Letters from Holland

One of the reasons I decided to write a blog about our experience moving to Dubai was that I had lost a lot of ‘letters home’ about our first international move to Holland.

I found a few today as I was tidying up my folders on the netbook.

Here is one from 2001.

Hi Win,

A busy couple of weeks have we had.  On the 1st August (ed: 1991) we moved from our previous abode to our current rental accommodation. 

This was not without incident due to an incompetent and infuriating makelaar (real estate agent).  Makelaars have much the same reputation in Holland as they do in Australia but this guy was particularly deserving. 

 Despite the fact that I had specified our lease caveats verbally and twice in writing, he had neglected to inform our landlord that we required a) a double bed in the guest room, and b) repainting of the children’s rooms to a neutral colour. 

The House in Dahliastraat, Badhoevedorp.

The House in Dahliastraat, Badhoevedorp.

 It was Richard who actually attended the key handover and final inspection and relayed back to me over the phone that the bed was missing and the bedroom walls remained shades of bright pink and yellow with gold stars. 

I was very pissed off to say the least and threatened to pull the pin on the whole deal if the bed wasn’t installed by tomorrow when my mum and her husband arrived from Oz for a week. 

(ed: What kind of fantasy world was I living in not following up to make sure this stuff was done?  And who the hell has visitors one day after they move into a new house?  God we were green!)

So a bed was purchased by our bamboozled owner from Ikea that night and installed by morning when we moved in.  He has also promised to paint the rooms at a date convenient for us.  Poor guy – he has been really great. 

He even offered to register the phone in his name as we would have to pay a 750NLG deposit (700AUD) to have it installed because we are foreigners.  Like most things here, the telephone will take around 2 weeks to connect.

 The house had been on the market for either sale or rental, as the owner occupiers were moving into larger premises in the same area (comforting – given we have some difficulty making sure we are moving into a desirable neighborhood.) 

Desirable neighborhoods here have generally been described to us being “empty of scarves”… a not very benevolent reference to the large population of Moroccans and Turks here.  Initially it felt very strange to us to hear such blatant racism in a country that appears so tolerant to the outside world.

(ed: Okay – I’m not even going to comment on this except to reiterate my previous statement… Green!)

 Expatriates were blasted in a newspaper last week by a local journalist with the headline written in Dutch that translated to “If you can read this, you can stay”. 

Globalisation has begun to erode the Dutch language and customs, with the emigration of skilled workers from English speaking nations, in particular American’s, whose culture is in many ways diametrically opposed to the European way of life. This understandably disturbs the patriotic Dutch population. 

(ed: hah! Globalisation my butt.  More like they were afraid of the non-integration of the Arabs.)

However, not all share such a hard line view as this journo. Still, it is an interesting lesson to be considered a ‘foreign pest’ when you have been a member of the powerful middle-class majority all your life in Australia, and when traveling, one of the world’s more popular tourists. 

The experience as an English speaking expat was exemplified by an encounter my mother and I had with a couple of very nice local women who were walking their dogs in the park near our new home.  Mum struck up a conversation with them about their dogs and they were very friendly and chatty, in perfect English naturally.  They asked mum if we were from Australia and then how long we were staying.  When Mum explained she was here for a week there was much nodding and smiling and concern about “such a long trip”.  When she explained that I was living here they smiled politely and said nothing more before they excused themselves. And that’s pretty much about it as far as social interaction. For better or worse, that’s the way it is.

 (ed: And that was nothing to do with being an English speaker.  That’s perfectly polite and normal behavoir for the Dutch (and many other cultures0.  Australians tend to invite you around for a barbeque as soon as they meet you. Not everyone does this.)

On to matters we have some control over… my mum arrived from Oz via London last week and stayed with us for 7 days.  I was able to take off two days from work to help her, and husband Ron Menz, see the sights. 

The reason I mention the last name is to explain one of my more embarrassing incidents on the telephone to their London hotel.  “Can you put me through to the Menz room please”, I asked politely. The receptionist was strangely silent.  Once I realized my mistake I sheepishly asked to speak to Mr. and Mrs. Menz. 

I’m sure that was the lobby joke for the evening. 

I was truly mortified. 

Anyhow, they were great guests and I think they had a great time.  We did the usual stuff and took them down the red-light district – their eyes might still be stuck to any number of objects down that street.  Mum tried to convince us to go for a smoke and a sex show which Richard though hugely amusing – because I had previously explained to him that it would be cold day in hell when I attended a sex show in the company of my mother.   

Our cats (katjes) arrived from Melbourne on the Saturday the same day that mum and Rob departed for their 8 week European tour.  We had to go to the airport to collect them and clear them through customs which was all very exciting and extremely stressful.  I did the sooky thing and cried when I saw them! 

They were fine and only Mozzle seemed slightly the worse for wear after their 24 hour flight.  He fell asleep constantly throughout the day and his back legs were a little stiff for the first day.  Overall, I’d venture that cats travel better than humans on long-haul flights!


 The season has changed with fierce rain and hail driving at the windows, giving us a very mild taste of what the winter will be like (god help us).  I am off to Paris next weekend to spend a couple more days with my mum, while Richard minds the cats. 

Think it might be time to invest in some winter woollies while I’m there.  Also feeling a previously unknown urge for a Hermes scarf.  Must be the weather (or an attack of logo-mania).

 I’ll send some pictures of our new neighbourhood and Paris soon.


Sophie and Richard


4 responses to “Letters from Holland

  1. I remember that beautiful Saluki in the woods – he was gorgeous. There was a little farm there too with kids animals etc. Nice walk. I loved Amsterdam too AND collecting the cats when they arrived! Gosh being in that house seems a long time ago! Love Ma

  2. It WAS a long time ago wasn’t it?

    Pussycats have been around the world and back and then some since that trip.

    They like it here though. The heat doesn’t seem to bother them at all. They will happily sit outside on the balcony in the 40 degree shade for hours.


  3. Wow – Mozzle is one old cat if you had him back then!

    • Whoops! When I wrote this letter was from 1991 I meant 2001!

      That would have made the poor guy 22 years old. Might have even been a cat age record!

      He’s 12.. going on 5 at the moment 🙂

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