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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 Teresa aka California Girl (CG). I am from the SF Bay Area and moved here in 1998 after graduating from the SF Art Institute, where I studied Film & Photography. I had been on a three month European tour when I first came to Amsterdam and I knew then that I would live here someday.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
In 1993 I was in a car accident and from that experience, I decided to study Acupressure and later started a practice, Acupressure Massage Therapy. My clients were mostly Expats that were always seeking information in English about Amsterdam/Holland. I used to write a monthly newsletter that was very popular. I decided to create a blog in order to share the information more globally and it took off from there.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
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 would say the main difference is that I come from a beach culture. I grew up on the beach and in California we do everything outside. In Holland we have precipitation 17 days per month, so that took some getting used to, especially as the main form of transportation is a bicycle. I had a very difficult time in the beginning as the language is so different then my native Spanish and English. However, the people all speak English and that is very helpful in the beginning. The food was another shock for me as I come from a rich tradition of California Cuisine, which incorporate the Pacific Rim, Mexico, Italian and Chinese influences. Mostly, I missed the large leafy salads at lunch time and the readymade, but healthy prepared foods that you can get in places such as Whole Foods. In the last 10 years there has been a huge improvement in gastronomy in Amsterdam and I am very grateful.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Amsterdam? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
One of the things I would definitely do differently is get my Dutch driver’s license right away. You have a 6 month window to trade in your current one for a Dutch one and I didn’t know that. If you don’t do it within that time period, you must go through the whole process of taking lessons and both theoretical and practical tests, etc., which is a headache. I was also hesitant to cycle in the beginning, because I was not used to using a bike like a vehicle. (In California, biking is a sport not a method of transportation, unless you are a kid. Of course, nowadays that is changing.)
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Well, be careful on your bike as the tram tracks are the exact same width as a bicycle tire. It is very embarrassing to get stuck and when it happened to me a tram was coming. I nearly had a heart attack! Also, be careful with your pronunciation. I once was reading my Sinterklaas (Dutch Christmas) poem from my husband’s Grandmother and mispronounced HOLY MAN to mean HORNY MAN. The family had a good laugh.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Amsterdam?
You should really get a bike immediately and blend in with the Dutch community as much as possible. Join classes to meet new people that have similar interests in order to make your own friends. Finally, definitely learn the language. You will get a lot more respect, be more eligible for a job and you will be able to read your own mail without assistance.
How is the expat community in Amsterdam? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I worked for UPC Chello when I first arrived and was exposed to a vast array of Internationals from the very beginning. I had a great time traveling for business all over Europe and enjoying the company of my colleagues here in Amsterdam. There are also a lot of meet-ups and groups that you can join if you do not work for an International company. I still gravitate to people who are native English or Spanish speakers... it just feels more comfortable for me, although I am now fluent in Dutch.
How would you summarize your expat life in Amsterdam in a single, catchy sentence?
I am living and sharing the California Girl (CG) Lifestyle on AMSTERDAMP and loving it. Please join me.