american expat in holland

Date Night and a Golden Calf

We are not really the couple that gets all dressed up for regular date nights. For one, it just isn't really our scene, and we were on one income for a very long time. We do make the occasional exception when it is a special occasion. Which is why we found ourselves in the center of Utrecht Friday night to celebrate my one year Nederland anniversary. We ended up having dinner at our favorite restaurant on the Oudegracht, Den Draeck or The Dragon. 

Loek ordered his usual, the Steak Den Draeck, but I decided that I would try the new surf and turf. This is what arrived. 

I know, it is the weirdest surf and turf I have ever seen, too! To be fair, I snapped this photo after I ate most of the shrimp. It was really tasty too, just not at all what I was expecting. After dinner, which ended at about 8pm because we like to eat early (Loek likes to eat early) we were walking through Hoog Catharijne (think like a mall that attaches to the train station) and we were stop by a girl asking us if we would like to attend the closing movie for the Nederlands Film Festival for free in about 30 minutes. Of course we said yes, and that is how we found ourselves at my first Dutch movie sans subtitles, Pizza Maffia. Both the girl who gave us the tickets and Loek were concerned that I wouldn't be able to follow the movie. But, I didn't have a problem at all! The movie actually wasn't bad. I think maybe I liked it a little more than the average because it has to do with my with job. 

After the film, the director and the camera man stopped by to answer the audience's questions. All and all, not a bad night to celebrate being here for a year! 

The First Year's Over!

I can't believe it, I have now lived in The Netherlands and with Loek for a year today! Soo much has changed in what could be classified by some in a brief amount of time. As, I reflect on the last year, I can't help but feel that although things did not go exactly they way I thought they would when I first moved, I am still incredibly glad I got on the plane with my cat and decided to make a life here with Loek. 

When I first moved, I had no idea what I was really in store for. I did not realize how hard it would be to find a job. I also didn't realize that I would feel like I was in everyone's way whenever I walked out of my house. I have since -found a job, re-enrolled in school fulltime, and I am a speed walker. Here are a few other things that are different now then when I first landed.

I am really good at ease-dropping on conversations in Nederlands, I can read all menus without translation. I know what almost everything is in the grocery store. I can also order and hold a small conversation. I am still really uncomfortable speaking it, but I am sure that will come.

I know how to cook stampot, hutspot, and hachee. I know when oliebollen season is and which fish monger to go to at my local market. This year, I am going to try my hand a homemade speculaas. 

I have almost survived my first period  in an International higher education. It is not harder than the American system, just more work then I remember.

I can help both international and dutch tourists find their way or train in Utrecht and Amsterdam. 

I also learned that no matter where you live, you are the combination of your experiences and where you grew up. 

It is incredibly important to find friends that you can share your experiences with.

Lastly, I would like to thank everyone who stumbles across this blog. No matter when you started reading, your kind words and questions have made this journey a lot easier than it could have been. Sincerely, thank you! 

Rooting for Two Teams Equally?

It has been Olympic Central at the house ever since 10pm on Friday night. The Netherlands are an hour ahead of London time, so I got to watch it live. It actually was just ending when it started playing prime time in Atlanta. This year, watching the Olympics is totally different for me. Not only because I am not rooting for two teams, but also because I actually miss NBC's coverage of the Olympics. 

Right now, our cable has the Olympics on four different channels. Two Dutch and two BBC, while I am enjoying switching in between the two different countries channels, The BBC mostly shows the events that Team Great Britain are competing in and the Dutch are showing the events that are interesting to Nederlanders. It makes sense, but I miss hearing the stories of my native American athletes. Also, these are the first summer Olympics since my own hometown's hosting in 1996 that I have been in a time zone to watch all the events live, maybe this is the reason that I feel like there is not as much information on the screen during the events about the times, etc. 

People have been asking me who it is I am rooting for this time. Am I rooting for the USA more because I am an American, or The Netherlands because this is where I plan to take up permanent residence? I'm not sure why I would have to choose, so here is my answer. I cheer for both equally. I just want my two teams to win as many medals as possible. 

I will say though, when it comes to being stylish at the Opening Ceremony, Nederland has you beat America.

Who are you going for? What is your favorite Summer Olympics Event?

 

Anne's Amsterdam

I was approached to write this review by The Anne Frank House. At this time, I do not accept money for reviews or anything of that nature on this blog. However, they thought I would be interested in their new app after reading my blog, and I am, especially since I am about to study tourism, I decided to tryout the app for myself. 

