Expat Voices: Tim Plona on living in the Netherlands
Tim Plona and his family find the 'quaintness' of Den Bosch, Eindhoven and Venlo quite refreshing and enjoy the calmness and slower pace of life compared to their hometown Chicago.
Name: Tim Plona
City of residence: Eindhoven
Date of birth: 17 Sept 1963
Civil status: Married with children
Occupation: Corporate Information Security Officer
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: After nine years with Océ at the North American HQ in Chicago I was asked to come to Océ world HQ in Venlo to gain new professional experiences. It was a means to invest in my career and my company. It also provided a unique opportunity for my wife Lisy, and my two children Maria-Renee 17 and Tim 14.
Lived in the Netherlands for: two years.
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
I had been coming for a few years for global projects and meetings, so when I moved here I was not overly shocked or awed. My hometown is Chicago, and therefore we find the quaintness of Den Bosch, Eindhoven and Venlo quite refreshing. The calmness and pace of life are a bit slower than what we were used to. We adapted and adopted it rather quickly. The graffiti on many building, bridges and walls was a big surprise.
What do you think of the food?
Being a large guy who loves to eat, I have found some new pleasures. I have come to love the multi-course meals (in the French tradition) that one can find in Den Bosch and Venlo. I have come to love good hearty meals like stamppot with saus and spek. I enjoy a kroket or two once awhile and last spring ate my first raw herring (endured is a better verb). My biggest surprise was my love for sambal (hot sauce), I am addicted. Stamppot and sambal will be on my menu when we find our next host country.
What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
When we first moved here and were setting up a home it was a nightmare. No Sunday shopping in the south and many stores closed at 18.00. We really struggled to get things set up quickly due to limited shopping hours. Now, we find it works well. We like the idea of setting Sunday aside as a time for church and family. It is fine unless you forget on Saturday to get lunch items for Monday.
Pricewise it is amazing how expensive many things are here. Clothes are nearly impossible to think of buying here (even taking into account January and August sales). Sure, breads, beer, wine and cheese are cheaper than back home, but we require a bit more than that. We especially miss beef steaks with Chicago cuts and quality (and price).
What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
Unlike other stories we have read, we have found making friends very easy. We joined a church and have gotten to know our neighbours. They have been helpful and friendly. The pace of life is slower and we appreciate that.
Of course we have come to love bicycles and fietspadden. We have wonderful bike paths near us and my wife and I enjoy an evening or weekend ride.
What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
Government bureaucracy. Unfortunately, we have had to deal with immigration issues, traffic court issues and we have even had the house we rented foreclosed and we were evicted. The lack of common sense in deciding some of the issues was both disheartening and frustrating.
What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
Most people I have met and talked to are conservative and often apologise for the ideas held by Amsterdam and the liberal policies of the country as a whole. Maybe this is more a reflection of the area where I live and work.
We miss American style restaurant or diner breakfasts. We miss ordering off a breakfast menu and using the time to meet friends or family on Saturday mornings. We have not found a decent fresh bagel yet. We do like the pannenkoeken and poffertjes.
How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
We find the quality of life to be quite high here, maybe even higher than in my home town of Chicago. We find it more peaceful and more opportunities to do things as a family. This could be a result of our expat situation, but we are enjoying it.
If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
Lower the cost of things, especially taxes.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Please try to learn the language. True, you don’t need to, but it helps so much when meeting people in the markets and on the streets. They appreciate the effort you have made. It will frustrate you that they answer in English even when you throw your best Dutch at them, but they will give you a warmer response. Travel, travel, travel: in our two years I have visited at least 12 countries for work and pleasure.
Would you like to add anything?
We love it here and have found it to be a very positive experience. We would love to stay longer or possibly find another expat opportunity (Asia seems intriguing). The people and cultural experience has been fantastic. We will always have a warm spot in our heart for the people of the Netherlands; those that we have met and grown to love.
Joining Expat Voices
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