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