Back To School Shopping Expat Style

by farrah on August 18, 2014 · 7 comments

One of the few things I seem to share with my US parental counterparts is that this exact moment is back to school shopping time. I feel like so much of the school year we’re off a little bit with holidays and other events (bus riding, kinder roundup etc) that this is the one time that I can truly relate to a rather expensive endeavor. Well, almost. We don’t get the obscene school supply requirements- thankfully. But, we all still do the ritual of back to school shopping- which as expats puts a bit of a spin on the experience. Can you imagine BTS without Target?!

photo 1-92My ragamuffins in Antwerp. 

Ok, so as for our shopping agenda, we needed the basics. The boys are really REALLY close to wearing the same size, so I absolutely am cheating and putting the twins in clothes that *might* be a little big or B in something that *might* be almost a little too small. Hey, stuff here is downright expensive so I gotta do what I gotta do. We needed the following to start the year:

  • 3 winter coats/jackets
  • 3 pairs of shoes (two pairs found on my favorite NL website Limango, it’s like a Zulily but better shipping)
  • 3 backpacks
  • 12 pairs of socks
  • 9 pairs of pants/jeans
  • combo of 12 long-sleeved shirts/tees
  • sweatshirts & sweaters

It seems like we hit the ‘last year’s stuff is too small’ for everyone point. We made it two years with the winter coats, so I knew it was going to hurt having to buy replacements. Basically I’d have to get a little creative and look here and there for most items since I didn’t want to spend too much, but at the same time we needed new clothes. Here’s how we did it:

Go to another country

Not kidding. We really did- but when Antwerp, Belgium is a mere 45 minute drive away, it sounds much more dramatic and fancy than it actually is. So in Belgium we took Saturday to shop in Antwerp’s center. Specifically, we were there to go to a Jack Wolfskin store as my (almost) four-year olds really wanted their Little Joe preschool backpacks. Jack Wolfskin is like THE outdoor brand here. You see more of that than North Face, Marmot, etc. as it’s based out of Germany. We love it. My husband has a great winter jacket, I have a fleece, and the boys and I all have summer sandals. It’s not cheap, but the quality is awesome.

frogThe boys entertained themselves making ‘frog hands’ at a shoe store. 

Additionally we made great finds at Peek & Cloppenburg at reasonable prices. I can’t figure out what the deal is with this store- but I wasn’t complaining at finding €20 Benetton kids’ jeans and a €15 long sleeved button down for Mr. Fancy Dresser (L). I was pretty happy finding a clearance sale going on at Brabantia (but not school related) so I’ll just wait until we move to start talking about that.

Try an outlet

Designer Outlet RoermondSome shots of the outlet mall. Oh Gucci. Some day.

Yesterday we spent an entire afternoon at the Designer Outlet in Roermond. It’s only about an hour away from where we live in the NL. This was our very first outlet experience in Europe, so I was curious if it would be the same as those in the US. I made a list of their back-to-school specials and knew where we wanted to go. LEGO Wear was on our list (and I found B’s winter coat at a great price) as well as Clark’s shoes.

What I found though, was that even though I wasn’t familiar with some of the stores and brands (such as Desigual) I made some wonderful finds. It probably helped that I didn’t know what some brands were, as ironically I found I avoided the American stores the most (Nike, Adidas, Lee). We live in Europe so I do like dressing and have the boys dress, similar to their classmates- even though they all like American logos. Huh.

legoLEGO Wear was a big hit. You’re shocked, I know.

Tips for shopping at Designer Outlet Roermond:

  • Go early and not on a weekend. Get there when it opens. Parking is mayhem if you arrive late in the day on a weekend.
  • Familiarize yourself beforehand and check for store-specific specials on their website.
  • Eat lunch early! 1:00pm is Germany’s lunch time and you will not find anywhere to eat unless you do it before they do. We stopped at 12:30 and it was just in time.
  • Don’t bring your dog because many others will.
  • If possible avoid bringing a big stroller. It’s just too crowded, and many stores are small. Take an umbrella stroller if you must.
  • There is an indoor playground and a carousel.
  • Eat at Staccaco! The paninis were awesome.
  • La Place is a quick and easy spot to grab a pick me up cappuccino.
  • Prepare for everyone to speak and or be German since Germany is so close.

As I said weekends are a bit nuts- but it’s actually nice to have the option to go shopping on a Sunday! We’re so used everything being closed, this was actually a treat to go out and do. Hours of operation are:

    10:00 – 20:00
    9:00 – 20:00

I had to laugh at how nervous going through Prada made me- the boys made a beeline for the silk neckties and I was like NO! DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING! It was fun to look (not exactly little kid clothes friendly) though. Gucci too? You bet. Besides those big brand names you’ll also find tons of others you probably wouldn’t expect. And honestly- the prices we pretty fair considering the brands. I can easily see going back on a ‘just for me’ trip at some point.

Ye olde US shipping address for online stores back home

Yep- there’s really no other way to say it other than ‘clothes are cheaper in the States’. We made it the past two years in coats from The Children’s Place with their 3-in-1 version, so eventually that’s what we went with again for the twins. I also got jeans ($10 a pair!) and socks. We can never have enough socks. One of the grandmas will be getting our order soon and we’ll pick it up on our way to the US in November. I can’t give up ALL of our US brands.

What are some things you do as an expat with shopping? How do you find navigating the websites of your adopted country? I’ve found a few that I like but most in the NL are rather confusing.

*Special thank you to Designer Outlet Roermond for their welcome, goodie bag and helpful info. We’ll be back!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Agata August 19, 2014 at 9:14 am

OMG I love the frog hands 🙂 Brilliant! There is another outlet Batavia stad close to Lelystad, but that’s quite a drive for you. And indeed Antwerpen is a great place for shopping. Maybe we should go for coffee there? x


2 farrah August 19, 2014 at 9:41 am

Works for me! It’s not far at all.

And yeah, the frog hands thing cracked me up. I was like,’What are you guys doing???!!” And duh! Of course: Frog Hands.


3 Ellen August 19, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Hello,my favourite webshops are Wehkamp (they deliver the next day) and What is so difficult by the (dutch) webshops? Maybe we can help? groetjes, Ellen


4 farrah August 20, 2014 at 6:57 am

Thanks Ellen! I’ve heard of Bol (but forgot about it) and haven’t heard of the other one 🙂

I think it’s a translation issue. Sometimes I get kicked out, or my basket is dumped- sometimes I can’t figure out where to put the code. I’ve had the most trouble with the Zalando website. It’s probably just me 🙂


5 Anna August 20, 2014 at 8:18 pm

I had to laugh at this post, as you express some of my own sentiments! And yes, agreed. Clothes are definitely cheaper in the US. Thank yo for some of the tips!


6 farrah August 21, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Good luck to you Anna!


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