Author Archives: internationalfeelgoodacademy

Rules – collectivism

There’s one thing which annoys me greatly being back in the Netherlands, and that is the overwhelming amount of rules, procedures, policies and people who make sure you keep those rules.

I’m not talking about traffic rules, I do understand about safety.
Rules like, what color my house should be painted or not; if I’m allowed to put sun panels on my roof; can my son (14 year) go to the movies (16+) with his dad.
In the Netherlands there’s a committee which approves (mostly disapprove) the color of your house and if the sun panels on your roof are allowed.
Like they are afraid I’m going to paint my house purple??!! Or put a heavy  sun panel on my roof which it can’t carry??!!
Well, the thing is, in a very individualistic society as the Netherlands, where personal freedom is a big value, people would indeed paint their house purple, not considering the neighbours at all; or think only about their personal benefits of sunpower and not considering if the house can take this new technologies safely; children can go to movies for which they might not be mature enough.

In societies with more collective values, people won’t even think about painting their house purple, ‘what would the neighbours think? How hard is grandpa going to yell?’; or they will consider on forehand if the house would be safe enough for sunpanels as they aren’t insured for things that can go wrong; and when a 14-year-old goes to the movies he needs the permission from an adult, if they think it’s not suitable, they can’t go and don’t try to go because there’s always a cousin, aunt, neighbour or colleague of your sister who will recognise you.
Collective societies just don’t need al those rules and laws because they’ve got their own unspoken social rules. They don’t need civil servants (paid from your tax money) to make up new rules or maintain those rules.

For an outsider it might be hard to understand and know those unspoken rules and sometimes it might even be scary that you don’t know if you’re doing something unintentionally wrong.
My experience is that they will let you know when you do something wrong, not prohibiting, but just common sense and consideration for others.
When a very conservatively dressed Qatari lady started yelling at me, I didn’t understand a word she was saying but I understood perfectly well that she thought my dress with short sleeves was inappropriate for the mall, during Ramadan.
She wouldn’t have yelled at me when I met her in a hotel, because that’s not a public space, or when it wouldn’t have been ramadan or when she didn’t have her teenage daughter with her.

When rules aren’t nailed down there’s much more space for the particular and specific situation at that moment.
If those laws were not so unmerciful, the committee would admit that I don’t want to paint my house purple, but just an ‘off-white’ which would suit perfect in the surroundings of the house and the neighbourhood; That my roof is concrete and perfectly save for sunpanels; And that my son is going to a movie with his father and he knows this boy can handle some violence (it’s me who can’t handle that) and vulgar language (he knows how soap tastes when he uses that kind of languages**).

I realise now that I experience much more personal freedom in a collective society then in the ‘free’ dutch society, as I do consider my environment and the people around me naturally and I acknowledge that people, timing and situation are never the same to fit in one law.IFGAblogperson


** It a Dutch saying “go and wash your mouth with soap” when somebody uses not appropriate language.


Culture shock; disintegration stage

It’s been a while! and I do feel guilty.
My excuses?? I’m tired, which is a common phenomenon after an international move; finding new routines and getting used to the new environment is exciting but also exhausting. 
But that’s not the main reason for not writing my weekly blog.

The moto of the International Feelgood Academy is “enjoying our differences”, well I’m not enjoying all the differences here comparing to my life in Qatar; Regularly I’m flabbergasted about the Dutch, their ways of doing and I feel very irritated.
I can’t think of anything possitive to write about without becoming nagging and complaining. Even if I think I’ve got very good reasons to be irritated and why I think it should be different (at least it would my life a lot more easier).

Because it’s my profession, I know that this is an important aspect of the disintegration stage and it’s necessary to let go of the old habits and routines and become aware and open to new ones.
When I’m in a calm and wise state of mind I can put in perspective and I know I will get there, but the reality of life makes that I’m not always such a calm and wise person. However, this is a stage that will pass and that I’ll get used to it and find routines that will suit me. I’ve done it so many times now.

Emotion wise this stage is not a very comfortable stage, emotions like anger and irritation -and maybe the need to fight them- , do cost so much negative energy.
On the other hand this stage is irreplaceable in personal development; The irritation and the anger you might feel about certain topics and ways how things are being done, do show things you value, things you appreciated -or not-, ways you like -or not-. 
Things you would never discover when you would stay in the same good old comfortzone.

a very simple example is -in my case- camping. I hate the smell of others poo, the dirty toilets and long hairs in the drain (everybody bold!!), it made me realize how much I don’t like to be confronted with things other people leave behind and interfere with my sense of smell and touch (ever had long hair stuck between your toes??). So I realise why I do prefere a clean environment. 
That doesn’t mean we won’t be camping anymore, but we will choose a campground with personal sanitary.

