Moving house and adulting

This year,  has been crazy busy… thats my excuse for not blogging. I have had a few messages of disappointment at my distinct lack of blogging. I can always trust my friends to harass me and put me back on the right path!  Having said that, so much has happened in the last 5 months that my head is still spinning. I cant say it enough, I knew it was going to be a crazy year but it seems to be the year that just keeps giving.

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I was dating a nice Dutch guy but unfortunately neither of us was prepared to compromise on what we both considered a deal breaker and it truly turned out to be the deal breaker (it was, of course, more complicated than this, as these things are but thats the shortest version of the break up). However, I discovered the best way to get over a break up is to buy a house. It meant that I simply didn’t have time to wallow or self indulge and my priority really hasn’t been to date. As with most things in life, I think if something is meant to be, it will and never say never.

I found a house that I fell in love with in the suburbs Amsterdam (I’m an Amsterdamer now!), that ticked the boxes for my cats and everything fell into place and I’m now a home-owner. It felt bitter sweet, as I thought it would be a home I would create with my partner but that was just not meant to be. However, I still truly love the house (for the most part). However, I wont lie, it has been incredibly stressful and reiterated that the only way I’m leaving this house will be in a coffin. I really dont do moving well at all, Im too autistic, routine oriented and dont deal with chaos at all. The house has been series of unfortunate events and literally everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. I bought the house thinking that it needed nothing at all and planned to redecorate one room. Every room has now been painted from floor to ceiling, along a new fridge and a variety of other things. I’ve had a number of sense of humour failures with it and even suggested that burning it down and starting from scratch might be an easier. I’m still surrounded by boxes in every room (over a month in), have a list of things to do that is a long as I am but it’s slowly getting there. The best part for me is that I’m now actually closer to work. My previous commute to work at 35 minutes door to door and now if everything goes smoothly its like 15, it tends to be more like 20 but at least my alarm clock is no longer set for 04:50 each morning!

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I’m incredibly lucky in as much as I managed to get truly fantastically amazing neighbours. The sellers did tell me that I would be getting great neighbours but I wasn’t sure if this was sarcasm or honesty. Turned out it was true honesty.  They have two very large dogs, which my cats take great pleasure in antagonising and the neighbours were beyond kind enough to cat-proof both sides of the fence to stop my cats going into their garden, without me asking! My first meeting with them did make me laugh as it was like they had google searched me or something similiar. ‘We’ve heard about you, you’re a brit but not a brit, on your own with two maine coons, which we’ve already googled to understand what they are and you’ve lived in the NLs for 2 years, welcome to the street!’. It was quite sweet. My neighbour thinks its great that I do everything myself and occasionally ask to borrow his power tools, something about women normally preferring the men to do ‘such jobs’. I always just laugh and say if I dont do it, then no one will. They are also new members of my weekly cake club and we’ve swapped grape recipes.

Just a brief overview of several very crazy months. I do look forward to going back to the quiet boring life and having time and the energy to blog again!

 

2019, where have you gone?

I cannot believe it is seriously almost June already?!?! I recently received this message, which reminded me that I’ve been neglecting blogging. It made me laugh but it was a reality check that it has literally been months since I put my preverbal pen to paper and a month later I’m taking action on the message. Screen Shot 2019-05-26 at 20.15.41

2019 and I have really haven’t gotten on. Last year, I knew coming into the year, that it was going to be a busy and challenging year, it has not disappointed in either area.  I literally am unable to tell you where the first half of the year has gone.

I’ve previously been told that expats find medical care in the Netherlands to a lower standard than they are previously use to. Unfortunately I started the year sick, I came back from Eastern Europe with what turned out to be a inner ear infection and strep throat. Frustratingly, this turned out to be a 13 week struggle to get antibiotics. For many years within Europe, antibiotics use lowest in the Netherlands and Dutch doctors prescribe the least antibiotics, which is a fantastic statistic that the country regularly likes to quote. However, when it comes to being sick, its incredibly frustrating not be able to get antibiotics when you know they serve a purpose and make you healthy again. My Dutch colleagues gave me the advice ‘to add another 2 weeks on to the length of time you’ve been ill, to ensure the doctor takes you seriously.’ I think any time its a national tip that you lie to your doctor to be taken seriously, there is a much bigger problem at the core of the system. The Dutch Doctors approach is to tell patients to take Paracetamol, for everything. Do you have pain? Take paracetamol. Do you feel bad? Take Paracetamol. Do you need an amputation? Take Paracetamol. This is a pain killer that I now loathe. At the peak of my sickness, I was taking dangerous amounts (without realising), however, I am still somewhere between laughing and being highly sarcastic, so clearly no damage was done at the time. However, what I did discover was that the paracetamol was actually covering/hiding my symptoms, meaning that the doctor didn’t feel it necessary to prescribe antibiotics at the time. The paracetamol worked in a way that I would feel bad for 3-5 days and then I’d feel better 2-4 days and so it carried on for weeks (12 before I could antibiotics). Essentially the first 3 months of the year were spent feeling like a death and wondering why in a first world country,  why sick people are made to suffer when an immediate health care solution is available. I summarised from this 3 months that Dutch doctors like to see people suffer – whilst this is an exaggeration and I’m sure not true for some Dutch doctors, it was a truly horrific experience for me that has put me off Dutch healthcare. I did get some antibiotics from my doctor at the 12 week mark, unfortunately they didn’t fully remedy my issues and I resorted to getting antibiotics from another source, which I think is utterly ridiculous. However, I was no longer prepared to suffer, continue to be ill or fight with my doctor for further medication.

