6 Tips for the Thick Girl AbroadAmsterdam, Spring 2013

I am no skinny-mini, bikini-bred, stick-thin or slender young woman. I’m wide around the hips and big in the curves. I’m sturdy, if clumsy at times, and have many-a nightmare from my high school band days when I could not help knocking over music stands with my booty as I shimmied to my chair (always in the middle of the row, of course).

Being abroad and large — fat, thick, voluptuous, curvy, husky, big-boned, whatever you wish to call it — is an experience in its own. For the future thick girls going abroad, I’ve compiled a list of tips from my own experiences here in Amsterdam, and in Europe in general.

1) Bring the clothes you love. Do not expect to be able to buy a new European wardrobe abroad. Not only are the clothes often expensive, but the sizes are not kind to those busty or bootilicious. XL is not the XL of America. Even Stateside, the sizes often depend on brand, store, make, and even color (i.e. I find black pants are often more form fitting / tight than other pants). Make room for the clothes you love — and for those going to colder climates, layers are a beautiful thing.

2) (Amsterdam-centric advice) If you feel like your bottom is swallowing your bike seat, don’t be afraid to ask for another. Biking is going to be your primary means of transportation (and best, in my and many others’ opinion) and should not be a cause of pain. It will take some getting used to, but eventually it will feel okay as long as you have the proper seat.

3) Be kind to your skin. Do you chafe easily? After getting sweaty from walks, runs, or other activities, do you tend to get rashes or irritated skin? The over-the-counter (and even prescribed) pharmaceuticals in Europe are not nearly as extensive as in the U.S., for better or worse, I do not know. Pack soothing cream, baby powder, or other topical creams or powders that you are comfortable with at home — there is no way to be certain your country will have what you need, or have the same effect as your trusty American brand.

4) Do laundry often and at strange times. The washers and driers of Europe (if you have easy access to them) are much smaller than those of the States, and take a good deal longer. What back home is one load will easily be two, or even three. It can be a pain, but if you learn what times the laundry is available (almost all mornings, and evenings on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, usually) you can hog multiple washers and driers for your multiple loads of laundry without being a hassle for anyone else.

5) Learn ‘excuse me’ in the language of your country. Winding and sliding through crowds can be a challenge when you are twice the size as the little gap of space between people. In the Netherlands, I just say “sorry” or “pardon” when I need to get by. The Dutch are fairly chill people, so I’ve never had an issue. But I always feel better using politeness when hauling my body around.

6) Need a pick-me-up? Go to an art museum. Sometimes, it can be hard being a bigger girl. Popular media chokes us with a warped ideal of beauty, and being surrounded by often thin women can be a bit of a downer. Whenever I need a reality check and a little cheering up, I go to an art museum (not contemporary). Look at the classics and old masterpieces — you will not find any woman that looks like the photoshopped bubble-gum princess of Cosmopolitan. They have curves, and stomachs, and chins that aren’t as tight as the skin stretched over a drum. Beauty isn’t concrete; it changes. The ideal of beauty in those paintings can often make me feel quite beautiful myself.

And you know what? I am beautiful, and so are you.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Once again, another brilliant piece!!
    What a wonderful way to help others who will
    Be going abroad! So nice to see you finally
    See what we do, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!!!
    Fan- friggin – tastic!!!

  2. Amen girl. I never ran into too many problems and weirdly found that I could fit into a lot of H+M stuff in Austria that I couldn’t in America but I definitely found the excuse me of German ‘entschuldigen’ to be suuuuuuper helpful because I’m just not graceful and I don’t squeeze through tight spaces well or easily. c:

  3. I second all these things! I was also a not-so-skinny abroad once. I definitely agree with the clothes thing, most people I know brought a few clothes and then bought everything abroad, but at my size I couldn’t even count on buying extra underwear at the store! I wasted tons of suitcase space bringing extra and larger clothes than my friends. But also consider how your lifestyle might change somewhat while abroad. A couple months into my semester abroad all the walking, light meals and lack of snacking caused me to lose over 30lbs without trying!!! (Despite eating a pain au chocolat almost every day and several jars of nutella by the spoonful!) My host mom was appalled and thought I wasn’t eating enough. I actually had to have my parents buy and mail me smaller clothes since my jeans and belts no longer fit. However, don’t get your hopes up too much, I couldn’t maintain it after returning to the states.

  4. Thanks for this great blog post. I too am a chubwub going abroad, and I found it comforting to know I’m not alone! Ha! I’ll be travelling to China, land of the tiny (no offense), and as a woman who’s essentially a king sized body pillow, I’m a little nervous. So thanks again!

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