Danielle Latman

Expat Voices: Danielle Latman on life in the Netherlands

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American expat Danielle can't get her head around the paradox of tolerant-yet-controlling Dutch culture but wishes for patience in the meantime. Patience or a stroopwaffel.

Name: Danielle Latman    
Nationality: USA
City of residence: Amsterdam
Civil status: Registered partnership
Occupation: Writer and editor
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: Partner’s job
Lived in the Netherlands for: Over one year

What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
I thought it was very liberal, as demonstrated in places like the Red Light District. The canals were unique and there were a lot of bicycles. I also thought it was quite cold for the summertime!

What do you think of the food?
Eh. Enjoying food isn’t as important here as in southern Europe. But when the ingredients are high quality, simple food here can be delicious. I also like some Dutch sweets such as stroopwaffellen, oliebollen and the waffles that have big pieces of sugar in them.

Stall at Kwakow Festival, Amsterdam
Food stall at the Kwakow Festival, Amsterdam

What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
I appreciate the thought and planning that went into designing spaces here. The cities are compact and easy to navigate, farmland flows into urban spaces with minimal sprawl, and historic buildings are preserved.

It’s so beautiful and functional. And the pace is nice; people keep moving without seeming rushed like in New York City.

I also enjoy the ability to travel within Europe easily.

What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
The language barrier is hard for me, especially as a writer and someone who cares about communication in general. I’ve taken some Dutch classes but it can take time to learn a language.

Zwarte Piet
Zwarte Piet

What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I don’t understand how Dutch culture can be so tolerant yet also emphasise social control and conformity. How do individuals and the collective society integrate those two extremes?

I miss understanding what’s going on around me, even with dumb stuff like jokes and television commercials.


How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
There’s a better work–life balance here than in the States. People are expected to leave work right at five. There are five weeks of vacation instead of two, and the Dutch government even provides a holiday allowance! People back home can’t believe that.

If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
I would encourage public debate on immigration, so Geert Wilders wasn’t the main voice addressing the issue.

And if I could change anything about myself, it would be increased patience with the transition abroad.


Happy family at Maastricht Festival
Happy family at Maastricht Festival

All photos © Danielle Latman

Joining Expat Voices 

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