Adulting, I’m doing a lot of it this year! After having turned 36 in February, Im officially on the wrong the side of 35 and the next stop is 40! For the last four years, I ran a very small charity working with vulnerable individuals in eastern Europe. At the beginning of this year, my fellow trustees and I am made the difficult decision to close the charity. This a hard decision but the right one. Its taken a few months to wind down the charity, complete all the paperwork and do the necessary things to close a registered charity. I’ve had an offer through my contacts to work with their organisation and I’m seriously considering it. I think I need a break first and to buy a house and be settled but I cant imagine not being involved in charity work, in one avenue or another.

I am currently in the process buying  property in the Netherlands. After 2 years of renting in Amstelveen, I’ve realised that I am a suburbanite through and through, I like of love suburbia. I equally love being close to the city but I adore the peace and quiet that you get from not being in the city. My cats need a garden and on nice days I want to sit in and ideally hear next to nothing, which doesn’t happen in the city. Its highly likely I will end up in Utrecht but I am looking at properties and areas within a short commute to Amsterdam. This has really been an interesting experience so far. Ive been stressed out, ready to pull my hair out and wondering why no customer service exists in this country. I completely understand why people say that purchasing a home is one of the most stressful events of your life.

 

2019 has so far has been crazy for me. I sadly dont see this changing for the next few months. Im hoping that the last quarter of the year is quiet or that 2020 will be ear marked for an utterly boring, quiet and uneventful year!

Going Dutch – Dating in the Netherlands

I am single and have been single for many years, I decided to dip my toe into the Dutch dating pool. This has been unique in many ways and most certainly a learning curve.

Here are the opinions from people around me on my single status and dating:

My mother:

  • ‘I’m ready for you to have a boyfriend, honestly, I was ready years ago for you to have a boyfriend. I’ve accepted that you are a crazy cat lady and wont give me grandchildren but at least give me someone else I can write about in the Christmas card.’

My friends:

  • ‘It could be that your standards are too high, have you considered having no standards?’
  • ‘I have no idea why you put so much effort into your personal appearance when you’re single, seems a waste to me.’
  • ‘For a lady whose had a complete stranger confess his love for her, I have no idea how or why you’re single’.
  • ‘For my own sake, I hope that you don’t find a boyfriend because listening to your dating stories leaves me in fits laughter to the point of tears. Hearing your experiences are always the highlight my week when I speak to you’.

My  colleagues

  • ‘Dutch men like a challenge, I’m surprised you’re single.’
  • ‘We’ve been asking around the office for you to see whose single and we’ve been putting out feelers for you.’ – I choked on my coffee when I heard this and then had to explain the, ‘you don’t sh!t where you eat’ theory. They laughed at this and assured me they are still on the look out, much to my horror.

My approach to dating

I recently watched on the Netflix Iliza Shlesinger – War Paint. This is hilarious on many levels and really explains the female approach to dating perfectly. I think that single men would benefit from watching this, just to have little bit more of helping hand with setting their own dating expectations. 

My approach is probably described as a guys/male mentality to dating. Im really relaxed, I absolutely don’t rush anything, I refuse to ever make the first move (unmale like, I know) on all levels and Im fiercely independent. I’m quite happy not to message a guy for days at a time. Guys need to chase me. I’m married to my job, I work long hours and am at my desk by 06:20 most mornings. I friendzone everyone as a starting point. If I like someone, I try my absolute best to put them off. I divulge and exaggerate my faults and if they hang around, they are probably worth a chance. I think if someone can accept my faults, they will be pleasantly surprised with my strengths. I know I’m a catch with a fantastic sense of humour and a fun imagination but I’m absolutely going to make the guy work for it (which I’m very honest about). It’s setting expectations from the beginning, there will always be elements of me that are awkward and difficult.

