Real Experiences: I moved to the Netherlands because I fell in love with a Dutch man

A Bit of Background

I’m an American from a small, rural (and yes, red) town in Michigan. I didn’t have to learn another language in my education growing up and I had never travelled outside of my country—nor did I know anyone that had.

When I graduated high school, I was the only person from my town that went to my University.

And when I graduated from my University, I moved 3000 miles away to California without knowing a single person.

So you think I would be well equipped to change my life (again) and move to the other side of the world.

Moving and Shaking

On the one had, yes I was. I knew what to expect emotionally, how not to sweat the small stuff, what is important to my sense of self, and how to be alone in a new place. Even with the support of my boyfriend, I knew I would need all of these to continue to cultivate a healthy relationship during my transition here.

On the other hand though—no, I wasn’t ready. It turned out to be more difficult to leave another place that I liked to call my home, and the loneliness that I knew from living in California on my own is entirely different than the loneliness here.

In the States, I had a large group of friends and a community that I loved to be a part of. I did not, however, have the support of family or a partner that would care for me when I was sad or ill. I was living independently and taking care of myself.

Then I fell in love, decided to quit my job, and move to the Netherlands to be with my boyfriend.

An American Living in the Netherlands

Boy did moving flip the script on me. Living and seeking residency in the Netherlands has admittedly been a challenge, a welcome one that I chose to be sure, but a challenge nonetheless.

The Language

I don’t speak Dutch. I find that this is an area where my previous moving experience is helpful in a way that I didn’t expect.

When I’m by myself bopping around in city centers and going to festivals, I can make friends and strike up conversation easily because most everyone speaks English. That’s not to say I don’t miss signs written in English, how good would it feel to understand everything I read on the street, but it’s not hard to get around at all.

The true difficulty lies with creating relationships with my boyfriend’s friends and family. I find that once there are more than a three or four Dutchies in the room, the conversation is predominately in Dutch—with some translations after jokes or mid-conversation if they want me to understand.

It’s not easy to go from being entirely independent in one place, to having a difficult time communicating and needing a translator in another—especially when it comes to being able to form relationships with the people that my partner loves.

I am constantly asked if/when I will start lessons so I’ll answer here. No, I haven’t started lessons in Dutch yet, I’m still finding my sea legs and trying to focus on supporting myself here.

The Metric System

Oy—it’s confusing.

Yes, I know that most people in the world use the Metric System, but I never have. I learned the Imperial System and used it for 28 years before moving to a country that did.

It’s taken me a few months to understand speed and distance when I’m driving—and longer to understand Celsius. I’m still not great at translating food stuff, which is funny when I’m making dinner for groups.

It’s something I have to learn how to use, like the language and the land.

Connecting to Land

My garden, the mountains, and the forest is where I find my calm and center. Living here has challenged me in this way too.

America is absolutely full of wide open spaces and huge old forests where it’s easy to find places to be alone with my thoughts—the Netherlands has a lot of green space, but I haven’t found a place yet where I can’t hear the sounds of the train or the city.

It is well cultivated here and the parks are so numerous, it’s lovely! Finding a place to go visit is also quite easy if I do want to have an outdoor experience.

Finding Work

This, I find, is one of the major roadblocks I’ve encountered.

I’m a content marketer—in English. While there’s a lot of English content coming out of the Netherlands, finding a job and being part of work culture is quite difficult without knowing at least conversational Dutch.

Taking into account my own need for independence, I find it difficult to rely on my partner for monetary support so I found a workaround for that.

At first, I took on clients and worked as a freelance done-for-you marketer. I wrote articles, build emails, and create marketing strategies for my clients.

It was only a couple of months before I realized that I have the most incredible opportunity.

Moving to the Netherlands has lowered my cost of living enough that I was able to start my own company, Dandelion Branding. I still take clients and still focus on content marketing, but instead of done-for-you work, my business partner and I help companies by teaching them to utilize their content marketing to create a clear voice and vision.

Would I do it again?

The short answer is, yes.

Of course I would. I moved for love, and it’s the best thing to make decisions based on. Even though the loneliness is different here, there’s nothing at all like the support of a partner and cultivating a healthy relationship. I’m learning how to ask for help and how to rely on someone else.

Being able to shape my life and go on this adventure has been a blessing of a challenge. I love that I can be free to schedule my days and have my own business.

It was the right decision for me and even on the days I struggle (and they do happen) I remember that I am stronger for it.

5 Tips for Love Expats

If you’re thinking about moving here, or you’re new like me, here are a few things that have been helpful for my transition—especially if it’s for a partner.

1/ Do something social. I rock climb, which is incredibly social, and allowed me to make friends quickly that weren’t just friends with my boyfriend. If you can make friends with 1-2 expats, that’s also nice.

2/ Get the Google Translate App and put it on your home screen. You’re going to need it for things like food labels, signs, and tax documents (you’re going to get a lot of documents if you apply for any type of residency).

3/ Do the paperwork and then get online. It’s so easy to put it off, but if you just do the paperwork and schedule the meetings it gets painless really fast. The Dutch put most everything on the internet.

4/ Assimilate at your own pace. You’re going to feel pressure to fit in right away, especially if you find yourself in groups of Dutch people. Remember that they don’t actually feel what you’re going through, even if you explain it and they say they get it—they don’t.

5/ Ask for help. If you don’t understand something, just ask. The Dutch are super nice and they’ll usually be more than happy to help you, especially if you’re trying to understand something cultural or learn a new word.

Are you a love expat in the Netherlands? Leave some of your transition tips in the comments!

Written by our guest blogger Aubrey Wallace

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