Using Children’s Social Facilities and Resources in Amsterdam during the Pandemic: Gathering Social Capital for Expat Parents

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Using Children’s Social Facilities and Resources in Amsterdam during the Pandemic: Gathering Social Capital for Expat Parents

Yian Wu 13022903

Master Cultural and Social Anthropology Graduate School of Social Sciences

Supervisor: Oskar Verkaaik Amsterdam, June 25, 2021



This thesis explores on how expat parents’ social capital works by using children’s social facilities and resources in Amsterdam during COVID-19. I adopt Putnam’s understanding of social capital as social interactions and connections. I ask how expat parents are using the limited resources and facilities available during the pandemic and whether, and if yes, how the public facilities can provide them with different connections with people. Eventually, I try to

understand what makes expat parents more likely to build high quality of social capital. This study suggests that different social facilities have different purposes while all being used as public platforms and thus form different levels of social trust and social connectedness. The higher quality of social capital is achieved when people have shared ethnicities and locality.

Key words: social capital, expats, public facilities, social trust and connectedness


Since January 2020 when the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Europe, people’s lives have been changed enormously. The Dutch government has been actively launching measures against COVID, including keeping 1.5-meter social distance, wearing masks on public transportations, and extending the lockdown period. Even though schools, institutions and daycare centers have been reopened since February 2021, museums, playdates and indoor children’s facilities still remain closed, which leaves parents with few options where they could take their children to.

The situation is even worse for expat parents, who do not normally have as many stable personal relations as the local population. They lose their daily contacts with their colleagues when working from home. They have less chance to talk with other parents at public spaces when people are encouraged to keep social distance from each other. With those who they

already know, people tend to keep their social circle small during the pandemic. Therefore, while they are trying their best to take their children to more social activities, do expat parents

themselves can also benefit for their own social purposes?

In this research, I am trying to understand how expat parents aggregate the social capital by using the social facilities and resources in Amsterdam during the pandemic. I focus

specifically on the outdoor playgrounds and one of the indoor playdate institutions in Amsterdam


through the lenses of expats and the pandemic to see how they are utilized and functioning for providing the opportunities for expat parents to meet new people or maintaining personal

relations when there are so few options. I regard those public areas for children as a platform for parents’ social purposes. Therefore, in the chapters, I respectively deal with the questions of what the ways are in which expat parents cope with their social capital in general during the pandemic, what the social facilities for children offer in regard to expat families’ social capital during the pandemic and what the reasons are that makes it more likely for expat parents to build social capital. All of them are aiming to form a comprehensive understanding of how expat parents aggregate social capital by using those facilities for children for their own personal relations with other parents during the pandemic.

First of all, who are expats? A basic understanding about a person who lives in a place which is outside of their home country falls into a more general category of “immigrants.” Some scholars study undocumented immigrants and specifically focus on their language barriers (O’Connor 1990). Due to the lack of the language skills, it is not easy for those people to find a job in a foreign country without relying heavily on their social relations. O’Connor calls this kind of network “a fictive kinship.” Members help look out for each other and provide mutual aids for all aspects of life. In some cases, researchers tend to focus from the perspective that immigrants are the most vulnerable population when confronting the pandemic because they are usually socially and economically disadvantaged. (Uscher, Duggan, Garron 2007; Ponzoni 2015). In the other cases, being culturally disadvantaged has been vastly discussed in the field. The focus has been put on experiencing transitions, cultural adaptations and unpredictable incidents while living in a society with different cultural norms and practices (Koert, Borgen, Amundson 2011).

Some professional immigrants who do not reside in any ethnic groups have to thrust into high levels of interactions with the local population and as a result, increase assimilation (Nesteruk, Mark 2011). All of those aspects could be part of the definition of “expats” but none of them could represent it alone. Therefore, in my research, my definition of expats is based on how my informants think about themselves.

Some informants refer to their expat friends as “international friends” to make a distinction between Dutch and non-Dutch people. Some use “we don’t have any families here because we are expats,” to explain the reason why this group of people are more likely to get together and call themselves “expats.” Similarly, the word “expats” is also used as a separated


group from the locals by showing that “[they] all have different backgrounds, but [they] all have something in common.” One of the informants wondered whether she was qualified as being an expat to do the interview with me because she explained that she might only be here for four years and after that, she would like to go back to her home country. However, no matter what the exact definition is, they all mentioned the fact that the main distinction between them and the local population is that they do not have their families around to support them. In addition to that, none of the families in this research have outstanding problems with their financial

situations. Most of them moved to the Netherlands because their partners received a job offer or a promotion that locating in Amsterdam which was better than what they had back home. Being well-off in terms of income and profession makes a difference between them and the other groups of people in the category of immigrants.

This research is conducted entirely in the city of Amsterdam, where there are

approximately 411 playgrounds1. After World War II, the famous Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck leaves the city with his playground design for children and there are still 17 remaining.

Moreover, as the biggest city in the Netherlands, Amsterdam has a promising number of the childcare institutions, which doubles that in Rotterdam, the second biggest city in this country. I chose an international playdate center, Robbeburg, located in Amsterdam Zuid to see how it works for expat parents during the pandemic. It is an entirely volunteer-based playdate center where parents have to stay there the entire time with their children, which at the same time provide a good opportunity for expat parents to know more people. Since the center is only open for private sessions with maximum of two adults during the lockdown, I was not able to do the participant observations there. However, I managed to get some information from the interviews with some of the parents who happened to be members of Robbeburg.

Most studies on social facilities demonstrate that having more public spaces can

positively affect people’s interactions (Bennet, Yiannakoulias, Williams 2012), the diversity of the neighborhoods (Wood 2015) and the crime rate (Mitchell 1996). Those include mostly community gardens, meeting points around the corner in a neighborhood and, in some cases, playgrounds. However, they rarely show what makes those spaces so important for people’s social patterns. Among the articles specifically on the relation between playgrounds and social interactions, researchers tend to discuss more about how the accessibility and the location of the


playgrounds affect social interactions happening on the playgrounds (Bennet, Yiannakoulias, Williams 2012). As being said, more have been done on the relation between the users and the spaces rather than the facilities’ effects on the relations among the users. Therefore, in my

research, I explore expat parents’ social connectedness during the pandemic and look specifically at how the facility arrangements at the playgrounds, the setting of the playdates and all the other resources make expat parents create different quality levels of social capital.