I thought I was really hard work and high maintenance before dating in the Netherlands, just look at the above. My experiences with Dutch women are that they like to be in utter control of every aspect of their relationships and their boyfriends lives. They expect guys to constantly text them, speak to their partners in a belittling way and not as equal (this can be regularly seen in any grocery store), manage every aspect of the guys life and are generally onerous. It reminds me of a strict mother with a 3-year-old, ‘you will do this’ and the 3 year old does it but instead it’s with a grown man. Turns out compared to a native woman, I’m super easy, relaxed and no effort at all. You’d think given my new ‘no effort’ status, it would be no problem finding a Dutch boyfriend, er, yeah, not quite. There are a lot of very humourous blogs about expat dating in the Netherlands. Here are a few that I could relate to and made me laugh:

How to Attract Dutch Men – I break 4 of these rules

what’s up with…Dutch men – This is interesting and Id agree on a few points

Five Differences Between British and Dutch Men – Stereotyped but true on many levels

The Netherlands and Dating: 6 things about dating the Dutch – Straight forward and apt

Lessons learnt dating in the Netherlands

Dutch guys: Lets start with the obvious, they are a entire breed of Zebra of their own. Three things that I almost instantly notice about Dutch guys: hair gel, cologne and grey socks. The amount of hair gel Dutch men seem to use, ensures that when light hits their hair, you have to instantly look away not to be permanently blinded by the shine. I also think this is a potential fire hazard but fear for my own safety to ever test this theory. Cologne, I can only imagine that it’s purchased by the litre, as it seems as though they bath in it. Sometimes the cologne is so strong that you need to hold your breath, to stop from gagging on the overwhelming smell. It reminds me of the skunk from Looney Tunes, Pepé Le Pew, who leaves a path of fumes where-ever he goes. Grey socks, like brown shoes, are the choice of the Dutch man. Given how the clothing choices can be less than exciting, I’m always secretly hopeful that they will show some of sort of fun with their socks, so far I am yet to be pleasantly surprised.

Apps: Being a young(ish) person, dating apps seem the way to go. I’ve been on my fair share and still have a semi-active profile. I’ve chatted to and met a number of guys from apps. There seems to be two types of Dutch guys on the apps, those who simply want to chat and will never meet (but fail to tell you this or admit it) and those who will meet you but want to do it instantly before they even know how to pronounce your name or you are able to determine what colour socks they wear. If you can find someone in the middle, well done! What I enjoy about apps are the profiles, the really honest ones that are so straightforward that it’s weird and bordering on cringeworthy. Dont get me wrong, there are hundreds if not thousands of really bad profiles but they’re boring and instantly forgettable, by the time you’ve swiped left, you’ve already forgotten them. I also appreciate honest messages that make you giggle and cringe. Here are two examples, one straightforward cringey profile and another of a message that I received. I did not swipe right on the profile despite its directness and honesty or making me laugh, nor did I respond to the message even though I do smell nice.

Profile     message

Dating: I know I shouldn’t admit this but I enjoy dating, even if it goes off path. Dutch men like to go to the cinema, which seems odd to me, given that there is little opportunity to talk during a film, fine if you’re like on date 3+ but for an initial date, it seems, odd. My preferred date is a place (museum, exhibit, zoo, etc), as it’s a great way to see what levels of commonality that you. If you have nothing in common, at least you have something else to look at, things around you that create conversation and you’re not just stuck looking awkward across the table from someone. I have also had several moments of ‘Dutch directness’ where I literally thought to myself, ‘did he seriously just say that?!?’. These instances covered topics from personal looks and appearance, being a foreigner, speaking the language, to random other things. I’ve found in these situations its best to smile and change the subject quickly, some things are best ignored. Or at least ignored until I chat to my friends about it and we laugh about it, a lot. Luckily I do a good enough job vetting the guys (making them prove they deserve a date) before I meet them that I haven’t had any truly horrific dates, just a couple of quite awkward ones where I politely decline a second date.

Whatsapp : The death of conversations. The dating world is obsessed with Whatsapp, I am less so. Normally within three app messages from a guy, I get ‘add me on Whatsapp, my number is X.’ This is the point where I politely decline. Sadly I have made the mistake several times of adding individuals on the Whap and regretted it pretty quickly. The Whap has taught me that Dutch men get needy pretty quickly, I can only imagine this is as a result of dating Dutch women and the expectation is set that they must text frequently with checkins. As stated above, Im really good at not instantly replying or not sending messages for days at a time. My lack of instant response drives Dutch guys nuts to the point that I get messages that say, ‘I can see you’re online, why aren’t you replying to me?’, ‘I can see you’ve read my message, do you have no response?’ and ‘why aren’t you messaging me?’. These are a of the few examples of messages Ive received, it’s just too needy to me. I could never imagine sending anyone such messages, we’re all adults, we all have lives, we work, nothings on fire, we’re not in a defined relationship, like what’s the rush? The next backward step seems to be that you can have somewhat of a proper conversation over an app and once you move to the Whap, it’s like guys now expect the female to create every conversation and provide one word responses. I think this could relate back Dutch girls dictating how the conversation will go and just seeking acknowledgement of what shes saying rather than a two way conversation. My experience is that Whatsapp is the killer of conversations because of either the expectation that I need constant messaging and I will respond instantly or the guys lack of ability to have a in-depth conversations.

