Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I moved to Amsterdam in summer of 2019.The reason I wanted to try my next step abroad was I had this big dream of living and working outside of Japan since more than 10 years ago. Until this year, I had been scared to take risks to realize my dream for real. However, working holidays age qualifications have already passed my age in all countries and one visa program set an age bar as 35 years old, that was why I felt I needed to decide now or never.
What challenges did you face during the move?
Finding a flat in Amsterdam as an expat like me was difficult. I was lucky to have a friend who shares a place with me. I applied for visa by myself and it took me three months to get it including some revisions. Until I finally got it, I had not been relieved fully.
How did you find somewhere to live?
First I booked a place to stay for one month on airbnb. During this time, I tried to get information and went to a few places for viewings, then I finally found a place through a friend whom I got to know by chance.
Are there many other expats in your area?
A few Dutch friends told me Amsterdam is full of expats and almost the only place where many expats live in the Netherlands. I see a lot of different nationalities in the city so I think there are many expats here.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
A few friends here are friends through my previous trips in the Philippines and Indonesia. Since Dutch people like traveling, I met some Dutch on my trips. I got to know some of them by chance while it is true that I meet more expats through different communities.
What do you like about life where you are?
I really like the architecture of historical buildings in the Netherlands. They are very beautiful under sunshine, and even under stars. Cafes and local shops in and outside of Amsterdam are also enchanting.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
I have an entrepreneur visa so I cannot apply for some positions that require corporate working permits. While I can be very creative in works that I really like, there are limitations sometimes.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
Japanese are not straight about feelings so I’m still getting used to being as open as Dutch people.
More crimes happen here so I appreciate Japan in that sense.
What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
I appreciate accessible organic foods available at almost any supermarket.
I was also surprised to know many people here eat seafood quite often.
It’s only that portions are huge sometimes compared with Japanese standards.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
I would advise people to follow their heart when realizing their dreams, not other people’s dreams. To realize your dream once or more in your life, you must always take risks.
What are your plans for the future?
I started my own business, a digital marketing agency, in Amsterdam where I always wanted to live and work with my endless passion in branding and marketing. I would like to stay outside of Japan and explore more around the world from now on too. I would like to take advantage of my experience in marketing in Japan to connect the Netherlands and Europe and Japan in the global market, so both countries will benefit more from each other.
You can find out more about Hiroko and her business at poolsterdigital.com.
Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!