‘The Dutch know how to deep-fry properly’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACypriot Alexia Solomou is an associate legal officer at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. She has been in the Netherlands for nearly 18 months, is still working on her cycling skills and would love to have met Anne Frank.

How did you end up in the Netherlands?
In 2010 I was at Columbia University in New York and I got a fellowship with the president of the International Court of Justice which ended in June 2011. I then went off on my travels and when I was working at Cambridge University, I applied for an actual job here, which I was lucky enough to get.

How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international?
A globetrotter because I love moving around.

How long do you plan to stay and why?
Two years, and possibly another two, because that is how long my contract is at the International Court of Justice.

Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn?
I speak an intermediate level of Dutch. I have a private tutor. I’m a bit of a language buff actually. When I lived here the first time I felt uncomfortable because I did not speak the language, so this time around I started learning straight away. Dutch is my fifth language… once you have learned a few, you get the hang of picking up new ones.

What’s your favourite Dutch food?
Warm stroopwafels from a street vendor in the city centre of The Hague because they do good to the soul.

How Dutch have you become?
I have taken up all the good Dutch habits: I have become well-organised and efficient. I have even planted some tulip bulbs – they’ve all come up and are really beautiful. I am still working on my cycling skills though. I’d cycled before I came here but never in the rain or the snow. Now I can do both, although I had a horrible fall the first time I cycled in the snow and did not realise my brakes had frozen up.

Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet?
I would have liked to meet Hugo Grotius because he is one of the founding fathers of public international law.

I would also like to meet Tobias Asser, the initiator of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, and a member of the Dutch delegation at The Hague Peace Conferences.

And I would love to have had a chat with Anne Frank to discuss her home confinement during the World War II. Her diary is one of my favourite books. I’d really like to find out the truth about her relationship with Peter.

What’s your top tourist tip?
Eat anything that is deep-fried: kibeling, bitterballen, French fries, kroketten. The Dutch know how to deep-fry properly.

Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands.
I am always amazed with what Dutch people can carry on their bicycles, from umbrellas and briefcases to surf-boards and drying racks; in addition to their children, cats and dogs.

If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do?
I would visit my favourite museums in the Netherlands once more: the Mauritshuis in The Hague, the Speelklok in Utrecht, and the Van Gogh in Amsterdam. I would then have a coffee at Hometown and then dinner at Mochi (both in The Hague).