These experiences have made dating in the Netherlands, interesting, unique and different. I think that it helps/hampers that I’m generally happy in my life, I have no interest to change who I am (or how frequently I respond to messages) or to be with someone for the sake of it. I have met and dated some nice guys, blocked a few numbers, made a few friends and even turned down opportunities to have relationships. Since dating in the Netherlands, my own ideas of what I thought I wanted and needed have changed entirely. I’m in the best head space with dating Ive been in years, I’m aware and honest with what I want and what my expectations are. I also believe that if something is meant to be, it will, no matter what the differences are that we might have. I have no doubt that I will continue to have experiences that I will find humourous in the strangest of ways and honestly, I dont mind, as long as Im laughing.

1 Year in the Netherlands

It’s officially been 365 days, an entire year, since I moved to the Netherlands. What a year, its had it’s up and downs and I can say unreservedly that its been an adventure.

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Brexit: This is the gift that just keeps giving, much like an STD. I literally have no idea what my future holds or what will happen with Brexit. I moved from England as I didn’t want to live in a country that isn’t a member of the EU, my opinion on this has not changed. I can see that the UK has changed as a result of Brexit and most certainly not for the better. I can only hope that I will continue to have EU freedom of movement and live in Netherlands or wherever the wind takes me.

Expat Life: I have now been a dirty foreigner living abroad for over 18 years, officially, Ive lived abroad longer than I lived in my birth country. I think it makes it easier to adapt but equally I will always feel like a foreigner no matter where I live. Being an expat means I tend to attract other expats, we have common ground. It’s great to be able to share experiences that natives/locals can’t relate to or haven’t experienced themselves. I’ve met some amazing expats living here in the Netherlands and I’m proud to be able to call them friends. I created a social group in Amstelveen, I’ve never hosted so many dinner parties, given baking lessons, or responded to so many Whatsapp/Facebook messages in my life. I’m not so proud to admit that I’m occasionally so busy that I have to book people in my diary weeks in advance, like a true Dutch person.

Art and Culture: There is more to the Netherlands than tulips and wood shoes. I love the fact that every weekend I have the opportunity to do things. At least two weekends in every four, I am taking advantage of my museum card and exploring. I’ve seen some amazing exhibits, museums, castles, things that left me in tears with laughter and I’ve equally seen things that were less than impressive. The Stedelijks in Amsterdam is by far my favourite modern art museum and if ever I have a spare hour in the city, this is where you’ll find me. Despite visiting a number of the large cities, Amsterdam is still my favourite. Forgetting the tourist, drugs and the Red Light District (I understand it can be hard to overlook these), it’s a city with history, heritage and so much to see and do.

Dating: This has truly been interesting for me. As with most things in my life, its been comically funny, not all good but most certainly funny. There are a number of blogs about dating in the Netherlands and how its a challenge for expats. Having personally experienced it, I agree. I’ve decided to do a separate blog dedicated to being single and my dating experiences rather than take up paragraphs here – watch this space.

Working with Dutchies: This has been an experience! I have to admit that I’m incredibly lucky to work with the people that I do, my wider team are fantastic. We all laugh, a lot, occasionally even being told off for laughing too loudly or worse, having too much fun in the office. They say I’ve corrupted them, I think this could be true.

There are three things that stick out to me the most about Dutch office life, the elevator, the coffee machine and sandwiches.

  • The Elevator – Being British means I’m reserved, no eye contact is generally made (ok, this could be my functioning autism coming out too) but you most certainly don’t talk to people in the elevator, oh sweet Jesus, no! Ideal British elevator interaction, THERE IS NONE, we all ignore each other listening to our headphones, happy days! I also like to think having my headphones in is a sign that I’m not approachable but NO, this does not deter the Dutch. Apparently stranger danger isn’t applicable in a Dutch elevator and strangers talk to each other, in EVERY elevator. I’ve now become the kind of person that if I see someone getting in the elevator, I walk that little bit slower to avoid having to get in the elevator with them and have any form of conversation. Honestly, its kind of nice that people talk to each other, on the other hand, it’s really weird (het is echt vreemd, hoor!) and goes against all my British instincts. What I also love, quite adore in fact, is watching the Dutchies completely checking themselves out in the elevator mirrors, you can see it in their face and then all of the personal adjustments that follow suit. I would honestly say my experience is like 8 out of 10 people will do it. I take the attitude that if I don’t know what I look like by the time I get in the office elevator, there’s no hope left for me or point in looking in the mirror, it’s just too late.
  • The Coffee Machine – this is the mecca for office chat, its like a beacon that draws people in. I’ve never quite seen anything like it. Apparently chatting at your desks isn’t the done thing, no, you save it, you wait, you hold it all in until you go to the coffee machine. This makes me grateful that my first coffee of the day is hours before anyone gets in and then 10am caffeine fix is provided by Starbucks. I break all the rules and force people to talk to me at my desk or theirs and then completely ignore them if I’m walking by the coffee machine. Sometimes you have the be cruel to be kind. Yet somehow, despite this, people in my office seem to really like me and go out of their way to chat to me, away from the coffee machine.
  • Sandwiches – a serious dutch lunch. Never get between a Dutch person and their sandwich (or play hide and seek with them, lesson learnt for me!). Everyone arrives at the office with their homemade sandwiches in a plastic bag and consumes them throughout the day. Breakfast, snack, and lunch, all sandwiches. My colleagues don’t understand how I can eat a homemade chicken salad most days and look at me, look at my salad and then back to me and just shake their heads. The irony being I do the same at their sandwiches. I also eat a yogurt every morning for breakfast in the office, which also breaks the above sandwich rule.

