IconIconFollow Me on Pinterest Follow on Bloglovin Instagram

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

“You can see me… on your TV!”

For years I was the only member of my extremely clever and educated family who didn’t appear on TV. I was extremely camera - shy (and otherwise shy as well), and I didn’t think I could put a single coherent sentence together when confronted with an audience I couldn’t see but I knew would be numerous.

My mother is a professor of genetics. She is clever, funny, and can explain the most complicated things using simple words so that everybody understands. This makes her the go-to person for the media when something interesting happens in the fields of biotechnology, genetics, and similar topics- and nowadays, it’s quite a lot.

My father, also a professor, is known for his love of science and food. He also loves to talk about science and food. And he loves to talk about…anything really. While physics is his research area, he could give you a one- hour lecture on any subject you propose, and the chances are pretty high that he will know about this topic more than you do. He loves the idea of educating people, and he can be extremely funny as well. This is why the media consult him on everything in the field of physics. And food. And religion.

Over the years, I watched my mother being interviewed at our home. I watched my father giving various interviews on radio and television. Two days ago, I did more than just watch. A journalist from Germany contacted me through www.expat-blog.com - a blogger’s network I belong to, and asked whether I would be interested in giving my opinion on Geert Wilder’s anti-Polish website. I had written a blog post about this website, because I was so angered by it, and so decided to jump at this opportunity to voice my critique of this website.

I was nervous. Very, very, very nervous. The interview turned out better than I had expected. The journalist was nice, asked the questions we had discussed in advance: “What do you identify with: Poland, the Netherlands, Europe?”, why do I think the Geert Wilders website is so bad, and what can be done about it. I was confronted with some elements of surprise, such as a similar website by the Polish- Netherlands rapper Mr. Polska (who made a funny website for collecting positive experiences with Polish people), and they had me fill it out. Another thing was that they gave me an iPad to browse on for the interview- and since I was very nervous, I couldn’t quite get it work the way I wanted it to.

That black monster of a camera wasn’t a help, either. It loomed over me, and I never knew how to behave. A common mistake I made was looking directly into the camera, and they had to reshoot some of the scenes.
But, even then I still managed to string some reasonable sentences together in pretty good German (it’s usually good, but sometimes it fails me, and if that had happened, it would have been a disaster). Also, they filmed my blog! Which reminds me that it really needs some works done! In the end, while I can’t say for sure that I did a good job, I think I tried hard to make this work. So, if you’re interested, watch me on arte (both in German and French) on September 29th.

Read More

Friday, 24 August 2012

Children’s books are not only for children! Especially if you’re learning a new language!

As you know, my mother is bilingual. She learned English when she was 8 (in the ISH in the Hague, no less), studied and worked in English-speaking countries.

As a child, I had English at preschool. However, I got to the point where I could name the colours in English, and basically, that was it. Horrified by the poor state of my English, my mother decided to take action. And she did it in a way that is the most brilliant way to teach a child a language. Rather than enrolling me in English language classes, she decided to do it all by herself. We started with a simple grammar book. 

This was hard. The differences between Polish and English grammar are profound. As a Polish person, I couldn’t care less whether something happened before or after or during something else happened (had happened, was happening). English grammar is crazy. So, after we finished this book, I wasn’t any smarter than before. But, here’s where the next step comes in.

Knowing my passion for reading, my mother chose “Winnie the Pooh”, the best children’s book there is. It’s not very simple, but I had already read in in Polish a million times, and knew it by heart.

“Winnie the Pooh” is a brilliant book. It’s funny, and heart-warming, and touching, and sad. The Polish edition is a little gem of translation art, making it as good, or even better than the original.

And so, my mother made me read to her. At first, it was, to put it mildly, a struggle. While I knew the story very well, how could I tell that “ate” is the past tense of the verb “to eat”, or “went” is the past tense of the verb “to go”? It doesn’t make sense. These words are not even similar!

But soon something in my head went “click”. I was suddenly able to understand the words that just days ago sounded so hollow, and free of any meaning. I was able to make sense of sentences, and they suddenly worked together to make up a story. Soon, it became fun.

