Members of the international community answer 10 key questions about their lives in the Netherlands


‘The Calvinist drive to downplay success is pervasive’

‘The Calvinist drive to downplay success is pervasive’

American psychologist and writer Doug Ota, 45, has lived in the Netherlands for 23 years. He loves running along the beach before dawn in winter and watching the sun come up, and would like to meet physicist Robbert Dijkgraaf. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I followed my wife over for a year and that one year turned into 23!  Some societies have been described as 'centripetal', drawing one inwards, or 'centrifugal', propelling you outwards. Dutch society, at least as I experienced it, turned out to be high centripetal. Holland is a pleasant place to live, with well-managed public spaces and a sane balance between work and family.  It’s a great place to raise a family. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? Never heard the term 'lovepat' but glad to have a name for what I am! How long do you plan to stay and why? Indefinitely. I have three Dutch children and two dogs that bark Dutch. It’s become home. That sounds simple, but wasn’t. The tortuous path I took to feel at home in this country formed the basis for my niche in psychology, namely what moving does to people. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes. I learned Dutch in my first year here by mimicking the 6 o’clock evening news on the radio, and then figuring out what I was saying afterwards. What's your favourite Dutch food? Herring with onions - eaten overhead style. It’s delicious, it’s good for you, and it affords visitors an experience they’ll never forget. Which three Dutch people would you like to meet and why? If you could bring him back to life, I’d like to meet Harry Mulisch, my favorite Dutch writer; the world-famous physicist Robert Dijkgraaf, now at Princeton’s Institute of Advanced Study, so I can finally understand a thing or two about string theory; and Paskal Jakobson, the singer from my favourite Dutch band, Bløf. How Dutch have you become? I think it might be levelling off at exactly 50%! I appreciate and have internalised many Dutch values, but I think my ambitious and individualist tendencies have deep American roots. I work with some outstanding Dutch therapists, but I notice I’m often the first one there and the last to leave. It is very easy to still miss the coastline of Southern California where I grew up, the ocean and the waves, and the concept of open space further inland and in the rest of the US. In some ways, I miss the feeling I used to have of feeling confined in the Netherlands. It is remarkable how one can gradually get used to having less space. What's your top tourist tip? Running on the beach between Scheveningen and Wassenaar before dawn in the winter, and watching the sun brighten one of the most pristine patches in these parts. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Many people are far better at what they do than you would ever know if you judge by North American trappings. The Calvinist drive to downplay success is pervasive. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d take a run in the woods, order a pancake with bacon and a Duvel, see Bløf play live, and stay in a suite at the Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam. Doug Ota's book 'Safe Passage – How Mobility Affects People and What International Schools Should Do About It' is based on a programme he started during his years as a counsellor at the American School of The Hague.   More >


‘Holland is safe for women and children compared to India’

‘Holland is safe for women and children compared to India’

Process manager Deepti Varshney moved to the Netherlands from India in 2009 and is now a dual national. She loves olliebollen because they herald the start of the festive season and appreciates the fact the Dutch do not offer unasked-for advice. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband and I were eager to move to western or northern Europe. My husband got a job in the Netherlands and I followed him. That was seven years ago. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I would call myself an immigrant, because I moved from India for a better quality of life and safety. How long do you plan to stay? I would stay here forever, as long as job conditions are favourable. I really like Holland because its safe for women and children compared to India. There are lots of opportunities for children. I have also integrated into Dutch culture and I feel at home here. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I do, I can read, write and speak Dutch, but I do not speak it at a professional level. I still have to get there. I took a number of classes as well as Skype lessons which really helped me improve my language skills. My daughter who is 2.5 years old goes to Dutch peuterspeelzaal, so by reading books to her I learn more words and I am never out of practice. What's your favourite Dutch food? I love olliebollen. I just loved them the first time I had one. I love their soft texture, and they make you feel the festive season has begun. How Dutch have you become? I started cycling and doing my grocery shopping by bike. I even have a child's seat on my bike. I just cannot imaging my life without it. I love the fact that no one gives you unasked for advice or suggestions. In my country everyone has time to give you advice, even if you don't want it. Which Dutch people would you most like to meet and why? I would like to meet television chef Rudolf van Veen. I watch his show on 24 Kitchen and like it a lot. Now there is someone I would be happy to take advice from! What's your top tourist tip? Take a boat tour through Amsterdam. The canals are just so special. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. People keep their living room curtains open. When I was new here, I just did not understand why. After talking to people, I've come to understand that people like to show off their clean and tidy houses. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would take a tour of Amsterdam. I just love this city. Deepti Varshney specialises in business process re-engineering, helping companies improve products and processes using Lean Six Sigma Methods.  More >


‘We walk hand in hand in this romantic, crazy, awesome city’

‘We walk hand in hand in this romantic, crazy, awesome city’

Vyjayanthi Iyer is from India and has been in the Netherlands for 10 years. She runs a Bollywood dance school, would like to meet Rutger Hauer and is glad Dutch companies are finally realising the importance of good customer service. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband came here for a project and fell in love with the beautiful city of Amsterdam. One fine day he called me and asked me to come and live with him in this romantic city. He was so right, I fell in love with this city too How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I am an expatriate and Lovepatriate. If it was not for my husband I would not have moved to a different country, where I had to start my career from scratch. On top of that, this was my first ever international trip direct from Mumbai to Amsterdam. How long do you plan to stay and why? I didn’t even realise it’s already been 10 years, I have stopped counting now. I love this city and will live here as long as we both are happy and enjoy our lives. Life is very unpredictable, you never know. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Honestly, I speak very little Dutch, I understand more. People say it’s a difficult language to learn, I completely disagree. If you put your heart and soul into it you can learn and do anything. In my opinion it’s all based on need. If I need it and must learn the language I will invest time and money. I did some short courses but I am not sure if I will ever be fluent. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Poffertjes and pannenkoeken, tasty and delicious. My mouth is watering already. How Dutch have you become and why? I love my bike. I love to do hardlopen (run) irrespective of whether it is raining, cold, windy or too warm. I can spend hours in a café chatting with friends or be alone doing my own work. Which Dutch person would you most like to meet and why? I would love to meet Rutger Hauer, such a talented actor. I have always been passionate about acting. If given an opportunity I would like to talk with him and get to know his mantra of life. There is so much to learn from him. What's your top tourist tip? Keep some change (coins) handy when you enter the tram or bus to buy the tickets. And remember you need to push the green button in the tram to get off at your desired stop. Do visit the small cafes in an around the city to experience the local culture. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Coming from Mumbai and a customer service and public relations background, I was surprised and shocked how this country lacked good customer services. However, over the years it has changed a lot and I am happy they are realising the importance of customer services. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? My husband is a great photographer and I love to be in front of the camera. I would like to get more pictures clicked in every nook and corner of the city and then walk hand-in-hand together in this romantic, crazy, awesome city called Amsterdam for the rest of the evening. You can contact Vyjayanthi's  Bollywood dance school via the website and Facebook page.  More >


‘I love amusement parks and Walibi is one of my favourites’

‘I love amusement parks and Walibi is one of my favourites’

Cuban national Claudia Moreira Calzadilla is 15 and has lived in the Netherlands for five years. She goes to a Dutch high school, has a part-time job in a hotel, and her parents say she thinks like a capitalist. How did you end up in the Netherlands? When I was five years old my mother moved to the Netherlands and started living with my stepfather. In Cuba, the process of moving to another country is quite difficult, so I wasn’t able to move to the Netherlands with her at that time. My biological father also didn’t allow me to go because he felt I was too young, so I had to wait until I turned 11 and got his permission before I could move here. By that time I couldn’t remember what it was like to live with my mother, so this was also new experience for me. My mother used to come to Cuba on holidays, but only for a week of two. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’m not quite sure if I’m going to live my whole life here in the Netherlands so I don’t think I can call myself an immigrant. I think international suits me better. I like the Netherlands but I want to travel and get in touch with other cultures. So if this means living in other countries, I will do that. How long do you plan to stay and why? Firstly, I want to finish school and then attend Leiden University and study law. I guess that after finishing my studies I will search for a stable job with the possibility of travelling. If I ever get the opportunity to work in another country I’ll do so immediately. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I speak fluent Dutch but it’s not perfect yet. I went to a special school for foreign children called Taalklas, where they teach you the basics of the Dutch language. I think the only way to learn a language is being around the people who are native speakers. That’s why after about a year I started going to a Dutch school with local children. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I don’t have any. I eat it, but I really don’t like Dutch food. I am not sure why, although it might be because it’s totally different to Cuban food. To be honest I also don’t really like Cuban food either, so I don’t know what the reason is. If I had to choose one Dutch dish, it would be stewed pears (stoofpeertjes). I like how sweet and soft they taste. What do you miss about back home and why? Almost everything. My whole family and the friends I grew up live with there. I miss the beautiful, warm weather and the white-sand-and-blue-water beaches. I miss the people, even the ones I don’t know. Cuban people are so nice. I even miss school. So yeah, I miss almost everything. All that is and will always be a part of who I am, and I’m proud of that. How Dutch have you become? According to my parents I’ve become a real Dutch girl. They say I don’t think like a socialist any more but like a capitalist. I don’t know if I ever thought like a socialist but moving to the Netherlands has given me the opportunity to see how different my life in Cuba was. What's your top tourist tip? Rotterdam! I’ve been there twice and I love it. There is so much to see and to do. You can spend hours walking around and you will see lots of interesting things. There is also a waterbus which I think is an amazing experience. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. A few days ago I saw a documentary about the fact that wifi was discovered here in the Netherlands. This really surprised me. I used to think wifi was invented in the United States. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go to Walibi. I love amusement parks and Walibi is one of my favourites!  More >


‘Here is now my home and I plan to stay for a long time to come’

‘Here is now my home and I plan to stay for a long time to come’

