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 Aga Krogulec and I come from Poland. I was born in the small village in the middle of Poland and spent my childhood in a natural area with animals, which I still love.

 Where do you live in the Netherlands? What is one of your favorite things about where you live?
At the moment I live in Hilversum, a town surrounded by heaths, what is one of my favourite things about this town. What I also like about Hilversum is that you can find all possible activities, workshops, lessons and events here. Hilversum is a very international and multicultural place.

What’s your job or business?
I am a fashion designer and the owner of small clothing business.

When was your first time in the Netherlands? What were your first impressions or what was special about that first trip?
I first came to the Netherlands 20 years ago. I was visiting one of my good friends who lived here. I loved everything about this country. The bikes, tulips (it was April, so the perfect time to admire flowers), clean streets, smiling people. Even the weather was great. I was happy that everyone spoke English and it was very easy to communicate.

 What is the nicest thing about the Netherlands? How does this compare to your country?
What I like here is that people are very active, even in older age. It is difficult to guess their age, as people are very fit and look great an an older age. In Poland, a lot of people who retire sadly start to look very old and don’t enjoy life anymore.

Besides the weather, what is your biggest pet peeve about the Netherlands?
Intolerance. The Netherlands can be seen as very easy, open country, where many illegal things are more less legal and all nations are very welcome, but when you know Dutch people better, you see less tolerance than you expect.

Do you have Dutch friends? How do you meet Dutch people?
I have a lot of Dutch friends. Some of them I met at a dancing class, another when walking my dog, some in my choir. I am quite a social person and make friends quite easily.

What do you like about Dutch people? What don’t you like?
I like the directness of Dutchies. At the beginning it can feel very sharp, but I have learned to appreciate it. It makes communication easier. What I don’t like is their resistance. Even if they have known you very well for a long time, theyremain a bit distant.

What’s your best advice for new expats to make friends?
Join groups of interests, a language course etc. I met some of my good friends joining the international choir.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in your city?
Yes, recently I discovered Ninh Binh, a Vietnamese restaurant with excellent food.

What’s your favorite Dutch store?
I like Pipoos very much, a store where you can buy art, crafts and hobby supplies. Also all textile shops are my weakness, as I can spend a lot of time and money there.

What do you like to do on the weekends?
I love to walk my dog, read books, meet friends and sometimes watch a good movie.

Who is your favorite Dutch historical, cultural or famous person?
I admire the Dutch fashion designer duo Viktor and Rolf. They create amazing haute couture outfits and they are a huge inspiration for me.

What would you recommend a visitor to do and see in your city and in general in the Netherlands?
Hilversum is famous of the media, so I think it is nice to visit the “Beeld en Geluid” museum. As for the whole country, there are many incredible places to see, some of them very touristic, like Keukenhof, Giethoorn and Volendam. I like Leiden, which looks like a smaller version of Amsterdam, and Dutch islands, especially Ameland and Terschelling.

What is your favorite Dutch food? And what Dutch food do you dislike?
I like stamppot, mashed potatoes with different vegetables. It reminds me of some traditional Polish dishes. What I dislike is haring – raw herring with pickles and onion. I have no idea how people can eat it.

Do you celebrate Dutch holidays? Which one is your favorite?
I used to celebrate King’s Day (it was Queen’s Day before). But after many years I prefer to spend that day far from the crowd, so usually I plan something less loud.

Where do you like to go out in your city with friends or co-workers?
There is a very nice bowling place in the centrum of Hilversum; you can not only play bowls there, but also have ameal or drinks, organise a birthday party etc.

What famous Dutch place should new visitors or expat definitely go see?
I would start with Madurodam. You can find all Dutch attractions in miniature. You can decide there where to go to visit a real place.

Best-kept secret in your city?
Not everyone knows that if you walk the small, hidden streets in the centrum of Hilversum, you can find yourself among some very old houses, feeling like time stopped there.

Looking back, what do you wish you knew before you moved to the Netherlands?
I wish I knew more about Dutch law and rules. It would have helped me organise my life here more easily and avoideda lot of stress. My own fault, as I moved to the Netherlands very spontaneously and without preparations.

What are a few things you recommend to new expats here in the Netherlands?
Check your possibilities and rights. Be open to Dutch culture and Dutch directness – don’t take it personally.

Explore the country, it is beautiful.

Thanks for the interview, Aga!

Interviewed by Marla Thomson