From Delft to Glasgow: Swapping the low countries for the Scottish hills

Photo: Jaap bij de Vaate
Photo: Jaap bij de Vaate

After 16 years working with the international community, Delft MaMa founder Lucie Herraïz Cunningham is moving from the flat lands of the Netherlands to Scotland. So how does it feel to be packing up a Dutch life?

How do you feel about leaving? Excited, sad?
After living in Delft for 16 years and having to say goodbye to very neat friends every year, it is finally my turn to be on the go. I am so lucky to have met so many kind, creative and smart people over the years, some who became my extended family in the Netherlands.

At my farewell party, I realised how diverse in age, sexual orientation and nationalities they were and how rich in friendships and colleagues I have been. I will also miss my friends’ pets which I used to take care of when they were on holiday.

Glasgow is where my family and I are about to move to and the three of us are excited about working and studying in English again. We will adjust to the local accent and we were already charmed by the sense of hospitality and friendliness of Glaswegians. I can’t wait to be closer to hills and serene nature!

Did you ever think you would leave the Netherlands
I’ve been feeling quite integrated, as I was very active in helping internationals settle down and be active citizens through paid and volunteer work. We first thought that we would be here until our retirement.

I had a deep sense of belonging and doing meaningful work for the international and Delft communities. But when a great promotion for my husband presented itself and my paid assignments were declining through municipality budget cuts, we re-evaluated our individual situations. We decided to be adventurous and start a new chapter of our lives in Scotland.

What will stand out as your best memory of your time in the Netherlands?
Delft is just so safe and beautiful, it attracts innovative people from all over the world and other Dutch provinces. I have visited many people, institutions and buildings and feel that I know Delft inside and out.

I am honoured to have contributed to further improving the living climate in Delft by creating foundation Delft MaMa, my work with municipalities and being a board member of several Delft organisations. I was also a regular volunteer for great initiatives from others who inspire me very much such as International Women’s Day, City’s Finest, Smashing Tiles (Community mosaic against graffiti), the Delft Ceramica festival and Delft theatres.

What will stand out as the worst experience you had?
I became a mother here and having to move sky and earth about my son being bullied in primary school was a very rough experience for him and for us parents.

What do you think you will take from your time in the Netherlands to Glasgow?
Living in the Netherlands has helped me be more assertive and outspoken for issues that matter and myself. My grassroot and local government work for internationals and women rights clarified what professional environments I thrive in. I will continue biking even though there are way fewer bike lanes in Glasgow than in the Randstad.

What does your ‘Dutch’ son think about moving?
He is about to turn 16 and of all school years to move, the transition to high school feels like the right year. He has online friends from the UK and through them he heard about creative and sport-related activities on school premises.

He would like to continue improvisation theatre, playing strategic board games and practising martial arts there. He is excited that IT is available as a specialisation from high school onwards in Scotland.

What would be the one tip you would pass on to the family that will replace yours in NL?
Embrace the Dutch’s more normalised environment friendliness! There are so many things – choosing sustainable energy providers, biking to work and school, using public transport more often, taking your broken items to repair cafés, supporting no-kill animal shelters, recycling and swapping, sharing cars and community gardens.

You have a big network… how do you plan to stay in touch?
Social media has been a blessing after years of short and expensive phone calls and writing few but long letters to family and friends, and sending printed pictures by post. I plan to chat with my friends through Whats’app and Facebook. I might share some of my experience in Glasgow on Twitter or a blog. I look forward to my next trip back to the Netherlands next year!

Delft Maternity And Motherhood Assistance (Delft MaMa) is a non-profit organisation promoting the well-being and integration of international mothers-to-be and mothers of young children (0-12 years old) in and around Delft

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