TCK in The Netherlands
Interview date – April 2013
What is your name? Ute Limacher-Riebold
Where are you originally from? I’m German, but I was born in Switzerland grew up in Italy.
Where are you living now? In the Netherlands (The Hague).
How long have you lived there? I’ve lived here since 2005 (8 years).
Where did you live before that? Before coming to the Netherlands I lived in Italy, Florence, for 3.5 years. Before that, in Switzerland for 16.5 years, and I spent my first 18 years in Italy.
What made you decide to make the move? Our stay in Florence was supposed to last only 3 years. My husband and I looked for jobs all over Europe and he happened to be the first one to find it. And it was here in the Netherlands.
Why did you pick this country? My husband did find a job here, that’s why we came here. But I must say that we were happy that it still was Europe, i.e. not too far away from our families and friends.
What are your future plans? We will probably stay in the Netherlands, but with my husband’s job we still have the option to move to Munich.
Did you bring family and/or pets with you? How have they adapted? When we moved to the Netherlands in 2005, our son was 2.5 years old. He adapted pretty well to the new country. It helped a lot that we all considered this like a new adventure.
How many kids do you have? I have three children, a boy (10) and two girls (6, almost 7).
Were they born in your ‘home’ country or in your adopted country? Or elsewhere?! Well, I couldn’t tell what my “home” country should be… My son is born in Italy/Florence and my daughters in the Netherlands/Delft. Both times I didn’t even consider to give birth somewhere else. When I was pregnant with my son, we lived in Florence and didn’t live in Switzerland anymore, so it was obvious for me that I would give birth there. And it was the same with my daughters. It’s still Europe and even if the health-systems are different, they are great for giving birth if you compare with other countries in the world.
How have your children adapted to your move? My son did adapt pretty good to the move. He only asked two or three times if we were going back home (to Florence) but I think he liked the Netherlands and it wasn’t hard for him.
Can you share any moments when you realised your kid wasn’t from your ‘home’ country? I never considered this point as important. Maybe because I don’t have a proper “home country”? I consider all the countries I’ve lived in and where family lives as “home” country. So that would be Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands and Italy. Therefore my children are from my home-countries.
Do you speak the local language? If so, how long did it take you to learn it? Yes, I speak Dutch. For me it’s very important to learn the local language as soon as possible, as I need to be in touch with locals and I want to learn as much as I can from the culture I live in. It took me a few months to learn it and I practice every day.
Have your children learned the language? What method of language learning worked best for them? Yes. All three children went to the Dutch daycare. The full immersion method is the best! And even if now they attend an international school, they still attend Dutch clubs and have Dutch friends. The Netherlands is their home right now and it’s important that they feel integrated.
What three personality characteristics would you consider are necessary for a success expat life? To be open minded, to be willing to learn new languages (and to embrace their cultures), to be optimistic.
What do you miss? That I can’t visit family on the weekends. They are all 12 or more hours drive away and it’s hard to find time for each other. The same applies to our friends we had to leave behind. And I missed my job at the beginning. It took me 3 years to realize that I had to change and adapt to the new situation here in the Netherlands.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when you moved? Organizing everything on time was not easy but we managed quite well. Another challenge was trying to find a job. I tried for one year, then, after the birth of my twin daughters, I had to change my priorities. But I don’t regret anything. That’s life.
How do you keep in touch with your friends and family in other countries? We mail very often, call regularly and we spend most time of our holidays in Switzerland/Germany, visiting our families and friends.
Where do you take your holidays? We spend most of our holidays in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, but visit also other “new” places. Mainly in Europe.
Please share a debunked myth or stereotype about your host country. “Dutch people are rude.” I don’t think this is true. They are very straight forward and often sarcastic. I have many Dutch friends and really love them!
What customs do you find most unusual about your adopted culture? When you’re invited for tea they “count the cookies”. In Italy you would offer plenty of cookies: food is very important and it has to be shared with friends or guests!
Tell us about local food you and your children love or hate. One of my daughters loves Herring! We all love Pannekoeken, Poffertjes, Stroopwaffeln and Hagelslag. What we don’t like are the gehaktballen…
Is there anything that is ridiculously cheap or expensive compared to where you used to live? Flowers are incredibly cheap compared to Switzerland, Italy and Germany! Compared to Switzerland, the Netherlands are really cheap! Compared to Italy, the food is a bit more expensive (especially considering the quality).
What do you most appreciate in your new country? The seaside, the sky, the fact that you can bike, the freedom, the “gezelligheid“!
How did you make new friends in your new home? At the daycare my children went to, I met some mums who are still my friends. And I went to Dutch clubs (see my answer to the question below).
How to your spend your time? Have you taken up any new hobbies in your adopted country? I do write a lot. In the first two years I did write scientific articles. Then I started making translations. Now I’m giving language lessons and I have my blog (expatsincebirth.com). I also did take stained glass lessons, I went to yoga and did join a few groups (Italian women group, German women group and a Dutch-French group). I’m also in a book-club (it’s Dutch-French, but before that I was in a French-English one). – I love to go to exhibitions, musea etc. and do this regularly alone or with friends. I also go regularly to the movies with my friends and spend lovely evenings trying out some new restaurants etc.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog. How long have you been blogging? I started blogging in August 2012. I write about multilingualism, parenting, culture and traditions and about raising (multilingual) twins.
Why did you start blogging?
I’ve always needed and loved to write. I used to write scientific articles but the feedback is very slow. I did also write several short articles, but I didn’t know how or where to publish them and a friend told me to try to write a blog. So I did and I really enjoy it! I love the speed of the blogging world and the blogger community itself! I’ve met so many amazing people through my blog!
Has it contributed to your well-being in any way? Oh yes, I feel much better now that I have this blog and that I can write all those things I like to write about and that people actually read! I love the almost instant feedbacks!
Thank you for sharing this with us, Ute!