Interview with an expat


What’s your name and where do you come from? Can you tell us something about your hometown/country?
My name is Samuel (most people call me Sam) and I’m from California. Originally born in Los Angeles, I moved to the suburbs when I was 10, to a city called Fontana. Growing up in Southern California, I was always surrounded by a good mix of cultures and ethnicities. I really liked that; I feel it made me more open to people from all walks of life.

Where do you live in the Netherlands? What is one of your favorite things about where you live?
I’ve been living now in Amsterdam for 5 months and prior to that, I lived in Den Bosch for a little more than a year. My favourite thing about Amsterdam is the diversity, and not just in people, but also in events going on, things to do, etc. In Den Bosch I really loved the small town, “gezellig” vibes, where it felt like everyone knew each other.

What’s your job or business?
I currently work for a finance consulting company, so I get put on different projects, and right now my project is a financial reporting position.

When was your first time in the Netherlands? What were your first impressions or what was special about that first trip?
My first time in the Netherlands was for a weekend trip in Amsterdam in the spring of 2017, when I was studying abroad in Barcelona. My first impressions were how old the architecture looked and how beautiful the canals were, I felt like I went way back in time! Coming from the US, especially California, you’re just used to modern and plain architecture, so seeing the buildings and city setup in Amsterdam was very different for me.

What is the nicest thing about the Netherlands? How does this compare to your country?
I think the nicest thing about the Netherlands is the organization in the country. It just feels like everything in society is intentionally structured and everything is arranged to have a properly functioning society. Whereas in the US, sometimes it feels more like a free for all when it comes to survival.

Besides the weather, what is your biggest pet peeve about the Netherlands?
Haha, funny that you already prefaced with the weather. But I’d say my biggest pet peeve about the Netherlands would be customer service, especially when eating out. I’m currently visiting the US while writing this, and in the times that I’ve gone out to eat here, or gone grocery shopping, or any other activity that involves me being a customer, it’s been so apparent the difference in customer care and attention. For example, in the Netherlands, if you go out to eat, sometimes it feels like you have to chase after your waiter, but in the US, you’ll be checked on multiple times to ensure that everything is going okay with your meal.

Do you have Dutch friends? How do you meet Dutch people?
I have some Dutch friends, yes. I would say, all or most of them, though, I met through a foreigner in the country!

What do you like about Dutch people? What don’t you like?
What I like about Dutch people is how they can be more to the point in terms of communication and don’t have as much fluff as we do as Americans. What I don’t like is that perhaps they can be a little more reserved if they don’t know you personally.

What’s your best advice for new expats to make friends?
My best advice for expats to make friends would be to learn conversational Dutch and to not be shy with putting yourself out there. Learning a bit of Dutch makes Dutch people more willing to want to have you around, because if you’re with a group of Dutch people, they’re not going to enjoy having to switch to English just for you, and that makes developing friendships harder. And as far as not being shy, as I said in the previous questions, Dutch people might be more reserved if they don’t know you, so it helps a lot if you make the extra effort to build relationships with people, meet people, etc.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in your city?
To be honest, I don’t! I’ve eaten at some really good places, but nowhere where I’ve frequented often or been a regular.

What’s your favorite Dutch store?
I’d probably say the Jumbo! I love the vibe in that grocery store, it just always feels so clean and welcoming to shop in.

What do you like to do on the weekends?
On the weekends, my two favourite things to do are either hang out with my girlfriend and her family or to make YouTube videos. That’s pretty much where my time goes on the weekend. But also hanging out with friends or just simply relaxing at home is nice as well!

Who is your favourite Dutch historical, cultural or famous person?
My favorite Dutch person is Sergio Vyent! He was the host of this show called “First Dates” where Dutch people go on a blind date. And for me, that show was instrumental in helping me learn Dutch when I first moved here, and he himself just always seemed like a really cool and nice guy. I ended up meeting him at a concert that he had. Shout out to my girlfriend for organizing that.

What would you recommend a visitor to do and see in your city and in general in the Netherlands?
In Amsterdam, I’d just recommend in general for a visitor to go beyond the tourist ring in Amsterdam. I know when I first visited there, that’s all that I saw. I thought I saw Amsterdam and the Netherlands, but now that I live here, I know there’s soooo much more. Go to the Utrecht, go to Den Bosch, go to Dordrecht, etc. I think it’s really important to keep in mind that if you just stay in that tourist bubble of Amsterdam, you really haven’t seen the Netherlands.

What is your favourite Dutch food? And what Dutch food do you dislike?
My favorite Dutch food is 100% Dutch fries. There’s nothing like a tray of fries with mayo on top. What I dislike the most would be drop, that to me is disgusting.

Do you celebrate Dutch holidays? Which one is your favourite?
Yeah definitely, I try to integrate as much as possible and experience the cultural things here. My favourite would probably be Carnaval, specifically in Den Bosch. It’s just a vibe in the city that you can’t really experience elsewhere.

Where do you like to go out in your city? Like with friends or co-workers?
I like going out in De Pijp area, but I’ve also gone to quite a few events around Leidseplein.

What famous Dutch place should new visitors or expat definitely go see?
I think this is one people usually don’t think of, but I would 100% recommend the Open Air Museum in Arnhem. That’s the most impressive museum I’ve been to in my life. You have all of these outdoor exhibits and they’re all or mostly authentic items that make you feel like you’re traveling back in time. I would definitely recommend it.

Best-kept secret in your city?
I know this isn’t a secret for locals, but I don’t think tourists frequent this often, and that’s Vondelpark. If you’ve ever been to Central Park in NYC, then you’d love this park as well, if it’s a sunny day that is. It’s just so peaceful there, people just laying out in the grass, maybe vibing out to some music, ponds throughout the park, etc. It’s beautiful.

Looking back, what do you wish you knew before you moved to the Netherlands?
I wish I knew that most cars were manual. I only know how to drive automatic, but my girlfriend’s car is manual and if something happened where I needed to drive, we’d be screwed haha. So I need to learn.

What are a few things you recommend to new expat here in the Netherlands?
I recommend first just be open to what the country/culture has to offer. Don’t arrive with expectations of what’s to be or expectations that things will be the same as wherever you come from. My rule of thumb when moving to or visiting a new country is to just accept that there are different norms and customs, and I don’t mean accepting in the sense of you have to agree with them, but just be aware that there will be differences. Secondly, I’d recommend to really make an effort to not just surround yourself with expats or stay in an expat bubble. I feel by doing that, you’re limiting the integration you can have within the Netherlands and you’d also be missing out on what the country truly has to offer. I’m not saying don’t have expat friends, but just be cognizant to not only hang out with expats or only go to places where expats go.

Thank you for the interview Sam!

Written by Marla Thomson