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I'd like to share here a few pointers for those who are thinking of taking the big step of moving across the ocean. What I learned after I arrived... And what I had to do when I left.
Coming to the Netherlands
Visas: It was much easier to come to the Netherlands from America, than it was for me to come to Australia from America. In the Netherlands, I was able to apply in the Netherlands for a residence permit [Dutch: verblijfsvergunning] at a local gemeentehuis [city/town hall; also known in Dutch as a raadhuis or a stadhuis]. I could remain in the Netherlands while this process took place [I recall this was also the case for citizens of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and EU countries, as well as possibly a few more countries]. All I had to do was apply with my passport, my birth certificate [with apostille], and my then-partner had to prove that he could support me financially. I've heard that the rule now also includes that a couple must provide some proof of relationship [registering their relationship, for example].
Finding work: Ha. I wish it had been so simple for me. It took me a while before I had work. Many companies in the Netherlands require that you have a diploma of some sort to prove that you can do the job you're applying for. Work experience alone just doesn't cut it. You should get a credential evaluation of your diploma done in the Netherlands to see if your education is suitable for the job you wish to apply for because the educational system in the Netherlands differs greatly from educational systems elsewhere in the world. More information about that here. First, you'll need to get yourself a sofi-nummer or BSN [Dutch social security number], and you can learn how to do that here. When applying for work, even if it's an international company that you're applying to [like Philips, for example], you will want to apply in Dutch. More information about that here. Otherwise, you can find work through an uitzendbureau [employment agency] like Randstad... Or you can set up your own business [tips on that here] through the Kamer van Koophandel [aka: KvK]... Or perhaps you know someone who would be able to employ you. Basically, this whole website here will help you figure some of it out, but no matter how you go about getting a job, ik wens je veel succes [English: I wish you good luck]!
Daily life: It gets interesting living in the Netherlands. I found myself doing things daily that I never did before, and I adopted many of those things into my daily life. Even now, while I live in Australia, I still do a lot of these things... In hindsight, I loved living in the Netherlands. Yes, I had my days when I thought to myself, “What on earth am I doing here anyway?!” But I loved it overall. I loved learning the language. I loved experiencing new things. It was exciting. I just didn't really care for my neighbourhood... Going through culture shock twice sucked. And I was not happy overall in my relationship. But you — You might find yourself doing what I found myself doing daily, like bicycling to the supermarket. In the rain. And doing it often because your refrigerator is too small to store more than a 2 day supply of food. Or hoping someone with a car can just drive you because you're frankly pooped of doing the bicycle-to-supermarket-jaunt. Trying to translate written Dutch to English, or listening to Dutch being spoken. Often. Sometimes it will annoy you, and you might find your mind wandering off while you're listening to people speaking Dutch. Broodjes [sandwiches], kaas [cheese], or both combined broodjes kaas [cheese sandwiches], koffie... Héél véél koffie drinken [English: drinking lots of coffee], that is. Rain. Nosy neighbours [leave your curtains open all day so that they can see everything you do, and then hopefully they won't be so nosy anymore]. Learn how to clean your windows and often while you're at it. Hanging all of your clothes out on the line to dry, underwear and all, in the backyard achtertuin. Your neighbours do it, so when in Rome... You'll learn how to automatically dodge doggy droppings on the sidewalks without thinking twice... You'll adjusted your lifestyle to the store hours. You might not be tall, but you'll come to accept that nearly every single Dutch person is taller than you, and it will no longer hurt your neck to look upwards for long periods of time when conversing with someone. You'll get used to the furniture. You will know how to open and pour a juice container without it spilling all over. You'll succumb to believing that Chocomel is just about the greatest chocolate drink on the planet [or replace Chocomel with some other favourite brand that you've embraced since living in the Netherlands]. Someone has hopefully taught you how to make groentesoep met balletjes [recipe here; English: vegetable soup with meatballs] properly [or replace groentesoep with some other favourite Dutch cuisine]... Uitjes [English: bits of onion] as a condiment? Mayonnaise with your fries? You might learn to love that too.
Learning Dutch: I chose to learn it on my own daily through practice/immersion, but I also paid for classes at a language school. Then, after living in the Netherlands for nearly 2 years, I learned that I could do an inburgering [English: becoming a citizen] program, available through the gemeente. Rather ridiculously, I'd fallen between the cracks of the gemeente's books and was overlooked when this originally was supposed to be flung at me, but I would have found out the hard way later on during my residency permit process when I could have been handed fines for not having done the program. I know some people who somehow avoided this process all together, but I found it highly useful and helpful in my personal integration process to go through the inburgering classes. I learned Dutch a lot more easily, and I also I made some very good friends! Outside of this, you can learn Dutch through books, CDs, websites and more, but honestly the best way is to do it as often as possible and with native Dutch speakers. I did so for nearly 6 years, and now I can think and speak and read Dutch without even thinking twice now almost fluently.
When I left: I didn't know what was next. I was on a mission to just get away from my circumstances, and the last thing I wanted to worry about was how on earth to get things from point A to point B. I had to contact the gemeentehuis to let them know via the bevolkingsregister that I was no longer living in the Netherlands. I also had to contact the IND [immigration] and mail to them my verblijfsvergunning [residence permit] card. Thankfully I could do these things via email and through the regular post. I had to figure out how to do my final taxes myself too and the Expatax website helped a lot! Becoming clear from my bank, however... That is annoying! I had ABN-AMRO, and the balance on your account needs to be zero in funds when you close it, but you have to mail to them a written statement that you wish to close the bank account. During that time, your account may or may not remain at zero. Save yourself a lot of trouble and go to a branch in person before you leave the Netherlands. You also can't change your address so easily through them either on the other side of the globe, so again go in person while you can!
Coming to Australia!
How did I go from living in the Netherlands to living in Australia? I got in touch with a very old boyfriend of mine, someone who I hadn't seen in nearly 13 years. We met back in 1994 while he was visiting America from Australia, and we kept in touch after he left to return back to Australia. We did so for about 4 years, but sadly we lost contact over time, and that was back when there was literally no internet in every household [I didn't get an email address until late-1998!]. So in late-2010 I thought of him and decided to look for him and see how he was doing. After I found him again, it was exciting! We basically picked up where we left off many years ago, and he invited me to Australia for just a visit. The rest is history, and I'll share more about this soon.
For now, I hope some of my tips shared here will help some future expats who wish to make the Netherlands their new home.
The button above in this blog entry is available for purchase at Dutch Design online shop. You can buy it as a hat, t-shirt, neck tie, etc. Plus they have plenty more items available — Check them out!