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

Anesca1South 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