Monday, April 27, 2009

Trying Out the Hotseat - An Interview with an Expat

Since the beginning of this year, I have been running this Interview With an Expat Series and have had lots of good feedback... and some of you have asked whether I would be interviewing myself, as it were. So here it is: An Interview With Myself

How long have you been living in the Netherlands?
I came to the Netherlands in 2000 to live.

What brought you initially to the Netherlands? My partner is Dutch, and the decision for me to come to the Netherlands, instead of him moving to the UK was ultimately based on our careers. The theory was that I could keep doing the same thing here as back home, but continuing his career in England involved retraining – and there were citizenship issues.

What is your profession? When I landed on Dutch shores, I worked in Human Resources. I am now a writer and own The Writing Well.

What is the main difference between your country of origin and the Netherlands?Apart from the obvious difference of language, the main difference would have to be the more social culture that exists in the Netherlands. This is apparent in many things but I see it most visibly when I am doing ordinary 'daily life' things; people saying hello when you enter a doctor’s or dentist’s waiting room; acknowledging each other in the lift instead of the British approach of head down and pretending you can’t see each other; saying hello in the street. It is all small-scale interaction but it is the type of interaction that you certainly can’t take for granted in England. When everyone greeted us the first time I walked into the doctor’s waiting room in the Netherlands I was genuinely shocked!

What was the most surprising adjustment you needed to make when moving to the Netherlands?
Real or perceived the most difficult thing was a sense of losing my independence. Landing in a country where everyone speaks a different language, having to find a new job and take what I could get instead of building my career further and generally not knowing how things worked made me feel reliant on my partner. Before I moved over, I was living in my own apartment on my own and extremely independent – that all changed as I struggled to find my ‘place’ in Dutch society.
What would you miss most about the Netherlands if you were to leave tomorrow?
Bikes, cycle paths and flat countryside! The cycling culture is fantastic – I had not cycled for many years before I moved over here and now I really enjoy it, and love the freedom of cycling just for fun.
I would also miss the fact that you can get in the car and be in one of many other countries within an hour or two of driving.

What do you like least about the Netherlands?
Customer service has to be right up there at the top of the list. I have never had so many issues with service providers as I have since coming to the Netherlands. The attitude of “if you don’t like it, find another provider” sticks in my throat. Customer service reps here don’t feel like they represent the company they are working for so discussions are made personal and so many times I have heard “It’s not my fault, I only work here”. What can you say to that? Resolutions are never easy once you have a problem with a provider. I feel like the tide is beginning to turn a little but the general acceptance amongst the Dutch that this is just the way it is really grates!

I also hate the lack of green space around me, and the greenery that exists is covered in dog poo. Why do Dutch dog owners think grass serves only as a dog toilet?

What is your favourite Dutch word?
Lekker. It was the first Dutch word I learnt, even before I moved here and it is such a versatile word that even my family use when they are visiting! If you say it referring to your meal then it means tasty… but you can also say use it to emphasise something… dat was lekker makkelijk – (that was really easy)… or doe lekker normaal…… ;-)

How would you describe the Dutch people?
Erm, here goes.. on the whole Dutch people are friendly but there is an underlying attitude of each to their own. This means people will just about do what they want, how they want when they want to do it – with no regard to anyone else. I am astounded by the noise and actions from my neighbours at times I believe unacceptable, seemingly oblivious to the fact that other people do actually live on their planet. Is this what is meant by the Dutch are very tolerant?

Do you have any blogs or websites that you find enjoyable about the Netherlands for people living here?
The Hague Online and Expatica are great. Parenting in Holland offers parents (to-be) fantastic resources and information and there are a few expat bloggers in the Netherlands that I also keep up to date with – A Touch of Dutch and Life Abroad.

No comments:

Post a Comment