Remigrating to the Netherlands after a period abroad is not easy and certainly not if you also have children to think about: therefore 5 tips. The most important thing is to prepare your child well for this move to the Netherlands.
As a family, we are also in this phase. After 6 years of living in the Caribbean, we are going to move to the Netherlands. Our son of 16 years old will come with us and is happily looking forward to living in the Netherlands. Our daughter has been studying in the Netherlands for a year now. Still, we are preparing as best we can for our son to land softly.
A well-known opening remark perhaps, but have the conversation with your child(ren). Of course, it depends on the age, in which way you do this, but these 5 topics should not be missing in your preparations.
1. Do not say and think in terms of emigrating ‘back’ to the Netherlands
You are not going back. It is another adventure you are embarking on, with (probably) one big difference. You are moving to a country where your child has already lived for a period of time. He may even have some friends there that he has kept in touch with. Also, the presence of family may make it feel more familiar than in another country.
Still, it is an adventure, which on the one hand your child may embrace as he has done with foreign countries. On the other hand, you should not underestimate it: here too you go through the same stages of habituation.
His old friends have continued their lives where he stepped “out” into the foreign country. He has widened his view and seen and experienced other things. Moreover, he has come to appreciate other cultures or just started to see more of what the Netherlands has to offer. Both sides can ensure that he has a different outlook on life than his Dutch peers.
As a child you want to share your experience abroad, tell people how cool or perhaps how difficult it was. Tell your child that not everyone is waiting for this. Some acquaintances may even find it annoying or may think he is bragging or arrogant.
His language skills and multilingualism felt like a luxury, a gift, but unfortunately, young people in the Netherlands may look at this differently: his code-switching (switching languages by multilingual people within one conversation) may be seen as arrogant or weird, and some friends may not like switching languages and not be able to deal with an accent in his Dutch.
He realizes at some point that nothing has changed in the Netherlands. However, he has!
2. Tell about the reverse culture shock when remigrating to the Netherlands
Reverse culture shock is a well-known phenomenon and it is so important to make your child aware of it. We thought we had done that with our oldest, who went ‘back’ to the Netherlands last year to study.
What was special was when she sent us a voice message via WhatsApp super-enthusiastically: “I have now had this explained to me in my study….papa, mama I’m in the middle of this. I understand my feelings so much better now.” Apparently, our explanation hadn’t stuck.
What is reverse culture shock? It’s literally reverse culture shock. You come back, but nothing has changed in the Netherlands while you have changed. The thing you want most is to return to the country where you lived: everything was fine there and everything seems better than in the Netherlands. Being back is different from what you thought, you feel out of place and are not happy to be back. The latter is also difficult for other people to understand.
When you understand this better, you know that this is part of it and will pass. These are all phases that your child goes through.
Three phases your child goes through (from Craig Storti from The Art of Coming Home):
- The first phase is of enthusiasm and excitement: you see the benefits of living in the Netherlands again such as having your friends and family living close by again and other things you may have missed from the Netherlands when you become abroad. For example, our daughter enjoyed being able to move around completely independently and easily on her bike and on public transport.
- Reverse culture shock – the reverse culture shock: getting used to life in the Netherlands, its culture and rhythms are trickier than you thought. Our daughter found it very difficult that social appointments suddenly had to be planned weeks in advance and that basically, no one had time.
And the last phase: Acceptance and adaptation. By now after a year in the Netherlands, our daughter has embraced what is nice for her in the Netherlands and combined it with all her experience abroad.
- Making Remigration Succeed: Staying connected and socializing
But what can you do to make your remigration a success for your child? Many children who have lived abroad for a time look for ways to stay connected to that time. With their life abroad, the culture in that country and the friends they made there. For example, our daughter did this through Instagram and Whatsapp voice messages, as well as video calling. This way of keeping in touch helped her through difficult periods in the beginning.
She also followed the news here in the Dominican Republic, received some information through us, and listened to music from her time here. She combined this with going to Dutch events and taking a side job in a Dutch beach club.
This has also been proven to work for people who have lived abroad for a period of time. Of course in combination with reconnecting in the Netherlands.
Think together with your child(ren) about how he/she can integrate again into Dutch life from the start. This could be anything from joining the local sports club, picking up a hobby directly in a group, or participating in a summer camp.
Also, participating in international or expat groups can be a way to feel more comfortable faster. There is nothing wrong with creating a bit of security for your child.
4. Get to know the Dutch school systems
If your child still goes to school and enters a Dutch school, try to discuss the differences with the current school culture and system beforehand. Think about what your child might find difficult, in terms of teaching style, language, and social. If possible, involve people who know more about this.
See if you can involve the ‘old’ and the new school, in order to have as much clarity as possible and also to make the transition as smooth as possible. Think for example of ‘counselors’ IB-ers or student ambassadors.
Through Facebook groups of ”expats in..* ” (* name of the city you will be living in) or for example a parents’ council of the school, you can get more personal experiences.
If you are still looking for a good school, you can find many practical tips here. Some of these tips can also be used to get a better feel for the chosen school.
5. Language (delays) after emigration
Depending on how your child(ren) kept up with their Dutch when they were abroad, there may be a few things missing or lagging behind in their Dutch language development compared to their Dutch peers. This is normal.
Look together in advance where extra help may be needed. Also, discuss this with the future school. It is always best if there is time and space for this within the school.
Do not overestimate, but do not underestimate the language deficiency either. In this article, you can read why you should not panic.
Do you temporarily need the extra help from professional teachers with experience with children who return to Dutch education, then be sure to send us an email for more information or to schedule an informal meeting. We regularly work together with receiving schools.
Help with remigrating to the Netherlands: books and websites
Summer camps, day and week camps, and reception in Dutch. See this article with links and tips.
Expatmom wrote a blog about Dutch books for children about emigrating. These books you can also use (in part) for remigration.
The classic book on TCK: Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds.
For the youngest children, there are fun picture books about moving. Mamaliefde collected the best ones on her page!
If you have a good tip for other parents about remigrating, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.