Sandra in Haarlem: "Dutch lifestyle is absolutely fantastic"

Expat interviews
  • Sandra in Haarlem
Published on 2014-10-30 at 00:00
It's been two years since Sandra, Spanish expat, moved to Haarlem with her husband. She not only enjoys her everyday life there but also the Dutch culture and lifestyle...

So Sandra, where are you from ?

My name is Sandra and I am from Madrid, Spain. I have lived in England for 15 years prior to moving to the Netherlands where I currently live. I originally left Spain when I was 18 to go to University and, eventually started working there. I did have every intention to move back but I guess life had alternative plans for me!

What has attracted you to the Netherlands?

While in the UK, I was working in a telecommunications company. Throughout my 11 years there, I changed roles quite a few times before eventually settling as a Program Director. Both my husband (then boyfriend) and I had a good life there and the thought of moving away from London never really crossed our minds. During the summer of 2012 however, my husband came home from work one evening and told me he had a great opportunity in the Netherlands... So here we are!

Why did you choose to settle in Haarlem?

I had to stay in London until mid September as I was involved in the London Olympic and Paralympic Games and wanted to finish that role. My husband however started his new job beginning of September so he was commuting for a little while. After my role had concluded, we both went to Amsterdam and while my husband was working, I looked for a house. I drove around all day, looked at loads of houses in quite a few different areas. When I saw our current house in Haarlem I knew that my search was over. A few weeks later we moved in.

Did you face any difficulty with related procedures?

I have to say the overall experience of moving into the Netherlands was very straightforward- from choosing the house, to the move itself and even the registration in the town hall, or the "gemeente" in Haarlem. I think what probably helped a lot was the fact that everyone speaks English over here so we did not have a language barrier to break.

What has surprised you the most at your arrival?

One thing we did have to get used to very quickly was the extremely high winds. The first day we arrived the wind locked us out of the house. So our move was slightly delayed whilst a lock smith came to see the day! You very quickly learn not to leave any items outside that are likely to fly away in the event of high winds!

How do you find the Dutch lifestyle?

Dutch lifestyle is absolutely fantastic, as well as the people! My first step to adapting to the lifestyle was of course getting a bicycle. I had not cycled since I was a little kid, and now it is my main mode of transport. Even one of my dogs (the other one is a bit too old for it) has now got used to running alongside the bike. In fact, he not only has he got used to it, he actually demands his daily run to the store first thing in the morning! During these last 2 years, I have also learnt how to ice skate. I am actually hoping for a really freezing cold winter so I can skate in the canals with my Dutch friends!

Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

There was one thing that I did find very hard when we moved here. All my friends were Dutch. Whilst they are all very nice ladies, I found that when I was with a group of them they (understandably) switched to speaking Dutch. So I did sometimes feel a bit left out. How to fix it? Learn Dutch! So off to school I went. Now I speak a bit of Dutch, which is fantastic. Along with learning Dutch, I was also very lucky to meet other expats (including another Spanish and 2 English) in school and we have become very close friends.

What does your every day life look like?

I stopped working when we moved to the Netherlands. In the beginning I thought it would be hard to not work. But I quickly got used to it as well as the Dutch lifestyle! My husband and my 2 dogs are also happier now that I am not working. I do love living over here. We visit our friends in the UK frequently, as well as my family in Spain so I don't really miss either country. I have to say however, I have a wonderful husband who also happens to be great in the kitchen. This, living in the Netherlands, is a must as Dutch food (in my humble opinion) is not the greatest in the world!

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Haarlem? Is it easy for an expat to live in the country?

In terms of the cost of living, I think it is probably very similar to the UK and higher than that in Spain. However, it is most definitely a different experience to what I had before. Over here you quickly become acquainted to the local butcher, fishmonger and greengrocers. I find (in particular with the butcher and the fishmonger) that you can get a lot more variety than you get in the regular supermarket. They are also very eager to please the customer and bring any fish in for you that they do not regularly stock, or supply you with any special cut of meat that you request.

What are your plans for the future?

I have no idea how much longer we are going to stay here. One thing is for sure... whenever we do move and wherever we do go I will do the same as I have done when I first moved here. I did my utmost to meet people from my area, now one of them has become one of my very best friends! And also learn and live the Dutch culture!

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