Expat Voices: Renée Shortz on living in Arnhem
"Be open to everything - food, directness, cultural differences. Explore the WHOLE country, not just Amsterdam," advises expat Renée Shortz.
Name: Renée Shortz
Nationality: US and Dutch
Country of residence: the Netherlands
How long have you lived here?: 17 Years this August
City/town of residence: Arnhem
Date of birth: 1968-9-03
Civil status: Married
Occupation: AP Supervisor
Reason for moving to your new country of residence: originally as an expat with a 3 year contract at an international company.
What was your first impression of your new country of residence?
I'd never been out of the US before (except for a few times to Vancouver, BC and Juarez, Mexico), so everything was very different and new to me. What struck me the most was the bike transportation! Also that entire families, including babies, would be out cycling on a Sunday afternoon.
What do you think of the food?
I'm still not super impressed with the food, but I would never turn down bitterballen, vlammetjes, patatje oorlog or a broodje paling. Oh and I never said no to a stroopwaffel either.
What do you think of the shopping?
Shopping, in my opinion, has gotten better over the years. When I first moved here I was slightly "fluffy". There were literally two Chain Stores that carried bigger girls clothing. Food shopping was also something else! Going to the market for the first time, making sure I hit the supermarket before 6pm, NOTHING open on Sundays. That took some time to adjust to but I think it just forces you to really think about your priorities more.
What do you appreciate about living in your new country of residence?
I love the close proximity to other places in Europe. I love exploring the country and learning as much as I can about places in the Netherlands. I love cycling here! As much as I complain about the NS I also think public transport is a pretty good deal. I do have my driver's license here, but I much prefer to go by train if possible.
What do you find most frustrating about living in your new country of residence?
How hard it is to make Dutch friends. Why people have to stand directly on your heels even when there is plenty of space. The "it's not possible" attitude. Lame customer service at times. No decent Mexican Food!
What puzzles you the most and what do you miss the most since you've moved here?
The lack of common courtesy. Maybe it's something to do with my age/generation, maybe it's a cultural thing or my interpretation of what "common courtesy" is, but I just don't get why people can not say please, thank you, or not slam a door on a person's face when entering a train. What I miss the most are totally intangible things; the weather, the way the air smells after it's rained, certain traditions at home around holidays.
How does the quality of life here compare to the quality of life in other countries that you've lived in?
After being here 17 years I can say without a doubt I have a very good life here. But then again, it's all relative. I'm not materialistic and that along with mass consumerism is something that drives me completely nuts about the US (my opinion of course)
If you could change anything about your new country of residence, what would it be?
I would have people be just a bit more friendly to one another and open to new friendships. I would also stop the Dutch from speaking English every time "we" made the effort to speak and learn their language.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Don't expect things to be exactly the same as where you come from. Be open to everything - food, directness, cultural differences. Explore the WHOLE country, not just Amsterdam. Don't only hang out with expats who are here for a limited time and have no interest in learning anything about the Dutch. Find positives rather than only complaining about the Dutch or the country.
Would you like to add anything that we haven't addressed in the questionnaire?
Personally, I think it's absolutely imperative to learn the language. It makes a HUGE difference in every day life to be able to communicate. Make the effort and you will find it much less frustrating in the end.
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