Dana is a Romanian expat living in Amsterdam. She initially moved to the Netherlands when her partner got a job in Amsterdam. Two years down the line they are enjoying the city, apart from the non-existent summers. Together with her partner, Dana blogs about their experiences in the Netherlands at the Amsterdamian.com
Q: Where are you originally from?
Q: Where are you living now?
A: The Netherlands - Amsterdam, Watergraafsmeer, in a green and very nice area.
Q: How long have you lived in the Netherlands?
A: Almost two years.
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: I moved with my partner; we don’t have any children yet.
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I wanted to move here since I visited the country for the first time, quite a number of years ago. But it was a big decision to leave everything behind and move to another country. When my partner was offered a job that he couldn't refuse in Amsterdam, it was clear to us that the time to move had come. I was lucky to find a job quite quickly as well, and now I work for an online market research company.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Amsterdam, how’s the quality of life?
A: I love the fact that, even though it's a very cosmopolitan city, Amsterdam manages to keep its Dutch charm, sometimes creating the feeling you live in a small town, where everyone knows each other, even if that is not the case. It is not unusual to be approached on the tram by an old lady who just wants to discuss the weather or the last movie she saw. I love how the locals know how to celebrate their holidays or to enjoy each ray of sun by sitting outside with a glass of good wine and surrounded by friends. Green areas can be found everywhere in the city and people ride bikes instead of driving cars – all of that contributes to a very good quality of life.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: The weather. This is my number one enemy – I really miss hot Romanian summers. I also miss my family and friends, but I try to visit them as often as I can.
Q: Is Amsterdam safe?
A: I feel very safe in this city. The safety may not be the same as in a small Dutch village, but we have to consider that it's still the capital of the country.
Q: How would you rate the public transport in Amsterdam? Do you need to own a car, or is the public transport sufficient for getting around? What are the different options?
A: The public transport is quite well organised; one can easily travel from one place to another, especially in areas that have a metro line. The only problem is that at the first sign of snow or even in a very rainy day, they are not able to respect the schedules anymore. Also, it seems that maintenance work is perpetually taking place on one line or another, causing delays and route changes when you least expect it. I have an app on my phone which I always consult if I have to go somewhere, even if I know the route – it's safer that way.
Taking all these into consideration, the best decision in this city is to own a bike. It can take you wherever you want, the infrastructure is well designed for biking and you don't have to rely on anyone else to arrive on time for your appointment. Owning a car is not a must; although most of the people here own a car, they still ride the bike every day and use the car only when they want to go outside the city, or on special occasions. There is also the convenient option of car-sharing with services like Car2Go and GreenWheels which come in really handy for quick transport needs, or renting a car for longer trips.
About living in Amsterdam
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Amsterdam as an expat?
A: I would say that the whole city is a very good place for an expat to live in. There are more than 170 nationalities living in Amsterdam and this creates a vibrant atmosphere with an exciting day and night life, with many languages spoken all around the city. International restaurants and shops can be found in every neighbourhood. My favourite neighbourhoods are the Jordaan, the Pijp and Oud-Zuid, and of course, Watergraafsmeer. The Centre is beautiful and a great place to spend time outside – but I wouldn’t want to live there because it is crowded, too noisy and last but not least, quite expensive.
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Amsterdam?
A: This really depends on the age and quality of buildings. Most houses close to the centre are quite old and in varying stages of repair – some can be luxurious while others decrepit. The high demand also pushes rents to extortionate prices compared to what is offered. When moving further away from the centre, one can find quite a number of good quality housing at decent prices.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: The cost of living is definitely higher than at home, but then, so is the income. The rents and house prices top the list, pushing many people to live outside Amsterdam, even if they have to travel each day to get to work. Restaurants can be expensive in the tourist areas but otherwise are ok, while supermarkets have similar prices to the ones at home. However, I did find that flowers of all shapes and sizes are quite cheap!
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: I would say the locals are friendly people. I like the straightforward way of being of Dutch people and their ability to make fun of themselves. I get the impression they are optimistic and try to live their life to the fullest – even though they love complaining about every little thing. I mix mainly with expats from several different countries, but there are also locals among my friends.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in Amsterdam?
A: I would say it was really easy to meet new people and make acquaintances. Moving that on to close friendships, however, is a long-time process that can sometimes be more difficult when cultural differences (and a certain age) are involved.
About working in the Netherlands
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit for the Netherlands?
A: I encountered no problems when I applied for my work permit. If you have all your papers in order and a good reason to move here, everything is easy, especially with the new “Expat Centre”. Oh, you do need some good money to pay for the permits though.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Amsterdam, is there plenty of work?
A: The economic climate in the city is good, given the wider global situation. I’ve heard people complaining that the job market is not as good as it used to be and it's getting worse; it depends, of course, on the industry in which everyone is searching. Also, for an expat who doesn’t speak Dutch, the chances to find a job are reduced more-or-less in half.
Q: How does the work culture in the Netherlands differ from home?
A: I like how the Dutch make a clear distinction between their work and their personal life. They always make sure they have time for the family. The interpersonal relationships are also less formal than I am used to with a less pronounced hierarchy, which I find to be great for creating a pleasant work environment. However, if one ends up employed in a multinational company, it’s very likely that the work culture will have been “imported” from the parent location, thus losing some of the local advantages. Some of my expat colleagues work exactly as they were used to in their home countries, unfortunately.
Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A: Yes, we used a relocation company to bring most of our personal belongings and some furniture. It was a very good idea that helped ease the initial transition.
Family and children
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: No, not at all. He actually took Dutch lessons before moving here so it was easier to get started, and apart from missing friends and the non-existent summer he gets along quite well.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in the Netherlands?
A: The healthcare system itself is well organised, but the Dutch doctors tend not to take an illness seriously unless something is really wrong with the patient and they end up in the ER. They are famous among expats about their custom to send you home with the indication to take paracetamol, a tea and a good rest; that may sometimes be the only thing you need, but it's not always the case and it can get annoying fast. It is essential to find a doctor who is familiar with expats, and you'll avoid frustration and frequent trips to your original country just to have a consultation with your old doctor.
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Come here with an open mind and be prepared to experience things that may look strange to you, at first. Some things will be better than in your country, some worse. Accept the difference and try to understand it, if not, at least try to learn how to live with it. And be ready to fall in love with Amsterdam irremediably.
~ Interviewed July 2012