When we finished “Winnie the Pooh”, we read through “the House on Pooh Corner”, and then the classic poems “When We Were Very Young” and “Now We Are Six”. When we were done with that, it was “Alice in Wonderland” and the next part, “Through the Looking Glass”, both of them books that are not at all meant for children!

We then made a big step. We started reading ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. But at that point reading aloud became extremely difficult, because my eyes were faster than my mouth. So I continued reading alone. ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” first, then the slightly easier “Animal Farm”. I’ve been reading in English ever since, and I never stopped. I also went through English classes- many of them- but this is how it started.

My mother couldn’t have had a better idea to get me started learning and loving the English language. Also, it had a great benefit of allowing me to spend some time with her on activity that was just for me! While I learned English when I was a child, I still do this when I learn a new language- I did it with French, and I am planning to do the same thing with Dutch.
Read More

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Human Rights in Childbirth

By Lynn Morrison and Olga Mecking

I would like to thank Lynn Morrison for her invitation to co-author this article. 

We are two expat women living in the Netherlands. We each have two daughters, gave birth around the same time, and had our first child outside of the Netherlands and our second one here. We have both met women who told us stories how their wishes and needs were ignored because the midwives expected them to have a more natural birth experience. This inspired us to co-write this article to present a slightly different perspective on the human rights in childbirth debate.

This past summer the Netherlands hosted the Human Rights in Childbirth Annual Congress. Thought leaders, researchers and political figures from around the world gathered in The Hague to discuss the rights of women to determine when, how and where their childbirth will take place. 

We were only somewhat surprised to see that most of the presentations that got wide coverage were about women who wanted to give birth at home at all costs. We started asking ourselves these questions: what about those of us who want to give birth in the hospital with every pain relief option? Are our own rights to the birth of our choice worth less than the rights of women who want to give birth at home? 

I gave birth to my first child in the United States. I attended childbirth classes well in advance and was educated on all of the different types of pain relief available and the risks and side effects (both for myself and my child) for each one. I approached the birth with an open attitude – I would listen to my body and use exactly what I needed to get through the birth. However, after 8 hours of laboring at home, I arrived at the hospital and asked for mild pain relief. I was provided with an IV-drip that helped to take the edge off of the contractions but still allowed me the freedom to move. After two hours later I realized that my early plans to walk through the labor pains were not realistic. If I wanted to get through the next hours (I was only at 5cm at this point), I needed stronger pain relief. I was then given an epidural, and this full-strength relief took away all labor pains but still let me feel enough to push out my child with no problems. I left the delivery room feeling pleased with my whole experience. My pregnancy in the Netherlands was a complete contrast. Knowing the national opinion on epidurals (“bad and unnecessary”), I vocalized my desire for one at every single appointment during my pregnancy. Every time I was told that it was noted but they could not guarantee that such relief would be available. In the end, I was able to get one for my delivery, but I felt rushed into the decision due to the imminent departure of the staff anesthesiologist. 

I am confident that had I not been both resolute in my desire for pain relief for my second pregnancy I would not have received the care and treatment I wanted. I don’t think a woman should be vilified because she doesn’t want to feel every single pain associated with labor and delivery. If anything, the relief that the epidural gave me allowed me to be more relaxed and focused on the arrival of my child and not on the side effects. I would like to see more doctors in the Netherlands support a woman’s right to choose pain relief during delivery, instead of vilifying the epidural.

My experiences are very different from Lynn’s. The first time, I gave birth in Germany, had a very hard, long, exhausting labor (38 hours and almost 3 hours of pushing), and took ages to recover. Obviously, I wasn’t very thrilled with how the birth went, but I had a healthy, beautiful baby girl. I didn’t have pain relief, since the pain was manageable, but the exhaustion wasn’t and I can’t help but think that maybe an epidural would allow me to sleep a while during labor, and maybe I would feel better after the birth. 

