Everybody who has spent time in a different country knows that expat life is not quite like anything else in the world. The confusion of the first few days and weeks, the slow, but steady process of acclimation, the little peculiarities and quirks that might strike you about your new surroundings: almost any situation you encounter can make for a great story. If you are so inclined and want to blog about it, of course!
Our InterNations recommended blog section features talented expat bloggers from around the world. Their offerings to the blogosphere have been selected for their great entries and high quality, whether they may be funny, informative, interesting, deeply personal or a combination of all of the above.
Let’s hear from our featured bloggers in Amsterdam:
Knowing that, I would have not been so arrogant about already having been an expat in two different countries, I should have realized that each experience is unique and to be open to learning from the start. Don’t assume you know what life in a place is like just because of a couple visits or a couple of guide books!
Culture shock is a too big word. Here in Amsterdam life is pretty much the same as in Zürich but everything is just a little different. The first step to getting used to new circumstances abroad is learning speak and write the language. Since I am German speaking for me it was not such a big deal but I am sure that this is very important.
You should really get a bike immediately and blend in with the Dutch community as much as possible. Join classes to meet new people that have similar interests in order to make your own friends. Finally, definitely learn the language. You will get a lot more respect, be more eligible for a job and you will be able to read your own mail without assistance.
I expect everyone says this, but buy a bike! You’ll be too scared to ride it for the first three weeks, and then you’ll decide that you can’t beat them so you may as well join them… having a bike instantly integrates you into the city.
When I moved, I thought that I would have no trouble finding a job, probably that was pretty naive of me. I thought that since I had experience in a niche that people would be knocking down my door. What people should realize is that you may have these really great skills, but most of the time there is a Dutch person with similar skills, who by the way speaks Dutch, near perfect English, French and German. I am very lucky in that I am young enough and on the right visa to be able to go to a Dutch University to gain more skills for a minimal fee.
Getting used to living here was not difficult at all: practical things seem complicated at first glance, but in the end it can all go quite smoothly. In my experience, the cultural shock arrives later, when you start ingraining deeper in a society that is so culturally far from yours.
I wish I could have learned more of the language before moving here, particularly since lessons here are so expensive. That’s my biggest issue these days. I can get by with English here in Utrecht, and I’ve picked up enough Dutch to handle the basics of day-to-day life, but I can’t hold an actual conversation.
Was I fully prepared for the move? Not really. After living in the States, I thought I had this living abroad thing licked. But, of course, new country = new rules. And I’d never stepped foot in The Netherlands before arriving.
I knew what I knew and acted on it. Not a flawless journey in any fashion, however the imperfections instituted the journey’s particular character. Nothing would be changed in that instance - how I approached something similar in the future would.
I most definitely experienced culture shock. The Dutch can be very forthright, and come across as rude in the way they speak their minds. In the UK we dislike saying no but the Dutch don't have a problem with it. I can't say I'm much more used to it now and the disinterested attitudes of some shop assistants, still leaves me flabbergasted. Unlike the UK and the US this is not a service-minded culture.
Everything from Amsterdam's wet climate to Dutch language, holidays, food and transport differs from what I was accustomed to in Southern California. Just acclimating to new currency and measurement systems was a transition. While it was easy to buy clothes more appropriate for Dutch winters than t-shirts and flip-flops, cultural shock intensified when it came to reading my mail, paying my bills, buying food and even dealing with neighbors.
I don’t think I was fully prepared for my new life in Amsterdam, but I don’t think I would change the way I did it. I think if I had over thought it, I probably wouldn’t be here now - sometimes it’s better to jump in feet first.
As to be expected, life in Amsterdam couldn’t be more different than my life in the Bay Area. There are plenty of logistic differences (the weather, transportation, language etc.), but I think the most meaningful difference for me is the cultural landscape.