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Moving To The Netherlands On The DAFT Visa

Carlie: Hey there, it’s Carlie with the Expat Focus Podcast.

The Covid Pandemic has been a catalyst for change for so many of us. How are you living your life differently to before the year 2020? Husband and wife, Michelle and Alex, actually had a big move abroad in mind before the global shutdown derailed their plans.

Now they’re catching up. They quit their jobs, sold most of their stuff, and moved with their two cats from Texas to Rotterdam in the Netherlands on the Dutch American Friendship Treaty, or Daft Visa. The couple document their lives on their YouTube channel. It’s called Buncharted. And we chat today about their experience of setting up in the Netherlands, applying for their visa, which only happens after you arrive, lifestyle differences and what they’d leave behind if they had to pack for their move all over again.

Michelle and Alex, thank you so much for joining me on the Expat Focus podcast.

Alex: Thank you so much for having us.

Carlie: Now, we’re here to speak about your move from the USA to the Netherlands, but first I just want to pick a little bone with you because I noticed on your bunchartered YouTube channel, you do a few taste test kind of videos, and you had one where you were comparing the British Marmite to the Australian staple, Vegemite. And you had some pretty unkind words to say about my favorite breakfast spread. So, what’s with that?


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Alex: I don’t understand how Vegemite is edible.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: I was actually really surprised. So, we did a video very early on in our channel where we tried the UK Marmite, Vegemite from Australia, and then Marmite from New Zealand. And we love Marmite from the UK. Like we were shocked the first time we had it. We were like, wow, this is so good. Why do so many people hate it this?

Carlie: This I can’t believe either.

Alex: Yeah. So when we tried Vegemite, I was like, what is this? Why is it so different? I always assumed they would be similar, but when we ate Vegemite, we were just like, this doesn’t taste like food.

Michelle: Yeah, I felt like we had a bad batch or something. So I would really love to know, what does it taste like to you?

Alex:  Yeah. What do you like about it?

Carlie: Well, see I’m a big salty, is it salt tooth? I’m not a sweet tooth. I’m a salt fan. And it’s just a beautiful, dense, black, for anyone listening that is not (inaudible) with Vegemite, it’s a dense black yeast extract spread, and it’s super, super salty and it is delicious. And the one thing I take issues with is, I saw you spread it on your bread, your toast. It wasn’t too thick. But did you include butter?

Alex: Oh, of course we did.

Michelle: Yes. Absolutely.

Alex: You got to have the butter.

Michelle: Yeah.

Carlie: All right. Well, you seem to-

Michelle: -we’ve watched enough YouTube videos of people trying Vegemite, where I felt fairly confident about our execution for all of the spreads.

Alex: Oh my gosh,  Michelle’s mum came into town a few weeks ago and we wanted her to try the UK Marmite, because we have tons of it. We eat it all the time.

Carlie: Because you’re still eating it like, every morning from what I understand.

Michelle: Every morning,

Alex: And I gave her no introduction to it whatsoever. I just pulled off part of my bread and I handed it to her and she ate it. And she was disgusted by it. But I was thinking about how funny it was, because I think by default, especially for Americans, anything you spread on toast is going to be sweet.

Michelle: Yes.

Alex: So she probably thought it was going to be like Nutella or something.

Michelle: Peanut butter or something.

Alex: Yeah. So imagine her horror when she, you know, bit into it and realized it was extremely salty.

Michelle: She tried to be so polite too. She kept it in her mouth and didn’t immediately spit it out, which I felt like was a pretty good-

Alex: Yeah, but she couldn’t swallow it. I felt really bad.

Carlie: I actually had the same experience because here in France, eating sweet things for breakfast is the norm. And yeah, I gave my work colleagues a bit of a Vegemite taste test on baguette with butter. They very politely turned their noses up. A little bit too surprised.

Michelle: At least they were polite about it.

Carlie: But I have to say, I do recommend you try a Vegemite again, give it another crack.

Alex: I will. We will.

Carlie: But if and when you do; butter, Vegemite on toast, slices of avocado.

Alex: Oh.

Carlie: Runny fried egg.

Alex: Oh, yeah.

Carlie: Bit of salt and pepper. Maybe some chili flakes.

Alex: Yeah. Okay.

Carlie: That is my favorite way to eat Vegemite.

Alex: I like how you turned it into avocado toast. That’s something I can definitely see that we get behind.

Michelle: Also very millennial.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: Yeah. What can I say?

Well, moving on from Vegemite, you’re on the podcast today to share your journey from the USA to the Netherlands. And you use the daft visa, which I find quite a fun name, the Dutch American Friendship Treaty Visa to get there. So I wanna start by asking what was behind your decision to make the move? And in only three months?

Alex: So we basically had already planned on moving, which put us in a very interesting predicament. I’ll try and keep the story short, the backstory at least, in 2020, we had both quit our jobs because we planned on doing some extensive travel. So it’s January 2020,  and Michelle and I literally put in our notice on January 30th or February 1. 2020.

Michelle: Yeah. And just to back up, it’s something we had been saving for for quite a long time at that point.

Alex: Yeah. We really, really wanted to just do some extensive travel to catch up on what we call our travel backlog. Like, there’s tons of places we want to visit, and there’s no way you’re going to be able to do that when you only get a few weeks off every year to take a vacation.

Carlie: Because in the USA, it’s notoriously bad with holidays, isn’t it?

Alex: Yes, exactly.

Carlie: Like two weeks a year or something.

Alex: Plus, in the USA, you have to fly from the USA to Europe or to Asia. I mean, you’re far away.

Carlie: I can relate. Australia to the rest of the world. Oh

Michelle: Oh yeah, of course.

Alex: So obviously that didn’t end up happening because, you know, COVID happened in March, 2020 and we ended up going back to work. But we had this giant plan and we needed to think of a way that we could change or adjust the plan, that in the new world that we lived in, understanding that the world wasn’t just going to reopen like that. There was going to be like a re-introduction period. How do we weave this into our lives? Preferably in a way that’s actually more sustainable long term. Not something where we do this like-

Michelle: – six month burst.

Alex: Six month burst, yeah, and then go back to work. So we’d actually been talking about leaving Austin, Texas, which is where we were from, and moving to Chattanooga, Tennessee, because of the low cost of living, it seemed to check a lot of the boxes of places that we wanted to live. And it’s really close to the Atlanta airport, so we felt like, it’s the biggest airport in the United States, we could travel really easily from that.

So we had planned already on moving in, I think July of 2022. We went to Amsterdam and Paris, just to get out. It was our first international trip post Covid in April, 2022. And on the way back we were Googling, you know, how could we move to the Netherlands?

Michelle: Well, we kind of always do this thing, like before, when we were traveling, especially internationally, if we really loved the city or the country on the way home, we’d be like, how do we move to Japan?

Carlie: Because you’ve already picked out your house, right? While you were there.

Alex: Yeah, exactly.

Michelle: Exactly. We’ve already looked it up. And normally, in that process, we Google it and we find like nothing short of impossible to figure it out. So we just continued to do it this time.

Alex: Yeah. And actually, I had been freelancing, and the entire first page results was Dutch American Friendship Treaty. And it was like, oh, this is interesting. They have a visa that essentially is for freelancers or people starting a business in the Netherlands, for Americans, that makes it really simple to move to the Netherlands. We were just like, well, we were planning on moving to Chattanoogan in July. Do you just want move to the Netherlands instead?

Michelle: A little bit more east.

Alex: Yeah. I mean, it seemed like it was the perfect solution. So, we did it.

Michelle: Yeah.

Carlie: And you mentioned you were freelancing, so you were already working for yourselves before you decided to move?

Michelle: He was, I wasn’t. So I had a typical Monday through Friday, nine to five job.

Alex: In the United States, it’s not really nine to five, Monday through Friday, but yes.

Michelle: Well, especially that job too was like 9 to 10PM.

Alex: It’s one hour a day.

Michelle:  Nine to 10:00 PM.

But I was already kind of thinking like, if we move to Chattanooga, would I be able to keep it? And it was like 50-50, because the company that I worked for was one of those companies that felt really strongly about having people back in the office post Covid. So I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to keep that job, even if we made the smaller move to Tennessee.

Alex: Yeah. But I mean, even for freelancing, it’s a big move. You know, when you’re freelancing, it’s really easy to have calls with your American clientele, and it’s during the workday. Here, obviously that had to be adjusted. There’s just some transitional flux from the actual move itself. And I mean, I use that as an opportunity to scale back. And so right now, we’re just taking the time. Like I am freelancing still on a much more limited capacity, because we want to travel. We’re trying to figure out that sustainable long-term thing and eventually we’ll figure out what we can do that fits into our lifestyle. But right now, I think we’re just trying to enjoy the fact that we’re living in the Netherlands.

Michelle: Yeah. And we can take a train somewhere, we’re three hours away from a different country, and that’s just never the way that it’s been for us in the past.

Alex: Right.

Carlie: I love those postcards that you can find that show the geography of Europe and they place it over like a map of the United States or Australia, just to give you that scale perspective.

Alex: Yeah. I mean, we were living in Austin, Texas and I’ve seen pictures of Texas laid on top of the continent of Europe and it’s just like, holy crap.

Carlie: Yeah.

Alex: It’s just so small.

Michelle: I mean, I saw a TikTok yesterday from a TikToker who’s in Amsterdam, and it was like playing on the fact that you can spend seven hours just driving across the state of Texas. You’ll be in Texas the entire time, where here you can span five different countries in that same seven hours period.

Carlie: I think I can drive from where I am in Strassburg to Amsterdam in five hours if I wanted to.

Alex: We were taking a train from here to Rome, and like the day before we were sitting at a cafe or something, and I was just like, I wonder how long it would take to drive that. And I looked it up, I don’t remember what it is now, but it’s like a normal drive in the United States.

Carlie: Feasible.

Alex: Yeah. I was like, holy crap. Like, it’s just like, wow, everything is so close to us.

Michelle: And we’ve driven back and forth across the United States several times, with an aggressive agenda, and it’s always taken us like three days.

Alex: Oh, yeah. To get anywhere.

Carlie: Yeah. Oh, same with Australia. Absolutely.

Alex: Yeah. Oh right. Yeah, of course.

Michelle: What a big country.

Carlie: Yeah.

Alex: And you get attacked by spiders along the way.

Michelle: Yes.

Carlie: There is this. Giant snakes, cockroaches. The insects get bigger the further north you go.

Michelle: Oh my gosh. We learned a little bit about that in Texas, because we’re not from Texas but we had lived there for five years, and just even moving that far south in the US…

Alex: Yeah, they have big centipedes.

Michelle: Yeah, they have big bugs there. And that was upsetting to say the least

Carlie: That’s one thing that is quite pleasing about Europe. They don’t seem to have like the hairy scaries from back home.

Alex: Yeah.

Michelle: I love it.

Carlie: I wanted to know a little bit more about the Dutch American Friendship Treaty visa. Something that stood out to me when I looked it up was how little investment as an entrepreneur you had to make in the Netherlands to get this visa, because I know there are visas for other countries, golden visas and those sort of things, where you have to buy a property, invest a few hundred thousand euros into the country you want to  live in, that sort of thing. But this one seems super accessible, even for someone who’s just starting out with their own business.

Alex: Yeah, it is extremely accessible. And like, I’m aware of the fact that it is very much a privilege that this treaty exists. I think it was done in the fifties, you know, in the aftermath of World War II as a means to inspire Americans to actually make an investment in the Netherlands after World War II. So the fact it still exists, I think is great, because the world is obviously extremely different now. And you know, I’m shocked that it hasn’t really changed all that much as that time has progressed.

