As an ex-expat I’ve seen my share of Dutch and American clubs around the world.
The social ground rules in these clubs is practically everywhere the same, no matter where you are.

The goal is to have a homestead abroad and meet like-minded people.
The activities; tennis tournaments, brunches and charity events, are similar in each country. Baking cakes, holding auctions, the occassional charity dinner to raise money for the less fortunate are on the social menu of all.

To be honest I have at times felt a bit awkward about the charity events.
To sit at a dinner with other richly dressed people;
To walk out of an Oberoi hotel in India where the luxury is extravagant and then be confronted with countless homeless people made me feel a bit out if place, part of the wrong movie so to speak.

I did therefore not really know what to expect when I was invited to a Valentines dinner on Saturday February 13, organized by the American Women’s Club of The Hague;
not only because charity dinners make me feel awkward, but also because this time the charity was for the people invited.

A group of women from the American Women’s Club had put on their aprons to cook 25 other women a lovely three course dinner, served on beautifully laid out tables, covered with white little paper hearts, candles glowing, wine flowing and each guest receiving presents chosen with the greatest care and thoughtfulness.
A special Valentine’s dinner for 25 women, who had gone through a rough roller coaster ride over the past time, because of divorce, illness, financial issues or caring for others.

It took only little getting used to, to find and share the stories of survival; stories you would never have suspected behind the facade of daily life, stories you would hardly be able to believe when you read about them in a book. Honest stories about real life. Stories told by group of brave beautiful women, each in their own right.

In daily life we don’t easily show our wounds, fearing rejection or judgment, but here, at the Valentine’s dinner, sharing deep-felt experiences was unique and intensely healing.
For once it were the tears that made the day.

Chapeau ladies of the American Women’s Club who organized this and chapeau to all who shared their stories. Thank you for having the courage, for showing the love, for stepping out of the box.
This very very special Valentine’s eve, gave me hope we can make this, our world, a better place.

Ingrid Schippers, 15-2-2016

This blog is recorded as weekly end-note of, the radio program for internationals, every Tuesday on The Hague FM from 10 to 11 pm. All programs are archived at