Theoretical Framework

The overarching theory I adopt for this research is the understanding of “social capital”

from Robert Putnam who defined the term as “features of social organization, such as networks, norms, and trust, that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit. Social capital enhances the benefits of investment in physical and human capital” (Putnam 1993: 1-2). He studies the social capital by looking at the institutions in Italy to see how they evolved in different settings from economics point of view. In his definition of different forms of capital, Pierre Bourdieu also starts his understanding from an economic point of view. He states that

“Capital, which, in its objectified or embodied forms, takes time to accumulate and which, as a potential capacity to produce profits and to reproduce itself in identical or expanded form, contains a tendency to persist in its being, is a force inscribed in the objectivity of things so that everything is not equally possible or impossible” (Bourdieu 1986: 241-242) and social capital is one of the forms, together with cultural capital. Both of the scholars agree that social capital is a token to bring people benefits. It is not a final product people want to obtain but a tool so that they could get more resources by having personal connections with others.

However, what makes them essentially different from each other is the source of social capital. Among the works in the field talking about social capital, they see each individual embedded in a collective to obtain their social capital, which is referred to as “membership.”

Putnam believes that “social and political networks are organized horizontally, not hierarchically,” (1993: 3) which means that people create their own social capital among themselves instead of obtaining the legacy from the previous generations, while Bourdieu explicitly shows that social capital belongs to “prestigious groups” and people are recognized under a “collective honor” (1986). The relationship among the members of a group tells how the groups are formed. Putnam’s social groups are heterogeneous. People in the same group can


have different backgrounds. There is nothing privileged. In Bourdieu’s social group, he sees people as individuals under different common names. They are either in the same class, the same family or the same tribe. They come to be under the same name because they have shared

honors. This explains why Putnam’s understanding works better for this research. The only common name my research population have is “expats living in Amsterdam.” They come from different cultural backgrounds, different families and different personal experiences. They might be privileged from other groups of immigrants in terms of their social backgrounds but within the group of expats, they are all equal.

The distinction between whether a group is hetero- or homo-generous largely determines how the social capital works in the groups. Putnam thinks that civic engagement is the core part of investing in social capital because when “people are connected by dense networks of

engagement and reciprocity, they are more likely to comply with the law, very probably because they are more confident that others will, too, so they will not be ‘suckers’ in this dilemma of collective action” (Putnam 2001: 12). In other words, the civic engagement guarantees the trust level of the group, and the network of civic engagement will facilitate social contract

enforcement under the shared value of reciprocity. However, the recognition in common and the profits are the basis of the solidarity in Bourdieu’s social groups. Those people do not generate trust among them, but rather get the heritage from the previous generations, which is not the case for expats. People do not hold the honor of being “expats” and are not able to get the access to different types of social capital from the previously arrived expats. This system could have benefitted expats in terms of the fact that they do not have to meet all the “acquaintances” so that they can get help. They are known to more people than they know, and it is easy to utilize the social capital. However, it only applies more to the personal relations of the local population when their families and old friends are around. Expats know very few people upon their arrival in the country. They need to work for their new friend circle and develop new personal relations.

As being said, Putnam’s social capital is a “public good” (1993). Even though it does not work as efficient as Bourdieu’s social capital in which the resources from an acquaintance are also available, it is accessible for anyone. Since it works under the value of trust and reciprocity, the social capital accumulates when you are using it. But how do we know whether the social capital is aggregating? Bourdieu takes social capital as a convertible form and adds them up in


the form of economic capital while Putnam thinks that it is impossible to “add up all those different forms of physical capital” (Putnam 2001: 2).

For this research, I regard expat parents’ social capital as a resource among only

themselves rather than a legacy from previous generations of expats. The social capital they are able to reach out to is only from the people they are connected with, which makes them so actively engaged in meeting new people and maintaining personal relations with them. The social capital is shared among all the members in the same group, and this feature is especially beneficial for expats who have the strong desire to be connected in a new country. Social connectedness and social trust are two proxies I use for observing and analyzing social capital.

In this research, I study how expat parents come together and meet new people by using the social facilities and resources for children provided. There is an assumption, which is proved with the data collected, that people want to have their own social capital because they believe that they can benefit from it. Therefore, this research explores the formation of the social capital rather than the effects of the social capital as in most works in the field. It is easy to think that the more individuals in a social group, the more social capital the group would obtain. In his work The Formation of Social Capital, Glaeser gives some examples of the relations between different factors with the social capital. Those factors do not always positively affect the aggregation of the social capital. For example, the investment of social capital would go down when the

mobility of people increases. The cost of time also has negative affect on people’s social capital investment because sometimes people lose the balance of investing and benefitting. He also distinguishes between the private return and public return, especially with Bourdieu’s

homogenous social capital when emphasizing individuals as the beneficent of the community social capital.

The other point Glaeser makes is the heterogeneity of the social group, especially with the ethnic and linguistic heterogeneity. Leaving out the cases of discrimination, “forming social capital requires coordination and coordination is more difficult when people are different” (2001:

18). Then what is “being different”? Expats are from cultural backgrounds different from the local one, but they are the same in terms of, for example, lacking in family support. No one group could be entirely homogeneous, but they become a group because they have shared values.

I will discuss two reasons that makes expats more likely to obtain high quality of social capital in Chapter Three.


Positionality and Ethics

The word “expat” might be the very first couple words that I learnt after I moved to the Netherlands. Upon my arrival, I need to get myself registered at the municipality of Amsterdam.

While doing the registration, I asked whether I could apply for a Dutch driver’s license with my U.S. license. The officer asked: “Are you an expat?” I remember I said that I was a foreigner and an international student. I had no idea what exactly an expat is. Then he opened a website on his computer and found a website explaining what an expat is. On that page, a couple of key terms came up – highly skilled, employed, giving up 10% of their salary for the welfare, etc. This was the moment I realized that expats are not only foreigners but probably a very prestigious group of people who come to the country for a good job offer. As being discussed above, those

requirements are not used for defining “expats” in this research because it is more on a governmental level.

However, as an international student who is also new to the city, I thought I could relate a lot with my research population in terms of the cultural shock and other aspects of life here in Amsterdam before I started my fieldwork. It is still true for some parts, such as the language barriers people encounter, but for the other parts, it is not always the case. In his article (2001), Glaeser demonstrates a strong connection between the social capital and the years of schooling which has extremely positive effects on people’s investment in social capital. It means that the way I meet most of the people here, either Dutch or non-Dutch people, is essentially different from how those expat parents meet their parent friends here. I am either not an expat or self- identified with my informants. In addition, with the fact that I am not a parent, the field of parenting in a foreign country is totally new to me. I explore the field almost entirely on the information provided during the interviews and my observations at the playgrounds, which keeps the biases from my positionality to the lowest level.