And I’m also very aware of the fact that there’s additional privilege in that it doesn’t go the other way around. Which is very surprising. Like, if you are an entrepreneur in the Netherlands, you can’t just move to the United States, make a similar investment and get a visa. It’s a much more difficult process. So I was actually floored by the fact that this thing was so approachable and relatively easy to pull off.

Michelle: There were so many times throughout the process before we actually moved here that we were working with the immigration attorney and just kept being like, wait-

Alex: -this can’t be.

Michelle: -wait, can you remind me? Are you sure? Like so many times.

Alex: Yeah. Because  it doesn’t seem like it should exist.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: So essentially, with the DAFT visa, we did work with an immigration attorney just because it was such an unknown. We don’t know what we don’t know. Plus, we weren’t in the Netherlands, and to get this visa you have to be in the Netherlands. So like, it doesn’t really even start process-wise until you arrive, which is very interesting and also very scary.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex:  Because we have two cats. We upended our lives, sold our house in Austin and basically couldn’t even really start the process in earnest until we arrived in the Netherlands.

Carlie: So does that mean you had to enter basically as visitors and then once you were on the ground be like, hi Netherlands government, Dutch government, I’m planning to stay longer.

Alex: Yes.

Carlie: Please accept my application.

Alex: Yes. I even asked the immigration attorney, like, what do I say if they ask me going through immigration, what we’re doing there. Because like, can you imagine you’re an immigration officer? Like, hey, yeah, I’m going to move here. And they’re going to be like, no, you’re not.

Carlie: Exactly.

Michelle: It sounded like, how long are you planning on staying?

Alex: Indefinitely.

Michelle: Forever?

Carlie: Well, that depends what you say later.

Alex: Yeah, exactly.  So yeah, the whole thing has just been kind of weird and kind of, you know, risky I guess. But I mean, it all went extremely smoothly. You arrive, you find a place to live, you have to register at the place with the local municipality, and then you get your Dutch social security number called a BSN. And then you start the process, basically.

You file your application with the type of business that you’re planning on creating, so like a business plan. You get a business bank account, you start the business in earnest with what they call it the KVK, it’s the Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands. And you file your final paperwork, show your bank statement that says you made the 4,500 Euro investment into the company and you go pick up your residence cards.

I mean, the hardest part I think was just because it was so difficult to schedule the immigration appointments with the IND here last summer, because I think there was such a backlog of people moving in, plus the Ukrainian refugees. That was the hardest part, was scheduling the appointments. Everything else was remarkably simple. Still looking back, it’s just like, how was it that easy? You know?

Carlie: And you mentioned you needed to set up a business bank account. I mean, setting up any bank account in a foreign country is difficult at the best of times. But how were you able to do that, for example, when your visa was still being processed?

Alex: I don’t know how I did it though. It was crazy. It was just like, every time we did something like that, I was like, there’s no way this is going to work, this isn’t going to go well. And it always did.

Michelle: Well, I honestly think the hardest part was getting a mobile phone service. That was where it kind of felt like it needed to follow an order of operations that didn’t really make sense with the reality of what we were dealing with. But everything else was pretty easy.

Alex: I mean, we set up our personal bank accounts basically the week we were here because we needed to have a place to actually have euros. And the business bank account was, I mean, I think it took like a one business day for them to actually prove everything. And I’m sure I submitted some sort of documentation that I had at the time to prove that it was a legitimate business. But I mean, once you get the blessing from the Chamber of Commerce here in the Netherlands, I think at that point that’s pretty much all they need.

Michelle: Yeah. Once they’re like, oh, this person’s good, this business is good, everything else just kind of opens up to you.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: And so how long from when you landed in the Netherlands to when you got your visas approved?

Michelle: Gosh. So we landed on June 26th and we got our visas in mid August, maybe mid to end of August.

Alex: I think it was two months. We were very on top of it,  just because the time that it was taking in between appointments, because often you couldn’t schedule the next appointment until you completed the prior one, so we were trying really hard to stay on top of things. So that’s how I think we ended up doing it in two months. I think, technically, you get up to 90 days. But I’m not an expert there, but it can be done, I think, in as little as two months.

Carlie: And the hardest thing for people when they want to move to a new country is housing, one of the hardest things. And you had the added complication of two cats with you.

Alex: Yes.

Carlie: So how did you manage that, especially in your initial months before your visa was finalized, before you could show proof of residency to a potential landlord?

Michelle: Yeah, so when we moved here, initially we had temporary housing for I think about eight weeks. And it was a place where we could land, we could just dump our stuff off and also register in the city with the municipality to get the process going for our permits. And about a week after that we started looking because we had heard about the housing crisis and how difficult it could potentially be.

Alex: There’s a massive house housing shortage here in the Netherlands.

Michelle: Yeah. And we started looking immediately and I think that we originally had a few cities that we wanted to live in and quickly realized that it was less about-

Carlie: – Amsterdam.

Michelle: Yeah. It was less about like the city and more about like, where’s a house available with someone who’s actually going to accept us? And we also did work with an agent here. And I do think that that was really helpful for us, for the two things that we kind of had going against us, where we didn’t have our permits yet and we had two cats.

Alex: And in the Netherlands, since there’s no credit bureaus, they ask for bank statements, basically that prove that you’ve made the three x, the cost of rent over the last six months.

Carlie: Three times the rent.

Alex: Like that’s how they, they confirm your credit worthiness. But all of my money up to that point was in the U.S.And it was in my U.S. bank accounts and the bookkeeping in the United States is nothing like the extensive bookkeeping that you need to provide in the Netherlands. So that was another thing. We had to have someone who could, you know, attempt to vouch for us and translate the documents that we were sending her before we sent all the stuff to a landlord that was just like, what the hell is all of this?

Michelle: Well, I think I personally was probably like a bit naive about it, where I was like, oh yeah, like they say that they need this and everything, but if we just give them six months worth of rent upfront, they’re going to be like, oh, this is great. Like, this is fine, it’s no problem. So that’s going to solve everything. And then once we started working with our agent, we quickly realized like, that’s actually not valuable or perceived as valuable for a landlord here. And that kind of blew my mind a little bit and made me very nervous about if we are actually going to be able to get a home in that eight weeks or not.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: And in France, I don’t know if it’s the same in the Netherlands, but they require you to have a guarantor that will pay the rent for you.

Michelle: Oh, wow. Really?

Alex: Who is that? Like, who would that be?

Carlie: For students, for example, it’s often their parents or their grandparents. I think your income needs to be three times the rent, and if you don’t have that, no one quote me on this, then you need a guarantor. And so I remember, one friend was renting a place and they’re like, okay, who’s your guarantor? And she’s like, guys, I earn six times this rent. I do not need a guarantor. If the landlord will not accept me, that’s their problem.

Alex: I mean, I wish I could have gone in and felt that confident. I don’t know, that was the scariest thing, because we were coming in, we were the least appealing renters.

Carlie: Yeah. I mean, that’s the reality of it, right?

Alex: I mean we have cats, and all our money was in the U.S,. and I’m a freelancer, and we don’t have actual visas. I can’t believe we found a place given the housing shortage, but it was just like we had our tail between our legs every time we put an application in.

Michelle: Yeah. And we were on this countdown clock where we knew also, the temporary housing that we were in, we couldn’t just extend it.

Alex: No, they couldn’t extend it because they were also booked up.

Michelle: And we were kind of like, what happens at that eight week mark when we don’t have a house and they kick us out of the temporary housing?

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: So would you say that using an agent to find a place to live was the right move?

Alex: Yes.

Michelle: Yes. A hundred percent.

Alex: Especially because I think we could have also done a better job of looking for places before we left the United States. A lot of agents will work with expats and do like virtual tours and stuff. So we probably could have been better about that, but we didn’t necessarily do that because we had the corporate housing, or extended stay.

Michelle:Yeah.

Alex: So, I don’t know. I mean, I think especially in the Netherlands, given the housing shortage, if you’re coming on the DAFT visa, it does make sense to work with an agent, just because they’re going to be able to present themselves on your behalf, or present your offer on your behalf, in touch to a potential landlord and sort of explain your situation in a way that I don’t think you could effectively have come across, either through language barriers, because that’s like some pretty weird phrasing.

Michelle: Yeah, because she was like, your rental contract will be in Dutch. And normally there wouldn’t be someone to offer us a translated version, and also be able to gurantee that this translation that we’re providing you in English is as accurate as it possibly can be. Like, we would probably run it through Google Translate if we didn’t have that.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: Oh, completely. Yeah.

Michelle: Yeah. And it would be really scary. I think  the part that was really interesting was like, we really were the ones that found the majority of places we wanted to look at. So we were finding the homes, or finding the apartments, and she kind of did everything else on the back end with the connections and being able to even just like, get us a showing.

Alex: Right.

Carlie: And was it difficult in the end? Like how many places do you think you applied for before you landed on (inaudible)?

Alex: We probably should have done more. I mean, to be honest, we weren’t looking to stay in Rotterdam. We were in Rotterdam for our extended stay housing. But an apartment opened up that was a little bit more than what we wanted. It actually didn’t check any of the boxes for us. But it was nearby and it was available and the agent was able to get us a showing, and then ultimately, like she knew the person that was leasing it. So I think in the end, it worked out really well for us. And it was, I think, the second place we put an application on.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: But, you know, in retrospect I kind of wish that we’d spent a little bit more time looking. But, you know, hindsight,  I don’t know if that would’ve actually been the right move for us. Maybe we would’ve ended up in an apartment that checked all of our boxes, but maybe we also would’ve been screwed after that eight week period, and we don’t have any housing and we didn’t know where to live.

Michelle: Yeah, I think the experience of looking at the very first place made me panic a little bit.

Alex: Yeah.

Michelle: I spent like 10 minutes at this apartment looking at it and in that 10 minutes that I was there, I probably saw like 31 people come through the door to look at it and I was like-

Carlie: It makes you super panicked.

Alex: Oh yeah.

Michelle: – oh no, this is way harder than I expected it be.

Alex: Yeah, and we didn’t get it. I mean, we put an application on that place and didn’t get it. I think it made us really nervous. I mean honestly, this time we’re trying to find another place that we’d like to move to this year, but we’re trying to get like six months ahead of it because I think it’s that hard to find an apartment right now, or housing in the Netherlands, unless you’re buying. But we’re not there yet.

Carlie: I remember when I moved to London, I was staying in a hostel, I used a program that helps you get set up. And word got out in the hostel that all the housing listings they provide you with, they will go super quickly and you have to get on it the very next day after you arrive, and go see places, and say you want this room in this share house with a bazillion other Aussies and Kiwis and that sort of thing.

Alex: No pressure.

Carlie: No pressure. And so there was one Australian girl who was leaving like a single bedroom in a share flat of four people, and I went and looked at it and was like, yes, I’ll take it. That’ll do. Was it the best decision? Probably not. Three years later, was I still there? Yes. Because it was a safe option. It was the easy option. And every time I looked to move into a better place in London, I’d go and visit friends in Kensington and they’d be in really posh, beautiful little flats, and I’d go back to East London to my grimy, kind of a bit stabby neighborhood…

Alex: East London’s hot now though. Maybe you’re just ahead of your time.

Carlie: So hot. It was literally on the cusp of gentrification when I moved in and in the three years I was there it just evolved and there was something cool and new coming in all the time. I don’t think I could afford that same room these days, but every time I looked to try to upgrade my London life, it was so expensive that I decided to stay in my crappy little room in a really good location in East London.

Alex: I think that’s a really good point in that like, we miss certain things about housing in the United States. Like especially, we owned our home in Austin, we lived there for over three years and it just felt very homey to us, and comfortable.