In two short years, Kenyan national Serah Karani Andriessen has developed a morning coffee habit and discovered that spekreepjes can add a touch of flavour to most foods. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met and married Peter (who is Dutch) in Kenya where we lived with our son, Narsh, for a few years before making the decision to relocate to the Netherlands. Peter then returned to the Netherlands and I stayed with Narsh in Kenya for another two and a half years before we followed Peter. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I believe my previous answer explains what I am! How long do you plan to stay and why? Let me answer this in a different manner. In my culture when a girl gets married and leaves her family home, the place she and her husband call their ‘home’ is usually the home where the husband´s parents live. It does not matter if this means ‘home’ is across the country. In my case, ‘home’ was thousands of miles away. So, here is now my home and I plan to stay for a long time to come. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I like this question! Yes I do speak Dutch, but I know it is not as good as should be, especially as I have studied the language in various Dutch language schools up to level B2. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Spekreepjes! Lovely bacon flavour that can be used in almost all dishes; easy to use; no chopping involved; and always adds the missing flavour when my food is bland. I could almost use them in my cereal. What do you miss about back home and why? I miss my family and friends a lot. I also miss the general social nature of Kenyan people who are very warm and friendly towards other people including strangers. How Dutch have you become and why? Can’t seem to pick up my day without ‘een kopje koffie’ first! What's your top tourist tip? My top tourist tip is to just keep your eyes open. From the time you arrive in the Netherlands you notice that tourist attractions are everywhere and that the Netherlands is a very beautiful country. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Something surprising for me is that in every town or village I have gone to, what always stands out in the centre is an exceptionally beautiful and lovingly built church. Yet I have the feeling that religion is a very quiet and/or private matter in the Netherlands. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go for my morning swim with the special women who have really made me feel at home here, followed by our usual cup of coffee. Assuming there would still be a few hours leftover, I would take a drive along the back roads of Gelderland and Overijssel taking in the beauty and freshness of the well/kept farmlands - this is a hobby that I acquired from Peter. It always looks so surreal. Serah and her husband Peter run Brasserie Halverwege in the DroomPark near Spaarnwoude.  More >


‘I didn’t twig until I got here that the whole country is indeed flat’

‘I didn’t twig until I got here that the whole country is indeed flat’

South African Dominic Karatouliotis (24) came to the Netherlands for love just six months ago, but is already addicted to Hema's smoked sausage. He sees himself as an expat, lovepat, immigrant and an international. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to the Netherlands to join my partner and build a new life with her. We met two years ago while on holiday in Thailand, and our relationship flourished long distance, thanks to social media and Skype. We decided a year ago that one of us would have to make the move to join the other, and I was at a stage in my life where it made sense to do so. So here I am. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I think I would fall into each one of the categories mentioned: I am indeed an expatriate as I now reside in a different country than where I was born. I am a lovepat, as I have expatriated to join my loved one in the Netherlands (professional dancer Joyce Silva Xavier). I am an immigrant too, as I have come from South Africa. I am certainly an international with an internationally focused mind and global ambition. Most of all, I like to put myself in the category of human being who is blessed enough to be able to live and experience life from a different point of view. As many South Africans will know, it is extremely difficult to start a new life in a European country without having family, loved ones or a lined up career waiting for you as our global status and strength of our passport does not allow this. How long do you plan to stay and why? My partner and I are happy here in Amsterdam. It is an extremely vibrant and cosmopolitan city which celebrates the things we love most - art, music, dance and culture. I intend to stay here indefinitely, to build a good life and to help keep the wonderful buzz around Amsterdam. I am, however, always open to new adventures and opportunities which may come knocking from time to time, but whatever it may be, it will have to try and top what Amsterdam has to offer. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Growing up in South Africa, Afrikaans is taught in school which can be learned as a first or second language. I have been learning and speaking it all my life which I believe has helped me in my grasp of the Dutch language. Although the two languages are almost identical, there are some noticeable differences in pronunciation and word order which I am still getting the hang of. I do speak Dutch on a daily basis and have learnt so much since I have lived here. It really does help to practice by speaking and reading as well as watching television. What's your favourite Dutch food? Any day and any time of the week, I could eat a broodje rookworst from Hema. I really enjoy them. I have also taken a fond liking to the Turkish pizzas from the Turkish and Moroccan communities based in Amsterdam. What do you miss about back home? I would have to say I miss the friendliness and easy going nature of the South African people, specifically the people from Cape Town where I am from. I can link this to missing my family and friends as well which is something we all go through, but generally I don’t miss South Africa. I still keep up with what is going on in the country so that I have some form of connection. I do miss proper All You Can Eat Sushi though. How Dutch have you become? Like any other culture you come across that is not your own, you find the similarities and differences you share with the people and then figure out which habits and behaviour you have taken on yourself. I don’t think I have become or will become Dutch anytime soon...  I'm too much of a born and bred South African for that. I have, however, only been here for six months so who knows what it will be like in a long time from now. I do drink more coffee than I did back in South Africa and am an avid cyclist now as well as a supporter of Albert Heijn supermarkets. What's your top tourist tip? Get the stereotypical sights and attractions out of the way like the red light district, the museums, the coffee shops as well as the canal boat cruises, and by all means enjoy them to the max. But then take some trips away from the hustle and bustle to see the beautiful countryside. Something I really didn't twig until I came here is that the whole country is indeed flat. There are also some really impressive man-made structures as well, like the huge dikes splitting the oceans, the bridges and, of course, the windmills - both traditional and modern. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The Netherlands has a very interesting take on many social issues which each country deals with differently. I enjoy their view on everyone being equal and didn’t really understand this until I lived here. Allowing people to be who they truly want to be should be a reality across the world and I believe the Dutch execute it extremely well. For a country which is as efficient and direct as the Netherlands, the Dutch are more than happy with people from many walks of life co-existing with them  - as long as they are not hurting anyone around them. I think the world can learn from the Dutch way of doing things. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would head over to the nearest Hema and get my daily fix of rookworst. Then, depending on whether it was raining or not, I would go on a cycle with my lady next to me, hand in hand, enjoying the Vondelpark. I would also definitely make sure I stock up on stroopwafels and have one last, amazing portion of frites. Then, still hand in hand, we would go to Schiphol to head off on a new adventure. Dominic Karatouliotis is co-owner of Amsterdamskey.com and looking for full-time employment.  More >


‘I’m Scottish, but when Holland play football I’m a Dutchman’

‘I’m Scottish, but when Holland play football I’m a Dutchman’

Sixteen years ago, Scotsman Jim Weir, headed to The Hague to consult on a painting project and is still here 14 years later. How did you end up in the Netherlands? By accident. I had just finished work in Germany and was on my way back to Scotland when my agent asked me to do a small job in Rotterdam. Being there, I was asked to solve a problem on a project in The Hague. I did not really fancy going there but thought I could not refuse. That decision changed my life as I met my soulmate on 9-9-1999. She is now my wife and life changed for the better for me. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why?
 Once and for all I am a mad Scotsman who is crazy about football, but when Holland play I turn into a mad Dutchman. How long do you plan to stay and why?
 For the rest of my life. I love living in Haarlem and have set up my own company, Scots Painting, which both of us are really proud of. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn?
 I did try to learn it but since I speak fluent German I tend to use a lot of German words, which the Dutch do not appreciate, so I gave up. Most clients speak Dutch to me (I understand it for 99%) and I speak back in my Sean Connery accent, which they all seem to love. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I’d like to say saté but that’s Indonesian. Erwtensoep is always welcome, especially in wintertime. What do you miss about back home?
 I miss my family and friends, the mountains and Glasgow Rangers. Most of all I miss Saturday afternoons, spent in the pub with friends watching football and having a good time. How Dutch have you become and why?
 Sometimes I think I’m Dutch but then realise I am the only one stopping for a red traffic light. What's your top tourist tip? I just love Haarlem, especially the Vijfhoek. There’s so much to see and do. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Most of the Dutch are laid-back, but it can anger me when they do not acknowledge you for letting them go first. After all it’s nice to be nice. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Get all my friends together in my favourite pub (de Vijfhoek) to have a great party with them paying ….. then I’d cry all the way to Schiphol Airport.  More >


‘Here we can enjoy our lives together with no prejudice’

‘Here we can enjoy our lives together with no prejudice’

Costa Rican Javier Arias came to the Netherlands to study four years ago after winning a scholarship to Nyenrode Business Universiteit where he now works. He lives in Utrecht, cycles every day and has learned to wear brown shoes with a blue suit. How did you end up in the Netherlands? It was always my ambition to pursue an MBA abroad. Being in Costa Rica, the logical choice is usually to study in the US. I was getting ready to do this but then I came across the Netherlands as a study destination. Nyenrode got my attention so I decided to participate in an online case competition organised by the university for potential students all over the world. This resulted in me being the lucky winner of a scholarship to pursue my MBA. The rest is history... How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I would define myself as a 'glocal'. I acknowledge and celebrate my cultural background but I also aim to understand and embrace the roots of the Dutch culture. From my perspective, it makes sense to integrate as much as possible into the country and culture that you choose to live in. I want to learn from and contribute to this society. The only possible way is to understand how it works and how people think. I now live in the Netherlands and I happen to have been born and raised in Costa Rica. In this globalised world, who knows what the future holds! How long do you plan to stay? My partner joined me in the Netherlands almost two years ago and we have recently decided to invest in our own apartment. So we are planning to stay as long as possible, although we are open to the idea of relocating at some point if the right opportunity presents itself. However, it would have to be an LGBT friendly country. That is one of the reasons we have chosen to stay in the Netherlands. This is a place where we can be ourselves, enjoy our lives together and grow as a couple with no limitations and prejudice - or very little at least! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I am getting there. At the moment, I am somewhere between B1-B2 level. Daring to speak in Dutch is my biggest challenge but it is something I am working on. What's your favourite Dutch food? Winter food! I love erwten soep, poffertjes and oliebollen. Although that usually means putting some pounds on. What do you miss about back home? Desserts. There are many Latin desserts that are not really available in the Netherlands. Whenever I go back, one of my priorities is to find a good 'tres leches' and  a 'torta chilena'. How Dutch have you become? Do I cycle everyday? Yes. Do I wear a blue suit with brown shoes? Yes. I have learned to be much more outspoken in social settings than I was before. However, I still prefer to have 2-3 hot meals and I can't drink milk as part of my lunch. What's your top tourist tip? Visit the most popular amusement parks. This is usually a very entertaining experience and it also shows some of the cultural aspects of the Netherlands. And, of course, visit Utrecht! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. When I first arrived, I couldn't believe some supermarkets were not open on Sundays or late in the evening. That for me was a given. I have learned to appreciate the work-life balance in the Netherlands compared to that in Costa Rica, although sometimes I do miss the convenience of going shopping after work, finding a pharmacy open in the evening or having home delivery service from the largest fast food chains. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? There are a couple of places that I would still love to visit, but if I had only 24 hours then I would choose the Northern Islands. I just hope it is not winter. Javier Arias is an international marketeer at Nyenrode Business Universiteit  More >


