Expat Voices: Leeanne Bruin on living in Amsterdam
"The social, open and welcoming culture made Holland seem like the perfect country for a young expat professional to thrive. In a word – it’s gezellig!" writes Leeanne Bruin.
Name: Leeanne Bruin
Country of residence: The Netherlands
Lived in the Netherlands: 3 years
City/town of residence: Amsterdam
Date of birth: 1981-5-19
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Business Development
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: Life enrichment and gain international work experience.
What was your first impression of your new country of residence?
The social, open and welcoming culture made Holland seem like the perfect country for a young expat professional to thrive. In a word – it’s gezellig! I was impressed that almost all Dutch, from all walks of life, have such a high level of English language fluency. Although the initial steps of moving here was quite challenging – opening a bank account, finding an apartment, immigration requirements – once you get the hang of how things work, life is easy.
What do you think of the food?
Love it! Grocery stores offer a simple, fresh, healthy and affordable selection. If you learn to enjoy the seasonal Dutch dishes and vegetables you’ll find the grocery bills to be reasonable. Eating out is another story. It is possible to find a few yummy and cheap options but for the most part eating in restaurants is very expensive. I like the wide variety of ethnic foods in The Netherlands – our favorite place to eat is an Ethiopian restaurant just outside our door!
What do you think of the shopping?
Depends on what you’re buying. The basic staples are easy to find and usually affordable but if you are looking for something specific I’ve found it many time difficult to find and expensive. Stick to the basics if you're on a budget!
What do you appreciate about living in your new country of residence?
The active lifestyle, generous holiday and benefit packages, professional opportunities, fresh food, close proximity to other EU countries and unlimited recreation opportunities = high quality of life in The Netherlands. Our life here is pretty easy. Shopping is within walking distance and the ethnic diversity ensures that every city walk is interesting. There is no need to own a car. We feel healthy and can get almost anywhere by bike and public transport, even with our spunky 14 month old daughter. Maternity leave is four months long and 100 percent paid. Both mothers and fathers are offered parental leave – the daycare is located only one block from our apartment! I’ve been able to find a good balance between being an ambitious young MBA, wife and mom. Most Europe destinations are within two hours flying distance and there are many discount airline options in the area. Bottom line: we have never had a boring day while living here!
What do you find most frustrating about living in your new country of residence?
Lack of customer service. Do not expect service with a smile or refunds. That is the way it is. My best advice: the more quickly you get used to it the less time you will spend frustrated.
What puzzles you the most and what do you miss the most since you've moved here?
Red tape everywhere and lack of clarity. Many tasks (public transport pass, city hall requirements) seem to require 20 steps to complete. If you call a local company with a question – you will get an answer but you can never be 100% sure that it is the right one. I’ve found calling multiple times and asking the same question will eventually produce the correct answer and right direction.
How does the quality of life here compare to the quality of life in other countries that you've lived in?
The Netherlands and United States both offer the same high quality of life – just in different ways. I’ve found that how high or low the quality of life a person experiences really depends on personal choices and ability to seize local opportunities.
If you could change anything about your new country of residence, what would it be?
Not a thing – everything there gives Holland its own uniqueness. If anything changed it just would not be the same place!
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
The first months of living anywhere new are challenging. My best advice is to take it one day at a time and don’t take anything too seriously. Tram passed you because you didn’t stick your arm out and you’ve been standing in the cold rain waiting for 15 minutes? Been there. Have a laugh, grab a coffee and just wait for the next one!
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