invalid.  I don’t doubt that others around me believe(d) that I was behaving like a crazed harpy, but that makes my own feelings no less important or relevant.  Life has been a real struggle for me in the last few years.  I could not count the amount of hours, days or probably even weeks that I’ve spent wishing that I could be in Australia, or even anywhere else if I’m honest.  I do truly believe that there are real social and behavioural issues that need dealing with here in the Netherlands which have been a huge factor in how I’ve felt.  The bubble mentality is so ingrained that it is very obvious that many, many people think only of themselves.  You can enter any supermarket or stand in any queue and experience it.  My husband’s grandfather, who is quite possibly the most lovely man you could meet turns into a shoving monster when he’s put into a queue for free food.  His appalling behaviour has to be seen to be believed!What happens now?  I keep moving up.  I seem to be slowly evolving into more of a glass half full type of person and I’m liking this new outlook.  I’m not walking around with a dark cloud hovering over my head any more.  I can finally see and appreciate my life and how damned good I have it.

I’m going to master this culture shock if it kills me.
Which stage are you at in the four phases of culture shock? How have you coped? How long has it taken you to see the light at the end of the tunnel?
(The original post can be found here)
Cocktail Glasses

Friday Night Drinks

Cocktail Glasses
© alphaducentaure (FlickR) - Important note: contrary to what one might think, these cocktails are non alcoholic

Our Friday Night Drinks are an informal meeting of expats in Almere and surrounding areas. We meet up to chat and laugh and now and then it lasts until the wee morning hours. It doesn’t matter if you want to come for the full show or just for half an hour to check us out. The important thing is that you DO come – we love to meet new people!

Every first Friday of the month, the first round of drinks is on our sponsor Apollo Hotel.

Check out the Event Calendar to find out more about the location!

Everyone welcome, regardless of what your drink of choice is!

 

Carly and Maria at Halloween 2011

Young Almere – Wild Youth

Carly and Maria at Halloween 2011
Carly and Maria at Halloween 2011

Then you really want to get in touch with Young Almere. Initiated by Australian Carly Bridgeman, Young Almere is an essential part of all International Almere events. Carly organizes many last-minute activities, like going out for dinner or to the movies. The Facebook page of Young Almere is also a good spot to find like minded expats for anything you might want to do – and if it’s just a coffee in town.

You can find Young Almere on Facebook or check out the event calendar for Young Almere Events (the pink color code)!