I became pregnant very fast after that, and looked into other opportunities for having a better birth experience. I decided that I would have a homebirth, and felt that this choice was respected in the Netherlands. I liked the idea of having my own midwife. The second time, my labor was 6 hours. I was transferred to the hospital for a minor complication, and a midwife I didn’t know took over. In the end, it didn’t bother me. I was monitored in labor, but could move around. I didn’t have pain relief, but I didn’t feel it was necessary. We went back home the next day. Even though I didn’t have the homebirth I wanted, I was very happy with the midwifery model of care. 

I believe in respect in childbirth, and that women should have the right to choose. But just as in many countries women feel that they can only go the medicalized route, and possibly end up with a C-section they don’t want, in the Netherlands many women (especially expat women) feel that they are denied their right for pain relief. Just like the doctors in other countries, in the Netherlands it’s the midwives who are in a position of power: often, they try to push their opinion on women because they can’t provide certain services, such as pain relief. There is no shame in needing help in labor-whether it is pain relief, a C-section, or a doula and natural remedies. 

I think that “human rights” and “dignity” should have to do with respecting all kinds of choices without compromising safety. It should have to do with giving and receiving the help that is needed. And even though I support homebirths and midwives, I would argue for more choices in the Dutch healthcare system- and I don’t mean more midwives, I mean more doctors, and an easier access to them.

What are your thoughts on this subject? 
Read More

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Multilingualism and the parent-child relationship

I already wrote a post on power struggles in multilingual families. In this post, I described how children sometimes use a particular language to show their preference for one of the parents. I also wrote that I think that with the OPOL (One Person, One Language) method of raising multilingual children, a better parent- child relationship can lead to a child’s better opinion of the language. I am not sure whether this has been scientifically proven, but this is what I think.

I’ve also been reading a lot on parenting in general, especially on the parenting method known as Attachment Parenting (AP). I think a lot how to have a good relationship with my children, and while I would never describe myself as an attachment parent (many AP websites and books are the most sanctimonious things I have ever read!), I try to implement at least some of the approaches used there.

But why do I worry so much whether I am going to have a good relationship with my children? Because to tell the truth, I am not a naturally good mother. If I would follow my instincts, I would sit on the couch the whole day, with a cup of tea in one hand and a good book in the other, and let my children do whatever they please. However, I work hard to make this work. I make time for my children, even if I don’t feel like doing the same jigsaw puzzle for the zillionth time.

When my children were born, I didn’t immediately fall in love with them. I loved them, of course, but it wasn’t this instant feeling many moms brag about. Instead, I learned to respond to their needs and to understand them, and to show my love in a way they’d understand. This was especially the case with Klara, because with Julia I didn’t struggle so much. It was very frustrating at the beginning, because I speak 5 languages, but I didn’t speak baby. My own child was the only person I knew that I couldn’t understand. But I’ve learned, and I think that right now, I am doing quite a good job.

Currently, the fact that I am the only person who can fully understand my children (because I know all the languages they speak, and I know the way they pronounce certain words), works in my favour. I am my children’s translator, I am their advocate, I am their representative. But soon they will learn more, and they will be able to speak to anybody. This is why I have to work as hard as possible, to make things work between us.

To have a good relationship with my children is an important thing for many mothers. But for mothers of multilingual children, we (and sometimes our families) are the sole carrier of our language and culture. This means that we have to take more care of our relationships with our children, because how they will perceive our culture is connected to how they perceive us. At least, this is what I think.

What do you think? Do you worry about having a good relationship with your children, multilingual or not? Can you share some advice? Are there any studies on the correlation between parent-child relationship and the children’s view of the language? If you know any, please, share that, too!
Read More

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Back from a stressful vacation

We just came back home from what ended up being one of the most stressful holidays ever- at least for me. It started with the fact that I wasn’t at home, not really. I wrote how I feel at home everywhere, but this is not entirely true. We spent two weeks in Germany, at my parents-in-law’s place. And while I know my way around in Germany, and lived there for several years, you already see how I described this place: not my home. My parents-in-law’s.  And even though my husband and my children were there, too, when I heard: “Make yourself at home”, I didn’t feel at home. Instead, I felt pressure to feel well in a place where I can’t feel well.

