Tag Archives: international

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, 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.

A fairytale, a nightmare in continuation of 1001 nights

Once upon a time there were 6 brothers in an old middle eastern region. The parents of the brothers had died a long time ago.
The biggest and oldest brother was the boss in the family, he felt responsible and thought it his duty to keep the brothers under his reign, according to his values of good and bad.
4 Of the other brothers had some value and significance on their own.

The youngest and smallest brother though was rebellious, he was blessed with an intelligence and an open-minded brain. He wanted to develop his own values and wanted to play football with his neighbours just as with his cousins. Like every up growing up teenager he wants to find out himself how the world is working and this little brother is strong-willed, equipped and determent to do it.
But the family doesn’t allow the young brother to develop and doesn’t forgive his adventures, with all the mistakes people make, growing up; People who seemed friends turn out differently, values and circumstances change.

The big brother was given some tools from a far away uncle, who wanted to keep some influence in the extended family, not looking at this family itself.

One day the little brother said that he liked his neighbour; not that he was going to marry the daughter, not that he was going to invite them for diner, not that he wanted to be like them.
But it outraged the big brother and the other 4 brothers, who had different reasons for being angry at the younger brother and joined the older brother.
They denied the younger brother his food and move freedom within the house. They grounded him, but the little brother has got a window and a mobile phone, so he can call delivery services ad he has his own flying carpet to fly out.

He can but will he do that? It might outrages the brothers even more, and they might put bars up. Or close up his mobile account? 
But he knows he’s got some friends who will help him someway.

What’s happening next is depending on how a mature and wise -adult the older brother is. Will he use the tools he got to keep his youngest sibling under his control or will he use his wisdom and guide this younger brother to adolescency and give them all the chance to find out what input this growing up brother can have in his family?
And what will the young brother do? Will he bow -for now-, or feeling pushed away and moving to the neighbours?
He won’t be the first black sheep in a family.

Knowing the region and family life a little bit, one would tend to think that the big brother would pull his fist, if only not to lose face, but on the other hand….. I know how wise and gentle the older men in the family can be and able to solve problems and situations with grace leaving everybody in his value to maintain the good family.

Culture Shock. part 1

I can’t deny it anymore. Within 10 days we move out of Qatar to the Netherlands. 
We’re in transition mode;
The household is being divided in; what’s going to ‘suit case’, ‘freight container’ and ‘what to be sold’; The heart is out of the house, it’s not a home anymore;
Everybody is agitated and sad.
And we have to bid our farewells to people whom we know we’re not going to see anymore.

The transition stage is the first stage of a culture shock.
Culture shock is the anxiety and emotional stress when your physical surrounding and people change; When you come to live and/or work in different circumstances as what was considered normal, felt familiar and comfortable. 
It’s a process of change in your identity; process of letting go old values, expectations, behaviour and thinking patterns and adopting new ones.

Transition/detachment stage; 
The transition and detachment starts in the current country, when the decision to move becomes a reality and you’ve to start planning and thinking ahead; It’s the start of ‘letting go’ and saying farewells. You come to realise what you’ve got and what you have to let go.
For most people it’s a time of strong mixed feelings; Excitement (positive and negative) of the new adventures ahead and the grief of letting go.

For me, this time, this transition, I miss the excitement of a new adventure as we’re going to our home country. I know what to expect and not to expect.
Yet I already know I will have a difficult time to adjust again because it won’t be the same as I’ve got a lot of expectations and I’ve changed too. 
I do not have the curiosity and flexibility in my mindset to accept my new surroundings in the way they are now as they won’t be the way the were when I left.

I’ll miss the people, the friends, the community we belong to.
I’ll miss Qatar’ I love living in a country which grows and see changes for the better; 
I’ll miss the weather, the warmth and the sun. 
I’ll miss my freedom.

culture: shopping a la Arabia


The first year when I arrived in Qatar, I’ve been desperately looking for shops which offers something different then the ‘Highstreet’- and ‘mall’ shops as H&M, Zara, Mango, Topshoe, etc..
Here, you can’t google for something you want, because those little shops do not have websites. If they do have got a website they usualy don’t give information about what they sell or service they provide, because that may changes per customer and situation and availability. “Inshallah”
The way to find your ‘little’ or ‘big’ treasures are by mouth to mouth; connecting with other people and ask. 
As a very independent (and maybe a bit shy) western woman it took a while before I got that.

After 4 years I got it and I started to love it.
Besides the malls there are streets with shops. I say streets with shops and not shopping streets as these are not streets where you go for window shopping and see what kind of shop it is and what they offer. You go to the particular shop which might offer what you need and who’s owner is family or friend of your family or friend.
As these shops run because of the mouth to mouth advertisement and relations, they do not have the need to look welcoming or nice, they even look pretty ricket and dirty. 
The salesman doesn’t need to be particular friendly when he got his target of the day or you dirturb him in his in between midday sleep.
But then when you found them and got there in the right time, there are people inside who are craftsmen, people who know what they’re talking about; Taylors who know the human body; know how certain fabric will fold and what need to be done to fit. The gold and silver smiths who knows about the different gems, gold and silver and how it holds and can make every design you wish for. The carpenters and upholstery guys….. 
You can almost get whatever you want the way you want.

To purchase is an event on it’s own. Try not to be in a hurry, you’ll miss out of the event. As a lady you’ll have to sit before the counter and you get a water offered. You talk about mutural family, friends and the country you come from and if you visited their country. After a while, depending on how busy and the mood, you start talking business.

Then in the end the bargaining. 
Bargaining is NOT only about getting the best price (= cheapest) it’s also about how you value your purchase and what you are willing to grant the salesman. For the salesmen it’s not only about the money (although it’s very important and even more important when doing business with a white) but it’s also very important for the salesman how you value him and his business. That’s the most difficult part for me and I do prefer set prices. On the other hand now I’m used to it. It’s a good way to show someone if you feel not served appropriate (feedback) and when I pay more, I know it’s the most direct form of humanitarian aid.

As a westerner I’m used that when people say it’s ready -then an then- it will be ready. Most of the time it isn’t because there are always others, who are in a hurry and need priortiy. You’ll go wrong one or two times, then you start calling and then after 4 years you play the dramatic part, of how much in a hurry you are too, and sometimes it can be ready on the spot, instead of a week!

The whole experience is more a way of purchasing something you want then the quick buying and spending money to big brands.
 Now I know I have to take my time, I prefer this way of shopping better then go into the big stores where the ‘salespeople’ are the youngest and the cheapest, bored people who have no clue or interest in what they sell how they sell aslong as it’s in the procedures.

Enjoy shopping!IFGAblogperson