Sunday, September 6, 2009

Linda Hemerik in the Hot Seat: Interview With a Dutch Expat

This week's interview has a twist to it, just to keep you all on your toes. Instead of interviewing an expat living in the Netherlands, this interview is with a Dutch expat living in the United States.

Linda has been living overseas for just over twelve years now. She started off her expat life in India, moved to Mexico and then returned briefly to the Netherlands before taking off to the US.

Linda's expat journey is a fascinating one and an article I have written about her will be appearing in due course on http://www.expatwomen.com/. She is an expat entrepreneur, who I met through http://www.expatwomenentrepreneurs.com/, and she is the CEO of US Unlocked - a US shopping and shipping service that allows you to buy the stuff from the States that, without a US credit card or address, you wouldn't normally have access to.

I asked Linda about what she misses about the Netherlands and what life in the US is like for a Dutchie.

What is the main difference between your host country and the Netherlands?
The Dutch are very direct in their interaction, which is not very well understood or appreciated here. The Americans are much more laid back. Another thing I have come to find out about Americans is that socialising is incredibly uncomplicated. Nobody expects a 5 star meal when they are invited to dinner. A BBQ or even ordering is perfectly fine.

What was the most surprising adjustment you needed to make living overseas?
This country is divided in Democrats and Republicans, while Holland has multiple political parties. When the elections were going on I found out that a few of my friends were voting Republican, while I had never thought about their political preference before and just assumed that all my friends more or less thought the same (democratic) way about things, judging from the same values that made us want to be friends. I had to really adjust to this and learn to not bring up politics anymore. It was a little weird.

What would you miss most about your host country if you were to leave tomorrow?
American holidays, like Memorial Day and 4th of July. I love the laid back way the Americans celebrate. For parades or fire works, they casually show up a few minutes before. In this area, people place chairs a few days before these events to guarantee a good spot. It amazes me every time that the chairs are still there, untouched, a couple of days later.

What do you like least about your host country?
That my kids are not allowed to go to school riding their bikes. For a Dutch person this is truly incomprehensible. It has to do with all the safety rules and prevention of liability issues you are subject to all the time here. They usually do not bother me too much, but this one does.

What is your favourite American word?
Awesome!

Are there any foods or products you miss from the Netherlands?
Dutch bread and deli meats! The first thing I always do is eat slices of bread, each one with a different type of meat on it. So good! The kids eat dutch breakfast toppings on their bread every morning. We always have a supply of Hagelslag, Vruchtenhagel en Gestampte Muisjes.

Is there a large (Dutch) expat community in your host location?
No, there is just one other dutch expat family.

What was the biggest challenge you faced moving overseas?
It was waiting for our visa while my husband was already working in the US. Our container was waiting for us here, our house was rented out already and I was hopping from one two bedroom apartment to the other with my 4 kids back in the Netherlands and living out of a suitcase. This lasted 3 months. As soon as we had our visa, we travelled the next day.

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