‘The Dutch park next to you, even when the car park is empty’

‘The Dutch park next to you, even when the car park is empty’

Englishman Russell Broadbent, 51, moved to the Netherlands to look for work while competing on the professional golf circuit 23 years ago. Now settled in Haarlem, he runs a private gym and self-defence training business and thinks the Dutch have little spatial awareness. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I played golf on the Dutch professional golf circuit for 15 years. During this time I noticed that golf was growing in popularity, so I sent my cv to the golf club in Spaarnewoude. After a successful interview, they offered me a job teaching golf, which gave me time to continue playing on the circuit. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? International. I’m fully integrated in the Dutch culture and a fluent speaker, but still retain English roots. For me this means that I still love going back to Britain, read a daily newspaper, and enjoy a pint of Guinness in the Irish pub. How long do you plan to stay ? Indefinitely - as I have a gorgeous 5-year-old daughter here. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, fluently. I learned Dutch watching the soaps and in the cafes. What's your favourite Dutch food? Ha, ha. Dutch food? I eat a very specific healthy balanced diet for my work. So I guess if I can indulge, it would be apple pie. What do you miss about back home ? The countryside, village pubs, rugby, golf courses, Christmas and New Year celebrations, birthday parties, and all things synonymous with Britain. How Dutch have you become? I’m proud of my English roots, but I am also fully integrated into the Dutch culture. I hold down a job, run a business and speak the language fluently. I also vote. I haven’t taken Dutch nationality and never will, as I’m proud to be English born and bred. What's your top tourist tip? In summer it would be Amsterdam canals, cafes, Waterlooplein, Anne Frank House, King's Day, Gay Pride parade and the beautiful beaches. In the winters, go watch the Dutch skate on the canals (like a Lowry painting) - or put on some skates and try it for yourself. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The Dutch have very little spatial awareness. They stand too close to you when you pin money at Albert Heijn, and always insist on parking their car next to you even when the car park is empty. The Dutch hate waiting so everywhere you go that requires waiting means taking a numbered ticket. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? My priority would be to spend it with my daughter, on the beach. You can find more information about Russell and his gym via the website.  More >


‘A new culture – as gruelling as it can be — is very rewarding’

‘A new culture – as gruelling as it can be — is very rewarding’

For Canadian Maurice McGinley moving back to the Netherlands after an eight year break in sunnier climes has given him an appreciation of the new season's herring and having good neighbours. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Although my wife, Ana, is from Australia, she had a close relationship with her father’s family in the Netherlands. So when we decided it was time for a change of scenery in 1999, we headed here.  We lived in Eindhoven until Ana became pregnant with our third child. We decided life would be easier in Australia – and the Dutch weather was getting us down. Life is good in Oz, but in the end, we found Australia too far away from everything else. After eight years in Australia and Asia, we were happy to have the chance to come back to the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I’ve been away from Canada too long to feel truly at home there, so 'expat' doesn’t apply. 'International' describes me better, but it sounds a bit pretentious. We’ve changed countries as often as we have (6 times) because the experience of learning to live in a new culture – as gruelling as it can be -- is very rewarding. It helps you appreciate simple things that are easy to overlook when you are very settled - like sunshine. How long do you plan to stay and why? Indefinitely. We've been here four years now and have no plans to leave, especially not before the kids’ braces come off. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak English at work and at home. I study Dutch about three hours a week, and try to watch a Dutch tv show or movie every week, but I’m far from fluent. I can handle most daily transactions, yet when a conversation gets interesting, I have to switch to English. I’m proud that my children are fluent in Dutch, even if they do refuse to speak it to me. What's your favorite Dutch food and why? I like nieuwe haring with onion for the taste, the texture and the freshness. Plus, it’s local. What do you miss about back home? Good beef. How Dutch have you become? Sometimes the Dutch take moderation to extremes – the food’s consistently bland, for example. Apart from that, and the language, I’m completely at home. What's your top tourist tip? Carry 50 cents in change with you at all times. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The Dutch bike path network is the result of top-down civic planning decisions made in the 1970s. The cycle paths preceded the cycling culture. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Invite the neighbours over for a drink. In every one of the three houses we’ve lived in the Netherlands, we’ve been lucky to have great neighbours. I think it might be a Dutch thing. Maurice McGinley is design director at AVG Innovation Labs  More >


‘There isn’t much better than a plate of tiny pancakes’

‘There isn’t much better than a plate of tiny pancakes’

Amy Fuller, 41, is an American who is self-employed and works on process improvement for the payments industry. She has been in the Netherlands for 2.5 years. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My partner’s Dutch, and we made the decision to move here when her mom was diagnosed with cancer. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I guess I’m a mutt: maybe 75% lovepat and 25% expat? How long do you plan to stay? I’m not sure, I still feel like we’re trying to get settled. Time will tell, I suppose. For now we’re renting vs. buying. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I’m trying to learn! I would say that I’m a Beginner. Plus, I’m a shy person and I need to get over my hesitancy to speak it. I’m fairly decent at the following topics: work, family, vacation, health and purchasing stuff. That gets me pretty far, actually. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Poffertjes! There isn’t much better than getting a plate of tiny pancakes. Also, and this may be somewhat controversial, but I really like Nasi. I was asked this question when I first arrived, and the follow-up question was, 'don’t you like potatoes?' What do you miss about back home and why? I miss my friends and family the most. I didn’t live close by my family, but I was always able to travel home for Christmas, and now it’s not so easy. Other things I miss are the humor (sorry – no ‘u’; I’m American, remember!), which tends to be more self-deprecating, and the pop culture. Although a lot of shows and movies are available here, some things involving current events I don’t catch any more. I tend to be a pop culture junkie, so that’s a little hard for me. How Dutch have you become? I’m able to carry more on a bike than I ever thought possible! One major shift we’ve made is cooking at home more. I feel like there is more incentive to eat at home here – grocery staples like milk, bread and eggs are taxed at 6% versus 21% for eating out in a restaurant. Good produce is relatively cheap here. When we went to Canada this summer, we spent a fair amount of time complaining about the price of eggs, etc, relative to the Netherlands. Plus, (and I’m a little ashamed to admit this) I've gotten used to not having to tip in restaurants. What's your top tourist tip? Take your time in the Netherlands. Americans, since we have to travel so far to get to Europe, tend to take the 'If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium' approach and see a little of a lot of different countries. Don’t just go to the expected destinations like the Keukenhof or the Red Light District; venture out to other places/cities as well. Even though the Netherlands is a small country, it’s remarkable how different the regions are – Leeuwarden has a completely different culture than Maastricht, and I would never know that if I hadn’t been to both. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands? The Netherlands, despite being socially quite liberal, also strikes me as being somewhat conservative. I was surprised by stores being closed on Sundays; how much more frugal people are (the word for debt contains the word guilt), and how ingrained some habits are, such as dinner at 6 pm. However, I was able to observe this because we have not lived in major cities, like The Hague or Amsterdam, where the lifestyle is different. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? This is a difficult question to answer. I would want to go to the beach, maybe Zandvoort, and then head over to Haarlem, which has a great market, and do some shopping. Then we’d go to Amsterdam, find a nice, not too busy café terrace, get a beer and a plate of bitterballen, and watch the sun set over the canal. Of course in order to do this, the weather would need to comply.  More >


‘I’m a massive fan of cheese and love trying all the different ones’

‘I’m a massive fan of cheese and love trying all the different ones’

Lola Akinsiku, 33, is Nigerian but grew up in England and the US. An accountant by trade, she came to Amsterdam as an intern and is surprised to still be here 4.5 years later. More than that, she's been inspired by the Dutch entrepreneurial spirit to start her own fledgling enterprise. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came as an intern thinking I’d only be here for six months but then ended up with a full-time position. I was interested in living in a new city and fate gave me Amsterdam. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? I’ve never heard the term lovepat before; that sounds so cute; I’d love to be one of those! But I’m definitely an expat. As boring as it sounds, I came independently and purely for work. If not for my job I’d likely leave. How long do you plan to stay? Never thought I’d have lasted one year let alone going on five! I tend to be quite impulsive and go where the tide takes me. Suffice it to say there is no specific plan; unless I become a lovepat of course… Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Unfortunately not. I’m not great with languages but have attempted a couple of introductory Dutch courses. I know basic greetings and some specific words but very few. This being due to the fact that I always thought that each year after my first would be my last; yet here I am, still! What's your favourite Dutch food? I guess it’s more of a snack but I love those hot kaas rolls that they do in Albert Heijn to go. I’m a massive fan of cheese and love trying all the different varieties. It’s here that I first had komijn kaas – love it! What do you miss about back home? Food, yes English food, because I love to eat. There is so much variety in English supermarkets and it’s so much easier to have a decent meal out for a fraction of the price you’d have to pay for the same here. How Dutch have you become? I love the entrepreneurial spirit here in Amsterdam. So many people have exciting projects going on; you can find some great small independent shops, and quirky services. I find the Dutch to be creative and robust in this sense and I think that living here has pushed me to pursue my own entrepreneurial dreams more boldly; so I’ve become a bit more Dutch in my attitude in that sense. I’ve also picked up the habit of saying eet smakelijk whenever someone is so much as eating an apple! What's your top tourist tip? Take the stairs to the roof of NEMO Science Center. It’s a great way to see the city centre on a sunny day. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands The way they enthusiastically celebrated the monarchy (I’d never heard of Queen’s/King’s Day when I first arrived here) as I always thought the Dutch were a rebellious lot… although when I saw how they celebrated, it all made sense! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Morning – eat Dutch pancakes. Afternoon – shop for unique Dutch designed products in the Jordaan. Evening – go to Café Brecht for a drink, I love their cute and cosy chairs. Lola Akinsiku also makes useful things with beautiful fabric. You can check them out on Facebook    More >


