Tag Archive: travel

Moving abroad

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Ok, it’s the end of January! That’s cause for celebration in my book. I don’t know about you, but I really struggle through January. And February, if I’m honest, but at least it’s short!

We’ve been in the Netherlands just over two months. And although I feel a lighthearted post is due, I also want to take a post to share our not-so-positive start to life abroad. Buckle up, it’s a long one.

Ok, here goes. It’s been a bloody difficult time. I knew it would be hard, but I was excited – prepared for lots of good things as well. But it was worse than I anticipated. We got caught up in a scam. I mean, I usually poo-poo Arijus’s cynical view of the world, preferring to believe that everyone means well, essentially, and giving the benefit of the doubt. In the case, however, I have to agree with him.

With Arijus already in the Netherlands, working full time, I ended up looking around online for somewhere to live. We decided to move somewhere temporarily, for the first few months, giving us a chance to breathe and then look around once we had familiarised ourselves with the areas in The Hague.

Unfortunately, the agency I picked, Fundatie, was too good to be true. We arrived to a “temporary” flat (how funny, the one we had signed a contract for was not available) and told we had to move again in a little over a week. Just what you want after packing up your whole life, putting it in storage, and driving across several countries with still far too many belongings and your two precious cats.

When the time came to move, we were told so many different lies, and when I saw the flat they were going to put us in, I went back to start moving our stuff, sat down and cried. It was vile, furnished with cheap, old furniture and smelled of the bleach the poor cleaner had used liberally to attempt to clean it. The shower room (for want of a better description) was the last straw. All for premium expat prices, of course!

I called Arijus at work in desperation. He came to try and rescue the situation. What a surprise, when we refused that flat, the only one they had available was a large two bed, waaaaay out of our price range! That, or we were out on the street.

It came to a head when we were coming up to the two month mark. The only contract I’d signed, was for an apartment we’d never been given. So, when the agency refused to respond to our emails, we continued paying the rent agreed (also based on an email saying we would be upgraded for free if they couldn’t provide what was agreed). They then started sending increasingly unpleasant emails demanding more money.

We were, of course, flat hunting, and found one (with an agency not only used by a friend, but rigorously vetted by me) with relative ease. Then followed the agonisingly slow process of getting the contract sorted. Considering our experience, we were not confident to say we’d found somewhere to move without that contract signed and in our possession! We had a four month contract with Fundatie, but had been given the option to leave after two months because they had messed up.

Five days before the two months were up with Fundatie, they cut off our electricity. At 8am, with no notice. Just a note on the door.

I’m sure you can imagine how stressful this was, especially in January (it was stormy weather; hail, rain, wind). It wasn’t until 3pm that afternoon that the new contract was emailed to us! Not a moment too soon! The agency confirmed that they would meet us the next day with keys to the property.

So, only one night to survive with no heating, no hot water, no fridge or freezer.

We are now settling in to the new flat. What a contrast; a lovely, cosy home, and decent (if that’s a thing) estate agency. At this point, I’m not sharing this just to rant. If, by some chance, one person is helped by being more cautious due to our experience, then it’s worth reliving it.

I sought legal advice, and was assured we were well within our rights not to pay the money Fundatie were demanding, as they had no paperwork supporting their claim. I was also told (spoiler) that cutting off the electricity is illegal in the Netherlands.

I don’t believe I was an idiot in this situation – go check their website, it’s believable, right? But now I know. If I had to do it again, we would opt for an extended Airbnb let, as at least you are protected by the company, should anything go wrong.

I would also advise reading up on the laws regarding tenancy before finding yourself in a difficult situation. These are the things predators like Fundatie rely on. Expats who haven’t got a clue. At least we were savvy enough not to pay them the money and find out our rights.

Let’s finish this serious chat with another cat pic. That’s better.

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Indonesian day

Oh, hey! My crazy year has had me all stop-start on this blogging situation, but I’m going to catch you all up from where we left off earlier this summer! Because I HAVE to tell you everything in order; it’s been all sorts of amazing, scary, fabulous, difficult. So, let’s cue that wibbly wobbly visual thing they used to do in TV shows back in the 90’s when you were being taken back to the past …

Where were we …? Oh yes, when Mads and Lucy visited me in Den Haag! It was so good, I can’t wait for their next visit, but I digress.

After our delicious lunch in Zebedeus, we walked round to the main part of Grote Kerk. This part of the building is still in use as a church. The Indonesian Embassy were hosting a Batik exhibition and fashion show. Batik is an age old tradition, found across several Asian countries, which involves using wax to create patterns on cloth, before dying. It is most developed in Java, Indonesia, where it is believed that the art of Batik predates written record. This art form has a long and complex history; one which my mother, born and raised in Java, promotes and helps to help preserve, through her charity work. She is particularly focused on reintroducing batik tulis as a skill to young women, so that they can not only continue to pass this down the generations, but also find work for themselves and be financially independent.

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The awesome displays were open throughout the afternoon, and followed by a fashion show in the evening. Sadly, we were too full to appreciate the traditional Indonesian snacks that were on offer, but I did help myself to a glass of wine. It would’ve been rude not to!

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There was a large display of batik from Java, but we saw batik from other parts of Indonesia too. The batik with the gold is from Bali (my spiritual home, but we can talk about that another time).

 

We stayed to see the first half of the fashion show, which showcased Indonesian designers who use traditional batik fabrics to create their pieces. Some were modern, some traditional. It was really interesting, but we were sat behind a few rows, so didn’t get any good pics. My favourite thing was the fashion show opened with traditional Balinese dancing, which I adore (and briefly studied, when I was about five years old!) and I was delighted that Lucy and Mads got to experience a little of that.

We snuck out at the interval (we did excuse ourselves in advance!) to meet Arijus and Ronique at our favourite Indonesian restaurant, Warung Bude Kati.

Needless to say, we stuffed our faces, choosing a rijsstaffel so that our visiting friends could enjoy a variety of dishes. Thinking I may need to do a separate post in the future about Indonesian food, and the Dutch/Indonesian connection! Some really interesting history there.

Another great day! I’ve been really enjoying discovering Den Haag with friends. More soon!

Ciao xx

 

Amsterdam, baby! 

My girls, Lucy and Madeleine came to visit me in The Netherlands. We had so much fun, despite Lucy having fractured her ankle a few weeks before she came out.

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A canal tour is perfect when one of your party is on a crutch! We took the Stromma.com 100 Highlights tour. It was good; an enjoyable and informative way to see central Amsterdam easily in an hour.

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The gorgeous Amsterdam Centraal Station.

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That moment when you realise no Starbucks barista will ever get your name right. Lol.

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This was also the day when Lucy didn’t like ANY of the photos … *rolls eyes*

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Well, we managed to get one or two (out of hundreds!) that were acceptable, apparently 😉

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I’m so happy so many friends and family are taking the opportunity to visit with us, whilst Arijus is working in Den Haag. But I’m starting to think I’ll be seeing this sign quite a few times!

Before heading home, we stopped at Salsa Shop for a deeeeeelicious burrito. They are SO GOOD. Also, they are huge, and Lucy and I were pretty impressed by teeny tiny Mads putting away the whole thing! We obviously worked up an appetite with all our touristing.

Sadly, due to lack of foreplanning (all my fault), and Lucy’s foot, we didn’t get to see everything we wanted to. On the list for next time: Anne Frank Museum, Van Gough Museum and Katten Kabinet! Because some of us are massive cat people. And by some, I mean all.

Our soundtrack for the whole trip: DESPACITO  😀

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Good times. So as not to bore you, I’ve split the trip into separate posts 😉 Enjoy more of our adventures in my next posts!