I won’t bother you with my irritations and opinions about life in the Netherlands but I’ll keep you posted about the process and the things I’ll learn from it.img_0116


Culture Shock, part3


This feels so weird, I’m home alone, all by my self.
Just waved the children of to school, husband is of to work, the movers are gone and the house is made a home.
I do feel a bit lost and dizzy.
This is it! we’re moved and ready for a new life routine.

For the children and hubby, the last couple of days were filled with introductions and welcomes; Always an exciting time; Do I like the new children? will I make friends? where are we going for each class? will I understand the lesson? What will my new job bring, how are my new colleagues?
They will be forced to adjust to a new, but existing situation and will find a routine to manage their way into the new life soon enough.
For the ‘trailering’ spouse though, it’s different and harder in some ways. The freedom a spouse might have when the family is all organised can also mean a feeling of being lost; Can I work? how do I find work? How am I going to spend my time in a fulfilling way? How do I meet people, will I make friends?
Specially when you don’t have children or do have older -more independent- children and you’re are not bound to a school routine or when you were used to a forfilling job, responsibilities and colleagues

People need routines; Routines are jobs and tasks which don’t take too much effort and energy and are done comfortably. When you have to think about all your actions and nothing can be done in automatic mode, life is very exhausting . That’s exactly the reason why you can feel very tired during the first year of an -international- move.

For me this move is easy considering the routines. As a multiple repatriate, I return in a known environment. Although I have to get used to the changes that have taken place here and in myself.
Now, I have to start to find something fulfilling for myself too, which I find hard as I’m very much used to think about the needs of my family and not about myself (so I could always blame them for not having a life for myself).
This will be a challenge, as the daily routine stage of a culture shock is not my problem this time but the more, deeper and confronting, stage of finding a fulfilling routine jumps in immediately.
But not today! Dog needs to see the VET, again. Bicycle broke (you can’t do without a bicycle as transportation in the Netherlands) and there are ‘back to school’ meetings to attend.IFGAblogperson

Home sick and getting used

Culture shock part 2, disintegration stage

Today I was late, got lost, stuck in traffic, food burned and the children got grumpy too, instead of a bit understanding and compassionate. 
I learned that there is a bridge which opens every hour and rush hour starts at 5 pm, my oven is a hot air oven which is hotter than I expected.
It was one of those days, nothing – even the simplest of things- worked out as planned and expected.
“I want to go home, I want to go back, where life was not so complicate and I got the feeling life run more smooth; Where I knew how to use the oven, where I knew where and how to avoid traffic, where my children were at ease.
I can’t go back – I know-, but still I’m temporarily homesick.

The first half-year after a (international) move seems to be one concatenation of those days in which nothing seems to work like you’re used to, there’s nothing you can do without thinking and every single little core seems to cost a lot of energy. Specially when you’ve got a family to organise and look after! Don’t be surprised if you’re tired a lot and got less energy, it will take about a year.
Not everyone does understand what you’re going through and why you seem to get upset about small things. People who moved (internationally) and know what a culture shock is will recognise this, they know it’s not the big problems but it’s the amount of daily little struggles.
This struggle makes you want to go ‘home’.

In culture shock terms, we call this the disintegration stage. Lost the ‘old’ ways, lost routines and not found new routines yet.
The days you feel completely lost will become less as you get used to the way things are organised and find new routines.

In time I will get used to the oven, in fact it’s much easier when it cooks faster and more constant; I already know that I should avoid that bridge and found some short cuts.
I know I will get used to my new environment and even will appreciate the way things go here. But I’m not there yet.img_0116


Oops, Within the first week with my new car I received 2 traffic tickets for driving too fast. Yep, it’s a small and fast car, -the first time not a family car-. 
It accelerates easy and is very silent so I don’t hear on the motor how fast I drive, which I could tell with my previous cars.

Traffic rules and all rules in general, are pragmatic agreements in behaviour to keep everybody save and comfortable. When everybody knows and follows the rules, situations become very predictable and you can’t make stupid or strange mistakes.
I’m a bit rebellious and it took me almost 50 years to acknowledge that there’s some good in rules.
I even bought a book about the ‘etiquette’, social rules, how to behave in social situations. And believe it or not, even I think it makes sense when you read about the history and the logic behind some of those stupid ‘rules’.
For example; ‘combatting’ the stairs in man/woman situation, a man should be ahead of the lady going up and behind going down so he can’t peek under the skirt. With the steep stairs in the Netherlands and the short skirts girls are wearing, I understand. In countries where women are covered, you won’t find those rules and the rule will rather be that the man goes behind the woman up the stairs and in front going down to help her in case she stumbles over the long clothing.
Or When kissing is part of the greeting ritual, you start with the right cheek. (that would avoid painful collisions).

