expat

March Photo Challenge: Day 15: Car

I don't have a car here. Actually, neither of us have our driver's license for The Netherlands. I honestly don't miss having a car at all. I love public transportation and even when I had a car, I always tried to pawn off driving on someone else. 

To be honest, the thought of driving in The Netherlands scares the crap out of me! There are bikes that you have to dodge, the tiniest parking spots known to man, and most of the time you have to parallel park. * I can't parallel park, I failed this part of the driving test but because of my sparkling smile, still managed to get my license.* 

One of the odd things they have here in The Netherlands is the little car above. It drives in the bike lane, not on the road and can't go past like 10 miles an hour or something.

Here is my bike, probably the closest think I will own to a car for years. You can accessorize it just like you would a car in the States. I haven't done it yet, but one day I will trick it out. 

 

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March Photo Challenge: Day 2: Fruit!

Today's topic was almost enough to derail my efforts on the second day of the challenge! You see, I am not a fruit person. I much prefer vegetables and I am more of a savory person then a sweet one. If I do eat a fruit, it has to be something relatively exotic for me to enjoy it. I'm not sure if it is the taste of things like mangoes, star fruit, and dragon fruit that I like or that it is not run of the mill. I may need to examine this further. Anyways, here are some mangoes, taken at my local supermarket. Yes, we have grocery stores here in The Netherlands. 

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26 Things Before I'm 26 Revisted- Halfway There.

Sure, today is Valentine’s Day, but it is also my half-birthday so, I will let you judge which one is more important. In honor of this, I thought I would revisit one of my most popular blog posts, 26 Things Before I am 26, to see where I am halfway through the year.

1. Move to Utrecht. Done!
2. Be able to communicate in Dutch. This one I am still working on, but I am able to understand and converse with a lot more people then when I first moved here. But, I am still not as far along as I would like.
3. Get married, I'm engaged so this isn't a huge jump.We are actually waiting until May of 2013 to do this. There is no rush for us and since I don’t have job here yet, it is going to be awhile.
4. Take up ballet again. When I made this list, I was expecting to still have my old job because I was told it would be no problem. No extra spending money means no ballet lessons.
5. Find a core group of friends in my new country. I still need to work on this. I have hung out with one person who isn’t Loek since I have moved here, I need more friends.
6. Develop a sense of personal style and dress accordingly. Again, this is hard with no money. But I have been using Pinterest for when I do have cash again.
7. Learn to bake and cook in my Nederlands kitchen. Done and Done! Recipes coming soon to a blog near you.
8. Start my tour guide business. No progress has been made on this at all.
9. Learn to sew. I hemmed my curtains, it’s a start!
10. Go to Paris. (I went when I was 11, but the Louvre was on strike the whole time)Again with the no money!
11. Write letters to my friends back home. I sent them Christmas Cards, it made me feel good.
12. Get back to the weight that feels best on my frame. Two pants sizes lost. But still want to lose more.
13. Read 100 new books, including some classics. I am on track for this and with my Good Reads account, I can track the books I read this year with their reading challenge.
14. Start making metal jewelry again. I really need a job!
15. Book my honeymoon, we probably wont go right after the wedding. Since we aren’t getting married this year, this is a non-issue.
16. Learn how to share, I was practically an only child. I think I am doing better at this, although it is a work in progress.
17. Become an expert bike rider. Haha, yeah right! Riding my bike around expert Dutchies still scares the crap out of me. Maybe, I will do better when it is warmer.
18. Attend Amsterdam Fashion Week. Not yet, but I have high hopes.
19. Knit a sweater. Maybe I should master the scarf first?
20. Learn the art of light layers. Hey, I think I am finally getting this!
21. Eat better, I have a horrible diet. Not eating out has helped this a lot. But we do need to cut out the fried foods. Darn those Dutch and their snack bars.
22. Start bringing in money again. Have I mentioned I am available for hire?
23. Continue adding to the retirement fund. I did until the end of September, I will once I bring in money again.
24. Laugh more. Loek makes me laugh every single day!
25. Get over my fear of boats. I walked on a frozen canal, I think that is some headway!
26. Stick to my plans. I could do better with this as well.

In conclusion, I made this list when I thought I would still be able to continue my employment across the sea. When you find yourself suddenly find yourself without a fall back plan in a country where you don’t speak the language, applying for a job can be difficult. But I better get on it if I want to make my goals.

I Can Stay!

Yesterday, I received some rather awesome news in the post! Just 2 weeks, after turning in all required paperwork to apply for my visa, I was granted my wish! That's right, I can now stay here with The Verlo- for at least a year! Words can not describe how elated I feel! I can also now look for a job here, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. 

