Interview with an expat


Where do you come from and where do you live in the Netherlands?
I was born in Belgrade, Serbia, but lived in Toronto, Canada for 10 years, and in Arizona, USA for 10 years.

What’s your job/business?
I run the YouTube channel Jovie’s Home where I make educational as well as entertaining videos about being an expat in the Netherlands. Sometimes the videos are really about explaining how something works (“Dutch Medical System” or “Giving Birth in NL”) while others are about the expat experience (“US vs Dutch Christmas”).

I started this channel after I got pregnant in the Netherlands and had to navigate the Dutch system, which I found to be very different from the US one. I felt so stupid not knowing about the midwifery system, kraamzorg, where kids get wellness checks and vaccines… I felt like an alien trying to navigate it all! For that reason, I wanted to create a YouTube channel to explain the differences between my expectations and how things *actually* work here. I’m not trying to say whether one system is better than the other, but just highlight differences and explain the reasoning behind it. Every expat has those moments of “culture shock” when they move to a different country and I think it’s very interesting to share those moments (and laugh about it).

What was your first time in the Netherlands?
I came to the Netherlands in January 2008 for a law internship at the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia. I met my now-husband during that internship and together we started a life here. He is from Spain.

We worked together in international criminal law for several years until our children were born and I wanted to start a business with more flexibility.

What is the nicest thing about the Netherlands?
I absolutely love the weather! Just kidding! 🙂

The nicest thing about the Netherlands is how child-friendly it is. From parks and playgrounds everywhere, to interesting and interactive museums even for the littlest ones, there is always something to do with your family. Oh, and that “mamadag” and “papadag” and working part-time are normalized to enhance the work/life balance.

What’s the worst thing about the Netherlands?
I’d say that there is still quite a lot of room for improvement when it comes to customer service.

Do you have Dutch friends?
Yes, a few 🙂

What do you like about Dutch people? What don’t you like?
I like the straightforward, no nonsense and truthful approach. You always know where you stand with someone.

As someone who is always 15 minutes late, I don’t like how promptly on-time Dutchies tend to be (I know, I know, this is a “me” problem)!

Do you have a favourite restaurant in your city?
We love to go to Vapiano for fresh pizza and pasta as a family. On date nights, though, we really like Gauchos, BIT, Naga Thai or Maharani.

Where do you prefer to relax in your city?
We enjoy going for mini stay-cations at Hotel & Spa Savarin from time to time.

What’s your favourite Dutch store?
Hema 🙂

What do you like to do on the weekend?
My weekends are mostly trying to entertain my 3- and 6-year-olds. Occasionally, I’m offered the opportunity to visit somewhere new for my YouTube channel, and it’s always so cool to discover a new place and share it with my viewers.

Who is your favourite Dutch person?
Nikkie de Jager (Nikkie Tutorials). She is such an inspiration and I love her even more after meeting her at Eurovision 2020. We even made a TikTok together and it was one of the best days of my career.

What would you recommend a visitor to do and see in your city in the Netherlands?
If you have children: Kinderboekenmuseum, Pluk!, the little petting zoos all over the place, Scheveningen or Wassenaar beaches in summer.

If you’re visiting without kids, I enjoy going for a walk along the Frederik Hendriklaan or getting “lost” in Den Haag city center.

What is your favourite Dutch food? And what Dutch food do you dislike?
Snert (erwtensoep), stroopwafels and Bram’s Ladage fries. I am not a fan of drop or haring.

Do you celebrate Dutch holidays? What is your favourite?
Yes, of course! We like King’s Day and Sinterklaas with the kids. But the *real party* is Carnaval in Maastricht. Leave the kids with oma and opa and go party in your most creative and elaborate costume.

Where do you like to go out?
I don’t go out that much anymore. But I really enjoy visiting a different Dutch province every month (pre-Covid and when it’s safe to do so). Taking 2-3 days and visiting a new place is so fun!

What famous Dutch place should you really go and see?
The province of Friesland! I fell in love with every little town that I visited. Groningen was also incredible. And Maastricht. Basically, I love pretty much everything in the Netherlands 😉

Best-kept secret in your city?
Dr. Charmaine Harris’ dental practice, One World Dental. She is an expat herself and has the most beautiful and international dental practice that is specifically catered towards expats.

Written by Marla Thomson