Who are you?
My name is Austyn Smith and I’m a podcaster, blogger, and mother of four.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
We moved two years ago (2017) from the United States to the Netherlands (just south of Amsterdam) for my husband’s job.
What challenges did you face during the move?
I moved with a two-month-old baby and three other children into a small hotel while we waited for our shipment to arrive. This was a logistical nightmare as the kids were bored, the baby was constantly woken up from the noise, and I was sleep deprived.Also, driving in Amsterdam was a huge adjustment with the bikes, trolleys, pedestrians and one way streets.
Having a tiny fridge and needing to shop every other day was very difficult. I was used to shopping once a week in the States!
Another surprising adjustment was the change of pace. I was used to convenience and efficiency, so waiting three hours for a load of laundry to go through a wash cycle (vs 30 minutes back home) was very frustrating.
Lastly, the stores closing at 5 or 6 and on Sundays and Monday mornings was a hard adjustment and we ran out of diapers a few times at the beginning. 🙂
How did you find somewhere to live?
My husband’s company helped us a bit, but we did a lot of grunt work.I ended up getting kicked out of the hotel early due to a misunderstanding and had to find my own lodging with all of our luggage and four kids while husband was on a business trip. Good initiation!
Are there many other expats in your area?
Yes, a huge international community here. It’s the only way I survived!
What is your relationship like with the locals?
They are very friendly and helpful and speak excellent English, but I am quite separated as the kids attend the international school. We are integrated a bit more in sports and after-school activities as well as with our neighbors.
What do you like about life where you are?
So many things! The quality of life: family time is very important to the Dutch. Everyone gets home at a reasonable hour and then spends time together walking, talking, or sitting outside.
Also, the biking culture is truly incredible and one of my favorite things. I absolutely love biking year-round and my kids have a lot of independence as result.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Even after two years, I still don’t feel completely comfortable. My Dutch is not proficient enough, and I feel like an outsider. In frustrating moments, I crave home so I can have ease and comfort. This usually shows up when my children are sick, or when I need to buy something specific and have no idea where to find it.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
The directness in communication. People don’t sugarcoat things here, or worry about hurting your feelings. They just tell it as it is. In one sense it’s completely refreshing. In another, it can in fact hurt your feelings!
What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
I live in a town that is quite international so there are many different cuisines to choose from, which I love. Two things I have come to crave and consume often are fresh mint tea (mint leaves in hot water… that’s it!) and warm goat cheese on bread with honey and walnuts (or in a salad!) I do not care for the fresh herring!
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Join local Facebook groups before you move and make contacts so that when you arrive, you have a small community of friends waiting for you. It will lessen the homesickness and give you a support system to answer your thousands of questions.
Also, give yourself a good 6-12 months to adjust. It really does take time to get used to everything. Don’t rush it and be patient when you are overwhelmed. It gets so much better!
What are your plans for the future?
The future is a great big question mark and that is Expat Life! It’s hard for a planner like me to be so uncertain, but having this experience has expanded my horizons so much that I’m completely open to another international move down the road and so are the kids. In the meantime, we are trying to learn Dutch, and I’m growing my business as a podcaster and blogger. At any rate, I know there are adventures ahead and I welcome them with open arms.
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