Carlie: And American homes are gigantic, right?

Alex: It depends on where you live, but yeah.

Carlie: That’s the impression that I get.

Michelle: Yeah. I mean, our house in Texas was probably the biggest house we’ve ever had.

Alex:  Definitely the biggest house we’ve ever had.

Michelle: It was just super comfortable. My favorite house we’ve ever lived in. I don’t get homesick about the United States. I get homesick about our home.

Alex: Literally homesick home.

Michelle: Yeah, like I think if there was anything that I missed the most, it would be our home there.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: I get homesick for open plan living. I don’t feel like Europe does that so much.

Alex: Yeah. I think the thing that is interesting about moving abroad is that you you can’t just pick up your life and the things that you’re familiar with in your home country and then bring it with you when you move abroad. Everything is going to be different.

We were actually just talking about this the other night with some other expats that live in the Netherlands, and it’s like, I went to the doctor and had blood taken yesterday. It was a completely normal, like, as expected experience, but walking into it, it might not be, you know? Like every single thing that you do, including every single bit of your apartment when you move here, is going to be different.

So just embrace the scariness, I guess. Like, embrace the unknown. And just understand that you’re going to learn and you’ll get better at it as you as you go. And that includes, you know, what you’re looking for in housing or how you even might approach like an application process. Or maybe, I mean, not even maybe, definitely after living here for a year, living in the new country for a year, you’re going to have a lot better of an idea of what you actually want and are looking for than when you are like fresh off the plane, one week in.

Michelle: Yeah. Like some of those things in the first few months that you’re here that were really frustrating or you’re just like, oh my gosh, this thing again, like some of those fade away and just become a part of your normal everyday life and you just have a very different perspective on it.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: I’m sure some of the, for example, apartment nuances when you first arrived that really stood out to you, you barely notice now.

Alex: Oh, yeah. I mean Michelle’s learned the Dutch words that are on our washer and dryer.

Michelle: Yes, I know that very well.

Carlie: Very useful.

Alex: That was very shocking though.

Michelle: My Dutch, it’s not good, but it’s very limited to some household appliance.

Alex: Yeah. And everything here is induction. And then the oven is like a dual oven-microwave. And they all have like pictures. Everything is just a little different and you have to adjust to everything individually. Every day, especially early on, is like some sort of exciting thing where it’s like, okay, well today let’s figure out how to use this oven.

Michelle: Yeah, today we’re going to use the oven.

Carlie: And what you mentioned earlier Alex, about things being different, I think it’s very much the case that you don’t move abroad to have the same experiences that you’d have at home.

Alex: No.

Carlie: And if you’re in that mindset, then maybe moving abroad’s not for you. You know?

Alex: Yeah. I mean, I do think that there are some people who probably think about moving abroad that want to have the same experience, but like the glamor of living abroad. And I mean, it does sound glamorous, and I’m sure to some extent it is somewhat glamorous because it’s not an opportunity that everyone can do. But you know, at the same time, embracing the unknown is a big part of this move.

And if you’re not someone who likes to travel to places where no one speaks English, or that is going to be extremely culturally shocking to you, like, you know, South Korea or Japan or something, where you can’t read any of the signs, then maybe it’s not for you. Because you have to be in a position where, especially early on, every day is going to be a challenge in some way to you. And even in the Netherlands, where everyone basically speaks English at some level, we’ve still experienced that. And that was very shocking to us. A lot of things are very different and you have to adjust to them. Not in a bad way, obviously. Well, not everything in a bad way. But everything is uncomfortable.

Carlie: And you need to accept and get comfortable in the uncomfortable.

Alex: Exactly. And that’s part of the exciting part of it, you feel like you’re growing as a person and you feel like you’re gaining an understanding of a different culture. And that to me is the thing that makes it all worth it, like even something as as silly as dealing with the differences in a home in the Netherlands versus what we’re familiar with. It feels like you’re understanding something that is just fundamentally different than what you’ve always known.

Michelle: Yeah. Or even just down to the food, where, like you mentioned before, my mom came to visit us around the holidays and she’s like, okay, like I’ve reserved half of my bag for all of the snacks and things you want me to bring. And we really thought about it and we were kind of like, we’ve only been here for six months.

Carlie: Not missing anything yet.

Michelle: Well, we missed stuff, but at the same time it’s about an adjustment, a little bit, where it’s like, I think it might be a little too soon for us to ask for these certain things from her.

Alex: That’s said, she did bring us the pepperjack Cheezits, which were very good.

Michelle: Yeah. We did ask for a few things.

Carlie: I was interviewing Casey Rose who’s an American in Florence, in Italy. And she speaks a lot on her channel about ranch dressing.

Alex: Oh, yeah.

Carlie: And American mac and cheese.

Alex: We actually have ranch dressing here at the grocery store, but it’s very dill forward, which is very interesting.

Michelle: I think it’s quite good.

Alex: It’s good, but it’s not ranch.

Carlie: Yeah. I mean, I’m from Australia, I know ranch from my Subway sandwiches, but I don’t think of ranch as very dill (inaudible).

Alex: No, it’s not. And then we have Cool American Doritos, which I think are ranch flavored,right?

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: Cool Ranch.

Michelle: Well, yeah.

Alex: Cool American flavor.

Carlie: Cool American.

Michelle: But it’s also very confusing because there’s something here called American sauce, which originally, when I just read it, I was like, oh, maybe that’s ranch stressing. And no, that’s more like burger sauce.

Alex: Yeah, but it doesn’t even taste familiar.

Michelle: (inaudible) relish situation.

Alex: It doesn’t even taste familiar.

Michelle: No, it’s very odd.

Alex: So we have an expat shop here in Rotterdam.

Carlie: They’re the best.

Alex: Everything’s always so expensive.

Carlie: Overpriced, yeah.

Alex: But there are some things that we do buy, usually it’s things like hot sauce, because that’s actually not that expensive and you get a lot of use out of it. But then we will always buy two boxes of craft mac and cheese when we’re there.

Carlie: I did used to work for a Dutch company and so had a lot of expat colleagues working in the Amsterdam office who used to tell me that Dutch food, and just the food culture in Amsterdam specifically, was crap. So, how have you found local food and dining out options and that sort of thing in Rotterdam?

Alex: Can we skip this question?

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: I’m just kidding. Let me think of a polite way to say this.

Michelle: Well, okay, so we can start with the thing that I think everyone would probably agree on is-

Carlie: Dutch Pancakes?

Alex: Oh, well, yes. No, don’t get me wrong. There are highlights to Dutch food and I will talk about those.

Michelle: My biggest gripe that I think is pretty constructive, or our biggest gripe that I think is pretty constructive, is that there’s really no spicy food here.

Alex: No. It’s all very… bland, I think is a little harsh.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: Even when we’re talking about ranch dressing-

Carlie: – beige?

Alex: Yeah, it it is very beige.

Michelle: Always very beige and brown, yeah.

Alex: But when you talk about the flavor pallet of ranch dressing, as an example, I’m not surprised that it’s so dill forward, because ranch dressing, it’s tangy, you know?

Michelle: Or sour.

Alex: Or sour, like there’s a little bit of like…

Carlie: A kick, yeah.

Alex: …a bite to it.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: But salt and vinegar chips aren’t even popular here. I think there are Pringles salt and vinegar chips, but like that’s it.

Carlie: I miss good salt and vinegar chips.

Alex: Yes.

Carlie: It’s not really a thing in France either.

Alex: So like that and spicy food is just not that common here. Even when you go somewhere, they will say, do you want the spicy? Or, we got fries once, and a common fry sauce here is called Samurai Sauce. And they were basically-

Carlie: Yeah, I like the Samurai Sauce. It’s available in France.

Michelle: It’s very good.

Alex: It’s good.

CarlieYeah.

Alex: But the person at the fry counter was, in a crass way, saying that it was going to be very spicy.

Carlie: Are you sure you can handle it?

Alex: Yes. And we ate it and we were like, it’s like the equivalent of mild spicy in the United States.

Carlie: It’s like spicy mayo basically, right?

Michelle: Yeah. When they say spicy, it actually means more of like a paprika flavor. Like you get the pepper flavor, but no spice from the pepper.

Alex: We have found spicy places.

Carlie: You’re not doing hot ones yet.

Alex: Yeah, exactly. Not even close. But here’s the thing, while Dutch food is not necessarily spicy, or tangy, or doesn’t have anything that’s going to rock your taste buds, it is good food. Like it is fun to eat, especially fries. Like I love fries, I love trying all of the sauces. Like there’s a sauce here called Joppie Sauce, which is just awesome. Like, it is so good.

Michelle: It’s so good.

Alex: But there are highlights in food culture in the Netherlands, and two of them were unexpected for us coming in. One is just, we’re in Europe, there’s a lot of European countries that have really good outposts here in the Netherlands. Like here in Rotterdam, there are numerous Italian restaurants that are run by Italians and the food tastes like it’s from Italy, you know?

Michelle: It’s so good.

Alex: And that’s great, you know? Like there are lots of examples of that.

The other thing that was completely unexpected for us when moving here was, the Dutch have a history of being one of the very early colonizers of the world. Like they own the spice trade in Indonesia, they colonized Suriname in South America. And through all of that there was like a meshing of of foods.

Carlie: But not spicy foods.

Alex: Well, here it’s called Surinamese food, which is sort of like a combination of Indonesian and Chinese food with Dutch flair. So we go to a Surinamese restaurant here and it’s essentially like American Chinese food or Indonesian food, but it’s on like a sandwich.

Michelle: Yeah. So like, instead of getting your American-Chinese food on rice or noodles, you get it on like a weird baguette.

Alex: Yeah. It’s so good.

Carlie: Interesting.

Alex: It’s like Dutch fast food. But it’s so interesting and different than what we’re familiar with, but still familiar in taste because it’s sort of like American-Chinese food. That is to me like the highlight so far of Dutch food, with air quotes, because it’s something that is uniquely in the Netherlands that we weren’t expecting, that isn’t just fish or fried ragu.

Michelle: Potatoes or something.

Alex: Yeah, potatoes.

Carlie: I am curious about why you were eating Marmite for breakfast when you have the option of chocolate sprinkles on bread.

Alex: Oh my gosh. That’s the other thing I can’t get behind. So, I was actually going to mention that on our YouTube videos where we talk about Dutch food, Dutch people will tell us, and I mean, thankfully, that Dutch food is not just the beige things that I think tourists are familiar with. But there are a lot of things that are like, very meat and potatoes. Like a standard Dutch dinner I think, especially in the winter, would be like a sausage on top of what is basically mashed potatoes mixed with vegetables or sauerkraut. So I think more of those things are in existence, it’s just we’re not as familiar with them as people that have just moved here. Like, you don’t go to a restaurant and buy that. It’s like something a Dutch family would eat.

Michelle: Yeah. You would make it home for dinner.

Alex: Yeah.

Michelle: Which, I don’t know, feels very American to me. I’m pretty sure my mom made me that exact meal a hundred times when I was a kid.

Alex: But Hagelslag is the exact same thing.

Carlie: Hagelslag?

Alex: Oh sorry, Hagelslag is fairy bread. It’s bread with butter and sprinkles.

Carlie: That’s what it is? That’s a name of it?

Michelle: Yeah.

Carlie: Okay. Sounds like something out of Harry Potter.

Alex: Do you toast fairy bread?

Carlie: No. You just slather it in butter.

Alex: We toasted it in our video and everyone’s like, you don’t toast Hagelslag.

Carlie: Wouldn’t the Sprinkles melt on the hot toast?

Alex: No, it doesn’t.

