Expat Voices: Ken Hardy on living in the Netherlands

Expat Voices: Ken Hardy on living in the Netherlands

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"People in America consider me to be such a liberal and here in Holland I seem to be the conservative one!" says American Ken Hardy who secretly wants to meet the queen and still has trouble figuring out the Dutch postal service.

Name: Ken Hardy
Nationality: American born in and raised in Texas ran away to New York and Los Angeles, fell in love and moved to the Netherlands
City of residence: The Hague
Date of birth: 07-09-71 (English) 09-07-71 (Nederland)
Civil status: Partnered
Occupation: Event planning or English language teaching. (Currently looking for work. Any leads welcome!)
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: My Partner was not allowed to stay in the States and had to leave. We tried the long distance thing and we had hoped America would be the true land of the free with the gay rights laws.  But…..no. So I came to Holland!
Lived in the Netherlands for: 10 months.

What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
Where is the Starbucks? I know, so American. Noticing things like everyone is eating French fries, everyone is so tall, which is why they walk so fast!  (I have shorter legs than everyone, which is why I walk slower.) Watch out for dangerous bicyclists, watch out for Dutch dangerous cars and watch out for dangerous Dutch trolleys. Dutch mosquitoes bite a lot! There are a lot of K’s a J’s and ijklikj words in Dutch!

What do you think of the food?
Well….I have never eaten so much creamy, cheesy, moussey, custardy, pureey foods in my life! I like them. I gladly eat them but my stomach is just not used to it. Washing it all down with the daily dosage of French fries or potatoes makes my tummy make funny noises! I miss breakfast and silly American things that are hard to find like grape jelly, ranch dressing, affordable Pringles and Ding Dongs, but I like a lot of Dutch things like oliebollen (aka doughnuts) and pindakaas! The Cheese is growing on me. I am becoming a cheese connoisseur….


What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
Bijenkorf is expensive! I like all the grocery stores and those magazines they give out with recipes. I have no idea what most of them are, but I imagine what they are and try to re-create them. My partner has gotten to try some very interesting concoctions. I call it my Mexican Southern American Dutch fusion cuisine. I seem to be the only one who likes it! It is delicious and I am contemplating opening up a restaurant!

What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
So much! Ironically, people in America consider me to be such a liberal and here in Holland I seem to be the conservative one.  I always want to go look at Dutch Churches and always get disappointed to find out there is a cover charge because it is a disco or I need to have a reservation because it is a restaurant. Now I am being deprogrammed and admire the freedom of religion Holland has to offer.  I also love the birds and nature of Holland! Oh, and being shorter and brown-haired, I love all the tall blonde people! I also love that Holland has a Queen.  I want to meet her!  Secretly I want to be part of the Royal Family! Oh, and now that I have seen them, I want to live on a houseboat or in a windmill. I was shocked and happy to see that people really do wear wooden shoes! I bought a pair but never wear them because they hurt my feet. And of course The Tulips! When they are in season Tulips are affordable and beautiful.

What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
A lot, but I think this is because I am so new, not because it is Holland.  The fact that hoe (who) means how and wie (why) means who …I get sooo confused. And telling the time or anything having to do with numbers past twenty I am useless.  I do wish people stood in lines a bit better at the money machines and that Albert Heijn would give me more time to bag my groceries. I get so nervous and always seem to forget something as I rush to avoid the next person’s groceries combining with mine!  It rains a lot (I am experiencing my first winter) and learning to ride a bike. Apologies to any Dutch people whom I might have endangered with my bike riding.

What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
Where does all the water go? Sometimes I am driving along and the water next to us seems higher than we are? Every first Monday of the month I panic when the warning alarms go off! The damn (or Dyke) broke!  The water is coming! The Prostitution puzzles me too. I live near the Red Light district (right across the street) I am puzzled about how that all works over there, but I am not ready to figure the whole thing out. I have enough trouble figuring out the TNT

Ken with his bikeHow does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
I do not want to answer this question because at the moment I am like a kid in a candy store and everything is so exciting and new. So I think the quality of life is better here. I also was so very frustrated with the United States about politics and gay marriage and Republican versus Democrats, that I am still glad to be away from all that!  There are also many wonderful qualities of living in the US that I cherish and miss!

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

I would put it closer to the equator so I could get more sun.  I have never been so white. I need to start taking vitamin D or E or whatever! I would change very little about Holland.  Holland is unique and I like that. Well, okay, maybe some better Mexican or BBQ restaurants and grocery baggers. Oh and Starbucks….again, Oh and more ice in my glass please.

What advice would you give to a newcomer?

Don’t get used to Dutch people speaking to you in English! Don’t let Dutch people tell you not to learn Dutch! Try as hard as you can to speak it. Learn to love mayonnaise. Don’t ask what is in frikandel. Just eat it and enjoy it. Ride your bike without fear.  Look in every direction (even up and down) when crossing the street! Be aggressive when standing in line and bagging your groceries.  Oh and ask a Dutch person anything when you need to….they are very nice!

Would you like to add anything that we haven’t addressed in the questionnaire?
I have been writing a blog about my first 10 months here in Holland.  It is a humorous diary of my observations, experiences, suffering and confusions for the amusement of others…check it out at



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3 Comments To This Article

  • Ken Hardy posted:

    on 28th December 2009, 11:10:37 - Reply

    Daniel and Mary

    Thanks for the comments and Daniel they must have edited it out. I wrote how lovely it is to walk into a TNT and everyone is sooooo nice but that it takes anywhere from 2-8 weeks to get a letter. My Mailman just smiles at me and says yeah, sorry, I know, tomorrow, I am sure I will be receiving Christmas Cards for the next two months! Mary I will try that but I hope I do not get some angry Den Haagers yelling things at me or throwing Haggelslag at me!. (I will try it if i have a lot of groceries)
  • Mary posted:

    on 24th December 2009, 00:04:34 - Reply

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I am an American and have been living in the Netherlands for 5 years now. I loved hearing the insight and the HUMOR of this man as he shares his Netherlands experience. Thanks so much for writing this!!!
    LIke him, I wondered about why no Starbucks...but actually, I think I know why. I think Starbucks would have difficulty matching the coffee here if only in terms of ritual. They would have to alter their selection and also how they serve customers. Of course, I don't live in a big city. Perhaps in a place like Amsterdam. a Starbucks would work.

    I have figured out how to control the Albert Hein checkout problem he describes. The cashier can't begin ringing up the next customer until he or she tenders your sale. So, you can take charge by simply postponing payment until you have all your stuff packed up the way you want it. You can do this and be totally polite and friendly...while firmly standing your ground.

    Your blog is really fun and actually heart-warming. I thoroughly enjoyed your take on Sinter Klaus... Thanks again for writing!
  • daniel r gould posted:

    on 23rd December 2009, 14:03:38 - Reply

    I read the article twice. But not because I found it so interesting. The headline had mentioned that the expat was trying to understand the Dutch postal system. However, it was not in the interview text...I know because I read it twice.