 

Two wheels: I really enjoy cycling. Words, I would have never thought I’d ever say. Being knocked off my bike by a car was an experience I hope to never re-experience but sadly is a common occurrence in a country full of bikes and cars. I have an app that I create routes and explore the local area with. I enjoy being able to cycle the days frustrations out or attempt to anyway. I still think Dutch people who take a leisurely 40-60 ride are nuts ball crazy though, that’s not leisurely at all.

Even after a year, these things still do not seem normal to me.

  • I find this more funny than rude but its the way that men in the elevator will not make eye contact but rather you see their eyes going from my red lipstick to my chest and then back and forth at least two times. My colleague and I laugh about this most days, it’s a common occurrence and so obvious. Honestly, I do have to stop myself from bending down and staring at their crotch as a ‘return the look’.
  • Customer service – This country literally has none. I think I’m more surprised whenever I actually come across any.
  • Paracetamol does not solve the worlds illnesses, unless you’re in the Netherlands.
  • Rain! ZOMGs! So much rain! Having lived in England, I thought I knew rain but no, just no! I think on average it rains something like 30 minutes everyday, that’s a lot of rain.
  • Dog excrement. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not pro-dog but seriously, its disgusting that people just don’t clean up after their dogs, at all. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with a dog bag. It’s just a thousand levels of  laziness and grossness.
  • Sleeping badly – this seems to be a problem experienced by many expats living here. I can honestly say that I’ve had maybe 3 seriously decent nights of sleep since moving here. My nightly routine now includes taking melatonin before bed.
  • Brown shoes – brown shoes are everywhere, it’s almost like everyone is colour blind to any colour except brown. The silver lining of getting into a busy elevator is then looking at everyones shoes and 9 out of 10 will be brown.
  • Dutch fashion – this is a wide and varied topic and something that brings me amusement every day but the Dutch most certainly have their own sense of style and fashion. I hope that I never lose my sense of non-Dutch style and fashion.
  • ‘Ah-zo’! – this is a noise that Dutch people make. Generally it takes one person to say it and then the domino effect happens and then everyone is saying it. I guess I can only describe it as what they say when they are trying to fill a silence.  It’s just so weird to me and I don’t get it but it does make me laugh.
  • Compliments – Dutch people don’t give compliments. I give loads! If you look nice, smell nice, or anything nice, I’ll let you know. Turns out that my colleagues LOVE this about me. My cleaner and I were having a discussion about compliments and she says compliments just aren’t Dutch, she never gives any and finds it awkward if she feels she needs to or if people give them to her.

 

My version of the Dutch language has most certainly improved over the year. To be fair, it really couldn’t have gotten much worse. As standard with a second language, I understand more than I speak. I know that I speak Dutchlish (mixing Dutch and English) and that I speak it with such a thick English accent that people look either confused or laugh. I had an experience in Utrecht at a museum, where the lady asked if I wanted her to speak in Dutch or English and I did my usual, ‘it doesnt mater, either is fine’ in Dutch, so she proceeded in Dutch, awesome. I responded to her questions in Dutch, she then stopped me mid-sentence with a look of seeing either a pig that had grown wings and was flying or seeing a genuine unicorn riding over a magical rainbow and said , ‘Wow, you are a real British person aren’t you?’. This made me laugh, mostly because British people arent rare (entire country of them) and proved the point that my Dutch really is Dutchlish!

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This year I’ve experienced more snow than Ive seen in 25 years (the blizzard of 1993!), Ive become more social than Ive ever been and Ive laughed so much. I wont lie, it has also been tough, Ive come across challenges I didn’t expect and I still have no idea what or where my future lies. Its been a very interesting 365 days and it will be more interesting to see what the next 365 hold in store for me.

2 Months in the Netherlands

If I had a Dutch Indian name it would be ‘Girl who buys too much without thinking of how to fit it on bike’. I have this experience at least two times a week! Ive pimped my bike, to try to accommodate all the stuff I buy. Large basket on the back, saddle bags and a ‘luggage carrier’ on the front. Seriously trying to get an entire weeks worth of grocery on a bike takes balance (which I rarely have) and creative packing/shoving! 20171016_125153

I cant believe its already been two months from crossing the small pond and attempting to make a new Dutch life! There have been a lot of adjustments, more than expected or  initially planned for.

