Tiptoe Through the Tulips with Daniel Duclos

Daniel is one of those excitingly rare cases who came to the Netherlands as a “trailing husband” after his wife, Carla was offered a job here in the Netherlands! Though not the country that this blogger and aspiring author ever thought he’d find himself in, Daniel really dove into life in the Netherlands and finds that, despite the oddities, he really likes it here. If you enjoy this interview, you can also check Daniel’s blog and be sure to read his guest post on Clogs and [Hotdogs]!

How long have you been living in the Netherlands and what brought you here?
I came first with a tourist visa by the end of October 2007. Then I came back to Brazil in January 2008 to get my very own Machtiging Voorlopig Verblijf – that’s the Dutch visa: “Authorization for Temporary Stay.” In April 2008, I was back in the Netherlands to officially be an Amsterdammer. So, I’m not really sure how to answer this “how long” stuff πŸ™‚

I never thought of coming to The Netherlands. Carla (my wife – also Brazilian) and I had wanted to live abroad for some time, but it was something we were considering doing after I graduated with my Portuguese and English Language and Literature Bachelor’s Degree. You see, I was starting a new career, after almost ten years as a system administrator. But then, Carla got a new job opportunity: she would still be working for a Brazilian company, but would be sent to work in a project here in the Netherlands. It would be a six-month project with a possible extension to one year. Since that was back in 2007, you can guess that things turned out a little differently.

When we agreed to move to the Netherlands I knew about 10 things about the country. I dunno, they had windmills, clogs and tulips (nudge, nudge), Amsterdam was the very liberal capital, Johan Cruijff was a great football player (forget this “soccer” nonsense: football is a game where you play with your feet lol) and little else. Boy, did I learn.

Do you plan to stay in the Netherlands, move back to your home country, or try somewhere else?
Well, our personal stuff (tons of them books, tons of photos, etc) is about to arrive in Rotterdam at any minute, after crossing the Atlantic all the way from Santos, Brazil, so I guess we’ll be staying for a while. No plans of going back for now. πŸ™‚

What do you do during the day (job, stay at home mom, entrepreneur, student, etc)?
Gah, another complicated question. Ok, the answer is complicated, not the question. When I was in Brazil, I was working to become a University teacher in Brazilian literature. I had my major all sorted out and had been working in a research project. All this after a long, agonizing process of changing careers. When I came here, we thought it would be for a short-term stay. We didn’t speak any Dutch, and since we were both Brazilian, we had no relatives or in-laws or even local friends to help us with understanding the country, networking or anything like that It was… very hard.

I had decided that I wanted to write, but my mother language is Portuguese, which is not, you know, widely understood in the Netherlands (or the rest of the world). I started – because I didn’t know what else to do – to write regularly on a blog that Carla and I started as a simple way of keeping family and friends informed. I wrote and took pictures, wrote, and took pictures, and then wrote some more. After a while, I noticed that people were discovering my blog because they wanted to know about the Netherlands (I was, and still am, talking about the Netherlands). So I thought, well, maybe I can make something out of it. And then I started to study how to make a blog in a professional way and make money out of it. After I started studying and applying what I learned, my blog jumped from 3000 pageviews a month to 50000 last month, and I’m just getting started. I began to make a little money, then some more, and now I’m dedicated to making a living as a creative person, writing and photographing. I’m not there yet, but getting a little closer every day. So there, that’s what I do during the day πŸ™‚ Oh, and sometimes I cook dinner too. πŸ˜‰

What’s the most notable difference between your home country and the Netherlands?
You mean, besides the language? Gee, I don’t know. The weather is something that comes to mind. Brazil is known for having a much warmer climate. I used to live in Sao Paulo, which has two very similar seasons, so I think the 4 very distinct seasons is a big difference. I love it. But there are plenty of cultural differences too. One that took me ages to understand was a cultural difference, then to accept it, was the… well, very “physical” way of saying “excuse me” when passing through. In Brazil, if you bump into someone, you better apologize profusely. If you cross paths with someone, bump into him/her, do not apologize and just keep going, like “out of my way, BLUMP”… well, that’s a very effective way to pick a fight. Here, although the official way is “pardon, meneer/mevrouw,” the BLUMP method seems to be the standard. Or maybe it’s just Amsterdam. I don’t know. I’ve just moved to The Hague, so I’ll find out πŸ™‚

But the main problem with cultural differences is that you don’t really know where the cultural difference ends and individual weirdness starts. Is this guy just being strange/creepy/nosy or it’s a cultural thing? I’m never quite sure where I stand.

