An American in Holland: Tiffany's Learning the Language, Building Her Own Company, and Loving Expat Life in the Netherlands

For someone who has been living abroad for just under one year, Tiffany has made some impressive achievements. Here, this young American expat describes aspects of her life in her new home in Holland: some of her business plans, a few of the challenges she has had to deal with settling in another country, and just how much she loves living with her husband in the Netherlands.


Tiffany Jansen

-Where were you born?

Oakland, California, USA

-In which country and city are you living now?

Utrecht, The Netherlands

-Are you living alone or with your family?

With my dog (Turner) and husband (Bram)

-How long have you been living in the Netherlands?

Since December 8, 2009 (almost 9 months at the time of this writing)

-What is your age?


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

My husband is Dutch and we met when he was in the US on vacation, so when things started to get serious, we knew one of us was going to have to make a move to another country. The US economy being what it is and the fact that I was halfway through grad school and more or less jobless, it didn't take us long to figure out who it was going to be. Not to mention that trying to get into the US is 10 times worse than trying to get into the Netherlands – if you can imagine that!

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

The worst part was the waiting. I turned in my application 10 March, 2009. It was exceedingly expensive, but relatively easy to fill out as the US and the Netherlands have a pretty tight relationship. I finally got the actual document in June 2009. The expiration date? 10 March 2010. Gotta love Dutch bureaucracy!

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

Not at all. It was taken care of through my husband's work. Far easier to get insurance here than it is to get residency!

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

Right now I'm a floater. I do some freelance writing and a bit of nanny work. I'm still working with the company my mother and I started in the US in 2005 ( as writer and webdesigner. Hopefully, I'll have some of my craft wares on soon. I've also started my own company, Little Broadway, which is an 8-week after school musical theatre program.

-Do you speak Dutch and do you think it's important to speak the local language?

Only a month after I arrived, I started with a Dutch language class at a local university. I also regularly attend Let's Talk Dutch meetings through the International Women's Contact Utrecht of which I am a member, and my husband and I have Dutch Wednesdays and Sundays. I'll be picking back up with a year-long language course at the end of October, funded by the government.

For only having been here a little over half a year, my Dutch is pretty darn good! Learning the language of your new country is a MUST. Otherwise, you will never fully be able to integrate. Plus, it's just plain rude to make your home in a new country and expect everyone to speak your language just because you're too lazy to learn theirs. I can sympathize with those finding it not so easy – Dutch is an extremely difficult language!

-Do you miss home and family sometimes?

I do miss family and friends, although I don't miss the US as much as I probably should… Luckily, because of my father's job (he's a pilot for Delta Air Lines), my parents can fly anywhere for free and my brother, my husband, and I fly for incredibly low rates and usually sit in business class! As far as missing "home," the Netherlands is my home now and I absolutely love it here!

-Do you have other plans for the future?

Obviously, I'll be working on Little Broadway and increasing awareness of the program. I'd also like to get set up selling my handcrafted items. Becoming a writer is a dream I have realized over the past few years and I hope to make that a reality. Eventually, we'd like to start a family (with non-hairy children) and move into a house with a garden!

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

We live in a 2 bedroom apartment measuring 65 m². When my husband bought the place 6 years ago, he paid approximately €165K for it.

-What is the cost of living in the Netherlands?

Much more expensive than in the US! I've finally trained myself not to do Dollar to Euro conversions anymore, which lets me shop without constant heart attacks when I look at price tags!

-What do you think about the Dutch?

They're great! Extremely nice people. I do think it's funny that, no matter how crowded it is and how invasive they are when they push by you, no one ever utters an "excuse me," or "sorry." Once, I even had a man grab me by both shoulders and literally move me out of his way! The service is also very slow. But then, I think it's too fast in the US. I wonder if there's a country out there that has something somewhere in between?

In Utrecht, everyone speaks English and is more than willing to do so! This can hurt if you're actively trying to learn the language. In general, the Dutch are very helpful!

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

Obviously, you'll have to learn another language but, look on the bright side: you get to learn another language! You have to be flexible with the language, people, and cultures as they are different from your own. This helps you integrate better and become a better person, but can be trying at times.

The administration is terrible! I have never seen people take so long to do anything and no one seems to have the slightest bit of knowledge about what's going on. If you need something from city hall, plan to be there the whole day!

The waiters will let you sit and rot if you don't hunt them down so you can be served. However, it is nice to be in charge of when you are served and when you get the bill. No one's going to breathe down your neck wanting to know if they can get you anything else or if you are enjoying the meal or are ready for your check!

I have also fallen in love with the cycling culture and I'm tickled by how eco- and pet- friendly the Netherlands is. It thrills me to no end that I can take Turner out shopping and then to lunch, followed by a stroll in the park sans leash!

Health care is so much better here – a dream compared to the US! Not to mention the vacation benefits and sick, parental, maternity and paternity leaves! With the Dutch, you always know where you stand!

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

Be easy going – roll with the punches. As small as the Netherlands is, it is extremely rich in culture and history, so be sure to check out as many museums, parks, and castles as possible.

Many shops are closed or open late on Mondays and stores are usually closed by 6pm every day of the week except Thursdays when they stay open a bit later. The first Sunday of every month, stores are open. If you decide to wait until Sunday any of the other weeks that month, you'll be out of luck!

If you can, take some driving lessons or at least learn some of the basic driving theory here. Driving is very different and the Dutch take it very seriously.

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

Driving lessons?

jvenmans's picture

American driving licenses are only valid for six months in the Netherlands. Not only should you take lessons, but you need to pass their theory and practical exams as well, otherwise you are driving here illegally. If you have an accident under these circumstances the insurance carrier will not cover you.

You are lucky to live in

Zara's picture

You are lucky to live in Utrecht where Engliah is galore! Living in a Friesian village as I am I miss English desperately. I finally got a great job to teach English at Stenden University in Leeuwarden and that has helped me to fight my depression of living in a very isolated place. My12 year old daughter gets bullied when she tries to practise her English and practically no English is taught in the last two years of the primary school over here, although its compulsory.
I wish I were living in a more cosmopolitan area in the Netherlands! I love th fact that I can work for 3 days as a teacher.

my husband is also dutch and we are moving to holland

starznskys's picture

We are trying to figure out if it makes sense for us to make a preliminary trip to holland for me to register and get my work permit. I would like to start working right away when I get there. We need to be there by the end of October.

Living in Den Bosch for 3 months now..

Steph Gutierrez's picture

Holland is a great place! I love the art and many festivals they have. It's a very small country compared to were I'm from, Austinm, Texas. Very laidback and liberal just like Austin. And I have to admit I love the rain!!! Nice interview I agree with you on everything you have written! :)

Tiffany, Great discription

alba's picture


Great discription of the Netherlands. I am here for the same exact reasons as yours and with the same circumstances. Glad to hear your positive perspective. I couldn't have described the culture any better than you. Good luck with your knew life here.