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.