Monday, February 9, 2009

Debby Poort in the Hot Seat - Interview with an Expat

Having relocated from the United States, Debby Poort married a Dutchman and integrated herself into Dutch society. She runs Yellow Wood, which offers therapy and counseling to the English speaking community in the Netherlands, as well as to the larger audience in Dutch.

One of the many issues she helps expatriates with is adjusting to their new life in the Netherlands. Debby tells me about her own journey adjusting to Dutch life.

How long have you been living in the Netherlands?
Since 2000

What brought you initially to the Netherlands?
Love brought me to the Netherlands. I moved here to marry a Dutchman.

What is your profession?
I am founder of Yellow Wood Integrative Psychotherapy Practice (, which provides therapy and counseling for adult expats. I offer sessions in Amstelveen and in Amsterdam at Aurora holistic health center ( I also give lectures and workshops on topics related to expat issues and personal growth. I recently started writing a column (Mental Chatter) for the monthly publication of Tulip Talk printed for the American Women´s Club of Amsterdam.

What is the main difference between your country of origin and the Netherlands?
One huge difference I notice is the attitude towards free time, people really “work to live instead of live to work” here. The fact that my husband works four days but it is still considered full-time is just not understood in America. Another biggy is the extensive bike paths and the amount of people who use them. Oh, and the cars, they are MUCH smaller here, but unfortunately, so are the parking spaces!

What was the most surprising adjustment you needed to make when moving to the Netherlands?
The language. Of course I knew that they spoke Dutch here but I never expected it to take as long as it did for me to master speaking it myself. Another surprising but pleasant discovery was not having to write thank you notes after receiving gifts. The downfall of this is not being able to find any printed thank you cards for family back home (who, by the way, still expect a card!).

What would you miss most about the Netherlands if you were to leave tomorrow?
The amount of vacation days my husband gets, socialised health care, good public transportation, bike paths and sidewalks, two grocery stores within walking distance, the mixture of cultures within the expat community, and of course all of the amazing friends that I have made here!

What do you like least about the Netherlands?
The weather. The weather. And oh, did I mention the weather?

What is your favourite Dutch word?
Lekker, because it can be used for everything; Lekker weer, lekker makkelijk, lekker op vakantie, lekker naar huis, lekker niks doen, lekker druk - the list goes on and on…

How would you describe the Dutch people?
From my perspective, as a woman who is 5 foot, 1 inch, the Dutch are tall, very tall! They don’t always live up to the stereotyped depiction of them as being very liberal, some are quite conservative. They can also be a bit pushy, and by that I mean literally pushy (like, don´t get caught standing too long looking at the meat aisle at the grocery store or you are bound to get shoved out of the way!) They have even been known to be rather blunt at times, telling you what they think of you, so watch out for this and you will be fine. But when all is said and done, the Dutch are warm people who are family oriented and who value their culture and way of life. They also love to travel, wherever we go we always hear Dutch being spoken, even half way across the world!

Do you have any blogs or websites that you find enjoyable about the Netherlands for people living here?
Expatica, Elynx, ACCESS, all chock full of useful information for expats!

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