Expat Voices: Ann James embraces Dutch culture
After only eight months in the Netherlands, American expat Ann James is taking tourists and ‘Amsterdammers’ alike on exclusive shopping tours throughout the city, favouring De Negen Straatjes (The Nine Streets).
Name: Ann James
City of residence: Amsterdam
Date of birth: 10 January 1968
Civil status: resident
Occupation: Entrepreneur/Founder, Urban Aphrodite International
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: To start my entertainment tourism company
Lived in the Netherlands for: 8 months
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
I have been coming to the Netherlands (Amsterdam specifically) for the past two years. In the beginning, I was dazzled by the city. The architecture, the canals and the tiny streets were so enchanting. The 'Amsterdammers' are a hearty and kind folk and I was charmed by their ease with English and relaxed perspective.
What do you think of the food?
Okay, although not an initial fan, some dishes are growing on me. I fell into stampot this winter, (sounds painful!) as it is the thing to make one feel gezellig. Fresh onion soup with crusty brood, bitterballen and loempias are nice on the international front. I really dig the Indonesian offerings as well.
What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
Well, as my business is centered on shopping--I take tourists and ‘Amsterdammers’ alike on exclusive shopping tours throughout the city--I find that Dutch designers are excellent and should be promoted more. I am not too impressed with the more touristy drags. I gravitate to The Nine Streets (wonderful shopping, primarily Dutch-owned) and have found myself on the PC Hooftstraat once or twice of late, at Ralph Lauren…
What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
I appreciate how the government actually takes care of its people for the most part. Some Nederlanders might disagree, but coming from such a huge and broken machine in the United States, the Netherlands is a breath of fresh and much needed air for this weary traveller. I also appreciate how your time is your time. Americans tend to work too much. The Dutch will take a vacation when they want it. And do!
What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
My lack of Dutch language skills. I actually know more than I speak, and feel intimidated to try when speaking to my Dutch friends. It is getting better though, and hopefully I will be able to go for my exam within the next year. Also this statement, “It’s not possible.” What is that about? Very harsh words for this wide-eyed American whose core belief is that “anything is possible!”
What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
The parking of my bike puzzles me. I have had it towed to the 'bike graveyard' twice! I have just vowed never to park my bike at Central Station again…
How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
Well, I just came here from a two-year assignment in Khartoum, Sudan. The differences, as you can imagine, are huge. I think the quality of life is good here, but you pay a pretty penny for it. I was stunned at how money just ran out of my hands when I first got here! My rent is very high by most standards, but I live on a houseboat on the Prinsengracht, so I am not complaining. My life is easier here for sure. No car troubles (don’t need one), low crime, and pedestrians actually have the right of way (just after bikes).
If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
I would have all my friends and family live here with me.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Embrace the quirkiness of the Dutch. The culture is interesting, so get to know something about it. Go out, see the culture, travel outside the cities into the villages if you can. Make friends…it will give you a sense of belonging in this wonderful country.
Joining Expat Voices
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