Jenn in Holland
-Where were you born?
Ogden, Utah, USA
-In which country and city are you living now?
The Hague, The Netherlands
-Are you living alone or with your family?
I live with my husband and our three children.
-How long have you been living in Holland?
We moved to Holland in August 2005. At this writing, it’s been nearly 2 years.
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in the Netherlands?
Just about 4 years ago, my husband attended a professional conference here in The Hague. When he returned home, he returned with a head full of ideas about how to alter his career path so he could work in the International field. From there the discussion took us toward returning to school for a post-graduate degree. That is what brought us overseas. He was accepted at Leiden University for a year of study and at the end of the academic year was able to get a job in the field. That job is what has kept us here.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
In a word, yes. For reasons not fully understood, our applications for residency took an unbelievably long time to process. We seem to be unique concerning this. Others we know who moved from the USA received residency permits in a much more timely fashion. It was a long process full of hassles and headaches, but now we have our ID cards and are registered to live and work in The Netherlands.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
Originally, we applied for insurance through Leiden University; then secondarily through my husband’s work organization. It was a straightforward and simple process. There were no problems applying for or obtaining insurance.
-How do you make your living in Holland? Do you have any type of income generated?
My husband works full time for an International organization. He was locally recruited after we were already living here, and his registration card allows him to work. His employer does not require a specific work permit. Currently, I am a full time homemaker but will seek employment when our youngest child begins school next year.
-Do you speak Dutch and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
We make every effort to speak Dutch. One of the most comfortable aspects of our life in Holland is the fact that the Dutch are excellent linguists, and English is readily spoken everywhere. However, I feel it is important to make a real effort to learn the language of our host country and speak it to the best of our abilities. It just seems courteous.
It is an exciting prospect to learn about and participate in the local customs. We participate wherever it’s appropriate to do so. It definitely adds richness to the experience of living in a different country.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Of course, we miss our family and our friends from the US. We have certainly adapted to the foods and flavors of Dutch life, but occasionally we miss some of our comfort foods as well. The beauty of technology and international shipping allows us to be in close touch and to receive care packages from home and that is extremely pleasant.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
We hold no crystal ball for the future, and our answer to friends and others who ask, is that we will be here indefinitely. We do not know what may be coming next for our family. Our only plan now is to continue to enjoy and learn from this first experience of living outside of the USA.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
We live in a lovely area of The Hague and rent our home. Housing is rather expensive in this country since land and space are limited in the low lands. There are plenty of homes available, but you will pay a premium for the space, whether you are renting or buying.
-What is the cost of living in the Netherlands?
Housing is expensive. If you drive a car (which we do not), gasoline, insurance and parking fees are expensive. Everything else seems quite reasonable to me. We live a comparable lifestyle to what we enjoyed in the States. Daily living expenses run in the same range here as they did there.
-What do you think about the Dutch?
There are parts of adapting to a foreign culture that are difficult. The Dutch have some characteristics that are a bit off-putting; such as their propensity to scold, and their very upfront (read as rudeness) manner. Overall, they are good people; they take some getting used to, certainly. We truly enjoy our neighbors and our associates, we feel accepted and we are comfortable here.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Holland?
I am not fond of focusing on the negative things in life, but if I had to mention a few of the downsides, they would include the winter weather, the scolding Dutch, and the lack of space.
The upsides are tremendous. That list includes the ease of travel, the cultural family focus, the relative safety (very little violent crime in Holland) of the country, and the beautiful countryside. Oh, and the tulips aren’t bad either!
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in the Netherlands?
Learn the language. You may never have a real need to speak Dutch, but the locals will be so impressed that you made the effort.
Travel. The Netherlands is a small country but there is so much to see and take in. Spend time seeing it all.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Holland?
* I write about our experiences here, the good, the bad and the hilarious at Something to Say: about Life in The Netherlands.
* The information site for expatriates, which I occasionally browse and always come away with helpful information, is Expatica.com.
* In addition, the Expat Women site is a friendly, helpful place full of tips and information for new residents.