Dutch Treat

Netherlands family makes Airdrie home

It’s something we take for granted every day, but for Bo and Marc Fransen, it was a major selling feature when they decided to relocate from their home in the Netherlands to Canada 10 years ago.

“It was space – absolutely,” says Bo. “It’s something we lack in the Netherlands, unfortunately. We were from the busy part, right in the heart of Amsterdam. Sometimes it took me three hours a day sitting in a car for 35 kilometres going to work.

“The Netherlands would fit between Red Deer and Calgary and it has half the population of Canada in that size of land,” she adds.

According to Bo, the decision to move herself, her husband and their two very young daughters to Canada in 2005 was made very carefully. “We both had good jobs, cars, house – everything was going well and we had a good education system and health care was fine,” she says. “It’s not like you were leaving a war zone – you wanted to make a good choice, especially with kids. It’s not like, ‘OK, if it doesn’t work out, you can just pack your bags and come back.’ You want to make sure.”

That’s why in 2002 Bo, Marc and three-year-old Kinga spent more than a month exploring Canada in a rented motor home, including visiting Calgary and the Stampede. “We wanted to see if this was the place we want to be,” says Bo. “My husband was in oil and gas, so [Alberta] was the place to go to. On the third day, our little one said, ‘Mom, I want to live here.’ After five-and-a-half weeks, we ended up going home and she was bawling.”

It took several years to work through the procedures necessary for relocating. During that time, Bo had another daughter, Odett. Initially, the family lived in Okotoks and Marc quickly found work in northeast Calgary, but they decided the commute was a bit much and looked at homes in Calgary before realizing they could get a bigger house for a similar price in Airdrie. They first moved into a home overlooking Woodside Golf Course, and four years ago relocated to Windsong.

“There are a lot of Dutch people here,” Bo notes. “About eight per cent of Albertans have Dutch roots. It’s a place that feels good to us. I didn’t have any adjustment – and my family adjusted so easily. Language for the kids wasn’t a problem … normally, we speak English, Dutch or another language [in school].”

Bo says that the small-town feel of Airdrie, so often cited by others who decide to come here, also appealed to her. “When we came to Airdrie, it had 24,000 people, so it was a little different, but it still has that feel,” she says. “When I go to the Safeway, the cashiers know me. You don’t feel numbered in this city.”

Today, the Fransens still honour their roots, having made several trips back to see family, and they still keep up with Dutch TV shows through Apple TV. “We still speak Dutch in the house – our oldest [Kinga, now 15] is way better than our youngest [Odett, now 11],” says Bo, adding that her family enjoys cheering on both Canadian and Dutch speedskaters at the Olympic Oval.

The family has also taken the time to explore their new country. “We travelled to the Maritimes by motorhome in 2010 and we’ve visited every province but Newfoundland and the territories, but they’re on our list,” says Bo.

As for what she misses the most about the Netherlands, Bo says, “Of course, it’s the food. But I would not give up Alberta steak for anything else!”

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