My husband’s parents live in a beautiful little village in North Germany. It is surrounded by forests, trees, and it’s cute and cosy. However, to me, it feels imprisoning. Getting anywhere on my own is nearly impossible unless I want to take walks in the forest. And I am bored after a week of taking walks in the forest. I don’t drive, and am totally dependent on my parents-in-laws two cars. All this brings with it a huge amount of tension, and after only two days I was ready to go home.

On top of that, we took Klara to see an otolaryngologist. My husband was experiencing problems with his sinuses, and wanted to have them checked by a specialist. We took Klara with us, since we were worried about her heavy breathing during the day and snoring during the night. As it turns out, they both need surgery. Klara’s adenoid was too big, and the surgery was scheduled a week after the diagnosis. I was confused and angry, because just after I wrote my text on Dutch healthcare where I described my rather positive experiences with this system, it became obvious that Dutch doctors totally failed to diagnose this condition and react to it.

Klara’s surgery went well. She came back home on the same day, and was very miserable for a while. Hearing her cry out in pain is not something I want to experience again. But she was back to her usual happy self in a matter of hours, and it only took one dosage of pain relief (Paracetamol didn’t help, so for the first time, we gave her Ibuprofen) for her to calm down. The next day, nobody would have noticed that she had surgery. Such a relief!

My husband’s condition, however, is more complicated .He also needs surgery, but a longer one, as his condition is not very usual: first he has to get his nasal septum (it’s a wall in the nose) fixed (as it’s crooked and makes breathing difficult), and then there is something blocking his frontal sinus, which leads to headaches and infections. This has to be surgically removed, and it will be under general anaesthesia, and it will be a complicated operation, and my husband will have to stay in the hospital for 2-3 days.

We’re considering his surgery in October, and I am not very thrilled about going back where I can’t get the support I need. Because let’s face it, my parents-in-law, while they’re nice people, can’t support me, and I don’t expect it from them. However, the important thing is that my husband is in a place HE feels supported, and his childhood home might provide just that. I will survive.

It doesn’t help that October is usually the time we like to go on vacation. So, instead of taking a nice vacation away from chores and work, we’re going to have lots of stress, again. Not very excited.

OK, end of rant. “Real” blogging will resume soon!

Read More

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The mother-daughter multilingual conspiracy

This is another text I translated from Polish. I thought that maybe some of you are in a similar situation, and can relate to this post. If so, let me know! I will totally understand your struggles with family while raising multilingual children, and I want to tell you that you are not alone!

I have to admit that my parents-in-law are very understanding. But even they get their doubts about the way we are raising trilingual children. I think this is more due to a lack of knowledge about multilingualism than to a negative stand on the topic. After all, they know French very well and they have experienced first-hand how much they benefited from speaking a second language. I also think that another reason is that they don't speak Polish. My parents-in-law don't have problems with me being Polish, but they are worried about not understanding or speaking Polish.

One day, an argument on multilingualism ensued. My father-in-law expressed his doubts  whether it is such a good situation when a father doesn't understand his children's language. Of course, he imagined how he, as a father, would feel in such a situation. Not very well, I suppose. 

I am not the only person whose parents-in-law, or other extended family, have their doubts whether the children should be raised multilingually. Eowyn Crisfield, a French-speaking Canadian who lives in the Netherlands mentioned that her American parents-in-law said about her family: „They’re doing this French-Dutch-thing”. They were surprised why on Earth do the children have to speak French and Dutch when they already know English.

Colin Baker, currently my favorite author on multilingualism, addresses this very problem. His advice is to explain that the child will have more benefits from being bilingual, and that the father will most likely manage the fact that he can't understand everything his child says pretty well.

Furthermore, I see from my own experience that in the early years, when the language is simple and used to describe very specific things, fathers can learn a language well enough to understand their children. My husband understands more and more Polish because children's language is simple, and accompanied by gestures and repetitions. To put it in a nutshell, my husband is learning Polish together with Klara. His passive Polish is impressive, he understands everything.

Then, children learn very quickly to differentiate between who speaks what. More and more, Klara addresses her father in German, she starts translating what we say, and it blows my mind! 

