Elle: Mermaid on a Bicycle
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Amsterdam, etc.
I am a California Native (Bay Area) and a Clinical Psychologist. My partner was offered a position in Europe and asked me if I would be interested in moving. I had always dreamed of living in Europe so of course I said yes! A few days before we left he proposed to me, adding another layer to our adventure. We’ve now been in Amsterdam for 6 months, have survived our first winter, and can regularly be found indulging in Dutch cheese or lamenting the lack of Mexican food in our lives.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I had blogged during graduate school but stopped when my career became more demanding. I really missed writing so when we decided to move, I knew that I would start a blog. Initially, it was designed to keep friends and family in the loop but I also love being able to highlight my passion for organic living and sharing my experiences through pictures and stories. I hope that the things I write about on the blog inspire people to try something new, travel more, or search for meaning in their own daily adventures.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My blog is still fairly new but I think the entry “Clique” is one of my favorites. It describes the experience of being halfway across the world from my girlfriends. From the messages I received after I posted it, it appears to be the most relatable post I’ve written thus far. I find a lot of joy in writing but when others can connect to my words it’s a distinctly special feeling.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Amsterdam differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
As to be expected, life in Amsterdam couldn’t be more different than my life in the Bay Area. There are plenty of logistic differences (the weather, transportation, language etc.), but I think the most meaningful difference for me is the cultural landscape. I’m Latina and growing up in California I was surrounded by people like me but also by an incredibly diverse array of individuals. I often look around when I’m out in Amsterdam and realize that I’m the only woman of color in the room, which is an entirely new experience for me. It makes me more aware of things that I had considered before but hadn’t truly FELT and I’m grateful for that.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Amsterdam? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
No, not at all! I am a planner and a worrier so I did tons of research and prepared us the best way I could. However, nothing can truly prepare you for picking up your life and placing it somewhere you have never been. If I could do it over, I would have left all of our belongings in storage and gotten a furnished place. We didn’t have a choice but in an ideal world, nobody from California should move to Amsterdam during the winter unless they are gluttons for cold, cold punishment.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I have to say that my experiences with the Dutch healthcare system have been pretty hilarious. One that comes to mind (which I also blogged about) was my first experience with a physical exam. I was awkwardly waiting for my Doctor to leave the room so I could undress and he was awkwardly waiting for me to undress so he could start the exam and we were just staring at each other confused as to why the other wasn’t moving. Also, the look on the receptionists face every time I visit and can not say my Doctor’s long Dutch last name is classic.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Amsterdam?
- If you are not an experienced bike rider (or haven’t even touched a bike since you were 10 years old, like me), start practicing again for a little while before you leave. It may make the transition to a new mode of transportation much easier for you.
- Have set times to talk to family and friends weekly. It curbs loneliness and gives a small form of structure to your days if you’re not working yet.
- If you don’t know how long you will be staying, consider a furnished place instead of shipping your things over. It will make subsequent moves easier as well.
How is the expat community in Amsterdam? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community is extremely large which is great. There are plenty of opportunities to connect but I think finding enduring, meaningful friendships is a bit harder. I’m still pretty new to the area but I have high hopes about meeting great people.
How would you summarize your expat life in Amsterdam in a single, catchy sentence?
A whirlwind of exploration, life lessons, beauty and eating hella stroopwafels.