I’m going to totally out myself here. I never heard of the Netherlands when I met my Dutch partner. I only heard of Amsterdam and Holland. And I had no idea that Amsterdam was a city in the province of North Holland in the country of the Netherlands. And to be totally honest, I knew next to nothing about Amsterdam and Holland. So, almost everything I learned about the Netherlands before moving here was what my Dutch partner told me.
Blame it on the American education system or whatever you want. We don’t learn geography, and I had only traveled abroad to Israel when I met him. I learned a lot about Eastern Europe and Germany because my parents are Russian-Belarussian and Jewish. But no, I had no clue about the bikes, plant substance, cheese, and red light district, let alone about anything more important about the Netherlands. Before moving here, I visited the Netherlands a few times to see my Dutch partner. I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into. If I were to do it again, these are some things that I would have done.
Spent Time Learning The Local Language: Dutch
When I visited the Netherlands, my partner did most of the communicating with people. And the people that spoke to me spoke in English. I was in a lala land of love and newness. When I moved here, everyone also spoke to me in English. So I didn’t really bother to learn Dutch, although I knew I would have to at some point to keep my visa. I was also already bilingual in English and Russian. Those are more widely spoken than Dutch.
I ended up learning Dutch (and still am), and it has helped me in many ways. I can now communicate with people when shopping, with my in-laws, and more. I also now even get paid to translate text from Dutch to English. How amazing is that? There is no downside to learning another language. It can only benefit you.
Put Myself Out There
I was working remotely for an American company when I first moved here. Now I work for myself, also from home. I wish I had tried to network and meet up with other people who worked remotely and such because I was so freaking lonely for so long. Going to networking events and working in co-working spaces would have helped me immerse myself in the Netherlands and possibly meet and befriend like-minded people. I’m actually now even occasionally going to Dutch networking events. I never imagined I would do that.
Actually Tried To Make Friends
Being so lonely my first year/year and a half was terrible. Of course, I had my partner, but he was at the office all day. Besides for him, I knew no one where I lived. There were tons of expat events and meetups in nearby cities, but I never went to any of them. I felt like I was living in such a bubble and didn’t want to leave that cozy bubble. But putting myself out there and actually making an effort helped me make friends. So what was I so afraid of?
When I did try to make friends at the beginning, I tried to make friends with Dutch people, which now I know I shouldn’t have even bothered. None of them ever called me back, responded to my texts, or even tried to get to know me. Now, I have a fantastic group of international friends.
A Recent Revelation
To be completely honest, I never really thought about researching the culture in the Netherlands and following content creators who shared about life here. But recently, I spoke to one of my followers and have heard from other people how learning about the culture before moving to the Netherlands helped them cope with the change and challenges. So, if I were to go back in time, I would probably watch and read more about what life was actually like in the Netherlands because vacation is completely different from living somewhere.
You Can’t Go Back In Time
Obviously, you can’t go back in time, and mistakes help you learn. So now I can share my experiences and knowledge with all of you. I can’t change what I did at the beginning, but I can change what I will do in the future. I’m grateful for my life here and absolutely love the opportunities I’ve been presented here. Don’t forget to chase your dreams and turn them into a reality. Change is scary, but researching and preparing yourself will make it much easier.
What do you wish you would have done when you first moved abroad?