I think all daughters have secrets from their fathers. Daughters also keep secrets from their moms. This is normal and totally independent of the fact whether mom and dad speak the same language or not. And I think I like that. If I am lucky, Polish may become our secret language, which would give Klara a motivation to use it. Because, regardless of what my parents-in-law are saying, it is not German that is endangered, it's Polish. And I will have to put a lot of work into making Klara and Julia actively speak it .

Coming back to the father-daughter relationship, Klara has a wonderful relationship with her father. I love watching them when they play or read books together. Also, Klara takes so much after her father, it's amazing!

So, no, it is not a problem when the father doesn't understand his children's language. It is important for the child to understand the language of his or her father. There will be secrets, and there have always been secrets, and usually it doesn't influence the parent-child relationship.

Let your family worry. It's what they are for. And sometimes, living away from extended family may be beneficial-you can do your job without anybody commenting, offering their piece of advice or telling you what they think. Which I wish for anybody in the same situation. 
Read More

Monday, 6 August 2012

What NOT to say to parents of multicultural children.

Babble has this series where bloggers write about things you shouldn’t say to them about their children. Since this series is always about the blogger’s personal situation, you can for example read about things not to say to parents of boys (and as a mother of two girls I get to hear some silly comments as well, so I can totally relate to that), what not to say to parents whose child is in therapy (in her case it was speech therapy, but my girl is in physical therapy, and it’s no better), or what not to say to single moms, moms of twins, etc.

 I like reading this series because it shows pretty well how judgmental people can be even though they usually mean well when they offer their comments and their advice.

But the real reason I like this series is the fact that I have the chance to write my own “What not to say to…” kind of article. Since I am raising multilingual children, I have heard my share of silly comments as well. So how could I not write a blog post about the things you should never say to me about my children? I mean, parents have to take so much judgment from strangers and even family, and if their children are a little bit different, people tend to say even more silly stuff.

So here it is: the things you should NEVER (and I mean NEVER) say to parents of multilingual children:

1)    1) When I compare your child to other children…” You should NEVER compare any child to other children. Not when they’re monolingual. Not when they need professional help. Not when they are “normal”, whatever that means. You can only compare the same child to her- or himself in the past, to monitor progress. This is true with any child, but rings even more true with multilingual children whose speech develops at a different pace, and in a different way. Comparing them to monolingual children is not fair to anybody: not to the child, and not to his or her parents. Multilingual children should be compared to other multilingual children if they should be compared at all!
2)  2) “I know somebody who is bilingual, and they never learned to speak any language properly”. The idea that children can’t learn two languages properly when they learn these languages at the same time has long been debunked. But even if such a situation can happen, we don’t know why it happened. Most problems are usually not due to multilingualism itself, but rather there are other problems. Also, the person who said this probably judged their friend by monolingual standards, and this is not fair to anybody. If she or he needs professional help, they should get it by a specialist who is well-versed in multilingual matters, and the last thing they need is judgment.
3)   3) “Not all children are clever/bright enough to be multilingual”. I was so annoyed by this kind of comment that I wrote a whole blog post about it. And maybe you feel the same way, because it ended up being my most popular post ever. Yes, most children are bright or clever enough to be raised multilingually. Also: what do you mean by “smart” anyway? There are so many issues with this approach that I don’t even want to get started on this. Also, I already have. Enough said.
4)    4)  “Do your children speak Dutch”? Also, often offered as advice: “It is important that your children speak Dutch”. First of all, why do you expect everybody to learn Dutch? If I chose so, I could raise my children in a way that they would never come in contact with Dutch. However, I decided to send them to Dutch day care, and when I mention it, it is usually met with a sigh of relief or a nod of approval. But why do you even care how I decide to raise my children? Do you think that because I am a foreigner, you have the right to put your nose into matters that do not concern you? Why are you afraid that my children won’t speak any Dutch? It is my choice to make, not yours. And it is not my responsibility to teach them Dutch, but rather to make sure that they speak it, should I decide it is necessary. While I recognise the importance of speaking the majority language, my focus is on Polish with German as a close second. Dutch is important, minority languages are even more important.
5)  5)I’m sorry, you can’t understand her because she’s multilingual”, or: “You don’t understand her because she said that in Polish”-said in my presence. I don’t get it when people act like this. After all, they should be amazed that my children are growing up to be multilinguals, and possibly ones with strong language skills. Instead, they are feeling sorry for the children, and explain all problems and all challenges with multilingualism. The children can’t pronounce words properly? They’re multilingual! They have a speech delay? They’re multilingual! To me, this doesn’t make sense. Also, do not use excuses to explain my child’s behaviour with multilingualism. Some issues can be indirectly connected to multilingualism (for example when the child doesn’t have enough exposure to one language), but other than that, the problem lies elsewhere.
6)     6) The only way to raise multilingual children is OPOL/ml@h,/whatever it is your commenter does”. While there are some things worth mentioning when talking about multilingualism (for example consistency), no multilingual family is the same. The methods and approaches they use, and the ideas they have for their children vary, and that’s OK! There is no “best” method. There is “the method that works”, or “the method that suits my family”. Just like with everything else in parenting.
7)   7) “Why do you even bother?”- I haven’t heard that one myself, but maybe other families have. Raising multilingual children is extremely difficult, as enjoyable and beneficial it might be. Also, it requires resources such as money, time, attention and planning. Therefore, to some people it might seem that all this work is for nothing, especially if they compare these children to children who only speak one language (see no.1!).After all, it seems that multilingual children have speech delays, and other issues connected with communication. But on the flip side: the children will grow up to speak many languages. Doesn’t it explain it all?