Anne's Amsterdam is a new smartphone app made in conjunction with the Anne Frank House.  The App is available in English, Dutch, and German. I have it on my iPhone. The App allows you to explore Anne Frank's life in the city before her family was forced into hiding. The way the app works is simple, it uses your location and shows you different monuments in town that were important to Anne's life. For example, you can see where Anne went to school, where her and Margot used to go skating, and other significant details of a young girls life. 

Visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is an incredibly humbling experience. I was required to read the Diary of Anne Frank when I was in High School. Visiting her house combined with seeing her life outside in the city really gives you even more of a sense as to how terrible things really were during the German Occupation. 

Whether you are an expat, a Nederlander, or a tourist to The Netherlands, I recommend that you download this free app. It is very well done, and you never know what you will discover in an unsuspecting corner of Amsterdam. 

 

11 Things I Love About My New Home After 9 Months

I landed nine months ago. Nine months! That is long enough to have carried and given birth to a baby. Not that I'm pregnant or even thinking about having a baby for years, I mean I'm about to be in school for the next 4 years, but to give you an idea of the time I've been here, I chose that analogy. This post could not have come at a better time, I feel like I haven't really been present or sociable the last few weeks. I always do this, I have a lot to look forward to in August and July, so I forget to live in the present. I'm sorry, my friends, I am going to try to do better. But in the meantime, here are the 11 things I love about The Netherlands after 9 months!

1. I love how international it actually is here. Since I have been here, I have met so many people with so many different backgrounds. Where I grew up in The States, there were people from different backgrounds, but most of them are 3rd and 4th generation. It is really awesome to meet so many people who come from all over world. It is important to note that this isn't the case all over the country, mostly just in the larger cities to the west. 

2. I can actually stomach the milk. For those of you who know me well, you know how disgusting I find milk. I actually inherited this from my mother, even though she would think it in front of me when I was little because she thought it was important that I get the calcium I needed. It was years before I would even eat ice cream. While there is no way I would ever reach for milk as a beverage, the milk here does taste differently and I can stand to have it in my cereal and will even chug it when I have heartburn. I know, crazy talk!

3. Even though the weather in the summer is unpredictable and I haven't yet put away my jacket, I'm the tannest I have ever been. Okay, so this is probably only a Kaitlin thing. I have extremely sensitive skin, it burns extremely fast. Because of this, I tend to be an inside girl. Seriously, Nicole Kidman is my beauty icon. But, because the sun is less extreme here than in Georgia, I am definitely outside more. I'm probably three shades darker than normal.

4. Even though I complained the whole time, I know feel more at ease in communicating in Nederlands after inburgering. My last inburgering class for a month and a half, was a week ago. Even though I still don't really like the system, I do recognize that I am much more willing to try and communicate in Nederlands than I was before my classes started. I am also continuing my learning alone, because I have to switch into the evening class.

5. I'm totally obsessed with the baby birds. If you read the blog regularly you know this already, but seriously, they are so cute. Oh and the bunnies! I see wild bunnies at least once a week.

6. I'm becoming more thrifty. Going out is more expensive here, clothes are more expensive, pretty much everything but booze is more expensive here. I actually think this is a good thing, as it is ridding me of the disposable lifestyle many Americans have. Now when something breaks, I do the Dutch thing and see if I can fix it. Except for those shoes from a few posts ago, those things are toast!

7. It rains all the time. I know again this is probably a personal thing, but in coming from a place that is perpetually in a drought, the fact that I am frequently caught in afternoon is actually a great thing. 

8. The view on marriage here. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same sex marriage. This makes me incredibly proud of my newly adopted country. In order to stay with The Verlo-, I actually don't ever have to get married. To be clear, we are engaged, but there is not the societal pressure or contingency of my visa to walk down the aisle. 

9. I love the countryside. I am a big city girl, but I do love that just a little bit outside the major cities the country is ripe with cows, goats, sheep, and horses. Seriously look out the window next time you are on an Intercity.

10. I can't believe I have not mentioned this one before, but I love the bikes. I'm still amazed by all that people can do while on their bikes. I doubt that I will ever reach the level of mastery required to talk on the phone, or transport a tv on my handlebars while cycling, but it is nice to have a goal.

11. I feel really safe here. I'm not naive enough to believe that there is no crime here, however, it is night and day between sketch parts of The Netherlands and sketch parts of The States.

