Interview with an expat – Keith Franklin

Rectification:  The name in the printed newspaper is incorrect. It says here that the interviewee’s name is Frank. But it’s Keith Franklin! I’m so sorry Keith!

Where do you come from and where do you live in the Netherlands?
I’m from Kansas in the United States. I currently live in Leidschendam near The Hague.

What’s your job/business?
I freelance as a business intelligence officer for a software company that develops software solutions for the healthcare industry.

What was your first time in the Netherlands?
I came to the Netherlands on a student trip in high school, but we were only here for a couple of days, so I don’t remember much. I came back with friends one summer in college. I don’t remember much on that trip but for different reasons!

What is the nicest thing about the Netherlands?
The availability of public transportation. It’s everywhere and really easy to get around. Going out at night is fun too; everyone just wants to have a good time, so there’s always a good atmosphere wherever you go.

What’s the worst thing about the Netherlands?
The weather is bad and the Dutch food isn’t that great. I went to my girlfriend’s parents’ place with her one time and her mom made steamed kale mashed with potatoes and a sausage on top. Apparently, this is a really famous meal that everyone loves. It was ok, just a strange thing to have as a famous dish.

Do you have Dutch friends?
Yes, my girlfriend is Dutch so I have a lot of friends through her and her family.

What do you like about Dutch people? What don’t you like?
They are almost always nice to be around. They can get a little crazy sometimes but they always seem to want to have a good time. And they want you to have a good time too, so that’s cool. I also like how they are really into their sports teams, especially any team or athlete that does well in international competitions – it’s like the whole country gets onboard with cheering them on. It’s cool.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in your city?
We just found this great Georgian restaurant called Suhumi in The Hague. My girlfriend saw it on a TV show, so we checked it out. The food was really good and the price was not bad. I recommend it.

Where do you prefer to relax in your city?
Scheveningen! The beach is great. I’m from the middle of the US, so having a beach nearby is great. You can relax on the beach or go to one of the many restaurants and beach pavilions. If it’s a busy time of the year we bike to the beach in Wassenaar. It’s a lot quieter there in the summer months.

What’s your favourite Dutch store?

Cool Blue. They have the best selection and their staff is really good. They also have one of the best e-commerce sites I’ve seen. There are also some good gaming stores in the center of the city.

What do you like to do on the weekends?
If the weather is good, we are usually out biking or at a festival now that it’s summer time. If the weather is bad, I like gaming.

Who is your favourite Dutch person?
Memphis Depay is my favorite Dutch person and an all-around awesome soccer player. He also has a sick tattoo of a lion that covers his whole back. I like the way he plays, especially since the national team got a new coach.

What would you recommend a visitor to do and see in your city in the Netherlands?
I recommend walking around the old government places like the Binnenhof if you like history. There’s also Madurodam, an outdoor attraction that’s like a miniature Netherlands. There are small models of all the famous places and cities and you can just walk around. It’s a cool place for all ages, so whoever is visiting, you can always take them here.

What is your favourite Dutch food? And what Dutch food do you dislike?
I like Dutch fries and kibbeling, it’s like fish and chips, but that’s about it. Where I come from, they make the best burgers, steaks and comfort food, so I kind of miss that. I like Dutch beer and the ice cream here is the best, hands down. My girlfriend cooks a lot and it always tastes good, so the food you buy in the grocery store seems to be really good.

Do you celebrate Dutch holidays? What is your favourite?
Yes, we celebrate them all! We like King’s Day in Amsterdam because you can pretty much do what you want, and everyone is just in such an awesome party mood. We go to her parents’ home for a lot of the other holidays, especially the Christmas and religious holidays, though none of us are particularly religious.

Where do you like to go out?
Bar Eleven is great for watching sports, especially the Dutch national football league. We also have friends in Leiden so we go there sometimes, but most of the time we hit a nice bar or restaurant on the Grote Markt or, if the weather is nice, we sometimes go to Scheveningen. O’Casey’s probably has the best bar food in the area and is great to hang out with English-speaking people, especially rugby fans.

What famous Dutch place should you really go and see?
I think most people come and visit the usual sites like Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum and maybe The Hague and Rotterdam. But short visits like I did in high school don’t really give you a good idea of what the Netherlands has. Like the Deltaworks and the Afsluitdijk, the water management engineering projects the Dutch use to keep the country from flooding. It’s probably not at the top of the list of things to do or see, but I really recommend seeing some of the infrastructure things here, because the Dutch are masters at it.

Best-kept secret in your city?
It’s not much of a secret for Dutch people here, but The Hague Market (Haagse Market) is really cool. It’s a typical open-air market with stalls and stands. You can find a lot of things here and some really good deals.

Looking back, what do you wish you knew before you moved to the Netherlands?
I wish I knew how to watch American baseball when I got here! It’s on TV all the time back home, but here you can almost never find a game on TV. I spent a ton of time figuring out how to watch it online and missed part of the season when I first got here. Before I moved here, I heard that the Netherlands were the biggest baseball fans in Europe. But after being here I realized that only meant that it had zero popularity outside the Netherlands and that the Dutch only have a tiny bit of interest in the sport because there are some professional players from Curaçao and Aruba.

What are one-two things you recommend to new expat here in the Netherlands?
Get layers of clothes and always carry an umbrella! Just remember that this is another country, so things will be different. It took me time to stop saying “It’s not like this in the US”, but my girlfriend just kept saying “That’s because it’s the Netherlands!” One day I realized that she meant not to compare how things are here to how they are back home, but to enjoy the differences and think of them like part of the adventure. Also, the things I miss really aren’t that bad, when you think about it.

Written by Marla Thomson