These comments sting when uttered by strangers, even if we know that their intentions are good. But said by family or friends, these hurt.  They hurt a lot. They might mean it well, but what they say still comes across as silly, or downright ignorant.

But what can we do? Explain, explain and explain some more. Be patient, and show them results. Know in our hearts that we are doing the right things by raising our children multilingually. Or just ignore stupid comments.

I suppose you have had your share of silly comments as well. What did people say to you? Would you like to add anything to this list?

Read More

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Many People, Many Languages?

You know from Ute’s story that when talking about the OPOL method, she prefers to explain it as “One Person, One Language”, instead of “One Parent, One Language”. She is right in the regard that equating one person with one language is used to describe strictly bilingual families, where the mother speaks one language and the father speaks another. However, there are problems with this approach.

The first one is that not all children are raised by their parents. In some cases, grandparents, or other carers take care of the children. But I don’t really mean that. I think the methods used to describe bilingualism might not always work for multilingual families. Take for example our family. I usually say that we have adopted the OPOL method: I speak Polish, my husband speaks German. But our girls also go to a daycare where they hear Dutch from the nannies. So children are raised by more than just their parents.

Also, what we do is in fact a combination of OPOL and the ml@h (Minority Language at Home) method: after all, we don’t speak Dutch at home! The children only hear Dutch at daycare, so their vocabulary will probably be related to daycare, and later school. Dutch will probably become the language of learning and socializing.

Another thing is that while I only speak Polish with my children, I am bilingual. Not only does it have an effect on how I communicate with my children, but I could also decide to raise my children “only” bilingually- with German. Actually, this is what I probably would have done if I was raising my children in Poland. Also, I speak more than just one language on a regular basis.

The same goes for my husband, who mainly uses English at work. While he doesn’t speak it at home, it does affect the way he speaks German- living in a foreign country always changes the way you use your language!
And let us not forget our friends and their children, who speak a multitude of languages! While most of them speak English, other languages, such as French, or Russian or Italian are present as well. The children thus come in contact with many languages and cultures.

So as you see, with children like ours it’s not really “One Parent, One Language”. “Many People, Many Languages” is more like it. Children are raised by more than just their parents, and some of the people they come in contact with speak many languages.

So maybe we need new methods and new approaches and new names to describe multilingual families? After all, the majority of research was conducted on bilingual children, where the situation is somewhat less complicated.
Read More

Friday, 3 August 2012

Does it pay to be polite… in the Netherlands?

I’ve lived in several countries, and have always wondered why politeness is viewed so differently in each country. For me, Canada was on one end of the politeness spectrum. People would ask me: “How are you?”, and even though I knew that it is just a manner of speaking, and that I was supposed to say: “I am fine”, I was still surprised.