Michelle: They’ve got like a little bit of a waxy coating to them.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: Okay. Yeah, no, I’ve never tried it that way.

Alex: So Hagelslag, it’s actually the name of the Sprinkles, but it’s basically white bread with butter and then topped with chocolate sprinkles. And that’s like, I think, a Dutch breakfast. A simple Dutch breakfast. Especially for kids.

Michelle: For kids, yeah.

Alex: I can’t get behind it. But it tastes fine.

Michelle: Yeah, I’ve tried it a few times. But I mean, the Hagelslag section in every grocery store is very similar to the cereal aisle in America.

Alex: Oh and, we stayed at a hotel in Maastricht, and the hotel had breakfast and it was phenomenal.

Carlie: Were there just tiny little packets of sprinkles?

Alex:  Yes.

Carlie: Yes. I love that.

Alex: It was so funny.

Michelle: Oh my gosh, it was so cute.

Alex: It was just like the tiniest little box of Hagelslag. It was adorable.

Carlie: So sweet. I used to steal them and put a few in my bag to take back to France with me.

Alex: I love that.

Michelle: Yeah, we took it with us.

Carlie: I know we need to wrap up soon, but I did want to ask about how your cats have adjusted into Dutch life.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: They love Stroowafels.

Michelle: Yeah, they love Stroopwafels and Bitterballens.

Carlie: They’re so good.

Michelle: Our cats are thriving here.

Alex: Yeah.

Michelle: And they have been from the very beginning. So we have two cats. One is a little bit older, but she’s the one that’s traveled with us quite a bit in the States. Like we’ve moved her to probably like five different cities and we always knew she was a trooper. She had been on a plane before that and, you know, we knew that she was going to be okay.

Our other cat, who’s a little bit younger, is the one who, previous to this, had been living in her cat cave under the bed for like 16 hours a day. And we were very worried about how she was going to transition. She’s out all the time now. She’s like hanging out with us on the couch.

Alex: She was playing earlier when we were on the phone here.

Michelle: Yeah, she’s playing, she’s looking out the window. Like, from the moment we landed. We stayed in a hotel for the first night at the airport just to get them in a space where they could get out of their carriers. We had prepped a place in the bathroom for her because we knew she was going to hide. She didn’t want to go in there. She immediately came out into the bed and was looking out the window in the hotel room. It’s just been wild.

Alex: It’s been crazy. Like, I don’t know what it is, but the cats love Europe.

Michelle: Yeah.

Carlie: And were they outside cats before or have they always been indoor cats?

Alex: No. Always been indoor cats, yeah.

Carlie: Okay. That would’ve helped a lot.

Alex: Yeah.

Michelle: Yeah.

Carlie: So what can you tell me about your future plans? I’m sure you have a big agenda for the European summer.

Alex: Yes, we do. The first thing that we’re actually really looking forward to right now is, in late March, we’re planning on doing like a camper van trip around the Netherlands and Germany and Belgium.

Carlie: Oh, great.

Alex: Because we want to see a lot more of the country than what we’re able to see just hopping on the trains. The train system, obviously extensive.

Michelle: Fantastic.

Alex: But there are a lot of places that are just difficult to get to. And that’s what we’re really excited to see, because that might open up some things that we want to spend a little bit more time in later in the year.

Carlie: And if you’re freelancing and able to work from the road then you don’t need to be tied to one city in the Netherlands.

Alex: That’s exactly right.

The other thing that I think we’re really looking forward to this summer is, you can take the train from Amsterdam, I think through Paris, to Budapest and then Bucharest, and all the way to Istanbul. And that is something we’re very much looking forward to. I think that starts at the beginning of April.

Carlie: Is this like the Orient Express? So you’re going to do the bougie train?

Alex: No, it is the opposite of a bougie train.

Michelle: We’re not quite there yet financially. Maybe one day.

Alex: Yeah. I would love to do the Orient Express, but it’s like $20,000 a night or something.

Michelle: Yeah, I think even the cheapest option is like 10,000.

Alex: Yeah. So no, it’s no frills, but it’s a good way to travel, to see a lot of different places in Europe. And also all the things in between, when you’re on the train and you can look up a window.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: I don’t know. But that to us is really exciting. I think it runs from the end of April until the end of October, so we’re waiting until April to do that. But that’s something we’re really looking forward to.

Michelle: Yeah, lots of train trips and campervans.

Alex: Yeah. I mean honestly, we just want to see tons of Europe. And Asia, but you know, we’re in Europe so we want to jump on a train and come somewhere or get a camerpvan.

Carlie: One continent at a time.

Alex:  Yeah, exactly.

Carlie: If you guys had to do your move again, or you were advising someone also looking at coming to the Netherlands on the Dutch American Friendship treaty Visa, what advice would you offer or what would you have done differently?

Michelle: I think the one thing that we would’ve done differently, is not shipped as much of our stuff over. We felt like, when we were in Texas, getting rid of our things. I mean, I think we sold and donated probably 70% of our items at least.

Alex: Probably more.

Michelle: Maybe 80%. And we were like, we feel really good about the things that we’re shipping over to the Netherlands. And then, you know,  it takes a little while for your things to arrive, you know, three or four months. And in that time period we realized, most of the things that were on its way over here, we didn’t need, we had no use for them. And when they arrived we were like, oh gosh.

Alex: Yeah.

Michelle: This is too much stuff.

Carlie: What do I do with this?

Michelle: Yeah, what do we do with all of this? And so I think the advice would be, if you’re going to move somewhere, anywhere, honestly, pair your things down and then do it two more times and then that’s probably the amount of stuff that you need to ship. Or honestly, don’t ship anything.

Alex: Yeah. I think I also kind of wish that we just put our stuff in storage for a year and then went back home for Christmas or something, and then just fished around to see what we actually wanted. I think when you move it costs a fortune.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: Like, the paired down stuff that we shipped cost a literal fortune. And, you know, to some extent there’s like a minimum, because you’re actually putting stuff onto a boat, taking it off the boat. But like, having things that you bring from your home country to make your new home country feel like home are important. So like wall art, knickknacks that have some sort of sentimental value, things like that I think are valuable. The thing that we did that I regret is, one, we assumed all high-end or expensive electronic items would just work in Europe, and that is not the case.

Carlie: Because the wattage or something in the U.S. is different.

Alex: The wattage is different, yeah.

Carlie: Yeah.

Alex: So it’s 220 volts here.

Carlie: It’s not just a matter of putting a power plug adapter on the end?

Alex: No. You’d have to buy a a converter, which is a much bigger and more difficult thing to use.

Carlie: Right.

Alex: Well, not difficult. I mean, it’s easy to use, you literally plug it into the wall, but it’s a big honk and beast.

Carlie: You have bought the same thing again.

Alex: Oh, exactly.

Carlie: A European version.

Michelle: Yes.

Alex: Like a kitchen mixer. We bought a nice toaster that we brought over. Like it was just like, why did we bring this? We should have just Googled it.

Michelle: Yeah, and like a fancy hair dryer, like (inaudible)

Alex: Yeah, her Dyson hair dryer didn’t work.

Michelle: (inaudible) you know, gotten the money for it and bought it here, you know?

Alex: Totally.

And then the other thing that we brought that we wish we didn’t, is a lot of clothes.

Carlie: The Dutch don’t wear clothes.

Alex: Oh no, they’re continually nude, all the time actually. I mean, sonic culture has been kind of an eye-opening experience for us, but another time.

We just kind of expected that we would want all that stuff in wintertime. But I think the reality is, one, our stuff arrived really late, so we had to buy some of it again anyway. And then two, like did we actually need those clothes specifically? Or should we have just gotten rid of it and just bought it new when we got here, when we needed it?  You look back and you’re just like, wow, we were so dumb.

Michelle: Yeah, that was the thing.

Alex: Yeah, we were just like, oh, this is great, we’re only moving the exact stuff that we need.

Michelle: I thought we were so smart when we were doing it and we were like, high five, yeah, this is great. And then all of it arrived and I just felt so stupid for shipping it all.

Alex: You take another thing out of the box and you’re like, oh, another thing out of  the box, oh.

Michelle: Disappointing again.

Carlie: I’m about to mark 10 years since I left Australia, and I’ve been back maybe every two years since I left. And every two years I come back, I look at the clear plastic tubs of my stuff that I left in my old room at my parents’ place, and I’m able to cull one or two more boxes. I’m like, I forgot I had that. Do I need it anymore or do I feel attached to it anymore? No. Okay. It’s time to let it go. The biggest part of my stuff that’s left are photo albums.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: Because, you know, I grew up in the nineties and early two thousands where we still had manual and digital cameras, not connected to the internet, and you printed off photos and put them in albums.

Alex: Yep.

Carlie: And I cannot bring myself to take them all out of their little sleeves-

Alex: Digitize them.

Carlie: -to dump them in a suitcase and bring them back, and then have to sort through them or digitize them. And I’m like, I’d just like to take them as they are back.

Michelle: Yeah.

Carlie: But that’s expensive and heavy.

Alex: Yeah, it is.

Carlie: I’m still dragging my feet as to what to do with all these childhood and adolescent photo albums.

Alex: Yeah. I mean, as long as there’s a place. We’ve got tubs of stuff in my mom’s basement from even before we moved to Austin. And I think about what’s in there, I mean there are sentimental items in there that I would not move. Like there are things I do want to hold onto, but like it’ll probably be like 10 years from now, I’ll look back and be like, do I really need this?

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: But I mean, there are going to be things that I just won’t want to move, and at some point we’ll have to make a decision about it.

Michelle: You can’t keep it there forever.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: I think I’ve accepted more and more as I’ve lived here, that I’m possibly not going home, like to Australia, anytime soon.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: Which is also why I’ve been slowly being like, okay, does it make sense to leave stuff with my parents anymore or should it be here with me in my life in this country? Yeah, definitely.

Alex: Yeah. That is one of those things that’s like, you think about that all the time. And we’ve talked about, with the Dutch American Friendship Treaty Visa, you initially get a two year visa, it renews for five, and then after that you can apply for permanent residence.

Carlie: Is it a pathway to citizenship?

Alex: It could be. I mean, we’d have to learn, I think, is it B one level understanding of the Dutch language?

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: Which is pretty high.

Michelle: Pretty intense.

Alex: I mean, we would like to eventually. That’s currently the plan. But the Netherlands is a one passport country. You can’t have dual citizenship.

Carlie: Ah, so you’d have to renounce. But you could live there forever on a residency?

Alex: Yes. Or, I think we could live here long enough. I mean, it seems so jarring to think right now that we would ever be in a position where we would want to renounce our U.S. citizenship, but if we live here for 10 years and we have no plans to go back, at that point, I think you would probably start to think like, where is our home?

Michelle: Or at least have a conversation about it.

Alec: Yeah, exactly.

Michelle: Which now we would be like, oh no, that seems wild to us.

Carlie: Yeah. It’s very early for you guys still.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: Yeah.

Thank you so much Michelle and Alex for joining me today on the podcast. It’s been so fun to chat and I feel like we could keep talking for another hour so easily.

Alex: Oh yeah.

Michelle: I know.

Alex: Yeah. Thank you so much for having us.

Michelle: Yeah, thanks for having us.

Carlie: Tell me, where can our listeners find you on the socials?

Alex: Youtube.com/buncharted. And then we’re on Instagram and TikTok, but honestly, just follow us on YouTube. That’s where all the good stuff is.

Michelle: Yeah.

Carlie: That’s it for today. You can catch more of Michelle and Alex and follow their European adventures on their YouTube channel, buncharted. If you want to watch as well as listen to this podcast, yo

Carlie: Hey there, it’s Carlie with the Expat Focus Podcast.

