Bitch Abroad

My Chronic Bitch Face and I have decided to take on a new adventure: Living abroad. That’s right. It’s time to immerse everyone’s favourite ‘is she happy, is she sad or is she just thinking about her next meal?’ quiz into a new culture. Because it can’t just be the UK that struggle with the conundrum… Can it? Science has proven that some people really do suffer with a face that has the inability to provide a positive expression, when it’s just in a little daydream. Yet as a nation, the UK appears to be unable to clasp that.


I guess my reasons also extend themselves to hoping that a change of scenery will help encourage my mouth to offer a little more than a horizontal line across my face when in a world of its own; growing tired of London and the brave desire to offer my creative word-smithery* to a new city. Amsterdam.

Yes, of course that last point comes with a caveat. *Smartly put together sentences that unfortunately will have to remain in English, until I crack the saliva-spawning riddle of the Dutch language. But let’s not try to ask too much of my face, okay?

I’ve come to terms with the fact that London / the UK will probably forever feel at ease with commenting and quipping on my resting bitch expression. But what about the Netherlands? A liberal nation. A direct manner. A no-nonsense approach. Will they too find my face a misery-engulfed puzzle; or, as one would hope, won’t give two Dutch fuckeries over what my resting face looks like because: A) who cares – it’s not their face; and B) it’s 2018 – if she wants to look like a woman chewing a casual wasp, then we’re here for it. 

Naturally, I hope for the latter. I want to discover a city of open-minded individuals that don’t feel the need to tell one to glimlach* when it really is none of their business whether I want to do that or not. 

*glimach = Dutch for smile.

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I’m curious to know: Are Dutch women ever subjected to a stranger instructing them on what their expression should look like? Does the same habit of judging a fellow human being according to their appearance when otherwise engaged, exist? Does the expression “Cheer Up, Love” have an (indirect) equivalent? (I bloody hope not.)

I’m a few months in and want to get a couple of things straight. 

  1. Speaking as an expat who’s already encountered many-a-hurdle in Dutch supermarkets – facial expressions are in fact completely unpredictable for us non-nationals when ticking items off of our weekly shop. I’ll let you experience that for yourself when you go into an Albert Heijn in search for Orange Squash (WTF do they call it?). So, anyone that has wanted to confront me down a grocery aisle can probably rest assured: I am in no mood to smile when Crumpets are nowhere in sight and I’ve wasted 23 minutes trying to unearth whether I have in fact got gnocchi or potatoes in my hands. (If you know you know).

  2. The streets of central Amsterdam: Busier than Oxford Circus three nights before Christmas. Every blinking hour of every blinking day. It really is a city that never sleeps. And thus, (not that I often find myself wandering the inner canals at 3am) tourists will get a guaranteed unimpressed glare. Like anywhere else in the world, they choose to take pictures in the most stupid places, stop to look at their map in the middle of the streets and wander from side to side of pavements, becoming very close victims to me stepping on their heels. COME ON NOW.

  3. Amsterdam is flat, they said. There are no such things as hills, they laughed. Oh, but we do have a few bridges, they whispered. And whisper they did! I never had myself down as a cyclist (commuting by bike in London and risk becoming the filling of a double deck bus / black cab sandwich? I’ll pass, thanks.) But in the Netherlands, it’s a completely different story. Cyclists dominate the road. They take priority and more fool you if you get in their way. And it’s great. I love cycling. However, when confronted with the foot of a very deceptive bridge, it’s a whole other ball game. I am not amused. My legs are not a fan. And those pesky inclines bring out a very bitter expression. 

And it’s these things that are exempt for being confused with my Chronic Bitch Face.

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With those three exceptions aside, when my face is left to do whatever on earth it wants in any scenario – am I going to experience any hassle? I’ve heard the Dutch are very much introverts. In my short experience thus far, they do just tend to keep themselves to themselves. It’s either that, or it’s painstakingly obvious I’m an imposter / expat and they choose to keep their conversations to those they can speak their mother-tongue with. Absolutely fair. Can you blame them?! I haven’t actually experienced people aiming comments or dropping remarks towards my neutral facial expression when crossing paths. 

Having said that, unfortunately, I don’t have a pocket interpreter. Sorry Google / Siri / other tracking app – I’ve got that shit switched off. So if a Dutch-speaking fellow makes a comment as they pass me by, I’m in no position to defend my naturally moody demeanour or even understand what they are saying. For all I know they might just be making weather small talk.*

*(Actually – that’s definitely just a Brit thing). 

So whilst I continue my attempt of understanding Dutch culture, life, language and normalities; I guess I am a little still in the dark on whether my resting bitch face can finally have a city to call home. But until then, my Dutch lessons will pursue. Yes, you can assume that there are three sentences at the top of my practise list. 

  1. Het gaat goed met mij.
    I’m fine.
  2. Nee, er is niets mis.
    No, there is nothing wrong.
  3. Ik haat je niet.
    I don’t hate you.
  4. Het is gewoon mijn gezicht.
    It’s just my face.