Interview with an expat

What’s your name and where do you come from and where do you live in the Netherlands?
My name is Emma Stewart. I’m originally from Toronto, Canada, and have been living in Amsterdam for the past three years. When I first moved here in February 2021, the city was in lockdown with a strict curfew due to the pandemic. I was only planning to stay for 5 months to do a research project that was part of my studies, but in March 2021 I met my boyfriend and that plan quickly changed!

What’s your job/business?
I work as a Marketing Content Specialist at ADC (Amsterdam Data Collective), a Data & AI Consultancy. One of the things I appreciate most about living in the Netherlands is the work-life balance. In Toronto, it is more of a hustle culture where you work into the evenings and only have 10 holiday days per year. I believe that having more time afforded for hobbies, relaxation, travel, etc., enables people to show up as better employees.

What was your first time in the Netherlands?
In the summer of 2015, I travelled around Europe with one of my closest friends. One of our stops was in Amsterdam, and in that moment it became one of my favourite places I’ve ever been. We wrote down memories in a notebook while we were on the train travelling between cities, and I reread mine recently and saw that I actually wrote, “I will live in Amsterdam one day!”

What is the nicest thing about the Netherlands?
I already mentioned the work-life balance, but on top of that I love how dog friendly the country is. It’s so nice to be able to bring my dog, Timmie, into restaurants or cafes with me. And the fact that we can walk almost anywhere in the city without needing a car is amazing!

What’s the worst thing about the Netherlands?
The worst thing about the Netherlands is that my close friends and family aren’t here. I lived in London for a few years when I was younger, but I didn’t have that same feeling then, probably because I was in a different life stage. Now, I sometimes feel like I’m missing important moments in my friends’ lives, like their weddings, or making new memories with my mom as she gets older.

Do you have Dutch friends?
Having a Dutch partner has introduced me to some of his friends, and there are a lot of great Dutch people at my work too. However, most of my friends who I’ve met outside these spheres are from countries other than the Netherlands. Having international friends can be comforting because they share and understand the experience of living abroad, but it can also very difficult if and when they move back to their home countries.

What do you like about Dutch people? What don’t you like?
The directness of Dutch people is a bit of a double-edged sword for me. In the initial two years of living here, I found it challenging not to interpret it as rudeness or a lack of warmth, occasionally even leading to tears (being a sensitive Canadian and all). However, I’ve recently turned a corner on this and come to appreciate it, most of the time. The straightforwardness leaves less room for misinterpretation, and it’s refreshing that people are open to both sharing and receiving different perspectives.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in your city?
My favourite restaurant in Amsterdam is Night Kitchen, where they serve the most colourful and flavourful Mediterranean dishes. I also enjoy going to food markets on the weekends, and Pure Markt, which rotates through various parks, is awesome. One of my favourite stalls there is WheatPrayLove. Before they were at the market, I used to take a 40-minute bike ride each way just to pick up food from their kitchen!

Where do you prefer to relax in your city?
During the summer, I love to lie in a park with a book or go for a picnic with some nice sandwiches and drinks. I also enjoy having a coffee in a cafe while people-watching. However, in the winter, I prefer to hide out inside my home and chill on the couch watching Bravo (reality tv) with my dog.

What’s your favourite Dutch store?
My favourite Dutch store is Duikelman, a kitchen supply store in De Pijp. I spend a lot of time baking, so I’m like a kid in a candy shop in there! The selection of baking pans and tools is beyond my imagination; I could easily spend hours just wandering around, even if I don’t end up buying anything. I recommend it to any home cooks or bakers.

What do you like to do in the weekend?
Weekend mornings usually start with a trip to Flevopark, letting my dog have a good run off-leash. After that, I often grab a bite at a bakery or restaurant, either with my boyfriend or a friend. I have to confess, my weekend plans are often decided by scrolling through TikTok and Instagram, picking up recommendations for new places to check out.

Who is your favourite Dutch person?
My boyfriend, Floris <3.

What would you recommend a visitor to do and see in your city in the Netherlands?
All my friends and family who have visited Amsterdam loved the canal boat tours. But you must do the open top one, especially on a nice sunny day! Beyond that, one of the best parts about Amsterdam is its walkability. Taking a long walk in a city with such pretty architecture is always nice, and you can end your walk at one of the cafes in Vondelpark for a drink on a terrace inside the park.

What is your favourite Dutch food? And what Dutch food do you dislike?
Oliebollen are by far my favourite Dutch food, maybe just one of my favourite foods in general. When it comes to Dutch desserts, you can hardly go wrong with any, except for one: I can’t seem to enjoy stroopwafels. Whenever I walk by a stroopwafel stall at a market, I think it’s the most delicious smell that could easily be bottled up and sold! However, the taste always leaves me disappointed.

Do you celebrate Dutch holidays? What is your favourite?
Sinterklaas holds a special place as my favourite Dutch holiday because I have a lot of nice memories associated with it. I’m part of a Dutch class offered at my work and this year we wrote poems for each other and exchanged gifts. It was super cute! In my first year living in the Netherlands, I wasn’t familiar with the traditions surrounding Sinterklaas. One morning, as I slipped my shoes on, I felt an unexpected crunch. My boyfriend had put a handful of pepernoten in my shoes without warning me!

Where do you like to go out?
I’m not big on going out, especially when it comes to clubs (techno music hasn’t won me over yet). I’m more of a homebody who just wants a good night’s sleep… But I do love wine bars! Back when I lived in De Pijp, GlouGlou and Paulus were my favourites, or Bar Mokum for a cocktail. As for Oost, I’m still exploring, so I’ll keep you posted!

What famous Dutch place should you really go and see?
I love Zaanse Schans! It can feel a bit cheesy with all the cheese museums (no pun intended) and windmills, but I found it to also be very charming, especially if you time your visit to avoid the crowds.

Best-kept secret in your city?
In Amsterdam Oost, there’s a great bakery called Baking Lab; however, it’s not just your regular bakery. They also sell a variety of specialty flours, and when I first moved to Amsterdam, they even shared a piece of their sourdough starter with me. But the real gem is their experience called “A Day in the Bakery”. You can spend an entire day working and learning alongside their bread-baking experts. It’s a unique opportunity to experience life in a bakery and pick up some new skills.