Expat parent survival guide: Attitude & Expectations
Surviving and thriving as an expat parent is possible (and even easy) if you know the right steps to take. In this series I will share what I have learned about expat parenting (from pregnancy to baby to toddler).
If you arrive and expect everything to be perfect for your "super-fun family adventure" then you may be in for a rude awakening. Expat parenting is hard work! Realistic expectations and a positive attitude are the key requirements for thriving as an expat parent in the Netherlands.
Set your expectations appropriately
One of the first things new parents learn is that even the most basic tasks take a bit longer and are a bit harder. Now add in language and cultural differences and an unfamiliar environment and you start to get an understanding of the life of an expat parent.
Here are some challenges that you should expect to encounter and tips for overcoming them:
› Making friends
Meeting new people is harder when you have a baby or toddler in tow. Even if you somehow miraculously make it out to a happy hour or party, you are lucky if you can fit in a conversation or two between chasing your child around and keeping them entertained.
The reality is that other parents (both expats and Dutch) are going to be much better friends for you and your family than most of the expats you find at a happy hour. Do some research online and find a playgroup in your area.
› Finding a doctor / dentist etc.
When you have kids, you really want a doctor, dentist, pharmacist, etc. that is going to take the time to listen to your concerns, give you information and support AND make your kids feel comfortable at the same time.
Many expats discover that their expectations regarding medicine, medical interventions and dental care are different from the norm in the Netherlands. So you need to either decide to "go Dutch" and learn to work within the health care system in the Netherlands or you need to find an expat-friendly service provider.
If you can't find one on your own, ask all of the other expats you know for recommendations. Still can't find one? Try the expat center / desk at your local gemeente. Many will have lists of expat-friendly businesses in the area.
Diapers, food and clothing costs can vary widely from one country to another - even if you stick with the same brands. If you want to keep your costs manageable, you will need to take advantage of bargains and sign-up for available government subsidies.
› Being on your own
Expat parents quickly learn how to do everything on their own. Regardless of whether you are sick, tired, depressed, busy, overworked, required to travel or stuck at home while your partner is away, you will likely have to manage through the situation on your own.
A good network of friends is pretty much the only way to survive such trying times.
› Travel & Adventures
Travelling with a small child requires lots of luggage and preparation.
You may not see the "Girl with the Pearl Earring," but you will equally treasure the huge grin on your child's face when he or she sees the elephants for the first time. Expat parenting is hard work but it is not without its rewards. Prepare yourself for the extra challenges associated with being far from home and get a positive attitude ready to help overcome obstacles.
What other tips would you share with expat parents? What challenges have you faced?
Lynn Morrison helps parents in the Netherlands. For more information please comment below or visit her website Nomad Parents.