Laura's expat journey: Finding the perfect quality of life in the Netherlands

Expat interviews
  • Laura
Published on 2024-03-26 at 14:00 by Estelle
Join Laura's journey as she explores life in Scotland and the Netherlands. Discover her experiences, challenges, and the key to finding her ideal quality of life. This interview is packed with valuable tips for anyone considering expat life, whether you're drawn to charming Edinburgh or vibrant Amsterdam.

Could you introduce yourself and share a bit about your background?

My name is Laura, and I'm originally from Spain and Madrid. I completed a Master's in Psychology and worked in recruitment in Madrid for around a year after graduating. Then, I moved to Scotland.

While I was in Madrid, I used to live with my parents and siblings. Since I attended a university very close to home, I always commuted between home and university without venturing far. It was only after moving abroad, meeting people studying abroad, and living with other students that I realized I could have done this earlier. In Spain, it wasn't a common practice, so there weren't peers my age who could have influenced me to consider it, as everyone was typically living with their parents. Looking back, if I had the chance to do it over, I would choose to attend a university elsewhere to experience living in dorms and similar situations.

So, I left Madrid for Scotland and settled in Edinburgh. It was quite an adventure because I went without knowing anyone, and this was my first time living abroad. I had no accommodation or job lined up. I checked into a hotel I'd booked for three nights with just my suitcase, naively assuming it would be enough time to find accommodation, which, obviously, wasn't the case. However, everything fell into place as things started coming together surprisingly smoothly. Within three weeks, I had already found a flat-share with three Irish girls. I also landed a job in a souvenir store, selling items like coasters and keyrings. Six months later, I secured a job as a recruiter at a company, so I stayed there for three years.

What made you want to move abroad?

Essentially, I was driven by a desire for an international experience I hadn't had during my studies, like an Erasmus program. During the summers, my parents sent me abroad to London and New York to study English. During these trips, I realized how much I enjoyed being abroad and meeting people from different countries. So, after graduating, I still had this desire to have that experience. That's why I decided to go to Scotland for six months, to fulfill that urge of moving abroad, thinking I could always return afterward and continue my normal life in Madrid.

But the truth is, I fell in love with expat life, so 9 years later, here I am, still abroad, and my mother keeps asking me when I plan to return!

Could you tell us about your professional background and how it has changed or evolved from Scotland to the Netherlands?

Following my studies, I worked in recruitment in Madrid before spending three years in Edinburgh. Upon moving to Amsterdam, I joined a fashion company as a recruiter, then transitioned to another company where I am currently the Head of National Acquisition and Recruitment. I'm truly grateful for the career opportunities I've encountered since leaving Madrid. These experiences have been instrumental in my professional development and have brought me to where I am today.

Could you share your experiences living in Scotland and the Netherlands? What motivated you to move between countries?

This question brings back memories because, while living in Scotland, I met my ex-boyfriend, who landed a job in the Netherlands. That's why I moved here: I followed him. My decision to change countries was driven by love.

Initially, leaving Scotland was tough because I had grown fond of my life there, especially the people I had met. Edinburgh is a fantastic city with lovely people, set in a beautiful country. I had mixed emotions about moving to a new country, particularly because my impressions of Amsterdam were based solely on the touristy aspects I had seen during a weekend visit: the grass, the red light district, and such, which made me a bit apprehensive. However, once I truly experienced life in Amsterdam, I also fell in love with the city and realized it's much more than just the stereotypes that tourists often see.

I'm happy I made the move because I've been living here for six years now, and I believe the quality of life in the Netherlands surpasses that of Edinburgh. Both cities are fantastic places to reside, but in terms of securing a job with a decent salary and enjoying an enhanced quality of life, the Netherlands is the place to be.

What are the differences between Edinburgh and Amsterdam?

Both Edinburgh and Amsterdam are cosmopolitan cities, but I found it easier to integrate into the community in Edinburgh. People there seem more open and approachable. In the Netherlands, connecting with others and feeling integrated took me a bit longer. However, in the end, I've found that people here are also very welcoming.

Another notable difference could be the weather. Here in Amsterdam, we at least have summers! In Edinburgh, it was rainy throughout the summer and, indeed, all year round. Edinburgh is smaller than Amsterdam, but both cities are ideal for cycling and walking. However, Amsterdam offers a wider range of activities and boasts better and more abundant job opportunities. In Edinburgh, rents are high, and salaries are relatively low. Conversely, in Amsterdam, rents are high too, but salaries match, leading to a significantly better quality of life, which is a significant distinction for me.

What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of living in Amsterdam?

What I love most about Amsterdam is its welcoming and international atmosphere, which makes it incredibly expat-friendly. It's also exceptionally safe, one of the safest cities I've experienced. I feel completely at ease walking around alone at any time of day or night. Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, the quality of life here is superb. I can live comfortably knowing I'm safe and warmly welcomed by everyone in this country. On the flip side, what I like the least about Amsterdam is probably the weather. I'd appreciate fewer rainy days and a bit more sunshine, but I suppose you can't have it all in life!

What is your social life like in the Netherlands? Was it challenging to integrate and make new friends?

As I mentioned, it was challenging initially. However, once I joined the fashion company where I worked, which was a highly international environment, I had the chance to meet people from all corners of the globe. Many of my current friends are from Finland, Italy, Spain, and Ireland. I believe that in the Netherlands, working in an international setting provides ample opportunities to connect with other expats, making it easier to forge friendships.

Are there any tips you would give individuals considering relocating to Scotland or the Netherlands?

That they really should! I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to travel, venture out, to broaden their horizons, and to mingle with people from diverse backgrounds. Edinburgh is a definite must-visit destination. It's stunning, hospitable, and undoubtedly offers interesting opportunities. If I had to pick between the two, having experienced both, I'd choose Edinburgh for a visit and Amsterdam for living. However, I highly recommend both because they are fantastic cities where you can truly enjoy life. It's an experience I would repeat without hesitation.

What are your plans for the future?

In June, my boyfriend, our two dogs, and I are embarking on a European adventure. We plan to spend three months each in Italy, Portugal, Spain, and possibly Greece. The goal is to continue discovering new places and exploring the world, and we'll see where our journey takes us after that. While the plan is to return to Amsterdam eventually, you never know what may happen! A year of traveling tends to shift your perspective. But for now, we focus on exploring other countries for a year before returning to Amsterdam. I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to continue working remotely for the same company, and I'm truly grateful for it.

Do you intend to return to Madrid one day?

I doubt it. While I may return to Spain, I don't see myself going back to Madrid. It's just too large and chaotic, especially after experiencing the smaller and better-organized cities of Edinburgh and Amsterdam. Madrid doesn't feel like the right fit for me anymore. If I were to return to Spain someday, I'd opt for a smaller town where I could easily get around on foot or by bike, surrounded by nature. I'd seek out the little charms I loved about Edinburgh and Amsterdam while hoping for better weather. I don't know if such a place exists, but it would be ideal.

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