We are celebrating our 75th anniversary as British Council in the Netherlands in 2020-21 by sharing 75 personal stories from people who have a special connection to both the UK and the Netherlands. Read the 75 NL-UK stories and join us in celebrating our 75th anniversary. Watch the personal story from Marleen Geertsma and expand the boxes below to read the full stories by Branwen Spence and Mathilde Bosma. New stories will be added in the months to come.

Branwen Spence

The Bridge

I wasn’t meant to come to here, the Netherlands. I was on my way to Saudi, as a nurse, for big bucks and sunshine. But a stop-over in Amsterdam and a wander on Bloemgracht woke me up like a slap in the face. Many years later I’m a teacher with a son – big bucks? No. Sunshine? yes.

On that Jordaan flowered bridge, I saw dreams coming true in this enchanting, quirky village-city with it’s magic within reach. And coming from wild and hilly Wales I was right away at home. Both places magical. Both weathers the same. Both landscapes stunning; one flat, one undulating. Both densely-populated; one with people, one with sheep. Both people efficient with words, and upfront. Both very much my home.

The dreams I had on that bridge?

1.    to go from nursing into teaching, which came true.
2.    to become a mother, which came true.
3.    to get to 100, which, if I do, will mean I’ll have lived here in the Netherlands for 75 years!!! Fingers crossed!!

Branwen Spence

Mathilde Bosma

Many happy memories come to mind when I think back to my time studying at the University of Birmingham five years ago. The stunning red brick university buildings, especially during autumn. Of the one-pound national express bus deals; they allowed me to view Bristol’s finest street art, go punting in Cambridge and enjoy  high tea in Oxford. Memories of the unique British pub culture. A place that brings together people of all ages, that offers affordable local food and where you can feel all hot and flustered in a Christmas sweater during holiday season.

Some things took time getting used to. Like having to wear five sweaters at home to avoid skyrocketing electricity bills. Beers double the size the ones back home and a considerably higher average drinking speed. Figuring out how to crack jokes without being too direct or offensive.

But soon enough I felt at home. I had an amazing group of international friends. University life was exciting. There were societies I could join ranging from the Harry Potter society to the hummus society. The diverse background of our teachers and my fellow students made it a really interesting study environment. And procrastination was not an issue with the library being open at all times during exam period.

I never got used to partying in short skirts or high heels, or wearing no jacket during winter, but I’ll always have friends across the globe and a terrible British accent.

Mathilde Bosma