Tiptoe Through the Tulips with Nicola McCall

Nicola moved to the Netherlands with a two-year contract. Six years later and this UK native is still here! She has her own life-coaching business for expats, Live Life Now Coaching, and is a wonderful presence on the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. A friend and fellow IWCU member, I’m glad to have Nicola onboard for a lovely tiptoe session through the tulips!

How long have you been living in the Netherlands and what brought you here?
We’ve been living in the Netherlands since April 2004, with time off for “good behaviour” in 2006 when we were relocated to Palm Desert, California, USA We were returned to the Netherlands due to business decisions in 2007.

Do you plan to stay in the Netherlands, move back to your home country, or try somewhere else?
We came on a 2 year contract in 2004 so it’s always been my intention to leave: getting my head around having been here a little more permanently than I liked has been difficult. Between 2006-08 his employer’s have been saying they were moving us and then nothing happened unfortunately. Now we have decided a future move will be when we decide. If we had the opportunity we would like to go to the Canada but I suppose we’re open to anywhere as its about the “adventure”! England of course will always beckon and I would like our son who is 7 and never lived there to feel what it’s like to be English.

What do you do during the day (job, stay at home mom, entrepreneur, student, etc)?
I pretty much do everything! I set up Live Life Now Coaching in 2006 to allow me an opportunity to interact professionally in the world, as well as to be a mum and partner more easily than taking on full time work here in the Netherlands which due to childcare, a partner who travels overseas for weeks, lack of family support and the need to commute for hours was going to be difficult. Currently, I spend a lot of time in the car being a taxi driver to and from the International school in Hilversum(we live in Amersfoort nearly 20 kilometers away) on a daily basis so fit everything else in where I can.

What’s the most notable difference between your home country and the Netherlands?
The language. Although most people here speak English you can’t live day to day without being able to converse in Dutch. Also, its much cleaner and maintained than the UK and what I noticed on recent visits to the UK is how CCTV cameras are invading life there.

Where is your favorite place to visit in the Netherlands?
I really like walking in the grounds of Kasteel Groneveld, near Baarn. Its peaceful and in the Autumn the coloured leaves, reflecting off the water is so beautiful. I also love the Binnenstad of Amersfoort for its Medieval buildings.

Give us one thing you love about the Netherlands and one thing you loathe…
I love being able to get into natural beauty on a bike so easily. I hate the rudeness, particularly drivers, of some of the locals.

What’s one thing you’ve had to adjust to since coming to the Netherlands and how did you adjust (or are you still working on it)?
For me its “engagement”. I just don’t feel part of life here, no matter how I’ve tried and I think its partly as it was only to be temporary, that we are an English family without any Dutch family links, we live in one city and work in another.
 
When I was here for the first 2 years I was very happy after Dublin, but when we were in the USA I realized I’d given up a lot of who I am in terms of using my “voice” i.e being able to communicate in my own language whether spoken or written on a daily basis. My previous professional life in the UK had been about me using my “voice” to get things done at the way I wanted and at prominent levels – I’ve worked with clients such as Members of Parliament and Lords, Senior Board Members.
 

Since 2007 I’ve felt compromised at living here but it’s getting better as the time has gone on. If we left tomorrow I’d miss being here. I’ve learnt to live with it and accept it is how it is daily, but this doesn’t stop me dreaming.

Do you have an embarrassing moment since you’ve moved that you would like to share with us (an unfortunate language blunder, or a funny getting-back-on-the-bike story)?
Well I did get my bike stolen a couple of years ago. I’m embarrassed to admit I left the key in the lock. However, I was more embarrassed at the police arriving on my doorstep 5 months later to ask me if I’d lost something and more so when I was blushing at the gorgeousness of the policeman dressed in his motorbike leathers who was asking me! None of our Dutch acquaintances can believe I got my bicycle back especially after I’d left the key in it.

What’s the best piece of advice you received that you would like to pass along to anyone coming to the Netherlands?
Keep a sense of humour, be open and willing to ask questions of strangers, learn to ride a bicycle and learn some Dutch.Do you have any blogs or websites that you would like to recommend?
http://www.expatwomen.com/
http://www.iwcu.nl/
http://www.iamexpat.nl/
http://www.expatica.com/nl/
http://www.access-nl.org/

 

Images courtesy of Nicola McCall

Interested in doing an interview of your own? Send me an email at clogsandtulipsblog@gmail.com with ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’ in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

The opinions and content within this post are solely those of the guest poster and in no way reflect the views of  the Clogs and Hotdogs blog or its blogger.

