Interview with an expat

Where do you come from and where do you live in the Netherlands?
I come from Mombasa, Kenya. It’s on the coast, so 26 degrees is considered a cold day! I moved to Overijssel in 2015.

What’s your job/business?
At the moment I am a stay at home mama, but I also make YouTube videos. I make vlogs and videos giving tips that help new people moving to the Netherlands, because when I first moved here I learned a lot about the culture, new language, and doing things like getting a driver’s license. I thought if I made a YouTube channel of what I learned and know, it could help someone learn from my personal experiences. You can find my channel by searching on YouTube for “Nimo Wairimu Mwangi”.

What was your first time in the Netherlands?
That was 2015 when I moved here. I moved here “cold turkey” to live with my partner, who is now my husband. I had never been to the Netherlands or even to Europe.

What is the nicest thing about the Netherlands?
It’s very clean here and the infrastructure is good, especially the roads. In Kenya it’s dusty because of the climate and roads can have a lot of potholes. Also you can access other countries very easily from here – you just cross the border. That’s great because I love to travel.

What’s the worst thing about the Netherlands?
The cold! I don’t like winter. In 2016 or 2017 there was a lot of snow. I remember I had to travel by train that winter but trains were delayed because of the snow. I think that lasted two days, but for a Kenyan that was a lot of snow!

Do you have Dutch friends?
Yes, I do have a few Dutch friends. I’ve met some nice Dutch people, also through my husband. I also have lots of Kenyan friends that I met here in NL.

What do you like about Dutch people? What don’t you like?
I like that Dutch people are hard-working, in the sense that they don’t give up if something is difficult. They look at it like a challenge and will work on finding a solution to solve it, even finding a way to fix it themselves.
What I don’t like is that Dutch people can be direct. Now that I’ve lived here for some time, I’m getting used to it. I am even finding it good that they are direct, but in the beginning I wasn’t used to it so I didn’t like it.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in your city?
I don’t really like restaurants because I can be particular with what I like to eat. I don’t like garlic, raw onions and other ingredients that are usually found in restaurant food. I also like to cook a lot. Sometimes, if I want to go out to eat, we go to a restaurant in Gronau, Germany, because we live very close to the border. It’s called Villa Langenburg and is actually Dutch-owned!

Where do you prefer to relax?
I like to go to Ommen. It’s a very beautiful little town with restaurants along the canals. “Terrasje pakken”, which is sitting outside on the terrace at some restaurant in Ommen in the summer, is really calming for me.

What’s your favourite Dutch store?
Action! I really like Action, but when I want buy just something small I usually come back with a lot of other stuff!

What do you like to do in the weekend?
I like to make YouTube videos and edit them, but since having a baby it’s hard to find the time and energy. I also like to visit friends, make some food, listen to music, dance and have a good time.

Who is your favourite Dutch person?
My husband is of course number 1, followed by The Dutch music group De Toppers. When they have a concert, the whole of the Netherlands lights up with lots of coloured clothes and costumes. I like Gerard Joling very much, he’s one of De Toppers but also a TV presenter. His programs are always filled with fun and laughter.

What would you recommend a visitor to do and see in your city in the Netherlands?
I would recommend visiting Twente and trying the local beer, Grolsch. Also Ommen is really beautiful. There are a lot of canals there, beautiful scenery and of course windmills. It’s a typical Dutch place. Also Giethoorn is nearby. It’s considered the “Small Venice of the Netherlands” because there are no cars, only canals there.

What is your favourite Dutch food? And what Dutch food do you dislike?
There’s a kind of pancake called “boerenpannenkoek”, which means “farmer’s pancake” that’s made with paprika and you can put other ingredients in it like salami, eggs, spinach and of course cheese.
I don’t like frikandel! I haven’t tried the raw herring yet, but I don’t think I’d like it because of the raw onions.

Do you celebrate Dutch holidays? What is your favourite?
Yes, King’s Day is my favorite. Also the arrival of Sinterklaas and Christmas is nice, too. Before I didn’t really care too much about those, but now that I have a child I am excited about those holidays.

Where do you like to go out?
To go shopping or to party, I like to go to Arnhem. It’s a really good place for shopping and the nightlife is good – the nightclubs have good music and they close at 5am! Well, before corona they stayed open late.

What famous Dutch place should you really go and see?
I would say Maastricht. It’s a very traditional place and one of the oldest and most authentic towns in the Netherlands, with parks, canals and traditional houses. It’s not like Amsterdam where you have attractions like the red light district, coffeeshops and lots of tourists. Maastricht is right on the German-Belgian border and the capital of Limburg province. There’s a lot to see and do there, including a network of caves where remains of Neanderthals have been found.

Best kept secret in your city?
Bolletje, the bakers of breakfast biscuits and other baked goods you see in the grocery stores, is based out of Almelo, close to my home. They, of course, have a store where you can buy their products and have a cup of coffee. But there is also a museum that has century-old mixers, ovens and other baking machines. It’s like walking back in time!

Interview by Marla Thomson