3 years later

Wow, so. Three years has passed. Usually I wouldn’t pay any attention to a passage of time in writing (who reads the dates on these things, anyway?), but so much has happened to the person who wrote that last post.

She was unemployed, waiting to receive her residence permit to live in the Netherlands. She would wait five more months to receive it. She was getting pretty depressed living in a new country and not being able to do the things she wanted to because she was bleeding money.

I got a full-time job literally the same day I received my residence permit, which was really lucky. My life has revolved since then around work and learning how to be happy here in this new country. I plan to share here some of the things I’ve learned about expat life, the emotional stages of immigration, and all that.

We’ve lived in two other houses since my last post, but we just moved into the first home that’s really ours.

Our first house back in our favorite city of Amersfoort.

Our first house back in our favorite city of Amersfoort.

So it seems like the perfect time to start writing again. I hope it’s the perfect time to start reading again, too.


August Rush

I wish this blog post had the same budget as that movie! Alas, this is not a feel-good Hollywood drama.

However, this post is supposed to make me feel good by reminding me of all the progress we’ve made on our home despite the financial setbacks. Bring on the Hollywood ending!

It did feel really good to open up here and be honest about the job snafu and all the trials that come with expat-riatism (should be a word!), so I will definitely be doing that more. I hope that writing about my experience will make some new expat feel better by knowing she is not the only one struggling with immigration issues.

Anyway, you want to know what never fails to turn my sad face upside down? This happy one:

Our kitten Ludovico

Yes, that’s an updated picture of our little fuzzball Ludovico. He’s made such an impact on our lives already — I actually okayed a scratching post the other day saying “I guess that doesn’t look so bad.” If you want to see A LOT (okay, too many) pictures of Ludo, I post them on my Instagram almost daily. You should follow me!

Ludovico was a big change for us, but a lot of the updates we made  this month were small, affordable ones like adding some hooks and hardware in our toilet and bathroom, thrifting some kitchen necessities, and splurging (well, as much as broke people can splurge!) on a designer clock.

Ikea Grundtal toilet paper roll holder

I didn’t blog about this, but it bears mentioning that you can make a stuck-to-the-wall toilet paper roll holder much prettier by running some acrylic caulk around the edge and smoothing it out with a paper towel, like so:

Ikea Grundtal toilet paper roll holder

See? No more gross see-through holes!

We did make a couple of big changes this month. They were just ridiculously cheap! We added a bunch of hand-me-down furniture to our living room.

Living room

And ain’t nothing wrong with this discounted Pax wardrobe:

Ikea As-Is Pax wardrobe

Well, that is, until we broke it.

Ikea broken Pax wardrobe

Womp womp. That’s okay. “We can rebuild him…we have the technology.” More on that later.

This month, we also added a thrifted chandelier to our living room, lovingly spray painted white, the rainbow’s most forgiving color.

Thrifted chandelier spray painted white

Funny story, I am in the process of repainting it. Yes! It’s true! Maybe this month has been a wash.

Ah well, at least we got some relaxing in before the summer ended.

Bosbad Amersfoort

Forest pool

Since we didn’t technically go away anywhere for vacation, we wanted Rolan’s last day of summer holiday from work to feel a little special. So we packed a lunch (egg salad sammies, chips and tea!), strapped it to our bikes and set out to discover something near our apartment.

Thanks to Google Maps, we knew there was a swimming source somewhere near the local zoo. So we packed our swimming suits just in case we stumbled onto it. Turns out we couldn’t have missed it.

The Bosbad (forest pool) is exactly what it sounds like. A giant 3-pool oasis smack dab in the middle of a lush forest. And it’s all just a bike ride away from us.

It’s got fun stuff for kids and adults to do, like water slides, water guns and diving points. There’s even a rainbow-colored shallow pool just for the really little guys. The pools are surrounded by fields of grass, which stays cool and dry and — best of all — out of your every crevice, unlike sand.

There’s bathrooms there for changing (bring your own TP though!) and a little café that sells food and drinks and, most importantly, ice cream!

It opens every day this week at 10am and closes around 6pm. You can find out more info at their website.

Rolan and I really enjoyed our day of lounging in the sun by the pool, reading our Kindles and cloud watching.

Top panorama photo taken with the 360 Panorama app. Bottom photo taken with Instagram.

Prepare for the worst

There’s been a lot of stuff on my mind lately. Money and employment stuff. Visa and immigration stuff. Family and travel stuff.

I know it’ll all blow over and work itself out. But sometimes when a bunch of stuff gangs up on us like it has recently, I start to lose sight of the horizon and I just sort of shut down. I give up. I metaphorically throw my hands in the air and consider all the struggle I’ve gone through up to this point to be in vain. Why struggle when you can’t win the fight?