‘I made most progress in learning Dutch at the local rowing club’

‘I made most progress in learning Dutch at the local rowing club’

Poffertjes addict Heidi Maurer is Austrian and is assistant professor of European studies at Maastricht University. She has been in the Netherlands since 2007 and says career opportunities will dictate how long she stays. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to Maastricht on a nine-month academic fellowship with the Austrian academic exchange service to work at the European Institute for Public Administration (EIPA) in Maastricht. During my stay I got to know a few colleagues working at university who encouraged me to apply for teaching assistant job there, once my fellowship approached its end. I got the job, and since then I enjoy the international environment at Maastricht University and the atmosphere in Maastricht. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? Over the past few years I think I've grown into an ‘international’ person. This is partly due to my work which allows me to travel and work with many different people within and outside Europe. This was really something I never planned – it just happened and I enjoy it incredibly. How long do you plan to stay? Not sure, and this is going to depend mainly on future career opportunities. For now I enjoy my life in Maastricht, and I would not mind staying here in the future, but it will depend on the job. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Een beetje. I followed a course when I started at university to learn the basics, but it was hard to practice as our work language is English. Using every possible opportunity in everyday social interaction certainly helped, as well as watching Dutch TV and reading newspapers to pick up vocabulary. However, I made the most progress in speaking when I joined a local rowing club. What's your favourite Dutch food? Definitely poffertjes, because there is nothing more uplifting on a bad day. What do you miss about back home? In terms of food, dark bread – although with many organic shops and local bakeries there is a great choice in Maastricht. Coming from Vienna I missed the coffee house culture and ‘ good’ coffee, but also in these respects Maastricht has developed very positively during the last few years – there are now various wonderful new places: great to sit, work, eat, drink good coffee. How Dutch have you become? My Austrian colleagues often remark that I have become way more direct in workplace communication. In Austria you small talk and often talk around the issue, but you seldom say directly what you want. I've certainly been socialised into this in the Netherlands. What's your top tourist tip? Visit the Keukenhof tulip gardens. This is not necessarily an innovative suggestion but it is really nicely done and great for getting into spring mood. And visitors love it too. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Biking is normal, and you can transport anything on your bike. I was also surprised that not only youngsters but everyone cycles, even omas and opas. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Go for a long walk along the Maas, have coffee at Slavante at the Sint Pietersberg. Then walk back into town for a relaxing lunch, watch people and later on have a biertje on one of the many cafe terraces.  More >


‘I’ve finally given up trying to look good in the rain’

‘I’ve finally given up trying to look good in the rain’

Jane Dean is a freelance editor and writer and has lived in the Netherlands for nine years but still misses family and friends. She was involved in the launch of The Hague magazine, The Underground, and is very partial to Luciano's ice cream. How did you end up in the Netherlands? We arrived here from New Orleans, USA. In 2005, three days before Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana coast, my husband was offered a position with his company in Rotterdam. Eleven months later, after rebuilding our home, my youngest son and I joined him in the Netherlands – leaving our daughter in the US and our eldest son in the UK, where he’d decided to relocate. It was a difficult transition going from a close family unit to living in three different countries. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’ve never felt comfortable being described as an expat as home is where we are. Nor do I feel I’m an immigrant, as we don’t intend to stay here permanently. We are international but it’s not a term I would use to describe myself either. I have used the term non-expat expat in the past and it’s the best I can come up with. How long do you plan to stay and why? Our reason for being here is job related, so who knows? I’m ready for a move. All our children now live on a different continent to us and the friends we’ve made here over the years have moved on. It’s not about whether we like living here or not, but the life stage we’re at. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I signed up for Dutch lessons within weeks of arriving. My early efforts at spoken Dutch were met with derision by several local shopkeepers, which destroyed what was left of my fragile self-esteem. Dutch friends refused to speak their native language; rather they saw me as an opportunity to improve their already perfect English. I read Dutch and get by. At my age I figure that’s good enough - as I won’t be speaking Dutch outside the Netherlands. What's your favorite Dutch food? Ummm… Luciano’s ice cream. What do you miss about back home and why? Home is where we are, but I miss family and friends and wish we could be geographically closer to share in life celebrations. Other than that there’s nothing I miss that isn’t available here or can’t be brought in by friends. In nearly 20 years we’ve never run out of Sainsbury’s Red Label teabags. How Dutch have you become? I’ve finally given up trying to look good in the rain, so scraped back hair and barely-there make-up is the order of the day. This has coincided with shop assistants assuming I’m Dutch rather than an expat, so I guess I’ve cracked it with blending in. What's your top tourist tip? Use the Netherlands as a base to explore Europe - travelling is so easy from great airports or by car. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Perhaps I’ve been here too long – can’t think of anything! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Walk my dogs in the woods by our home – along the trails and canals we’ve known for years. Jane Dean also writes the blog www.Wordgeyser.com  More >


‘Dutch potatoes are the best I have ever eaten’

‘Dutch potatoes are the best I have ever eaten’

Paola Montino, 39, gave up everything in Italy three years ago and moved to Amsterdam on the off-chance to make a new start. She bought a house, found a job as a customer service rep for a pharmaceuticals company and loves her new life. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I moved to the Netherlands in April 2012 together with my boyfriend. We were both working in Italy, but we were not really satisfied with our lives. We had low salaries, a static environment and we did not see how things would ever get better… at least, this was what we felt! So, within two months, we quit our jobs, we left our place and, after choosing the destination on a map, we came to Amsterdam.  We bought an apartment without even knowing if we would find a job… really exciting indeed! We saw more than 50 places in two weeks and at the end we found ‘home’! Of course, we were able to do it financially, but it was a risk anyway. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I would call myself an expat. I feel more Dutch and integrated now than I did three years ago but I will be Italian for the rest of my life! How long do you plan to stay? I have no plans at the moment, but I really like Amsterdam (except the weather) and I think I will live here for long time. I've met a lot of nice people, I have a job that I like and I am completely independent… it is not easy to give everything up! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak Dutch, not fluently, but I can understand almost everything… I should just practice a bit more! I attended Dutch classes for more than a year thanks to the free courses offered by the city council and I have also passed the NT2 Staatexamen. What's your favourite Dutch food? Mhmm…I think potatoes, because they are the best I have ever eaten! What do you miss about back home? To be honest, the only thing I really miss, besides my family of course, is the sun! How Dutch have you become? I use my bike in winter and I cycle even if it is raining. I have learned to be more direct when I do not like something… but I will never put salad and pasta on the same plate! What's your top tourist tip? Go to a park on a sunny morning… you will feel like you are in paradise! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands? People do not stare at you in the street… no matter what you are wearing or what you look like! Everything seems to be normal here! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? A long evening walk in Weesperzijde, which is one of my favourite streets in Amsterdam.  More >


‘The Dutch are responsible for the cultivation of orange carrots’

‘The Dutch are responsible for the cultivation of orange carrots’

Former banker Stephanie Ernst has lived in the Netherlands for three years and volunteers for the International Almere organisation. An Australian national, she misses sunshine and Vegemite but has gone Dutch enough to run a cargo bike  How did you end up in the Netherlands? I fol­lowed my hus­band here so I guess you could say a Boe­ing 737 owned by Cathay Pacific, fol­lowed by a trip on the won­der­ful NS rail net­work. A while back I met this wonderful Dutch guy, so a few years later I ended up marrying him. His job prospects were better here, so I left Australia to join him. We moved to Almere because that’s where his job was located at the time. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I really define myself as me. I guess that sounds a wee bit trite and pre­ten­tious, but I don’t believe we all fit into boxes. I think any­one who has made the deci­sion to move to another coun­try really has a chal­lenge on their hands. So we adapt and change small things about our­selves and our upbring­ing to acco­mmo­date the dif­fer­ences in our lives. Some peo­ple embrace change, some don’t. How long do you plan to stay and why? Forever. Scary, right? At least as long as my husband has a job, we will be staying here. We bought a house here, have enrolled our children in school, we’re happy. And my residence permit lasts at least until 2018, so seeing we paid for it … Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Natuurlijk. I’m not one of the lucky ones that can bypass inburgering, so I had to take a Dutch course. I studied at a fantastic school in Amsterdam, and although I fell pregnant with twins toward the end of my course, I managed to pass B1 level. I now practice when I can – and luckily I have neighbours who ‘spreek Nederlands met mij’. It’s important to learn at least the basics of the language. Much to my husband’s despair, I’m also now fluent in swearing and curse words. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I used to say poffertjes. But now, it’s all about krokettenbroodjes. With mustard. I still haven’t got the courage to try haring though. Blergh. What do you miss about back home and why? Sunshine and Cadbury chocolates. And Vegemite! How Dutch have you become and why? Other than my stupendous ability to balance my Albert Heijn bargains on my bike whilst riding at full speed and cursing cars for taking over my road space? Not really. I’ve adapted to life here, but I still would call myself Australian in my daily life. I don’t believe you become ‘Dutch’ by living here, it’s more like you adapt to your surroundings and adopt some things, but you retain your own values. However, I do own a bakfiets (cargo bike)… What's your top tourist tip? Leave the cities and the typical tourist places. Get out to the countryside. Explore the villages and towns. Go to places like Schokland, Giethoon or Urk and experience something that is completely unique. Experience the new cities, like Almere and it’s amazing architecture and city design. It’s not all tulips, windmills, cheese and clogs. The Netherlands is a really diverse place and you can have experiences outside the stereotypes. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I am fascinated by the fact each province is so different – Friesland is completely different to Limburg, Gelderland is different to Zeeland. We don’t have that diversity in Australia when it comes to the different states and I find it intriguing. That, and the Dutch are responsible for the original cultivation of orange carrots. Politics and fashion dictated the colour of a vegetable! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? That is a hard question! Probably take a final wander through the market here, or visit some of my favourite places, or even just take a day to say goodbye to the friends I’ve made here. Stephanie is a former banker/insurance guru from Australia who now spends her time wrangling her twin toddlers and volunteering for International Almere (www.internationalalmere.com). She also writes the  blog The Inbuggering Diaries  More >