The Covid Pandemic has been a catalyst for change for so many of us. How are you living your life differently to before the year 2020? Husband and wife, Michelle and Alex actually had a big move abroad in mind before the global shutdown derailed their plans.

Now they’re catching up. They quit their jobs, sold most of their stuff, and moved with their two cats from Texas to Rotterdam in the Netherlands on the Dutch American Friendship Treaty, or Daft Visa. The couple document their lives on their YouTube channel. It’s called buncharted. And we chat today about their experience of setting up in the Netherlands, applying for their visa, which only happens after you arrive, lifestyle differences and what they’d leave behind if they had to pack for their move all over again.

Michelle and Alex, thank you so much for joining me on the Expat Focus podcast.

Alex: Thank you so much for having us.

Carlie: Now, we’re here to speak about your move from the USA to the Netherlands, but first I just want to pick a little bone with you because I noticed on your bunchartered YouTube channel, you do a few taste test kind of videos, and you had one where you were comparing the British Marmite to the Australian staple, Vegemite. And you had some pretty unkind words to say about my favorite breakfast spread. So, what’s with that?

Alex: I don’t understand how Vegemite is edible.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: I was actually really surprised. So, we did a video very early on in our channel where we tried the UK Marmite, Vegemite from Australia, and then Marmite from New Zealand. And we love Marmite from the UK. Like we were shocked the first time we had it. We were like, wow, this is so good. Why do so many people hate it this?

Carlie: This I can’t believe either.

Alex: Yeah. So when we tried Vegemite, I was like, what is this? Why is it so different? I always assumed they would be similar, but when we ate Vegemite, we were just like, this doesn’t taste like food.

Michelle: Yeah, I felt like we had a bad batch or something. So I would really love to know, what does it taste like to you?

Alex:  Yeah. What do you like about it?

Carlie: Well, see I’m a big salty, is it salt tooth? I’m not a sweet tooth. I’m a salt fan. And it’s just a beautiful, dense, black, for anyone listening that is not (inaudible) with Vegemite, it’s a dense black yeast extract spread, and it’s super, super salty and it is delicious. And the one thing I take issues with is, I saw you spread it on your bread, your toast. It wasn’t too thick. But did you include butter?

Alex: Oh, of course we did.

Michelle: Yes. Absolutely.

Alex: You got to have the butter.

Michelle: Yeah.

Carlie: All right. Well, you seem to-

Michelle: -we’ve watched enough YouTube videos of people trying Vegemite, where I felt fairly confident about our execution for all of the spreads.

Alex: Oh my gosh,  Michelle’s mum came into town a few weeks ago and we wanted her to try the UK Marmite, because we have tons of it. We eat it all the time.

Carlie: Because you’re still eating it like, every morning from what I understand.

Michelle: Every morning,

Alex: And I gave her no introduction to it whatsoever. I just pulled off part of my bread and I handed it to her and she ate it. And she was disgusted by it. But I was thinking about how funny it was, because I think by default, especially for Americans, anything you spread on toast is going to be sweet.

Michelle: Yes.

Alex: So she probably thought it was going to be like Nutella or something.

Michelle: Peanut butter or something.

Alex: Yeah. So imagine her horror when she, you know, bit into it and realized it was extremely salty.

Michelle: She tried to be so polite too. She kept it in her mouth and didn’t immediately spit it out, which I felt like was a pretty good-

Alex: Yeah, but she couldn’t swallow it. I felt really bad.

Carlie: I actually had the same experience because here in France, eating sweet things for breakfast is the norm. And yeah, I gave my work colleagues a bit of a Vegemite taste test on baguette with butter. They very politely turned their noses up. A little bit too surprised.

Michelle: At least they were polite about it.

Carlie: But I have to say, I do recommend you try a Vegemite again, give it another crack.

Alex: I will. We will.

Carlie: But if and when you do; butter, Vegemite on toast, slices of avocado.

Alex: Oh.

Carlie: Runny fried egg.

Alex: Oh, yeah.

Carlie: Bit of salt and pepper. Maybe some chili flakes.

Alex: Yeah. Okay.

Carlie: That is my favorite way to eat Vegemite.

Alex: I like how you turned it into avocado toast. That’s something I can definitely see that we get behind.

Michelle: Also very millennial.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: Yeah. What can I say?

Well, moving on from Vegemite, you’re on the podcast today to share your journey from the USA to the Netherlands. And you use the daft visa, which I find quite a fun name, the Dutch American Friendship Treaty Visa to get there. So I wanna start by asking what was behind your decision to make the move? And in only three months?

Alex: So we basically had already planned on moving, which put us in a very interesting predicament. I’ll try and keep the story short, the backstory at least, in 2020, we had both quit our jobs because we planned on doing some extensive travel. So it’s January 2020,  and Michelle and I literally put in our notice on January 30th or February 1. 2020.

Michelle: Yeah. And just to back up, it’s something we had been saving for for quite a long time at that point.

Alex: Yeah. We really, really wanted to just do some extensive travel to catch up on what we call our travel backlog. Like, there’s tons of places we want to visit, and there’s no way you’re going to be able to do that when you only get a few weeks off every year to take a vacation.

Carlie: Because in the USA, it’s notoriously bad with holidays, isn’t it?

Alex: Yes, exactly.

Carlie: Like two weeks a year or something.

Alex: Plus, in the USA, you have to fly from the USA to Europe or to Asia. I mean, you’re far away.

Carlie: I can relate. Australia to the rest of the world. Oh

Michelle: Oh yeah, of course.

Alex: So obviously that didn’t end up happening because, you know, COVID happened in March, 2020 and we ended up going back to work. But we had this giant plan and we needed to think of a way that we could change or adjust the plan, that in the new world that we lived in, understanding that the world wasn’t just going to reopen like that. There was going to be like a re-introduction period. How do we weave this into our lives? Preferably in a way that’s actually more sustainable long term. Not something where we do this like-

Michelle: – six month burst.

Alex: Six month burst, yeah, and then go back to work. So we’d actually been talking about leaving Austin, Texas, which is where we were from, and moving to Chattanooga, Tennessee, because of the low cost of living, it seemed to check a lot of the boxes of places that we wanted to live. And it’s really close to the Atlanta airport, so we felt like, it’s the biggest airport in the United States, we could travel really easily from that.

So we had planned already on moving in, I think July of 2022. We went to Amsterdam and Paris, just to get out. It was our first international trip post Covid in April, 2022. And on the way back we were Googling, you know, how could we move to the Netherlands?

Michelle: Well, we kind of always do this thing, like before, when we were traveling, especially internationally, if we really loved the city or the country on the way home, we’d be like, how do we move to Japan?

Carlie: Because you’ve already picked out your house, right? While you were there.

Alex: Yeah, exactly.

Michelle: Exactly. We’ve already looked it up. And normally, in that process, we Google it and we find like nothing short of impossible to figure it out. So we just continued to do it this time.

Alex: Yeah. And actually, I had been freelancing, and the entire first page results was Dutch American Friendship Treaty. And it was like, oh, this is interesting. They have a visa that essentially is for freelancers or people starting a business in the Netherlands, for Americans, that makes it really simple to move to the Netherlands. We were just like, well, we were planning on moving to Chattanoogan in July. Do you just want move to the Netherlands instead?

Michelle: A little bit more east.

Alex: Yeah. I mean, it seemed like it was the perfect solution. So, we did it.

Michelle: Yeah.

Carlie: And you mentioned you were freelancing, so you were already working for yourselves before you decided to move?

Michelle: He was, I wasn’t. So I had a typical Monday through Friday, nine to five job.

Alex: In the United States, it’s not really nine to five, Monday through Friday, but yes.

Michelle: Well, especially that job too was like 9 to 10PM.

Alex: It’s one hour a day.

Michelle:  Nine to 10:00 PM.

But I was already kind of thinking like, if we move to Chattanooga, would I be able to keep it? And it was like 50-50, because the company that I worked for was one of those companies that felt really strongly about having people back in the office post Covid. So I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to keep that job, even if we made the smaller move to Tennessee.

Alex: Yeah. But I mean, even for freelancing, it’s a big move. You know, when you’re freelancing, it’s really easy to have calls with your American clientele, and it’s during the workday. Here, obviously that had to be adjusted. There’s just some transitional flux from the actual move itself. And I mean, I use that as an opportunity to scale back. And so right now, we’re just taking the time. Like I am freelancing still on a much more limited capacity, because we want to travel. We’re trying to figure out that sustainable long-term thing and eventually we’ll figure out what we can do that fits into our lifestyle. But right now, I think we’re just trying to enjoy the fact that we’re living in the Netherlands.

Michelle: Yeah. And we can take a train somewhere, we’re three hours away from a different country, and that’s just never the way that it’s been for us in the past.

Alex: Right.

Carlie: I love those postcards that you can find that show the geography of Europe and they place it over like a map of the United States or Australia, just to give you that scale perspective.

Alex: Yeah. I mean, we were living in Austin, Texas and I’ve seen pictures of Texas laid on top of the continent of Europe and it’s just like, holy crap.

Carlie: Yeah.

Alex: It’s just so small.

Michelle: I mean, I saw a TikTok yesterday from a TikToker who’s in Amsterdam, and it was like playing on the fact that you can spend seven hours just driving across the state of Texas. You’ll be in Texas the entire time, where here you can span five different countries in that same seven hours period.

Carlie: I think I can drive from where I am in Strassburg to Amsterdam in five hours if I wanted to.

Alex: We were taking a train from here to Rome, and like the day before we were sitting at a cafe or something, and I was just like, I wonder how long it would take to drive that. And I looked it up, I don’t remember what it is now, but it’s like a normal drive in the United States.

Carlie: Feasible.

Alex: Yeah. I was like, holy crap. Like, it’s just like, wow, everything is so close to us.

Michelle: And we’ve driven back and forth across the United States several times, with an aggressive agenda, and it’s always taken us like three days.

Alex: Oh, yeah. To get anywhere.

Carlie: Yeah. Oh, same with Australia. Absolutely.

Alex: Yeah. Oh right. Yeah, of course.

Michelle: What a big country.

Carlie: Yeah.

Alex: And you get attacked by spiders along the way.

Michelle: Yes.

Carlie: There is this. Giant snakes, cockroaches. The insects get bigger the further north you go.

Michelle: Oh my gosh. We learned a little bit about that in Texas, because we’re not from Texas but we had lived there for five years, and just even moving that far south in the US…

Alex: Yeah, they have big centipedes.

Michelle: Yeah, they have big bugs there. And that was upsetting to say the least

Carlie: That’s one thing that is quite pleasing about Europe. They don’t seem to have like the hairy scaries from back home.

Alex: Yeah.

Michelle: I love it.

Carlie: I wanted to know a little bit more about the Dutch American Friendship Treaty visa. Something that stood out to me when I looked it up was how little investment as an entrepreneur you had to make in the Netherlands to get this visa, because I know there are visas for other countries, golden visas and those sort of things, where you have to buy a property, invest a few hundred thousand euros into the country you want to  live in, that sort of thing. But this one seems super accessible, even for someone who’s just starting out with their own business.

Alex: Yeah, it is extremely accessible. And like, I’m aware of the fact that it is very much a privilege that this treaty exists. I think it was done in the fifties, you know, in the aftermath of World War II as a means to inspire Americans to actually make an investment in the Netherlands after World War II. So the fact it still exists, I think is great, because the world is obviously extremely different now. And you know, I’m shocked that it hasn’t really changed all that much as that time has progressed.

