Ashley: Amsterdam Blog
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Amsterdam, etc.
My name is Ashley and I moved to Amsterdam from the UK in September 2011 to live with my Dutch boyfriend. I met him in a hostel in Phnom Penh, and I had no idea at the time that my future was in Amsterdam (you can read the whole story on my about page). I love to cook, and go out for dinner. In my day job, I work for an online marketing company, which I really enjoy, and I also freelance one day a week, and work on my blog.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I have always written, so it was something that just made sense to do when I arrived in Amsterdam. At first, it was just for my family, and then I realised that more and more people were reading it, and I had both tourists and expats reading it.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I think that Five Ways to Deal with Grief as an Expat has struck a chord with many expats because dealing with grief isn’t something that you consider when you move to another country, but it happens to so many of us.
My most popular pieces are these both with expats and tourists because nobody wants to stand in a queue all day:
Tell us about the ways your new life in Amsterdam differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I think there is always going to be some level of having to get used to new circumstances, wherever you move to. It can be as simple as not recognising ingredients in your local supermarket, or a language barrier. I tried to take everything in stride because I knew that the cultures were quite similar, but it did surprise me that there were actually a lot of differences (which can take some getting used to). For example, figuring out the rules of the road on a bike with a very quick crash course was difficult, dealing with the Dutch and their bluntness, and their reams of paperwork and red tape.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Amsterdam? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I don’t think I was fully prepared for my new life in Amsterdam, but I don’t think I would change the way I did it. I think if I had over thought it, I probably wouldn’t be here now - sometimes it’s better to jump in feet first.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I was at a meet-up to practice my Dutch and instead of saying ‘I can do everything’ in Dutch, I said ‘I can do everyone’ which caused an embarrassing silence and then someone piped up and asked if I was a prostitute.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Amsterdam?
- Learning Dutch is not necessary, but it definitely helps. I guarantee you, eventually you will come across that one person who doesn’t speak a word of English, and then you’ll be thanking yourself for being pro-active and trying to learn before you arrive.
- Research, because it will be invaluable. Figure out where you want to live, how much you want to or can afford to pay in rent, work out how the health system works. Basically, as much information as you can get your hands on that will help you in the long run.
- Don’t panic – if you don’t feel prepared for your new life, you are in the same boat as 99.9% of the expat population, and someone else will always have a similar tale to tell.
How is the expat community in Amsterdam? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There is a huge expat community in Amsterdam – there are so many meet-ups, societies, and clubs that you’ll find plenty of friends with a wide range of interests. Make sure you also meet locals too.
How would you summarize your expat life in Amsterdam in a single, catchy sentence?
I want to use a quote from Bill Bryson, that I think sums it up pretty well:
‘Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses’ - Bill Bryson.