‘I met a Dutch guy in a bar and two years later I moved to the Netherlands’

stephanie wardAmerican small business coach Stephanie Ward is puzzled by the loos on NS trains and does not want to know what is in bitterballen.

What do you do?
I show small business owners how to get more clients and grow their businesses. I’m a marketing coach.

How did you end up in the Netherlands?
I met a Dutch guy in a bar and two years later I moved to the Netherlands. We’re still together and still madly in love.

How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc – and why?
I moved for love but I don’t call myself a lovepat. I think of myself as an international person or a global citizen.

How long do you plan to stay?
I have no plans to leave and you never know.

Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn?
I do, with a lot of mistakes but I can get my meaning across. Within the first months of arriving in the Netherlands I attended Dutch lessons for one solid week, one-on-one, from 9-5. It wasn’t pretty and yes, there were tears. I attended other courses over the years, including a lovely two week group course in Utrecht.

In addition to that, watching TV and living in in the Netherlands for 15 years you pick things up and improve over time. The key is to speak Dutch and keep speaking Dutch even when people switch to English.

What’s your favourite Dutch food?
Bitterballs are delicious (and no, I don’t want to know what’s in them) and I’m also a big fan of pea (erwten) soup.

What do you miss about back home
Enormous English language book stores with big chairs and tasty coffee. I know there are a couple in Amsterdam but remember, I’m in Apeldoorn.

How Dutch have you become?
I would say quite a bit. I’m very direct now and say what’s on my mind. And I have been told by more than one Dutch person that when I speak English it sounds like I’m a Dutch person speaking English. I know what they mean, but I don’t think it’s really true. I can still whip out my Oklahoma accent on a moment’s notice

What’s your top tourist tip?
It sounds really corny but a boat trip on the canals of Amsterdam always delivers.

Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands
I’m pretty sure the Dutch don’t want this publicised, it embarrasses me and I seriously don’t get it. Here it is, the toilets on the Dutch trains do not have receptacles that collect the uhum, business. No, they all have open holes at the bottom of the toilets that ‘flush’ straight on to the train tracks. Yes, really.

If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do?
I would go on a bike ride to the Veluwe, a beautiful forest area near where I live, and have a picnic. Then I would go to the outdoor market in the centre and buy a loempia (spring roll) with spicy sauce and wander around. And finish the evening with an enormous party with friends and family with wonderful food, music, and dancing.

Stephanie Ward is American and lives in Apeldoorn. She runs a business called Firefly Coaching which helps small firms get their (online) marketing in order.

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