From Midrand to Hilversum: the expat series

I “met” the awesome Chanté Lindes through the South African Moms in The Netherlands Facebook group. We are both admins of the group, along with another amazing woman Barbara (who I will be including here soon).

Here Chanté chats about her life in The Netherlands with two young kids.

When did you emigrate and who did you come with?

My hubby accepted a job and started working in Amsterdam in January 2019. I looked after our four-month-old alone in South Africa for two months before being able to join him in March 2019.

Where did you live before?

We lived in Midrand, which is the midway point between Joburg and Pretoria.

Why did you choose The Netherlands?

My hubby took a leap of faith and applied for a job and next thing you know, its three months later and you’re saying goodbye at OR Tambo.

What do you do here? 

I am a full time stay at home mommy while also doing a night time course to learn Dutch.

Tell us a bit about where you live.

I adore where I stay because there are playgrounds galore within walking distance, and a forest a short bike ride away. This honestly saved my sanity during 2020 when I had to keep an inquisitive and active toddler entertained…. while pregnant…. during three August heatwaves (yeah, that was so much fun. Not).

Hilversum is awesome because the sense of community is in the very fabric of life here. Neighbours I have never spoken to in my life sent us congratulations cards and gifts when they saw the decorations announcing the birth of our daughter. I mean, that was just mind blowing and I look forward to paying that kindness forward.

What was the most challenging part of your relocation?

For me, it was trying to squeeze in as much time with my parents to let them bond with our infant son at the time, before I flew over. Little man was only six months old when I arrived here with him and he is now well on his way to being three years old. I have made sure to have video calls with both sets of grandparents every single day so that he “knows” them, but my heart will always hurt knowing that he could have had a deeper, more meaningful connection with them in real life. Other than that, everything is just peachy.

What have been your most useful resources here?

Facebook has been beyond helpful. I was able to join up into several local Hilversum Facebook groups when I settled and that honestly helped me orientate myself so much and provided me with opportunities to meet new people.

Describe a typical day here

A typical day for me would be having a walk outside or at a playground, always meeting up with one mommy and their kid/children. I kind of have a roster of which mommy I see on what morning since, because of Corona measures, group get-togethers aren’t really supported anymore. After the morning, outside playdate (come rain, wind, snow or shine), we have lunch, nap, chores, dinner, put little people to bed and then pass out. Man, on a side note –  can I just say that laundry never ends!

Aside from people, what do you miss most about South Africa?

The sense of belonging and having shared memories in the same places with new people you meet. For example, you meet someone new, and you can be like oh I went to Menlyn last weekend and ate at Mugg & Bean and that new person would be like, “Oh my gosh, I know what you mean, that Menlyn branch makes the best chicken salad ever and did you know xyz about the store next door?” It’s such a difficult thing to explain,

What has been the most difficult/challenging thing to adjust to?

The wind. I hate the wind. I love being out, even in the cold, even in the sub zero temperatures. The minute the wind arrives though, I become such a grumpy cat.

What do you love most about The Netherlands?

Being able to walk around with my children, in forests and playgrounds and in the towns without worrying about them being snatched. This has always been my biggest fear and I am still working through it.

What is the one thing you wish someone would have told you before you emigrated?

That there’s an app called Buienradar which tells you when it’s going to rain. Embarrassingly, my long-time friend from university only let me in on this app a whole year after I arrived. It would have saved me so many rained-on, bad hair days!



What are your new favourite foods?

Oliebollen (fried doughnut balls), especially the raisin ones.

How would you describe your bike-riding skills?

I adore my mamafiets and we go out with the kids in it at least once a weekend to go explore the nearby towns.. so I would say pretty good 🙂

What do you love doing on weekends?

Exploring! Hubby and I load the kids into their bike seats and then we literally just start cycling. No map and no plan. We just go. I can’t explain the beauty of the secret places we have discovered by doing this. A small part of me also hopes that my children will see that getting older doesn’t mean you have to lose your sense of adventure.

Do you speak Dutch, or are you going to start?

I am busy doing a night time class to learn Dutch. Our gemeente (municipality) paid for me to do the course and I highly recommend it, if you have the patience to be on a waiting list for a while (I waited over a year) that you try doing it this way. It’s fun and the people you meet in the course are incredible.

Describe the Dutch in five words…

Blunt, fast, paracetamol-lovers, gardeners, welcoming

What advice would you give to someone wanting to come and live in The Netherlands?

Be open to new friendships. That means actively sharing parts of yourself and being brave to ask them personal questions too. Friendships are like gold here and when you have children, they are more like blood – a lifeline to sanity. Try making Dutch friends as this is already their forever home.

I made some good friendships with expats in my first year and within months, was blindsided by them leaving to go home to their native countries to be closer to their families. it was a hard pill to swallow because I felt so alone all over again and that I had to start making new friends from scratch all over again. But, looking back, it made me stronger and I now have a wider net of friends because of that, so I suppose it all works out for a reason.

What’s on your to-do list once lockdown is over?

It’s our 10-year wedding anniversary this year so I want to plan to visit 10 new cities with my husband (and tag the kids along haha). Definitely within Europe of course, for ease of travel. Suggestions on where to visit would be great by the way, please!

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