There are always ethics rules when dealing with children. Even though this research studies things around children, I only have direct interactions with parents. I got a chance to see one of the informants’ children and had interactions with them when I was doing an in-person interview. And other than that, all the interactions were with adults with their permission. During my observations at the playgrounds, I did not actively approach to children unless they come to me, usually under the supervision of their parents.



This research focuses on the role of the social facilities on expat parents’ social capital during the pandemic. I collected my data from interviews with my research population and observations at the playgrounds. Therefore, I am taking qualitative methods to do cases analysis rather than the quantitative methods.

While the social capital is a non-observable object and is hard to gauge, Putnam sees social trust and social connectedness as two proxies of the social capital (Putnam 2001). I adopt this idea and specifically look at how much people trust their personal relations and how much they are connected with other people. The social interactions and communications are two basic signs of which I used to evaluate people’s social capital.

The research population is the group of expats who have children that still go to the playgrounds or use other social facilities. I categorize them according to whether their children are older than four because children go to schools at the age of four which leads to a different social life from children who are still under four. Normally school children hangout with their friends on their own without too much involvement of parents while children under four still need a lot of supervision and parents’ arrangement.

I found most of my interview informants on Instagram where they post pictures of their children with the location tags at parks or playgrounds. With the information shown on their accounts, it is easy to see whether they are expats living in Amsterdam. While doing the

interviews with those people, I also asked whether it was possible to connect me with more expat parents and most of them were happy to help. All of the informants are moms who take at least half of the child upbringing responsibilities with their partners. Their cultural backgrounds are very mixed and no more than two people are from the same friend group. All the interviews are conducted in English except for one in Chinese.

Since the entire fieldwork period was done within the lockdown period, most people preferred to do the interviews online through Zoom. This is still much more valuable than asking questions through questionnaires. There was nothing really personal comes in my questions, so the accuracy of the information is still guaranteed through the non-anonymous interviews and the information collected is reliable regardless of the fact that the sample size is small. In order to have an idea of how people’s lives look, I always started the interviews with a general question


of how they are dealing with the parenting during the pandemic. This gave me a chance to chat with them a little bit before asking the interview questions and getting to know them more. Most of them mentioned a lot of things that I planned to ask during their brief introduction about their pandemic life with children. Then I started to zoom in and to ask specific questions that I wanted to know more about. This strategy ensures the diversity of the pandemic lives in my research instead of only including some specific types.

I slightly changed the focus of the questions along with the interview’s procedure. At the first stage, I asked more on people’s general activities nowadays during the pandemic. I focused on how their communications with other people are in general, including the interactions with the staff at the daycares, which is not necessarily within my research focus of social facilities. At the second stage, I started to ask focused questions on playgrounds. I wanted to know their choices of the playgrounds, their habits, frequencies of going to the playgrounds and their interactions at the playgrounds. At the third stage, I reached out to some members at the

playgroup, Robbeburg, to ask about their experience there. I only got one person who agreed to do an interview at this stage but luckily some of the informants from the previous two stages also had some experiences at Robbeburg so that I have some ideas of how people feel about it.

Besides all the interviews, two of those moms who were happy to help me for the research would like to do it through email. It cannot be denied that information collected from the questionnaires was not as in depth as that from the interviews as it was hard to sense people’s feeling, but the information given by those parents was still valuable. One of them was a member at Robbeburg so I asked specifically about it. For the other mom, I asked questions specifically on the


Besides interviewing the former and current members at Robbeburg, I also collect the information from their website. They updated their website during the lockdown to make it easier for parents to book a playdate through the webpage. On the website, they also share the idea behind their initiative of founding this organization, the mission and the target audience.

The information is valuable for me to know more about the organization since I am not able to do the participant observation on site due to the measure against covid-19.

It is noticeable that all my informants are female caregivers. This is due to the method I use for reaching out people. More females are posting pictures of their children on their social media, so it is easy for me to find more moms to do the interviews. However, during the


interviews, I find that most moms are not working. They move to this country because their partners are getting a new job here. This makes them have more demands to be socialized with other parent friends and children become an important gateway to their social capital.

Besides all 15 interviews with moms, I also did an interview with a researcher in the field of Aldo van Eyck’s playgrounds, Denisa Kollarová. She is one of the founders of a website called “seventeen playgrounds”. Our conversation was mostly around the ideas behind the design of the playgrounds and how the facilities are arranged. She gave me an insight of how Aldo van Eyck’s playgrounds are not only a place for children but also for people from all ages.

The observations at the playgrounds, on the other hand, began two weeks after the interviews started. There was no active interaction between people and me at the playground so that the environment could be preserved as undisturbed as possible. During my observation, I eye-followed people upon their arrival to see whether they were coming to meet friends, and how they started their conversations and interactions at the playgrounds. While observing people’s behaviors, I also noted down their positions at the playgrounds when they are having some social interactions. For example, whether they were sitting on a bench, or at the edge of the sandpit, or just simply standing while talking.

The locations were chosen according to the most mentioned ones during the interviews so that the information from the interviews and the data observed from the playgrounds can work together. Most of the observations were done at the playground at Herenmarkt in the centrum and the ones at the Sarphatipark at Amsterdam Zuid. Six more playgrounds around different parts of the city had been observed at least once as a reference to see whether the data collected at the Herenmarkt and the Sarphatipark can represent the playgrounds in Amsterdam in general in terms of the designs, arrangement and facilities provided. The observations in the first two weeks were done at different times during the day to see whether the interaction patterns vary.

According to all eight playgrounds I have done observations at, I categorize them based on whether they have characteristics of Aldo van Eyck’s playgrounds. Aldo van Eyck’s

playgrounds are usually featured with metal facilities in minimalist style, no separate zones for different age groups and having enough space in between the facilities. Since the list of Aldo van Eyck’s playgrounds in Amsterdam is missing, it is impossible to know for sure whether one playground is designed by Aldo van Eyck or not. Therefore, instead of identifying the

playgrounds, I decided only to borrow the idea of his designs to categorize playgrounds. In this


sense, the interaction patterns observed at the playgrounds will be analyzed mainly from the aspects of the designs of the equipment, the position arrangement of the equipment and the spatial display of the playgrounds.


