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

SONY DSCRick 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.