A Brazilian-Japanese in the country of unpredictable weather: Perks and challenges of living in the Netherlands

The unpredictable weather isn't the only thing Patricia has had to adjust to since moving to the Netherlands in 2008. Like many others, expat life for her has had its downs, but it has also had its exhilarating ups. This expat medical students shares her thoughts on what it's like to live and study in Holland, her observations about regional differences in attitudes, and her advice about giving living in the Netherlands a test run before actually making the big move.


-Where were you born?

I was born in the province São Paulo in the city of Campinas, southeast of Brazil

-In which country and city are you living now?

I'm living in the Netherlands, in Deventer, Overijssel.

-Are you living alone or with your family?

I live with my husband.

-How long have you been living in the Netherlands?

Since January 2008 , so a little bit more than a year and a half.

-What is your age?

I'm 26 years old.

-When did you come up with the idea of living in the Netherlands?

During the new year of 2006 in Paris when my husband and I noticed during that second time we actually met (the first was during my summer vacations of 2006 in the Netherlands) that it shouldn't be only a vacation love, we decided to see if it would be possible to start a life together somehow in Brazil or in the Netherlands. He couldnt find a job in Brazil and I got the chance to finish my medical studies here. So that's the reason I'm here today.  

-Was it hard to get a visa or a work permit?

It was a lot of work. In my case my partner should have a minimum income (this information can be found in the website of IND) and you need some documents (birth certificate, declaration that you're single and everything should be translated to Dutch or English by a certified translator - a list can be found on the website of the Dutch embassy).

You will also need to pass an exam, the basis examenin burgering, that consists of answering questions about Dutch history, Dutch habits (book with questions and answers and everything else for the exam can be bought in the NL), also questions about opposite words and repeating some sentences. If you pass, you get a paper that together with all the docs should be sent for approval, and if everything goes right you pay for your MVV ( it was around 800 euros). When you get here you need to register and later you get another visa (around 200 euros).  I can tell that it is a lot of work but if you meet all the requirements there is no reason to be worried. But it 's expensive, I need to say.

-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?

No, this could be easily arranged in the Netherlands by my partner. But when you get your new visa here you need another type of insurance, the same type Dutch inhabitants also have. 

-How do you make your living in Holland? Do you have any type of income generated?

At this moment I've just gone back to university. Currently doing the 4th year in medical school. My husband is tha one who works. I've tried finding a job during my first months here but without speaking Dutch there's not much you can do here in the region where I live (I think it's slightly different if you are in the Randstad where more foreigners live). I would advise others to look for job agencies like Randstad (tempo-team) and you can also check it out online via monsterboard.nl.

-Do you speak Dutch and do you think it's important to speak the local language? Please add your thoughts on local customs and whether it's important for expats to respect/observe local customs.

I think at this moment my Dutch is pretty good. I still have some problems when it comes to writing in a more elaborate way, but I think it's good for now. I believe that if you want to have a complete life here in the Netherlands you need to speak the language and to do it good. Speaking Dutch is the most important thing if you want to make it work here.

What I can tell about the Dutch. I think if you ask a Dutch person, he/she may give you a standard answer, like tolerant, happy...or they will answer you with another question: people from which part in the Netherlands, you mean. There are many differences among Dutch people. People in the north and south are more into themselves and people in the west are more open.

But in general, Dutch people are tolerant because they respect the individuality of one another and not really because they accept another point of view. They are very systematic; for example, everything should be done via appointement (afspraak) what also includes social events. So don't be surprised if you ask your new Dutch friend if he wants to come over and he comes up with an agenda to check if there's time available.  Anyways, no matter how strange some Dutch customs may seem to be, I would advise you to observe and try to understand before you make a pre-judgement.

-Do you miss home and family sometimes? Describe your favorite recreational activities there or those that are available.

Yes, a lot. Especially my friends in Brazil and the food. Well, I love to travel and every time I get a break I try to book something. That's the advantage of being in Europe, you can go everywhere in no time and that shouldn't be expensive. I'm trying to make some time for hobbies. I love music and I really want to do something about it: learn how to play an instrument or to dance.  

-Do you have other plans for the future?

I want to travel, travel, travel. I have a long list of places to visit and I hope I can make it before having kids. I will be finishing my studies in 2012 and I want to move. Deventer is a gorgeous city but there is not much to do here. I wish I can find a good hospital to specialize and then a job that doesn't mean no free time. Another point is that I want to meet more people here.

-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?

The first year we were living in a rented apartment (around 500 euro per month) but now we have bought a house, cheap one (around 135,000 euro) but we have a lot of luck with the place and everything else. Because it was cheaper we got some money to do some building in the house (new bathroom, new kitchen, some repairs). The location is awesome, just behind the station. This is very useful for us because we're totally dependent on the public transport. The east is cheaper if you want to buy a house or apartment. If you can get a higher mortgage you can also buy a converted farm, that means huge houses.

-What is the cost of living in the Netherlands?

Very expensive. A lot of your income goes for taxes (around 40% that includes pension funds too) and you need to pay the health insurance (around 100 euro per person), personal insurance, the mortgage (around 700 euro but you get some of the money back from the government under certain circumstances) and house insurance. The Dutch LOOOVVE insurance.

-What do you think about the Dutch?

I felt myself in the beginning a little discriminated against, but I noticed later that it comes from the low educated people, also bad for other people. If you speak Dutch, you can tell that it makes a world of difference in how you're treated. It also depends on where in the Netherlands you are. As I said in the big cities where people are more used to foreigners, you will have less problems with discrimination. 

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Holland?

Positive: beautiful landscapes, everything is very organized, the Dutch are very family-oriented people.

Negative: it is difficult to make real friends, following procedures for almost everything, the weather (too hot, too cold, too windy and unpredictable)

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in the Netherlands?

I've read a book called The Undutchables. It's funny and gives you some sense of how life here is. And a tip I would give is: before moving for good, try to live for some time here (3 months for example). Not just as a tourist but try to see what daily life is like before you make a  definitive choice.  

-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Holland?






Rafdelima's picture

Oi Patricia,

Eu sou brasileiro tambem e achei legal q vc expos sua visao aqui.
Eu estou indo estudar na Holanda (Utrecht) em 2010 e ja estive ai duas vezes, eu gostei mto mas a visao de quem ta passeando nunca e a mesma de quem esta trabalhando/estudando.
Ja morei na Escocia e moro na Irlanda - estou indo p/ fim de ano no Brasil e ano que vem talvez volte a Irlanda p/ 1o semestre. Em Utrecht so no comeco de Agosto. Eu costumo achar os holandeses simpaticos - nada especial como nos que falamos por horas com quem mal acabamos de conehcer. Mas achei eles sempre bem-educados. Sempre imaginei como seria na terra deles.
Bom, vou te adicionar aqui para poder escutar suas opinioes aqui, ok?

Um abraco

Are you still iving in the

Zara's picture

Are you still iving in the Netherlands? Living in Friesland in a village as I am I do understand your point of view on discrminaton. Indeed the low educated people not used to foreigners even call the Chinese 'neger'!