Expat Voices: Leah McDermott on living in Amsterdam
Australian Lea McDermott, who came to the Netherlands to study, fell in love with a Dutchman and stayed, finds the Australians and Dutch have quite a lot in common.
Name: Leah McDermott
Country of residence: Netherlands
How long have you lived here: 8 years
City of residence: Amsterdam
Date of birth: 1975-9-20
Civil status: married
Occupation: Medical physicist
Reason for moving to your new country of residence
came for a PhD project, stayed for a Dutchman
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
Lots of similarities between Australians and Dutch people -- good sense of humour, easy going about some things, incredibly uptight and bureaucratic about others. Also the Dutch love hearing about what the rest of the world thinks of them -- arrogance tied with inferiority, just like Australia.
What do you think of the food?
It got better the longer I lived here - you have to know where to find it. I live on Ijburg where there are lots of great restaurants by a harbour, local veggie shop, bakery etc., but also close to the centre and bigger commercial supermarkets. Love kroketten but I will never try a frikandel. The ice-cream on the five-minute walk home from a day at the beach is great.
What do you think of the shopping?
I'm not much of a shopper, same as other places. Just that the sales people are so harsh - in Amsterdam I'm constantly amazed how rude they can be to customers and they think it's their 'right'. It's almost funny.
What do you appreciate about living in your new country of residence?
Since moving to Ijburg, the space, the water, being able to come home from work, go kayaking and have a bbq. Or ride my bike into the centre to meet friends. The range of possibilities is much better when everything is so close together. You need a car to get anywhere in Australia, I don't miss that.
What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
As I mentioned - the rude service, Dutch people tell me that's just the North Holland character. The red tape-- trying to get a residence permit was horrible.
What puzzles you the most and what do you miss the most since you've moved here?
They have fish, lots of chips, why can't they do fish & chips?
How does the quality of life here compare to the quality of life in other countries that you've lived in?
Same but different. I've lived in Australia, Switzerland, Sweden and here. I think the quality of life is comparable for all four (accounting for my income in each country). Recently with the housing market taking a dive, it's much cheaper here than Australia.
If you could change anything about your new country of residence, what would it be?
I'd move it closer to Australia so I didn't have to travel so far to visit home! I'd also make all Dutch lessons free but with well-paid (i.e. highly trained and motivated) teachers. After some really lame, expensive courses, I only really started speaking dutch when I met my husband and his family.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
If you're going to live in Amsterdam, especially if you have a family, live on Ijburg! The houses are of a much higher standard and cheaper than in other parts of the city, life is better and it's still close enough easy to enjoy the city centre. The beach is great and the atmosphere in winter is just lovely.
Would you like to add anything?
I came here to study, and after four years I was about to go home but I met someone. So now I've worked here, bought a house, gotten married, had a baby, speak Dutch and really experienced life here. I still feel like a visitor but there's a mix of enjoying the opportunities and getting tired of the Dutch and their funny ways.
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