Sunday, February 22, 2009

Milena Vargas in the Hot Seat - Interview With an Expat

Although she has been living for less than eighteen months in the Netherlands, Milena Vargas has already set up her own business in the Dutch capital. She talks to me about ChaChaBabies, her reason for moving abroad and the notable differences between the Netherlands and Canada.
How long have you been living in the Netherlands?
Since November 2007.

What brought you initially to the Netherlands?
I am married to a Dutch man. We lived in Toronto for 4 years then I decided to move to the Netherlands.

What is your profession?
I have a business administration college diploma from Canada. I currently have my own business called ChaChaBabies operating in Amsterdam. I teach women how to dance to different music and they have their babies as their dance partners. Moms can hold their babies in a carrier and dance to the beat of; Latin music, Waltz, Soca, Arabic and so much more. Rhythm and music options are endless.

What is the main difference between your country of origin and the Netherlands?
Canadians are very polite and tactful. Dutch people are very upfront and too honest which borders on rudeness and impoliteness. That was a shocker for me.

Dog poo on the streets. People do not pick up after their dogs. I do not see this in smaller towns though.

What was the most surprising adjustment you needed to make when moving to the Netherlands?
The way of living and moving around. In Canada, everything is so convenient; shopping centers, supermarkets (packing groceries for you) and drug stores. All can be found with one-stop-shopping. Here you need to go to so many different places to fetch things. I found myself crying many times, feeling like a pinball – from here to there and there to here and back again.
What would you miss most about the Netherlands if you were to leave tomorrow?
The active social life Dutch people have.

What do you like least about the Netherlands?
Small spaces, it is overcrowded with people. And the weather: sometimes I go weeks without seeing a single ray of sun, which can be a little disappointing.

What is your favourite Dutch word?
Paddestoel (ed. Means mushroom / toadstool / fungus)

How would you describe the Dutch people?
They are very friendly, but they keep to their circle of friends. It is sometimes hard to break through. They have a very active social life and I think it is because they feel the need to connect with other people as a “therapy” in a way as they have to cope with a lot of external factors (work, weather etc). They are always socially busy and networking plays a big part in their lives - more than Canadians, I would say.

I have never seen a culture that worships the sun so much as the Dutch culture. Well, Holland does not get much sun and when the clouds are gone and the sun is out... my goodness, I can describe the city being under a ‘sun spell’. In addition to that, all commercial activity is shut down by at least 85% on Sundays, except the Sundays Tanning Salon. This is bizarre.

Do you have any blogs or websites that you find enjoyable about the Netherlands for people living here?
Expatica, Parenting in Holland and Elynx

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