Lucie Cunningham on living in the Netherlands
"I am used to having a warm lunch. I still have to adjust to sandwiches," says French expat Lucie Herraiz Cunningham, who has discovered the delights of Surinamese food in The Netherlands!
Name: Lucie Herraiz Cunningham
City of residence: Delft
Date of birth: 31 December 1972
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Founder of Delft MaMa and Owner of Advice Bureau Matria Services.
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: My husband, who is American, accepted an assistant professor position at the Technical University of Delft (TU Delft)
Lived in the Netherlands for: seven years
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
I arrived on 1 January 2003. The streets were icy and very few people were out and about. That same week, an American crew was filming scenes from ‘Girl with a pearl earring’ on the Delft market square. It was a re-enactment of an old market with mud on the pavement, farm animals and extras in costumes. I remember being excited about this because I had read the novel a few months before that, before I even knew we would be moving to Delft.
What do you think of the food?
Being French, I am used to having a warm lunch. I still have to adjust to sandwiches. I do enjoy erwtensoep (pea soup), appel fleurtjes (apple pie with an apricot glazing), dark bread rolls, and good quality marzipan. I have discovered Surinamese food in The Netherlands and I really like it!
What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
I lived in the US for six years before coming here, so shopping hours and selection variety are not comparable at all. I try to avoid the Saturday crowds and stick to stores which offer good customer service and fresh products. These deserve to be recommended!
What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
The low criminality rates in my town and the fact that I do not have to drive a car to get around. I like how the local architecture blends the old and the new. I feel that way about the country in general: a mix of innovation and top technology with nostalgia for old traditions and values. The Dutch are economic and knowledge leaders in some fields but they are discreet about it. There is affluence but it is not “in your face”. I like school TV programmes that can be watched at school and at home. I value the fact that parents can choose which primary school to send their children to and that there are primary school types to pick from. Learning goals and tests are standardized but teaching strategies vary greatly.
What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
Getting heavily rained on when biking! Dutch directness can be painful at times.
What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I still do not understand why queues are so unruly at the market. I do not know if people move in front of one another on purpose or are just not aware that people were there before them. I miss crusty bread; but now that there is a great French baker in Risjwijk, I do get to indulge in a good baguette or lemon tart.
How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
There is less socialising, for instance, sharing meals, but life is orderly and safe. You don’t find as much wilderness here as in the USA or the South West of France where I grew up, but there are nice children’s farms and horse stables for children.
If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
The rain and wind but I am quite used to it having lived in South England for a couple of years.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Seek out new friends, whether they be Dutch or foreign. Invest in some good rainwear or those really strong umbrellas created in Delft if you are going to walk. Learn how to maintain and protect your bike from bike thieves. Learn the language right away and try and find a course format that suits your needs. Start doing fun things using your new Dutch language capabilities, there are plenty of artsy courses around or TV shows you can follow to help you become more fluent.
Would you like to add anything?
My son Loic was born in The Netherlands. I founded and run Delft MaMa (Delft Maternity and Motherhood Assistance. We now have a website atwww.delftmama.nl. Since August 2009, I have been offering advice about the needs and expectations of expat and international university students to city councils, organisations and companies through my company Matria Services. I am an active networker and activist about parenting, special needs, education and small entrepreneurs.
Note from Expatica: Lucie Cunningham was one of the five finalists for the 2010 Expat Awards in the Netherlands.
Joining Expat Voices
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