turns two


So that’s actually a massive lie… my “blogiversary” (ugh, is that even a word?) was on 14th November, so I’m late… no surprise there.

I feel like I should acknowledge this milestone, as I’ve just renewed my WordPress subscription for another year after about a month of debating. Funny, this time last year I was also unsure if I would continue. I guess that’s just my personality – I can be extremely indecisive at times. So much so that I even annoy myself!

Also, I’m pretty much the anti-blogger, which is why I was having so much doubt… I hate selfies, I hate self-promotion, I hate all the “look at me, aren’t I brilliant” crap. I can’t stand the thought of every aspect of my life being public and everyone knowing my business. *Almost* everything about blogging makes me cringe.

Especially when people tell me they read my blog! I physically wince with embarrassment! (This actually happened on Saturday, I was talking to one of the guys from The Dutchie’s ping pong club and he casually slipped in to the conversation that he reads my blog. <Waves at J> Thanks, dude! I’m massively flattered you actually read my wittering, but also seriously embarrassed!!)

I just think blogging is so fucking narcissistic and as much as possible, I try not to make it all me, me, me…

But I like writing. That’s the problem. (And occasionally helping people with the things I write. I hope!!)

Hence why I chose the anonymous-ish route.

Anyway, I did renew it, so I guess that means I’m going to be sticking around for at least another year ;-)

To “celebrate” in big bloody air-quotes… I guess I should list some of my personal blogging highlights of the past 2 years. But that’s what a proper blogger would do.

So instead, I’ll just say thanks for reading.

With the odd troll-shaped exception… you’re a pretty awesome bunch.

Hayley x

How to Learn Dutch: For Beginners

Over the last year and half I’ve received quite a few emails asking me about how I learnt Dutch. Note: I am still learning!!

But anyway, I thought I’d share how I am learning Dutch with you guys. I hope it’s helpful for any of you who are being challenged with this difficult language. I feel you!

1. Michel Thomas CDs

My first port of call was Michel Thomas because my Mum and Dad were learning French at the time via the Michel Thomas method and had highly recommended it. (As do I!)

Learning Dutch materials

Both the Foundation and Advanced course are very good, however they will not suffice (alone) in teaching you Dutch! But they’re great for beginners to get a feel for the language and the pronunciation etc.

Oh and because I’m a food nerd, my sister-in-law cleverly bought me “Your 1000 Most Important Words: Food and Drink”.

2. Dutch textbooks

Secondly, I got my hands on EVERTHING Dutch I could. Dutch textbooks, grammar books, children’s books. I mostly ordered these from Amazon UK as I was still living in England at the time. As I was buying so much, I got the majority of them second-hand.

Learning Dutch materials

For me: the “201 Dutch verbs” is an absolute must! I use it loads. Hugo “Dutch in 3 months” is also a pretty good textbook, except that I’m not even halfway through it. If you are more dedicated than me, it’s a good ‘un!

3. Children’s books

Most of these were lent to me by my schoonmoeder (mother-in-law). I also bought a few myself at Bruna (a chain in the Netherlands – a bit like WH Smith).

I use the really simple ones for pronunciation – I read to the Dutchie and he corrects any errors. Then I read the slightly higher level ones with a dictionary next to me! (The same as I do with magazines.)

Dutch learning materials

4. Online courses

The two I’ve tried are Duolingo and Babbel. I recommend both of them. Duolingo is free – but it does have a few annoying quirks. I see people complaining all the time on the FB group… things which they think are right but Duolingo says are wrong and about the speaking/microphone settings. I found that speaking slowly and loudly helps with that! (Typical English person, eh?) But really, you have to otherwise the programme marks your answers as wrong. I’m pretty sure they have an app too, but I haven’t used that.

Babbel is more visual/text based. You pay 20 euros for 3 months and you can use it as often as you like. They also have a phone/ipad app which I found useful on the go.

5. Dutch courses

I did an intermediate course at my local college as soon as I arrived in Holland. This is obviously one of the best ways to learn – as you’re thrown in at the deep end! Unfortunately… our teacher was rubbish. Sad face.

