From the USA to Canada to the Netherlands: Diary of an Urban Housewife
Hi! I’m Kate, an American expat currently living in Amsterdam, Netherlands. We are fairly nomadic as we have moved around quite a bit having lived in 8 different cities in the U.S. before moving to Vancouver, B.C. in Canada to give the whole “expat” thing a try, once we realized we liked it we knew Europe was next!
1. Why did you move abroad?
We moved abroad for my husbands work. He is a video game producer (every little boys dream haha) , so when one project ends we usually move, well when his project ended in Canada I said I would only move again if we went to Europe...it had always been my dream to live in Europe and get the opportunity to show our daughter Europe.
2. How do you make a living?
My husband is the sole income earner, sometimes I do a bit of freelance writing or curriculum organizing for a company back in the states, but usually I just support my husband so he can support us!
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
That really depends...sometime we talk everyday and sometimes we only talk once a week or so...this day in age with the internet really makes things easy to keep up with our loved ones with very little cost. I keep in most contact with my mother/father, and brother through FaceTime and Facebook messenger and my best friend through WhatsApp. My in-laws we call once a week via skype phone service. That seems to be the best deal out there for international calling.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Amsterdam?
I love the culture. The Dutch can be very easy going, but at the same time look out for each other. I also like that my teenager has the freedom to explore here and many parents share our parenting philosophy.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Amsterdam?
This will seem really silly but honestly the worst thing is customer service. From restaurants to movie theaters to regular shops customer service leaves much to be desired here. It was quite infuriating at first, but now we just tell our friends oh, that is just how it is.
6. What do you miss most?
I don’t really have a long list of things I miss, but good restaurants at a reasonable price tops the list. In the US you can get a decent meal with good service for a good price, but here to get that combination of things you are looking at paying a fairly hefty price tag. Going out to eat is something we did weekly in the US as it was a nice change of pace for all of us, but here that just isn’t possible and it is kind of irritating.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
My husband works with many people who are native to The Netherlands so we go out with them quite a bit and they showed us the ropes, we had those same people over for game nights. A few of the other spouses from my hubby’s work created an expat spouses group and we get together monthly for dinner or drinks; this allows us the opportunity to commiserate on what it has been like here and lift each other up. I also joined a couple of local message boards and the parenting group at my teenager’s school and those have been wonderful resources for meeting people to get together with and enjoy a day out. All in all it has been quite easy to integrate as everyone at the shops knows who I am now and speak to me slowly in Dutch so I can begin to learn the language, I will start a language course in January so I can really make this place “home”.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
The Dutch directness really caught me off guard. People here do not hesitate to tell you what is on their mind and it can really hurt your feelings if you aren’t expecting it. I will never forget our first day someone yelling at me because I was putting cardboard in the regular trash instead of recycling (because the cardboard receptacle was full); the other time was when someone told me I bought too much food when I was in the checkout line.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Oooh...there are a few I could go with here. I think the biggest is that everyone here smokes pot. I find that is not true. In fact, the only people I know that smoke it are expats from England and the United States. I don’t know any locals that smoke. My daughter says a few of her friends do, but most find it a nuisance.
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?
Supposedly it is lower, but with that comes lower pay rates as well. For us it was a hard adjustment as we were used to making quite an excess but here with all the extra traveling we want to do coupled with international school for our teenager plus our regular bills from our home country we really had to change our lifestyle. It has been worth it 100%, but doesn’t mean it was easy!
11. What advice would you give other expats?
I would say know exactly what you are getting in to before you move over here. Really think hard about the future and your plan for when you are ready to go back to your home country. This is especially important if you have kids of a certain age (meaning teenagers).
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog back in 2012 when we moved to Vancouver, BC...our first expat experience. I wanted a way to chronicle the experience hoping it would lead to us eventually moving to Europe and it did, now I have such a blast sharing our travels and experiences with everyone..hopefully giving them advice and ideas for when they travel as well!
Kete's blog, Diary of an Urban Housewife
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