Vicky: Amsterdam Foodie
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Amsterdam, etc.
I’m originally from a little village in the south of England, but I haven’t lived there since I left school. I first moved to Amsterdam as a student in 2001 (for an exchange year studying English Literature – go figure!) and fell in love with the city. I didn’t want to leave, but I had to go back to Edinburgh to finish my degree, and I then wound up working in London for a couple of years. After visiting Amsterdam again as a tourist in 2005, I decided to quit my job, hand in my notice on my apartment, and move over here permanently. Seven years later, here I am still!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started writing about restaurants soon after I moved here – I was going out a lot in order to meet new people, and I wanted to remember where the good spots were. Friends kept asking me for recommendations, so I decided to make my reviews public. The blog started as a few notes I posted on MySpace in 2006; it then briefly migrated to AOL Journal (which is no more, I believe!). But it really took off in 2007 when my brother bought me the URL (amsterdamfoodie.nl) and helped me set up the website. Since then I’ve written over 400 blog posts about food and restaurants, and we’ve continued to develop the functionality into what you see today…
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I think some of the most interesting posts to write (and to read) are about overall trends rather than about specific restaurants. I wrote this article about food trends in the city in spring 2012, and another one more recently about the burgeoning pop-up scene in 2013.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Amsterdam differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
To use some of that Dutch directness I’ve picked up over here, I don’t really feel like this is a “new life”, nor that England is “back home”. I didn’t move over here as an expat – I moved here fully intending to stay because I felt more “at home” here than I did in my own country. I pay Dutch taxes, I speak Dutch, I own my own apartment – for me, culture shock would be living in England again. I don’t think I could cope without my bike, for one!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Amsterdam? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I’d already tried out Amsterdam life for a year as a student, so I was pretty well prepared – I had a BSN (Sofi-number), a Dutch bank account and SIM card, a residency permit. I was also lucky that when I moved over here it was boom time – I found a job straight away. I think that nowadays it’s a lot harder – the government is cracking down on immigration, and jobs are scarce (I know this first-hand because I have an American boyfriend who moved over here last year). My advice to newcomers now would be: do your research! The more you know about “the system”, the easier it is to navigate your way through all the red tape.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I think most of mine are linguistic! I have managed to send people my “best vegetables” (groenten) instead of “wishes” (groeten) on numerous occasions… The words for “yellow” (geel) and “horny” (geil) are also remarkably similar. Probably enough said!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Amsterdam?
- 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.
- Secondly, relax about the customer service. I am still struggling with this myself after seven years, but there’s no point: just be aware that it’s probably going to take half an hour to be served a drink, so you may as well accept it and enjoy the slower pace of life.
- And thirdly, buy a waterproof poncho. Apparently it rains more in the Netherlands than it does in the UK (who’d have thought it!) and arriving at your office soaking wet after 20 minutes on your bike is no fun at all…
How is the expat community in Amsterdam? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I think Amsterdam is one of the easier cities to live in as an expat – there are thousands of foreigners here, and none of the locals expect you to speak Dutch (this can also be a drawback as soon as you start learning Dutch, by the way). I met my best friends (weirdly) through moving house a lot. I shared three different apartments with various random strangers before I bought my own place, and I am friends with many of them to this day. I also met people at bars, Dutch classes, sports clubs, book groups… To put it another way: there are lots of people in the same situation as you who want to meet new people and make new friends as much as you do – just remember that and don’t feel embarrassed to ask them out for a “biertje”!
How would you summarize your expat life in Amsterdam in a single, catchy sentence?
Negotiating canals, bike paths and tramlines from Dutch beer cafés to Indonesian restaurants on my trusty (if rusty) two-wheeled steed!