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Interview with Tiffany J - an American expat in the Netherlands

Updated 4 Feb 2010

Tiffany Jansen moved to the Netherlands recently after marrying her Dutch husband. Her father is a pilot for Delta Airlines, so she’s lived in places like Japan, Greece and Germany before high school. She is really loving living here and writes in detail about her adventures as an expat in the Netherlands on her blog Clogs and Hotdogs.

Read more about expat life in the Netherlands in our Expat Arrivals country guide to the Netherlands or read more expat experiences in the Netherlands.

About Tiffany

Q: Where are you originally from?

A: Maryland, USA

Q: Where are you living now?

A:  Utrecht, The Netherlands

Q: How long you have you lived here?

A: 14 months

Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?

A: I moved with my dog for my Dutch husband

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?

A: My husband is Dutch and it just made the most sense for me to come here (economy’s better, he had the better job, immigrating to the US is near impossible, etc). Before moving, I was doing the odd job here and there, just getting into elementary school teaching and working on a Master’s degree.

About the Netherlands

Q: What do you enjoy most about your host city, how’s the quality of life in the Netherlands?

A: The quality of life is outstanding. Healthcare is top notch and there is an extraordinary expat community. Public transportation will take you literally everywhere quickly, cheaply, and easily. Utrecht is one of the major cities in the Netherlands as well as a university city, so there is always something to do with lots of people and lots of diversity. So much is accessible by bike and I have really embraced the cycling culture here in the Netherlands. Overall, the lifestyle is much healthier than in the US. And there is such richness is history and culture here. Utrecht itself has been around since 97AD! There are over 400 museums and castles in the country and the old buildings and typical Dutch facades are just gorgeous.

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?

A: It does rain. A lot. I always carry an umbrella with me in my purse as well as a little cover for my bike seat that resembles a shower cap (no wet butts here!). The rain actually wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t combined with atrocious winds 90% of the time. In the winter, the sun can come up as late as 9am and go down as early as 4:30pm. I find that winter is the toughest time of year. The Dutch directness takes a little getting used to. You really do have to stick up for yourself. Don’t be afraid to demand what you want. The Dutch will almost always give it to you, but you have to demand it and stick up for yourself first. But doing so gives you their undying respect. I do miss the smiles and the excuse-me’s and pardon-me’s and I’m sorry’s. Sometimes speaking a different language all day can be exhausting as well. Every now and then, you just want to speak to someone in your native language.  

Q: Is Utrecht safe?

A: As with any city, the degree of safety depends on where you go. I feel extremely safe where I live. An American friend of mine who’s been living here for 5+ years says she feels safer here than she ever did in her hometown in the US.

Q: What’s the cost of living in the Netherlands compared to America? What is cheap or expensive in particular?

A: It certainly is more expensive here than in the US. For the money we pay for our apartment here, we could get a huge house in the US.

Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?

A:  I find people here to be very friendly. They really stick to schedules though. Everything is pre-planned and set into their agendas. Most of my friends are expats, mostly due to the language barrier, though I am making strides in developing a Dutch social network.

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?

A:  With the expats it was fast and easy, but the Dutch tend to stick to old, tried and true relationships, so it takes a bit longer to develop close friendships with them. But once you make it in, they’re loyal friends for life.

About working in the Netherlands

Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?

A: Not really. Just the waiting. It took three months from the time I turned in my application till the day I received notice that my permit was ready to be picked up. There was next to nil I had to complete on the application thanks to the US/Netherlands relationship. As my husband is Dutch, my residence permit doubles as a work permit.

Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city, is there plenty of work?

A: There is plenty of work, though it is difficult for an immigrant with little to no Dutch to find a job. This was a major problem for me, so I simply headed straight for the Chamber of Commerce here and started my own business.

Family and children

Q: Did your children settle in easily?

A:  My husband and I do not have any children, but we did bring my dog from the US. He has adjusted very well to all the changes and loves his new home. The quality of life for pets in general is much better here than in the US.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in the Netherlands?

A: The healthcare is fantastic. It is against the law not to be insured if you live or work in the Netherlands and insurance companies cannot turn you down for pre-existing conditions, financial situation, etc. The actual medical aspect is different. Your general practitioner is the gateway. You must see your GP and get a recommendation from him/her before you can see any specialist or go to the emergency room (unless in dire emergency situations, of course). This is in the effort to cut down waiting time for these services. They are also not as liberal with medication as the US. It is preferred to give your body the chance to fight off whatever it is first.

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?

A:  Get out and see and do as much as you can. Visit museums, walk through the parks, take bike and walking tours, visit various towns and cities, try new foods. Make sure your social network includes locals and expats as it will make you feel more integrated. It is also extremely important to learn the language. It will make you feel less alien and earn the respect of the locals.

– Interviewed February 2010

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