1 August 2016

Ashley Howe - Expat in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Ashley Howe - Expat in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Ashley Howe is a 29-year-old blogger and online marketer living in Amsterdam. Originally from the United Kingdom, Miss Howe relocated to the Netherlands after meeting and falling in love with a Dutch man while backpacking. She moved to the Netherlands to find work and be with him. “After the relationship ended it wasn’t even a question whether or not I should stay. I love this city,” she said.

Miss Howe has been living in Amsterdam for three years and she said that the most difficult experience she’s had when living in the Netherlands had to do with her uncle’s death. “I had booked a flight to go and visit my family, and the weekend before I was due to fly, my uncle passed away. Because we are such a close-knit family, I felt helpless and very far from home,” she said. “Luckily, I managed to make it to his funeral, which in a lot of cases just isn’t possible for a lot of expats, and it’s something that you don’t even think about when you move,” she added.

Miss Howe also noted that it’s always hard to make friends as an outsider, but as there are plenty of organizations that catered to expats, she was able to meet people through her Dutch classes and by going to meetups. “I have some great friends (both expats and Dutch people), but it takes a lot of time and the danger with having expat friends is that sometimes they all move (in my case, all at the same time!), and you have to start over,” she said.

Many expatriates struggle with feelings of homesickness and loneliness during their life overseas, and like Miss Howe, may be missing from important family events. Expatriates who feel the need to frequently visit their home country may benefit from multi-trip insurance which can provide coverage for baggage loss, flight cancellations and personal liability coverage for multiple trips. Furthermore, expatriates who are looking to meet locals may want to seek out clubs and associations around the area they are living in.

Find out more about Ashley Howe’s experiences in the Netherlands in her full interview below.

Q: Where are you originally from?

A: I’m originally from the UK.

Q: What made you move out of your home country?

A: In a word, love.

Q: Where are you living now?

A: I live in Amsterdam

Q: How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I met and fell in love with a Dutch man while I was backpacking, and once I came home from travelling it made sense for me to move here to try to find work. After the relationship ended it wasn’t even a question whether or not I should stay. I love this city.

Q: How long have you been living in the Netherlands?

A: 3 and a bit years.

Q: What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in the Netherlands?

A: Being unable to say goodbye to my uncle before he died, and dealing with grief afterwards. I had booked a flight to go and visit my family, and the weekend before I was due to fly, my uncle passed away. Because we are such a close-knit family, I felt helpless and very far from home. Luckily, I managed to make it to his funeral, which in a lot of cases just isn’t possible for a lot of expats, and it’s something that you don’t even think about when you move.

Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance was particularly difficult in the Netherlands? What was your experience with these?

A: It was easy for me to register because I am a European, and I had a lot of help from my partner at the time. There was some difficulty getting a stamp in my passport to say I was a European citizen (which I think they have now abolished), but at the time this wasn’t something which was obligatory – it was just useful to have.

Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: Alone

Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialize with other expats in the Netherlands? How did you manage to find a social circle in the Netherlands?

A: I think it’s always hard as an outsider, but there are so many organizations that cater for expats. I met people through my Dutch classes, by going to meetups, and hanging around with my ex’s friends. Now I have some great friends (both expats and Dutch people), but it takes a lot of time and the danger with having expat friends is that sometimes they all move (in my case, all at the same time!), and you have to start over.

Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: Amsterdam is FULL of great things to do, whatever your interests. You should check my blog for recommendations, as almost every week I find something new to do.

Q: How does the cost of living in the Netherlands compared to your home?

A: I don’t usually buy coffee when I’m out, so I don’t know the price of coffee. A meal in an inexpensive restaurant costs around 20 euro per head while a meal in an expensive restaurant can be as expensive as you want it to be! A bottle of wine is between 4 euro and 15 euro depending on what you want to get. Cigarettes cost about 8 euros.

Q: How do you find the local culture and people in the Netherlands?

A: I really like the culture and the people. I think Dutch people are generally more open and honest (though sometimes too honest), than British people. I love that I can cycle every day, and that there’s fantastic art works, architecture, and great places to eat.

Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in the Netherlands?

A: The positive side is that I’m much healthier now than I was in the UK, as cycling is part of my daily routine.  The negative side is that

Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes?

A: Yes – my niece is growing up too fast, and I sometimes feel like I’m missing out on special family occasions.

Q: How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I skype with my mum almost every week, and she keeps me up to date with what’s going on in the family. I also make an effort to call family members like my grandparents once every few months just to reconnect. It’s also important for me to have an active role as an auntie, so I skype my sister as often as I can to wave to my niece so she knows who I am (she’s not talking yet). I am lucky enough to be able to visit home more often than some of my expat counterparts, so I usually go home every 6 months or so, unless there’s something special going on, which helps when homesickness is rearing its ugly head. If I am feeling a bit low and I can’t go home, I try to surround myself with my friends and keep busy.

Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Not at this stage, but I will never say never.

Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

A: Re-adjusting after breaking up, and having to fend for myself more. I was really independent before, but now I have to work it out.

Q: What tips can you give other expats living in the Netherlands?

A: Most people think there won’t be that many cultural differences (especially if they are from the UK or US), and are surprised when they arrive. Dutch people are very direct which takes some getting used to, they are very open, and in meetings everyone has their say. Just take it all in your stride, and do as they do. You’ll fit in very quickly that way.

Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about the Netherlands?

A: Yes, mine (www.amsterdamblog.co.uk) of course! I also love Your Little Black Book.