On Settling Down Somewhere

On Settling Down Somewhere

For a long time, I really dreaded settling down. I loved the heady rush of landing somewhere new, and the sudden sensory assault from all directions–new smells, new sights, new sounds, new tastes; even the feel of the wind different on my skin. I have moving down to an art, even if it still stresses me out every time. I’ve rented quite a few houses sight-unseen from the other side of the world. I can look on Google maps street view and figure out all sorts of things, from where the nearest fruit/vegetable stand is to what kind of green space is available for kids to play nearby, as well as necessities like public transport and commute to work and school.… Read more

So You’ve Never Been to a (Naked) Dutch Spa?

So You’ve Never Been to a (Naked) Dutch Spa?

That’s understandable. After all, if you come from a culture where public nudity is not the norm, it can take some screwing of your courage to the sticking place to relinquish your clothing. To say nothing of relaxing to any meaningful degree while wearing only your birthday suit in a room full of similarly (un)attired strangers. But I mean this seriously and un-ironically: if you have never been to a Dutch spa, you are missing out.

There are, of course, the undeniable bragging rights that come out of such an encounter. You become one of the initiated. And forever after whenever you go back to that place where nudity is not the norm, you have a party story everyone wants to hear.… Read more

Dutch Education Controversies

Dutch Education Controversies

I have in general an excellent opinion of the Dutch education system. In fact, I would cite the education my children are receiving here as one of my top reasons for living in the Netherlands. The variety and quality of the almost exclusively publicly-funded schools is astounding, and the autonomy, respect, and responsibility kids enjoy here render it unsurprising to me that Dutch teenagers consistently score among the happiest in the world.

That said, I’m also fascinated by the various controversies that surround the way secondary education in the Netherlands is organised. During the past four years that we have lived here, and whilst shepherding two children through their transition from primary to secondary school, I have had ample–perhaps excessive–opportunity to discover and discuss these controversies with both Dutch people and foreign parents with children in the Dutch education system.… Read more

Colmar and Castle

Colmar and Castle

We have come a ways from our holiday in Malta two years ago, during which Tony had to negotiate hard with me for a day or two out of a two-week vacation that did not include hard-core sightseeing. These days I am more or less content to have some relaxing days during a holiday, especially if there is somewhere beautiful nearby for me to explore with Lyra while everyone else plays multiplayer games and watches YouTube blooper videos. But I couldn’t visit Alsace even for the lofty purpose of skiing without spending a day immersed in the history and culture of the region.… Read more

Ski Holiday in Alsace

Ski Holiday in Alsace

The kids have been begging for a ski trip for years; pretty much ever since we moved to Amsterdam and they learned from friends of the existence of ski trips. California girl that I am, skiing has never been much on my radar. I had a brief stint as a snowboarder in college because my roommate was obsessed, but as a highly anxious person, I generally have enough adrenaline in my life without purposely creating more by sliding at breakneck speed down a snowy mountainside.

However, I’ve noticed that parenthood is all about jumping heedlessly into things you’re totally unqualified and madly unprepared for.… Read more

A Long-Held Dream

A Long-Held Dream

Eighteen years ago I graduated from university. I had been thinking about grad school for years already by then, but looking back I realise I never considered it a real option for me. My parents had been fully supportive of me getting a bachelor’s degree, but as devout, traditional Mormons, their script for their oldest daughter after university continued in a fixed path towards mission, marriage and motherhood. Not all Mormons uniformly believe this way (and some are much more extreme, as Tara Westover recounts in her riveting memoir, Educated), but my parents did, and for them it was core to their faith.… Read more

Choosing a High School in Amsterdam, Postscript

Choosing a High School in Amsterdam, Postscript

Yes, it’s that time of year again, or that time of life, I should probably say. Because I have two children, I get to enjoy the whole school shopping saga for a second time. There are two years between Axa and Raj, which is enough time that we have to visit all the schools again, but not enough time that I have forgotten all the stress and anxiety of the adventure. Ah, well.

Although it has been an intense month with many evenings gobbled up by school visits, I don’t feel like it has been quite as difficult as last time around.… Read more

Are You an Expat or an Immigrant . . . Revisited

Are You an Expat or an Immigrant . . . Revisited

Nine years ago I wrote a blog post where I posed this question, mostly to myself: Are you an expat or an immigrant? That post was the summation of a couple of years of self-reflection navel-gazing; i.e. expat blogging. Being an expat–or a “serial expat”, as I started calling myself when we seemed unable to stay in the same country for more than a few months–began as a grand adventure. I think one way to describe those years is to say that I spent a lot of time back then seeing myself through other people’s eyes. It is almost impossible not to do that when you suddenly uproot yourself and move halfway around the world.… Read more

Familia Christmas Letter 2018

Familia Christmas Letter 2018

Dear Loved Ones Far and Near,

This year was a milestone for the Family family: we have now lived in Amsterdam longer than anywhere else since we got married. We celebrated three years together with our adopted city in March. To inaugurate our happy state of being true Amsterdammers, we finally had a bike stolen! The advice generally given to newcomers here is to buy a cheap, old bike and a lock that costs more than the bike. Everyone uses two locks. In fact, after my bike was stolen, a helpful friend even told me about the “three lock rule”. I’m hoping my new bike sticks around for longer before becoming part of the thriving stolen bicycle black market in Amsterdam.… Read more

The Road Taken

The Road Taken

It happens every so often that people contact me for advice on this or that aspect of moving their family abroad. I always try to help if I can, since I have asked for and received help and advice on this topic from so many generous people around the world the least I can do is pay it forward. So when a year or so ago I was asked to share some of our story in a how-to book on moving abroad with a family, I was delighted to oblige. My copy arrived just this week, and it was a lot of fun to page through it and remember some of the crazy and fun stuff we’ve done.… Read more