Members of the international community answer 10 key questions about their lives in the Netherlands


‘I’m Irish  living in Amsterdam, married to a Dutchman’

‘I’m Irish living in Amsterdam, married to a Dutchman’

Aisling Casey is Irish and has been in the Netherlands for 17 years. She is principal oboist with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. We ask her 10 questions about her life in the Netherlands. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met my (future) Dutch husband in the European Union Youth Orchestra and was studying oboe in Hannover, Germany when the co-principal oboe job came up with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. Since oboe jobs don't come up very often I applied and to my surprise discovered at 24 that it was time to move to The Netherlands. I stayed with this orchestra for 12 years and then moved on to the Radio. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? What's a lovepat?! I'm an Irish person living in Amsterdam, married to a Dutch man so I have an instant Dutch family. I think that makes integrating and feeling at home easier, although I still call Cork home. How long do you plan to stay? Indefinitely Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I'm fluent and learned it quite quickly as I was living in Germany first so had good German. Learning Dutch from German is a little easier than from English I'd say. What also helped was that I followed a beginners Dutch course in Germany which puts you in a class with other people who sound just as silly as you. This helped somewhat getting over the shyness of speaking in public and then when in Holland, because my accent was an Anglo-German mix, the Dutch didn't know whether to reply in English or German, so replied in Dutch. This helped enormously with the self confidence. I learned more by watching Dutch tv and reading stupid magazines(also the ads!) and letting colleagues, family and friends know to speak Dutch to me. Half the time I didn't understand what was going on, but in the end you get it. What's your favourite Dutch food? My husband's andijvie stampot What do you miss about back home? The pace of life, gentleness and giving each other space. How Dutch have you become? I've become quite direct which requires some adjustment when in Ireland. What's your top tourist tip? Go to the Concertgebouw to listen to the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra! www.rfo.nl. And if you prefer a more intimate setting, go to Splendor - it's a real gem with music from all genres and a great cosy bar in the heart of Amsterdam - www.splendoramsterdam.com. And if you're here on March 16th definitely go to Splendor at 16.30 as there is a concert of Beethoven's Irish Airs played by the creme de la creme of Dutch musicians. And at 20.00 hours fiddler Caoimhín O'Raghallaigh from the amazing Irish traditional band The Gloaming will jam with Splendor musicians from the worlds of jazz, improv, world & classical. It's going to be brilliant! Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL The sea is above us. Of course we all know that NL is under sea level, but I never really understood this until I climbed a tower behind the dunes in Den Helder(North Holland) and saw that the sea was higher than the land. Very shocking discovery coming from a country where we say we're going down to the sea. Here you go up to the sea! If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? I'd go on a picnic on our boat with all the Dutch friends I would miss - seeing Amsterdam from the water is magical. Aisling Casey is Irish and has been in the Netherlands for 17 years. She is principal oboist with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra.  More >


‘I intended to stay three months, that was 12 years ago’

‘I intended to stay three months, that was 12 years ago’

Ben Silburn, 45, is a computer programmer, presenter, writer and one of the chaps behind Easy Laughs. We ask him 10 questions about his life in the Netherlands. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I wanted a break from my writing job in London so I applied for short-term contracts anywhere in Europe. Amsterdam was the first place that offered me a job. I intended to stay for three months, that was twelve years ago... How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I am a child of the planet! I don't believe in national borders or political/administrative systems of control. If anyone from the belastingdienst is reading this then I am a Dutch resident. How long do you plan to stay? I don't make as many plans as I used to. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? My Dutch is very poor. That's not false modesty, I attended a course at the UVA and this was the result of the final exam. My Dutch is officially "very poor". What's your favourite Dutch food? I'm a big foodie so I love it all: raw haring, gehakteballes, traditional Dutch nasi-goreng... but I draw the line at kaas broodjes, a plakje of cheese between two slices of bread is NOT a sandwich. What do you miss about back home? Pints of ale in country pubs. How Dutch have you become? My girlfriend is Dutch, I own an apartment in Amsterdam, I check out what's on sale during Hamster Week. I guess I'm pretty ingeburgered. What's your top tourist tip Don't smoke pre-rolled joints. And of course, I would recommend *all* tourists to get their weekend started at the weekly English-language improvised comedy show that I perform in. We're called 'easylaughs' and we're on every Friday at the Crea Cafe. Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL Of all the Albert Heins in the country, the branch in the Red Light District sells the most toilet paper. If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? Breakfast at Singel 404, cycle to Oudekerk and back, picnic lunch on a boat round Prinseneiland, frisbee in Westerpark, drinks at Wynand Fockinck, ribs at Cafe Klos, mojitos at Cafe Cuba, MDMA at Paradiso, wake up in Vondelpark, breakfast at Singel 404... Find out more about easylaughs.nl  More >


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

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

American 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.  More >


‘I miss the wind blow through an undulating landscape’

‘I miss the wind blow through an undulating landscape’

Peter 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.  More >