I’m slowly getting over my chest infection by taking stupidly strong pills and trying to rest as much as possible after work, around supervising kid homework, cooking etc.
I’m currently in a state where I wouldn’t really say I’m really still ”sick” (except that going out into the cold air brings the back the hacking cough) but at the same time I’m not feeling totally fit either, so I’m seizing every opportunity to catch a nap and try and get some energy back.
Going back though some photos on my hard drive I found these from an “Access” Ex-pat Bridge Day that Himself and I attended a few years back. The Access website tells me about how and why the organisation was formed:
In 1985, working at the American School and through meetings with school administrators, business people, and clergy, Patrick Foley, an American School Counsellor, became aware of a problem. There was a preponderance of family conflicts, marital problems, substance abuse, anxiety, and depression in English-speaking house-holds.
English-speakers were reluctant to work with Dutch psychologists because of cultural and language differences. As a result, there was no organised response to mental health issues specific to the English-speaking community.
With support from the broader English speaking community at the time, plus a subsidy from the US Department of Health a Community Mental Health Needs Assessment was undertaken.
It recommended the establishment of a network of “qualified and competent” English-speaking expatriate psychologists; developing educational and professional criteria for network membership; and creating easier access to the network via a “telephone contact point” with an on-call counsellor.
I don’t personally need any counselling so instead find the best part of Access is the network of information that’s been built up to provide an array of resources that can make settling into Dutch life a smoother process.
Whilst I have the Dutch nationality because my Father is Dutch, I was born and raised in New Zealand so there are still many things in Dutch society that don’t come naturally to me, as they would had I been raised in The Netherlands.
Since my immediate family still live in New Zealand and I have exceptionally little contact with my own Dutch family (mainly due to great age differences) I do fully understand the lack of ”networking” that many ex-pats experience, who can you call on to look after kids in an emergency when you don’t have family members living here etc.
Of course Himself’s family help our family but we seem to have a knack of making international friends, many of whom experience difficulties and frustrations with a Dutch way of life where things are done very differently to what they are used to in their home countries.
There’s a knack to knowing how the local system works, and learning to fit into it: simple things like the first time I sent Christmas cards no one told me that there is a special Christmas stamp (for postage inside the Netherlands) that’s slightly cheaper than the usual postage rate (however there is a weight restriction to the card and the envelope has to remain unsealed).
In my ignorance I therefore simply walked up to the postal counter and asked for a batch of regular stamps to send my cards with and it was weeks later when someone mentioned something in an off-hand remark about the Christmas stamps going from the lick variety to the sticker variety that I realised I had no clue what they were talking about and they explained.
Everyone just assumed I knew, because it was a standard thing for them. Annoyingly they laughed at me because I’d paid necessarily for extra postage so I clearly wasn’t a canny Dutch person.
Living in a foreign country can be very isolating at times and the language barrier is often just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ups and downs of integrating yourself into your new country (and this of course can be said for every ex-pat in every country).
If your plumber turns up the day after you took a day off work especially to wait at home for him for a scheduled appointment the day before, then does a bad job and overcharges you for it then it’s a bad enough if it happens in a society you grew up in, but it’s doubly frustrating if you have a poor command of the language, and are also having problems with finding your way around work, home, family and bureaucracy at the same time.
Life is always full of up’s and down’s and not everything will be destined to go well all of the time. ”Access” at least attempts to be the life ring in the water for those moments when ex-pats feel that they need a little help treading water.
Our invite to this event, even as long term residents was still a learning experience and both Himself and I learned of new things in our community that we had no idea were available. The Mayor of the Hague made a speech, as did various guest speakers and since you never know when this information might come in handy and we were very pleased to have come.