Expat Magazine

The Hardest Thing -- Expat Blog Hop #4

By Clogsandtulips @clogsandtulips
The Hardest Thing -- Expat Blog Hop #4 The Hardest Thing -- Expat Blog Hop #4 The Hardest Thing -- Expat Blog Hop #4Tales from Windmill Fields has started an Expat Blog Hop. Each week, she asks expat bloggers a question that they then compose a post about before linking back to Tales from Windmill Fields to share with fellow expats.
A new topic is given to bloggers each Friday and the posts are published each Thursday. As I was away the last week and a half, I'm playing a bit of catch-up, so here's #4 and #3 is soon to follow.
This week's question: What was the hardest thing for you to adjust to when you moved to your new country? What tips would you give for new people arriving?
I was extremely lucky in that I adjusted rather quickly to life in the Netherlands.
On visits before moving here, I had already started in on the cycling culture; riding on the back of my husband's bike before finally getting and trying out my own. So, once I moved, it didn't take that much longer to get the hang of it.
Oddly enough, I found trekking to the grocery store with Dutch-English dictionary in hand almost like a treasure hunt and picked up the vocabulary pretty quickly.
I started Dutch classes almost immediately and attended my first International Women's Club meeting a mere three days after landing at Schiphol. I purchased a Museumkaart shortly after and spent many an afternoon visiting various museums and tourist attractions.
Enough good could not be said about the Netherlands and the Dutch lifestyle.
But, as a result, I lost my American identity. My chameleonism cost me a large part of myself. It wasn't until 1.5 years in that this began to take it's toll, but when it did, it hit me like a ton of bricks. And that's when the debilitating homesickness set in.
The other issue, as many of my fellow bloggers and expats have also lamented, is befriending the Dutch. They tend to make do with their friends from childhood and university and don't really feel the need to acquire any more than that. Which makes it tough for newcomers, Dutch and foreign alike.
As my tips, I'd like to impart some wisdom I wish I had taken into account when I first came here that would have helped and did help avoid or at least alleviate the hardships mentioned above.
  1. Learn Dutch right away. It will help you feel a part of things and make making friends so much easier.
  2. Join an activity you enjoy that will force you to meet locals. I joined an all-Dutch vocal group. If you all share a passion, it makes finding common ground and forging friendships so much simpler and more enjoyable.
  3. Join an international or expat group. No one understands an expat quite like another expat. That sense of comeraderie will take you far.
  4. Take the time to explore your area and your new country in general to make it feel more like home.
  5. Keep in touch with friends and family back home and visit as often as possible.
  6. Follow the news and current events of your new country and your home country to feel more in touch with both.
  7. Don't be ashamed to be the foreigner. People will find it unique and endearing and you won't forget where you came from.
  8. But also adapt to your new country. You know, "when in Rome..." and all that. Take things in stride, let things roll off your back and don't sweat the small stuff.
What was the most difficult thing for you to adjust to in your home country? Do you have any tips for future expats?
Photo: col.hou, Flickr
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