This site contains affiliate links. When you buy something using those links, a portion of your purchase goes to helping update and maintain Clogs and Hotdogs. Thank you for your support!

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My Dam Life

Reviewed by Daniel Duclos

I was on a trip back to my home country Brazil when I read My Dam Life: Three years in Holland, a book by Sean Condon, an Australian author about whom I had never heard until I tripped over his name on Lonely Planet’s Amsterdam City Guide. I was already living in Amsterdam by the time I got my hands on it, and I was eager to read someone else’s experiences with my new home. And that’s exactly what I got.

I felt a little less of an alien reading about this 35 year-old guy who had started several careers and was now trying to juggle his way through a new life in a foreign country, while writing and dealing with house chores, since he’s the one who works from home while his wife goes out every morning to her 9 to 5 job. I related immediately, because that’s exactly my situation, except I’m 36 now. We even had the same reason for moving – our wives got jobs in Amsterdam, and we just came along.

Maybe you don’t have to be such a close match to find the book fun to read. Maybe you don’t even have to have lived in Amsterdam, or in the Netherlands for that matter, although that certainly would help: you’d laugh harder if you knew firsthand how nosy a Dutch neighbor can be. Or how miserable the weather is for most of the year. Or, indeed, how true any other of those clichés that you read about everywhere (but can only truly understand when you have it laid out under your nose, day after day) can be. They were certainly familiar for me, and sometimes I laughed so hard that I got weird looks from my plane seat mates (my wife among them).

Although funny in some parts, in a sarcastic and sometimes cynic way, the book is not only comedy, and can get quite existential. Moving abroad has a very special way of igniting one to question “what the heck am I doing?”, especially if the reason for the move was to follow another person and not, say, a new job of your own. That, my friends, can be hard to deal with, and, again, I’m speaking from experience here. Of course, the problem is not your life’s partner, but don’t we all need a reason of our own to move to Amsterdam? What’s yours?

Condon doesn’t actually arrive at an answer to that, but instead deals with how the question affects his life, both in a broader sense, as in “what’s the purpose of my life and what am I doing with it”, and in the more practical, everyday aspects of it. Should I fix dinner, since I’m home and my wife is working on her “real job”? And isn’t fixing dinner just another way to procrastinate when you’re your own boss? Add to that some very sharp observations of Dutch culture and life in Amsterdam that expats here know all too well (and love to see mercilessly mocked), and you get the best parts of the book.

However, putting it like that might make you think that “My ‘dam Life” is a better book than it is. The problem with being true to life is that life has boring periods when nothing happens. “My ‘dam Life” does suffer from some rhythm problems, and towards the end it slows down considerably, making it more fun to start to read it than to actually finish it. There are segments where the self questioning can turn into self pity and plain whining. I have enough of that on my own, thank you :). Also, some parts are just not that interesting, and perhaps should have been left out altogether.

But, all in all, I think it is still worth the read, provided that you have an interest in expat/travel literature, and even more so if you know Amsterdam. It’s not as funny as the most famous Dutch expat book, The Undutchables, but it’s more personal (and way less aggressive, by the way). The idea is not to have a cheap laugh at the Dutch’s expense, but to tell a more tangible experience from a cynical and self-deprecating writer’s point of view. I found some comfort reading about the very problems that I was (and still am) dealing with, not because I found answers, but because I had company while living my own ‘dam Life.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to turn this review in and go fix some dinner. Carla will be home any minute 🙂

The opinions and content within this post are solely those of the guest poster and in no way reflect the views of the Clogs and Tulips blog or its blogger.

This site contains affiliate links. When you buy something using those links, a portion of your purchase goes to helping update and maintain Clogs and Hotdogs. Thank you for your support!

Tiptoe Through the Tulips with Alison Netsel

From the United States to Italy and now the Netherlands, Alison is working on starting up her own editing and proofreading business for non-native English speakers. She writes, she takes gorgeous photos, she blogs at A Flamingo in Utrecht and you can more often than not find her at the Sonnenborgh Observatory gazing at the Kijker. Meet Alison Netsel.

How long have you been living in the Netherlands and what brought you here?
I’ve just celebrated my two-year anniversary of moving here to the Netherlands. Like many, I came here because of my partner’s work. He has his own import/export business and needed to be in Europe. For a variety of reasons, we chose to make the Netherlands our new home.

