Monday, January 19, 2009

Dave Hampton in the Hot Seat - Interview with an Expat

Dave Hampton is an American scientist residing in the Netherlands and captures his thoughts on expat life in his blog, 'Random Walks in the Low Countries'.

How long have you been living in the Netherlands?
Two years

What brought you initially to the Netherlands? A job opportunity; a lead role in a medical diagnostic device company with operations in the Netherlands. I had just completed a business degree in England and wanted to cement the theory to practical work in Europe.

What is your profession?
I’m a biomedical scientist creating new products and services for treating acute medical conditions. In the Netherlands, I’ve been leading small business teams that take fresh approaches to diagnosing acute cardiac emergencies, demonstrating that the technology works and that it makes a difference in patient care. I also extend these activities through university teaching and professional lecturing and writing.

What is the main difference between your country of origin and the Netherlands?
The pace and richness of life. The Dutch cities are more compact and diverse, and I’m more likely to walk to the stores or to meet someone in a pub than in the US. I enjoy the traditional city cores and country villages, and the way that culture and cuisine changes with an hour’s travel. Each locale has its own history and traditions, and it pays to slow down and talk with people, to visit the churches and walk the waterfronts, .

What was the most surprising adjustment you needed to make when moving to the Netherlands?
Adapting my everyday shopping routine to Dutch practices. There is less room in cupboards and refrigerators, so I make daily rather than weekly trips and buy less each time. I go to specialty stores more often, and buy baked goods instead of making them myself. It can be a challenge to find where particular goods are sold: it took weeks to discover that mousetraps are sold from the pet store.

What would you miss most about the Netherlands if you were to leave tomorrow?Their balance in life, especially the clean division between work and leisure. The Dutch protect their personal time, and the enforced leisure during evenings and on Sundays encourages family activities, hobbies, and travel. I’d also miss having opportunities to explore European history and culture, and the sidewalk caf├ęs for sharing conversation and watching people.

What do you like least about the Netherlands?
Neighborhood relationships can be unforgiving if I don’t do the social rituals properly. It’s a challenge finding locals willing to speak the language with me so that I can improve my Dutch. And, more recently, the cobblestones can get unbelievably icy in the winter.

What is your favourite Dutch word?
Kakkerlak (ed: means cockroach), just because the clattering sound of it is so evocative of the insect it describes.

How would you describe the Dutch people?
The Dutch people are very self-confident and centered; they take pride in their work and are very engaged with their families. In conversation, they are always knowledgeable about the world and enjoy talking about ways to improve social structures. They have a quirky sense of humor and I like the way that they embellish roundabouts with random bits of art.

Do you have any blogs or websites that you find enjoyable about the Netherlands for people living here?
I follow about a dozen blogs that offer infrequent observations on Dutch life. Among them, I especially like the news summaries from Expatica and the advice and pointers in “Touch of Dutch”.

If you would like to feature in this weekly series and share your views on being an expat in the Netherlands, please contact me at

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