A thirty something British expat, Julia Fallon describes herself as a reluctant explorer, a wobbly, stiletto wearing cyclist and technology geek all rolled into one. She followed her boyfriend over to Amsterdam and tells us how she is learning to love and live the Dutch way of life.
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
I’m from England – I lived in a small village in the South, surrounded by fields but an hour from the seaside and an hour from London. I’d describe myself as quite English – I also have a habit of saying things like ‘oh golly’, and ‘blimey’. Since moving to Amsterdam I find my English-isms have surfaced even more which has my expat friends laughing and the Dutch staring blankly at me.
And what did you do there, then?
I was working in London. Other than working, I was saving for a motorbike (Honda CBR 600rr since you ask), I studied Russian (it’s such a beautiful language) and I am also a budding photographer so I would quite often be seen playing tourist in London laden with camera bags and walking boots. I also did some volunteering for the Science Museum’s “Science Nights” where they let hundreds of children sleep over – sleeping in the Space Gallery is awesome!
How did you end up in Amsterdam?
As with so many, I moved for love! My boyfriend took a job in Amsterdam and so I gave up my job and moved over too. The UK isn’t a great place to live at the moment, and sad as I am to say it I thought the quality of life would be better abroad. I know a lot of people who dream of living here – I wasn’t one of them but I’ve totally fallen in love with the place now!
Have you lived abroad before?
Nope. I’ve always wanted to live and work abroad but never quite found a compelling enough reason! I dream of being the travelling type but actually I’m the homely type – the only thing I’m currently missing in that picture is a big open log fire in my living room, and a cup of Chocomel, hmmmm……
So what’s so good about Amsterdam?
The pace of life is just so enjoyable and a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of London. I love the fact that it’s a really beautiful city steeped in history whilst at the same time being vibrant and modern. I also really enjoy the liberal and balanced culture – generally speaking everyone seems happy with life. If you try to stand out too much, they say ‘doe normaal’, which means ‘just be normal already!’ – what I guess I mean is that it’s a very levelling society to be a part of, where you can easily find yourself cycling to work next to the CEO of any given Dutch company.
And what don’t you like?
The service in a restaurant can be slow, the weather is quite often four seasons in one day and the cobbles are unkind to my beautiful collection of stilettos. But, as I write that I’m already shrugging my shoulders Dutch-style and saying out-loud ‘Ah, but what can you do?!’ Hang on, I can’t let you go without my standard rant that you can’t get Sky TV out here so I’m going to miss the fabulous F1 coverage they have planned for 2012 season!
Do you feel like an insider or outsider?
An outsider, but you know I really like that as it reminds me to appreciate where I am! I was walking home the other day and glanced to my right and saw the side of the Rijksmuseum – every time I see it I have the same feeling of awe and pride as I do whenever I see Big Ben, or Buckingham Palace in London.
How do you support yourself?
I’m in my six month window of settling in, enjoying myself and being a full time Lady of leisure, but I’m still keeping my eyes out for the perfect job! In the meantime I’m practising my photography as well as learning to cycle in a straight line. I’m also doing a course in Dutch, one in programming software as well as learning more about social media… which is how you found me so I must be making progress!
Any advice for wannabe Amsterdammers?
Oh that’s an easy one! Walk (or bike) everywhere, join a meetup.com group and start socialising but don’t forget about the rest of the Netherlands and well, just relax and enjoy yourself! You have to cruise the canals to get the best view of the city, keep your eyes peeled for little gems hidden down tiny side streets, and every so often you’ll find a cafe at the top of a high building – a bird’s eye view of Amsterdam is rare but beautiful! Oh and don’t take the Dutch too seriously, they are very good at keeping a straight face when actually they are joking with you…
Is the move permanent?
It’s semi-permanent, we’d like to settle down here for a few years before considering moving anywhere else.
Finally, tell us about something typically Amsterdam (or Dutch)
Typical Amsterdam? That’s got to be cycling: Everyone has a bike, in fact I think the average person owns two. The cyclist is king of the road, cycles paths weave the city and you’re not a local until you can cycle with an umbrella, mobile phone and a friend balancing on the back!
Typical Dutch? That has to be dairy! People here don’t buy sandwich’s off the shelf but a loaf of bread and a pack of sliced cheese does the job, no need for condiments, a knife or even a plate. Oh, and expect to see people drinking milk in business meetings!
Julie writes at Expatriating Julia where she describes her journey from Britain to Holland, learning a whole load of new stuff along the way. She can also be found at Foursquare and Twitter @expatjulia.
Images courtesy Julia Fallon and Leo-seta