In Poland, if you asked the same question, you might hear an answer along the lines of: “my dog died, my house burned down, and I’ve been sick for 5 months”. However, even there, the answer is more and more expected to be: “I am fine”. I am fine, I am fine, I am fine. Even if you’re not. But I do understand that it is just a way to exchange greetings, and that it is just as good as any other way. It’s like a game of ping-pong. You ask, I answer. My father half-jokingly said that when your next neighbour is thousands of miles away, you are very polite to every human being because you just don’t see so many of them.

The Netherlands seem to be placed at the other end of the politeness spectrum. Before I came here, I knew that the Dutch people are extremely direct, but even then I was completely unprepared when a waiter in Amsterdam asked us: “What do you want?”. Not: “What would you like to order?”. Not:”What can I get you?, no. He said: “What do you want”!

At that time, I thought that the Dutch might call themselves “direct’, but that they are in fact, rude. But with time, I came to realize, that the Dutch people are not rude. They just show their concern in different ways. People always help me when they see me with my stroller, wanting to get on the tram. And while I sometimes have to ask for help, they usually volunteer. Also, I had always expected the Dutch people to be cold and distanced, but instead I found that they love children, and smile at me each time when I take my girls for a walk. This of course, does not explain a certain woman’s behaviour, but it is my overall impression of the Dutch people.

Another thing is the structure of the Dutch language, and the way it works. The Dutch use short sentences and they cut straight to the chase, without the preliminary “it would be great, if you could do this…” However, it seems to me that they don’t use language that much to show their politeness. Instead, Dutch people act politely, when asked for help. They help with the stroller. They give directions when asked. They nod politely when you want to buy something from them. Also, there are expressions of politeness that I haven’t noticed in other languages: “Ja, hoor. Nee, hoor”. “Ja, dat kan”.

This is not something that I easily understand. Politeness is important to me, and I want to convey it as well as I can when I talk Dutch. But then, I lack the proper expressions, and the way of speaking. I think I also have to adapt to the Dutch way of being polite a little bit- after all, politeness is so much more than just saying lots of nice words!
Read More

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

BuurtKadoos *GIVEWAY* ends August 14th!

Imagine my surprise when I woke up one day only to find a black box waiting for me at my doorstep. A black box. How suspicious!  This is how it looked like.

So I inspected it very closely, but at some point my curiosity got the better of me, and I opened it. And at this point my surprise turned into excitement when I found out what was in that box. The black box was full of coupons and gift certificates! In short, I got a BuurtKadoos!

I realized that this was a great opportunity. We had just moved in, and I didn’t know the neighbourhood very well. So I set out to give some of the new places a try.  First, I went with the free massage. Although I found out that I’d have to pay for the first massage in order to get a free one, I booked a regular session (which was lovely), which was then followed by a hot stone massage, which (was even better), a few days later. I’ve always wanted to experience a professional massage, and this gift card allowed me to do just that. I came back home relaxed and rejuvenated, and will most likely go back to that place.

Then, the haircut. My hair was in desperate need of being tended to, because somehow I hadn’t managed to get a haircut earlier. But is there a better motivation than 50% off for a haircut? I don’t think so. The lady cutting my hair was extremely nice, and from her I even learned a very interesting Dutch expression (lekker druk). While I would never go to that hairdresser without the gift card (too far and much too expensive), I still got a very good haircut for half the prize.

Then, we had my parents-in-law over for a few days. What better time to try out a new restaurant in the neighbourhood than when you can get 50% off for tapas? The restaurant turned out to be a very good one, and we came back there several times for their delicious food.

I still have gift cards for other services I want to try out: a free yoga class, gift cards for cosmetics, maybe the two free bottles of wine? So little time, so much to do!

I think that BuurtKadoos had a great idea: to welcome people in their new homes, allowing them to try the services in their neighbourhood and get to know new places. This is particularly helpful if you’re an expat and you have just moved in, and even better if you're an expat mother who likes to get pampered once in a while.

