Expat Voices: Anthony Hodge on living in the Netherlands
American Anthony Hodge may have Dutch blood in his veins but he finds the food "basic" and would happily forego knife and fork to get his hands on some TexMex finger food.
Name: Anthony Hodge
City of residence: Amsterdam
Date of birth: July 1, 1976
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Marketing & Communications Executive
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: Followed parents here/Came to study
Lived in the Netherlands for: 6 ½ years
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
Having a Dutch mother, I was shipped off to Holland many times as a child so I could have a strong bond with my Dutch family. This was always just a place I came to spend my summer breaks from school, but it is also where this American learned to eat (everything) with fork and knife (and not just a fork as so many Americans do), where he learned to speak Dutch, and learned the value of cramming seven people into a caravan for a holiday.
It wasn’t until I moved here as an adult that I got a very different impression, first as a graduate student, then later learning what it was like to work in a Dutch environment, and particularly how to deal with Dutch landlords. My overall lasting impression of the country is that people work to live here and not live to work, and this is one of my primary reasons for staying.
What do you think of the food?
Dutch food is basic. For becoming so wealthy as a nation trading spices in the 17th Century, I have never understood why the spices never made it into their cuisine. Dutch people are hard working and to me typical Dutch food is based on meat and potatoes – fuel for biking against the wind, tending the land in the winter, and building stone dikes by hand.
What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
I very much enjoy shopping here. I do think the number of chain stores is frightening, and it is a little strange when shopping streets in so many cities and towns look exactly the same. I appreciate pricing with tax included. I do not appreciate the inability to queue for anything, or when people stop dead in the middle of a crowded walking path to window shop.
What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
I appreciate the diversity here very much. Diversity exists not only in the mix of immigrants with Dutch culture, but also within Dutch culture itself. It’s incredible how attitudes, lifestyles and accents can change as you move from north to south here, especially in such a small country. Despite clashing that one might read about in the news, I think this country does a great job of ‘living together’.
What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
Hands down I think traffic is an enormous problem here. The highways are great quality, but the number of cars and trucks on the road since 10 years ago seems to have multiplied by 10. There are some places you just can’t get to by public transport, and sometimes it can be cheaper even to drive. The wait times and the rush hour periods are getting longer by the day.
What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I am from the Southwest United States. I have never understood why Mexican food really didn’t take off here. Spanish tapas the Dutch LOVE, but not real Mexican or even TexMex. This is what I miss the most, and I believe that because Dutch really do eat everything with fork and knife; this is the reason why there isn’t a TexMex restaurant on every corner. (Or at least this is what my grandmother used to tell me because she absolutely refused to pick up a hard-shelled taco with her bare hands).
How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
I think the Dutch have one of the highest levels of quality of life, because there is balance of people versus the land and environment. Sure, this takes a lot more government involvement and legislation and rules, but it works!
If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
I think dogs should be allowed on the beaches year round.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
I would advise any newcomer not to let themselves get too surrounded by other expats while they live here. Try to make Dutch friends; the Dutch love to have international friends and they are trustworthy and friendly people once you are ‘in’. If you stick to an all-expat crowd, you won’t learn enough about the culture, and you will quickly find that with all the coming and going of most expats, it can be very difficult to develop lasting relationships.
Joining Expat Voices
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