Well well well… somehow it has been 10 months since the wife and I stepped off the plane at Schipol Airport and arrived in Amsterdam as residents!
On 14 January our new life started and it has been quite an adventure so far. Within the first 3 months, we had set up enough of the basics: bank accounts, apartment, phone, TV/internet, etc.
One thing that I should’ve assumed, but didn’t because well Amsterdam is a melting pot of cultures (there are 175 represented in Amsterdam city limits) is that everything we receive from the city, country, banks and health insurance would be in Dutch. Well it is! The Google Translate app has been my best friend! The Google Translate app now allows you to take pictures of items or documents and it will translate (as best it can) to English. This, especially at the beginning, was a HUGE help when grocery shopping. You can take some thing from context, but not everything! :P
While we were able to set up our bank account, health insurance and resident permits, we had a HUGE issue with our driver’s licenses. We tried 4-5 times to fill out the form correctly, but for some reason we were missing something even with Google Translate. It finally took me requesting the help of my colleagues to get it right. Ha. The 5th or 6th try is the winner. We sold our car before we moved, but in order to drive in Europe you need an International Driver’s License so we had to figure out a way to trade in our US license. Luckily I am a skilled worker (in Amsterdam) and having that distinction meant we could skip the step of having to take a driver’s license test and just trade in our license (once we figured out how to correctly fill out the form).
Now I wish I could tell you that we have explored every inch of the Netherlands in 10 months, but that would be a big fat lie! We have failed greatly at that venture. I know the biggest hurdle has been my workload and when we did have time to explore we have gone outside of the Netherlands. I really thought I would come here and adopt the European lifestyle of 40 hour workweeks and taking 3-week holidays (okay I was hoping for 1-week), but it wasn’t the case.
It is definitely still a dream, but for now it isn’t a reality… for me. So while work hasn’t allowed me to prioritize exploring. We have been trying to focus on finding our new normal here: a bagel place we like, restaurants we like to revisit in our neighborhood, a new hair salon, etc. On that front I think we’ve done a really good job. I am no longer glued to my Google Translate when I go into the grocery store. I only occasionally pull it out when looking for a not-so-familiar item.
Since arriving, we have done a decent amount of traveling - again not what I envisioned when we landed, but not only do we compete with work needs - we also have 2 dogs that need to be taken care of. Luckily we used a website called Pawshake to locate our amazing dog watcher… Dani! Yes she has the perfect name. ;) She is originally from the UK and is fantastic. The pups lover her and she does a great job of keeping us up to speed when out of town. We are wicked lucky to have found someone so reliable so quickly. PLUS it is a fraction of what we spent in Boston. #WinWin
Speaking of the pups, they have had no problem adjusting to the European lifestyle. They are taking it all in stride. :) I was saying to the wife the other day I don’t think I could’ve moved without them.
As far as actual travel, I have been able to make it to:
France - Paris for a work meeting & Disneyland Paris… yes we went three times, no I don’t need your judgment! :)
UK - Liverpool for a Rock n Roll Marathon race weekend, London for a fun 48 hour visit with a friend and Reading for a number of work meetings
Germany - I’ve actually hit up 4 different places in Germany so far: Munich a couple of times for work, Munich for Oktoberfest with friends, southern Germany for a work event just after I arrived and Hamburg for Ragnar!
Ireland - Dublin for a Rock n Roll Marathon race weekend
Poland - Krakow for a work trip
Italy - we went to Rome for our 6-month “arriving in Amsterdam” anniversary and the wife’s birthday
For financial reasons, we have opted to skip travel for the remainder of the year so we can head to London and see Hamilton on our 1-year arrival anniversary on 14 Jan!! I am soooo freakin’ excited!
We are hoping that if we spend a good couple months here in Amsterdam we can:
Buckle down and register for some classes to learn Dutch… while everyone speaks English here, there is still alot of Dutch spoken and I am tired of asking people to “Please speak English” when I am around
Get back into our routine of attending weekly WW (Weight Watchers) meetings so we can recommit to our healthy lifestyle… all that travel adds up
Explore within the Netherlands and even Amsterdam… we are hoping to sign up for a shared car rental service so we can explore more of the country
But the number 1 thing for me - as it has been since Day 1 - is finding friends/a Tribe. I have been extremely anxious/depressed since getting here and a big part of that is not having the support system I had in the States. I had to stop therapy due to costs.
I was lucky enough to have a visit from my besties at the end of September/beginning of October and it was magical. It was just what my heart needed. We’ve been friends since Freshmen year in college (so 18 years!!!). I wish Boston and Amsterdam were next to each other.
I did go out of my comfort zone to join November Project Amsterdam and that has been great so far, but I still haven’t made those connections like I would like. I feel like I am either trying too hard or coming off as desperate. I will keep showing up because it does make me feel super happy… plus they are kickass workouts.
I really hope as I focus to pair down the work hours that I can increase the focus on finding a support system. I have done things like join Facebook groups and register for Meetups, but the follow through has been seriously lacking!
I have been told that the Dutch are a hard group to become friends with as an outsider so I have been focusing on trying to meet some other ExPats. Again I am hoping to use the recommendations from others to do this.
Through all of this I need to thank the wife the most for dealing with all of my anxiety attacks, breakdowns and “i hate living here” when something doesn’t workout (even though she knows I don’t really mean it.
Overall I really enjoy living in Amsterdam, but I feel I haven’t gotten the full experience so far. I hope that as we approach a year and I get some work things in order, I can achieve the work-life balance and the self-care I hope for.
I’m sure there is more I have forgotten to mention so if you have any specific questions about adjusting to life in Amsterdam please shout them out!!