‘When I’m in California, I actually yearn for grey Dutch days’

‘When I’m in California, I actually yearn for grey Dutch days’

Californian Carol Govaert has lived abroad for the past 25 years, of which the last 15 have been in the Netherlands. She is fascinated by how organised Dutch nature is - all those trees in rows - and partial to pancakes. How did you end up in the Netherlands? When I was studying I belonged to a group called A.I.E.S.E.C, an international business exchange programme at San Jose State University. We were hosting an event for the universities on the west coast and I was part of the welcoming committee. I checked in a handsome, young Dutch man and from that day on we’ve been inseparable. Who would’ve thought this encounter would’ve changed my whole life. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I describe myself as global nomad: I belong everywhere and nowhere at all. How long do you plan to stay? We finally put down roots and bought our dream home in Amsterdam. So, we’re here for the long run. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I speak Dutch. When I first arrived 25 years ago my then boyfriend, now husband, sent me to intensive Dutch courses. But where I really learned how to speak Dutch was from a friend of mine called Klaasje. We walked every day and spent a lot of time together. She took me under her wing and taught me the ins-and-outs of Dutch culture. What's your favourite Dutch food? Pannekoek – It's like a French crepe but a little thicker. It’s served with all kinds of toppings and then topped off with stroop, which is a delicious syrup What do you miss about back home? I miss my family and friends, especially during the holidays. How Dutch have you become? I’m from California and when I first got here I couldn’t believe that people could live in such a miserable climate. That was my biggest complaint. I hated being cooped up in the house. I’ve completely acclimatised to the climate and enjoy the changes. Now when I’m in California, I actually yearn for a grey day to wear cosy clothes. What's your top tourist tip? Don’t just stay in the tourist areas. Walk or bike in the residential areas. They’re full of fun shops, restaurants and cafes where the locals hang out. If you walk, Amsterdam is an outdoor museum. There are plaques everywhere commemorating historical events. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I was surprised at the amount of multinationals in such a small country. What I found odd was that the Dutch have organised nature. When we would first go out on the highways. I was amazed that the trees were in rows. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Bike around Amsterdam, go to a couple of museums, and eat at my favourite places. Carol Govaert is a photographer and has dual Dutch and American nationality. You can find her work at www.magpeyephotography.com  More >


‘I enjoy my life and our setting here and this feeds my soul’

‘I enjoy my life and our setting here and this feeds my soul’

Artist Albert Dolmans, 86, was born in the Netherlands but emigrated to the US when he was 11 during World War II. Back now for 32 years, Albert lives near the water close to Rotterdam and thinks the Dutch weather is getting better. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I made frequent visits from the US to my parents who had returned here after the war. I later met my present partner, and together we organised exhibits of my work, art workshops both here and in France and other art activities. The good life! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I'm an expat though my partner thinks I still have some typical Dutch idioscyncracies I will not divulge!  I was born in Breda, but at age 11 travelled across Europe by train to Genoa and a ship that would take my mother, sisters and me to NY. One month later the Germans marched into my home town. We proceeded to California where I spent the next 40 years of my life in Berkeley. How long do you plan to stay? Until 2029 when I will be 100 or have a lived a century or whatever is the longest. I enjoy my life and our setting here and this feeds my soul. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, fluently. I learned Dutch during my early years like all Dutch kids at home and at school. What's your favourite Dutch food? Nasi goreng, boerenkool en worst, croquettes. What do you miss about back home? Food-wise, I miss a good T-Bone steak and real hot dogs. I miss real camping, particularly in the rugged mountainous scenery and spacious landscape you generally find there; the silence of nature. I also miss my friends. How Dutch have you become? I don’t think I have changed. I guess after 40 years in California, I was too old to change when I arrived back. What's your top tourist tip? I can give you many. The white village of Thorn in Limburg, the Keukenhof during tulip season, the windmills of Kinderdijk, the Open Air Museum in Arnhem... I could go on. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The climate here has improved if anything. It has been much more moderate of late. During my childhood, winters were more severe and I remember summers being a wash-out with much more rain. Global warming seems to be working in our favour. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Without telling them why, I would bring my friends over for a great meal and a good glass, and I would tell and show them what it was that had held me here in the lowlands all these years. Albert Dolmans has published an autobiography, 'Painting is my life', which contains many of his watercolours and drawings.  An exhibition of his landscapes is being held at Kunstzaal van Heijningen, Noordeinde 152, in The Hague from July 11. The book is available as a free download for iphones and ipads.   More >


‘So much awesome pop music came from the Netherlands’

‘So much awesome pop music came from the Netherlands’

Music fan Laura Beeby has dual Dutch and Canadian nationality and says she will miss decent public transport when she goes back to Canada later this year after 11 years. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I’m a music lover and my Dutchie is a musician; we met the 21st century way on a Yahoo forum for fans of the Hollies. He came to visit me in Canada in 2004, and since I had just been made redundant at my copywriting job and my son was moving away for college, I thought it was time for an adventure. Not being the biggest risk-taker in the world though, I found a supply teaching job in the UK as a plan B…then flew to the Netherlands to visit the Dutchie…and never left! We married in 2006. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? Immigrant! I think the word has had an unnecessarily bad rap, personally. How long do you plan to stay? Actually I’m moving back to Canada by the end of the year and sponsoring Dutchie to follow. I’ve worked pretty steadily since 2005, but after a health-related break from 2012-2014, I discovered that there was little call for a 50+ monolingual with a CV gap. Times have really changed since I first moved here when all you needed was a degree and English fluency to qualify for a job. Time to return home where I have friends, family and hopefully more of chance. Maybe. Yes, I’m petrified! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? The inburgeringscursus basics, I’m afraid. Enough to get by. I’ve never stopped trying but oh well. If there’s one thing I wish I'd known before I moved here it is that it’s best to do it while you’re young, especially if you only speak English. What's your favourite Dutch food? I make an awesome stamppot and I love rijsttafels. What do you miss about back home? My son. My parents. My friends. Real winters. Christmases. Perogies. Gravy on my fries! How Dutch have you become? Not very; I think I’ve become more British. I blame my Dutchie who isn’t very Dutch either! What's your top tourist tip? Get out of Amsterdam!! So many other lovely cities to visit…Maastricht, Haarlem, Delft, Leiden, Rotterdam…etc! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. How much awesome pop music came from this country over the years. Golden Earring, Shocking Blue, Q65, The Outsiders, Cuby and the Blizzards, De Dijk…the list is endless. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Take a train trip… I will definitely miss decent public transport when I move back to Canada! Laura Beeby writes the blog Canucky Woman  More >


‘The Dutch eat a lot of bread and potatoes without getting fat’

‘The Dutch eat a lot of bread and potatoes without getting fat’

South African Anesca Smith has lived here for 2.5 years and doesn't think the Netherlands is as flat as people say. About to marry a Dutchman, she says she intends to live here happily ever after. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I worked as foreign correspondent for a South African news group in London and after returning to South Africa I found myself inexplicably restless. To cure my wanderlust I decided to study International Business Administration in the Netherlands for a year. Only, I met and fell in love with a Dutchman about a minute after I arrived here and that was that. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? My heart is divided. I am immensely proud to be African, to be from the land of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. South Africa will always be the country of my heart, but I am loving life in Holland and this is where I see my future. How long do you plan to stay? I am marrying a Dutchman in September so I fully intend to live happily ever after here. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? My mother tongue, Afrikaans, is an offshoot of the Dutch language so I already had a great vocabulary but my grammar is rubbish. For instance, I don’t know when to use the two definite articles het and de. Mind you, navigating two similar languages has led to some amusing situations. For example, the Dutch word kont, which means buttocks, has a completely different meaning in Afrikaans and let’s just say you won’t go tossing it around. (Hope it’s okay to say kont in 10 Questions!) What's your favourite Dutch food? Erwtensoep! It’s the first thing I ordered when I arrived in the Netherlands. What do you miss about back home? I miss the people. South Africans are very friendly and open – it is commonplace to strike up small conversations with strangers on the street. The Dutch are a bit more reserved. How Dutch have you become? Very. I promptly eat dinner at 6pm now. Before it would be anything around 8pm or even 9pm. To everyone’s surprise I have also become quite sporty. My mother, upon hearing I’m off to play badminton the other day, asked: Do you even know how to hold a racket? What's your top tourist tip? If you venture out of Amsterdam, Mauritshuis in The Hague is unmissable. I would also recommend the Royal Summer Residence, Het Loo Palace in Apeldoorn. Next to its entrance is a gorgeous hiking trail. Finally De Tuinen van Appeltern is just the most enchanting garden idea park. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. You know how everyone always tells you the Netherlands is as flat as a pancake? Well, they’ve clearly not visited Arnhem. I’m still out of breath whenever I have to cycle up one of its almighty hills to get home. Also, I find it weird walking around in the evening and seeing so many houses where the curtains are wide, wide open – you can see everything they’re doing in there (which, admittedly is not much, but still). Finally, the Dutch seem to eat an awful lot of bread and potatoes without getting fat. The girls are all golden hair and long limbs. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? If weather permits, I would take a hot-air balloon ride – I love seeing Holland from above. If I am forced to do something more earthly, I would cycle around in the Hoge Veluwe National Park on one of the free white bikes they provide and visit the Kröller-Müller Museum in the afternoon to look at the Van Goghs and the Sculpture Garden. Anesca Smith is PR and communication officer at Wittenborg University of Applied Science in Apeldoorn  More >


‘Part of having an international life is saying goodbye’

‘Part of having an international life is saying goodbye’

