Meet Caroline, a Scot who has lived in the Netherlands longer than she has ever lived in Scotland. You’d think that would diminish the accent, right? Not a chance. And as a huge fan of the Scottish accent, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Caroline also has the loveliest Westie named Luna. I’ve been plotting ways to steal her for quite some time….
Where were you born?
I hail from Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.
Where have you lived?
Well, I grew up and worked in the city centre. Also lived a WHOLE TWO MONTHS in Copenhagen once upon a century. It was a tossup between there and Amsterdam where we’d move to. Amsterdam won, although I have never actually lived there.
Where can we find you online?
Facebook of course… then I do HAVE a twitter account but can’t get my head around the necessity for it so very rarely visit it – @carolinemackLWD. And my own business website – I’m now a busy bee with translating:
LWD Translations and Editing
What brought you to Almere?
After a 13 year rental stint in Weesp where our kids basically grew up, we wanted to buy, and Almere was the only reasonably priced option in the vicinity at the time, 20+ years ago (I’ve been here a while). I had only been to Almere once before, when they opened the train line and gave a free trip! It was just sand, sand and more sand then… nightmare! But we were pleasantly surprised and have been in the same house since moving here.
Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here
Well, I USED to say… it’s easy to leave and go to Amsterdam hehehe. But I really do think there are so many advantages to living here. Great shops – when you include all the ‘industrial’ estates, you hardly need Amsterdam at all these days. Lots of job ops too (I’m pretty sure!) I KNOW it’s great for kids, lots of green, water and wildlife. Loads of schools to choose from too. I’m not sure anything is missing nowadays. Ok so there are no OLD buildings but it makes up for that with new some pretty cool new ones.
How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?
Probably not really a question for me, being here for so long. But I have to say, what IA does is just terrific. I could certainly have used just such a bunch of folks 33+ years ago! We should however encourage (even) more ‘integration’ – especially in the area of Dutch language. Maybe one night a month when everybody HAS to speak Dutch… or something? (well, not ‘HAS to speak…’ but… ‘should be encouraged to learn’). Maybe have everything labelled in Dutch at any meet-ups? Have everyone feel free to offer a suggestion ‘how to say it in Dutch’ blabla… Use our Dutch (speaking) members more and not let them get away with using our meets for them to speak and improve their English!
Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?
I’m not all that discerning really, although know what I don’t like. The fact that they allowed a Macdonald’s on stadhuisplein is already a huge thorn in my side every time I pass it. I have honestly not often been in a restaurant where I had anything bad to say about the grub. SERVICE on the other hand…
Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?
I HATE the expression ex-pat and its blatant misuse but that’s me again. So, no, I’m not an ex-pat. And I read only the other day of a survey showing high percentages of PEOPLE LIVING IN NL not considering themselves European which I can’t quite get my head around. I’m a Scot, living abroad. I will never be Dutch (even if do ever get my Dutch passport… don’t start me!) Having lived here in NL longer than I ever have in Scotland, I’m a bit of a puzzle really. But that’s the way of it.
How long do you plan on living here for?
We DID only plan on ‘a couple of years’… ‘until the kids go to school’… ‘until the kids go to secondary’…hehehe. Here for the duration now. We’re only a 1 hour flight away… so lucky compared to those from USA, or AUS…PERU ffs! I leave now? I’m in my daughter’s in Glasgow before bedtime (she grew up here from 6 months old and went to be an au pair for six months… 14 years ago!) Practically speaking, the same if we lived in the same country in different cities and travelled by public transport, which we do as neither of us drives.
Tell us how you found International Almere?
I was out at a ‘promote your business’ type of affair, in Amsterdam, and met a Scottish lady, Deirdre. She pointed it all out to me… who knew?! She also introduced me to Mrs. Matamoros, for which I am forever grateful and am annoyed we all didn’t know each other long ago already (although I was practically in at the start… well near anyway… of IA).