And I’m also very aware of the fact that there’s additional privilege in that it doesn’t go the other way around. Which is very surprising. Like, if you are an entrepreneur in the Netherlands, you can’t just move to the United States, make a similar investment and get a visa. It’s a much more difficult process. So I was actually floored by the fact that this thing was so approachable and relatively easy to pull off.

Michelle: There were so many times throughout the process before we actually moved here that we were working with the immigration attorney and just kept being like, wait-

Alex: -this can’t be.

Michelle: -wait, can you remind me? Are you sure? Like so many times.

Alex: Yeah. Because  it doesn’t seem like it should exist.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: So essentially, with the DAFT visa, we did work with an immigration attorney just because it was such an unknown. We don’t know what we don’t know. Plus, we weren’t in the Netherlands, and to get this visa you have to be in the Netherlands. So like, it doesn’t really even start process-wise until you arrive, which is very interesting and also very scary.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex:  Because we have two cats. We upended our lives, sold our house in Austin and basically couldn’t even really start the process in earnest until we arrived in the Netherlands.

Carlie: So does that mean you had to enter basically as visitors and then once you were on the ground be like, hi Netherlands government, Dutch government, I’m planning to stay longer.

Alex: Yes.

Carlie: Please accept my application.

Alex: Yes. I even asked the immigration attorney, like, what do I say if they ask me going through immigration, what we’re doing there. Because like, can you imagine you’re an immigration officer? Like, hey, yeah, I’m going to move here. And they’re going to be like, no, you’re not.

Carlie: Exactly.

Michelle: It sounded like, how long are you planning on staying?

Alex: Indefinitely.

Michelle: Forever?

Carlie: Well, that depends what you say later.

Alex: Yeah, exactly.  So yeah, the whole thing has just been kind of weird and kind of, you know, risky I guess. But I mean, it all went extremely smoothly. You arrive, you find a place to live, you have to register at the place with the local municipality, and then you get your Dutch social security number called a BSN. And then you start the process, basically.

You file your application with the type of business that you’re planning on creating, so like a business plan. You get a business bank account, you start the business in earnest with what they call it the KVK, it’s the Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands. And you file your final paperwork, show your bank statement that says you made the 4,500 Euro investment into the company and you go pick up your residence cards.

I mean, the hardest part I think was just because it was so difficult to schedule the immigration appointments with the IND here last summer, because I think there was such a backlog of people moving in, plus the Ukrainian refugees. That was the hardest part, was scheduling the appointments. Everything else was remarkably simple. Still looking back, it’s just like, how was it that easy? You know?

Carlie: And you mentioned you needed to set up a business bank account. I mean, setting up any bank account in a foreign country is difficult at the best of times. But how were you able to do that, for example, when your visa was still being processed?

Alex: I don’t know how I did it though. It was crazy. It was just like, every time we did something like that, I was like, there’s no way this is going to work, this isn’t going to go well. And it always did.

Michelle: Well, I honestly think the hardest part was getting a mobile phone service. That was where it kind of felt like it needed to follow an order of operations that didn’t really make sense with the reality of what we were dealing with. But everything else was pretty easy.

Alex: I mean, we set up our personal bank accounts basically the week we were here because  we needed to have a place to actually have euros. And the business bank account was, I mean, I think it took like a one business day for them to actually prove everything. And I’m sure I submitted some sort of documentation that I had at the time to prove that it was a legitimate business. But I mean, once you get the blessing from the Chamber of Commerce here in the Netherlands, I think at that point that’s pretty much all they need.

Michelle: Yeah. Once they’re like, oh, this person’s good, this business is good, everything else just kind of opens up to you.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: And so how long from when you landed in the Netherlands to when you got your visas approved?

Michelle: Gosh. So we landed on June 26th and we got our visas in mid August, maybe mid to end of August.

Alex: I think it was two months. We were very on top of it,  just because the time that it was taking in between appointments, because often you couldn’t schedule the next appointment until you completed the prior one, so we were trying really hard to stay on top of things. So that’s how I think we ended up doing it in two months. I think, technically, you get up to 90 days. But I’m not an expert there, but it can be done, I think, in as little as two months.

Carlie: And the hardest thing for people when they want to move to a new country is housing, one of the hardest things. And you had the added complication of two cats with you.

Alex: Yes.

Carlie: So how did you manage that, especially in your initial months before your visa was finalized, before you could show proof of residency to a potential landlord?

Michelle: Yeah, so when we moved here, initially we had temporary housing for I think about eight weeks. And it was a place where we could land, we could just dump our stuff off and also register in the city with the municipality to get the process going for our permits. And about a week after that we started looking because we had heard about the housing crisis and how difficult it could potentially be.

Alex: There’s a massive house housing shortage here in the Netherlands.

Michelle: Yeah. And we started looking immediately and I think that we originally had a few cities that we wanted to live in and quickly realized that it was less about-

Carlie: – Amsterdam.

Michelle: Yeah. It was less about like the city and more about like, where’s a house available with someone who’s actually going to accept us? And we also did work with an agent here. And I do think that that was really helpful for us, for the two things that we kind of had going against us, where we didn’t have our permits yet and we had two cats.

Alex: And in the Netherlands, since there’s no credit bureaus, they ask for bank statements, basically that prove that you’ve made the three x, the cost of rent over the last six months.

Carlie: Three times the rent.

Alex: Like that’s how they, they confirm your credit worthiness. But all of my money up to that point was in the U.S.And it was in my U.S. bank accounts and the bookkeeping in the United States is nothing like the extensive bookkeeping that you need to provide in the Netherlands. So that was another thing. We had to have someone who could, you know, attempt to vouch for us and translate the documents that we were sending her before we sent all the stuff to a landlord that was just like, what the hell is all of this?

Michelle: Well, I think I personally was probably like a bit naive about it, where I was like, oh yeah, like they say that they need this and everything, but if we just give them six months worth of rent upfront, they’re going to be like, oh, this is great. Like, this is fine, it’s no problem. So that’s going to solve everything. And then once we started working with our agent, we quickly realized like, that’s actually not valuable or perceived as valuable for a landlord here. And that kind of blew my mind a little bit and made me very nervous about if we are actually going to be able to get a home in that eight weeks or not.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: And in France, I don’t know if it’s the same in the Netherlands, but they require you to have a guarantor that will pay the rent for you.

Michelle: Oh, wow. Really?

Alex: Who is that? Like, who would that be?

Carlie: For students, for example, it’s often their parents or their grandparents. I think your income needs to be three times the rent, and if you don’t have that, no one quote me on this, then you need a guarantor. And so I remember, one friend was renting a place and they’re like, okay, who’s your guarantor? And she’s like, guys, I earn six times this rent. I do not need a guarantor. If the landlord will not accept me, that’s their problem.

Alex: I mean, I wish I could have gone in and felt that confident. I don’t know, that was the scariest thing, because we were coming in, we were the least appealing renters.

Carlie: Yeah. I mean, that’s the reality of it, right?

Alex: I mean we have cats, and all our money was in the U.S,. and I’m a freelancer, and we don’t have actual visas. I can’t believe we found a place given the housing shortage, but it was just like we had our tail between our legs every time we put an application in.

Michelle: Yeah. And we were on this countdown clock where we knew also, the temporary housing that we were in, we couldn’t just extend it.

Alex: No, they couldn’t extend it because they were also booked up.

Michelle: And we were kind of like, what happens at that eight week mark when we don’t have a house and they kick us out of the temporary housing?

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: So would you say that using an agent to find a place to live was the right move?

Alex: Yes.

Michelle: Yes. A hundred percent.

Alex: Especially because I think we could have also done a better job of looking for places before we left the United States. A lot of agents will work with expats and do like virtual tours and stuff. So we probably could have been better about that, but we didn’t necessarily do that because we had the corporate housing, or extended stay.

Michelle:Yeah.

Alex: So, I don’t know. I mean, I think especially in the Netherlands, given the housing shortage, if you’re coming on the DAFT visa, it does make sense to work with an agent, just because they’re going to be able to present themselves on your behalf, or present your offer on your behalf, in touch to a potential landlord and sort of explain your situation in a way that I don’t think you could effectively have come across, either through language barriers, because that’s like some pretty weird phrasing.

Michelle: Yeah, because she was like, your rental contract will be in Dutch. And normally there wouldn’t be someone to offer us a translated version, and also be able to gurantee that this translation that we’re providing you in English is as accurate as it possibly can be. Like, we would probably run it through Google Translate if we didn’t have that.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: Oh, completely. Yeah.

Michelle: Yeah. And it would be really scary. I think  the part that was really interesting was like, we really were the ones that found the majority of places we wanted to look at. So we were finding the homes, or finding the apartments, and she kind of did everything else on the back end with the connections and being able to even just like, get us a showing.

Alex: Right.

Carlie: And was it difficult in the end? Like how many places do you think you applied for before you landed on (inaudible)?

Alex: We probably should have done more. I mean, to be honest, we weren’t looking to stay in Rotterdam. We were in Rotterdam for our extended stay housing. But an apartment opened up that was a little bit more than what we wanted. It actually didn’t check any of the boxes for us. But it was nearby and it was available and the agent was able to get us a showing, and then ultimately, like she knew the person that was leasing it. So I think in the end, it worked out really well for us. And it was, I think, the second place we put an application on.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: But, you know, in retrospect I kind of wish that we’d spent a little bit more time looking. But, you know, hindsight,  I don’t know if that would’ve actually been the right move for us. Maybe we would’ve ended up in an apartment that checked all of our boxes, but maybe we also would’ve been screwed after that eight week period, and we don’t have any housing and we didn’t know where to live.

Michelle: Yeah, I think the experience of looking at the very first place made me panic a little bit.

Alex: Yeah.

Michelle: I spent like 10 minutes at this apartment looking at it and in that 10 minutes that I was there, I probably saw like 31 people come through the door to look at it and I was like-

Carlie: It makes you super panicked.

Alex: Oh yeah.

Michelle: – oh no, this is way harder than I expected it be.

Alex: Yeah, and we didn’t get it. I mean, we put an application on that place and didn’t get it. I think it made us really nervous. I mean honestly, this time we’re trying to find another place that we’d like to move to this year, but we’re trying to get like six months ahead of it because I think it’s that hard to find an apartment right now, or housing in the Netherlands, unless you’re buying. But we’re not there yet.

Carlie: I remember when I moved to London, I was staying in a hostel, I used a program that helps you get set up. And word got out in the hostel that all the housing listings they provide you with, they will go super quickly and you have to get on it the very next day after you arrive, and go see places, and say you want this room in this share house with a bazillion other Aussies and Kiwis and that sort of thing.

Alex: No pressure.

Carlie: No pressure. And so there was one Australian girl who was leaving like a single bedroom in a share flat of four people, and I went and looked at it and was like, yes, I’ll take it. That’ll do. Was it the best decision? Probably not. Three years later, was I still there? Yes. Because it was a safe option. It was the easy option. And every time I looked to move into a better place in London, I’d go and visit friends in Kensington and they’d be in really posh, beautiful little flats, and I’d go back to East London to my grimy, kind of a bit stabby neighborhood…

Alex: East London’s hot now though. Maybe you’re just ahead of your time.

Carlie: So hot. It was literally on the cusp of gentrification when I moved in and in the three years I was there it just evolved and there was something cool and new coming in all the time. I don’t think I could afford that same room these days, but every time I looked to try to upgrade my London life, it was so expensive that I decided to stay in my crappy little room in a really good location in East London.

Alex: I think that’s a really good point in that like, we miss certain things about housing in the United States. Like especially, we owned our home in Austin, we lived there for over three years and it just felt very homey to us, and comfortable.

Carlie: And American homes are gigantic, right?

Alex: It depends on where you live, but yeah.