Where is your favorite place to visit in the Netherlands?
Amsterdam is my favorite place as a whole. I absolutely love this city, even when I hate it (and there was plenty of times that I hate it). More specifically, I like Vondelpark. I used to live next to it and I have like 10 gazillion photos of it. I love the way it’s different every season, and I love to walk along it, or just lekker zonnen. Well, I like Vondelpark. I like the OBA too. Books, coffee, wonderful city view, what’s not to like? Here in The Hague, I like the Beach (so, there, this stereotype about Brazilians is true. Or maybe it’s just me.) I’m sure I’ll find a lot more, but I’ve been here for only a month!

If you want a more specific answer, I like the bierproeflokaal in de Wildeman. Google it and go, if you like beer πŸ™‚ I do.

Give us one thing you love about the Netherlands and one thing you loathe…
Bikes! I love the bike culture! And I loathe the “real Dutch” thing. You know, “I’m a real Dutch because all my grandparents are Dutch and you are not because your great grandmother was Italian (or something).” What is that supposed to mean?? You know what? Beatrix’s father is German. And her grandfather was German. And her granddaughters, including the probable future Queen of the Netherlands, have an Argentinian mother. So, please, stop this “real Dutch” nonsense!

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)?
Everything! When I moved in I felt like a child. I couldn’t read, I had no clue how to pay for public transport on my own, I didn’t know where to buy most basic things, and if the train operator said something and half the people got out of the train and half stayed I had no freaking idea what to do. It was our first time out of Brazil, and although we both spoke English, we never had to speak it for periods longer than a few minutes. In class for example. It was a shock, I tell you. We had to adapt to everything. Having said that, the main thing I’m still working on is the language. It’s extremely important to speak Dutch. It’s essential, and if we fail on that, I don’t think we can live here for long. Surprisingly the Dutch don’t seem to want you to learn the language. Oh, sure, they say they do, and they talk about how important it is (and I totally agree!), but I think everyone who is trying to learn Dutch in the Netherlands knows the Dutch I’ll-speak-English-to-you routine. Which I find very confusing. I mean, in most countries people will speak the local language with a foreigner to the point where the conversation is not possible anymore. Here there are times they seem to actively refuse to speak Dutch to you despite understanding what you are saying. And I’m still adapting to the Dutch health care system. Don’t get me started on that πŸ™‚

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)?
Oh, plenty. Lemme choose one… Ok, I was at the hotel, having arrives in the Netherlands the day before, and had a brand new 45 strippenkaar (RIP). I asked at the reception how I should use it. They said I was supposed to stamp the number of zones I was traveling plus one. And how should I know how many zones I’m traveling? He asked me where I was going and then said: “You must cancel 3 strippen.” Ok. I went to the metro, looked for a stamping yellow machine, as I was told, and started to stamp my strippen: KATCHLUNG, KATCHLUNG, KATCHLUNG Then I paused, and, since I was with Carla, I began to KATCHLUNG, KATCHLUNG, KATCHLUNG again. I stamped all of the six strippen. How was I supposed to know I should stamp the 3rd and the 6th ones? People were looking and laughing in the queue, but no one told me anything. Ever. I think I ended up stamping all the 45 strippen, thinking “man, this is hard work!” while KATCHLUNGing all the way, much to the amusement of the locals, before realising I was “doing it wrong”!

What’s the best piece of advice you received that you would like to pass along to anyone coming to the Netherlands?
A friend of ours, an Australian living in the Netherlands, said: in the beginning, everything is great, wonderful, you’re learning a lot, you love it. Then, you start to become homesick, and everything is worse, and you start to get annoyed by the local culture, and then really upset. And eventually, you get used to it, and reach an equilibrium and then you start to really adapt. My friend is a very wise person.

Do you have any blogs or websites that you would like to recommend?
Ok, that’s fun. First, blogs! I’d recommend first A Letter from The Netherlands: it’s where I discovered Clogs and [Hotdogs] πŸ™‚ Then, I’m Not a Tourist. Few posts, but really good ones, from a long term expat. Then I like 24 Oranges. If you like bikes, check out Amsterdamize. A blog in English by a Brazilian: Greetings from Holland. Then, if you’re an expat in The Hague, I highly recommend http://www.denhaag.nl/. And finally, of course, my own blog: http://www.ducsamsterdam.net/. Yes, it’s in Portuguese, I know. An English version is in my plans for the future. If you like photography, please connect with me via Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/daniduc/. And let’s keep in touch via Twitter! I’ll be twittering mostly in English, with the occasional Dutch and Portuguese tweets, at @daniduc πŸ™‚ So, thanks for reading! And thanks, Tiffany, for the opportunity and for making such a great blog! πŸ™‚


[Editor’s Note: Anytime, Daniel! And thank you for an excellent interview!]

Images courtesy of Daniel Duclos

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.

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