Chapter One

Parenting Dilemmas and Patterns in a Foreign Country During the Pandemic

With the increasing mobility throughout the world, immigrants’ lives in a foreign country have been studied more and more in the field. The topics have been explored from the welfare system to the daily communication patterns. However, under the circumstance of the pandemic, more issues have been exposed with the measures against COVID-19. It adds another layer of burden for expat parents to gain the support and help from outside resources. In this chapter, I will start from exploring the dilemmas that expat parents encounter and how they rely on the resources available to solve the problems and eventually get an understanding of their personal connection patterns during the pandemic. All of them aim to answer the question of what the ways are in which expat parents meet new people and maintain social relations during the pandemic. I will discuss the cases of my informants from the information they provided during the interviews.

When talking about immigration, it is easy to come up with other related topics such as acculturation, inequality, integration, othering, and exclusion (Viruell-Fuentes 2007; Burgoon 2014; Schrover and Schinkel 2013). If we look closely at those terms, their alternatives include discrimination, cultural shock, second language anxiety and changes in family dynamics (Koert 2011: 195). While it seems that they are all related but not quite in one system, they all fall into the concept of “marginalization.” In their work on the marginalization of immigrant youth, Eldering and Knorth refer marginalization to “a process by which a person becomes distanced from the conventional institutions in society” (2011: 153). As being said, it is a process instead of something that people hold in the first place. It means that people put efforts into either acculturation or integration but fail with the outcome that they cannot be included in the

mainstream society. In another research, Nesteruk and Marks deliberately define marginalization

“in cases of loss of the original culture and limited interactions with a new culture” (2011: 811).

Their research focuses on expats who they define as educated young professionals. Even though this group of people are typically not financially and socially disadvantaged, the fact that they

“are less likely to reside in ethnic communities [but] thrust into high levels of interaction with the [local] population” (2011: 810) makes them marginalized in other ways. Leaving out whether the


statement is true for now, both definitions agree on the tension from leaving the old environment and entering a new context.

There is a discussion in Mette Andersson’s article on the evolution of the old and new perspective of marginalization. She uses Bynner’s view that the concept of marginalization points to social inequality within a hierarchical model (2003: 77). It could be applied from the smaller scale such as different institutions to a larger one of a society. It is a question of social inequality. The new perspective has one step forward by applying the concept in multiple perspectives rather than only on the social welfare clients. By putting the concept to a larger scale, “marginalization” starts to pay more attention on people trying to improve their marginal position, which comes back to Eldering and Knorth’s definition of marginalization as a process.

In the article, Andersson also brings in the concept of “Marginal Man” by Robert Park, stating that a marginal man is a cultural hybrid living in the middle of two distinct cultures and traditions, and he is a man on the margin of two cultures and societies which do not

interpenetrate and fuse (2003: 78). But are expats in this research “marginal women”? With this question, I agree with Willy Pedersen that marginal position is “a fluid position in between, in the grey zone between integration and exclusion” (2003: 77). This is a question of where the expats are individually on the spectrum. The discussion above forms the basis of the

understanding on immigrant situations in this research and explains why I categorize them in three different parts, the loss of the old connections, the limited interaction with the new environment and the adaptation.

Section One—the dilemmas that parents encounter

In this section, I will explore the dilemmas expat parents encounter specifically on their social capital. In her work on the factors that make educated immigrant women cope well with the changes they encounter in a foreign country, Koert uses the example of the educated female immigrants in Canada to illustrate that immigrants are used to “deal with both the transitions and adjustment involved in moving to a new country along with the unpredictable and changing workforce opportunities and lower economic earning potential that currently characterize the labor market” (2011: 194). She gets the conclusion that this group of people are used to changes and are more adaptive than the local population. However, are the changes caused by the

pandemic the same as the cultural adaptation? In the article, she covers the emotional support,


the practical support and how immigrants feel about the contextual changes without explaining why they can deal with some changes but feel out of control with the others. The situation becomes worse with the pandemic because when there are only the dilemmas for cultural

adaptation, expat parents still have personal connections from work or other children’s activities.

But now those resources are taken away from them due to the measures against the pandemic, expat parents’ options are limited. They have to make the most out of the few options left. The key of whether some issues are manageable while the others are not is the social capitals and resources they are connected with. At the same time, during the pandemic, the cultural adaption does not disappear but becomes even more severe together with the burdens from the pandemic.

One of the biggest issues that mentioned by almost all my informants is that it is hard to have interactions with the local population. Even though people’s attitudes toward it is very different, all of them have a consensus that they feel it easier to make friends with expats than Dutch people at the public areas. In my interview with Luci, she expressed multiple times that she was very upset about this when she first moved here. Luci is a Brazilian mom who moved to the Netherlands seven years ago with her husband. I met her on Instagram when we exchanged the idea on a post of playgrounds. She told me that she did her master’s degree in urban design and had been researching on Aldo van Eyck playgrounds. She is also studying public space and urban culture inside of a graduate course. After she knew that I am working on a research of social facilities for children, she shared with me a lot of resources that I could look into without me even asking for those. I was so impressed by her passion and kindness because back then we barely knew each other personally. Therefore, there is no surprise that she felt extremely

disappointed by people’s reactions when she tried to be friendly. When I asked about her experience using the social facilities for children, she said:

It was really, for me, not very… because I felt very, for me, is kinda a cultural shock. Like when I went to the daycare, I used to say hello, hi and a lot of parents, they don’t even look at your face. And yeah I felt it’s in the beginning for me in the Dutch culture that they don’t see each other, they don’t say hi or smile, was very annoying and impolite. For my background as a Brazilian, we say hello, we smile like more in the Asian culture. We say hello and bye. At least when we open the door, when I say good morning and good evening. I didn’t hear back. I think it is really weird and I was really shocked when I just arrived. For me, I feel


the communications are not very connected. Many things. I really feel very uncomfortable, and I feel not welcome. So, it’s kind of an exclusion and impolite because they don’t say it’s a segregation or I don’t like you in our face. But they just ignore you. It is very different how they segregate and don’t want to be nice.

It is not that. Also, when I went to pick up my son at the door, nobody talks to each other and they don’t even look at you. Horrible, it’s horrible. You feel horrible. Then I became like ok they don’t look and say hello. But for me I think it is important about the exchange and I don’t know if they have prejudice or something about being a foreigner. They have a lot of international. But the Dutch are very strange. And different on how to do social behaviors. Also, how they teach children. I had a lot of problems because my culture is very spontaneous.