Pros:

  • As per the above Im more active and healthier than Ive ever been! Ive gone from driving everywhere and parking as close to the door as I get to riding everywhere and parking literally next to the door. I also take weekend rides around the area and am constantly in awe of how truly beautiful Noord Holland is!
  • The food is fresh, you can taste the difference and there is such variety! Weekly shops aren’t really done, you go and buy as you need it, so that you always have fresh ingredients.
  • Ive found a lot of other expats who live in the area and want to do stuff  but there wasn’t a social, so yours truly (who is clearly a glutton for punishment) started a small social group.
  • Cyclists are beyond prioritised and catered for, every area, town and city has cycle lanes. Cyclists do get priority and in a collision between a car and a bicycle, the car driver will be held responsible.
  • 90% of people speak English, in fact better English than most native speakers
  • Amazing public transport that shows up when it says its going to show up! The buses and trams are on time and all very affordable prices. Use 9292.nl for transport information.
  • Four seasons, YES FOUR ACTUAL SEASONS. Coming from the UK of just rain or cold and rain, this is great!
  • Weekly market, every Friday our local shopping centre is taken over by a market, a lovely amazingly wonder massive market with well over 60 stalls. There is massive choice, freshness and variety! Every town has a market on a specific day.
  • Tipping is less in the NLs, hooray! So Ive traditionally tipped 10% in the UK and more in the US. However thanks to the Dutch being tight (and poor service, see below) most people tend to tip only €1-2 Euros when eating out.
  • Dutch people are nice and open but this can be on a superficial level (see below about making Dutch friends).
  • Education is great here! Public schools offer a great education but aren’t always free. Having attended school here years ago, I personally experienced this.

Cons:

  • Rain, rain, rain! After having lived in the UK for the last 17 years, Ive honestly never seen as much rain as I have here! Dutch weather is unpredictable and changes on a whim, make sure you have waterproofs!
  • The Dutch make and keep friends from childhood, so it can be difficult to make Dutchie friends or integrate into Dutch circles.
  • Cyclists! Previous to moving to the NLs I was not what you’d call cyclist friendly and now I am one of those proper dodgy cyclists I use to complain about. You can tell a Dutch person from a expat, no safety helmets and riding through red lights.
  • The cost of living is more expensive than the UK, I wouldn’t say massively more expensive but most certainly more expensive.
  • Born free and taxed to death! Dutch taxes are high, be prepared!
  • NO €1 stores!!! Having gone from The Dollar Tree to Poundland having no €1 stores seems more than a insult but it is just the Dutch way.
  • University degree required (in my experience and clearly this does not apply to all but in my experience…) a degree is a must! The Dutch and most of Europe offer relatively cheap if not free university to their students, which means that the majority of people have degrees and its the first thing they ask for in job adverts, Ive gone over 100s of job roles and only 2 have so far not asked for a degree!
  • Dutch are a direct people who dont sugar coat things. It takes a while to adjust to this directness and not take it personally (easier said than done).
  • Healthcare, you pay for insurance and then have a annual excess to pay before the insurance will kick in, expats can find this expensive. Ive so far not had experience of the healthcare but understand that it takes adjusting to shall we say.
  • Slow service, when you go to a restaurant, dont expect good, quick, or efficient service. A typical example, today we sat at a table with the previous occupants used and dirty plates for over 10 minutes before I waved down the waitress to remove the plates and get a menu, then another 10 minutes to get drinks and order the food.
  • Rules, rules, rules. The Dutch are governed by rules and having a specific way of doing everything. If you make an appointment be ON TIME, it deeply offends the Dutch if you are late, no matter by how much time.  Spontaneity is not a trait of the Dutch and dropping by someones house unannounced is certainly out of the question.
  • Cars are expensive to have, not just to buy. You will have a monthly road tax to pay (regardless of how much or little you use your car) in addition to insurance, annual checks and usual car costs.
  • Im really into my crafting and creating but the price of buying essential oils and ingredients here is ridiculous! Often its substantially cheaper to buy them from abroad and pay for shipping to get them here.
  • Dutch post! Some days I wonder if its run by drug lords who are waiting for their ransom to be paid before you are allowed your post, Im not even kidding when I say this. Ive had items go missing and the cost, it costs double what I was paying in the UK to send anything out of the NLs.

Whilst I do have a number of CONs of my life, I did also giggle at a lot and when things dont go how I expected them to, I tend to revert to this tried and tested phrase, ‘Welcome to the Netherlands’. Its a bit of a band-aid that covers a lot of situations. My first two months have felt like more of  vacation than reality and thats ok too. It will take time to adjust and feel like a Nederlander.

I have however come across The Amsterdam confessions of a shallow man who is able to convey his and other expat frustrations in a dry sarcastic way.  I agreed with a number of his posts, particularly on Dutch Post.

If you have any questions about living in the NLs, I will happily answer your questions based on my experiences. Please leave a comment below and Ill do my best to give you a honest answer based on experience. 🙂

First two weeks in my dutch life

Day of moving

7am flights are so cruel, as it means you really need to be at the airport by 5am, as there is always some new security alert which means security really clamp down on how many travel sized items and contact lenses you take in your carry on. Thus you end up leaving your house at 4am just to make sure you get through it all in time for your flight. I had a terrible breakfast with even worse coffee, so decided like everyone else at 6am, I was absolutely desperate for a Starbucks, so I got in the exceptionally long line and then showed up very late at a almost closed gate.

