Expat Voices: Jeannette Jordan on living in the Netherlands
"cobblestones and high heels; now that is a mix! " says American Jeannette Jordan, who is thrilled to be out of her car anyhow and taking trams, buses, boats.
Name: Jeannette Jordan
Nationality: American – born in USA in the city of Chicago – but I relocated to Atlanta, Georgia and consider myself a ‘Southern” now – that’s another story.
City of residence: Amsterdam.
Date of birth: 21 March 1962
Civil status: Graduate student,
Occupation: Journalist – worked for nearly two decades in the US for television news organisations as a writer and producer.
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: Taking part in a global journalism programme that is two years and takes me to a total of three countries. I just completed my first phase of the programme in December with a six-month stay in Denmark – now I am here in Amsterdam until mid-June. Next stop – Germany for one year.
Lived in the Netherlands for (give weeks/ months/or years): I arrived here on January 28, 2010 – can we talk jet-lag – OMG.
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
You must understand this about me, I come from a town where we are not allowed to buy alcoholic beverages at the market on Sundays; so to say I am conservative may be an understatement – so when I discovered that ‘coffee shops’ had nothing to do with java, lattes, mochas, or espresso, my first thought was “that’s legal here, OMG.” And when I saw police officers walking right past people openly smoking marijuana I was reaching in my purse for smelling sauce – I honestly gasped for air and started to ring everyone back home saying, ‘you won’t believe this.”
What do you think of the food?
I have not done any eating out. I have been guessing my way through Albert Hein. About a year ago I developed a number of really severe food allergies [nuts, shellfish, corn, seeds, oranges, turkey] so trying new food is a gamble; which is unfortunate because I love so many different foods that not trying everything is making me crazy. But, I did try appelkoeken and fudge that I got at the Saturday market in the Jordaan and I loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it. Did I say how much I loved it?
What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
Shopping in the supermarket is crazy. I feel like I am in traffic on the highway. Everyone is in such a hurry I just want to say, please slow down and let me look at these labels. People rush by and don’t chat about anything. But, I must admit, whenever I do get the nerve to stop someone and ask them to translate what is written on the package; they are very nice and helpful. I am still wondering however, what I purchased, cooked and ate that looked like ground beef but tasted like something totally different. Please don’t tell me I fried Bambi.
What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
I love being in Europe. There is a certain style and quality and I love the architecture, the landscape and having alternative forms of getting places like trams, buses, boats – I am not stuck to driving hours a day.
What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
I get lost very easily. However, the people here are really nice and stop to help every time. I even had a guy call his friend on his mobile when he wasn’t able to help me find a particular address. Now that is kindness!
What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
What puzzles me most is the layout – I can’t seem to get a feel for the city planning – such as which are north-south streets which are east-west. And the streets change names.
What I miss since I have moved here is my family. I am single and have no children but my siblings and my mother; back home in Atlanta, Georgia – we all live within five minutes of one another. We talk every day and see each other all the time. So, I miss them, their children and their grandchildren. Please do not get me started or I will have to top-up my mobile again.
How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
I lived in Denmark and liked it a great deal because I found a sense of community and it was a more conservative place. I also spent about a month in Berlin and loved the city. However, I feel that I have not been here long enough to truly form an opinion. I feel like I am somewhere between not a tourist and not quite a fully acclimated resident.
If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
I love to shop. I can’t help it, it’s in my blood. That said, I do not buy crazy, overly expensive items; I sometimes just buy small trinkets or sweets to send home to family and friends. So, if I could change anything it would be the shopping hours – give me more, more, more.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Try to connect. If you are a person of faith, as I am, find a place to worship or to practice your faith. It is in the place of worship that I find an immediate sense of community. I would next say join an organisation or seek out others who are going through this similar experience of being new. It is always better to walk through a storm with someone helping to navigate the way. And, most of all, don’t try to make people fit your norm; let people be who they are in their space and allow them to get to know you, and you do the same.
Oh and more importantly, buy yourself a television – I went a month without one; not good for a person who has worked in television nearly all my adult life. Please give me BBC, CNN, something.
Would you like to add anything?
I feel my life here in the Netherlands is all part of my life’s journey. I feel blessed each day I have the experience to wake up, healthy and focused and prepared to experience something new. I realise that not everyone is having this experience so it is all the more special. Even when I may be a bit rattled from my not-so-liberal after all, platform, I still learn and add to my cultural understanding and knowledge of how people live. And, as a single woman, I am looking forward to dating here in Amsterdam. I have learned from my stay in Denmark that the men here in Europe really know how to treat a lady – nice touch with the flowers, wine and simple dates, like coffee and a walk. However, it might be nice to get a taxi sometimes – OMG cobblestones and high heels; now that is a mix!
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