Sunday, August 9, 2009

Stephanie Owen in the Hot Seat - Interview with an Expat

Stephanie Owen is a fellow English woman and a relative newbie in the Netherlands. Her tale of impulsively sailing over the puddle that is the North Sea for the love of a Dutchman is one that rings many bells for me. Here is Stephanie's take on life so far as an expat in the Netherlands.
How long have you been living in the Netherlands?
I came across on the ferry on March 1st 2009 with my other half. I can’t believe it’s been 5 months already, still feels like I’m on holiday!

What brought you initially to the Netherlands?
The afore-mentioned other half is Dutch. We met through a travel website and lived together previously in London though I am from Yorkshire. Jaap was offered a temporary transfer by his employer to their London office and asked me to move in with him prior to my rather impulsive decision to move back to The Netherlands with him on a permanent basis!

What is your profession?
I am unfortunately still eagerly job-hunting at the moment. As you can probably appreciate it is not the best time to be doing so in the current economic climate and with me only having a limited knowledge of the Dutch language so far it is proving difficult. English speaking jobs are not easy to come by. So in between the job-hunting and lingo learning I am enjoying wandering off the beaten track and exploring this lovely little country, gathering information for my travel blogs.

What is the main difference between your country of origin and the Netherlands?

There are so many, it’s difficult to pinpoint but the whole atmosphere and way of life is so much slower and more relaxed here. I think the major thing that needs mentioning is the public transport system. It is such a novelty to have trains which actually show up on time! To the minute! It’s wonderfully organized and something we are not used to back in good ol’ Blighty.

What was the most surprising adjustment you needed to make when moving to the Netherlands?
Again, I could name several, aside from the obvious problems with the lingo and driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, which I am still not used to yet, I would have to say the bizarre, short shopping hours, particularly for grocery shopping. The country comes to a complete standstill on a Sunday. It frequently caught me out when I first moved here – running out of milk then realizing you can’t pop to your local corner store or supermarket. In fact many of the shops in Vlaardingen city centre do not open during the week either, some trade for only 3 days a week?!

What would you miss most about the Netherlands if you were to leave tomorrow?
It would definitely have to be the wonderful canals. I am a typical Piscean and adore the water, I absolutely love to visit the old towns such as Delft, Gouda, etc and gaze for hours on end enviously at the houseboats which I certainly intend to own one day - not to mention the great ‘floating restaurants’ (Oh and also stroopwafels they are absolutely divine, I could live on this local delicacy alone!)

What do you like least about the Netherlands?
The terrible drivers! The vast majority of Dutch drivers seem to have a complete disregard for others and for the rules of the road. I consider myself a bit of a speed demon but also a good driver, at least I am not completely oblivious to others on the road. The flat landscape also takes a little getting used to, I do miss the beautiful, hilly scenery of Yorkshire.

What is your favourite Dutch word?
Dankjewel. Perhaps a boring choice, but the first Dutch word I learnt and very important to a stereotypical, polite English person as myself.

How would you describe the Dutch people?
I have to say I find the majority of Dutch people I have encountered to be very ‘multi-faceted’. On the one hand people here seem to be very friendly - I love the fact that almost all complete strangers say hello to you in the street and randomly strike up conversation but then on the other hand they are very direct, abrupt and to the point about certain matters, which many ‘buitenlanders’ may mistake for rudeness or even aggressiveness. Back on a positive note, they are wonderfully organized and reliable but laid back at the same time, cheese-lovers, beer-lovers and fiercely patriotic. I fit in well here!

Do you have any blogs or websites that you find enjoyable about the Netherlands for people living here? has been very helpful to me since I arrived, I think every topic you could possibly think of is covered on this website. It can also be used as a social networking site to meet other expats or simply to discuss issues on the various forums. is a new social networking website (similar to Facebook) which is ready for official release early next month and will hopefully be a huge success. has to be my favourite website of all time, though not aimed at expats, it is a fabulous travel blog website where I record my adventures here in The Netherlands. It is an invaluable source for impartial travel advice from tourist attractions to restaurants and hotels etc.

Feel free to look me up on any of these sites. Username: Moshers_Moll I would appreciate any comments on my blogs and/or pictures as it is my dream to be a freelance photographer or even travel writer one day.

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