From the repeated words she said to express her disappointment, she did not seem to have already gotten over this even after seven years. The same situation came up in my interview with Sonia, a Spanish mom who is a friend of Luci’s. Different from Luci, Sonia speaks Dutch. Her boyfriend is also Dutch, and she also teaches Dutch people Spanish. For her, she “has the access to that part of the society.” When I asked about her experience of communicating with other parents, she directly interpreted the question as communicating with Dutch versus expats. Then she started:

There is a difference. Yeah, I think that’s because, hummmm how do I put it, they are quite reserved. By reserved I mean it would be difficult to talk to them.

They are just staying on the surface a little bit. They are very educated and polite.

But you don’t go any further. It’s really hard to break the barrier to even become friends in general. And part of that is because they also have their social life here.

They are quite reserved in general, so they normally do not look for new friends around. They don’t need it. They are covered you know.

She then made a comparison between local people and expats. She attributed this phenomenon to the fact that local population have their personal relations around and do not have the need to meet new people while expats are here all alone without any family support. This is confirmed by a Dutch mom Daniella. I interviewed her because her


husband is French, so I still see her family as an expat family. She clearly expressed her attitude towards meeting people during the pandemic. She wanted to “keep the bubble small.” She said that “the contact with other parents, I don’t really need. I have my own friends. I don’t really care about that.” But she understood that if one day she would ever move to somewhere else, she probably would do the same because she would not have friends.

Going back to Luci’s case of interacting with local people, was it because that she does not speak Dutch so that the language barrier lays in the middle of the possibility to communicate? From Sonia’s experience, the answer might be a no. Sonia speaks Dutch well, but she still found it hard to communicate with local people. She recalled from her experience:

I think in the past 2 to 3 years, I made some good friends with Dutch people, but it took long. She is the mom of a girl who is in the school of my daughter, we can have really good conversations about anything. And she is really nice. I call it a friendship I like. Yeah, talking with them, having play dates and having a superficial conversation is quite easy. If you expect more, it’s frustrating. So, I end up making more

foreign friends than Dutch. Yeah, they have a lot of good things but making friends is not one of them.

Cecilia, a Brazilian mom who is also a friend of Luci’s, had the same impression about the communication situations:

For me, if Dutch people are direct, I think it’s OK, because I understand that they are friendly, but they don’t need friends. I think it is hard to build a relationship. It will not be working. But I have my best friend so I’m OK. They can be very direct and straight to the point, for most Brazilian they hate it because of the cultural difference but for me it’s OK.

As from the same country as Luci, she understands that the dilemma exists, but she does not push herself to be integrated into the local cultural norms because she enjoyed her life a lot within Brazilian community. She felt that it is difficult to find friendship outside of the comfort


zone of their community. From the way she said it, it seems that she would like to have more interactions with the locals if it is possible.

Pennie, on the other hand, has a more positive attitude toward interactions at the

playgrounds. As a Chinese mom, she engages a lot within the Chinese community. Even though her husband is Dutch, they do not really have a lot of interactions with the local people either.

She said that her life here relies entirely on Chinese friends. While we were having the zoom interview meeting, one of her Chinese friends came. The way they greeted each other was very casual and looked like they see each other every day. She explained to me that they were going to a friend’s place together soon after this interview with me. Different from Cecilia who also involves herself a lot in the ethnic group, Pennie does not expect to meet other parents at the playground at all unless they are also Chinese. From her experience, she also thought that even among Dutch people, it is not very likely that people will meet new friends at the playgrounds.

All the four moms have been acknowledged the fact that the local people have limited willingness of interactions with other people, especially random people at the public areas.

However, their feelings of isolation and frustration are on different levels. This is what Willy Pedersen calls “a fluid position” on the spectrum of marginalization, as previously mentioned.

The loss of their old personal relations pushes them to meet new people. And the frustration may increase when they have barriers making new personal relations.

Section Two – Interdependencies and Resources

Since the problem has been stated on expats’ limitation to get access to social interactions with local population, this section will discuss how expat parents rely on interdependencies and all the resources that are available for them to deal with the burdens on their shoulders.

In their article on parenting stress, Parkes and other authors come to a conclusion that parenting stress of the mothers who are with high or low education is higher than those with intermediate education. In their research, they see mothers with high education as being at high socioeconomic positions (SEP). Instead of using models of job demands and stress where higher SEP means “greater intrusion of employment into home life” (Schieman et al. 2009, cited in Parkes 2015: 907), they adopt a mediation model which suggests that contextual factors relating to limited informal or social support and formal support sources can give a comprehensive understanding of parenting stress (Parkes 2015: 908). Those supports are critical especially for


expat parents because they need to find new social relations to replace the loss of their old ones so that they can gain necessary supports.

For most expat parents, parenting in a foreign country means having no family support and sacrificing their own time. Gala is a Polish mom. She always plays with her five-year-old daughter at the playground while letting the two-year-old son play by himself because her daughter has already gotten used to playing with her and wants more attention. She expressed that she would like to have more time for herself. The other one, a Greek mom Maria also showed the same concern. She was happy that she can spend more time with her son during the lockdown, but she also loses the connections with her colleagues. She misses the fun part of the work.

Anna, an American mom, explicitly stated how she wishes that her family could be around:

The biggest problem (of parenting during the pandemic) is definitely not having a family close by. I think parenting is hard without that support. You know my husband and I haven’t been on a date in like so long. And just having

somebody, like family members that you trust, who knows your parenting style, knows your kids, and can command and give you a couple of hours while they watch the kid, give advice or that’s definitely the most difficult, not having those resources.

Anna’s husband has a demanding job, so he always has his door shut five days a week. “I am all alone basically with my son.” She felt that it has been hard to balance her schoolwork for her master’s and parenting. That’s why she started to go to the playgroup where she found some friends in a similar situation. She found a good connection there:

Robbeburg (the playgroup) is just something, yeah, it’s for him (her son) but also for me to find a community of other mothers and expat mothers and get advice and make connections and makes me feel like I am really in a community.

Yeah because we do hope to live here for a long time. It’s really a good way to learn about, you know, like best place to shop for your child, restaurants, fun activities.


Going to playdates and playgrounds is how she met most of her friends here, including Caroline who Anna later referred me to for an interview as well. They are in very similar situation because their children are around one year old, and they were both pregnant with the other one. They met each other at a local park and Caroline felt that she is more likely to communicate with others if they are in their neighborhood.