Linguist Ute Limacher-Riebold has lived in the Netherlands for 10 years and describes herself as an expat, a multinational, a European and a Third Culture Kid. She's partial to stroopwaffels, walking in the dunes and using her diary in the Dutch way. How did you end up in the Netherlands? After some years in Italy (Florence) where I had a research grant, my husband and I applied for several jobs all around Europe. When my husband received a positive reply from an international company in The Hague we took that chance and moved here. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I'm a European expat-since-birth (also the name of my blog) because I've never lived in my parents' passport country, Germany. I use the term expat in its strictest sense, ie 'ex' out + "patriam" father country. I'm also an adult European Third Culture Kid for the same reason. European, because I have 'only' lived in different countries in Europe and when you tell someone that you are a TCK, people still assume that you have lived in several continents. I'm also a multinational and multilingual. How long do you plan to stay and why? We'll probably stay longer because of my husband's job, but we never know. I have the typical three-years-itch and it could be that sooner or later we'll move to another country. But I would love to give my three children (they are nine-year-old twins and 12) the chance to finish school here before the next move. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Naturlijk spreek ik nederlands! – Yes, of course! I'm a linguist and the first goal for me, when we moved here, was to improve my Dutch. I already knew some basics but I find it important to be able to communicate with locals. This was also the reason why I sent my then 2.5-year-old son to a Dutch crèche and daycare, and later my twin daughters too. I learned Dutch alongside my son and by talking with everyone. I literally acquired Dutch, like children. After five years I also took a Dutch course, but that was already at conversational level. I learned most of my Dutch by listening to the radio, watching Dutch TV, reading newspapers and magazines, talking with locals and making lots of mistakes. 'We need to make mistakes in order to learn,' is my motto. I worked for a Dutch research institute where I improved my Dutch even more. What's your favourite Dutch food? My favourite Dutch food are stroopwaffels, pannekoeken and sprinkles. And I like snert or erwtensoep in winter, which is similar to the ribollita in Tuscany (without the sausage though). What do you miss about back home? I think that I no longer miss what was in the past. I think that I really adjusted to my life here and I fully embrace it. The places I've lived before were perfect, too. They all had a very special 'taste' and marked special moments in my life, but I wouldn't say that I miss anything. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I consider 'home' the place I am in the moment and that I've learned to fully live in the present. I can't even say that I miss the people there because it's part of an international life to say goodbye – and then hello again! – and to savour the moments we're given to spend in company with our loved ones and friends. Of course, when I go back to the places I've lived before I enjoy and savour the food, the smells, the different climate and habits. But I'm very much aware that the same food would taste different in other places. How Dutch have you become? I think I've become quite Dutch when it comes to welcoming guests. I used to cook a lot, to always focus on food when friends came over. I think in Italy, Germany, Switzerland and many other countries, people focus so much on 'feeding their guests' that they miss out on really dedicating time to them, to listen and enjoy being with them. Here I learned that what counts is to talk, spend gezellig and enjoyable time together – but not disappear into the kitchen or spend most of the time talking about cuisine. Don't get me wrong: I love cooking (and eating), but when someone comes over (not for lunch or dinner) I won't prepare a festive meal anymore. I do the same as the locals: whenever it's nice weather, I'm outdoors. I use my diary in a very Dutch way and am as punctual as locals – but this is very Swiss, too (I wasn't like that when I grew up in Italy though). What's your top tourist tip. I think the best way to really enjoy the Netherlands is on a bike. Rent a bike and enjoy a long journey. Unmissable: walk or ride through the dunes and the beach on a Sunday morning. I don't have 'one' top tourist tip: there is a long list of places one should have seen during a visit in the Netherlands. I'd also recommend taking time to observe the locals: I learn a lot about life in a place by observing people who live there - and by doing what they do. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. When we moved to the Netherlands from Italy, I didn't expect it to be such a child-friendly place as Italy! Actually, I think it's even more child-friendly because restaurants, museums and the like are very welcoming for families. What surprised me a lot here in the Netherlands was the way old people get around. They bike, use a wheeled walker, take public transport. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I think I would take a (last) walk through The Hague and Rijswijk, to the places I feel especially connected with, to say goodbye. I would take many many pictures of 'my' places, and say goodbye to people I know. – I would spend a gezellig evening with friends and family in a strandtent at the beach if it's summer, or I'd go to one of my favourite restaurants. Ute Limacher-Riebold is a multilingual coach and trainer for internationals and runs Ute's Expat Lounge.  More >


‘I used to call myself an expat but am now more an immigrant’

‘I used to call myself an expat but am now more an immigrant’

Jodi van Keeken-Hamilton came to the Netherlands for love 15 years ago at the age of 51. She recommends a spring visit to the Hortus Bulborum in Limmen, and is annoyed by the lack of facilities for the deaf in the Netherlands. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I am one of those women who met their Dutchie online, way back in 1999. We did not meet in person until eight months later. I decided to move to be with him, since I was no longer working, my son was married and basically it was time for ME. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I used to call myself an expat/lovepat but now I guess I am more of an immigrant. How long do you plan to stay? Another couple of years. My Dutch husband is planning early retirement and I am planning to apply for my Dutch citizenship after being here for 15 years. We then aim to go to America, and try to spend some time with my two grandchildren. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do not speak a word of Dutch because I am deaf and I am unable to hear how words are put together. So I figured I'd better not try to butcher the language. When I arrived, I was pushed from pillar to post and no one wanted to teach me Dutch one-on-one.The council played hide and seek with my husband for about six months.  The deaf services coordinator in Amsterdam said there was no help for me because I was not from a third world country and nor was I a Dutch citizen. They told me to come back when I had a Dutch passport. What's your favourite Dutch food? I do like stroopwafels but as far as food goes, maybe fries? Actually, to be honest, I have no favourites at all. What do you miss about back home? My family and the accessibility for a deaf person. How Dutch have you become? I do not think I have become Dutch at all. I came over when I was 51 so I was pretty set in my ways. What's your top tourist tip? If you are deaf, go for the visual things that do not require audio description. Visit the zoos, they are pretty cool. In the spring, go to the Hortus Bulborum in Limmen. It is a small but lovely historical bulb garden. Call ahead and you get a real nice person who speaks English during the tour. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. How small it is, and how wet. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? People watch and have lunch somewhere close to the water - preferably on the beach at Bakkum. Jodi van Keeken-Hamilton used to be a counsellor for the deaf and their families and taught sign language and deaf studies.  More >


‘The Dutch love making rules and regulations but they’re anarchists’

‘The Dutch love making rules and regulations but they’re anarchists’

Life coach Madeleine Lenagh has lived in the Netherlands for 45 years but refuses to ride a bike. If she ever had to leave, she would spend her last day looking for sea eagles. How did you end up living in the Netherlands? When I was 21, I went walkabout. My money ran out in the Netherlands and I didn’t want to go home yet. I found an au-pair job for six months and sold my return ticket to buy winter clothes. I never got around to leaving. How would you describe yourself:  an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I guess I would describe myself as an international. I happen to have put down roots in the Netherlands but it could have been anywhere. How long do you plan to stay? Well, I’ve been here for 45 years now. I think I’m here to stay. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak fluent Dutch. I started out taking care of three boys aged five, seven and nine, so I had to dive in.  Plus, my Dutch friends were kind enough to always speak Dutch to me. What’s your favourite Dutch food? I’m going to cheat here and say an Indonesian rijsttafel! The Indo (Dutch-Indonesian) culture is very much part of the Dutch heritage. What do you miss about back home? I miss wild nature the most. I go back regularly: to the red rock country in the south-west, to Alaska and to New England where my roots lie. How Dutch have you become? I suppose I’m just myself. I’m neither very Dutch nor very American - but I do not like drop (Dutch liquorice) and I refuse to ride a bicycle! What’s your top tourist tip? The Netherlands has some beautiful re-wilding projects. The Oostvaardersplassen and the Biesbosch are favourites of mine. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. Although the Dutch love making rules and regulations they’re anarchists at heart, so they immediately turn around and break them! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Take a boat and my camera out into the Biesbosch and look for sea eagles. Madeleine Lenagh had a long career in urban planning and project management before completely changing direction to retrain as a life coach and counsellor. She lives in Hank in Noord-Brabant and has just published a new book, Passage of the Stork.   More >


‘No one seems to have curtains; I rather enjoy the voyeurism’

‘No one seems to have curtains; I rather enjoy the voyeurism’

