Tag Archives: France

Reflections on my emigration to Europe so far…..

I am sure that most people would find an emigration stressful. Off course there are different types of emigration and it makes a huge difference if your move is a consequence of free choice or to escape danger. Our move back to Europe is a result of our own decision based on assessing Australian versus European living standards.

emigration, Stradbroke Island

One of the beautiful Australian beaches. I will miss them but their memory is chiseled in my mind.

To be honest there is not much wrong with Australia. Although a couple of nasties are sticking up their head! All over it is a very pleasant country with a stunning scenery. We just have decided that we like a different scene for the near future.

We have had our fair share of Down Under, more than 25 years to be specific. It also helps that both our kids also like the idea of moving to Europe. The youngest is planning to study in The Netherlands and our plan is to attend a couple of open days in November at some Dutch universities.

Funnily as we made the plan to migrate together, so far it has been only me who has made the move. I booked my ticket to leave immediately after we would leave our house as it seemed a logical consequence?? For my husband and youngest offspring there seemed to be some reasons to hang on to Oz a bit longer. As a result they both leave on different dates after they have finished their ‘things’ 😉

Emigration and stress

I just read an article written by a psychologist about moving stress and it seems I am doing naturally what she recommends. As I have some hidden psychology knowledge in me dating from a long time ago some common sense may be guiding me here and there.

It was weird yet good for me to arrive by myself. This way I have only my own feelings to deal with and I can ease into a strange but also vaguely familiar territory. I arrived in London where I lived for 5 years and where my husband is from. There is family there and I had a place to stay. The same goes for The Netherlands where I do the round of friends and family.

emigration, Bunne, Dutch country side

Bunne. Flat as a pancake but oozing with charm. Very pretty surroundings for walking and cycling.

I suppose from that point of view it is very different from other migrants. So far there has been no stress to find a place to live and fortunately I have people to talk to. Furthermore I speak all the languages of the countries I visited so far and they are familiar to me.

Despite this both England and The Netherlands do not feel as my home. I am not a citizen in either country although I am Dutch, I am married to a Brit or own a house in France. I have no immediate rights in these countries and really at this stage I am just a tourist.

Resident status

Officially though I am still a resident of Australia. From their point of view I have just left for a holiday. There could be an issue to get back into the country as I left without having a re-entry permit. I tried to apply online before I left but the immigration website was being a pain so I gave up. The girl at the border mentioned it but we both knew I am able to apply for an Aussie visa when I am abroad.

emigration, moving, stress

Limoux – view of the bridge and the church tower in the centre of town

France is the place where I intend to become a resident but so far I have not really an idea how to go about that. This is also important for my husband because Brexit will throw a spanner in the works for him. However as my husband he has European access and we only have to make it official. This again is strange territory but I am sure there is an answer.

The joy of emigration

It all is exciting and to be honest slightly daunting but that makes it also a challenge. I love challenges…! Every official thing I manage to accomplish feels like a small victory and gives me confidence. I am not a novice at migrating either. Australia was the 4th country I lived in for longer stints and there were several more where I spent shorter periods. Norway and Greece are amongst those.

There is a difference off course to live a short period somewhere and to remain a citizen of your home country. It is not the same as leaving officially and to become a citizen elsewhere. I suppose we fall into the last category with this emigration.

While I am writing all these things and am busy contemplating the above issues, I realise it helps writing about it. Everything becomes quite clear and easier to oversee. I suppose writing is about delving into your inner feelings and thoughts and expressing them somehow in words. It makes you step back and assess not only the situation but also your way of thinking. It definitely helps me putting things in perspective.

My emigration rules

Therefore my rule at the moment is to have no expectations, to live every day as it comes and enjoy consequently the proces! I have just spent a lovely week with my sister and I am in the middle of catching up with three long time friends. I am enjoying these moments and will make the most of it 😀

emigration, Groningen, outdoors, coffee and cake

Enjoying the summer and outdoor living in Groningen.

