‘When you get on a bus, the driver says hello’

Kristina WilmsKristina Wilms is 27 and from Germany. She came to Amsterdam after winning a European competition to devise a start-up – which she now leads.

How did you end up in the Netherlands?
The whole story began in October 2013 when I won a ticket for the BeNeLux StartupBus. I didn’t know anything about it at the time, but the StartupBus is a competition involving five buses travelling through Europe loaded with techies who compete against each other to devise a start-up within four days.

At this time I was studying dance therapy in Germany – I suffer from depression and this was part of my treatment. As part of it, I had to track, reflect and later enhance my behaviour patterns and reactions. To do this, I had to fill out special forms at least three times a day. I had to fill them out in public and carry them with me all the time – which was an additional burden for me.

Then I got this strange email in my spam:’Do you have an idea for an App? Tell us!’ So I emailed them: ‘I suffer from depression and I would like to have an app to improve and support my therapy.’ You can guess what happened: I won the ticket, I joined the Benelux bus (which departed from Amsterdam – my first time in this beautiful city), we built a team and we won the entire competition in the end.

We – a designer and an iOS developer (both from Amsterdam) and me – have been working on ARYA ever since. We are headquartered in Amsterdam because we managed to set up a great relationship with Interapy (a provider of online therapy).

How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc – and why?
I guess I am an expat. I came here because of my project ARYA and to help people suffering from depression to get better.

How long do you plan to stay?
There is no fixed time. The team is in general very flexible when it comes to location. I enjoy Amsterdam pretty much and the others are very happy here – so why think about leaving? I have just started to explore the city.

Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn?
I do not yet speak Dutch. The only things I know are ‘kan ik pinnen?’ and ‘tot ziens’ and ‘een biertje nemen’.

What’s your favourite Dutch food?
No doubt about it – hagelslag with vla. Everytime I go back to Germany I take a sufficient supply of my special anti-depression treatment.

What do you miss about back home?
There is not too much that I really miss – my family and my friends of course. It is also nice to just speak German and use and listen to the local dialect.

How Dutch have you become?
I have found myself complaining in German shops that they only take cash.

What’s your top tourist tip?
I was taken on an amazing trip last weekend and I really want my parents to come and join me there. You go by bike from Purmerend, which is about 45 minutes from Amsterdam, passing a beautiful area to a small village called Overleek. There you find an amazing café, the owners prepare everything themselves and everything is organic. There are ducks running around and you can rent a boat to explore the waterlands – you can even have a picnic on the boat.

Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands.
Difficult question to be honest. The most surprising thing to me were the bus rides. You know, when you get on a bus in the Netherlands the bus driver greets you and you feel like you are part of the little bus family and the driver is in charge to make sure you travel safely. The experience gets real in the end, when you leave the bus: people say goodbye to the driver, even the exit is in the back part of the bus. I really like it.

If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do?
I would go for a trip on the canals and drink beer on the boat before 12:00 in Amsterdam. I would finally visit the Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum. For lunch I would try all the crazy stuff from Febo. Then I would go to the sea – I have some childhood memories connected with that area. I would have fries and soft ice.

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