-Where were you born?
Tel Aviv, Israel
-In which country and city are you living now?
Bussum, the Netherlands (between Amsterdam and Utrecht)
-Are you living alone or with your family?
With my British husband and our three daughters, age 12, 9 and 7.
-How long have you been living in the Netherlands?
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in the Netherlands?
We were living in North London with 2 young girls and were desperate to get out of the big city and change scene. My husband was also looking for a change from his solicitor career. When a job offer to move into the international business world in Holland came his way, we literally didn't think twice.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
Not an issue, being EU citizens. Just a lot of paper work!
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
E-a-s-y. So long as you pay, you get the cover…
-How do you make your living in the Netherlands? Do you have any type of income generated?
I am a qualified nutritionist and in London had my practice. When we moved here there was too much going on what with a relocation, 2 young children and a baby on the way. Four years ago, when our youngest was about to start full-time schooling (age 4), I decided to go back to work as a nutritionist. Since then I have had two books published in the Netherlands; I give private nutritional consultations; work closely with companies at Health & Wellness events; write for several websites and publications; and serve as an industry trend-tracker and consultant. My hands are full, and they are the ones that got me to where I am now.
-Do you speak Dutch and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
My Dutch is more than enough for casual conversation, daily affairs and even TV and newspaper interviewing… But I do not feel as confident or fluent in it as in the other languages I speak. Most Dutch people speak reasonable to excellent English; it must be the easiest country in Europe to get by in English.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Home is Israel, where I grew up for the first 26 years of my life, 5 minutes from a beautiful Mediterranean beach. I miss the SUN, light and heat very much and the palpable human warmth, but get my annual 'homeland fix' every summer, when we go there for 7 weeks and have one big, long, non-stop party in shorts and sandals, surrounded by people who love us lots. We go to the beach, spend hours by the pool, visit friends and family and travel around the fascinating country that Israel is.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
Many, most of which include travel, but I try to live in the present and not get caught up in too much planning.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
The common advice here is that if you intend to live here for more than 3 years, you'd be better off buying than renting. So we did. Without us realising it at the time, we ended up living in one of Holland's nicest areas ('t Gooi), towns (Bussum) and neighbourhoods (het Spiegel). Prices are very high here and houses are very much in demand.
-What is the cost of living in Holland?
Holland isn't cheap, certainly if you take into account the whopping income tax charged if you're not under the 30% rule (which exempts you from paying income tax on the first 30% of your income; it's applicable to most expats). When we moved here, in 2000, everything was 15-20% cheaper than in the UK, but prices have gone up significantly when the euro made its appearance. Car and petrol prices are the highest in Europe, and housing is also very expensive. But some services (e.g. state-subsidised international schools, public sports facilities, and, since the change in law, medical insurance) are excellent value for money.
-What do you think about the Dutch?
The Dutch mind not only their business, but yours as well: they like to 'educate' you with their reproachful stares should you 'misbehave'. Dutch people can also be very rude, and the service mentality here is abominable: as the customer you are by definition at fault. On the whole the Dutch are fairly cold, cliquey and not the kind you'd signal out as full of joie de vivre. The dinner party culture is by and large foreign to them, making socialising awkward. Still, it's always down to the individual and we have met some lovely people here. However, where we have made inroads into Dutch society, it's been invariably with international Dutch people – mixed marriages, or those who have lived abroad for many years.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in the Netherlands?
Holland is a safe, clean, practical, green and pleasant country to live in. Out of the big cities, it's a haven for children, who can and do have their independence here very early on. You can also cycle everywhere, which is a real joy. So long as you stick to the rules and behave yourself, no one will bother you too much. One more thing we like about Holland is that the Dutch don't make a big fuss about anything, so you won't come across the sometimes hysterical attitudes to, say, safety or health that you see in other nations.
The only real downside of living here is the grim, grey, cold and wet weather. You end up wearing the same clothes (in ubiquitous black-brown-grey) 10 months of the year. Yuck. Oh, and if you like good food, don't come here. The Dutch are as good with cuisine as the Germans are with humour.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in the Netherlands?
There are loads of good things here, including plenty of expats and a nice international feel.
Learn some basic Dutch and learn from the Dutch, who must be the most physically active European nationals, way into old age.
Holland is a small country and public transport tends to be good, so you can live in a nice countryside-like place (where your money will get you a larger house or garden) and still be 20-30 minutes from the centre of town. It's an option worth exploring if you're going to work in one of the big cities.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about the Netherlands?
If you have an interest in nutrition, health and self-care, check out my website, you'll find lots there – www.forgoodness-sake.com.
Want to shop for health food in Holland? (now there's a challenge for you!) Then check out this article -
For the best Dutch teacher in Holland (Sylvia Clements) who'll teach you Dutch quicker than you ever thought possible, using an unusual and creative method
The two books which I co-authored are:
Snoep Goed (Healthy Sweets & Treats for Children)
Koken in Kleur (Cooking In Colours)