Do you plan to stay in the Netherlands, move back to your home country, or try somewhere else?  
For now, we plan on staying. We’re both very happy here and don’t have any urge to move.

What do you do during the day (job, stay at home mom, entrepreneur, student, etc)?
I worked as a magazine editor in the U.S., and I’m trying to continue in that general line of work now. For the past year, I’ve been writing for Trippist.com, a somewhat off-beat Dutch tourism website. I’m also in the process of starting up my own company offering English-language editing/proofreading for non-native English speakers.

What’s the most notable difference between your home country and the Netherlands?
The bikes! I know it’s clichéd, but that’s probably one of the things that still amazes me on a regular basis. I live in the city center of Utrecht, but it’s not cars that I have to worry about, it’s the bike traffic! I think the closest I came to this in the US was when I lived in NYC and had to occasionally dodge bike messengers, but those were few and far between, realistically.

Where is your favorite place to visit in the Netherlands?
Honestly, it’s a spot here in Utrecht, over by the Sonnenborgh Observatory. There’s a little park with a wonderful statue called the Spoetnik Kijker (Sputnik Watcher). No matter the season, there’s always something so charming, peaceful and thoughtful about the statue and its setting. It can be funny or it can be melancholy, but I always love seeing it.

Give us one thing you love about the Netherlands and one thing you loathe…
I love that as soon as the weather gets the least bit sunny, the Dutch are outdoors in full force. They gravitate toward the sun, even if it means sitting on a narrow sidewalk. Best of all are the terraces in most of the cafés and bars; it’s such a great — gezellig — way to enjoy the weather. On the downside, I do loathe the humidity. Despite the fact that I’m from Florida — or perhaps because of it — humidity makes me miserable and uncomfortable. With the lack of air-conditioning, it’s hard to avoid it, though. At least it’s not brutally hot and humid.

What’s one thing you’ve had to adjust to since coming to the Netherlands and how did you adjust (or are you still working on it)?
I think the biggest adjustment has been grocery shopping. For one thing, we have a small refrigerator, so we usually do our shopping every day, instead of once or twice a week. There are certain foods that just aren’t available here, or they’re difficult to find. I didn’t buy a lot of packaged foods or mixes in the US, so it’s not that kind of thing that I miss. It’s the variety of vegetables, both fresh and frozen, that I miss. I also miss ham in forms other than deli meat. I’ve got a lot of recipes that I just can’t make any more. On the other hand, I’ve got others that are much easier to make now and I’ve also found new recipes.

Do you have an embarrassing moment since you’ve moved that you would like to share with us (an unfortunate language blunder, or a funny getting-back-on-the-bike story)?
Nothing drastically embarrassing, at least not that comes to mind. Perhaps I’ve blocked anything traumatizing. I’m regularly embarrassed over the language, though. I’ll try to say something in Dutch and have the person say that they can’t understand my Dutch. Or I’ll be in a shop and be expecting the usual questions, which I can respond to in Dutch, but then they’ll ask me something completely unexpected and I’ll have to revert back to English again. I suppose that’s frustrating, more than embarrassing.

What’s the best piece of advice you received that you would like to pass along to anyone coming to the Netherlands?
I didn’t really receive any advice before moving here, but I have some advice of my own that has helped me through some of the more frustrating moments. I think it’s important not to think of one place as being better than another; they’re just different. Don’t complain and generalize about the Dutch (or the people of your new country), because most likely all of those same complaints can be made about people from your home country. Try to keep a positive attitude. It’s not always easy, but if you start looking for negatives, that’s all you’ll be able to see.


Do you have any blogs or websites that you would like to recommend?

I’ve found Kayotic Kitchen to be extremely helpful when trying to find recipes for which I know I can find the ingredients. Plus, her recipes are delicious and fun! She’s also helped me with the Dutch names for ingredients. Who would have thought that finding basic flour could be so confusing!

Special mention should go to Invading Holland and My Dutch Fairytale. They’ve both done such a great job making the frustrations of life into something funny, at least for those of us reading them!

Images courtesy of Alison Netsel

Interested in doing an interview of your own? Send me an email at clogsandtulipsblog@gmail.com with ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’ in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

The opinions and content within this post are solely those of the guest poster and in no way reflect the views of  the Clogs and Hotdogs blog or its blogger.