Most of all I like to thank the people who have opened up their houses for me and made me feel comfortable. I hope I can return the favour in our house in Limoux, France

Feel free to comment, express opinions and share experiences about emigration. I am sure those considering a move may benefit from it.

See you next time!

emigration, happy, at ease



After months of preparation let the European adventure begin….

I started my European adventure in London after a brief visit to Singapore. It seemed logical to go to London first to catch up with family in law before heading to Europe. I have no concrete plans apart from ideas but they can change with whatever comes my way. Sounds like an adventure to me!

When you return from overseas after years it is easy to fall into the trap of doing the rounds to visit family and friends. Everybody likes to see you but before you know you are the one who is doing all the travelling.

Favourite destinations

We have nipped this in the butt years ago. I think it was 2009 when we introduced our family concept to give friends options where they could catch up with us. If they were not prepared to make the trip, why would we? The result is that the hard core comes to see us and the rest gives it a miss.

I do have some exceptions to the rule and this has to do with the geographical location of where some friends live. There are my long time friends in Wengen, a ski resort where I have worked a winter or two. Wengen is a favourite and I have no problem making the rather arduous trip of many hours to reach the village.

London is also on the list of places to visit. Respect to age is very likely the reason we usually make the trip to London town. We don’t really expect my husband’s mum to hop on the plane to meet us somewhere.

european adventure, casa bonita, outdoor living

Cooking up a feast in the outdoor kitchen in Casa Bonita, at Palau, Spain

Then there is my sister who has an abode called Casa Bonita, in sunny Spain. Also a favourite to visit but I tend to keep the visits to her other address in far North of the Netherlands to a minimum 😉 Although this time this destination is on my list. She lives in an authentic old farm house. I can’t wait to see the latest renovations and other creative things she usually does to houses.

After that, some time in August I will head to our own house Casa Rita in the South of France. That is as far as my plans go….

My time in London

I have been just over a week in London now and the weather was fabulous. Some call it hot but for a seasoned ex-Brisbanite this heat is not much of an issue. I was in London at the same time as Wimbledon, one of my favourite sporting tournaments. It also happened to be that my favourite tennis player played the men’s singles final and won!

european adventure, wimbledon, tennis match

Sitting on Murray Mound to watch a match on Centre court. The best way after the real thing!

Understandably I was in my element to be able to watch it in the UK time zone. Although the family had to throw in a BBQ at the same time. I still managed to sneak to the TV many times to watch what was happening. I got away with it because I was looking after new born Alfie while watching the match 😛

european adventure, wimbledon, tennis final

The latest addition to the family, Alfie at 3 weeks old watching the Wimbledon Men’s final

My jet lag was minimal as usual. I have a well travelled friend in Ghent who once told me that jet lags were overrated. He gave me some tips to deal with it and with the help of Melatonin it indeed is. Within a couple of days I was back into a routine although I still fall asleep around 9.30 pm. To be honest that was also part of my normal daily routine in Brisbane.

European adventure – a new routine

I may have to adjust some of my habits as life in Australia has an early start. Gyms are open early or 24 hours, cafes have a queue and dozens of early morning cyclist park their bikes for a caffeine shot. In London I have gone for a walk every morning and look wishfully at the many cafes I pass. Not one is open. The only signs of life in early London is the commuter traffic.

With that in mind, getting up at 6 seems silly over here. On the other hand I could also make a nice coffee at home. After all I am travelling with my own portable smallest version of a Nespresso coffee machine. Thanks to my oldest daughter who works part time in this coffee boutique in Melbourne and was for years their employee in Brisbane.

My routine in Brisbane to get up before 6 and either go the gym or for a walk seems a nightmare for many Europeans. In Australia however it is much part of the lifestyle due to hot weather and shorter days. I am sure it will adjust by itself.

European adventure – admin chores!

I have spent a fair part of the week in London sorting out all kid of admin palava. First of all I left Australia without a re-entry permit. Some may call it silly and it probably is but I just let it happen that way. Also I left without being sure about the status of my medical insurance abroad. I used to live in the UK and still have an insurance number but it may have expired. I am not automatically insured in The Netherlands either.

european adventure, bike, Amsterdam

Creative shopping in The Netherlands

So as a Dutch citizen I could be insured in my own country either through the NHS in UK or the Medicare system in Australia. Rather bizarre but so be it.

