Today’s Expat Story is coming to us from a city I cannot wait to visit. Cassey is sharing about what life is like as an expat in Amsterdam. Enjoy!
Expat Story: Amsterdam
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Cassey, an Australian small business owner and Masters (graduate) student at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. I’ve lived here in Amsterdam since August this year when my program started. Before that I was living in London setting up and running my online shop, Mora Approved, and working in various advertising agencies. I’ve been away from my home, Sydney, for over two years now. I have a personal blog that I sometimes keep my ramblings in and the shop blog too. Basically I’m really busy and really attached to my laptop!
I read a quote somewhere that life starts when you step out of your comfort zone, which was pretty much the impetus for my decision to leave Sydney. It was a really sudden, impulsive decision, but really necessary. I moved to London with limited funds, no job and a home that would only be available several months after I arrived. I was really scared, but also really excited. It was thrilling. I stayed with my soon-to-be best friend Claudia for those few months before I moved into my shoebox room in London’s Notting Hill. A few months after that Claudia and I conceived our idea for Mora Approved and we moved to Amsterdam together to make it happen! I moved back to London a few months after that to get the logistics started. Basically my life has been all about juggling since I moved overseas! It’s been a real adventure.
What has surprised you about living abroad? Or what is something that has been difficult that you did not anticipate?
When I first moved to London Claudia would always laugh at me because I was shocked at so many things. Like the short flight distance between London and Amsterdam for instance (45 minutes). Or that you could buy alcohol in the supermarkets. And that you don’t need helmets to ride a bike. It made me realise just how sheltered I was and how many regulations there are living in Sydney. I was so scared to doing things that I hadn’t really done before, like riding a bike (I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was 12 years old before I bought my bike in Amsterdam and gave it a go!). Claudia was really instrumental in getting me to do things outside my comfort zone.
The most difficult aspect by far is adapting to the weather. It is really freaking cold in Europe! Snow isn’t so charming when it’s slushy and grey and covering ice that you slip over. I had always thought that Seasonal Affective Disorder was pop psychology but it’s very real when you’re used to tropical seasons and you move to somewhere that only sees warm weather for two months of the year! But you adapt by wearing loads of wool and drinking loads of glühwein, and then celebrating like mad when it’s Summer again!
What traditions or habits have you tried to keep from your home country?
I brought vegemite with me when I moved and luckily there’s an Australian/New Zealand shop around the corner from where I live, so I can just pop over and buy Tim Tams and pies when the homesickness gets really bad. Food is such a strong aspect of your identity that I think it’s really important to try and enjoy your favourite foods from home once in a while.
When I lived in London I also went to The Walkabout Australian bar with my friends to celebrate Australia Day. It was really fun, and really rowdy.
What new tradition or habit do you want to take away with you if you leave Amsterdam?
There are so many aspects of the Dutch lifestyle that I would love to take with me wherever I go! I would take the ease of riding your bike everywhere. After dealing with the tube for so long, riding around in the fresh air is wonderful. I would make stroopwaffles mandatory at every meal. I also really, really love Dutch electronic dance music (Dutch DJ’s are the best in the world after all!), so being able to see my favourite DJ’s live all the time is a huge bonus. And the summer music festivals are the best!
If a friend came to visit you in Amsterdam for one day, what would you take them to see?
1. I would rent them bikes and take them all over the city for a personalised tour. That’s the best way to see Amsterdam, by far.
2. I’ll take them to a coffee shop and the Redlight district (because expectations).
3. I’ll also take them to Jordaan, Amsterdam’s most scenic and historic area, with great galleries, cafes and shopping.
You can also see my guide to the Netherlands on Yes and Yes for more tips!
What advice would you give to someone who is hoping to live abroad one day?
Try and move to a place where you have at least one friend/someone who can show you the ropes. It will make your experience so much more pleasant and give you the confidence to explore the city on your own. This isn’t concrete though, and I know a few people that moved to a place where they knew no one, but loneliness in a new city can be crippling and can become the catalyst for moving back home sooner than you intended. A friend can really make all the difference.
Also, Skype is everything. I don’t think I’d survive living overseas without the magic of Skype.
Here’s a list of everything I’ve learnt since I moved overseas on my blog!
Thank you so much Cassey for sharing your experiences as an expat in Amsterdam with us! Now I’m ready to hop on a bike in Amsterdam. Do you have any questions for Cassey? Leave them in the comments. Or connect with her on Twitter.