Arrival was smooth in to Schiphol and Amstelveen is a 12 minute bus ride away from the airport, which is awesome. I could have walked it to the house but I had an exact 20 KG suitcase that I didnt fancy it, so thought Id take the 2 minute bus. Really I should have walked it, I got on the right bus, just in the wrong direction. I realised 2 stops in and was able to get off but yes. That was the first of two buses on the day that I got on that was wrong. I did think to myself, if this is the worst thing that happens to me on my day or week, then Im doing ok.

I then had a bank appointment, there are less than 10 banks to choose from but ABNA Amro offer English banking (cash points, online banking, etc), the alternative is to learn dutch VERY quickly to do business banking and given how many issues I already have with online banking (in English), I thought it would be better to be safe and go with the bank who offers English. No more free banking, in the UK, the majority of banking is free, hooray for free.  Sadly, free banking does not exist in the Netherlands, the prices seem to range from €1.60 to €5 per month.

Kitties, no move is complete without my pampered pedigree pussies! It was decided that a pet courier would be used as opposed to flying them, as this isnt considered the safest or kindest form of transport. I picked Tranzpet to transport the cats and it was a success, they were collected at 8am and arrived in Amstelveen at 8pm the same day.  I asked that the Maine Coons were together and that Elka got her own side, she seemed impressed with her own side. A great service!  Kitties are now adapating to their new dutch life.  Elkas dutch diet has most certainly started and Im waiting for Callies to kick in.Cats.jpeg

The garden is like a silk route through China and we have at least 6 cats that regularly make their way through the garden. This upsets and amuses the kittens, who insist on sitting in the windows for hours at a time every day on the look out for other cats.  Whilst the garden is completely fenced off, it does have more holes that swiss cheese (hence all the cats using it as a walk through), so it needs to have serious work done to it before any cats will be allowed out.
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In the days since moving

Amazon does not exist in the Netherlands, boo hiss! You can order things from .de or co.uk but Prime no longer exists AT ALL and the shipping times are all over the place, ranging from 2 weeks to 6 weeks.

Free shipping for online shopping is a luxury that few sites offer. (Ive been ruined by Amazon!)

Ikea is much more fun with power tools! There has been close to a week of allen keys, Im over it, that stuff is much heavier than it looks, dragging it up 26 steep stairs makes me wonder if I can do a good Hulk impression. Ikea also charge 10% of your order as a delivery cost, Ive paid a lot in shipping.

Ive relied on Google Translate a LOT, its not quite as magic as I thought it would be but its helped a great deal in a number of different situations.  My dutch is slowly coming back and I think the longer Im here, the better it will get (it will have to, right?).

Important lessons that Ive learnt in my first weeks:

Being on 2 wheels is completely different from being on 4 (no duh), so Ive had to learn how to ensure that my bag doesnt fall off whilst riding. Im also all about pimping my bike and making it as personalised as possible.  If Im not healthy by Christmas from all the riding, then there is something medically wrong with me! 20170818_121341

Elka follows me around the house and helped me figure out how to use the washing machine and dryer.  Not going to lie, Google Translate really didnt help in this situation but pressing a lot of different buttons at different times did make it work.20170818_144143

Not having a car limits the size of items you can purchase, in theory. Ive now learnt how to put big oversized items on the bike and my new accessory is bungee cords, lots of them.
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Free condiments are a thing of the past, its a very European concept to have to pay for all condiments, starting at 50-60 cent a packet. Its a very dutch thing to have ‘fritessaus’ with your fries, this is either a mayonnaise (standard) or something that is a bit like tartar sauce with them. I now carry a small tube of sauce in my bag to avoid having to pay for it every time, now thats being dutch! 20170821_122032-e1504619268654.jpg

Albert Heijn is the most popular grocery store and is the most expensive, there are other stores, however AH is the most recognised. Managed to sign up to their online shopping and get a delivery, you have leave a deposit on the crates and they collect them with the next delivery. Albert Heijn home delivery

The guest bedroom has been finished, 1 room down, it gives me hope for the other rooms and areas I need to unpack!20170827_163455.jpg

When it rains and you realise that the basement is not watertight, at all and that it actually floods. This gives me something to look forward to every time it rains, fingers crossed the management company will make serious attempts at fixing the problem.20170830_103329

Im not going to lie, it has been a manic stressful filled few weeks but Ive survived, everyday is a new adventure and seems to offer up a new dutch problem, which makes it all the more fun.

Tales of a Crazy Cat Lady and her PPPs (pampered pedigree pussies)

I am a crazy cat lady.

