Other than the news, I only watch one Dutch television show. It is called Ik Vertrek (translation: I’m Leaving). Each week they tell the story of a couple or family who are leaving the Netherlands and moving to another country. The first part of the hour is finding out why they want to leave, what they do for a living and what they plan to do after they move.  We see them saying goodbye to co-workers, to neighbors and to family. Family members are generally very supportive of this move, but there are many tears as they admit how hard it will be to be away from relatives.

Because this is Europe, most people are driving to their new home…their new country. The most popular destinations are France, Sweden, Spain, Austria, Italy and Germany. They have sold their Dutch homes, have packed their car and trailer, and they are ready for the long drive. What is so interesting about this show are the consistencies. Rarely does anyone know the language of their new country, they know Dutch and they know English. But most of them barely know a single word of another language. They all have the attitude that they will learn “on the job” and they are not so worried about this. And this fascinates me: none of these people have any experience with cooking and yet most of them have to run some kind of café or restaurant….they stand in the kitchen with a stunned look on their faces. And yet, it all works out.

Almost all of these families have purchased land, a home and many times, a business. The most popular business for these families to start?  Owning and running a camping site. These are Dutch people who have worked all sorts of jobs, from sales, computer technology, teaching, and social work. And they have a dream to start a new life and run a camping site. If not camping, then a bed and breakfast. Why are they leaving the Netherlands to follow their dream? The main reason is that it is cheaper to buy a business in another country. They are usually purchasing an existing business such as a camp site, and these are very popular destinations for Dutch tourists. They are counting on the Dutch coming to their new country and business. They want to be their own boss and not work a 9-5 job.  I think they are also people who are looking for a big change in their life and this is one way to do this.

Imagine moving to another country, whether it is in the EU or not, there is another language. And you have to hire workers to do work on your property, you have to deal with city hall, with real estate people, etc.—and none of it in your native language. Children will be going to school where they do not speak Dutch, so they will have to learn another language pretty quickly.

These families know that by having a camping site in France, they can appeal to Dutch campers. They advertise their business with a special appeal to the Dutch and that has worked out very well. The campers or customers like going to another country, but they still get to speak Dutch to the owners. Obviously, the business is not exclusively for the Dutch, but it sure helps when advertising on the Internet.

These moves take a lot out of people. Both partners have to do a lot of work, as they also live where the business is. This kind of move can bring on much stress, but most people handle this change very well. It can be hard on the kids at first, but they usually adjust very well once they make new friends.

You can imagine why this show appeals to me. Many parts of these stories are not relatable to me, but there are also some that are. People have a hard time dealing with separation from family. The good news is that many of these countries are a day drive away. But no matter what, your familiar has changed. You have new routines, new types of foods, new shops, new laws and regulations and a whole new soundtrack to your life. This show makes you realize how important the Internet is to these families, for many reasons. They could not do this move without it, they certainly need it for their business. And the Internet is my lifeline to my friends, I don’t know what I would do without it.

One of the most entertaining episodes was about a couple who took over a campground. As we watched the show, we saw the owners stepping into the pool, naked. Okay, that was not such a big deal. But then we saw campers coming out of their caravans, naked. It finally dawned on us that they had opened a nude camp site. And most of the people that were there, were Dutch. People were just walking around the grounds naked as can be. One night they all had a barbecue and I don’t even think the chef wore an apron. Everyone seemed very happy and fancy free.

It makes you realize that people have dreams, and sometimes those dreams are not being met in their hometown. They want to be their own boss, they want to own land, they want to explore new cultures….and they want to play horseshoes naked.

Recommended reading: one of my favorite authors is Anne Tyler and this is one of her best—Ladder of Years.  All about starting your life over.

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  • Loree Griffin Burns  On March 12, 2012 at 2:38 am

    “…a whole new soundtrack to your life.”

    Such a lovely way to put it, Jane.


  • Aledys Ver  On March 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    I’ve never seen this show in particular, but many times while zapping channels I’ve come across similar programmes with people leaving everything behind to start a new life somewhere else, away from their home countries.
    mMMm… where have I heard that before….? 🙂
    Maybe they’ll contact us for the new season of the series. Instead of “Ik vertrek” it’ll have to be, “Ik kom eraan” 🙂

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