I was very happy to have received such a gift and I want for you to be able to do the same: to explore new places for free, or with a discount. This is why I asked BuurtKadoos to sponsor this giveaway. Thankfully, they accepted and now you can win a BuurtKadoos yourself!

The only thing you have to do is to answer the question: What kind of places or services would you like to receive a gift certificate for?

This give-away will run for two weeks, till August 14th. The winner will be picked by random using Random.org. You can start commenting now!


1. You must be 18 or over to enter.
2. You must live in the Netherlands.
3. You must read these rules.
4. One commenter will be selected as winner. Please answer the question: 
5. Comments will be open until 11:59 PM on August 14th,2012.
6. The Winner will be chosen randomly using Random.org.
7. The Winner will be announced on August14th, 2012.
8. Prize is the following package: 1 BuurtKadoos with gift certificates and coupons.

The giveaway prize was sponsored by: 
You can find them here. Also, follow them on Facebook, and Twitter!  

Read More

BuurtKadoos *GIVEAWAY* ends August 14th-RULES AND REGULATIONS!

This are the rules and regulations of the giveaway. Please see the giveaway post here! Please submit all your comments on the giveaway post!

1. HOW TO ENTER: The giveaway begins from the moment the post is published on the site through 12:00 p.m. CET on the end of the contest date. Any entries received after the contest has closed will not be included.

In order to enter, participants are required to do the following:

Leave a comment on the Giveaway post.

Entries are limited to up to five entries per person and ten total entries per household. Additional entries will be deemed in violation of terms and contestant will be disqualified.
Comments left on Facebook, Twitter, via email or other sources will be considered ineligible and will not be included. The EuropeanMama is not responsible for transferring comments left on these mediums onto the post for submission into the giveaway.

2. ELIGIBILITY: Open to anybody who is 18 years of age or older at time of entry.You have to live in the Netherlands in order to be eligible. Family members and/or those living in the same household of the European Mama or Sponsor are not eligible to participate.

3. WINNERS SELECTION: The Winner will be selected within 72 hours after the close of the event from among all eligible entries received during the Giveaway. The Winner will be determined at random by the EuropeanMama using Random.org. The Winner will be announced on the giveaway post and contacted by the EuropeanMama via email. The Winner will have 48 hours to claim his or her prize or a new winner will be selected. A list of winners can be requested at any time by contacting olencja.ba@gmail.com

4. PRIZES: Odds of winning prize is dependent upon the total number of eligible entries received. Prizes are limited to one (1) per household.

5. GENERAL: Subject to all federal, state and local laws/regulations. Neither the EuropeanMama, Sponsor, nor their affiliates will have any liability whatsoever for any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by any prize or resulting from acceptance, possession, use and/or misuse of any prize or participation in these promotions. The EuropeanMama and Sponsor are not responsible for any typographical or other errors in the printing of the offer or in administration of the promotion.

6. INTERNET: Neither the EuropeanMama nor Sponsor is responsible for electronic transmission errors resulting in omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operations or transmission or alterations of entry materials, or for technical, network, telephone equipment, electronic, computer, hardware or software malfunctions or limitations of any kind, or inaccurate transmissions of or failure to receive entry information by the EuropeanMama or Sponsor on account of technical problems or traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website or any combination thereof. If for any reason the promotions are not capable of running as planned for any reason the EuropeanMama or Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Giveaway and select the winners by random drawing from among all eligible entries received from all methods combined up to the point of the action taken by the EuropeanMama or Sponsor.

7. SPONSOR: The EuropeanMama is the host of the giveaway and is in no way to be considered the Sponsor, unless the giveaway specifically discloses that the EuropeanMama is the Sponsor. The Sponsor is deemed to be the party providing the product for the giveaway. The Sponsor is responsible for shipment and delivery of giveaway product.

8. DISCLOSURE: The EuropeanMama may or may not have received the same prize and/or compensation in order to facilitate a review for giveaway purposes. The comments made within the post are in no way reviewed, edited or influenced by any parties, including the Sponsor. All opinions are 100% that of the EuropeanMama.
Read More

Return to top of page
Powered By Blogger | Design by Genesis Awesome | Blogger Template by Lord HTML