Our February break "staycation" in The Hague!

We're still getting used to the break schedule at our new school, but February is apparently the new March. ;)  We don't typically go away for March break as we prefer to travel when there are fewer crowds to deal with, so we've always enjoyed a "staycation" during March break in Canada. And since we have plans to go away in April and May of this year, we used the time to do some fun things in The Hague.

1. Madurodam is pretty iconic and a must-see!  It's essentially a mini-Holland and highlights the main attractions throughout the Netherlands. They also have a few interactive historical exhibits that we all learned from! And Maren and Beckett LOVED the playground.

2. Operation Exit Excape Room. Friedel gave the kids gift certificates to an escape room for Christmas and this was the perfect time to use them.  They had been itching to try one for ages and this one did not disappoint. Very well done, and it's in English! :)

3. Pancake House Fridel had told …

Tips for making an international move with cats

This post is long overdue as the cats have been here for 3 months now, but I thought I'd share this while it's still relatively fresh in my mind.

The steps required before your move depend entirely on where you're going and where you're coming from. As we were moving from Canada to Europe, it was relatively straightforward but still required at least 30 days notice to get the required vaccinations and paperwork complete.  In our case, the cats needed:
-A new airline approved carrier
-An updated rabies vaccine at least 30 days before travel, but less than 1 year old. -Microchip insertion (if not already done) -A physical examination with completed paperwork from our vet including vaccination and microchip certificates. -Endorsement of the paperwork by a CFIA vet (see below for how that got tricky). -Most of Europe requires pets to be received by a customs agent so we worked with Animals To Fly who were also great and easy to work with.
In hindsight this was more straigh…

Life Without a Car

One of the most significant lifestyle changes we've had since moving to the Netherlands has been living without a car.  We actually hadn't planned to go this long without a car, but we haven't really missed not having one either. Ironically, we're likely getting a car in the near future but I doubt it will overshadow our bikes anytime soon.

The Dutch are well known for their love of bikes and all things cycling. Having visited Friedel in 2018, I'd gotten a taste of how prominent the bike culture is here. Now that we've been using bikes as our primary mode of transport though, I have a much greater appreciation for them.
We move a LOT more. I've google mapped our routes and we easily cover 20-25 km over the course of a week just doing the day to day stuff. And that doesn't count the bike trips we take most weekends, which would add another 10 km. But this city is built for bikes. Most roads have bike lanes, it's not usually difficult to find a place t…

The life of an expat is always being ready to make a (figurative) crash landing.

Two months ago we were at the airport getting ready to start our expat adventure.

I knew there would be a lot of change and I knew it wouldn't always be easy.  But the transition was harder than I expected. Before we'd left Canada, I was most concerned with getting the kids settled and worried SO much about how they would cope with all the changes. Once we arrived, I quickly realized that the kids would be fine; they're resilient and really only had to focus on their new school. Brent had also been in Rotterdam for a month before we arrived which made his "landing" a little smoother.  I on the other hand had to juggle the rest of life that goes on; groceries, getting registered with the municipality (a multi-step process), signing up for health care, new cell phone etc. Even though most people in The Hague speak some English, anything written is likely still in Dutch, so I rely on Google Translate a lot!
To be honest we've felt quite "settled" since…

Settling In - Our first month in The Netherlands.

We're finally in our new house, and it is wonderful to have a space to call our own. I hesitate to say that our temporary apartment was "uncomfortable", but I underestimated how unsettling it would be to feel unsettled. It was much harder to "live" in a temporary space (ie, cook, go to school an work) than I'd anticipated. Will keep that in mind when we move to the far east.

I've been keeping a mental list of things I love about Europe and Holland, and things I miss dearly about Canada.

Things I love about Europe and Holland

1. The food. Ha- no surprise there. ;) But it's not just the food itself. It's the culture around food (neighborhood shops vs big box stores), the cost of food (SO much cheaper) and the quality of the food. Now that I'm equipped with my familiar kitchen tools I'm excited to get back to more cooking!

2. Transportation. We've been without a car for a month, and other than Brent's commute to Rotterdam, we haven'…

Lost in Translation

I use and rely on Google translate a LOT and it makes life easier in many ways. But, the translations aren't perfect and they sometimes make me laugh, like this one did today. I logged in to track a package and saw this:

Apparently the Dutch word for 'delivered' and 'worried' are too similar for Google.
Bezorgd = worried Bezorgen = delivered.

Culture shock is not what I thought it would be

I'd read that the Netherlands, and The Hague especially, was a great place for novice expats to move to because of how many people speak English. Perhaps this set my expectations too high because it's been a more difficult transition that I'd expected.

I was prepared for a bit of homesickness and longing for familiar people and places.I wasn't prepared to feel exhausted from trying to understand my surroundings.

I knew we wouldn't find all of our usual foods, but I didn't know that every trip to the grocery store would involve google translate.
I wasn't prepared to have to use google maps every time we left our apartment.
As a tourist, these kinds of things are fun. It's all part of the adventure, and you know that it will come to an end in a few days. But, when your kids ask to go swimming and you spend an hour trying to understand where the local pools are, when they're open and how to get there, it doesn't feel fun.
It feels frustrating, and …