Sunday, November 8, 2009
Tiffany Jansen in the Hot Seat - Interview with an Expat
Tiffany Jansen is an American who has been living in the Netherlands for a little under a year now. She is carving a career for herself in creative and ingenious ways, and is a name you may have come across if you visit the expat sites.
How long have you been living in the Netherlands?
My plane landed at Schipol Airport on 7 December 2008, so not quite a year. My American dog Turner and I have been enjoying life in the Netherlands ever since!
What brought you initially to the Netherlands?
My husband is Dutch. We met through mutual friends while he was on vacation in the US and got tired of the long distance thing pretty quickly, so we decided to get married. Because I was back in school for my Masters and he was the one with a steady, good paying job, it was clear that I would be the one to make the move. The wedding was on 29 November 2008 after which we did a quick honeymoon before packing my suitcases, grabbing the dog, and hopping on the plane!
What is your profession?
With the economy being what it is, my limited work experience, and my not quite being fluent in Dutch, I have been having a beast of a time trying to find a job here. So I sort of made my own. I started a company called Little Broadway (http://littlebroadway.webs.com/) which travels around to international schools holding an 8-week musical theater program. I just registered at the Kamer van Koophandel and have 2 schools lined up so far. I also sell some of my handmade knitted items on Etsy.com (http://www.stuffmadewithyarn.etsy.com/) and do some freelance writing and the sporadic nannying gig.
What is the main difference between your country of origin and the Netherlands?
People in the Netherlands are far more physically active. The cycling is a big factor that comes to mind. Americans are so ridiculously dependent on their cars. Also the portion sizes are much smaller here and the food is healthier overall. I love the way that Europeans in general treat animals. I remember being on a bus in the US and reading a sign above the driver saying “No food, drugs, weapons, animals, or other hazardous material.” I, for one, get a kick out of being able to take my hazardous material out shopping with me followed by a nice cup of coffee in a restaurant (he usually gets served first!) and then a lovely walk in a number of beautiful parks sans leash. If I want to take my hazardous material on a bus or a train, all I need to do is buy him a ticket. Don’t even get me started on politics, healthcare, etc!
What was the most surprising adjustment you needed to make when moving to the Netherlands?
Learning how to cook. I never cooked in the US and my parents rarely ever did. We were extremely busy, so we always ate out and hardly ever ate together as a family. It’s also loads cheaper to eat out in the US than it is to cook in. The idea of grocery shopping and cooking every day blew me away. Now I love cooking and trying new recipes and having friends over for dinner!
What would you miss most about the Netherlands if you were to leave tomorrow?
My bike, my friends, the International Women’s Contact Utrecht, healthcare, the exotic feeling of being a foreigner, being able to use my Dutch as I learn it, the tradition of bringing flowers or wine for your host/hostess, windmills, canals, the rich history, cheap and easy-to-use public transportation
What do you like least about the Netherlands?
The weather, of course! I know that’s what everyone says, but it is a big deal. The days get so ridiculously short and sometimes you forget what the sun looks like. I hardly ever got sick in the US, but have been ill constantly since arriving here. I think it’s the wetness in the air from all the rain and being so close to the canals. On the flipside, when the sun does come out, everyone’s out in it, no matter what the weather’s like otherwise. And during the summer, the sun doesn’t go down until around 11pm!
What is your favourite Dutch word?
I would have to say borstenhouder. You’ve gotta hand it to the Dutch for calling it exactly what it is!
How would you describe the Dutch people?
Extremely open-minded and friendly. I’ve even had people at the supermarket take the time to correct my Dutch or teach me how to say something new. Every time I walk Turner, at least one person makes it a point to stop me and tell me how beautiful he is and, in general, they’re quick to smile or give a quick “Hallo” or “Goedemorgen/middag/avond” as they walk by. They’re straightforward and honest, at times to a fault. They cycle as though they’re on a kamikaze mission, and their driving’s just about the same. I’ve heard a lot about Dutch ‘rudeness’ which I’ve experienced extremely little of. I’d have to say the biggest shock was at Thialf with my husband when a guy from behind grabbed me by the shoulders and literally moved me to the side and out of his way.
Do you have any blogs or websites that you find enjoyable about the Netherlands for people living here?
Of course, there’s my blog Clogs and Tulips: An American in Holland at http://clogsandtulips.blogspot.com/. Others are:
http://www.2bdutch.nl/, http://letterfromthenetherlands.blogspot.com/, http://atouchofdutch.blogspot.com/, www.expatica.com/nl, http://www.access-nl.org/, http://www.howtosurviveholland.nl/, http://www.expatexchange.com/, http://dutchnews.nl/