This month's expat blog: Write Now Rebekah

Expat of the month
  • Write Now Rebekah
    Write Now Rebekah
Published on 2018-09-13 at 09:00 by Veedushi
Rebekah is an avid traveler and blogger, born in Dublin, Ireland. After growing up with her parents in the UK, she lived in Germany, the Greek Islands, and South Korea. Back to Europe, she met her Spanish husband, and they got married in New Zealand. Today, they live in the Netherlands with their two kids. The author of Write Now Rebekah speaks to about her expat experience and passion for blogging.

Tell us briefly about your expat life and where you're originally from.

I was born in Dublin, Ireland and brought up in the UK. My dad was a contract worker, so we travelled a lot through England, from Shropshire in the North, through London and down to Winchester in the South. The Irish are known as a nation of emigrants, and I guess this story is true too for my parents, and now for my own family. My parents have since found their way back to Dublin and are settled there once more, but my path has led to the land of tulips, clogs, and windmills for now.

When I left school, I went to Dublin University, where I studied Philosophy and English. As soon as I graduated, I studied for a certificate that would qualify me to teach English as a foreign language. I took a job at a beer festival in Munich, then lived on the Greek islands, for longer than expected. I then went to an island off the South coast of Korea and taught English as a foreign language to school kids. I lived in South Korea for a year, and I could have stayed forever. The Korean people I met were warm, funny, kind, and welcoming. The lure of travel wasn't done though, so I waved adios to my friends and travelled through South East Asia to Europe. I finally ran out of money and took a job as an English teacher in Catalonia. I had a neighbour who kept turning up to my flat at dinner time. He was Cornish and had a shine of wanderlust on him too. We got married in New Zealand and lived for a blissed up decade in Cornwall, where I studied pottery and fell in love with the landscape. We now live in Dutch suburbia with our two differently wired small kids.

What brought you to where you are now?

We came to the Netherlands for work and stayed because we are entirely convinced it is the best place in the world to bring up our children. I never thought I would settle in such a quiet, suburban environment, but it is surprisingly perfect for us. Amsterdam is a short drive away, but so is the sea and the Dutch countryside. I feel like we get the best of all worlds!

There is an air of 1950s childhood where we live that I haven't seen anywhere else. The neighbourhood kids ride their bikes to school without any parental interference! It is normal to see unsupervised gangs of school kids roaming the neighbourhood, living their best life.

What made me sit up and take notice is that in general, the kids are pretty relaxed and as teenagers, they seem to be less intimidating than the UK teens. They are confident, relaxed, and approachable, yet they are given total freedom. The Dutch are doing something very right, and I want my kids to gain from this.

The school my son attends is in a whole other league of amazingness. It's funny because it's just a little country school on the edge of the tulip fields. You would drive past it without knowing how extraordinarily brilliant the staff are. The class sizes are tiny, and they are able to meet our son's every need. They are the most patient, kind, and gifted teachers I have ever met. He is so happy and focused; they really bring out the best in him. He is bilingual and thriving, thanks to these fantastic women. He is the best version of himself, and it is down to the country we live in. Thanks, Holland!

My fabulous and strong-willed daughter dances to her own beat, and we have her registered to start at the same school as my son in February. You can start school the day after your 4th birthday here (although legally you aren't obliged to until you are 5).

I have no doubt in my mind that if we were in another country our kids' stories could have been very different. I feel fortunate and privileged to be able to live where we are. It helps on the dark days of expatriation when google translate is giving me back dodgy translations of the local newspapers, and when I'm struggling with homesickness, and I love to chat with other parents at the school gate to normalise the madness that is the average day in parenting.

What made you want to start a blog?

I write because I was oversharing with strangers and needed to create a life space for my tales. They were seeping into everything I did and becoming a nuisance; I figured if I gave them somewhere to live they might let me make a better attempt at daily life without having to let them out to regain everyone.

Tell us what your blog is about and how our readers can make the most of it

I like that my tales make people laugh and feel better about their own experiences. There is a glossy version of parenting, and especially the life lived abroad. I like to think that I help balance out the real versus the curated version. Other parents and travelling souls have commented that it is comforting to read about the funny reality that goes on behind the Instalife stories, to realise that they are not alone, and that this really does happen to everyone. I also know that my stories intensely irritate and vex some readers. My tales can trigger people's disapproval and annoyance, I am slightly sweary, and I invent words. That can all be very vexing if you like your words served sensibly, with no froth. And that is ok. However, if you love reading about someone trying and sometimes failing at life while swearing and trying to hold her freakout together till bedtime, then I am for you -- in fact, share your tales of woe with me! I LOVE hearing other people's stories too.

What are your next projects regarding your expat life?

I think that there are a lot of voices floating out in this alongsider world we inhabit. To parent with no support or family around, to gaze in total incomprehension at the social disgrace you've just made of yourself, but not really know which cultural rule you've broken, it's like being an adult-sized toddler in a complicated world.

We are only beginning to understand how this life lived abroad will affect our kids and us. I found out the other day my kids are ‘third culture kids'. I didn't even know there was a name for it. I worry that these rootless wildlings of mine will feel shortchanged and without a strong connection to a culture, yet I believe we are offering the very best country to have their childhood in. It can be lonely being an expat, especially as the stay-at-home parent and the struggles and stories shared can diminish the fear and stress that comes as part of striving for a better place.

I will continue to write. I don't think I have a choice as the words leak out anyway. I am collaborating with other bloggers and writers and also do paid writing work. I would love to work on a screenplay and am open to seeing where my writing brings me. I will continue to write and bring up my kids and decode the world around us one day at a time.

I am studying Dutch and trying to keep up with my kids, who flip between English and Dutch as if it is no big deal that they are suddenly bilingual. One of my goals is to get my Dutch up to a level where I can chat with my kind neighbours. I want to understand the world around me, without relying heavily on online misinformation translation to serve me up a daily dose of confusion.

I see a camper van in our future and many road trips. Living in Europe, it would be insane not to take advantage of the ease at which we can explore so many different countries around us.

For now, we have settled down here.