Interview with an expat


Where do you come from and where do you live in the Netherlands?
I’m originally from Poland. As soon as I turned 18, I moved out to live in Germany for some time and now I’m a happy Delftenaar.

What’s your job/business?
I’m currently a student at Leiden University, doing an undergraduate in Urban Studies. Sorry in advance for all the amazing city designs I’m about to implement in my lifetime!

What was your first time in the Netherlands?
Before I moved here, I always thought that the Netherlands was just a party destination where you either go for red lights and weed or to bike around tulip fields. I guess I was just very ignorant, but this is what everyone thought about the country back then. When my husband got a good job opportunity in Rotterdam, we came to visit the city and we fell in love. It was so much more than what was circling around as a stereotype. Architecture was crazy in 2010 but in a good way, and compared to Berlin, where I lived at the time, it was so clean and organized. I moved to Germany to find the famous German “ordnung” and I found this in the Netherlands instead.

What is the nicest thing about the Netherlands?
How close everything is. Now I obviously complain about it, but it was super refreshing to be able to go to a completely different city within an hour, not care in which town or city some event is playing out, because – unless its Maastricht or Groningen – you can always reach it and get back the same day. That completely changed my perception of space. After years I got so accustomed to it that now 15 minutes between Delft and Rotterdam feels like an endless journey and I complain about it, but it’s a real first-world problem.

What’s the worst thing about the Netherlands?
Nothing nice people told me about this place was true. And let’s leave it at this.

Do you have Dutch friends?
I usually think I’m meeting a Dutch person only to discover later in conversation that they are another expat who’s just lived here for 5-10 years and speaks perfect Nederlands. Maybe it’s just my luck, maybe I will soon befriend my first “real” Dutch person!

What do you like about Dutch people? What don’t you like?
I like friendliness and how welcoming they are. Wherever you go people are always chilled and relaxed. Even in a rush it feels organized and purposeful. What I don’t like is the “doe normaal” approach to things. I feel it’skind of limiting people’s self-expression and I can’t get the concept of “fitting in to stand out”.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in your city?
Not yet in Delft (thanks Covid), but back in Rotterdam I just loved Umami by Han at Binnenrotte. It’s fusion Asian cuisine with really good prices. I learned about it from Michelin recommendations, as they have a bib gourmand mark. Do yourself a favour and try their scallops, I’m melting every time I eat them.

Where do you prefer to relax in your city?
I love the beach and would love to move Delft 10 km closer to the shoreline (c’mon global warming) but then I would probably not leave the town at all. In warm months I love to spend time at Wilhelminapark with my dog and walking through the city center is quite relaxing for me. There must be something in this old Dutch architecture that just vibrates right for me.

What’s your favourite Dutch store?
Hands-down the best invention of Dutch commerce. But if we talk store store then I guess Blokker is my favourite. Mostly because I’m always on the market for something for my kitchen.

What do you like to do on the weekends?
Play games or meet up with someone. Now with the pandemic it’s mostly games though. And I’m usually cooking something big on the weekend. Often something Polish, as most dishes take forever to finish.

Who is your favourite Dutch person?
Floor Jansen. She is a very compassionate, talented, good-spirited person and just a phenomenal I have seen her live and I’m crazy about her voice. I would love to sound half as good as she when I sing.

What would you recommend a visitor to do and see in your city in the Netherlands?
I will not be very inventive, I think. Wander around the city center here, eat lunch at Markt with a view of a church and antique city hall, surrounded by old stone houses. Then burn these calories entering Nieuwe Kerk tower to enjoy the panoramic view of Delft and surroundings (there is no elevator, just hundreds of steps). Go see the port of Rotterdam in Hoek van Holland, see big ships entering the port and enjoy the amazing beach there.

What is your favourite Dutch food? And what Dutch food do you dislike?
I love Dutch sweets like bossebollen, tompoes and moorkoppen. I guess I’m not fond of stamppot.

Do you celebrate Dutch holidays? What is your favourite?
I don’t celebrate holidays much at all. Not Dutch, nor Polish ones. But I like Bevrijdingsdag and the festivities around it. Kind of dislike King’s day as I’m not that much of a party person, so for me this is quite an unnecessarily messy celebration.

Where do you like to go out?
Outside is my favorite outing. Outside pandemic times I also love to spend time outdoors. On a serious note, I’m not going out often and mostly it’s my friends that pick a place and I’m just tagging along.

What famous Dutch place should you really go and see?
It’s not a place but a series of places, but I recommend going to see these gigantic water-stoppers as they are quite a sight to see. It makes you appreciate engineering and Dutch ingenuity.

Best kept secret in your city?
If I tell you, will it still be a secret?

Looking back, what do you wish you knew before you moved to the Netherlands?
That once a year you get a letter with local taxes to pay. It was quite unpleasant to learn about it only when I got the letter saying I needed to pay several hundreds of euros that I was not ready for. Luckily, they always give you like 2-3 months to pay for it.

What are 1-2 things you recommend to new expat here in the Netherlands?
Get rid of thinking of people as nationalities, just be an international. And for each big city you want to live in, there are at least one or two smaller satellite cities where you will live more peacefully and cheaper than in a big Also, they usually are so quiet that you will be able to properly relax.

Interview by Marla Thomson