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From the Ukraine to the USA to the Netherlands: On the Same Page

24 March, 2014 10:10  Erin Erin

On the Same Page

Hi, I’m Alla! “Where are you from?” is question that I always follow up with “Well, how far back do you want me to go?”  I was born in Ukraine, then when I was 10 my family moved to New York.  I went to college in Illinois and studied abroad in Spain and Italy. A brief stint in California followed, you know, to surf in Malibu, and admire some real cowboys.

This is when I realized that “home” is not about a geographic location, it’s about what you internalize by living there. I now find myself back on the European continent, this time my home is in the green and lush Netherlands living with my husband and our two little boys.  

1. Why did you move abroad?
I met my Dutch husband through work. I was working in the New York office and he in the Dutch office of our company. After sometime working together ‘virtually’ we realized that we had lots in common, and he got on a plane and came to visit me in NY! Imagine that for a blind date!? After that a whirlwind year of cross continental dating ensued. We’d fly to meet each other at exotic destinations, and on the 1 year anniversary of our first date I moved to the Netherlands.

2. How do you make a living?
I’m in International Business so finding a job in my field was no problem. Most companies here do business internationally and English is the business language. After 6 years of corporate duty, I’m now going through a very exciting time of developing my own company with my best friend from Chicago. We’re building a platform to connect travel lovers and culture hunters with brands that help to satisfy our wanderlust. On our blog we promote living with a travel mindset and having adventures even when we’re home. We’re aiming to launch the platform portion this spring…!  

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I talk to my family every day. I use Google hangouts for video chats and Viber for free calls. It’s also how I conduct many of my business meetings with collaborators all over the world. I love technology!  

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Amsterdam?
I love Amsterdam because it’s so International. Walking down the street you see people of all colors talking in different languages. In that sense it’s very similar to NYC and what I used to love most about it. It’s also a small place so it’s easy to figure out and become a ‘local’ quickly.  
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Amsterdam?
There is really no “worst” thing about it! It’s a perfect little patch in this world! BUT I guess I would not mind Amsterdam to be a bit more exotic and different. Like I said, I find it very much like NYC in spirit (After all NY was once New Amsterdam…) and as an expat you sort of expect to feel like you’re in a ‘foreign’ country. I honestly never felt that big of a transition moving here from NY. I love a challenge and I guess it would have been more fun if Amsterdam was more different.

6. What do you miss most?
Mexican food!!! Yes, what I miss the most about the US of A is good Mexican food.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I had a very specific plan to help me integrate which I executed with almost military precision. Upon arrival, while waiting for my documents to come through, I volunteered at an organization that helps expats ( and this immediately gave me a chance to keep my resume skills current as well as meet people. I also met many people through meetups and I’m now a member of Internations which is a great place to get together with like minded international people.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
The obsessive use of an agenda or planner is something I found very strange initially. If you want to plan something with a Dutch person be it a coffee date, dinner or some other social outing, be prepared that it may only be scheduled 2 to 3 months in the future. It only gets worse if you’re making plans with a couple as both of them will need to “check their agendas”. Spontaneity is just not in the Dutch vocabulary.

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
I’m not really aware of any myths about the Netherlands. Maybe that everyone is really tall. Which is no myth, it’s the truth! I guess a more general myth about the Europeans is that they’re very knowledgeable about the world and the United States in particular. While it’s true that they’ve watched every single “Friends” episode, but that’s pretty much as far as their knowledge of the US extends to. I guess we’re all guilty of having pre-conceived notions about each other and I think the best way to really learn about another culture is not through tv shows or media but through friends from all over the world.  

10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?

I find Amsterdam to be more expensive then Manhattan which is mind boggling. I’m in a different life stage now then when I lived in Manhattan so my lifestyle is different because of that rather then cost of living. One thing for sure is that no matter where you live there are always ways to burn through your money quickly!

11. What advice would you give other expats?

The one most important advice I would give is to meet as many people as possible upon your arrival and start making friends! Having your own friends will not only provide you with a network of people to learn from, but also help create a grounding base that will make your transition so much smoother and more fun too.

On The Same Page amsterdam 12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started blogging first in 2005 when I was a single gal in New York City. Then my blog transitioned to being an expat-blog when I moved to the Netherlands in 2007. Moving to anther country is such an amazing experience but after about 2 years the novelty wears off… and this is exactly why last year my friend and I started On The Same Page Blog. We want to examine what it is that makes us so happy when we travel and when we’re getting to know a new culture, and why do we take for granted places we live in. If there is a way to figure out how to “live like you’re traveling”, you can always live with the sense of wonder and spirit of discovery of an expat without having to move to a new country! 

Blog LinkAlla's blog, On the Same Page

  Guide for expatriates in Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Guide to Amsterdam


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