Have you been to any International Almere events? Which was your favourite?
I turn up at the odd event… and was well impressed with the Christmas do.
What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?
Do it! Especially if you have kids. Wish I could convince my elder girl who lives in Amsterdam but that’s not going to happen. I still have hopes for my girl in Glasgow. She grew up in NL and lived in Almere from age 14 and might just come back from Glasgow yet.
What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?
‘Nother one not really for me but I can imagine myself turning up as a newcomer now…must be daunting! Tip though, persevere with the language, it’s bloody wonderful when you know it. Some fabulous literature too… they don’t tell you that much at school anywhere outside NL (or maybe they do now, things will have changed since I went to school)! Insist on folk speaking Dutch to you and before long, your Dutch will be waaay better than (most folks’) English (which is after all the lingua franca we all use). Watch Sesame Street even if you don’t have kids!! I honestly learned loads on there, after I got over Bert and Ernie sounding ‘wrong’ (I now think the originals sound ‘wrong!!’ but that took a while).
I always wonder how I would have fared if I’d gone to say… Spain, or CHINA, instead of NL. I mean who the heck emigrates to ‘Holland’ from the UK?! Well ok, quite a few folks but… it’s just not a language you hear much… or if I did, I thought it was German! – in fact I was here for about a year before I realised the difference in sound from German to Dutch… embarrassingly bizarre I know, but true.
If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?
I honestly don’t know! Assuming, for the exercise we’re not talking ‘husband’ etc. I know I really wouldn’t miss the wispelturig (it’s a word! Look it up!) attitude of the Dutch, but if I was going from here TO Scotland, I could list a bunch of things that’d get my goat about folks there too so… really don’t know.
What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate? Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?
I am somewhat of a ‘traditionaphobe’ if I’m honest. Although, that’s not entirely true… I just don’t honestly LIKE ‘all things orange’ and the ‘ouwejongens krentebrood’ nonsense. I was thrown into Sinterklaas only a couple of weeks after coming here, and thought it was great… until I realised there was then no SANTA here (at the time anyway). And now it’s all mixed up and ruined for me really. I get livid when they start it all up mid-October (if we’re lucky and they’re late!). Valentine’s Day, and Hallow’e’en were also non-existent here until not all that long ago and ‘they’ just do it all wrong so it bugs me. I should probably just embrace it all eh? And will perhaps do so… eventually… for my grandchildren’s sake. Maybe not though, don’t quote me. But please Nederlanders, you’re NOT all royalists, you’re just NOT… you just really like an excuse for a piss-up, which is fine by me too OH and while I’m on a rant a bit… I find it so sad that Wilders is given credence specifically in ALMERE How embarrassing! So much for the ‘traditional’ tolerance of the Dutch.
There was a time when flights were really, really expensive and a fortnight’s holiday in Southern Spain with the four of us was cheaper than one of us going to Scotland for a week. And we all know that when we go ‘home’ we want to take presents, eat out a lot and generally look the big-shot traveller and play happy families, visiting the whole time and not really seeing the place at all. So the choice was simple and there was a period of 10 years when I didn’t go ‘home’ to Edinburgh at all. I finally got there… I was like an addict needing a fix by that time…. And while I did have a great time, I found that when I came BACK to HERE, I was ACTUALLY coming home. So I suppose home is where you hang your hat… lay your head… where your heart is… blablabla. It takes a while, and you can take the girl out of xx but you can’t take xx out of the girl… yeah, all that. We often wonder how we’d be if we’d stayed in Edinburgh. Impossible to tell but we’ve done ok, have to say, despite quite a few setbacks – could have been better, could have been worse too. It has to be worked at a little, you have to let go a little and you have to also dig in a little and make yourself at home, wherever you are on this planet. Here endeth the gospel according to Caroline.
More in the Getting to Know Us series:
Getting to Know Us: Juliette Kuijpers Ter Weijden
Getting to Know Us: Gerard Danks
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
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