It did mean that I had to speak Dutch in class for an hour and a half each week though… and do homework every week. So that was great for continuity… (even though every single bloody week I did my homework in a rush – half an hour before class – whilst eating dinner. Some things never change!!)

Dutch learning materials

At my local college they used the “Delftse methode” which is a pretty good course, though the books are VERY old fashioned, despite being published in 2007…

6. Dutch TV

As I’ve already mentioned before, there’s not a lot to write home about with Dutch TV. But pick a subject you’re interested in and hopefully you can find something tolerable. For me that’s MasterChef Holland. (UK Masterchef is the still the best, Australia second and Holland third. The rest suck.)

I used to watch Pim & Pom, a children’s programme about two cats. There are tons of kids programmes available on cable (we have Ziggo) but I couldn’t stand most of them as the voices are too annoying. However, if you can – watching kids programmes is a really good way to learn basic words, sentence structure and pronunciation.

7. Subtitles

I have Dutch subtitles permanently on, no matter what I’m watching. So even if I’m watching an English/American series, I’m still learning. This is easy for people who already live in Holland, but if you don’t – check all your DVDs, you might be surprised how many have Dutch subtitles.

8. Films

Kinda the same deal as with TV, but there are a few gems: Gooische Vrouwen (also a TV series), Dunya & Desie (totally a teener film, but hey, I like Clueless!), Jackie, Alles Is Liefde, Alles is Familie.

9. Radio

Even if it’s on in the background, you’re still exposing yourself to the language. My favourite stations are 3FM, Sky Radio and Radio 538. And at Christmas time… NPO Radio 2! (Because of the Top 2000.)


10. Practice with Dutch people! 

This seems so obvious, but of the whole list… this is the hardest one to pull off!

Here’s the thing with learning Dutch: you speak Dutch, they hear an accent, they switch to English.

There’s only one way to rectify this. You have to be more stubborn than a Dutch person… and believe me, they’re pretty stubborn.

The whole switching to English thing doesn’t happen to me that much anymore (thankfully!!) but occasionally, it rears its ugly head. When this happens you have three options:

  1. Politely tell them (in Dutch) you’d like to continue in Dutch as you need to practice.
  2. Carry on in Dutch and hope they get the message.
  3. Only for the very brave: If they’re winning the stubborn contest and you’re getting frustrated… act like you don’t understand them when they speak in English. “Sorry, wat zeg je?” or “Wat zei je?” whilst looking surprised is rather effective. It forces them to pause and rethink what they are doing and speak back to you in the language you are using. (The Dutchie finds this particularly annoying, but it gets the point across and forces him to make the switch.)

I do find stubbornness wins out… most of the time anyway!

Anything else you’d like to add to this list?

Hayley x


Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Yesterday, Sinterklaas arrived in Hilversum and because my curiosity was getting the better of me… I had to go along and find out what all the fuss was about!

If you don’t know who/what Sinterklaas is… start with last year’s post about my first Sinterklaas experience: Mijn eerste Sinterklaas (as I already did a lot of explaining there… and I don’t like repeating myself unless I’m drunk!)

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum – Zaterdag 14 November, Oude Haven 

First, all the Zwarte Pieten arrived…

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

There were tons of them, more than 100 I’d guess.

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Traditionally they hand out pepernoten, but I heard one little boy ask a Zwarte Piet “Mag ik pepernoten?” (May I have some pepernoten?) and the response was “Nee, ik ben een gezond Piet. Ik heb alleen ballons of mandarijntjes”. (No, I’m a healthy Piet, I only have balloons or mandarins.) He opted for a balloon ;-)

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Some Piets went traditional though…

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Then there was lots of music and dancing…

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Before Sinterklaas arrived on this steam boat from Spain, along with this faithful horse Schimmel.