Part of it is probably because I am likely to put the efforts to speak to other parents at the local parts to me because they will probably live near me. So that’s useful to connect to people who are local to me.

So, we live in Amsterdam for nearly a year now, and all the friends we have met now, nearly meet all of them on our local playground. So that’s how I met Anna. That’s how we have met pretty much all our friends. You can easily identify who the other expats are. So, if we are at the playgrounds and we can hear that someone is speaking English, and if they are at the same age, my son would be like (pointing).

We kind have a similar understanding. We all know what it is like to move to another country with young children or having a young child here. Because most of the people we have met, we have all moved to Amsterdam within the corona time. So, it is quite a unique experience for expats, I think. We all kinda have that experience in common, which I think is really nice.

Meeting other people means having useful resources. This is the initial reason why people would like to invest in their social capital, especially when they are in a similar situation.

It is true that social capital is not something that could be added up easily, but in this case when people in the same situation are facing the same issue, interdependencies can turn the individual social capital into the collective one. At the same time, people feel that they are both physically and emotionally supported when they come together.

There are also other forms of interdependencies, such as going to each other’s places for playdates and looking for babysitter resources.

Other than going to the commercial places for playdates, parent-initiated private dates are also a common option for expat parents. Those playdates are arranged among parents’ personal friends or the parents whose children are in the same class.


Luci always arranges playdates for her sons with their classmates. Parents take turns to take care of children occasionally so that the other parents can get a chance to relax and take a break from parenting. In Luci’s culture back in Brazil, having a maid living in their household is a common thing. But since it is not possible here, she takes all the responsibilities with her husband. She managed to find a neighbor in their building to babysit her sons if there is anything emergent. Sometimes when her friends get some unexpected incidents, they will also leave their children with Luci. Having people who can turn to or friends living nearby can be extremely handy when families are not around. But from Luci’s experience, going to classmates’ homes for playdates only happened after her sons started to go to the basis school. Before that, it was all on their own connections and personal friends.

For working parents, investing time and efforts into arranging playdates is not always possible. Charlene is a French mom. Back to the beginning of the pandemic, they went back to France for the first couple weeks. “Even though the situation in France was quite the same because you couldn’t do anything after six so… but anyway, it was ok.” She said. But by the time we were doing the interview at the end of January, they had only been back for three weeks.

“We are back for three weeks now. It’s quite long. It is very long I would say. It is getting tougher and tougher. Because my husband and I have been working from home since March last year already. And we are both working full time.” When she was back home, she did not feel that it was exhausting because her family was around for help. Here in a foreign country, they have to take all the responsibilities themselves. “I really can’t wait for the nanny to open the door because it is hard to split ourselves between full time work and full-time parents at home at the same time. It’s quite tough, emotionally, I would say, and mentally, pretty pretty heavy.” Her daughter goes to a huisouder instead of a daycare, where a nanny receiving kids at her house.

Unlike some of the other parents, Charlene’s family is not child centric. “We don’t live for our daughter if that doesn’t sound too negative. I can understand for some people, but we are not like this. So, the free time we have got is more for going out and meet people who are not only into babies and napping and stuff.” In the meantime, she used a babysitter service, Charly Cares, to find an available nanny instead of going to playdates.

We are not huge fans of parenting 100%. Like let’s go for picnics

together. I used to do that when my daughter was younger. When she was a baby, I used to be in a mom’s group in Haarlem. Kind of like an international mom’s


group. It feels good but the more you go, when your life is completely different from others. I am like splitting away. They are all sweet and nice, but they are all full-time moms. No one was working and I am 100 miles away from that because I am happy to go back to work as soon as possible and stuff like this. So, we are not like 100% child related.

As a working mom who tries to balance her work, her daughter, and her personal time, Charlene uses resources mainly from the internet. She relies more on the information posted online because it is more efficient for her.

When being asked about how she feels about parenting during the pandemic, Pennie is the only one among my informants that thought the situation was not too bad. She told me that it was always manageable with two sons. She said that her husband only works three days a week now and she works in a university as a lecturer. I was surprised by her relaxed tone while telling me this because I knew that she is also a blogger on one of the Chinese social media platforms where I reached out to her. She updates her channel almost every day with a video. It was hard to imagine how she could manage her life so well during the pandemic. I was confused until she mentioned that her children’s Dutch grandparents always come to take care of them. As

mentioned by Parkes, “grandparents are likely to be the main source of support for many parents, providing emotional as well as financial and instrumental assistance” (909). No matter how good the formal and informal institutions are, family members are always the best resource that

parents have.


Section Three—Personal Connection Patterns during the Pandemic

It shows that even though most of the expat parents do not normally have grandparents around for help, other resources such as friends can also reduce parenting stress (Parkes 909).

However, going for playdates with friends can never be a routine and parents always have to put efforts and time to initiate those for their children and it only takes up a small amount of

parenting time. Then what are the ways that work for the expat parents in general with their personal connections?

In this section, I discuss three categories that show people’s social patterns during the pandemic among my informants. Some are actively meeting new people, some only being in contact with people they already know, and the rest prefer not to meet others.

Knowing people from institutions is the easiest way to build on the social capital.

Although the institutions do not have to be as prestigious as the ones in Bourdieu’s

understanding of social capital, the membership in a group “is the basis of the solidarity which makes [the profits] possible” (1986: 22). In this case, the “profits” are useful relationships rather than the symbolic profits.

Anna, for example, takes good advantage of this her membership at the daycare and was able to get some help from it. When I asked her whether she had some connections with the parents or staff at the daycare, she answered:

Yeah (I have) a few connections then actually one of my son’s teachers is babysitting him now. So, it’s really really great. So, she comes two mornings a week and helps to have more work done, for me, schoolwork mostly. So that has been huge huge huge help. They have been really really supportive, like really nice and try to help anyway they can. I am very lucky cause I know some other families are not in such situations.

When children reach the age to go to school, parents’ role in bonding together decreases while children start to build their own relations with others. In most cases, the parents may get to know each other because their children are classmates, and the bonds are automatically created through children. And school, as a trusted institution for most of the parents, is the main sources of support for them.


As mentioned above, Luci’s experience of meeting people is not as great as she expected in general. However, the situation changed when she and her son ran into a classmate at a playground.

