Expat Voices: Aliye Kurt-Suedhoff on living in the Netherlands

Expat Voices: Aliye Kurt-Suedhoff on living in the Netherlands

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Aliye finds the the Dutch to be "very friendly in everyday interactions", but going beyond that "seems to be difficult"." Make it a priority to get out there and make friends, she advises.

Name: Aliye Kurt-Suedhoff
Nationality: Turkish-Canadian
City of residence: Amsterdam
Date of birth: June 1975
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Social Psychologist (academic) and Professional Coach at SetSail Coaching
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: Was time to experience another exciting place
Lived in the Netherlands for: nine months

What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
My husband and I moved to the Netherlands, and in particular to Amsterdam with high expectations about living in a vibrant, international, liberal and tolerant place. So far I haven't been disappointed. Of course I’ve experienced glitches when settling down, and all the paper work… but nothing significant to affect my impression -- in either way.

What do you think of the food?
Tough question! I love fries, all sorts of seafood, cheese and oliebollen—but again, coming from Turkey, which has a very rich cuisine— it wouldn’t be a fair comparison! But it’s great to have access to international cuisine.

Aliye in the  North Sea dunes

What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
I do enjoy visiting the little boutiques and unique stores—I like the European flair after having lived in North America for eight years. What I really like here is the food shopping in neat cheese shops, bakeries and farmers' markets.

What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
I like the North European ‘neatness’ of the Netherlands. I appreciate the compactness of it and the freedom of biking everywhere. As for Amsterdam, I love living in a city with beautiful architecture and gezellig atmosphere. And I appreciate living in an international environment where l don't feel isolated as a newcomer who doesn't speak the language yet—at least compared to other countries. I also find the direct Dutch communication style refreshing.

What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
Sometimes the inadequate infrastructure becomes a problem—mainly the traffic! The highways get clogged very easily and spending time in traffic can be really frustrating.  And I must admit that I sometimes also find the weather quite frustrating—not enough sun!

What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
What puzzles me is the Dutch attitude towards language. I keep on hearing stories about how the Dutch expect people who move here to speak Dutch—a very fair expectation—but insist on speaking English to them which makes practice very difficult.

The other thing that puzzles me is the mentality that makes part-time work arrangements for women almost a norm. I’ve recently learned that around 75 percent of the Dutch women in the workforce work in some form of part-time arrangement. The reason behind that is argued to be the traditional gender roles—the man is seen as the primary ‘breadwinner’ and woman as the primary caretaker for children. This is really puzzling for me because it’s in conflict with the stereotype of the Dutch culture being a very progressive one.
I miss mountains and a diverse landscape most. I lived in Vancouver—a city of ocean and mountains—before I moved here. As much as I enjoy the beaches and the dunes, I cannot stop thinking of the mountains. 

Missing the mountains in Canada
Missing the mountains in Canada

How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
It is quite comparable to Canada; being a social state with extensive health and social benefits. Biking would be an added benefit here—it definitely makes life easier and stress-free. Compared to Turkey, quality of life here is much better, although I think it lacks the strong social bonds and the spontaneity of interpersonal relationships. It feels too planned at times.

If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?

 For sure the weather!


What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Make sure to manage expectations—because they will determine if you'll like it here or not. If you start out with negative expectations, you'll seek and find evidence for those and the same goes for positive expectations. Make it a priority to get out there and make friends—social support is the best way to get you through the adaptation process. Take it as a chance to stretch yourself by leaving your usual ‘self-limiting’ beliefs in the past. Try new things. Do things that will make you feel good about yourself.  Your positive mood will contribute to your life satisfaction. In relation to this, I believe that working with a coach would help you to adapt successfully and enjoy your life here—I personally benefited quite a lot from that.

Would you like to add anything?

 I would like to mention the challenge of making Dutch friends—something I’ve also heard from other expats. In everyday interactions the Dutch are very friendly but going beyond that seems to be difficult. Of course, understandably they already have their friends and maybe don’t want or need to invest in making friends with internationals—who are more eager to form connections with the locals. It would be nice to see the Dutch going out of their way and being willing to put more effort in connecting with internationals beyond the basic daily interactions.

Gezellig Amsterdam


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