Carlie: That’s the impression that I get.

Michelle: Yeah. I mean, our house in Texas was probably the biggest house we’ve ever had.

Alex:  Definitely the biggest house we’ve ever had.

Michelle: It was just super comfortable. My favorite house we’ve ever lived in. I don’t get homesick about the United States. I get homesick about our home.

Alex: Literally homesick home.

Michelle: Yeah, like I think if there was anything that I missed the most, it would be our home there.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: I get homesick for open plan living. I don’t feel like Europe does that so much.

Alex: Yeah. I think the thing that is interesting about moving abroad is that you you can’t just pick up your life and the things that you’re familiar with in your home country and then bring it with you when you move abroad. Everything is going to be different.

We were actually just talking about this the other night with some other expats that live in the Netherlands, and it’s like, I went to the doctor and had blood taken yesterday. It was a completely normal, like, as expected experience, but walking into it, it might not be, you know? Like every single thing that you do, including every single bit of your apartment when you move here, is going to be different.

So just embrace the scariness, I guess. Like, embrace the unknown. And just understand that you’re going to learn and you’ll get better at it as you as you go. And that includes, you know, what you’re looking for in housing or how you even might approach like an application process. Or maybe, I mean, not even maybe, definitely after living here for a year, living in the new country for a year, you’re going to have a lot better of an idea of what you actually want and are looking for than when you are like fresh off the plane, one week in.

Michelle: Yeah. Like some of those things in the first few months that you’re here that were really frustrating or you’re just like, oh my gosh, this thing again, like some of those fade away and just become a part of your normal everyday life and you just have a very different perspective on it.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: I’m sure some of the, for example, apartment nuances when you first arrived that really stood out to you, you barely notice now.

Alex: Oh, yeah. I mean Michelle’s learned the Dutch words that are on our washer and dryer.

Michelle: Yes, I know that very well.

Carlie: Very useful.

Alex: That was very shocking though.

Michelle: My Dutch, it’s not good, but it’s very limited to some household appliance.

Alex: Yeah. And everything here is induction. And then the oven is like a dual oven-microwave. And they all have like pictures. Everything is just a little different and you have to adjust to everything individually. Every day, especially early on, is like some sort of exciting thing where it’s like, okay, well today let’s figure out how to use this oven.

Michelle: Yeah, today we’re going to use the oven.

Carlie: And what you mentioned earlier Alex, about things being different, I think it’s very much the case that you don’t move abroad to have the same experiences that you’d have at home.

Alex: No.

Carlie: And if you’re in that mindset, then maybe moving abroad’s not for you. You know?

Alex: Yeah. I mean, I do think that there are some people who probably think about moving abroad that want to have the same experience, but like the glamor of living abroad. And I mean, it does sound glamorous, and I’m sure to some extent it is somewhat glamorous because it’s not an opportunity that everyone can do. But you know, at the same time, embracing the unknown is a big part of this move.

And if you’re not someone who likes to travel to places where no one speaks English, or that is going to be extremely culturally shocking to you, like, you know, South Korea or Japan or something, where you can’t read any of the signs, then maybe it’s not for you. Because you have to be in a position where, especially early on, every day is going to be a challenge in some way to you. And even in the Netherlands, where everyone basically speaks English at some level, we’ve still experienced that. And that was very shocking to us. A lot of things are very different and you have to adjust to them. Not in a bad way, obviously. Well, not everything in a bad way. But everything is uncomfortable.

Carlie: And you need to accept and get comfortable in the uncomfortable.

Alex: Exactly. And that’s part of the exciting part of it, you feel like you’re growing as a person and you feel like you’re gaining an understanding of a different culture. And that to me is the thing that makes it all worth it, like even something as as silly as dealing with the differences in a home in the Netherlands versus what we’re familiar with. It feels like you’re understanding something that is just fundamentally different than what you’ve always known.

Michelle: Yeah. Or even just down to the food, where, like you mentioned before, my mom came to visit us around the holidays and she’s like, okay, like I’ve reserved half of my bag for all of the snacks and things you want me to bring. And we really thought about it and we were kind of like, we’ve only been here for six months.

Carlie: Not missing anything yet.

Michelle: Well, we missed stuff, but at the same time it’s about an adjustment, a little bit, where it’s like, I think it might be a little too soon for us to ask for these certain things from her.

Alex: That’s said, she did bring us the pepperjack Cheezits, which were very good.

Michelle: Yeah. We did ask for a few things.

Carlie: I was interviewing Casey Rose who’s an American in Florence, in Italy. And she speaks a lot on her channel about ranch dressing.

Alex: Oh, yeah.

Carlie: And American mac and cheese.

Alex: We actually have ranch dressing here at the grocery store, but it’s very dill forward, which is very interesting.

Michelle: I think it’s quite good.

Alex: It’s good, but it’s not ranch.

Carlie: Yeah. I mean, I’m from Australia, I know ranch from my Subway sandwiches, but I don’t think of ranch as very dill (inaudible).

Alex: No, it’s not. And then we have Cool American Doritos, which I think are ranch flavored,right?

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: Cool Ranch.

Michelle: Well, yeah.

Alex: Cool American flavor.

Carlie: Cool American.

Michelle: But it’s also very confusing because there’s something here called American sauce, which originally, when I just read it, I was like, oh, maybe that’s ranch stressing. And no, that’s more like burger sauce.

Alex: Yeah, but it doesn’t even taste familiar.

Michelle: (inaudible) relish situation.

Alex: It doesn’t even taste familiar.

Michelle: No, it’s very odd.

Alex: So we have an expat shop here in Rotterdam.

Carlie: They’re the best.

Alex: Everything’s always so expensive.

Carlie: Overpriced, yeah.

Alex: But there are some things that we do buy, usually it’s things like hot sauce, because that’s actually not that expensive and you get a lot of use out of it. But then we will always buy two boxes of craft mac and cheese when we’re there.

Carlie: I did used to work for a Dutch company and so had a lot of expat colleagues working in the Amsterdam office who used to tell me that Dutch food, and just the food culture in Amsterdam specifically, was crap. So, how have you found local food and dining out options and that sort of thing in Rotterdam?

Alex: Can we skip this question?

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: I’m just kidding. Let me think of a polite way to say this.

Michelle: Well, okay, so we can start with the thing that I think everyone would probably agree on is-

Carlie: Dutch Pancakes?

Alex: Oh, well, yes. No, don’t get me wrong. There are highlights to Dutch food and I will talk about those.

Michelle: My biggest gripe that I think is pretty constructive, or our biggest gripe that I think is pretty constructive, is that there’s really no spicy food here.

Alex: No. It’s all very… bland, I think is a little harsh.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: Even when we’re talking about ranch dressing-

Carlie: – beige?

Alex: Yeah, it it is very beige.

Michelle: Always very beige and brown, yeah.

Alex: But when you talk about the flavor pallet of ranch dressing, as an example, I’m not surprised that it’s so dill forward, because ranch dressing, it’s tangy, you know?

Michelle: Or sour.

Alex: Or sour, like there’s a little bit of like…

Carlie: A kick, yeah.

Alex: …a bite to it.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: But salt and vinegar chips aren’t even popular here. I think there are Pringles salt and vinegar chips, but like that’s it.

Carlie: I miss good salt and vinegar chips.

Alex: Yes.

Carlie: It’s not really a thing in France either.

Alex: So like that and spicy food is just not that common here. Even when you go somewhere, they will say, do you want the spicy? Or, we got fries once, and a common fry sauce here is called Samurai Sauce. And they were basically-

Carlie: Yeah, I like the Samurai Sauce. It’s available in France.

Michelle: It’s very good.

Alex: It’s good.

CarlieYeah.

Alex: But the person at the fry counter was, in a crass way, saying that it was going to be very spicy.

Carlie: Are you sure you can handle it?

Alex: Yes. And we ate it and we were like, it’s like the equivalent of mild spicy in the United States.

Carlie: It’s like spicy mayo basically, right?

Michelle: Yeah. When they say spicy, it actually means more of like a paprika flavor. Like you get the pepper flavor, but no spice from the pepper.

Alex: We have found spicy places.

Carlie: You’re not doing hot ones yet.

Alex: Yeah, exactly. Not even close. But here’s the thing, while Dutch food is not necessarily spicy, or tangy, or doesn’t have anything that’s going to rock your taste buds, it is good food. Like it is fun to eat, especially fries. Like I love fries, I love trying all of the sauces. Like there’s a sauce here called Joppie Sauce, which is just awesome. Like, it is so good.

Michelle: It’s so good.

Alex: But there are highlights in food culture in the Netherlands, and two of them were unexpected for us coming in. One is just, we’re in Europe, there’s a lot of European countries that have really good outposts here in the Netherlands. Like here in Rotterdam, there are numerous Italian restaurants that are run by Italians and the food tastes like it’s from Italy, you know?

Michelle: It’s so good.

Alex: And that’s great, you know? Like there are lots of examples of that.

The other thing that was completely unexpected for us when moving here was, the Dutch have a history of being one of the very early colonizers of the world. Like they own the spice trade in Indonesia, they colonized Suriname in South America. And through all of that there was like a meshing of of foods.

Carlie: But not spicy foods.

Alex: Well, here it’s called Surinamese food, which is sort of like a combination of Indonesian and Chinese food with Dutch flair. So we go to a Surinamese restaurant here and it’s essentially like American Chinese food or Indonesian food, but it’s on like a sandwich.

Michelle: Yeah. So like, instead of getting your American-Chinese food on rice or noodles, you get it on like a weird baguette.

Alex: Yeah. It’s so good.

Carlie: Interesting.

Alex: It’s like Dutch fast food. But it’s so interesting and different than what we’re familiar with, but still familiar in taste because it’s sort of like American-Chinese food. That is to me like the highlight so far of Dutch food, with air quotes, because it’s something that is uniquely in the Netherlands that we weren’t expecting, that isn’t just fish or fried ragu.

Michelle: Potatoes or something.

Alex: Yeah, potatoes.

Carlie: I am curious about why you were eating Marmite for breakfast when you have the option of chocolate sprinkles on bread.

Alex: Oh my gosh. That’s the other thing I can’t get behind. So, I was actually going to mention that on our YouTube videos where we talk about Dutch food, Dutch people will tell us, and I mean, thankfully, that Dutch food is not just the beige things that I think tourists are familiar with. But there are a lot of things that are like, very meat and potatoes. Like a standard Dutch dinner I think, especially in the winter, would be like a sausage on top of what is basically mashed potatoes mixed with vegetables or sauerkraut. So I think more of those things are in existence, it’s just we’re not as familiar with them as people that have just moved here. Like, you don’t go to a restaurant and buy that. It’s like something a Dutch family would eat.

Michelle: Yeah. You would make it home for dinner.

Alex: Yeah.

Michelle: Which, I don’t know, feels very American to me. I’m pretty sure my mom made me that exact meal a hundred times when I was a kid.

Alex: But Hagelslag is the exact same thing.

Carlie: Hagelslag?

Alex: Oh sorry, Hagelslag is fairy bread. It’s bread with butter and sprinkles.

Carlie: That’s what it is? That’s a name of it?

Michelle: Yeah.

Carlie: Okay. Sounds like something out of Harry Potter.

Alex: Do you toast fairy bread?

Carlie: No. You just slather it in butter.

Alex: We toasted it in our video and everyone’s like, you don’t toast Hagelslag.

Carlie: Wouldn’t the Sprinkles melt on the hot toast?

Alex: No, it doesn’t.

Michelle: They’ve got like a little bit of a waxy coating to them.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: Okay. Yeah, no, I’ve never tried it that way.

