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

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

Christmas Letter 2017

Christmas Letter 2017

Dear Loved Ones Near and Far,

I confess that one of the main reasons I write this Christmas letter is not so much to let you know what we are doing as to find out what you are doing. Sometimes I fantasize about what it would be like to grow up and live my whole life in the same little village. And then I watch a moody European crime drama awash in small town secrets and decide I don’t so much mind my itinerant city life. But I do miss being able to see all the people who mean something to me and be a part of your in-person lives.… Read more

A Day Out in Giethoorn

A Day Out in Giethoorn

My in-laws are here visiting, and we wanted to take them somewhere picturesque and typically Dutch. When I heard about Giethoorn, the pretty little village with canals instead of streets, I knew it would be perfect. Especially since we were also planning to go up north to visit Groningen, so it was right on the way. We're trying to do some more exploring and get to know this tiny country we call home.

Giethoorn is another corner of the Netherlands that somehow recalls the Shire to mind.

We rented a boat, as one does. They happened to be out of the basic metal boats, so we were forced to get an amply sized one with cushioning.… Read more

Graduating from Dutch Primary School

Graduating from Dutch Primary School

Dutch education is neatly divided into primary school (ages 4-12) and secondary school (ages 12-18). So there’s no in-between. The kids basically go to high school at age 12.

Now, I’m not usually one of those moms lamenting that they can’t just stay little.


But I admit that this whole school thing sort of threw me for a loop, hitting as it did (not uncoincidentally) squarely simultaneously with puberty. Yesterday she was a little girl. And today she’s a grown up young woman going off to high school in a couple of months.


It’s been just over two years since we moved to the Netherlands.… Read more

A Day Out in Gouda

A Day Out in Gouda

Several months ago my kids’ school started offering free Dutch lessons to parents. I jumped at the chance, not only to help reinforce to my kids that learning the language is important, but because I actually do want to learn Dutch. Juf Ricky, who teaches the lessons, also teaches the kids Dutch as a second language. She’s not only a great teacher, but also a really nice person. Today she took us on a tour of her hometown, Gouda.


Yes. Gouda, as in the cheese. What a delightful little town! We all met up at the Amstel train station and took the train there together.… Read more

A Little Update on Italian Citizenship

A Little Update on Italian Citizenship

Well, the road to true love never did run smooth. Which is the ongoing refrain of this decade-long quest for Italian citizenship. As I mentioned several weeks ago, I did submit all my documents using the Italian Ministry of the Interior’s online application process. Not having heard from them in a while, and being concerned about the six month document expiration rule I mentioned before, I emailed the extremely helpful Adrianus at the consulate, and politely asked how things were going. 

He presented me with the unfortunate news that as well as a criminal report from the FBI, I needed to submit one from my US state of residence.… Read more