Growing up, my family always had cats, much to my fathers own upset. It was uncommon for us to have anything less 5 cats and most summers we had more than 10.  Growing up, the main family cat was Cavity. As with all fun animal names, Cavity got his a result of a family dental trip on the same day we got him. As children our parents always reminded us and quizzed us over our toothbrushing habits and ‘have you brushed your teeth?’, ‘Are you sure you brushed your teeth?’, “let me smell your breath’, typical sayings parents use.  My father was keen to ensure that we brushed our teeth, as ultimately he was the one who’d pay the bill if we didn’t.  On the day we got Cavity, our family of five visited the dentist, the three kids and my mother had no cavities (WIN WIN), however my father wasn’t so lucky and had a few. As children we found this hilarious, given all the constant reminders we had and thought that we should name the cat Cavity as it what would be a 16 year reminder to my father to brush his teeth.

I adore all cats, I rub every cat I see, ok, maybe not the overly ill looking ones but Ive renamed all of my neighbours cats and they run to me when they see me.

Free to a good home. This is a slogan that I grew up with, was given cats on, gave many cats away on and truly believe in. This is a slogan is practically non-existent in the UK. The majority of people charge for kittens and puppies and basically any animal. Basic prices start at about £35 and go up to £200 ($40-$250) and this is non pedigree animals. People believe that they shouldn’t be out of pocket when their non-spayed animals get knocked up. Some people truly believe that charging a large amount ensures a good home. When I have previously suggested the idea of giving them away for free, eyes have bulged, gasps have been made, all followed up with severe head shaking. I think the British just aren’t ready for ‘free to a good home’. My own personal opinion is that paying for animals which aren’t pedigree doesn’t encourage the owner to spay their animal (and rarely do they use this money to spay their animal), it does the opposite, by encouraging them to allow their animal to procreate for profit.  I am all for spaying and believe that unless you specifically want a pedigree animal, shelters are great places to rehome a animal who needs a home.

I crossed paths a Maine Coon when I lived in the states and honestly, I just remember it being this massive massive cat, (I was a child and now kind of remember it being sasquatch sized, so not entirely accurate), with loads of fur and thinking I will have one when Im an adult.  I do enjoy the Snopes post of why the dog ran away.

As part of my divorce I bought two Maine Coons and have never looked back. I am now a PPP (pampered pedigree princess/prince or pussy) snob. Sadly what I have learned with pedigree animals is that they have substantially shorter life (RIP Maizy and Tillie) and that seeing the family line is vital when buying the pet. I now have two Maine Coon kittens (roughly 14 months old), Callie and George and they are brother and sister. When I purchased the two, I went to a fellow crazy cat ladies house who has 17 Maine Coons, I looked at her and literally said ‘You are my future’ and we both laughed awkwardly. She has lots of space and runs for the cats and is a proper breeder. What I was able to see was the heritage, she had the grandmother, grandfather and both parents for the kittens. Rarely are you able to view more than one parent when buying cats, so this was a major win and it was great to see their size, attitudes, personalities and life span of the cats. Its obvious that they have come from a great line of healthy cats, which is so important. After the ill health and loss of Maizy and Tilli, its not something that I am ever prepared to compromise on again.

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Elka (who is the non pedigree who has outlived many other cats), is also another member of the household and the matriarch. She is 11 years old with arthritis and tolerates the kittens, as best as she can.

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Callie and George are both very quirky.  Callie is basically me in the cat form, so very very quirky and more than a little bit thick in the hip. George is very friendly but requires utter gentleness, which means hes not overly keen on me. They both want to be friends with Elka, however George just wants to play, which means he spoils it for both himself and Callie, as Elka just wants to sleep.

How are they getting to the land of clogs? I was keen to fly them, however, due to the George and Callies size, they are too big for the cabin (ideal solution) and the idea of putting them through as baggage has been panned by many of my colleagues, apparently this is cruel and can make them much more nervous than they already are. As they are literally treated like baggage, they go through the belt system and then literally sit on the tarmac as long a the luggage does with no special treatment and in all weather conditions. The noises and constant changing of surroundings are a sensory overload and scares the cats to the point of no return. My colleagues who have flown their cats as baggage have said they’d never do it again or allow anyone they know to do it either… So flying is not an option. Apparently flying them as cargo is an option (a very expensive option) and the animals are treated substantially better, however, because the distance I am going is only short, this is not an option available to me. Luckily there are courier companies who just deal with animals, HORRAY! So the answer to the problem is to have the cats couriered over, it ranges in prices but works out to be just over the price of flying them and it means that Im not the one having to drive them, listening to them howl for 12 hours straight, WIN for me.

Summer started off chill this year, so no summer shaves were given, however, they did have a belly shave to allow for some fresh air.  On the 5 hot days we’ve had my poor PPPs have now coped, so the answer was to get a hard swimming pool for them to play in and actually, its worked! They do love water anyway, so it seemed the right answer. The decision was then made to ‘pimp the pool’, a submersible pump was bought to give the water more movement (after these pictures were taken) and its even more of a luxury cool play area for them. Cats who require swimming pools to play in are quite possible too delicate to be shipped as luggage!