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 Ingrid MA Akkermans
Ingrid lives in Belgium with her multicultural family, who exist out of 5 different nationalities, 2 different religions and 4 different skin colors.
She is a counselor and psychologist and her specialization is the guiding and supporting of research questions/issues from multicultural families.
She writes short stories, based on private and work experience that she gained in her home country and abroad. She gives lectures about multicultural parenting and the book that she wrote, which is called 'De Weense wals die vrolijk oogde maar zware kost was'. (which translates into: 'The Viennese waltz that looked happy but was stodge'). She also transports cars to African countries, she started up this business on her own, 25 years ago.
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 Belgium because of family reunification. My ex husband was working and living there. After my divorce I chose to settle down in Antwerpen, because it is a multicultural city and that is more interesting for my work. I left the Netherlands a long time ago and live in Antwerpen since 2012.
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.
Every day is different, the city that I live in and my job simply don't work that way. The diversity of people make that I learn and experience something new every day.
My three kids leave for work, university and elementary school on their own, every morning. I clean the house, because I can't start the day without a clean and pleasant home. After that I make sure that I am ready to start working. I will have meetings with clients at different places. Some of them take place at my home, some contact me by email. I do some networking for my business in Africa, concerning purchases of cars or different consumables.
I spend my precious spare time by making city strolls and writing my second novel. In the evening I prepare dinner for the kids, help my youngest with her homework if necessary. If she doesn't have any homework I sit down and stay seated until bedtime.
3. What do you miss when you think about the Netherlands? Why do you miss that?
I sometimes miss the openness of the people. Not the bluntness that some Dutch people tend to have (being assertive, while not knowing what that really means), but the 'gezellige' (there simply is no word to translate this Dutch word correctly, but I think 'cozy' comes closest) way of greeting someone in a store or outside. Belgians are very formal, too formal sometimes. They do not show you their real feelings in your face, but they will talk about them behind your back.
I am happy with the Albert Heijn (Dutch grocery store)and the typical Dutch grocer. I buy my 'drop' (typical Dutch candy, like licorice) and spices etc. there, because they don't sell them at Belgian stores.
4. Are there things you don't miss at all when you think about the Netherlands? Why?
I am a Dutch woman in heart and soul. No matter where I live and work in the world, I will always miss the Netherlands.
5. If you look at the school system in your country, how does it compare to the Dutch school system? What are (dis)advantages?
The Belgian school system is rigorous, but very right. I think the Dutch school system is too indulgent. You can talk to the teacher like you would talk to a friend, the students sometimes have a uninhibited freedom when it comes to rules. For example, when the school bell rings the students will jump up, they leave everything as it is and run out of the classroom. In Belgium they use way more discipline when the bell rings.
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 visum that you have, by the different circumstances)? How do you feel about these changes?
Everywhere that I have lived / worked at was because I wanted that myself. I am very good at adapting to my surroundings, probably also because of all the knowledge I have when it comes to different cultures. I think I feel quicker at home because of my knowledge too. I have never had any homesickness.
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?
Islamization, racism and refugee problems; I do think these are topics that are relevant in a lot of European and not-European countries. I notice that people show more aversion against ethnic minorities. I have three kids from immigrants, they have a tinted skin, a 'weird' name, frizzy or curly hair and seem to become tangible targets easier for people who are angry at ethnic minorities. I empowered my kids against negative statements that some people think they have to make because of their skin color or ancestry. They are very capable to stand their ground when it comes to those sensitive situations.
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 kept speaking Dutch with my kids, I haven't adopted Flemish. Belgians are very fond of their privacy and they will shut their curtains every evening. My curtains stay opened, just like I used to do in the Netherlands.
9. What is your advice for other moms who are thinking about moving to another country? What do they have to think about?
Don't get carried away in the first phase of emotions. A move is always exciting, especially when you are moving to another country. Everyone wants to hear about it and you want to talk about it all the time too. Take a few moments to overthink your past. Do you like to stay in one place for the rest of your life? What are your thought about different cultures? Are you stuck in the power of habits? Are you just following your spouse, because he or she wants to? Because of their job? Are you in love and ready to give up your life and country because of that? Would your spouse do the same for you?
Really think these questions through, before you take a decision, because a lot of moms that live in another country would rather be back in the Netherlands if they would be really honest. It is hard because of some circumstances to change your decision.
10. Is there anything you want to share? A funny situation that you have experienced, a life lesson, a favorite quote?
One time a not Belgian man told me in faulty English 'Dutchman, go back to your own country'. I laughed at him and told him that I would go back if he would cross the border to his own country too. Then he realized that he might have been living in Antwerpen for a longer time, but that he was a foreigner, just like me.
Ingrid, thanks for the interesting peek inside your busy, multicultural life!
If you would like to get all my new blogs, please LIKE my Facebookpage: https://www.facebook.com/dutchalien
If you want to get my posts the minute I post them, please make sure you scroll over the 'following' button and then select 'See first'.
Or you can type your email address in the box below and click the 'create subscription' button, I just love how my subscribers list gets longer and longer.
My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.