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Juliet Thompson Hochman, Amsterdam

Who are you?

Juliet Thompson Hochman. Can’t quite let go of my maiden name.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

We moved from Portland, Oregon to Amsterdam in the summer of 2012 so that my husband could take a job with Nike Europe. In truth, he came out to Amsterdam eight months ahead of us so our two sons could finish elementary school and middle school in the US.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Really none. Nike does a good job supporting their expats and I am a pretty organized person, so it was just logistics. My lists had sublists. This was complicated by our staggered move and the fact that our older son is at boarding school in the US. But everything got to where it was supposed to go.How did you find somewhere to live?

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An estate agent took my husband around and he picked one of three places he was shown on Day One. As in the previous three moves, I moved in sight unseen. It seems to work for us

Are there many other expats in your area?

Yes, lots.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Our Dutch neighbors are very kind, but it is not the tradition to invite newcomers into your home. I have joined a Dutch rowing club and that has given me a really unique insight into Dutch friendships that other expats may miss. I think the rowing experience will be one of the best things I’ve done here.

What do you like about life where you are?

Everything. Highest on the list is the bike culture. I don’t drive anywhere and I love it. My children have more freedom here – they can go anywhere in the city without me and organize their own social time. There is precious little helicopter parenting done by the Dutch and they give it to you straight. I love the access to endless opportunities to explore the Netherlands and all of Europe. I have learned so much about history and art here and there is always something to do.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

Very little. I miss the mountains. I miss my family in in the US but I didn’t live near them before either. Um…real bacon?

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Lots of little things but nothing mind-crushing. The Dutch have a split personality between being a highly regulated society (we have all heard the phrase “it’s not possible”) and allowing extraordinary personal freedom (pot and prostitution legal, fireworks legal, no bike helmets, drinking age is 16). The Dutch are far less puritanical about alcohol and sex, but their gun controls and social service net makes the country an incredibly safe place to live. The pace of life here is very relaxed; no one works too hard and families spend a lot of time together. Life is simpler here. I love the US, but I think we could steal a page from the Dutch playbook.

What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

I was told that Dutch food was terrible, but we’ve been delighted. Restaurants are good and diverse. Indonesian food is especially delicious. I’m not crazy about their pickled herring and the fresh vegetable and fruit choices can’t compare to Oregon, but overall I have no complaints.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Relax. Learn. Open your brain. Notice everything. Don’t judge. Don’t compare against what you know, just see everything as it is. Do things the Dutch way as quickly as possible.

What are your plans for the future?

We are supposed to be heading back to Oregon in summer 2014, but I am hoping we can extend another year…

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