The one where I read a book and decided to talk about it …

First of all, let’s get one thing sorted here. I am not paid to write this review. I bought the book with my own, hard earned cash.  I won’t receive any kickbacks from writing this review.  (Well, maybe some gratitude from the contributors of the book if it sells a book or 2. ) I have friends who have contributed to this book who’ll get something out of it, of course, but for me, well, all I’ll get is a thank you and of course the experience of reading the book.  All opinions of said book in this post are my own and may or may not be influenced by a couple of glasses of wine – purchased by me with my own hard earned cash.

When you’re an expat, you hear all the stories. The good, the bad, and the ugly.  And believe me, there are some really ugly stories out there – bad guests, bad visitors, even bad doctor’s experiences.  But there’s also the stories that make you laugh, cry and empathise, because well, you’ve been there and done that as well.  It’s what makes being an expat a unique experience.  You are a first hand witness to culture shock. 

I first heard about ‘Dutched Up’ from a friend of mine who was excited to be contributing some of her stories to this new book that was coming out. Stories written by women like ourselves – sharing their highs and lows about living in the Netherlands.  Intrigued by this, I kept harassing her about getting a paper copy. (Yes, I’m one of those people you’ll never convince that a digital copy is better than paper.  Move along, nothing to see here).  Finally, it was announced it was coming out in paper – so I plunged and bought the book! I took great joy in holding it, sniffing the new paper smell and cracking the spine. (You’ll never get that joy from your Kindle.)

After pouring a glass of wine, I started reading.  I’ll cut right to the chase here – it’s an anthology of different writers, different styles – some easier to read than others.  Some stories are completely relate-able – some take a moment to absorb.  Some have you gasping in horror, others have you in stitches because you can completely appreciate the situation that you’re reading about (and you’re laughing sympathetically.)

There’s a lot of stories in the book.  I can’t review them all.  So I picked my 3 favourites to have a quick chat about.

The first – “Small Talk: Tall tales about being short in the Netherlands” by Deepa of Currystrumpet. This was like someone telling me my daily struggles.  Seriously it’s like it was in my mind! People don’t realise exactly how tall the Dutch are.  That is, until you’re sitting on a public toilet waving your feet in the air because they don’t reach the ground.  Or your choice in bikes is limited to what’s available in the kids section … because you just can’t touch the pedals on an adult bike.  From me to you, Deepa, I feel your pain.  I can’t reach a single cupboard in my kitchen without the help of my step stool.

The second – “I fought the law and the law won” by Zoe of George with Ears. I seriously howled with laughter over this one.  Being completely and totally uncoordinated myself, I actually empathised with the line about falling over flat surfaces. (As I write, I’m currently hobbling around on a Lego injury that might have involved more blood than the average person). Cycling after a few wines is not advisable, and I may also have had a few wobbly nights home on the old deadly treadly …

Finally, I have to admit, I’ve heard this last story many times.   It doesn’t get old with the telling and it doesn’t lose any of it’s charm … regardless of how many glasses of wine.  “The Leech” by Nerissa of Miss_Neriss (and also Adventures in Integration .)  Seriously, you think you’ve had some crap houseguests … and then you realise that this story makes them look like angels.  ANGELS.  This story should be printed and posted on the front door of every expat’s house.  A sort of guide on how not to overstay your welcome.  Seriously, I’d have killed him.

I’m sorry I couldn’t review every single story – and believe me, I know it’s hard – especially with not one, but 5 friends contributing stories and trying to choose 3 that I could share was hard.  My suggestion is simple – go out, and buy a copy for yourself.  It’s a very real book full of real stories – and it’s not Dutchie-bashing or whining.  It’s a wonderful book combining many stories by a group of ladies embracing life in a culture which is so close to many others, and yet somewhat removed.   They’re sharing their stories so that others can experience their lives.  If you’re moving to the Netherlands, or are just interested in adjusting to life in a different culture – or you seriously just love stories by real people, grab a copy.

“Dutched Up – Rocking the clogs expat style” is available at the American Book Center in Amsterdam and Den Haag.  You can also order it here through Amazon, or do what I did. Hit up one of the authors, ply her with a couple of bottles of wine, slip her some cash and she’ll do you a deal on the side. Full retail price! Bargain! Oh, and it’s also available in Kindle format for those heathens who don’t like that new book smell.  

And once again. I didn’t get anything for reviewing this book.  Just a lot of pleasure in reading some great stories. 😉