Living in Netherlands: Family networks
2021-02-02 | By Lynette Croxford
Every person who has landed in a foreign country, with high expectations of their new life, knows how difficult it can be to find your feet and adjust.
Parents and communities
When the novelty and excitement wear off, you could be left with a feeling of anti-climax and in some cases, a good dose of confusion. Those first few months of figuring everything out, from the public transport to the internet providers and schools in the neighbourhood, takes its toll on even the most organised expat. Thank goodness here in the Netherlands there are networks of volunteers, groups and communities helping new arrivals, answering questions, making recommendations, reviewing and advising to facilitate much softer landings. Not just the general expat networks such as IamExpat, Expatica, ACCESS, Internations, but more specifically, parental networks.
Friends for life
When I first arrived in the Netherlands, with a two-year-old child and a husband starting working right away, I was the sole organiser and caretaker of our home. I quickly realised I would need to reach out to someone for help or advice and discovered DelftMama, a group for parents needing company, advice, information on all things Delft, and so much more. They have a thriving community of parents and volunteers who have teamed up with local organisations and Gemeente (municipality) Delft, facilitating a better experience for all newcomers to the city.
I also joined, with my daughter, a local playgroup for pre-school kids and met friends I still have today, 10 years later. Meeting people from across the globe in exactly the same situation was an eye-opening experience, and the most significant impact it had was a change in my mental health.
Those first few months were daunting and lonely, with little escape, much to get done, and a young child to look after. Meeting fellow internationals going through the same transition was not only helpful but made me realise that I was not alone and that my experience was nothing unusual. I could talk to people about everything and anything, and there was often someone who had already gone through the same thing.
Finding fellow countrymen
There are a number of other groups across the country, started by resourceful people who understand that support and a safe place to ask questions is essential to settling down, and even more so when you have children in the mix. Hearing the perspective of other parents–especially if they are from your home country and therefore know what you would be expecting– about schools, sports clubs, activities and medical facilities–is priceless.
International parents can find that doctor visits and medications might be different from those in other countries. In the beginning this can be rather difficult to navigate, especially if you have children who need vaccinations or repeat prescriptions, so recommendations from other parents are invaluable. While any advice is opinion-based, it still hugely comforting and helpful to know that others have gone through similar experiences.
ACCESS can help
Meeting new people in a new city may not be an easy task. Fortunately, there are ways to build a social life and make friends, and ACCESS is there to help you meet and connect with others. Find out more at here
Finding a school
Many schools (international and Dutch) provide open days and introductory sessions where families can get to know the campus and staff, and meet other parents. Check out school websites (some can be found in a feature in this issue).
The Netherlands has a network of groups and communities for internationals, some of them are:
Delft – delftmama.nl
Amsterdam – amsterdam-mamas.nl
Rotterdam – facebook.com/groups/rdambabies
Leiden – facebook.com/groups/leidenexpats
The Hague – facebook.com/groups/2406969948
Across the country
Amsterdam Mamas was founded by a group of expat mothers in need of information and friendships, and has grown from a Facebook page to a non-profit organisation supporting and encouraging a wide community of families in the area. With a reach of almost 20,000 people on Facebook alone and over 100 nationalities visiting their varied online groups and website, this group touches many lives–mothers, fathers and children alike.
Rotterdam Mamas are a vibrant and lively community of English-speaking parents maintaining a Facebook page with a similar aim, to provide information, resources and support for international families settling in the area. Although smaller than their Delft and Amsterdam counterparts, Rotterdam Mamas are no less active or helpful, with daily information pertaining to local events, activities, services and recommendations.
Across the country a multitude of other expat community groups have information relating to children and families. The Leiden Expat Facebook group has over 11,000 members supporting each other in a vibrant community with group gatherings, school forums, activities and events. Expats in The Hague, a well-known Facebook page for The Hague and surrounding suburbs, often has questions about the international schools. The community provides a huge amount of insight from all perspectives, making the decision on which school to attend a lot easier for its members. Finding a school close to your new home, where your children can develop and be a part of the local community, make friends and move forward is an immense relief.
All in all, the Netherlands has its ducks in a row when it comes to internationals and their stay in this country, with support, assistance and welcoming communities that make an incredible difference to so many facing the daunting reality of moving from their comfort zones into new jobs, homes and schools.
All it takes to become part of your nearest community is to reach out and join an online group or to attend an event in your region. Soon, you’ll fit right in and forge new friendships with the many people coming to the Netherlands every year.
About the author
Lynette Croxford is a British freelance copywriter and translator living in Delft with her husband and daughters.