Want a recap of the other things I love here? Check out:

What do you love about where you live?

 

When Your Friends Leave, Reality in Expat Friendships.

Looking at the friends I have made so far in The Netherlands, most of them are fellow Americans. This was never my intention, but it makes sense, my only passable language at the moment is English, and we are all going through a lot of the same things. However, having your main friend group tied to another country besides the one you are planning to live in long term presents its a whole new set of problems. Being an expat for many is a very transient period, it is something they are trying on and eventually, most will probably move on. Either back to their home country or the will move elsewhere abroad. 

A few weeks ago, I had my first of what I am sure is many goodbyes to a friend who moved back to The States. To be fair, when I met her she told me that her and her husband were not looking to stay here long term. Neither of us expected her to leave as soon as she did. I am very thankful for the warning because I feel like I knew going in that the living in the same country part of our friendship had an expiration date. Not our friendship itself, just the both living in Utrecht part. I miss you Amanda!

Knowing that your friends might leave is just part of the living life abroad. Sure it is painful, but does that mean that you shouldn't make friends with anyone? My advice is to cherish the relationships you are able to make at any point in your life. If a friend does end up leaving, do your best to keep in touch, and look forward to the places you will now get to go visit. Speaking of keeping in touch, I owe some people some skype dates. Let's make them happen people!

Have you had friends leave? How did you deal with it?

This Week In Instagram Vol.4

Whew, this has been a crazy week! I had testing and an interview in Amsterdam for school, Book Club, an interview for a tutoring job, and a last minute freelance job start. It's been great! But I forgot to take a lot of pictures of my explorations. I did however manage a few.

After my test, I went to go meet up with my friend in Amsterdam, I missed the metro stop and decided to walk. Those are swans.

One of my interviews was in the lovely Dutch countryside. How picturesque are these horses?

These wildflowers are popping up everywhere, they also come in bright yellow!

The weather is finally starting to feel like Spring, which means it is time for Spring Cleaning! Today's task was going through all my clothes reorganizing for the warmer weather. I own a lot of floral and a lot of mustard. Who knew?

 

Section: 

Week One of Photo Challenge for April, Plus What Happened Here This Week

I'm participating in the Fat Mum Slim Photo Challenge for April. Each Sunday I will share the photos I took. 

Day One: Reflection

Day Two: Color!

Day Three: Mail

   

Day Four: Someone (something )that makes me happy!

Day Five: Tiny

Day Six : Lunch, I forgot!

Day Seven: Reflection 

 

Day Eight: Inside my wallet

It was a pretty exciting week! How was yours? 

 

 

 

     

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

       

                                                                                                                

 

 

Section: 

