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

aislingcasey010Aisling 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 CaoimhĂ­n 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.