Unfortunately, there was no guidebook waiting for me when I left the UK and moved to the Netherlands in 2008.
In the space of 24 hours I began my sentence in the Westfries boondocks as a reluctant housewife, completely unable to speak a single word of Dutch.
Sure, I had a couple of good books about living in Holland, including quite a good language CD with helpful accompanying booklet.
But what I really needed was a kindly Dutch translator to hold my hand for a couple of months, fill in forms and make all the necessary telephone calls required to establish utilities for a family of six.
Instead, as my hubby cycled off to work the day after we arrived, all I got was a houseful of children and two senior (unpaid) promotions: to VP of Family Logistics and - my favourite -Commander-in-Chief of all Domestic Administration.
When, after the first bewildering week, we had to complete our health insurance paperwork (all in Dutch), my husband’s colleague breezily told me to let her know if I had any problems translating the forms… And all I could do was imagine myself serenely, but firmly, throttling her with my cold, bare hands…
Ready, Steady, Go Dutch, is the handbook that EVERY expat, trailing spouse, and immigrant to the Netherlands should be issued with when they find out they’re moving there.
Just because this tiny land of cunning linguists is merely a swim across the English Channel, doesn’t mean it’s not a confusing and intimidating foreign outpost when it comes to bureaucracy, administration and its cultural foibles.
Any idea what a Burger Service Nummer is? Nope. Me neither – not until I tried to open a bank account. That’s when I discovered that being a fellow EU member counted for pretty much nothing when moving to the Netherlands.
And who or what is the Gemeente? Another tongue-twister and dull building you’ll soon become very well acquainted with; whether you like it or not.
What any expat really needs is the benefit of someone else’s experience to prepare them for what lies ahead, and that’s exactly what Ready, Steady, Go Dutch will do.
This is a compilation of practical anecdotes from people of various nationalities, who have all blazed the trail before you, and it’s refreshingly honest.
Split into 10 succinct chapters covering everything you’ll need to be aware of when you arrive, from frustrating administrative stuff, to what it’s like to live there on a personal level, including helpful sections offering support and resources.
Not knowing what to expect is half the stress of moving abroad and Ready, Steady, Go Dutch will certainly help prepare you for life in this often baffling, but very loveable little country.