So, how did we do it, you may be asking? Well, the first step in moving anywhere abroad should first be all the necessary research. Don't just rely on what you read online, actually call if you have questions. Here in The Netherlands, you have to be on the lease to register yourself as living with your partner. This process took us about two weeks to get the lease sent to us. After we registered at City Hall, we went to IND to get all the necessary paperwork to fill out. Since I am an American, I had to get my Civil Status Affidavit notarized at the US Consulate in Amsterdam. It took 3 weeks to get an appointment. You then have to take that paper to Den Haag to have it legalized for the Dutch Government. 

Since The Verlo- just  started a new job and didn't have a long enough contract. (see Immigration for where you want to move for all requirements,) We had to provide all his contracts and tax stubs for the last 3 years. As well as, all his paychecks for this year. In the end, we just had to fill out all the paperwork, along with about 50 pieces of various required papers, and pay our fees. 

I am so excited, that it has been working out for us and we could not be happier that I get to stay here. All I can say, as hokey as it sounds is: Listen to your heart, do the work, and your dreams really can come true! 

No, I am Not Dead!

Forgive me readers for I have sinned, it has been about 3 weeks since my last post. An eternity in internet years, I know. It is just that I have been busy, moving and building Ikea furniture.  Plus, apparently it takes almost a month to transfer you internet here, so I am without until the 11th.

Hence,  I am writing to you from a McDonalds, where I just had a fish filet. Apparently, ordering something not the way it comes is very odd to the Dutch. The Verlo-  makes me feel like a freak every time I tell him I want my food plain. I know, I am the world's pickiest eater.  Anyways, a lot has happened since my last post. We officially got my address changed, and went to IND. The guy there was super nice, and I have another appointment there after I go to the American Embassy to get my Certificate of Civil Status verified next week. It took about 2 weeks to get an open appt at the US Consulate. So much for trying to do stuff immediately..

I will try to make it to places with WiFi more often in the future. And I can't wait until I have internet again on the 11th. I just wanted to let you guys know I am fine and not dead and have not given up my blog in abandon.

 

In the meantime, Happy Halloween from Holland!

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I Leave in a Month from Today!

I can hardly believe it, I leave a month from today to go live in Utrecht, The Netherlands. It feels like it took a long time to get to this point, but it also feels like everything is happening so fast. I am sure this month will be a blur. There is so much to do! 

My fiancee was offered a new job this week, which is exciting and thankfully we meet all the IND criteria for him to sponsor me that he is able to take it. If you don't have a 12 month contract, they look at past employment so this is his last month of work at hive ins current company. This is also my last month in the office, my last day is the 23rd. So, three more weeks. On my last day in the office is also the day Loek gets the keys to our apartment , so he has a ton to do to get it ready to live in. 

This month is not all work and no play though, I am having a going away party and a lingerie engagement shower before I leave. I am looking forward to seeing my friends and family all gathered together for one big weekend of awesome. This also means that my mom and best friends have a ton of planning to do. Because, I want it to be epic! We have so many people coming in from out of town and I am truly grateful to have so many amazing people in my life. 

As far as prep goes, the last thing for Atti is, I have to send in his papers to the USDA. And, of course, I have to pack, and pack, and pack. Those of you who have been reading for awhile, know that I am an avid planner and occasionally do packing trial runs. I plan on making a video so you all can see just how it is done.

People keep on commenting on how well prepared I am, I don't think you ever can be for a life change so drastic as this. My whole world is going to change. I am incredibly happy with my decision to move to be with my love, but I would be lying if I didn't admit to a moment of panic a few times a day. But really, I can not wait for my adventure to begin.

I also plan on keeping my blog updated everyday until I leave. 

 

Do Your Research Or Your Budget Will Suffer.

When you are preparing to move some place new, especially abroad, it is important to do your research. Often, the idea of the city in your head is not going to match reality. Loek tried to tell me about Holland in the Summer. He told me all about how our home would not have AC and neither does his office. In my Southern mind, I could not imagine. I was convinced that I was going to die of heat exhaustion. I knew it was bound to be colder there than here. But no air, the Dutch must be insane. It was not until I found a 24 hour streaming webcam and saw that people were wearing jackets in Utrecht, in July.... That I realized, I don't have enough clothes that I can layer.

So what does this have to do with my budget? Well, because of my "oh shit, I'm going to freeze" epiphany, I started spending money on things like jackets. Two beautiful wool coats to be exact. Because in my mind, if the dollar is less than a euro, my clothes might be cheaper here. I also went scarf crazy! When making my original budget,  I didn't think about the fact that I will have to buy things like suitcases. Since I overestimated on the amount of money that I would spend in other areas, I will still come out pretty much on budget. 

