Dear readers! I´m so excited to share with you the first post from my new blog project Blog Story: World Through My Eyes. It´s no secret: sometimes we see things, not as THEY are but as WE are. Countries are like people, showing their varying personalities: raising you to the glory or destroying your dreams. Therefore, every story of living abroad is unique because of the place and the person behind it. Luckily, our world is full of amazing ladies and inspiring expat stories. Therefore, I´ve decided to bring them both together and show you diverse countries across the globe through the eyes of different expat girls. Let´s start with an insider scoop on being an expat in Amsterdam – meet Ashley, an American in Amsterdam who followed her heart all the way through different continents!
Expat in Amsterdam
A twist of fate has brought Ashley from the States to Amsterdam. New home, new job, new friends, new love, a new language, a new bicycle, and a new girl. This is a personal story of a brave and beautiful young lady: a story about pursuing her happiness and finding a home on the other side of the world. Many thanks to Ashley for sharing it.
I’m Ashley, a US citizen and currently an expat in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I am a photographer and online student at Northeastern University in Boston. In August of 2015, I decided I wanted to make myself more competitive on my nursing application so I went to Nepal to complete a nursing internship in a small clinic outside of Kathmandu. This decision changed my entire life. I found adventure, independence, love, and had no idea that life was about to bring me abroad to Europe.
I was really unhappy in my job in the US. I was a nursing assistant in the neonatal ICU and while I loved the learning curve and the babies, my co-workers really killed the job for me. I was making no money, my feet hurt, and the work environment was an unhealthy disaster. I knew it wasn’t for me but what was I going to do?
I was about to apply to nursing school and needed the job as a reference. So I asked for a month off to go to Nepal and help with post-earthquake relief in a clinic. I got accepted into the program and fundraised the money by offering discounted photoshoots. All of my friends and family rallied around it and word got out through social media and I was booked solid for sessions. I raised the money and I was set to go!
I couldn’t believe I had managed to pull it off. When I landed in Kathmandu, I had no intention of falling in love or meeting a guy. I had just stopped seeing someone and I was in Nepal to learn and have a great time. On my first day in the clinic, I met a handsome Dutch guy who was doing in medical interns. We immediately clicked and I can happily say we have been together for a year! We did long distance for 8 months and I finally decided I wasn’t happy in the States so I packed it up, moved to the Netherlands and became an expat in Amsterdam!
The Netherlands through American eyes
The Netherlands through American eyes is very different. The most popular mode of transportation is a bicycle. Most people in the States drive, so being exposed to the elements to get somewhere is quite an adjustment. I now have a jacket for every type of weather and layering is a must. Almost all Dutch people in Amsterdam speak English so the language barrier is not really an issue. But once you leave the city, its kind of hit or miss.
Life in Amsterdam
Dutch people are very friendly. Although, there’s always some cranky person in the city who is pissed at you because your riding your bike like an asshole. But you learn to get over it. Or they yell at you in Dutch so you don’t really care.
Life in Amsterdam is generally really easy. Most things are close enough to ride too. If it isn’t you can rent a Car2Go or get on the tram. Or just take an Uber. This country eats an insane amount of bread. That took some getting used too. But I cook a lot more here than in the US and generally eat a lot healthier, minus the drop (licorice) and stroopwafels. I think, as an expat in Amsterdam, the things I miss the most are Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and US clothing stores.
Reality vs. Expectations
I was so nervous moving to NL. I didn’t have a job. I stayed with Erik for the first 6 weeks and I was a mess. Riding my bike was terrifying. My stomach hurt all the time. I was just a giant ball of nervous that couldn’t relax. I knew I didn’t want to go home but I felt awful. Erik worked all day so I was alone all day which was difficult to adjust to. Loneliness has become an unwanted friend that I had to learn to get along with.
Making friends here is difficult. Dutch people generally already have their friends and are not really wanting to add to their social circle. Any expat in Amsterdam is desperate for friends but it´s hard to find people you click with. So you go out on girl dates and try to find people that you like. It takes a while. I think the girls in the States are more friendly and willing to make new friends, especially in South Carolina where I am from. We’ve never met a stranger.
I think some of the most challenging parts of integration is immigration. They don’t make it easy on us. I started my own business so I lucked out with a DAFT treaty which is an American friendship treaty with the Netherlands which makes it easier for Americans to start businesses here, but it’s still a total run around. I just got everything approved and received my residency permit for 2 years…6 months later. Haha! Nothing happens quickly here, but most things here are worth the wait.
My recommendation for anyone moving to NL is patience. Housing is hard to find here so unless you have 1,400 to 2,000 euros for a place, you will struggle. Patience, patience.
Only in the Netherlands
I love the quality of life the Netherlands offers. I spend a lot less money here than I did in the States. I don’t need a car, so that relieves a lot of stress in regards to paying for a car payment, gas, and insurance. If my bike is stolen, which it has been, you just buy another one for 100 euros. It’s a pain, but it happens to everyone.
As an expat in Amsterdam, I’m still struggling to get a routine, but I know it will come with time. Luckily the gyms here are amazing, so that helps with the motivation aspect of getting to the gym and working out. Meet up and Facebook groups are awesome ways to meet people and start the process of making friends. I think I have 3-4 friends so far so I’m making progress!
This really is a special country with so many benefits. It’s so easy to travel and see other places. In 6 months I’ve been to Brussels, Paris, Israel, Austria, Germany, Italy and Mallorca. Not including all of the places in the Netherlands.
Outside of Amsterdam is the countryside with sheep, goats, and cows. I love going to Erik’s mom’s house on the border of Germany and smelling the clean air and enjoying the wide-open spaces. Erik and I have also found some really cool secret spots right outside of the city and have had a fun feeling far away from the city, but actually only being 30 minutes away.
Bike crashes are inevitable here. It’s so embarrassing when it’s you, but it’s hilarious when it´s someone else. I’ve run into a car, slipped in the rain, and my brakes failed the other day and I ran into a pile on bikes. I also got hit by a man walking in the bike lane, which is a big no no.
We all have bells on our bikes which mean 1 of 2 things. 1. Get the hell out of the bike lane before I run you over(tourists) or 2. I’m trying to pass another biker on the bike lane(locals). We love using our bells, especially on tourists who think the bike lane is a sidewalk and they nearly jump out of their skin when you ring the bell. It makes for a good laugh every time.
Before and After
Being an expat in Amsterdam has greatly changed me. I have learned how to be a better person, especially in regards to relationships. Erik has been amazing and I couldn’t have done 99% of things here without him. He has been my shoulder to cry on. My partner and greatest supporter. He’s been my hand to high five when I got a really good grade in school and he’s helped me practice my Dutch.
I’ve also learned how to ask for help and realize that it’s not weak to need some support. I have also learned to laugh at myself more. I butcher all of the street names and instead of being self-conscious about it, I’ve learned to just butcher it and let someone correct me and laugh. Life is good here and putting in the effort will pay off. I highly recommend Europe in general, but I can tell you Amsterdam is incredible.
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