I have booked my next European adventure. Next week I am flying to Amsterdam for a family reunion near by on the 30th July. Many of my cousins will be there and so is my sister. Her farm house in far North Netherlands is my next destination on the list.

Keep healthy! And pop in your name and email in the boxes below to ensure you get the latest updates!

European adventure, Noosa, Australia



Being a stranger in your own country!

Can you be a stranger in your own country? That is something I have been thinking about several times lately. Also a couple of things things happened this week that made me want to explore this topic a bit further.

Europe versus Australia

Considering the fact we are planning to return to Europe after having lived 25 years in Australia, it is to be expected that we feel like a stranger and have a niggle of doubt here and there. Call it the fear of the unknown, apprehension, being unfamiliar or out of touch with habits and customs in Europe.

As Australia is a multi cultural society, you can expect a diversity of cultures, habits and ways of doing things. Australia is also an easy society. It is not hard to find your way around and it accommodates newcomers in a pleasant way!

Brisbane, stranger, welcome,

Welcoming strangers and showing them how things are done…..

I can remember a different scenario when applying for a national security number in the UK. It took me days to get it which surprised me a lot. I had to return home a couple of times because I did not have all the documentation necessary. It was extremely hard to find out in advance what they wanted.

Also in the UK there is no faster access for Europeans so I was in long queues together with any other stranger that wanted to get this UK identity. The staff in the ‘Home Office’ , where you apply for such documents, was neither helpful, nor friendly or welcoming.

Australia on the other hand was well organised and is ‘mostly’ very welcoming to strangers. We managed to open an Australian bank account while still in the UK. They organised the exchange from pounds into dollars and when we arrived out Medicare card, health cover was waiting for us. So money and health, probably the most immediate necessities were a piece of cake.

In the eighties in England it took my husbands mum, who at that time worked in a bank, to bend some rules and to facilitate opening a bank account for me and to get me a cheque book. It was not easy and without her I probably would not have gotten a chequebook. At the time chequebooks were the way to pay for things.

Being a stranger in France

After buying a house in France we expected to feel overwhelmed with a stubborn bureaucracy. A system where you have to submit 8 copies for everything you want to organise. That is what most people warn you for in France. I know now that those people have no idea. It is just hearsay!

contract, French contract, compromis de vente

A contract to buy a house in France. Not more complicated there than in any other country…….

Yes, the bureaucracy in France is definitely a factor to reckon with but in my experience, it is also extremely organised if you are organised yourself. We bought a house, opened a bank account, got a phone line and internet, utilities, insurance and registered with the tax office. All within a couple of weeks and all in the French language.

The only hiccup that I encountered was that my French bank seem to have lost my bank card two times over. Until a clever bank assistant realised that there were bank cards with my husband’s name. This was despite the fact that I don’t use my husbands name. I did tell them that when I applied but they still insisted on putting his name on it.

Obviously in France it not normal to use your own ‘female’ name in official capacities. The funny thing is though that Keith is not even a card holder of this bank account yet, as they need to ‘sight’ him in person before they activate him as an account holder.

Being a stranger and health funds

With the view on Europe our biggest insecurity is the health fund issue. How do you do that? I have seen ads in France that promote health insurance for expats who live in France. As Europeans we can be insured in France but you have to have a job to start it off.

Our first adventure in France may be a house sit, so what happens then when it comes to health insurance. For people our age it is important to have a decent health cover.

I am sure there is a way as there always is. I just need to find out how. This is where France is a bit stubborn. It is hard to find out about things but once you have sussed them out, it is not that hard provided you prepare yourself. I am good at that. I am extremely thorough!

Although all these things may appear a bit daunting, I also find it very exciting. The insecurity makes it interesting and once you have figured out how to do things, it gives you a real sense of achievement.

