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!

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2 Replies to “Tiptoe Through the Tulips with Alison Netsel”

  1. It's funny. I was having a conversation with some other expats this weekend about the whole grocery shopping thing. I was also used to doing a weekly shop (as were they) but living in Holland changes all that. Everyone seems to end up doing a day by day shop.

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