Once I was at the playground and I saw the children because they have a group from their class. Then I came to that mom and said I think he is in the same class of my son. And then she asked my son’s name. Then we exchanged our contacts and planned a future playdate. Because Dutch schools have those trips to museums and other places and parents have to come and help. That’s how I meet more parents from my son’s school.

The membership under the same institution makes it so much easier for the connection.

Katherina experienced the same with the bond.

We met other parents when we pick up our kids. Or we have to discuss something, so we go to a zoom meeting something like that. But yeah, from last year, most of the time that I picked up my kid from school, there are other parents, we started to talk about our kids.

Schools not only create the bonds among families, but also act as an important resource platform for parents. Lara is a Russian mom. She moved to Amsterdam with her husband and her four-year-old son last year. She is still new to the city and sometimes finds it hard to make new friends since she is not working right now and does not use English a lot in her daily life. But she does not have any problem to reach out to other parents because her son’s school provides all kinds of resources that she can just go and ask for. Like other parents, most people she has the communications with are from her son’s school. But different from all the other informants who always know a lot of resources even though they have not yet tried them all, Lara does not even know about playdates. However, I did not feel her anxiety of moving to a new city without knowing anything. In fact, she gave the impression that she got covered by the school and as long as she wanted to, she could simply reach out.

However, situations get different with different institutions. The daycare Cecilia’s son goes use mobile apps so that parents can be kept up to date with their children.


It was expected that in the daycare I would have friends and stuff. But no.

All the interactions are directly with the staff. He is in the second daycare right now. Before the pandemic, I used to go to a nanny place and then he went to a daycare. They have an app. They send pictures so we don’t have to contact with other parents. And because of the digital stuff, they try to not reveal the names of the kids. So, I do not know the name of the kid who is playing with my son every day because they don’t post it. I can see the pictures, but I am not officially introduced to others. It sucks because he plays from Monday to Thursday every day.

It is good that parents can always know what happened to their children with a live stream through an app because a lot of unexpected accidents happen without being noticed by the staff at the daycare, which were brought up by two parents about their disappointing

experiences when their children got scratched at the daycares, but it decreases the opportunities that parents can get together to have a meeting and therefore to know each other.

Even though it shows that the frequency of mobility has negative impacts on investing in people’s social capital (Grossberg 1996), people tend to put a lot of efforts into the connections they might have around them. They actively met people when they just moved to the


When I asked Caroline about her pattern of meeting new people, she said:

I think, most of the friends we have met, I have met all in a short space of time, not long after we first moved here. We really have that kind of incentive or motivation that makes us want to make friends. So that’s what we all did. We just go to the playgrounds. But you know I have not met new friends a few months now. I think part if that is because I feel like I have a little friendship group now.

That’s really nice. I am really happy with. But it would be really nice to meet more people that are perhaps having a baby around the same time as me.

As previously mentioned, Caroline thinks that the more people she knows around her, the more useful it could be, especially when they are in the same situation. In addition, Sonia also met other people when she just moved.


We live in this neighborhood since my daughter was two. In the Dutch education system, they have something called voorschool2. We met some parents there when we moved to this neighborhood two years ago. Some people end up being in her class and school. Some of them didn’t. Luci and I were neighbors in the neighborhood. And she had two children and I also met her when I moved to this neighborhood.

With others, they did not specifically go into details how they meet the people in their neighborhood, but they mentioned their neighbors now and then in the interviews. They are either mentioning that their neighbors recently have a new boy so they talk over the fence, or when they have some incidents, they can leave their children at their neighbors’. Some get really close with their neighbor and they talk about their career or even share some opinions on the society and so on.

Besides the parents who do not want to meet people during the pandemic such as the Dutch mom Daniella, the not-child-centric mom Charlene and Cristina who has been living in the Netherlands for two years but doing activities that are mostly family-oriented, there are some parents who try to only dedicate to the people they already know during the pandemic.

There are various reasons for this. For example, Pennie and Maria think that there is no need to expand their friend circle. When being asked whether she meets people at the

playground, Maria said:

Not really at the playgrounds. We have other connections, through the school community. We have friends who are living nearby or those who are not living nearby. So, we always try to arrange play dates if it’s possible. There is no need to connect with the parents at the playgrounds. We may have some

communication, but it’s just the communication about the thing is happening at that time. We are really... I think it is quite difficult in those relationships. But we are really covered. We don’t really have time. When we have time, we are

dedicated to the people we are already connected.

2 Voorschool is the Dutch word for pre-school where children from two to four go and get prepared for primary


But for Katherina, she concerned more about the hygiene.

To be honest we try not to meet too many people. Only those parents who we know better. Only for the kids to be social sometimes with other kids because the situation is too frightening for the children, be afraid that they will touch other kids or communicate things like that. Yeah, we are trying to do it separate. For example, one weekend we meet one couple. Another weekend another one.

Things like that, not a lot of people.

Some of the other parents also mentioned the impacts of COVID-19 to their social life.

One thing they shared in common is that they are not as social as they used to be. In order to stay safe during the pandemic, they try to keep their social circle small. They only dedicate to people they already know and try to meet less people at a time. Some parents are concerned about the hygiene issue at the playgrounds because those are the open public space where no cleaning crew is in charge of keeping everything clean on a regular basis. Those largely decrease their

opportunity to meet new people or maintain their personal relations.

In general, expat parents have to deal with the dilemmas of living abroad and at the same time taking on the responsibilities to take care of their children under the measures against COVID-19. All the expat parents still keep contacts with their personal relations during the pandemic. They rely on interdependencies of each other with the understanding that they are all in the same situation without any family support. Among those who are still actively meeting new people, they use different platforms that are still available for them such as playgrounds, playdates and formal institutions.

While parents are trying to make the most out of their personal relations to keep a healthy social and physical life, they still explore to see what the options are for them so that they can get fresh air and socializing with others. People tend to spend more time on the playgrounds and at the playdates. Then what do the facilities at the playgrounds and playdates and other resources offer for the social interactions of expat parents during the pandemic?


Chapter Two

Opportunities that Social Facilities Offer for Expat Families’ Social Capital

While being marginalized and disadvantaged from parenting in a new social context, expat parents are trying their best to utilize the facilities and resources that are still available for them during the pandemic. They talked about how they miss the places they used to go before the pandemic and how much they appreciate the facilities that are still available for them during the lockdown. Among those, the most mentioned ones are the open public playgrounds and the indoor playgroups. The question I am tackling in this chapter is how the facilities and resources affect the formation of the social capital of expat parents during the pandemic. I will use the data I collected from the observations at playgrounds and the playgroup, Robbeburg, to explore people’s interaction patterns from the facilities perspectives. In other words, how the facilities are affecting people’s connectedness and trust while they are using them.

