Monday, October 18, 2010

Miscellaneous Monday -- Life as an Expat

First things first ...  drum roll please ...  the winner of the $15 gift certificate is Dianne! Huzzah!  (and there is much rejoicing)

Email me at debi faulkner (at) yahoo (dot) com (without the spaces, of course), and I'll send the certificate to you via email.


Okay, now, onto life as an expat. Usually, it's pretty darn good. It's nice to experience other cultures up-close and personal. Of course, there are downfalls, too.

One such downfall is that absolutely everything works differently. Everything. This is not exaggeration, either. Even flushing a toilet can be quite the adventure. In fact, here's a story from a fellow expat. Let's call her Anne.

It was Anne's first day in the Netherlands. She'd been invited to come for a visit by an online friend and stepped out of the taxi excited and just a bit nervous. She rang the doorbell.


Then Anne noticed a small piece of paper tucked into the door jamb. "The door is open. I had an appointment, but will be back within the hour."

Anne pushed on the door, and it was indeed open. The hallway was bright, clean, inviting. Leaving her luggage by the door, she opened the door to the living room and sat down on the modern, leather sofa. The bright white tiled floor gleamed in the light of the huge front windows. There were few knick knacks, and little furniture. The room could have been a photo shoot from IKEA.

After traveling for the past several hours, and being a woman in her mid-50's, a sudden and urgent need pushed her up and off of the couch and back into the hallway. There were several closed doors and the stairway heading up. The first door opened into a kitchen, the second into a pantry lined with canned goods. The third door was the answer to her quickly whispered prayers -- a WC.

Having taken care of her urgent visit, Anne turned to finish the transaction, but ran into a bit of a problem. There was no handle to flush. With the exception of the toilet, the room was totally bare. Surely the Dutch flush their toilets? Then she spied the cord hanging from the wall near the ceiling. A pull-chain flush! How quaint!

Unfortunately, pulling the chain did nothing. Then there was the business of a sink. There wasn't one of those either.

Closing the lid of the toilet (some things would have to be left for later), Anne went in search of a sink and some handsoap. Fortunately, the kitchen had both.

As she rinsed and dried her hands and began the search for a wastepaper basket to dispose of the paper toweling (What are these Dutch people thinking?), a sharp knock came to the door.


Did that man just say he was the police?

And that was it -- the police and the fire department stood at this woman's door, demanding to be let in (speaking Dutch the whole time) while this middle-aged American woman, shaking in her shoes, tried to explain that nothing was wrong and that she was only trying to flush the toilet . . .

Yes, living in a foreign country can be a very eye-opening experience.


  1. Oh my gosh. I can't only presume it was the pull chain that summoned the fire brigade? Whenever a travelling mishap occurs I always tell myself, 'It'll just be another great travel story.' And what a brilliant example.

    P.S. How do you flush a toilet in the Netherlands? Just in case I'm ever there. :)

  2. Ha! It was an emergency cord (though you do have to be careful, because there are a few old throwbacks around, and you just may have to pull a chain!).

    The toilet in question had a small silver button on top that needed to be pushed into the top of the toilet to flush it. Sometimes there are also knobs that need to be pulled up. Sometimes there's a panel on the wall behind the toilet that can be pushed in. Then, of course, there is the energy-saving kind where you push one side for number one (which is a lighter flush, I guess) and push the other side for number two (which has a bit more power).

    It may be easier just to hold it the entire time you're here! ;-)