Russian national Anastasia Loginova, 29, works for a children's charity. She's been in the Netherlands for eight months and loves long cycle rides and thinks Amsterdam is a place of many layers, all waiting to be uncovered. How did you end up in the Netherlands? It was actually very un-Dutch and unplanned. While job hunting last summer, I reconnected with a high school friend who had just spent four years in Amsterdam and was preaching about the magic of the city. Moving to the Netherlands had not crossed my mind up to that point, but her stories intrigued me. Simultaneously, a position came up in her ex-company, a non-profit organisation called Child and Youth Finance International which facilitates financial education for children and youth around the world. Although it was not exactly my field (I have a background in art), I had the required skills and the cause greatly appealed to me. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? Honestly, the term expat makes me cringe a little. I have never actually lived in my country of origin. I was born in Cuba, raised in Cyprus, and having lived in the UK, USA and Germany before here, I would describe myself as a citizen of the Earth. How long do you plan to stay and why? No plans yet. For now I feel good, so I will stay. Having moved around so much, I also would quite like to stay and get to know a place in more depth. Amsterdam seems like a place with many layers to be uncovered - I am curious to get underneath some of those. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Not yet, I think I’m allowed a gap year before embarking on the Dutch lesson road. I do speak German and some claim that it is easy-peasy to learn if you know German. Others have told me Dutch is in fact the hardest language there is (this came from a language teacher) due to all the exceptions which exist in the grammar. I guess opinion is varied and I will just have to find out for myself… One day! What's your favorite Dutch food? Herring and pancakes! Not at the same time. I love the Dutch way of making pancakes; saturated in butter, embedded with soggy apples, raisins and covered in cinnamon - perfect any time. I also really enjoy going to the Noordmarkt on Saturdays where you can buy fresh fruit and veg, fish and all sorts of local produce. The mushrooms stand there is just a beauty to see and it’s great to chat with the local farmers from the countryside who ooze the kind of warmth, calm and humanity you rarely find in cities. What do you miss about back home? The sun, the sea, sharing, the inclusive Mediterranean attitude (sometimes!), laughing with friends and family and Cypriot bakeries. How Dutch have you become? I've opened a savings account here, so I guess I am beginning to become quite Dutch. What's your top tourist tip? Wow, there are so many! Firstly, get the season right and come in spring or summer. It’s incredible how the city changes and comes alive once the coat of hibernation comes off after a long, dark and heavy winter. I love taking a walk in the Jordaan along the canals; the cobbled streets and crooked little houses, each appearing to have a personality of its own, peeking into strange little shop windows and quirky businesses. All the layers of history and extremely well-kept charm are like nowhere else. With the onset of spring I have also been venturing out on the bike beyond Amsterdam. Biking from city to city feels great, since the distance is doable and you feel the accomplishment. Last weekend, we cycled from Amsterdam to Hillegom, which is just before the crowded Keukenhof, to see the tulip fields and then followed the sand dunes up to Zandvoort, the coastal town. This is a route which I loved and would definitely recommend. The combination of sports and leisure as well as incredible sights makes for a wonderful day trip. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands? Something which really surprises me here is that no one seems have to curtains in their windows, instead displaying the contents of their house and private life for all to see. I find this quite bizarre, considering that the Dutch culture appears to be quite reserved and private, but I must admit, I rather enjoy the voyeurism into other people’s lives. Another thing is the way Dutch people socialise. For example, if you are out with a Dutch person and they have an appointment with another friend, who you might also know, they will never encourage you all to meet and hang out, rather keeping to the allotted time slots and everyone separate. Coming from a Mediterranean culture where everyone always brings everyone together, this segmentation seems rather peculiar. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Take a walk along the streets of the Jordaan at sunrise and breathe it all in. Walk, walk, walk, discover a cozy café to rest in, peek in some book stores, end up in the Westerpark for sunset. Anastasia Loginova works for the Amsterdam-based NGO Child and Youth Finance International, which organises the annual Global Money Week event.  More >


‘The temperature I consider winter lasts for nine months’

‘The temperature I consider winter lasts for nine months’

Australian Renée Veldman-Tentori, 39, has been in the Netherlands for seven years off and on. She runs her own company and misses her parents, sunshine and Bouwen mangoes. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I fell in love with a Dutchman. We met when he was backpacking in Australia in 2001, just before I left for a four-year working holiday in the UK. After a year there, I ended up in the Netherlands instead.  After the birth of our first daughter in 2007, I managed to drag him to Australia for a few years. Our second daughter was born in Brisbane in 2009, and then two years later, when he was homesick and wanted to further his career, we ended up back here. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? An international Dutch Australian! How long do you plan to stay? My husband feels he has a lot more opportunities to further his career here. We’ve now bought a house and the girls are settled at a (Dutch) school so I think we’ll be here for a while. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Ja hoor. When I first moved here, as a non-EU citizen I was forced into the integration and Dutch language course for a year from 2003.  Though I hated it at the time, I can now see the benefits as I’m fairly fluent. I started with the Delftse Methode at the TU Delft then moved on to Mondriaan. After I passed the exams in 2004, I haven’t done any more formal study and as I now work in English, have become a little lazy with Dutch. I am considering going back to a formal class to 'brush up', though my two children attend a local Dutch school and seem to enjoy correcting me when necessary. What's your favourite Dutch food? Well I quite like olieballen but am allergic to peanuts and many of the olliebal kraams bake them in peanut oil! Good for my health to have to avoid these I guess. What do you miss about back home? Naturally my family and friends. I Skype my parents almost daily as I miss them so much and also so they can continue to have a relationship with their only grandchildren. Being from Queensland, Australia, other things I miss are sunshine, warmth and ginger beer. Oh and delicious, sweet, juicy Bowen mangoes! The mangoes are just not the same here. How Dutch have you become? Interesting question, as I’ve noticed I sometimes find myself fighting losing part of my Australian character. One thing I’ve become much better at is being much more direct and honest. In Australia, this would often be perceived as rude, but here I fit right in. What's your top tourist tip? I’m so fortunate to live right between Delft and The Hague, both are really beautiful cities to spend time just wandering around in.  I love taking my children to museums and blog about it at www.cultureandkids.com Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. That the temperatures I previously would consider as 'winter' last for around nine months of the year here. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? We’ve faced this before when we thought we were leaving the Netherlands 'for good' to move to Australia – and spent it mostly drinking coffee and eating appeltaart with my husband’s family. Renée Veldman-Tentori runs a social media consultancy Zestee Social Media   More >


‘Whenever I land at Schiphol, I am so glad to be back home’

‘Whenever I land at Schiphol, I am so glad to be back home’

Entrepreneur Deborah Carter is a British Canadian dual national and has lived in the Netherlands on and off for 12 years. She fell in love with Amsterdam because of its people and says the Dutch are the most loyal friends you could ever have. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was working for The New York Times in Manhattan and gradually came to the conclusion that there’s more to life than work, cocktails and ceaseless social climbing. I was looking for a kinder, gentler way of life (along with more than 10 vacation days per year) surrounded by culture, the arts and endless travel possibilities. I wanted to spend one year working in Europe before ‘settling down’ back in Canada where I come from. I had been to Amsterdam several times for vacation and loved the city and its vibe. While still in NYC, I started emailing people in Amsterdam for advice on where to look for jobs in digital media. I wrote to a woman who had just set up an Internet research company. We exchanged tips and then out of the blue, she invited me to come work for her and set up a new business unit. She warned me that the pay was crap but that I’d meet lots of potential employers after a few months. All this based on five emails and a 15-minute interview. I remember my sister telling me that I was crazy decamping to Amsterdam like that. But I thought ‘you only live once’. I did it and the rest is history. One year has turned into 12 years and counting! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’m an Amsterdammer with international origins more than anything else. I love the Netherlands but I also love the country I come from: Canada. But what I love most is Amsterdam, this amazing city where you can be whoever you want to be and meet people who are just like you, foreigners who choose to be here because of the quality of life and values that this city stands for. How long do you plan to stay? Who knows? When I lived in NYC, I thought I’ll stay here forever and that didn’t happen. Somehow, though, Amsterdam is different. Whenever I land back at Schiphol or arrive back at Amsterdam’s Centraal Station, I relax and think “I’m so glad to be back home.” Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Not well but I can get by. I’ve taken lessons on and off and I took continuous lessons last year and until this Spring. I enrolled in a great course called ‘Goed. Beter. Best.’ given by an organisation called Alsare. Basically, it’s for parents who want to help their primary school children. You learn Dutch in the context of understanding the Dutch school system and how you can help your child do well at school. You learn Dutch vocabulary and grammar as well as things such as the logic behind how maths is taught here (splitsen). It was an amazing experience to learn with women from Morocco, Turkey, Israel, Mexico, the US, Italy, the UK, Russia and Bosnia. And you know what: the Moroccan and Turkish ladies left us in the dust. Their Dutch is way better than ours! I had to stop my Dutch lessons for the time being because I’ve just launched a start-up which takes all of my time. But my intention is to start the lessons again. They have made such a difference. My son is now my Dutch teacher. He’s constantly reminding me that his Dutch is better than mine so I remind him that my English is better than his. What's your favourite Dutch food? Definitely stamppot and stoofvlees with appeltaart, Bossche bol (giant profiterole) or Haagse Bluf (berry-flavoured meringue) for dessert. It’s a solid, no nonsense meal which is hearty and pure. Kind of like the Dutch. One of my best friends is a Dutch woman who has made it her business to expose us to Dutch culture and traditions. She taught my son to make a hole in the stampot and fill it with gravy. She taught us to make Haagse Bluf. What do you miss about back home and why? I miss my family and my friends from way back. I miss endless amounts of space and convenience. I miss the friendliness and politeness of Canadians. The thing I miss the most: that multiculturalism is normal. It’s okay to be from different places and still be proudly Canadian. Oh yeah, and free universal healthcare. (Canadians have access to free healthcare which would save me around €150 per month if I still lived there.) How Dutch have you become and why? Sex. (Shrug.) Drugs. (Shrug.) Bad weather. (Shrug.) The Belastingdienst. (Heart palpitations. Pour me a drink!) What's your top tourist tip? Go to a brown café in a non-touristy area by yourself and pull up a chair at the bar. Chat over a drink with the bartender or locals. That’s how I fell in love with Amsterdam. The people, plain and simple. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I’ve found that the Dutch can be very wary towards foreigners. So you have to invest in relationships and you have to put in the time and effort to earn their trust and loyalty. But when you do, the Dutch are the most steadfast and loyal friends you could ever have. That’s what a lot of expats who don’t integrate never get to experience. Having a son who goes to Dutch primary school and who identifies strongly as being Dutch has opened up Amsterdam and the Netherlands to me in a way that I never could imagine. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Aimlessly wander around the city all day, window-shopping, stopping in local bars and peering boldly into as many home windows as possible. I’d then stuff my face with stamppot, stoofvlees and appeltaart before grabbing the free ferry to NDSM island to view the city at night from the water. Then I’d begin plotting my permanent return to the city. Deborah Carter is co-founder and business director of NewTechKids, an after-school technology and programming academy in Amsterdam for kids aged 4-12 years.  More >


‘Sitting in a circle at Dutch parties makes it hard to start talking’

‘Sitting in a circle at Dutch parties makes it hard to start talking’