As already being known, most of the facilities have to remain closed according to the measures against the covid-19. How does it affect expats’ parenting patterns? From their research on the relation between playground accessibility and neighborhood social interaction pattern among parents (2012), Bennet and other researchers find that poorer access to some resources may encourage greater neighborhood engagement (2012: 199). It means that people will take advantage of the only resources available to engage with other people. Those places, during the pandemic, are normally public open spaces which fall into the category of “third places”, referred to as “public places that host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work” (van den Berg 2014:

961). Similarly, Whitham also uses the term when exploring the community connections, where she defines it as “gathering places are another important space where we spend our social time, in addition to home and work” (2012: 444). Both reflect the notion that the third places are gathering places for people to get out of their own private domains for social purposes. Those works are essentially different from most of articles on social capital which focusing mostly on the effects of social capital rather than the causes of social capital. Studies on social capitals tend to start the discussion from the civic networks. They “consist of more formal, goal driven ties, while gathering place networks are characterized by informal social relations” (Glaeser 2001: 2).


Then would the gathering at the third places, where informality takes the lead, also result in the formation of social capital?

In this research, I put the facilities into two categories, informal facilities and formal institutions. Most focus will be put on the informal facilities such as playgrounds and the

playdate, Robbeburg. The playgrounds discussed in this research are all open public playgrounds around the city of Amsterdam that are open and free to all the residents (Figure 1) while the playgroup Robbeburg is a non-profit service center where parents pay for the play sessions there (Figure 2). I include formal institutions such as daycares and schools only because those are the important network resources for some of the expat parents, but I do not look specifically at the facilities there.

Compare with the formal institutions such as daycares, parents are more involved in informal platforms such as playgrounds and playgroups. Even though in some of the literatures, authors use interactions among parents to study the interaction level at the daycares and schools (van den Berg 2014), more studies have been done on parents’ involvement with the informal institutions. It is partly because when formal institutions are studied, those are more about the proficiency. Those institutions either “encompass governmentally mandated or sponsored services” (Froland 1980: 573) or “handling problems requiring technical knowledge, expertise and objectivity” (Froland 1980: 577) and parents always have to adjust their working schedules with the time to drop and pickup their children (McLeana 2017; Schwanen, de Jong 2013).

However, informal institutions can benefit expat parents more besides the fact that parents need to stay the entire time because there is no professional and qualified personnel on site for help, which provides expat parents with more opportunities for social connections.

Figure 1. One of the open public playgrounds in Amsterdam

Figure 2. Interior of Robbeburg (picture downloaded from their website)


The informal resources, different from the formal ones, also provide assistance from “kin, friends, and neighbors, indigenous or natural helpers, and informal self-help or mutual aid

activities found within networks or groups, usually on an unorganized or spontaneous” (Froland 1980: 573). The people who use them form a network among themselves without any

organizational help. Those institutions and resources work better for expats in terms of providing the concrete help and emotional supports which are rarely found in the formal institutions. When they are talking about the welfare agencies in the U.S., Taub and the researchers state that “their main objective was to bring newly arrived ethnics and other disadvantaged groups into the mainstream of American life” (1977: 438). This is also the case for the informal facilities in this research. When expats gather together, their individual issues become a collective one, which means “normalizing rather than problemizing concerns” (Froland 1980: 575).

During the pandemic specifically, the importance of using facilities stands out even more.

Since the lockdown, children are not able to go to the institutions. Parents, then, have to take up the responsibility to take care of their children’s daily life. With the work they have already been juggling with due to the shift to working from home, the days for parents become “extremely long” according to some of the moms. Most of the expat parents take their children outdoors whenever the weather is nice regardless of whether it is during their normal working hours or not. Therefore, it is observed that playgrounds are packed all day long during the pandemic when the weather is good. For the playgroup, on the other hand, the situation is different. The

maximum number of the parents presented was cut to two and extra work needs to be done before they can go to a play session. They need to book the session every time before they go to check the availability. Since expat parents are putting more efforts into arranging and using the facilities for their children, what do they get in return for their own social capital?

In this chapter, I see those children’s facilities as platforms for expat parents’ social purposes and try to figure out how the playgrounds, playgroups and other resources work differently for them.

Section one – Playgrounds

This section will mainly focus on playgrounds. From what we have already known in chapter one, some people have very positive experiences in meeting new people at playgrounds while others have very negative ones. What the situations exactly are at the playgrounds? What


makes expats’ social experiences vary at the playgrounds regarding the facilities and equipment designs?

Amsterdam has abundant playground facilities around the city. Among all different styles, the most famous ones are the Aldo van Eyck’s playgrounds. He made use of the overlooked spaces between blocks to create places for children to entertain back to the Post World War II when children lost most of their own spaces. But unfortunately, the list of the 200 playgrounds he designed is missing. Therefore, in this research, instead of defining whether a specific playground is designed by Aldo van Eyck or not, I borrow the ideas that those

playgrounds featured, such as the materiality, the design of the equipment, zone separations by the age groups and the redistribution of the benches to make a distinction with other

playgrounds. I did most observations at the playground at Herenmarkt near central Amsterdam and the separate ones at both ends of Sarphatipark in Amsterdam Zuid. Moreover, in order to have an insight of the playground design in Amsterdam, I also interviewed a researcher in the field, Denisa Kollarová, a co-founder of who has been studying actively on Aldo van Eyck’s playgrounds.

When talking about the facilities for children in Amsterdam, many expat parents feel happy about what they have here. As a mom from New York, Anna likes the relaxing and safe environment that she and her son can enjoy at the open public playground:

I see them have a lot of freedom. I see young kids out by themselves, riding bicycles. In New York, that would never ever happen. It wouldn’t be safe.

It would be, you know, really frightening. But here, I think, there is definitely more relaxed attitude. I noticed that kids have more freedom. They seem to be responsible for all people. So, I like that idea. I like the safety of the Dutch culture, kind of look out for one another. Yeah, I am very pleased. I think it’s a good place to raise a young family.

Sonia, on the other hand, appreciates the convenience of having the facilities within the walking distance:

I always go to the playground close by. Luckily, we have a lot of those around. I think Amsterdam is really a green city. In the neighborhood, you always




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