Expat Voices: Elyssa Downs on living in the Netherlands
British expat Elyssa Downs has had "nothing but positive experiences" since she moved to the Netherlands, but as a vegetarian, she needs to be careful. "People often think that I want to eat deep-fried kaasbroodjes," she says.
Name: Elyssa Downs
City of residence: Amsterdam
Date of birth: 19 January 1963
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Team Assistant (Administration)
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: Adventure, change of pace after seven years in London.
Lived in the Netherlands for: seven years on Queen’s Day!
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
Quiet, rainy and flat.
What do you think of the food?
As a vegetarian I don’t find the food too bad, but I have to be careful. People often think that I want to eat deep-fried kaasbroodjes.
What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
A challenge! Food shopping requires more planning than in the UK, especially as bread is an unknown product after 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Doesn’t anyone at Albert Heijn wonder why that is, and bake more? The variety of cheese was a little disappointing after the UK, but the older cheeses have their individual charms, which I have now discovered. And for Chinese/Indonesian ingredients it’s wonderful!
What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
The privacy, fewer CCTV cameras and the general feeling of being allowed to live one’s life in peace.
What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
Not much actually, despite the horror stories from friends about bureaucracy. It’s no different from what you would have to do in the UK! However, the most frustrating thing is making appointments with workmen, taking the time off work to be at home, and then they don’t arrive according to schedule. But deliveries of furniture and large goods have been fine by comparison.
What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
That no-one seems to mind the lack of bread after two in the afternoon! I miss the usual things – friends and family being close by, and the food from home which I can’t get here (a variety of flavoured crisps!)
How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
Fabulous! I lived in northern California for most of the 1980s and although the weather was better, the quality of life was not as good as what I experience here. There is an understanding in the Netherlands that people work to live, not the other way around.
If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
Move the country closer to the equator so we have more sunny days – an Amsterdam canal in the summer is paradise.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Be patient with the bureaucracy, it’s really not that difficult to get through. Smile, be polite, try some Dutch words in conversation and soon you will be feeling at home.
Would you like to add anything?
Just that I’ve had nothing but positive experiences since my husband and I moved here in 2002. People are friendly, helpful and fun and it’s been a wonderful adventure. We have made friends, learned all sorts of new and interesting facts about this part of the world and discovered that we prefer living outside the UK! I recommend expat life to everyone with a taste for the unexpected.
Joining Expat Voices
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