Tag Archives: Expat in Sri Lanka

My Country – Holland AKA The Netherlands and BRESKENS

I actually think Holland is one of the coolest countries in the world, yeah I may be biased, I was born there. I am a full-blood 100% Nederlander, only I’m not in spirit but that’s another story.

This post is all about Holland and my Mums village. Why? Because I’m here and I’m inspired. It is the country where I was born, where I learnt my culture and how to live in the first years of my life (to put it simply). I’m here in the beginnings of the summer and it’s lovely in the small fishing village where my mother lives, Breskens.

Breskens is a small fishing village in the deep south west of Holland only accessible by undersea tunnel or boat from mainland Holland, unless you want to drive through Belgium…..confusing? HA, yes it is. Trust me to come from a place like this. Inaccessible – says it all really 😉

Joking aside this part of the world is extremely beautiful, if you like your land flat, as in it’s so damn flat half of it is below sea-level. Yet this gives way to the most stunning landscapes, during winter and summer, spring and autumn alike. Villages with stunning churches are dotted generously amongst the farms, acres and acres of farm land, yielding everything from potatoes, onions, leeks, cabbage, lettuce to orchards of apples and pears and more.

It's flat but magical

It’s flat but magical

Tulips take my breath away

Tulips take my breath away

These villages celebrate their history in yearly festivals (ok it’s a drinking thing but there is a reason, like a harvest timing etc.). My village, Breskens has a yearly “Fish festival” because we are situated on the coast near the North Sea. It’s a raucerous event for most local adults but the kids and tourists always have a great time too. There is a huge funfair (where you will end up stinking of candyfloss and beer even if you have had neither), lots of street markets (with vendors from all over the world, mostly selling crap from all over the world that you don’t need but buy anyway), a local boot sale in all the residential streets (more gossip than sales 😉 and then the ultimate – I’ll give  you  2 Heinekens for that old vase – deal? Deal!), famous Dutch singers turn up in this tiny village to sing their famous tunes in the Market Square, there is free fish everywhere, there are free boat trips, swimming competitions but most of all there is happiness and lots and lots of beer…..

Some images from Breskens (don’t worry you foodies, recipes are following soon!):

Breskens Lighthouse

Breskens Lighthouse

Breskens beach in the winter time

Breskens beach in the winter time

Breskens beach in the summer time

Breskens beach in the summer time (I will get a better pic soon!)

It’s not tropical, it has no surf, it’s a quiet tourist town but hey it has a hell of a beach and some of the best seafood in the world (even in winter). I will miss it when I go home just like I am missing my home in Sri Lanka now. 🙂

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Filed under Dutch recipes, Holland life, Just stuff

My Bad Sri Lankan Habits

I used to be quite the control freak. I was one of those people who got into a panic if they were going to be more than five minutes late for a work meeting or even drinks with friends. I meticulously planned my holidays and weekends and usually had an empty in-tray when I left the office on a Friday evening in London (otherwise I would dream about work). If I had invited people over to my flat, I had the place spotless, the wine chilled (or aired) and was ready to receive them hours early.

Fortunately, I’m happy to say that living in Sri Lanka has mellowed me out considerably. This country has ripped the reins of control from my hands,  taught me to relax and stop trying to be perfect (hari hari – kamak nee  – ok ok no problem). It’s also opened me up to so many possibilities. Everyday, I feel curious about something new.

However, I’ve found myself acquiring some disturbing “Sri Lankan” habits.

  • I have little regard for the time. After many frustrating episodes of arriving on time, only to find no one else there or ready, I’ve given up being punctual. These days, ten minutes turns into half and hour, and half an hour stretches into one hour. If I am late for something, I blame it on some event which could not be avoided! It’s quite liberating. However, it’s not good when I’m meeting friends and family from home, who consider 1 o’clock to mean 1 o’clock, and keep them waiting.
  • I stare at people. On a number of occasions recently, I’ve caught myself unabashedly looking at people. Anyone who interests me, I don’t hesitate to openly check them out. I guess I feel like I’ve been stared at so much in Sri Lanka, it’s fine for me to do likewise. Isn’t staring a normal part of human behaviour here anyway?
  • I wobble my head. It would be difficult to find a foreigner who hasn’t been confused by the comical Sri Lankan head wobble.  It took me a while to figure out but it kind of means “ok, as long as nothing gets in the way” – see “hari hari kamak nee” above) I’ve now started to enjoy this gesture. Not only do I happily wobble my head at people, I also sometimes think that there’s nothing that could be more appropriate. Why speak when you can wobble and it means so much more?
  • I put the phone down before saying” Bye”. Why waste money when the conversation has come to a natural end. This used to infuriate me… but the locals mean absolutely no malice.
  • I have told people they are gaining weight. This is not an insult in Sri Lanka. Being “chubby” is seen as healthy and can also be a sign of wealth. I try to avoid telling my English, Dutch and other friends this because I’ll get punched.
  • I speak Singlish to the locals. This is a wonderful mix of Singhalese and English which is completely grammatically incorrect and sounds stupid to everybody who does not live here. Examples are:
  1. I go and come soon ( See you later)
  2. I am paining (I have an ailment which hurts a little)
  3. I have animals in my table/door/head (I have wood lice/head lice)
  4. Too much blah blah (all words and no action)
  5. Can you drop me? (will you be so kind as to give me a lift?)
  6. Where do you stay? (where do you live?)
  7. I also come (I will join you)
  8. He is too much drinking (He’s drunk)
  9. A big problem happen just now (there has been an accident/incident)
  10. I will get down from the bus here… (I will get off the bus here…)
  11. I did just now wash the clothes (I have just done the laundry) – you get the idea 🙂
  • I think nothing about washing myself (and my dog) and brushing my teeth in public. You can’t go anywhere in Sri Lanka without seeing an old bloke in a sarong brushing his teeth by the roadside. Just as often you will catch a glimpse of  ladies washing themselves, kids, clothes and pets by a public well (albeit  covered in a sarong or old sari material). Most often than not (bar a few perverts who will instantly get a bamboo massage) this is normal and nobody bats an eyelid.
Bathing in public

Bathing in public

  • I avoid disclosing information. When I first met my partner, I used to get annoyed with him for being evasive with people or not giving them complete information (including me!!). Usually, it was to do with our relationship. Being quite ignorant of Sri Lankan ways back then, I was a little offended. I’ve fast realised that this is actually the easiest thing to do in this country. Being open and honest in Sri Lanka is not worth the hassle sometimes. Now I find myself perfecting the art of giving away as little information as possible — but just enough information to make the other person think that they’ve found out something interesting about me.
  • I don’t sleep with my feet facing the ocean or a Buddha statue. It’s considered bad luck and rude respectively (this isn’t really a bad habit – just peculiar).
  • I have nibbled a maggi cube during an Arrack drinking session. Enough said on that one. Too much salt is not good – try it though, it’s damn tasty.

I also tell beggars I have no money when my wallet is bulging. I know this is horrid but you just don’t know the genuine poor from the opportunists any more these days. I’ve been caught out before.

I’m also ashamed to admit that I’ve thrown rubbish on the ground. It usually only happens when I’m in one of my “I’m tired of Sri Lanka, and why should I do the right thing when no one else bothers” moods. I don’t do it often.

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Filed under Sri Lankan life