Alex: So Hagelslag, it’s actually the name of the Sprinkles, but it’s basically white bread with butter and then topped with chocolate sprinkles. And that’s like, I think, a Dutch breakfast. A simple Dutch breakfast. Especially for kids.

Michelle: For kids, yeah.

Alex: I can’t get behind it. But it tastes fine.

Michelle: Yeah, I’ve tried it a few times. But I mean, the Hagelslag section in every grocery store is very similar to the cereal aisle in America.

Alex: Oh and, we stayed at a hotel in Maastricht, and the hotel had breakfast and it was phenomenal.

Carlie: Were there just tiny little packets of sprinkles?

Alex:  Yes.

Carlie: Yes. I love that.

Alex: It was so funny.

Michelle: Oh my gosh, it was so cute.

Alex: It was just like the tiniest little box of Hagelslag. It was adorable.

Carlie: So sweet. I used to steal them and put a few in my bag to take back to France with me.

Alex: I love that.

Michelle: Yeah, we took it with us.

Carlie: I know we need to wrap up soon, but I did want to ask about how your cats have adjusted into Dutch life.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: They love Stroowafels.

Michelle: Yeah, they love Stroopwafels and Bitterballens.

Carlie: They’re so good.

Michelle: Our cats are thriving here.

Alex: Yeah.

Michelle: And they have been from the very beginning. So we have two cats. One is a little bit older, but she’s the one that’s traveled with us quite a bit in the States. Like we’ve moved her to probably like five different cities and we always knew she was a trooper. She had been on a plane before that and, you know, we knew that she was going to be okay.

Our other cat, who’s a little bit younger, is the one who, previous to this, had been living in her cat cave under the bed for like 16 hours a day. And we were very worried about how she was going to transition. She’s out all the time now. She’s like hanging out with us on the couch.

Alex: She was playing earlier when we were on the phone here.

Michelle: Yeah, she’s playing, she’s looking out the window. Like, from the moment we landed. We stayed in a hotel for the first night at the airport just to get them in a space where they could get out of their carriers. We had prepped a place in the bathroom for her because we knew she was going to hide. She didn’t want to go in there. She immediately came out into the bed and was looking out the window in the hotel room. It’s just been wild.

Alex: It’s been crazy. Like, I don’t know what it is, but the cats love Europe.

Michelle: Yeah.

Carlie: And were they outside cats before or have they always been indoor cats?

Alex: No. Always been indoor cats, yeah.

Carlie: Okay. That would’ve helped a lot.

Alex: Yeah.

Michelle: Yeah.

Carlie: So what can you tell me about your future plans? I’m sure you have a big agenda for the European summer.

Alex: Yes, we do. The first thing that we’re actually really looking forward to right now is, in late March, we’re planning on doing like a camper van trip around the Netherlands and Germany and Belgium.

Carlie: Oh, great.

Alex: Because we want to see a lot more of the country than what we’re able to see just hopping on the trains. The train system, obviously extensive.

Michelle: Fantastic.

Alex: But there are a lot of places that are just difficult to get to. And that’s what we’re really excited to see, because that might open up some things that we want to spend a little bit more time in later in the year.

Carlie: And if you’re freelancing and able to work from the road then you don’t need to be tied to one city in the Netherlands.

Alex: That’s exactly right.

The other thing that I think we’re really looking forward to this summer is, you can take the train from Amsterdam, I think through Paris, to Budapest and then Bucharest, and all the way to Istanbul. And that is something we’re very much looking forward to. I think that starts at the beginning of April.

Carlie: Is this like the Orient Express? So you’re going to do the bougie train?

Alex: No, it is the opposite of a bougie train.

Michelle: We’re not quite there yet financially. Maybe one day.

Alex: Yeah. I would love to do the Orient Express, but it’s like $20,000 a night or something.

Michelle: Yeah, I think even the cheapest option is like 10,000.

Alex: Yeah. So no, it’s no frills, but it’s a good way to travel, to see a lot of different places in Europe. And also all the things in between, when you’re on the train and you can look up a window.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: I don’t know. But that to us is really exciting. I think it runs from the end of April until the end of October, so we’re waiting until April to do that. But that’s something we’re really looking forward to.

Michelle: Yeah, lots of train trips and campervans.

Alex: Yeah. I mean honestly, we just want to see tons of Europe. And Asia, but you know, we’re in Europe so we want to jump on a train and come somewhere or get a camerpvan.

Carlie: One continent at a time.

Alex:  Yeah, exactly.

Carlie: If you guys had to do your move again, or you were advising someone also looking at coming to the Netherlands on the Dutch American Friendship treaty Visa, what advice would you offer or what would you have done differently?

Michelle: I think the one thing that we would’ve done differently, is not shipped as much of our stuff over. We felt like, when we were in Texas, getting rid of our things. I mean, I think we sold and donated probably 70% of our items at least.

Alex: Probably more.

Michelle: Maybe 80%. And we were like, we feel really good about the things that we’re shipping over to the Netherlands. And then, you know,  it takes a little while for your things to arrive, you know, three or four months. And in that time period we realized, most of the things that were on its way over here, we didn’t need, we had no use for them. And when they arrived we were like, oh gosh.

Alex: Yeah.

Michelle: This is too much stuff.

Carlie: What do I do with this?

Michelle: Yeah, what do we do with all of this? And so I think the advice would be, if you’re going to move somewhere, anywhere, honestly, pair your things down and then do it two more times and then that’s probably the amount of stuff that you need to ship. Or honestly, don’t ship anything.

Alex: Yeah. I think I also kind of wish that we just put our stuff in storage for a year and then went back home for Christmas or something, and then just fished around to see what we actually wanted. I think when you move it costs a fortune.

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: Like, the paired down stuff that we shipped cost a literal fortune. And, you know, to some extent there’s like a minimum, because you’re actually putting stuff onto a boat, taking it off the boat. But like, having things that you bring from your home country to make your new home country feel like home are important. So like wall art, knickknacks that have some sort of sentimental value, things like that I think are valuable. The thing that we did that I regret is, one, we assumed all high-end or expensive electronic items would just work in Europe, and that is not the case.

Carlie: Because the wattage or something in the U.S. is different.

Alex: The wattage is different, yeah.

Carlie: Yeah.

Alex: So it’s 220 volts here.

Carlie: It’s not just a matter of putting a power plug adapter on the end?

Alex: No. You’d have to buy a a converter, which is a much bigger and more difficult thing to use.

Carlie: Right.

Alex: Well, not difficult. I mean, it’s easy to use, you literally plug it into the wall, but it’s a big honk and beast.

Carlie: You have bought the same thing again.

Alex: Oh, exactly.

Carlie: A European version.

Michelle: Yes.

Alex: Like a kitchen mixer. We bought a nice toaster that we brought over. Like it was just like, why did we bring this? We should have just Googled it.

Michelle: Yeah, and like a fancy hair dryer, like (inaudible)

Alex: Yeah, her Dyson hair dryer didn’t work.

Michelle: (inaudible) you know, gotten the money for it and bought it here, you know?

Alex: Totally.

And then the other thing that we brought that we wish we didn’t, is a lot of clothes.

Carlie: The Dutch don’t wear clothes.

Alex: Oh no, they’re continually nude, all the time actually. I mean, sonic culture has been kind of an eye-opening experience for us, but another time.

We just kind of expected that we would want all that stuff in wintertime. But I think the reality is, one, our stuff arrived really late, so we had to buy some of it again anyway. And then two, like did we actually need those clothes specifically? Or should we have just gotten rid of it and just bought it new when we got here, when we needed it?  You look back and you’re just like, wow, we were so dumb.

Michelle: Yeah, that was the thing.

Alex: Yeah, we were just like, oh, this is great, we’re only moving the exact stuff that we need.

Michelle: I thought we were so smart when we were doing it and we were like, high five, yeah, this is great. And then all of it arrived and I just felt so stupid for shipping it all.

Alex: You take another thing out of the box and you’re like, oh, another thing out of  the box, oh.

Michelle: Disappointing again.

Carlie: I’m about to mark 10 years since I left Australia, and I’ve been back maybe every two years since I left. And every two years I come back, I look at the clear plastic tubs of my stuff that I left in my old room at my parents’ place, and I’m able to cull one or two more boxes. I’m like, I forgot I had that. Do I need it anymore or do I feel attached to it anymore? No. Okay. It’s time to let it go. The biggest part of my stuff that’s left are photo albums.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: Because, you know, I grew up in the nineties and early two thousands where we still had manual and digital cameras, not connected to the internet, and you printed off photos and put them in albums.

Alex: Yep.

Carlie: And I cannot bring myself to take them all out of their little sleeves-

Alex: Digitize them.

Carlie: -to dump them in a suitcase and bring them back, and then have to sort through them or digitize them. And I’m like, I’d just like to take them as they are back.

Michelle: Yeah.

Carlie: But that’s expensive and heavy.

Alex: Yeah, it is.

Carlie: I’m still dragging my feet as to what to do with all these childhood and adolescent photo albums.

Alex: Yeah. I mean, as long as there’s a place. We’ve got tubs of stuff in my mom’s basement from even before we moved to Austin. And I think about what’s in there, I mean there are sentimental items in there that I would not move. Like there are things I do want to hold onto, but like it’ll probably be like 10 years from now, I’ll look back and be like, do I really need this?

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: But I mean, there are going to be things that I just won’t want to move, and at some point we’ll have to make a decision about it.

Michelle: You can’t keep it there forever.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: I think I’ve accepted more and more as I’ve lived here, that I’m possibly not going home, like to Australia, anytime soon.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: Which is also why I’ve been slowly being like, okay, does it make sense to leave stuff with my parents anymore or should it be here with me in my life in this country? Yeah, definitely.

Alex: Yeah. That is one of those things that’s like, you think about that all the time. And we’ve talked about, with the Dutch American Friendship Treaty Visa, you initially get a two year visa, it renews for five, and then after that you can apply for permanent residence.

Carlie: Is it a pathway to citizenship?

Alex: It could be. I mean, we’d have to learn, I think, is it B one level understanding of the Dutch language?

Michelle: Yeah.

Alex: Which is pretty high.

Michelle: Pretty intense.

Alex: I mean, we would like to eventually. That’s currently the plan. But the Netherlands is a one passport country. You can’t have dual citizenship.

Carlie: Ah, so you’d have to renounce. But you could live there forever on a residency?

Alex: Yes. Or, I think we could live here long enough. I mean, it seems so jarring to think right now that we would ever be in a position where we would want to renounce our U.S. citizenship, but if we live here for 10 years and we have no plans to go back, at that point, I think you would probably start to think like, where is our home?

Michelle: Or at least have a conversation about it.

Alec: Yeah, exactly.

Michelle: Which now we would be like, oh no, that seems wild to us.

Carlie: Yeah. It’s very early for you guys still.

Alex: Yeah.

Carlie: Yeah.

Thank you so much Michelle and Alex for joining me today on the podcast. It’s been so fun to chat and I feel like we could keep talking for another hour so easily.

Alex: Oh yeah.

Michelle: I know.

Alex: Yeah. Thank you so much for having us.

Michelle: Yeah, thanks for having us.

Carlie: Tell me, where can our listeners find you on the socials?

Alex: Youtube.com/buncharted. And then we’re on Instagram and TikTok, but honestly, just follow us on YouTube. That’s where all the good stuff is.

Michelle: Yeah.

Carlie: That’s it for today. You can catch more of Michelle and Alex and follow their European adventures on their YouTube channel, buncharted. If you want to watch as well as listen to this podcast, you can check us out on YouTube too. We are Expat Focus, and I’ll catch you next time.


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