In traffic situations I do believe some rules are good and do make sense; don’t drink and drive or speed limits within urbanborders.
 I even think sometimes 50km/h is too fast, when you consider how many un-overseen situations with children, animals and bikes can happen. I really think there should be more control in these situations.
But no, there are automatic speed camera’s, who don’t consider the situation but only the procedure; when I drive during the holiday season at night 116km instead of 100km.
This has nothing to do anymore with the benefit of rules, to keep people save. It’s only about follow rules and procedures and making money.

I will get used to that just like I got used to the unpredictable driving with the multicultural driving styles in Qatar, but I’m afraid I will find it hard to accept that I have to follow procedures in case the rules don’t make sense.

Third Culture Kids, Culture Shock and loss

It’s only a month! Only a month ago that we left Qatar. It feels like it has been at least a half year. So many changes, so much happened and so much done! No wonder I feel hurried and stressed.

As a mum I always try make the transition as smooth as possible for the kids, so their basic needs are look after (safety, food, health, place to stay, be there for them when they need a shoulder, discovering our new environment and most of all INTERNET!) .

I feel guilty enough to drag them out of the life that they felt comfortable with; That they have to deal with the new surroundings, new people, new customs, new habits to get used to and feel comfortable with. We’ve done it before and my children know by now, that it will take some time but that they will overcome this culture shock aswell. They have moved and had to switch between many cultures already. 

The nationality in their passports doesn’t mean that that is where their roots lay and feel comfortable, in fact many of these -so called- Third Culture Kids (TCK) don’t have roots. Their identity is flexibel and they get used and adapt to new and different situations very easy. Which is a big advantage in a world that is changing so fast. They learn that their roots are with in themselves and that their identity is not relied on a culture and background but within their own values. 

There are many benefits in being raised a TCK, but the losses that are related to the culture shock(s) are definetly a very big disadvantage and a unsteady fact in their upbringing. When I’m speaking of losses, everybody can imagine the loss of close friends, relations, a home, environment. There are also a loss in values and customs; Values and customs which have become integrated with a way of living and which we accepted as normal/good and take for granted but we find out -sometimes the hard way- is not accepted in the new environment. Which is very hard because in the end everybody will try to be a member of a society/group and feel they belong and accepted. Which means letting go of old values and customs and adopt new ones. The challenge here is to find ways to integrate those new values and customs in a way that they feel good and  comfortable for you.

In this case for me. I’m a very impatient person and I can’t wait to get that comfortable feeling back again. But as much I would like to, I can’t force this and it has only be a month.

Farewells and goodbyes

Live is very controversial, I think everything-, every situation-, everybody- got a good and a bad site. Even when it’s hard to see sometimes.

Last week was hard, very hard and many tears have flown when I had to say my farewells and goodbyes to all the lovely people I’ve met and got to know in Qatar.  

I’ve been through this already a couple of times and I know there are a lot of people which I will never see again and people I might meet again. Inshallah. The funny thing is though you never know exactly who. People you considered as good friends, you might never hear from and people who where, kind of random, might keep in contact. Some people are good in keeping contact by writing and social media, some people don’t. However the connection will change when there’s no live contact. 

Keeping contact is harder when you don’t share the same live or know the same people and have similar experiences you can compare and share. Actually it is a simple communication thing; In a normal communication, partner 1 tells something and partner 2 listens and can react. In case you don’t share experiences it’s a tell and listen and there’s not much possibilities of a reaction so you can’t say it’s a conversation. Most people are not interested in having a conversation about things they can’t relate to and cannot respond. 

Another thing is that not many people have the curiousity or fantasy to imagine what the other partner is talking about. And even if partners do have situations, people and topics they’re both familiar with, these people, situations and topics have changed in time aswell but the memory didn’t change. 

It’s easier to keep in contact with the people you are used to chat with then the people you had serious conversations with. My children are already much more used to the chatter way of communication. As soon as they wrote they where going to the Netherlands all kind of old friends popped up and got in contact again. 

I’ve cried a lot this week and for sure it was sad but I’m also very happy that I’ve got reasons to shed those tears. That there are so many people in my live worth to shed those tears for. 

Farewells and goodbyes are a very intens part of the transition fase in culture shock. It’s also a very important step in the transition you should take, how painfull that might be. Those goodbyes and farewells make you become aware of all the people and big and little situations you value and care for. Knowing what you value for, makes it easier to find new people and create new situations you feel comfortable with.

This time it was me saying my goodbyes. In the expat life though it happens more often that the people leave whom I valued as a part of my life and I’m the one who’s left behind. That’s much harder as you have to make a familiar situation comfortable again without the person who has left.