Sunday, July 13, 2014

Individual and collective choices

I wanted to share this video with you, because it has really stayed with me over the last week. I am struck her comments about how the focus on individual choices can distract us from collective choices that we make as societies and nations. I think the two can complement, can reinforce - but I also think it is true that my focus on what I can do to declutter, to be more frugal, and to live more sustainably is masking my lack of engagement on these issues more broadly. 

Blogging links those of us exploring this way of life together, offering valuable encouragement and ideas like virtual neighbours. This is incredibly important when we are starting out because we need to know that we are not the only ones exploring these life choices. However, I think our engagement online, in this community without elections, without institutions or governments, should at some point support engagement in our local communities.

To be honest, that's kind of scary. Deciding to grow beetroot on my balcony, reduce the temperature at which I wash clothes or knitting my own dischcloths is a lot easier than trying to build change locally. Where do I start? And the language issue does not help - I speak French reasonably well but not fluently, and speak almost no Dutch at all. I also don't know the local systems, norms and infrastructures as well as I do in the UK, even after several years. 

The idea of trying to get involved in local efforts at commuity, city or national level is very daunting. I have engaged with various volunteering projects or crafting groups since I've been here, although most of those have fallen away with the greater workload at my new job, but most of these were expat-dominated. I don't know most of my neighbours in the building, let alone on the street. But I'm coming to the conclusion that it's something I really want to do, something that is an unavoidable part of being true to how I see the way forward.


  1. I would really encourage you to take the leap and make community with non-expats if you really want to stay where you are. Having lived abroad for most of my life (including as a child) I can only say how superficial the attachments appear to be of those who never fully integrated. And how they missed out! Nobody else cares if you speak the language perfectly or not, they appreciate the effort you make in not just being another foreigner there and gone… It takes "living abroad" to a whole other level - and so it should. Sorry, my soapboax!

    1. I do want to but it's a bit challenging to know where to start. It doesn't help that most 'locals' work in jobs which stick rigidly to national working hour limits while expat jobs tend to take a more UK/US approach to overtime, so there are loads of activities starting at half six in the evening but I can't rely on being there. I'm exploring some possibilities... Watch this space (and thanks for sharing your soapbox!)



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