Sinterklaas' horse, Schimmel

(The horse’s actual name is Amerigo, but many Dutch people refer to him as Schimmel – the type of horse. Schimmel also means mold/fungus so prepare yourself for lame jokes like “There’s Sinterklaas with his schimmel between his legs.” Hawhawhaw.)

The crowds were huge and we weren’t early enough to get a prime spot, so I don’t have a photo of the boat. Dammit.

The Dutchie and I did get a fair few of the big man himself though :)

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

His entrance was followed by more music and dancing, before Sinterklaas made his procession around town.

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

A lovely time was had by all and I’m glad to have experienced this tradition first hand. Though I must say: now I’ve seen a Sinterklaas Intocht (arrival/entrance), I don’t really have to go again. It’s definitely just for kids.

So now the only thing left to do is leave my shoe out for the next 3 weeks and see what happens ;-)

Hayley x

A Newbie’s Guide to The Netherlands

Seeing as I’ve been living in Holland for a year and half now, I’m practically an expert, right?? ;-)

On that basis, I’d like to share some things you need to know if you are planning on moving to the Netherlands, or have just arrived.

Welkom in Nederland! 


1. First things first, go get your BSN (Bullshit Number)

Kidding, it’s short for Burgerservicenummer – a citizen service number. You pretty much can’t do anything without it (rent a house, open a bank account, sign up with a doctor, buy a beer) so go do that first. To get your BS number you need to make an appointment with your local Gemeentehuis (town hall) and turn up with as much ID and paperwork as you can. The Dutch love paperwork.

2. Accommodation

We found our house through (other house search websites are available… the other big one is though not quite as catchy, right?)

3. Health Insurance

This is mandatory in the Netherlands and basic packages start at around €100 per month! There are a gazillion health insurance companies out there so I would a) get a Dutch person to help you b) try comparison websites or c) refer to the Government website.


4. Learn Dutch

Obvious, you might think… but so many people live here without speaking the language. I’ve heard all the excuses… “they’re so good at English you don’t need to speak Dutch” or “I try but they just keep speaking English back to me” blah blah.

Time for some tough love: if you’re going to live here, you need to make an effort to speak the basics – at least.

In the beginning, I got my hands on everything Dutch I could. Dutch textbooks, grammar books, children’s books. I used Michel Thomas CDs and online courses: Duolingo and Babbel are both good.

I put Dutch subtitles permanently on, no matter what I was watching. (I still do this now.) I also listened to Dutch radio (my faves are 3FM, Sky Radio and Radio 538), Dutch TV (in the beginning I loved Pim & Pom) and Dutch films… start with kids films and work your way up.

I also did a course at my local college as soon as I arrived.

Most people will love the effort you are making and will applaud you. Yes, some will speak back to you in English – but just do what I do… BE STUBBORN! Keep talking Dutch back to them and they will soon get the picture!

5. Shopping

If your closest supermarket is Albert Heijn (most likely) then make sure you get a store card so that special offers / discounts are applied to your bill. (Btw – it’s often known as AH or Appie because really, who can be bothered to say Albert Heijn every time?) Take your own bags, otherwise you will need to pay for bags. If you’re buying large drinks bottles be aware that statiegeld will be applied. It’s a deposit so that you bring the bottle back for recycling. Statiegeld is around 25 cents per bottle and you get your money back when you return the empty bottles back to the store. Statiegeld also applies to crates of bottled beer and the machines to recycle your bottles look a little something like this:


© Romy2702 / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

6. Cycling

You will need to buy a bike. Dat is zeker. Without a doubt, it is the absolute best way to get around in this lovely flat country…  especially after enjoying a few beers in your local kroeg! *Inserts generic I do not condone drinking and riding disclaimer*

The best place to find a bike is on Marktplaats (the Dutch version of Ebay). Read more about riding a bicycle in Holland in The Dutch Guide to Cycling

7. Bank account

I bank with Rabobank.  The other big ones are ABN, ING and SNS. When I first went to open an account, they asked me why I didn’t just go to the same bank as my husband! Not sure why I let them take my money after that… but I did.