Here is my new money saving tip: When trying to save money, it helps me to think about what I can't have if I go out to eat or buy that magazine. When you compare what you could do with the money as opposed to what you want to spend it on at the moment. The better thing will win, hands down. 

Image from Pinterest. I really need to learn the art of light layers. 

 

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The High Exchange Rate for Peace of Mind

I think I have mentioned a few times that I am a worrier. I am almost always in a panic about something. I don't want to be this way, I just am. So you can imagine what my blood pressure was like in the weeks leading up to the Debt Ceiling Deadline. That's right, full on panic tizzies about what Congress was going to do and how that would effect the exchange rate when I was ready to move. 

Being an always plan for the worse case scenario kind of gal, I began looking for solutions to change my money into Euros, before August 2nd. It also didn't help that the price for a Visa in The Netherlands went up more than 400 Euros in July. At first, I looked into getting a passport card from Travelex. A kind of pin card that you can pre-load with Euro's before you go. Apparently, I wanted to do too big of a transaction for the day, so my bank blocked my getting one. When I called to get it unlocked, the customer service rep recommended my calling my local branch and seeing what exchange rate they could offer me for buying Euros. I did, and it was a few pennies better in my favor. But, when you are talking a few thousands of dollars, those pennies add up. 

So, I emptied what was in my savings account and purchased Euros from my bank. It was pretty easy, except for that they didn't know to type in The European Union as opposed to The Netherlands in order for me to get Euros, not Guilders. Luckily, I caught the mistake. The Euros were then mailed to the bank and I could pick them up 2 days later. The fee was like $10.00, it was really so easy.

Was this a better exchange rate than if I had used the ATM in The Netherlands? Who's to say? But I feel at ease knowing that I have enough Euros available to pay for my Visa.

In this case, peace of mind trumps cost. I needed one less thing to worry about.

Flickr Image above by donaldtownsend

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An Atticus Update: A Practical Guide for Moving Your Pet Abroad

A few weeks ago, I posted about how I was planning on taking my sweet cat Atticus with me to Holland. I wrote about how I was planning on being courteous to the other passengers by storing my baby below. After some intense research and reading countless horror stories, I have decided to hell with the people on the plane I will only see for 9 hours of my life, my baby is coming with me.

I started the process by first calling the airline to book Atti's space. You need to do this as soon as possible, as only a certain number of animals are allowed in the cabin. Of course, they couldn't find my reservation! But I got it taken care of. I had to specific if Atti would be traveling in a hard or soft carrier. I hadn't even bought one yet so I said soft. I wanted to make sure he could fit in the seat in front of me. For Atticus, I have purchased the small Sherpa bag from Amazon. It had favorable reviews and co-workers of mine will find humor in the name. The bag is incredibly small, but so is Atti and, he seems to enjoy it. 

When you are traveling with a pet, it is important to look up information on the country you are traveling to specific qualifications. For The Netherlands, Atti needs to be microchiped with an ISO Chip. You can not get these from your normal vet and the literature on the net really sucks in helping you. Here is the easiest way to make sure your pet is covered if you are moving to, not just visiting Europe- A special shout out to the staff of HomeAgain for helping me figure this out.

  1. Go to microchipidsystems.com, click on products. Click on  The TRAVELchip™ then select the World Chip. Place your order. 
  2. Check with your local USDA approved vet and make sure that they have a HomeAgain scanner with the yellow sticker. This will read ISO 134 kHz, which is required for Europe.
  3. Make an appointment and bring in your Euro 998 form to your vet. You can get this from the Dutch Embassy or any number of Pet-Relocation sites.Make sure the vet uses a blue pin.
  4. Mail the form to your State's USDA Vet Office, so that they can sign off on it. 

As of right now, I am waiting for the microchip to come in. I will keep you updated as the steps unfold. 

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I Have Been Remiss At My Duties

I have been remiss at my duties dear readers. I haven't been keeping you all as up to date in everything that is going on with my preparations of becoming an expat. I am sincerely sorry for this. Things have just been pretty hectic lately and work has been really stressing me out. You see, last week I changed positions and have been slowly transitioning my clients over to other people in preparation for my departure. It is absolutely necessary, but has really been taking its toll on me, because I allow myself to get too emotionally involved.

But enough excuses, in order to keep you all up to date on just what has been going on with my preparations to move to The Netherlands, I am going to write a post a day this whole week to get you caught up. That's right, I am making myself a post schedule and sticking to it. Here is what you can expect from me this week.

Tuesday- An update on Atti, booking him on my flight and all the prep that goes into taking a cat abroad. 

Wednesday- Buying Euros, and stock piling my visa funds. 

Thursday- An update on budgeting and what has me freaked enough to do some not like me shopping.

Friday- I've had a few tiny freak outs. I think this is probably totally normal. 

I hope you all have a fantastic week! 

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