Inburgering Placement Exam

Today I took my placement exam for my inburgering classes. I arrived at an old office building to take my foretold four hour exam at 12:45pm. I joined some other girls who were also there to take the exam, a mix of Nederlands and English was spoken between them, since I am still feeling sick, I didn't join in. I gathered however, that some people had been in The Netherlands for a very long time and one girl had been here a month, but she had incredible Dutch! I am not quite sure what her story was. We were then greeted by a very friendly proctor. We went into a tiny room with cubes and then sat in our respective cubicles. I noticed that the girl next to me was given different instructions then the rest of us for her exam. ( I would later find out that it was because she had been here longer and the first test is strictly for newbies.) 
For our first exam we had 30 minutes. Mostly it was reading comprehension with some really elementary writing thrown in. I finished with over 10 minutes left to go in the exam, the first one as always, I've never been a second guesser! It was a lot easier than I was expecting because if you read carefully, you could find the answers elsewhere in the exam.  Because I don't have an extensive vocabulary, I was a tad nervous that I didn't answer some of the questions correctly. I was then instructed to begin my IQ test while the others were still finishing their initial exam. The IQ test is to ensure that a person possesses the cognitive power to learn a new language quickly. It was the easiest test I have ever taken! All sequences and analogies. It took me 10 minutes. Then the proctor asked to speak with me privately... I was a little nervous, convinced she was going to tell me that I am horrible at Dutch and have no hope of ever learning it!  To my astonishment, she told me she was quite surprised with my results since I had told her I never had a Dutch lesson in my life. But she wanted to know if I had a reading comprehension problem. They way she asked made me think that I did bad because I didn't understand what the questions were asking me. I felt super defensive for a second because well, I don't speak Dutch yet! I thought I was here to learn! She then told me that if my comprehension of Nederlands was an issue then I would have trouble with the rest of the exams and wanted to know if I wanted to continue. Determined to prove myself, I told her that I wanted to at least try the rest! She then informed me that I got three 3's on the first test, but didn't explain what that meant. I was allowed to go get some coffee while the others continued working. 
After chugging my coffee, I came back in the room while the others were still working on their IQ tests. I was then told to begin the written part of the exam. It wasn't too terribly tough, I understood the directions, but because of my limited vocab I am sure I did not do amazing. I finished in 15mins. Then came the listening. I was hooked up to a headset and told to listen to t the scenarios and answer the questions. You are not allowed to pause or repeat the tape. During this exam, everyone else finished their IQ test and proceeded to talk loudly while the proctor was in the restroom.  I missed about 6 of the questions right away because I couldn't hear over them . Next came the reading exam, about halfway through the proctor came for a chat and asked if I understood what I was reading or if I was just looking for the words that matched in the questions. I was honest and said it was about 50/50 and was told I could stop if I wanted to because since I am so new, only the first test was actually required of me. Determined to see the end of the tests, I continued. Finally, it was time for the speaking. I only got halfway through, I kept on saying "Ik heb geen idee", so she allowed me to stop. Again, limited vocab will out. The proctor then told me that I impressed her by scoring three 3's on the first exam because people who have been here as long as I have shouldn't score that high. You are graded on 3 parts and 3 is the highest you can get in each category. Combining that with getting every question correct on the IQ test,  she was very interested in what I would get on the other not required for me exams. Only a few of the original group tested as long as I did, because if you don't get a good enough score on the first test, you don't take any tests past the IQ. After verifying that my Gemeente contact put me on the Staatsexamen II trajectory, she told me again how impressed she was with my scores so far and sent me on my way.
I am sure that my first score was a fluke, only passable because if you looked hard you could find the answers or correct spelling for things later on in the test. I will admit however, that being told I was impressive was something I needed to hear after 11 rejection letters for jobs here in The Netherlands! Let's hope my continued success on the multitude of things that I will be evolved in the next few months. 
I am not sure if my experience is typical for every Gementee or testing facility. This will be my last inburgering post until I get my results back and have my second talk with my Gemeente contact. 
Was your testing experience like mine? I would happily answer any questions you might have. Apologies if this post doesn't make an sort of sense, I should really be in bed! 
hinnamsaisuy / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I Think It Went Well! Inburgering Initial Interview

Yesterday, as many of you know was my final interview for the inburgering process. I arrived at the Werk en Inkomen Office in De Meern 30 minutes early because I am a nerd! I was offered coffee and told to sit down and wait. I felt so bad for the guard because I proceeded to hack up my lungs in the waiting room. Finally, it was my turn to meet with my Gemeente Representative. I was really nervous because I heard that some of them refuse to speak English to you, and I was alone. Luckily, this was not at all the case. She was more than happy to explain things in Engels and I tried my best to use my Dutch when I could. After a short interview to see if I was supposed to begin inburgering and my intentions for my life here in The Netherlands. It was agreed upon by both of us that since I eventually want a career that will require me to converse fluently in Nederlands, I would be taking the Staatsexamen II. The most intense of the four exams you can take for inburgering, when I pass the test I will get a diploma stating that I will be fluent in Dutch and can work in a Dutch workplace as well as attend University classes in Dutch if I wanted to. 

This is really the best track for me and will mean that I will be more focused on learning the language then learning about the culture. It also means I will not be allowed to do the portfolio option I was wanting to do, but an actual exam. I have 3 years to pass the exam. The government will pay for a year to a year and a half worth of classes.

*Important* if you haven't signed up for the Inburgering yet, get a move on, in the next year or so it will still be required but no longer paid for! After we made our decision about what path I should be on, I was signed up to take the initial placement exam.

So, tomorrow I get to go into the South of city and take a four hour exam for placement beginning at 1pm. I am extremely nervous about this. Mostly because I spent all day in bed today with a debilitating sinus headache! I told my contact that I reckon that I am still in level one. I think probably Level 1A, but The Verlo- thinks I am probably at Level 1B. I guess we shall see after the exam. After my contact gets my results back, she will get in touch with me and then I will find out where and when I will be taking my classes. I actually can't wait to begin taking my first Nederlands class!

So, that is where we are right now. Wish me luck for my test tomorrow and if anyone has any surefire get rid of a cold fast tips, I need to know them!  

samarttiw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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