Expat Voices: Jennifer Evans on living in the Netherlands
American student Jennifer Evans wonders why the cloggies think if we "do it like the Dutch do it", the world's problem's will be solved.
Name: Jennifer Evans
Nationality: United States
City of residence: Delft
Date of birth: 18/8/84
Civil status: Samenwonend
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: Partner, study
Lived in the Netherlands for: 10 months
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
I felt like the Netherlands was very safe. Even problem neighbourhoods seemed pretty tame, maybe because I moved here from Washington, DC. I have to admit, however, now that I've been here a bit longer the shock has worn off and I'm more careful than I used to be.
I was also surprised by the emphasis on architecture and public art, all the green space (De Groene Hart) and the old city centres. The sheer number of bicycles also stood out to me. I think I laughed out loud the first time I saw all of the bikes outside a train station.
What do you think of the food?
The food in the grocery stores is pretty comparable to the US, just on a smaller scale. I'm pretty happy with the Albert Heijn.
At restaurants, I always wish the food was spicier.
The 'snackbar' culture was strange to me at first, but the occasional croquette or frikandel speciaal is not bad. I've also developed a taste for patat-mayo-uitjes (french fries with mayo and onions), which I didn't expect.
Also, the Turkish food here is amazing.
What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
Mwah, it's okay. I don't do too much shopping, but I found a cheap, trendy story around the corner that did the trick when I finally decided to jump on the bandwagon and buy skinny jeans.
In terms of daily shopping, I live above an Etos, two doors down from a Kruidvat and a short walk from a HEMA, which is as convenient as it gets...except on Sundays.
What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
I enjoy observing a new political scene, and how a different culture deals with (relatively) similar problems as they have in the US. I also really appreciate the subtleties of Dutch culture, although I haven't quite figured out how to describe them.
I find Dutch slang and swear words hilarious, especially when sang by the group Jeugd van Tegenwoordig (although I can't pronounce their name correctly yet). The music scene is pretty hip here in general, and a lot of good acts (from all over) stop by.
What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
The most frustrating thing is the language barrier. Of course, most people on the street know English well enough, and I'm learning Dutch, but I still feel like an outsider when I can't communicate fully with people. It can be quite demoralising.
Also, I wish a giant draaiorgel did not park beneath my window every Saturday morning.
What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I get the impression from some Dutch people that if we would all just do it like the Dutch do it, the world's problems would be solved, which definitely puzzles me. They've got a good system here, but it's very specific to their circumstances.
What I miss the most are my family and friends, and I wish could see them more often. There is so much that I have to miss out on now (weddings, babies etc.). Skype only takes you so far.
How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
I've only lived in the US before moving here, but I think my quality of life is the same. The Netherlands is different, but it's not mind-blowingly different.
If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
Better top-down distribution of information, from a policy implementation standpoint. Civil servants, insurance company representatives and the like don't know what to do with you if you're not a 'standard' case, even if they should.
I don't mind being told no – I just don't want to be told yes, then no, then maybe every time I speak with someone.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Travel as much as you can. Spend a weekend in Limburg or check out Rotterdam's Witte de Withstraat one evening. The Netherlands has some pretty cool stuff going on.
Also, taking a class at a local university might help boost your social circle. Because I went back to school shortly after I moved here, I did not really experience the isolation or loneliness that some newcomers report.
Would you like to add anything?
I also want to point out how much I appreciate the supportive circle I have here through my partner, and his family and friends. Not only did it make moving to the Netherlands so much easier, but I've had great experiences learning the Dutch style of living.
Joining Expat Voices
If you would like to share your perspective about life in the Netherlands and contribute to Expat Voices, send an email to editorNL@expatica.com with 'Please send me an Expat Voices questionnaire' in the subject line.
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