Rosalind van Aalen Grant may have been born in Britain, but she has lived in Spain, France, and has been living in Rijen, near Breda, for almost four years. Breda is… a hidden multicultural international city that does have a lot of expats.
Why did you move to the Southeast Netherlands?
To escape the crisis in Spain.
How did you get involved with Breda Expats?
I was looking to find a group here in Breda for expats and it didn’t exist so along with some other expats we set one up. We now have 195 members, a vibrant website and Facebook page, with sister sites, Breda little Monkeys and Breda bumps and babies.
What was the most difficult part about moving to The Netherlands?
For me it was the weather and the afspraak culture. Coming from Spain, grey days and structured routines and lifestyle was something I was not used too.
What is your best piece of advice for other expats who have just recently moved here?
Get out and about, join groups and clubs, not only expat ones but find something you enjoy a local choir, sports club etc. Even going to the market can make you new friends.
What is the best advice that someone gave to you about living here?
Try to fit in but don’t lose who you really are.
What was your first impression of Breda?
I loved it, there is so much culture. It is such a vibrant city and really great place to live.
Did you experience culture shock?
Yes I think so, it was hard to adjust to the work ethic and culture too. I think I am just getting over it now though every day there are still things that I learn and have to adapt to.
How have you adjusted to living in The Netherlands?
Going with the flow, my motto wherever I have lived has always been if you can’t beat them, join them. I think that is important, you are living in their country so we should adapt to their ways.
Do you speak any Dutch?
Yes, I am quite proficient now, although my grammatical structure is still English based! I never took lessons, as a language teacher I pick up languages by living in a country, though speaking to the Belastingdienst over the past 4 years has certainly helped.
Do you ride a bike?
Yes, amazingly!! As I didn’t learn to ride a bike til I was about 9 or 10 years old. I am not a very coordinated person. I can now cycle with 1 child, later this year I have to experience riding with 2 when our latest addition to the family is old enough. But if I can ride a bike with 1 daughter, pillows, a bag of shopping and an umbrella I am sure one more won’t matter!
What do you miss most from home?
I miss tea! The Dutch teabags are just not strong enough. I miss English sausages and pickle. From Spain I miss the sun and the beach and decent inexpensive jamon Serrano.
What do you like the most about the Dutch culture?
I like how accepting they really are, if you make an effort they really do open up. Also they love to party.
What is your favorite Dutch tradition?
Well, actually it’s not my favourite but one I find so bizarre. I love my birthday and I love to celebrate it. So I get quite upset when everyone not only congratulates me but my husband, my daughters, the cat, the dog, my father in law and while we are at it, why not the neighbor too. I mean it’s my birthday!!
How do you celebrate Queen’s Day?
Being married to a Dutchman, it is an important event for us. We always dress up in orange, eat orange tompuces for breakfast, visit the local flea market in our village, jump on our decorated bikes in a parade round the village and enjoy the live music in the tent.
Do you celebrate Carnaval? If so, how?
Oh Yes! Another obligatory event in our calendar, we are normally out every day. Here in Rijen, but in Tilburg too. We never go to Breda, as my husband is originally from Tilburg and he says it would be sinful to go there!!
If you had to leave the Southeast Netherlands tomorrow, what would you miss most?
Stroopwafels, family, friends… I think we have finally landed here and I would actually miss it all, maybe this is now home?
More about Rosalind: I write for several blogs and websites. Tales from Windmill Fields is about Expat life and The Netherlands. 2littlemonkeysinbreda relates the tales of bringing up children in Breda and The Netherlands, I review child related products and companies in The Netherlands and it is the base for my support groups International Breda Little monkeys and Breda bumps and babies. I have also just set up Windmill Tales consultancy, a helpdesk for expat mothers helping them with any questions, queries and paperwork they may have.