My name is Anna Gilhespy, I am 29 and I run my own business (www.thehouseofmouse.co.uk) making handmade ornaments which I sell mostly online.
I moved to Hoofddorp (just outside Amsterdam) with my husband in 2003 when he was offered a good job over here. There was little work where we were living in the UK and the opportunity was too good for us to pass up.What challenges did you face during the move?
Our move to Holland was extremely smooth, mostly thanks to my husband’s company arranging a relocation agent for us. She helped us find a house to rent and took us through all the paperwork we needed to fill out. The hardest part for me was that I still had one year left to complete before receiving my Fine Art Degree; it was a struggle to find a university that would accept me at such short notice. Fortunately I managed to get my UK university headmaster to pull some strings with a Dutch university that they had links to and secured a place. I did not enjoy the transition between universities; the differences in education approach were more extreme than I had anticipated. They were also not explained to me well, which led to several stressful misunderstandings. My husband slid into Dutch culture with much more ease than I did.
Did you decide to rent or buy? What was the process of finding accommodation like?
When we first arrived we rented as at the time we were not in a position financially to buy anything. Our relocation agent happened to know of a property that was coming available just as we were arriving and so we snapped it up. It was risky in that we agreed to take the place based only on some photos that were emailed to us. It was the best decision we could have made. The property was owned by a pensions company, which meant that the amount of profit they could make on rent was capped. We got it very cheap as a result and it was only one bus ride away from work for my husband. We stayed there for around 3 years before finally buying a place of our own. When we bought we used an agent to help us buy, they made the whole process for us so easy; translating important documents and helping us negotiate a price. I highly recommend to any expat looking to buy a property in Holland to use a buyers agent. The website for the agency we used is www.uwaankoopmakelaar.com
Anna, can you tell us something about the business you run? Are there any particular challenges expats face when setting up and running a business in the Netherlands?
My business is mostly online and I am the only employee, so I have not had to deal with any of the problems associated with property and staff that most new businesses in Holland would need to cope with. From my experience the most complex things was doing all the paperwork for the KVK (chamber of commerce) and also to register as an artist, which gives me a tax reduction here in Holland. Other than the yearly income tax returns and other financial red tape things are pretty straightforward. My sales are mostly to customers in the USA and the UK as I have discovered that my product is not as appealing to the local market.
Are there many other expats in your area?
Most of the expats I know live in Amsterdam, which is where we go for socializing. We would love to move there one day, but the property prices are so much more expensive than they are in our little village.
What do you like about life where you are?
We like that we can afford a good size house that we can raise a family in. My husband enjoys life in Holland a great deal. Being an artist in Holland is wonderful, there are many tax breaks here that are not available in the UK. From a business point of view I am doing much better here than I would have done back in England.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
For me it is the distance from my family that is the hardest thing about being an expat. I am very close to my parents and brother and even after 6 years here I still miss being able to eat Sunday dinner with them.
What are your plans for the future?
We are expecting our first child early next year and so much of our focus is on preparing for his arrival. We plan to stay in Holland for the foreseeable future, although a move to another part of the world in the next 4 or 5 years is a possibility. As my business can be run from anywhere it will depend on my husband’s job as to where we might go next.