‘I miss the wind blowing through an undulating landscape’

peter leggettPeter Leggett has been in the Netherlands for 12 years. He likes deep-fried Dutch snacks and Zeeland and is definitely not an expat.

How did you end up in the Netherlands?
I was sent here by an old employer, Orange, to help with the change programme of re-branding Dutchtone to Orange NL. A one-year secondment basically.

How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc – and why?
Definitely not an expat. I live here, I am not on a short-term stint – nor do I really like the term. I feel like a Haagenaar, yet also maintain my Britishness. So perhaps – ‘Haagenish’ or as you put it, an ‘International’.

How long do you plan to stay?
Indefinitely. My roots are planted here, and I feel this is my home. Perhaps another 12 years.

Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn?
I am at the 50/50 stage, not quite fluent, and still with some struggles. I will most likely just keep learning as I understand a lot more than I can speak. I learnt from playing football here, encouraging shopkeepers and neighbours to respond to me in Dutch, and I did an intensive course back in 2005. Though if I’m honest this had little impact, as for me at that time there was little time or opportunity to practice in social circles. I learnt more French, Spanish, Italian and Romanian, for example, than I did Dutch.

What’s your favourite Dutch food?
I absolutely love the Indonesian food here, yet this is of course not typically Dutch. If it were a Dutch food then I would most likely favour a deep fried array of treats. Kaastengels (big cheese straws) are certainly up there.

What do you miss about back home?
Topography and seeing the wind blow through an undulating landscape.

How Dutch have you become?
That is a tough one, as defining what ‘Dutch’ might be seems close to being political and my feeling is it leads to conflict rather than acceptance. I appreciate the transport network and infrastructure, the freedom of cycling and less reliance on having or needing a car. I would say I have not really become Dutch. I feel that is a state of mind, not a state of ‘being’. Maybe 20% Dutch.

What’s your top tourist tip?
Zeeland. Just get out there and visit it, and go the long way down if you can.

Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about NL.
The Netherlands is the most densely populated nation in Europe, or at least, with 487 inhabitants per square kilometer, the Netherlands has the highest population density of any European country with more than one million inhabitants.

If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do?
A walk on the beach in Scheveningen accompanied by a quick fish dining experience at Simonis, at the harbour. A bike ride and wander through Clingendael and the Haagse Bos, followed by some pancakes at the Malieveld. Then to cap it off, ‘one or two for the road’ in De Paas Bier Café, accompanied by the mandatory Turkse pizza whilst trying to locate one’s bicycle, and then the last near death experience of cycling home trying to avoid the tram tracks. If time on route, as it would be rude not to, the definite last, last, beer in De Pijpela.

Peter Leggett is British and has been in the Netherlands for 12 years. He works for an international communications and creative agency, coaches a U-14s team at the International School of The Hague (The ISH) and is a freelance photographer.

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