Similar to point 1 – take I.D. and lots of paperwork.

8. Getting support & meeting people

Most of the large cities have some sort of expat community group. For example, in Hilversum there’s a Facebook group. Others have websites or blogs. The Hilversum expat group is a great forum for questions and recommendations. I’ve found out lots of cool stuff there, hidden gems and so – like discovering there’s a small beach 20 mins from my house! (Vuntus strand, in case you’re wondering.)

You can also try I’ve been to the one in Hillywood and met several lovely ladies, expats and Dutch!

For further reading on this subject: When you moved to The Netherlands what is the one thing you wish somebody had told you about?

What else would you add to this list?

Hayley x

The #onlyinHolland hashtag

I by no means started this hashtag, however I have certainly been adding to it over the past year and a half!! Earlier today I posted a link to a ‘Dutch people are weird’ Buzzfeed article – if you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the link: 27 Times The Netherlands Went Way, Way Too Far

But they definitely missed a few, so here’s my version… #ONLYINHOLLAND

1. Standard get-your-tits-out fountain in a kids theme park


2. Dutch ‘wisdom’ tiles

Sound advice

3. When you love milk so much it starts talking to you

Good morning, have a nice milk. #onlyinholland

A photo posted by @chloebliss on


4. This Dutch policewoman fancied a chilled shift

5. What’s the worst-kaas scenario? 

Worst Kaas scenario

6. No Dutch people allowed

Only Dutch people allowed

7. Casual Friday in Amsterdam

Casual Friday

8. Riding a dike. Literally. 

Riding a dike

9. When you’re too Dutch to queue or too drunk to speak: hot food vending machines

Febo, Utrecht

10. Christmas time in the Netherlands = Butt Plug Santa


11. When you can’t wait 25 years for a circle party so you just celebrate 12.5 years of marriage instead

12.5 jaar getrouwd

12. When you forget to order a large beer…

Thimble of beer

13. When you’re done with your bike

Utrecht Grachten

14. When your love for cheese is off the scale

Cheese Museum, Amsterdam

15. Thriftiness is life. Even the Princess can’t resist a bargain

Hayley x

I have this thing with windmills

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have already noticed my ‘thing’ with churches (not for religious reasons, I might add) street art, bitterballen (obviously…) and most recently: windmills.

Yep, I’m in the land of windmills, so they’re kinda hard to avoid… but in the past few months I’ve been going out of my way to visit them. Last weekend we legit took a trip to Kinderdijk for the sole purpose of looking at molens.

Here are my favourites so far!

1. Kinderdijk

As I’ve already mentioned it, let’s start with Kinderdijk, Dutch for “children dike”. (WTF!?)

Situated close to Dordrecht and Rotterdam, there are 19 windmills here! They don’t just look pretty – they have a purpose – draining the polder on which Kinderdijk is situated. Don’t know what a polder is?


I say it’s situated close to Rotterdam and Dordrecht… but it is and it isn’t. (Look at this map.) Due to its slightly offbeat location, you’re better off travelling to Kinderdijk by car as it’s a pain in the arse to get there by public transport. Parking is €5 and you could spend 1-3 hours here depending on how much walking you want to do. There’s also a little cafe and gift shop, should you wish to partake in such activities.



Oh and if you fancy staying in the area, we spotted this ridiculously cute B&B called De Noord. I can’t vouch for it, but if you make this much effort outside it’s probably alright inside too ;-)

B&B Kinderdijk

2. Zaanse Schans

Zaanse Schans is my go-to tourist paradise for anyone visiting The Netherlands. Its close proximity to Amsterdam and Schiphol airport is also pretty ideal. We often take visitors here before dropping them off at the airport – a lovely way to round off a trip to Holland!


Dutch windmills

Zaanse Schans

View from De Vijf Broers, which sadly, is now closed :(

Unless you want to visit the Zaanse Schans Museum, it doesn’t take all that long to walk around, so it’s perfectly combined with a trip to nearby Zaandam to see this bad boy…

Inntel Hotel, Zaandam

Inntel Hotel, Zaandam

If you want more info, I have already written a post dedicated to Zaanse Schans, just to prove how much I love it!

