The Brutally Honest Truth About Being An Expat

It’s been four months since my last blog post.

Four

Whole

Months

Wait, is it Five? I’m crap at maths.

Anyway, I knew it had been way too long when I started to get emails from WordPress asking me if I wanted to renew my web domain.

So what the hell happened?

I have to admit, I thought I could jump off the plane in the Netherlands and continue to live my life exactly as I left it in the UK, but boy was I wrong.

Being an expat is hard. Way harder than I thought it would be. But I’m finally getting to a place where I can get back to normality.

So to kick back into the swing of things, I thought I’d dust off the old creative writing cobwebs and talk about what I’ve learned so far about being an expat.

Brace yourself, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine:

Everything is painfully foreign, including yourself

Moving to a land you’ve barely visited before is challenging to say the least. Even if your employer gives you a sweet relocation deal, you’re still living in a place that you’re not used to.

And that place isn’t used to you either.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I moved to North Korea. The Netherlands is pretty awesome. They’re incredibly chill and tolerate pretty much anything. Their crime rate is so low that just the other day they had every fire truck, police car and ambulance driving kids around the city with their sirens on, because, why the hell not.

It’s just the little things, y’know?

Like going to Tesco at 2am because you fancy painting your nails bright yellow whilst eating a freddo and watching the shittest rom-com you can find from the DVD isle.

Or being able to let your anger out on the road with your horn because you’re 100% certain that no-one can get you.

But here they actually respect work/life balance. Places close early. Food stores only sell, food. The gym doesn’t open until 7am – which is just that half an hour too late for my liking. And cars don’t get angry at each other. They just live in this weird respectful world with no rules, yet everything still manages to work as it should.

Google translate will become your best friend

The great thing about Amsterdam is that everyone speaks English, if you ask them to.

But they don’t like to do their paperwork in English. And well, they’re Dutch, so why should they?

This does however make it difficult to read any letter or email that you get sent. So trying to understand which phone package you paid for gets that little bit more complicated.

Or determining whether or not you should be worried about the letter that just came from the government.

And you can forget about going to a gym class, or watching TV, because, well…. Dutch.

But alas, Google translate is a thing, and it really does help – especially when you’re desperately searching the one of two shopping isles in the supermarket for some cinnamon to spice up your porridge.

It takes its toll on your mind, body and soul

Woah! Deep I know, especially coming from me. But it’s true.

I wanted to pick up my life where I left it as soon as I moved into my apartment, so I bought a bike, signed up to the gym, and found a running route.

BOOM.

But no, apparently I had no boom.

I was tired. Like, ridiculously tired every single day. I came home from work and my brain would just want to explode. I didn’t want to do anything but eat and go to sleep.

And I live in a city where the options of things to do includes:

  • Avocado restaurant
  • Make your own little black dress workshop
  • Beach festival
  • Women’s day march
  • World pillow fight day
  • Dine in a shipping container
  • Sleep in a crane. An ACTUAL CRANE.
  • King’s Day
  • Gay Pride
  • Boat – anything on a boat
  • Virtual reality cinema

The list is endless.

Apparently starting a new job, moving into a new house, and relocating to a different country takes its toll on your stress levels so you never really want to do anything – which is annoying to say the least.

There’s no place like home, except for when you don’t call anywhere your home

Does anyone else get that inner sense of relief when they come back from holiday to Manchester airport and it’s pissing it down with rain?

Ok maybe I’m weird, but I’m pretty sure that’s the “no place like home” feeling that people talk about.

Amsterdam is like a one hour plane journey to the UK, which makes it easy to head back if I need to. But coming back to Southport just made it harder to settle into my new life.

When I’d come back, it didn’t feel like home anymore. But then I’d go back to the Netherlands and that wouldn’t feel like home either.

So I was stuck, in this weird hobo world of not being able to call any place a home.

People will bring up UK politics like it’s solely your fault

People I meet just lovvveeeee to talk to me about the politics of my native country.

The most commonly asked questions are:

  1. Why do you hate Europe so much?
  2. What are you gonna do when Brexit happens?
  3. Why are you obsessed with America?

Now that I’m out of the UK bubble I can see how ridiculously important we seem to think we are in comparison to the rest of Europe.

I know the UK is detached on geographical terms, but boy do we come across like dicks.

Why do we love America so much? It’s genuinely embarrassing.

And as for Brexit, well….

You’ll want to cut your friends out your life, because missing them sucks balls

I have the most amazing friends back in the UK. They are literally like family to me.

So every time I would visit them, I would find it even harder to leave. I’d often question why I was doing it and whether it was actually worth it.

Eventually I decided to not go back to the UK because leaving everything behind was stopping me from settling.

You’ll discover who your real friends are

You know that weird “Shoutout to the friends who..” thing that gets shared around Facebook a lot….

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 20.02.37.png

Er, wut?

So I never understood this. It’s like saying it’s ok to be a shit friend who will only contact you when they remember you exist.

If you like someone, you make time for them.

And I wouldn’t class myself as a high maintenance friend, I understand people have babies, husbands, cats and shit…

But if you can spend every waking hour sharing shit memes or pictures of your {responsibility_name} on Facebook, then you can send a simple WhatsApp message to your good old pal in the Netherlands.

Luckily for me I have a pretty solid friendship group…but I feel I have lost a few people I liked along the way.

I guess that’s just what happens when you put a little bit of distance between people.

You’ll miss speaking in your native tongue

I know I said everyone speaks English, and they do…. Kinda.

Firstly, **DISCLAIMER** before I get called an ignorant Brit. Most people in Amsterdam are expats. In fact, I don’t know any Dutch people. I promise this isn’t a “oh you have to talk English even though I’m in your country because that’s all I know” type thing.

The main language spoken by expats is, luckily for me, English.

But it’s a weird kind of English because it’s being spoken by non-native speakers, which has meant I’ve had to to adapt to a new kind of language that I like to call “expat English”.

The rules of expat English are:

  1. You should never use contractions (not the baby kind)
  2. It’s good practice to confuse past and present tense
  3. “On” and “in” tend to be the same word
  4. Casual/slang words are a big no no

So I’d end up having to talk really slow, and really formal. Which is fine because I imagine English is hard to learn. But it’s also nice – just once in a while – to speak to a person how you’d normally speak, without having to put any real effort in at all.

Someone who just gets you.

English tea is like no other tea anywhere in the world

Nothing else to add here.

You’ll become a yes man

What’s the first thing you want to do when you move to a new place where you don’t know anyone?

Make friends!

But while you’re on the road to making new friends, you’ll come to find that not everyone is your “type” of people. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just some people you click with, and some you don’t.

So this means having to say yes to EVERYTHING. Because how do you know if you’re going to enjoy it, and not want to be friends with these people in future?

This usually results in being drunk 4 out 7 nights of the week.

You’ll find your way, but it’ll take longer than you anticipated

I’ve just re-read this post and it sounds like I’ve made the worst decision of my life..LOL, honestly, I really haven’t.

I’m actually pretty happy!

But the past six (ish) months have been different to say the least. It wasn’t that my English life was better than my Dutch life, far from it. It’s just that I wasn’t used to the Dutch way of living.

And it turns out, the Dutch way of living is pretty alright with me.

So if you’re thinking of moving countries, give it time before you expect to get that “no place like home” feeling.

It only took me four five six whole months 😉

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2 thoughts on “The Brutally Honest Truth About Being An Expat

  1. What an honest piece of writing. I wanted to move home straight away but now I’m going to stick it out. You sir are my hero.

    Please let me know if your near the canal anytime soon we can go for a swim.

    Ciao

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