A stranger in France

Limoux, rue de la marie, centre limoux

One of the main streets in Limoux, leading to Place de la Republique

I can recall feeling like that in Limoux in 2014 when I had to kit out the house we had bought as a holiday let. The house needed to be connected to utilities and internet. And I had to find people who I could rely on such as a cleaner, a handy man and a key holder.

I managed to do that all within a month. It was quite a thrill, so much that I rewarded myself with an upgrade for my return flight to Australia. A very sweet memory!

I am sure that all will fall into place once we are in Europe. There is just that little niggle of fear to let go of all the things here and head to unfamiliar terrain. Some may say: “but you guys aren’t a stranger. You are British and Dutch so it can’t be that hard”.

True, but we left in the late eighties and countries in Europe have changed a lot. They are not familiar anymore. We know our way around a little bit but that is all. Fortunately there is Google who has an answer to most things nowadays!

If you find it intriguing to read about our adventures, don’t miss a post and subscribe to my blog. It will land automatically in your mail box every week.

stranger, change, emigration, France, Australia





Collioure – a little gem full of colour!

A Boulangerie next door!

As a matter of fact under me! Seriously yummy and this morning I woke up of the sound of shop shutters being opened, a couple of kids playing and the smell of freshly baked bread.

Bulangerie at Collioure

Boulangerie at Collioure

Now the question is: Do I allow myself to eat bread? I have been removing it from my diet during the last 6 months. Did I not say though I could have it in the weekend???

After a brisk morning walk around Collioure and a climb up to the local mill, I decided I could not resist a croissant au beurre and a bag of dark red juicy cherries – the latter approximately and appropriately priced at 3.90 Euros per kilo. I hereby like to challenge you, Australia. If France can do this, why can’t you?

The town of Collioure

Collioure view from Moulin

Collioure is absolutely gorgeous. It is full of colour and I am talking about warm sunny colours – oranges, yellows and pinks. It makes everything look nice and in the sunshine it is even more attractive.

IMAG2015Collioure is the place where the likes of Henri Matisse and Andre Derain used to hang out in the summer of 1905. Throughout the village on the walls you will find a trail called ‘Le Chemin du Fauvism’ (path of Fauvism) of 20 reproductions of both painters.

The town of Collioure is divided into two parts, equally interesting. They are kind of separated by a castle called ‘Le Chateau Royal’ that dates back to the 13th century. The old part of town – Le More, where sailors and fishermen used to live, has no car access and is full of quirky artistic shops selling classy products and even more sassy places to eat.

Walking along the castle brings you to another part, also old but more residential and with car access. I am happy that I am not staying there as the width of the roads is about the same as my car.

View over castle and moulin

View over castle

Things to do at night

As a woman by myself I wasn’t sure what to do at night but nevertheless I ventured out on my own in search for a glass of rose. None of the more touristy restaurants appealed to me and I walked over to the residential area. When I was looking for accommodation there was some in that part of town but I had to book 3 days and I only wanted to stay for 2 nights.

There wasn’t much happening in this part of town but my eye caught a little place that looked like a bar. I went inside, ordered a glass of Rose and was observed by the people who 002were there. This little place was a hangout for locals and off course I got to know some of them.

The owner was a guy in his fifties,an absolute passionate cook who made all the dishes on order by himself. The menu was inspired by spices used in the Lebanese and Moroccan cuisine.

There was a bar with space for about 4-5 people and he prepared everything right in front of us. Additional seating area was nothing more than 2 small tables. In total there was place for less than 10 people and it was packed.

He cooked, he talked, he greeted everybody including men with two kisses and he drank. Everytime someone bought a glass he had one himself. He must have had at least 3-4 glasses of wine before he started with rum. One of the locals I met told me that this place attracted local restaurateurs and shop owners who come to relax and have a good bite to eat.
I can see why, as the food was yummy, different and so very home cooked. It was a pleasure to see the love and fun this guy put in his dishes and dealing with his customers. Another little gem!

Next stop Ceret and the Tech Valley, home of the cherry.

blog signatureMarijke at sea