Speaking of… we also bought a picture last time we were there:

Zaanse Schans

Which was marvellous until we got home and realised the black building is the toilet block! FAIL! You get one guess where we’ve hung it!!

3. Brouwerij ‘t IJ

A modern brewery, set next to a windmill in Amsterdam… what more could you ask for?

Brouwerij 't IJ

Well, to be honest, it is a bit of a hag to get to – although totally worth it! Either get a train to Muiderpoort and it’s a 10 minute walk, or get a bus/tram. No advice on that… I’m not a bus wanker! (If you get that joke, you must be English and have excellent taste in comedy! FRIEND!!!!!)

Brouwerij 't IJ

Brouwerij 't IJ

The beer is delicious, as are the snacks. There are (very) limited food choices… (NO BITTERBALLEN!!) but if you like cheese and Dutch sausage as much as I do, you’ll be well catered for.

4. De Molen, Ankeveen

This windmill is the closest one to Hilversum I know, so worth a mention.

De Molen, Ankeveen

We’ve eaten here a couple of times – the food is ok, simple, nothing to write home about (bar the French Onion soup which was really good!) It’s a cafe/bar though so you can just visit for a hot drink or a borrel, complete with bitterballen natuurlijk! 

5. Molen de Ster, Utrecht

(The Star Windmill.) Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know there was a windmill in Utrecht! It turns out there are two! The other is on Adelaarstraat, named Rijn en Zon – Rhine and Sun.

Molen de Ster, Utrecht

Molen de Ster, Utrecht

Molen de Ster is an 18th-century saw mill. It’s open on Saturdays for guided tours and the rest of time there’s a cafe and other cultural activities going on. A very cute place to visit; near central station, set alongside a canal and it’s also close to Lombok if you fancy stocking up on some fresh produce while you’re there. Ideal!

Next on my windmill-spotting list is Schiedam!

Where’s your favourite windmill?

Hayley x


I’m childfree and I like it

I shouldn’t have to justify my decision to be childfree. But you know what? I have to. All the damn time.

You had me at childfree

Image credit:

One time that stands out clearly in my mind was on a recent trip to France to visit my parents. We went to their friends’ house (they’re also English expats living in France) who happened to have their 30-something daughter staying with them. And her 2.4 children.

The mother grandmother, a similar age to my own Mum offered me tea and then asked “so when are you having kids?” If she’d given me the tea first, she probably would have been wearing it. Her son-in-law chimed in whilst simultaneously bottle feeding a young baby and dealing with an unruly toddler clinging to his leg… “yes, when are you having kids?” Erm… sorry, what? I have just met these people. I walked into your house approximately two minutes ago and we’re getting into this. Now. Really?

After taking a mental deep breath and telling myself: these are your parents’ friends. Shut them down, politely.

I replied: “We’re not having kids”.

Then the questions and non-questions started. “Why not?” “You’ll change your mind.” “It’s different when they’re your own.”

“We don’t want kids.” “No, we won’t.” “Thanks, but we’d rather not find out, if it’s all the same to you.”

The daughter mother joined in, she was 4 months pregnant at the time. “It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I didn’t know real love until I became a Mum.” *Sigh* This vein of conversation continued for 5-10 mins or so, until it all turned into white noise.

We finally managed change the subject when I pacified them with the “never say never” line. I know I shouldn’t do that, but I just wanted it to be over…

It’s true, never say never. But the older I get, the more confident I feel with my choice. It is a conscious choice, not one that everyone understands, but it is a choice. And I choose to be childfree.

Not many people I know understand this. I think I finally got through to my Mum after about 5 years of “explaining”. The Dutchie’s Mum gets it. As does my best friend and of course, the Dutchie himself – as he feels exactly the same way. But apart from this small circle, I get the face.


The “You’re not having kids?” face.

