This series will give you a peek into the life of Dutch Moms around the World. I will ask them all 10 questions, that will give you a better view on what life as a Dutch Mom abroad is like. The moms will share some pictures and give you some advice in case you would like to move to another country too.
Q & A with Tanja Maes
Tanja is a 38 years old mom, who lives in Perth, Western Australia. She is married, mum of two boys of 6 (or six-and-a-half-almost-seven! if you ask him) and 4 years old.
1. In which country do you live and why did you choose that country? Did you choose a specific place or area to move to? Why did you move there? When did you move there from the Netherlands?
I live in Perth, on the west coast of Australia. I met my husband while I was travelling in Australia (oh, cliché) and after two years of travelling back and forth decided to make the big move to be with him.
2. What does an average day, as a Dutch mom in the country that you live in look like? Please describe your own average day.
My boys are early risers, so we get up between 5 and 5.30am. I work 3 to 4 days a week in the Quality Assurance department of a large bakery and on my work days we are out the door by 6.45am. Kids are dropped off at day care, then I work until 3.30pm. I then pick the boys up, we have a play, get dinner ready, bath, homework for the oldest one and the boys are in bed between 7 and 7.30. I usually have about an hour of bookkeeping to do for my husband’s business after all this and get to put my feet up somewhere between 8.30 pm and 9 pm. Bedtime for me is somewhere between 10 and 10.30 pm, ready for another early start . On weekends we love to get out of the city; Western Australia has some of the most amazing beaches and as soon as the weather permits (which is luckily 8 to 9 months of the year), you will find us camping, fishing or just relaxing on the beach.
3. What do you miss when you think about the Netherlands? Why do you miss that?
After 11 years the fierce feeling of missing family and friends has subsided but I do miss the fact that my children will not have a chance to grow up with a close family unit around them. And...I never thought I would say this, but I miss the cold. The freezing cold that makes your nose tingle when you step outside and the warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you step inside from the cold into a house with central heating. I miss the proximity to everything; Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world, the next city (Adelaide) is 2,500 km away. No such thing as shooting over to London, Paris or Berlin for the weekend. I also miss the openness, the fact that everything is open for discussion and there are few taboos.
4. Are there things you don't miss at all when you think about the Netherlands? Why?
The rain! The rain that goes on for days and days and soaks you to the bone - but that goes without saying, I'd think. Another thing I don’t miss is the millions of people living on such a small piece of land. We're terribly spoiled here in Western Australia when it comes to space, and fighting for a spot at the beach on a warm day or spending hours of your day stuck in traffic is something I can do without.
5. If you look at the school system in your country, how does it compare to the Dutch school system? What are (dis)advantages?
At the moment only my oldest is in school so I’m not that up to date with the education system yet, but based on general observations I think the education system in the Netherlands is far more extensive than in Australia. There is more emphasis on learning about the world around you, whether that is through history, geography or the teaching of foreign languages. I think the Dutch education system delivers more well-rounded people than the Australian system, where the emphasis seems to be more on exclusively academic results. I really believe tolerance comes from an understanding of the world beyond your doorstep.
6. How did YOUR life change when you moved? What are the differences compared to your life in the Netherlands? Were these choices you made, or were these differences decided for you (by a company, by the visa that you have, by the different circumstances)? How do you feel about these changes?
My life changed tremendously when I moved. I gave up a good job in the Netherlands, only to have to start from scratch as I had no Australian work experience and people were reluctant to employ me at my skill level. I also moved in with my partner and, as a condition on my visa, had to marry him within 9 months to be able to remain in Australia. I’d only ever lived on my own and done my own thing, so there was a lot to take in, in a short period of time especially without my Dutch support base around the corner. However, 11 years later, there is nothing that I would change and the fact that I am still married to my best friend confirms that my decision was the right one.
7. What is happening in the country that you live in, that worries you? Why does this worry you? Is there anything you do to solve this?
The rise of the right-wing movement. Our refugee problem is negligible - I probably wouldn’t even call it a problem, especially compared with the current situation in Europe - yet the rise of right-wing sentiment has increased terribly. I am constantly amazed at the ignorance displayed by people when it comes to refugee issues and people of different backgrounds and religions, and worry that the world is becoming increasingly selfish. I try to teach my boys that we are all human beings and that, as much as our views and way of life may differ, our basic needs and wants are all the same: love, food on the table and a safe place to live.
8. What habits have you taken with you from the Netherlands? And which ones have you integrated from your new country? Why (those habits)? Which ones do you on purpose NOT use? Have these habits learned you something? If so, what?
I don't think there are too many Dutch habits that I have taken with me (although my husband will disagree). I am however still a firm believer in the Dutch “right" to voice my opinion on anything and everything, which doesn’t always go down well in a country where people are generally more introverted. I'm probably a lot more open about a lot of things such as drug use, euthanasia, same sex marriage and I am a firm believer in personal responsibility, whereas I feel Australia is slowly turning into a country where every step you take must be regulated. Oh, and I have a birthday calendar in my toilet, which seems to be a quintessentially Dutch thing.
9. What is your advice for other moms who are thinking about moving to another country? What do they have to think about?
I wasn’t a mum when I moved abroad, so in a lot of ways I think it was relatively easy as there were no little people depending on me while I found my feet. If there is one piece of advice that I could give, it would be to work really hard at making friends. Living far away from your home-base and all that is familiar for you can be very isolating and scary, but so far there is nothing that a cuppa (Australian for cup of coffee/tea) with a friend hasn’t helped.
10. Is there anything you want to share? A funny situation that you have experienced, a life lesson, a favorite quote?
My favorite quote: “She’ll be apples” – the Australian way of saying that things will be OK. It still makes me smile when I hear it.
Thank you very much Tanja, I would still love to visit Australia. That always was my travel dream...
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