I haven’t talked about this struggle here yet. But I suppose if I’m going to really call this an expat blog I should mention some of the harder parts of my new life.

It’s not just the new language and the new culture and the having to relearn basic things like telling time (19:00?!) and how much you weigh (kilograms?!).

I guess I was prepared for those things. What’s getting to me is all the extra stuff I never expected.

Like finding out that I still have to file taxes in the U.S. even after I’ve got a residence permit here in the Netherlands. I don’t mind paying the ungodly high Dutch tax rate (42% if you make enough to be a highly skilled migrant), but paying taxes on my income twice? For a country I don’t live in? Now that I mind.

Also, like being expected to earn €13,664 more next year just because I turned 30. What company is going to hire a 29-year-old highly skilled migrant (ahem: me) when they know they have to give a more than €10,000 raise in less than a year just to keep you on board? If you know the answer to that question, I’m all ears.

And like finding out after you moved to Europe and jumped through all those expat work and residence permit hoops, when you finally think you can exhale because you signed an employment contract that lasted until October, that the rug can still be pulled out from under you. You can still be called into work one day (while on your vacation no less) and find out that your American owner is closing down your office because he found cheaper employees in Romania and that your employment contract was a ridiculous joke that apparently only you were expected to uphold. I don’t know how much I’m legally allowed to write about it just yet, but… that’s exactly what happened to me.

I’m not trying to deter anyone from thinking about moving to the Netherlands. Just doing my part to prepare the future expats for the inevitable realization that there is more to immigration than foreign language and culture shock.

Like I said, I know this will all blow over someday and (hopefully soon) Rolan and I will be able to breathe easy and play the “remember when” game about this whole immigration nightmare. Maybe then I will hang this immigration stamp calendar in our home to remind me to never ever take my status as “resident” for granted:

Top image from here. Bottom image from here.

Weekend wandering

Rolan and I are in Germany today to see two of my friends tie the knot! This is my first wedding overseas and I’m excited to see my German friends as well as some of my American friends!

I’m also looking forward to seeing how the cultures vary in their wedding traditions. I already let my heritage show by asking the couple where they registered for gifts. Apparently they don’t typically do bridal registries in Germany. Good to know!

Before I check out for the weekend, though, here’s some stuff I’ve been looking at this week:

Have a great weekend!

A home away from… normal

It’s almost vacation time for us and we’ve been pondering about where to go.

I’ve explored some options. We could spend a night in a giant French wine cask, should we want to.

The  De Vrouwe van Stavoren Hotel is a hotel in The Netherlands made from four salvaged wine casks. Each wine barrel used to hold 14,500 liters of French wine, but now is home to a modest two-person room with standard amenities, attached bathroom and sitting room.

And if the wine fumes start to give us a headache, there’s always the Controversy Tram & Train Inn — a hotel made from an old railway carriage!

Because you spend most of your work week trying to sleep in a train, why not spend your vacation doing the same?

You gotta love the tire sink in that last picture. It looks like it could be quite cozy, until you wake up in the middle of the night in a panic that you missed your stop!

Also, a hotel for goldfish in Amsterdam!

Images of De Vrouwe van Stavoren Hotel via Inhabitant.com. Images of Controversy Tram & Train Inn via Controversy.nl and DecoratingDesignInterior.com.

Dutch catalog living

When we first moved into our apartment, there was a mountain of mail waiting for us in the mailbox. Some of it was important, but most of it was unsolicited junk mail. Normally I would be all upset about wasted paper, but it was hard not to appreciate this gem of a home design catalog I received.

The pictures in it were so odd. Not because of the home decor, but because of the situations they put the models in. I couldn’t help but think of Catalog Living and the great captions they would add.

Here are some of my favorites:

“I wish I could remember how I took that giant picture behind me…”

In this scene, we have a man making a slightly amused face holding a camera with what can only be assumed is a camera instruction booklet next to him.

“Honey, the dogs are whining. Can you go see if they scaled the table again?”

Next up, a problem many of us are familiar with: where do you put a litter of puppies? Seems like “on the table” is an obvious choice. Maybe those two puppies are the ones they have bred for super-puppy skills in jumping and climbing?

“Herman was thrilled with his new fighter jet sticker. Now he just had to make sure Anne never turned around…”

I know that stickers on the wall are a popular thing nowadays, but… I just can’t even… I mean… what in the world?!

“Ironically, Sara was the only thing in her living room that wasn’t white.”

I love how they even decided to put milk in the little glass jar to really drive the color scheme home.

“After months of denying it, Rita finally admitted to herself that the slanted floors were getting to her.”

Every photo in the catalog had a normal horizon. And then there was this one. I love how the model is looking straight at the camera as if she is thinking, ‘Whoa. He just took the camera off the tripod. This catalog shoot just went high-fashion.’