Kaitlin: A Georgia Peach Abroad
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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.
Let’s see, my name is Kaitlin, I am a mid-twenties expat from Atlanta Georgia. I moved to the Netherlands in October of 2011, so a little over a year and a half now. I feel like I am adjusting okay.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
In the US, I worked as an Online Content Manager, which basically means blogging was most of my job. I created A Georgia Peach Abroad 6 months before I actually moved to the Netherlands to chronicle the preparation I was doing. I can’t imagine not blogging, it has been an integral part of my career and life since 2006.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I am really fond of a lot of my posts; after all they are my babies. But Where the Heck is Holland? Is that In Asia? And Other Tales of Geography Woe is still my most popular post. I am still surprised by the amount of people who don’t know geography.
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?
It is really relaxed here in the Netherlands. I’m more relaxed and things don’t bother me as much as back in Georgia. I think for me, the biggest thing is that I am free to be myself without living in the Bible Belt. When I moved, I thought that I would have no trouble finding a job, probably that was pretty naive of me. I thought that since I had experience in a niche that people would be knocking down my door. What people should realize is that you may have these really great skills, but most of the time there is a Dutch person with similar skills, who by the way speaks Dutch, near perfect English, French and German. I am very lucky in that I am young enough and on the right visa to be able to go to a Dutch University to gain more skills for a minimal fee.
I don’t think I really had any trouble adjusting because my partner is Dutch. I moved here to be with him, so I have someone to ask about customs that are different than in the US. It also helps that since I was eight years old I have been telling people that I was moving to Europe. The only thing culture shock wise that got to me is the smoking. In the States, smokers generally try not to engage in front of non-smokers because we are very concerned as a nation about second-hand smoke. Here, people just light up whenever. Also, teens smoke on school grounds which would never ever be tolerated in the States.
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 feel like besides the job thing, I was prepared for life here in the Netherlands. If I could go back in time, the only thing I would do differently is pack less summer clothes and be more diligent about learning Dutch.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Now that I have Dutch friends, I have learned that while I thought I was telling them that I was going outside, I actually have been telling them that I have been going to fart. The words sound exactly the same to me, but not to discerning Dutch ears. However, I didn’t learn the Dutch slang word for farting until one of my male friends asked me why I felt the need to share my bodily functions with the group.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Amsterdam?
- Learn Dutch if you really want to feel at home, but just know that you will almost always be answered in English.
- Make sure that you get on the deed or lease before you go register at city hall.
- The Dutch aren’t actually rude, they are just really direct so get a thick skin.
How is the expat community in Amsterdam? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Full disclosure here, I actually spend my time between Amsterdam and Utrecht. I reside in Utrecht, but my school and best friend are in Amsterdam. I haven’t had any trouble finding expat friends. Most I found through my blog or their blogs, but there are several meetup groups and social networks for finding expat friends. Twitter is a great one. Finding Dutch friends is a whole different story. I finally have some now that I am going to school with them.
How would you summarize your expat life in Amsterdam in a single, catchy sentence?
It is a challenge, but it is also everything I dreamed my life to be.