Rick Lightstone is PR director at the ABC bookstore in Amsterdam and has been in the Netherlands for 28 years. If he had to leave, he would cycle down the Amstel into the sunset. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met my wife on a kibbutz in Israel. She is Dutch and wanted to live in Holland. We were in Vancouver for a few years and after moving back and forth a bit, we ended up here. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? That's a tricky one. I’m a Dutchified Canadian. How long do you plan to stay? For ever, permanently. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I went to Dutch language schools for a while. At home we speak primarily English and my kids have grown up to be completely bilingual. What's your favourite Dutch food? I’m not going to say Indonesian. Does it count as Dutch?  I guess bitterballen. Every time we host an author at the ABC they freak out about stroopwaffels but I don't really get them. What do you miss about back home? The space and the nature, the mountains and being able to get away from it all. I don’t miss that much about Canada… not any more. Things change when you've lived away for so long. How Dutch have you become? I’m pretty integrated into Dutch culture. We followed all the Dutch traditions at home when the kids were growing up. Of course, I cycle everywhere. I'm completely used to living here. Sometimes you just don't remember how things were before. What's your top tourist tip? I’d have to say the Rijksmuseum since its renovation. I just love the building and they way they exhibit everything. It is the most extraordinary place. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. There is one thing which still stands out, and which I really hate, and that is the party format at peoples' homes. You have to sit in a circle and this makes it very hard to begin a conversation with someone.  In the US or Canda you would introduce yourself. Here, no one asks you what do you do for a living and there are no openers at social gatherings. It is much more difficult to initiate conversations. That was very frustrating in the early day. Now I just jump in. I don’t care any more. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I'd take my bike and cycle down the Amstel river and I’d be gone the whole day. I’d take a picnic and ride off into the sunset.  More >


‘The Dutch underestimate their impact on the world’

‘The Dutch underestimate their impact on the world’

American Claire Taylor came to Amsterdam almost 30 years ago and now has dual Dutch nationality. A fan of smoked eel sandwiches, she is most proud of her allotment where she grows vegetables. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Love. We met in Queens, New York, and it was pretty much love at first hug. I’d already lived in Sweden and Italy, and I wondered about Amsterdam… so when I visited him, I also went to see if I loved his city, too. If I hadn’t liked Amsterdam, it would have never worked out between us! And we’re still together, after all these years. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I am an Amsterdammer because I love this city, warts and all. And I’m also an 'American living abroad' – a term we used when I was working with Democrats Abroad to describe us expats, because so many Americans living abroad do not like the expat label. To them, it means 'rich business person who does not assimilate'. Personally, I don’t mind being called an expatriate, because that is what I am – a person who has withdrawn from living in her home country. Though by now, Holland is my home country. How long do you plan to stay and why? I have no plans to return to the USA, though I never had any plans to move here, so who knows. By now, I have lived here more than half my life. My business is here, my apartment is here, my cats are here, my volkstuin (garden allotment) is here. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak fluent Dutch. After so many years, people still say, 'Wow, you speak Dutch. How did you do it? It’s the hardest language in the world.' Well, it’s not, and it can be learned. Before I moved here, when I lived in Italy and Sweden, I didn’t do my best to learn the language. So I made it my job to learn Dutch. I took three years of lessons and did all my homework – at first at the UvA Talenpracticum and later at the Volksuniversiteit. It helped that I lived in an immigrant neighbourhood where the old Amsterdammers didn’t tolerate people speaking English. There was nothing worse than working up your courage to speak Dutch only to have people respond with 'shall I speak English?'. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Smoked eel makes a wonderful sandwich, as does smoked mackerel (with Amsterdam pickles). Washed down with a couple of shots of very old jenever – preferably a Loyaal from van Wees. What do you miss about back home and why? I miss the chance to help my parents, now they are very elderly. My mother has dementia, and we can’t speak on the phone anymore. So I visit more often, and spend as much time with them as possible. How Dutch have you become and why? I make appointments for everything, and hate to over-schedule my weekends. And I have a volkstuin (garden allotment), which tested my Dutch wait-list skills. I love the volkstuin community, and being the 'youngster' among all those old-time Amsterdammers. I even made a short video about volkstuinen to explain to the folks back home. What's your top tourist tip? Go biking! Take the ferry across to Amsterdam Noord and bike down the Nieuwedammerdijk. Stop half way for a beer and a tosti. Or bike to Flevopark and spend a few hours sipping the jenever at Distilleerderij ‘t Nieuwe Diep. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Holland has a lot of leading companies that no one in the country even knows about. I have written for Raptim, the world’s first humanitarian travel organisation; Vlisco, which makes Africa’s most loved and colourful fabrics; VMI, the world’s leading supplier of tire building machinery; Bugaboo, the company that made baby carriages hip; Zonnatura, whose founder helped initiate Europe’s natural healing movement. And on and on. These are Dutch companies that make an impact, and the Dutch don’t even really know about them. That’s Dutch modesty for you – they are always underestimating their impact on the world. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d cry, then bike to a café to drown my sorrows. Claire Taylor is a creative copywriter and branding specialist. Contact her at Claire Taylor Copy & Creativity and Brandframe Investigative Branding. Photo of Claire: Lieor van Os   More >


‘Amsterdam is fantastic for kids, there is a strong family culture’

‘Amsterdam is fantastic for kids, there is a strong family culture’

Amsterdam Mamas founder Emmy McCarthy, 39, is British and surprised by how family-orientated the Netherlands is. For example Amsterdam, she says, has over 400 playgrounds. How did you end up in the Netherlands? True story: my husband accepted a job at head office, and then told me it was head office Amsterdam, not London where we lived at the time. We shuttled between the two countries for a while before settling in Amsterdam after the birth of our son. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I’m definitely an international, more accurately a European. The Netherlands is the fifth country I have lived in so I feel very European. How long do you plan to stay? We have no plans to leave.  We love Amsterdam, we love the life we have built here and being actively involved with a large local community. It would be very tough to leave. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak a little Dutch, more than I usually let on! It is my fourth language and the one I am least confident speaking. My understanding is good, I read Dutch and can follow conversations, but like many people I struggle to respond in Dutch. It’s a work in progress and something I am continually trying to improve, especially as a business owner here. What's your favourite Dutch food? Cheeeeeese! I really love the cheese here, and the variety of cheeses. In general, the food quality is very high here and the opportunity to eat fresh and in season fruit and vegetables is something I am very grateful for. What do you miss about back home? I think, like any foreigner, I have pangs of homesickness sometimes. I miss my family, but they are pretty spread out anyway, I miss friends. Sometimes I really want to just understand something, without having to check and double check that I have translated it correctly. Every time I return from a trip 'home', however, I am so grateful to be back in Amsterdam and feel very privileged to have built a home here. How Dutch have you become? I’m not sure how to answer that! Not very, I would think. I tend to carry traits from all the places I have lived and cultures I have experienced. If there was something I would like to have absorbed from here it is that I am a much more relaxed parent than I would be elsewhere. The city is fantastic for kids, there is a strong family culture and I hope that I have become 'Dutch' in that way. What's your top tourist tip? Get off the tourist track, get lost for the day. Even if you have children, just wander and see where you wind up. There are dozens of tiny shops and cafes waiting to be explored and over 400 playgrounds, so even if you are travelling with shopping-hating kids you will find something to do. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The thing that surprised me most was just how family-orientated it is. Having lived in several countries, this is by far the most geared towards family life. There really is a reason that Dutch kids are the happiest in the world and Dutch mothers are consistently ranked amongst the highest in the world. Outside of the Netherlands some people think that Amsterdam is all about canals, red lights and marijuana but they couldn’t be more wrong. Amsterdam is one of the best-kept secrets in Europe for families, I believe. But shhhh, don’t tell everyone otherwise they will all want to live here! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? That’s so tough to answer! Whatever I did it would be in Amsterdam and hopefully with good (enough) weather. I would start the day with breakfast on the terrace of a café, wander the streets, soak up the atmosphere and ramble through some of the parks. We would grab a canal-side seat to watch the sunset and the day would end with dinner in one of our favourite restaurants. Then we would walk back alongside the canals, sparkling with lights. Emmy McCarthy is the owner of Stichting Amsterdam Mamas, a not-for-profit organisation providing information and support to English-speaking parents in Amsterdam and the surrounding regions. She has lived in the Netherlands off and on since 2007.   More >


‘I am trying to define the notion of feeling at home’

‘I am trying to define the notion of feeling at home’

Film maker Leonardo Cariglino has Italian nationality, was born in Germany and has a Greek mother. He came to the Netherlands 10 years ago and won’t tell us the name of his favourite bar in case we all go there too. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to the Netherlands for the most pragmatic reasons. As the eldest son of an Italian-Greek household, I was very busy. Too busy to manage my parents business. I didn’t get the chance to find out what I wanted from life myself. When I heard a friend of mine was studying in Amsterdam I decided to move in with him and apply for work. From there everything else happened. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? Being born and raised in Germany to an Italian father and a Greek mother made me always feel like a hybrid between an immigrant and an international, even in Germany. The first years in Amsterdam I thought of myself as an expat but I believe that term has worn out for me after living here for 10 years. This subject about one’s definiton and place in a different country is also the main theme of a new short film I recently finished. It is called Home and tries to define the notion of what it means to feel 'at home'. How long do you plan to stay? I plan to stay as long as things go well for me and my career as a film maker. I’m currently in the process of developing my first feature film with the Dutch film fonds but anything can happen during that process. I hope for the best and give all I’ve got. Generally I don’t feel bound to any country as I always felt a little rootless. But Amsterdam managed at last to feel home to me due to the friends I made, but especially after I met Cornelia, who is my best friend, my big love and my partner in crime. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak dutch if I have to. Because of my German background it was fairly easy to understand and read Dutch from the beginning. Speaking was the main issue, as I never managed to feel comfortable when using it. What's your favourite Dutch food? Honestly, there is none. Maybe stampot. What do you miss about back home? My family and friends. How Dutch have you become? Not at all. What's your top tourist tip? I won’t recommend my favourite bar (sorry Phillip) to tourists and spoil it by doing so. This particular bar is too dear to me and should remain a hub and save haven for expats, immigrants and internationals. I also used it as such in my new short film. But I would recommend visiting the OT301, especially the 'Mixtree'. The place is an independently-organised community which offers parties, workshops, cinema and all kinds of interesting cultural events Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands That the royal family earns way too much money, that people like Wilders have a real chance to flourish here and that Dutch indifference can be a real blessing. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would spend 24 intense hours with those people I learned to appreciate and love in the Netherlands. I owe it to them that the Netherlands finally became a sort of home to me.  More >