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Friday, 18 October 2013

I am not a tourist!

When I passed my exams to secondary schools, my mom and I went to a trip to Italy. It was a great trip during which we visited different cities and saw many sights. We went there during the summer and it was very crowded. In Rome, we run into a group of German tourists, and heard one of them say: “Oh, these tourists!”.

I was shocked! After all, he was a tourist himself! Many years, 3 children and multiple international moves later, I found myself thinking something similar while sitting in a beach club in Scheveningen. It was a beautiful sunny cold day. Funnily enough, these tourists were German as well.

And I think that at that very moment it struck me that I am not a tourist. I am an expat, I may not necessarily belong, but a tourist, I am not. I feel very proud of myself when I order in Dutch rather than in English or German. And I feel even prouder of myself when the waiter responds in Dutch as well. My husband speaks Dutch. My children speak Dutch. We are not tourists. We live here.

The other moment that helped me realize how not at all a tourist I am, is the fact that after 4 years of living in the Netherlands, I finally managed to make some Dutch friends. We met through my children’s daycare and when my eldest daughter started school, we decided to stay in touch. Before that, all my friends were expats. Now, I have some Dutch friends as well, and love it.

But I was never a tourist in the Netherlands. My reason for being here was never to come, admire the sights, take a few pictures and come back. My reason for being here was and still is my family. I was the foreigner, the outsider, the odd one, but never a tourist.

I had a baby, no sorry, three babies in a foreign country. I bought a house. I have learned a new language and I made friends. I have found a job here. My child is going to school. Every day, I go out, run errands, cook dinner, work a little or just go for a walk. I have attended dancing classes, swimming classes, language classes and social media classes. My girl attends ballet classes. I went to physical therapy with my little girl. I took all three of them to the Consultatiebureau to get them vaccinated, measured, weighted and evaluated. I took them to the doctor when they were sick. I revelled in hearing my children speak all three languages and feeling at home here.

I may have been surprised by many things here, healthcare being one of them. I had the police called on me, and many times I found myself wondering whether the Dutch really are rude or are these just cultural differences. But I am not a tourist. I am an expat, which means that I am not from here, but I am here. And I am here to stay.

The fact that I am a TCK, a Third Culture Kid, makes my life easier in this regard. Once I had my network of like-minded, wonderful and inspiring people, I finally felt at home, and it didn’t matter at all that I didn’t speak the langue really well. It didn’t matter that my accent, and the fact that I spoke yet another language with my children gave me away as a foreigner anywhere I went.
It didn’t matter that I missed my family and friends that I left behind in my hometown Warsaw, and my other hometown Hamburg. It didn’t matter that I still had to learn all these new things because I was at home.

No, I am not a tourist. Definitely and absolutely not a tourist. After 4 years of living in the Netherlands, I have learned, experienced and grown so much. Through my blog, I am able to share my stories, give advice and hope to help and support other expats. After 4 years, my knowledge of this country has grown, as did my love for it.

I love living in the Netherlands. The beauty of it. The closeness of the sea. The way people smile at me, especially when I am out with my children. The history, the tolerance. I love the fact that the Netherlands are so small that it doesn’t take much to go somewhere else- and the Netherlands have so much to offer. I love my new house with its big backyard and our fruit trees.

There are many things I love about the Netherlands. The tourists? Not so much.

If you enjoyed this post, you can vote for it in th Expatica blog competition.

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  1. I loved reading this. Thanks a lot for sharing it and all your other wonderful stories.

    1. Thank you, Stephen, glad you liked this. It is a submission for a expat blog competition, keep your fingers crossed!

  2. Really enjoyed reading this too. I think that learning languages makes a real difference with the whole not being a tourist thing (or not being seen as a tourist). Actually, it makes a difference when you're a tourist too. It sounds like you've done a lot of different things to settle in to life in the Netherlands and show that you're certainly not a tourist.

    I'm guessing that being able to pronounce Scheveningen properly might be something that can help to demonstrate if someone's a tourist or not. On a tour of that area about 20 years ago, I think I remember some story about the name being used as a test to work out if people captured during some battle or war were actually from the Netherlands or not.


    1. Hi Jonathan, you are totally right, the ability to pronunce "Scheveningen" was used to determine whether you were a spy or not. Yes, the language helps but what helps even more is when the locals don't see you as a tourist. Yes exaclty- this is what the post is about: the fact that I am doing the same things in the Netherlands I would be doing in Poland (not all of them), but a tourist wouldn't be doing these things.

  3. Well put! It's an interesting transition state - between being a non-tourist and feeling at home in your new place.
    Good luck with the competition!

  4. Hi Dominika, thank you for your comment. Yes, definitely, there are many stages of being an expat... and the moment you realize that even though you don't always belong, you're actually at home is amazing! As for the competition, you can vote here! Thank you! http://www.expatica.com/iamnotatourist/blog_vote.php

  5. Very well put. It's funny when you have that realization. The transition can already happen with out you realizing. That's how it happened for me too.


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