Expat Voices: Tiffany Jansen on living in the Netherlands

Expat Voices: Tiffany Jansen on living in the Netherlands

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American expat Tiffany loves the Netherlands: There is "less pressure and personal time is really valued here," she says. She is only niggled by "the lack of personal space and common courtesy."

Name: Tiffany Jansen    
Nationality: American
City of residence: Utrecht
Date of birth: January 24, 1983
Civil status: married
Occupation: currently awaiting work permit
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: Dutch husband
Lived in the Netherlands for 6 months

What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
To be honest, the flatness of the landscape didn’t concern me at all. I didn’t find it under- or overwhelming. What did impress me was the abundance of flowers and greenery for such a small country. The Dutch really know how to use their space wisely! You can also see this in the way their homes are set up as well. Organisation and space-savers are very important. Also, the openness of the windows; everyone has wide windows and don’t bother to block the outsiders’ view. They actually seem to be trying to enhance it. Privacy doesn’t seem to be an issue. I am also constantly amazed by the vast international community here as well.

Tiffany poses by the girl with the pearl earring
What do you think of the food?
Patat, stroopwaffels, Duo Penotti, kaas, broodje Mario… love it! I’ve become a huge fan of Indonesian food as well— having never experienced it before. I think the peanut butter tastes better. In addition to the fact that my vegetable intake has increased by leaps and bounds since moving here! And I hardly ever eat fast food anymore—the staple of the American diet! I hear people complain about the fast, cold lunches. But having been an expert in the eat-while-you-work department, cold sandwiches are completely normal to me.

What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
I haven’t done much of it, to be honest. I think I’m still subconsciously doing US dollar to euro conversions in my head and finding it a bit scary. I love stores like Hema, Blokker, and Xenos. They remind me a bit of the Dollar Store back home. You can find the funkiest, most interesting, and useful things in those stores! I also love window shopping and looking at the newest fashions. I’m still trying to get a feel for what’s out there and where to go to get the styles I like.

What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?

For a person who hasn’t cycled since she was 14, I have really embraced the cycling culture. It’s funny because that was one of the things I was dreading about coming here. I also like the more (dare I say it) socialist form of government—the idea that you take care of your people. It’s nice to know that I am insured and have good medical care. That’s something I always struggled with back in the US. The eco-friendly attitude is fantastic as well!

What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?

As earth-friendly as it is here, it is not so easy to recycle plastic and I have not found or heard of a place to go to recycle aluminium. There was also that time my husband and I went to Thialf. Apparently someone behind me wanted to get through—so he grabbed me by the shoulders and physically moved me aside. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the fact that people will go through great lengths to wriggle past you, but will never say “excuse me”.

 And the idea of customer service doesn’t seem to be big here. You can sit in a restaurant for an hour before someone will come by to take your drink order. And trying to do anything at the gemeente is a waste of time. Administration here is very backwards. I’m not really sure that anyone knows what’s going on half the time. Driving is a nightmare!

What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
Just the lack of personal space and common courtesy, I guess.

How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
I think people are happier here. There’s less pressure and personal time is really valued here. I still love the fact that no matter how cold it is outside or if it just finished raining cats and dogs, as long as there’s a glimpse of sun, the Dutch are outside and enjoying it. In droves!! And everyone’s taken care of medically. That’s huge!

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

Less rain. More sun.
Tiffany with her husband

What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Learn the language right away. Whether you’re staying for a week, a month, a year, or the rest of your life. It makes adjusting so much easier. Also get yourself out there and involved as much as possible. Join an expat group or an international club. It helps so much to know that you’re not the only one, nor will you be the last.

And take the time to sightsee and really get to know about your new home. Read up on the country’s history, try to follow the news in the Netherlands as best you can, frequent the museums, take your bike out and do some aimless cycling. It makes the transition so much easier!


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