This site contains affiliate links. When you buy something using those links, a portion of your purchase goes to helping update and maintain Clogs and Hotdogs. Thank you for your support!

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Tiptoe Through the Tulips with Thelma Mingacho

For someone who’s only been in the Netherlands for two months, Thelma really has a great outlook and an enthusiasm for embracing the country, the language and the locals. Thanks, Thelma for being a good sport and getting us off to a great start on the Tiptoe Through the Tulips Interview series!

How long have you been living in the Netherlands and what brought you here?
I came to Holland on the 2nd of April of this year. The main reason that brought me here was the fact of seeking for new experiences. I had interest in Dutch culture, persons here are very friendly and helpful, the country is really beautiful and the political system is very organized. Of course I also made the decision to leave Portugal because it is a country “buried” in a crisis and at the moment it is really difficult to find a job and to get a good level of life there. My principal objective is to find some stability here.

Do you plan to stay in the Netherlands, move back to your home country, or try somewhere else?
At the moment I am thinking about staying here as long as it is possible. I don’t know if I will return to Portugal or move on to another country, it depends how my situation here will develop, if I get a good job here and if it gives me the stability I am looking for, probably I’ll live here for long time.

What do you do during the day (job, stay at home mom, entrepreneur, student, etc)?
Currently I stay at home looking for a job. Unfortunately I haven’t found one yet. I already inscribed myself in recruitment agencies specializing in non-dutch speakers, as Undutchables, Unique, Bluelinx, etc, and I am waiting for an opportunity. I studied insurance and banking in Portugal, a course equivalent to the Dutch MBO and I’d love to have the possibility to work in my area or in customer service area as a Portuguese native and an English user.

During the day I also study Dutch through the internet by the taalklas.nl website, I am trying to be familiar to the Dutch language before the language course starts in September at Fontys Language Centre here in Eindhoven.

What’s the most notable difference between your home country and the Netherlands?
The most notable difference is definitely the political system. In Netherlands nothing is left to chance, everything is organized until the detail and it seems to be a rich country. In Portugal we only see manifestations and people are very unhappy because the political promises are broken. Portugal is a country becoming increasingly poor. Netherlands have also some issues especially about the anti-Islamism politic but in general is a comfortable country.

Where is your favorite place to visit in the Netherlands?
Well, I think I like every place in Netherlands, especially the green ones, I love being in contact with nature. However I can say that, until now, I really liked the cities of Breda and Bergen-op-Zoom. I found them very typical.

Give us one thing you love about the Netherlands and one thing you loathe…
I loved Dutch people because they are so friendly and so original! I don’t like so much the fact of a part of Netherlands had been built below the sea level, I confess that it scares me a little bit!

What’s one thing you’ve had to adjust to since coming to the Netherlands and how did you adjust (or are you still working on it)?
The Dutch language, no doubt! It is an interesting language but I find it a little difficult because of the long words they use and also because of the accent, sometimes I take long time to spell a word! Maybe it seems to be more difficult because I am studying alone and through the internet. Over the time I am confident that I’ll learn it!

Do you have an embarrassing moment since you’ve moved that you would like to share with us (an unfortunate language blunder, or a funny getting-back-on-the-bike story)?
Well, there are a few words and sentences in Dutch that I understand. Last month I went to the bus and I decided to speak Dutch just to ask for a simple ticket, the bus conductor started laughing and replied in English, I don’t know what made him laugh, was it the accent or did I say something stupid? I don’t know!

 
What’s the best piece of advice you received that you would like to pass along to anyone coming to the Netherlands?
When we change our life especially to go to another country it’s never easy. So I’d like to pass what my family and friends used say to me: “Do not lose hope in achieving your life goals. Always fight and have patience when things don’t go so well!”Do you have any blogs or websites that you would like to recommend?
I have 2 blogs about Netherlands:
For the other hand I made last year a blog about Portugal, not across the bad things but related to the good things, like tourism and Portuguese music:
All these blogs are written in Portuguese but I put the Google translator in the sidebar of the blogs. I also have a Facebook profile.
 

Images courtesy of Thelma Mingacho

Interested in doing an interview of your own? Send me an email at clogsandtulipsblog@gmail.com with ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’ in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

The opinions and content within this post are solely those of the guest poster and in no way reflect the views of  the Clogs and Hotdogs blog or its blogger.

This site contains affiliate links. When you buy something using those links, a portion of your purchase goes to helping update and maintain Clogs and Hotdogs. Thank you for your support!

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