Sunday, March 8, 2009

Isabella in the Hot Seat - Interview with an Expat

Isabella is the American expat behind A Touch of Dutch, a popular blog with her informative (sometimes hilarious) musings on all things Dutch. She originally came to the Netherlands to work, but soon met a reason to stay and set up a permanent Dutch home.

How long have you been living in the Netherlands?
For almost 8 years.

What brought you initially to the Netherlands?
Work. But shortly afterwards I met my husband, which has kept me here on a permanent basis when we are not traveling for work.

What is your profession?
I work in banking/management.

What is the main difference between your country of origin and the Netherlands?
The part of America where I come from [San Francisco-region] and the larger cities of the Netherlands are almost identical! The same climate with season changes and also usually the same way of thinking. Politically liberal/open-minded and usually environmentally conscious. But the area where I live now, in Small Town, NL... This is different. I notice people are more conservative and private. It's harder to make a connection with some.

An example: The people on my street are tight-knit with each other, and I can actually feel this wall they've built-up to keep my husband and I out. I am not certain what it is, but they do make an effort to express their dislike for the way they believe things are done in America when they do speak to me.

I am usually too busy to let it bother me, but I notice these things when I go out of my way to extend myself. While I'm working in the front garden, I notice often they rush to get into their car or they look at their watch often and keep it very short. When I'm working in the back garden, they enjoy watching me from upstairs through their windows. I have become some sort of a sideshow.

What was the most surprising adjustment you needed to make when moving to the Netherlands?
While living in Amsterdam, there wasn't a lot of adjusting to do. I got along well with English, even though I was determined to learn Dutch.

Once we moved to Small Town, NL, I began to notice a lot of differences. I found it almost necessary to become more 'aggressive' in public. Waiting in line at the butcher shop, for example. Sometimes people don't want to wait their turn, for whatever reason.

I have had to learn to cope with listening to people complain often in public as well. Everyone seems to have something to say about everything. And some aren't afraid to say some offensive things about other people standing around them. This is considered a-social behaviour where I come from.

What would you miss most about the Netherlands if you were to leave tomorrow?
The honesty. The people are more honest.

What do you like least about the Netherlands?
How people here tend to walk in crowds. Not always, but I notice it often in the supermarket and in other public places. Once again, the 'aggressive' behavior becomes sometimes necessary in order to get from point A to point B. I rarely hear 'pardon' or 'mag ik hier even langs'.

What is your favourite Dutch word?
Many, but most of all the diminutives. Like boekje, taartje, hondje, zoontje... Anything can become a diminutive when in small form, and I have always gotten a kick out of this.

How would you describe the Dutch people?
They are not wasteful. For example, their time is used efficiently. They are organised. Their usage of small spaces here fascinates me, having grown up in a land where space was never an issue. The Dutch also aren't afraid to share their opinion or speak their mind.

Do you have any blogs or websites that you find enjoyable about the Netherlands for people living here?
Invader Stu's 'Invading Holland' blog was the blog which inspired me to write my own.

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