Friends are allowed to ask. That’s why we’re friends. But just be aware: I am that freak in your social group. The weird one who doesn’t have kids… and who doesn’t want them.

Strangers who ask this question, however, are insensitive. Rude, even. Family members (especially ones you haven’t seen in ages) are probably just looking for something to say. That’s ok too… but next time, can’t you just ask about work or something?

I’ve read a lot of material on the subject of being childfree, most recently Kim Cattrall finds the term ‘childless’ offensive and considers herself a mother despite not having children but like many other articles, it doesn’t hit the spot for me. It seems like what she actually said has been heavily cut and quoted to fit what they want the article to say. But this one line stands out for me: “I just believe, and have always believed since my 40s, that there are many different ways to be a mum.”

But I don’t want to be a mum. I don’t need to be a mum.

I hope that when my niece is older, we’ll be close and I’ll be a fantastic auntie to her. But I won’t be her mum, or a mother figure, I’ll be her auntie. And that’s fine with me.

Going back to the point about not knowing real love until you’re a mother (or “Now that I have children, my life has true meaning!” or even “You’re missing out on one of the best things in life”…)

I am ok with the love I feel right now. Really.

It’s common for mothers to say that you haven’t experienced ‘real love’ until you become a mother. And I’m fine with that.

I love. I’m in love. I love my friends and family, I feel unconditional love. And the other type of love you’re talking about? I will never experience that. But you know what? That’s cool with me. The love I feel is the strongest I’ve ever experienced, so I don’t know any better. You’re telling me that your love is better, stronger, more unconditional. I’m just going to have to trust you on that one.

Still don’t ‘get’ it? Here’s what I would like to say to you:

I respect the fact that you want children. Please respect the fact that I do not.

It really is this simple. Having children is a choice.

No, holding your baby doesn’t make me feel broody.

Not even my niece. Everyone said it would be different when my sister had a baby. I love my niece, it doesn’t take anything away from how much I love her and want to protect her – I don’t want a child of my own.

If you’re my friend, I will love your baby. It happens automatically, because I love you. But holding a small human isn’t suddenly going to make my uterus twitch. It’s just not in me. (The feeling I mean, I do have a uterus! I just choose not to grow a human in it.)

I like to hold/cuddle/interact with your child – but I also like giving it back. When they’re older I’ll read them books or play games with them… but when they start screaming, emit a bad smell, puke on me (or all of the above)… you can have them back. Not my department.

I don’t think that my dog/cat is a child and I don’t treat them like a child.

Some people do. I am not one of them. I have a cat. I love her. Sometimes, when she is annoying I put her outside and leave her out there – because she is a cat.

I don’t hate kids.

It’s a common misconception that childfree people are child-haters. While for some people, this is true… I like kids. I just don’t want one.

It’s not a phase I’m going through, I will not change my mind and it is not your place to question it.

Questioning my personal life choice – especially if I don’t even know you – is not and will not ever be cool.


You can call me selfish – if you like. 

But who am I depriving? A non-existent child? If you’d like to call me selfish, please do so. Probably not to my face though, then we might have a problem.

It’s very common for childfree people to be labelled selfish, because we don’t want to dedicate our life to another human being. And in some ways, I agree – I don’t. I like sleeping, I like travelling, I like doing whatever the fuck I want.

When it comes down to it – selfish isn’t really a suitable label. A non-existent child is exactly that. However, when YOU choose to bring a child into the world, it’s because YOU choose to bring a child into the world. Maybe you’re selfish because YOU want/need/desire a child? It’s not like they asked to be born. No? Ok, well then let’s just both agree to not call each other selfish.

We’re not barren.

And we’re not trying. You have absolutely no reason to feel sorry for me.

Even I question my decision sometimes. But not enough to change it. 

Not continuing the family name, not having grandchildren and worrying about who will look after me in old age are not valid enough reasons for me to change my mind. (And by the way, are all those old people in homes childfree? Nope, thought not. Chances are your kids will move to Australia and not be able to look after you anyway. Just sayin’.)

Hayley x