Life on the farm ;)


So, what’s happening in the world of the blonde, crazy Brit in the land of windmills and clogs….?

Well, I guess I’ve turned my idle hands into green fingers and am now on a project to grow herbs and vegetables, oh – and olives! I guess it’s productive and could turn into something big – if I win the lottery and buy a few acres of field, land and a quaint little country home (….oh look, a butterfly, or a flying pig…).   Anyway, the parsley and mint seeds are just starting to sprout into life!  The rosemary has recently been housed, as has the new vegetable garden (consisting of tomato, leek, spinach, spring onion, broccoli and green beans) and the olive tree actually has baby olives! I may be onto something here, but not sure it will dramatically increase my woeful financial position for quite some time yet – if ever 😥  Hey ho, at least it keeps me entertained (stops me going nuts or bananas) and may save money on groceries one day (that is of course also dependent on the weather and how long summer/growing season lasts) 😉 I never had myself down as a cultivator – but life is like a box of chocolates, and can occasionally surprise you.

The volunteer work is fun but not a big challenge in life – but then, am I still ready for those old roller coaster rides, or have I lost my way/drive for good? At least I can feel useful for a little time during the weeks. Maybe I should start looking at a more sedate working life in future, whatever that may be… I still have no clue what I’m actually good for these days :/

I guess I have been a bit lazy with the job hunting and Dutch language self study lately – but partly blaming that on the silly, summer season and the high temperatures. To be brutally honest, I feel a little demotivated, dysfunctional, worthless and demorallised and need a tiny bit of breathing space before throwing my energy back into it all again. I guess even job hunters and study from home peeps need a break occassionally.

profile_pic8Of course, being fair skinned and open to physical abuse by the sun means I have spent a week suffering from sunstroke – but I got my healthy sun kissed glow and sun streaked golden locks. Oh, the things a girl will sometimes stupidly do in the name of vanity! Not sure the headaches, burning up and diarrhea were worth it. Plus there is the added threat of mosquito bites on any flesh I dare to reveal – which may occur at night, but that’s the time I’m kicking my cover off, due to a high temperatures and sweats 😦 I’m going back to pale and nerdy next year, and will cover myself up for any potential garden goldmine!

I have recently noticed that I am becoming more of a Den Haag’er than a Rotterdam rugrat these days. There appears to be a lot more of an international mix over there. The only drawback in Den Haag’s centre are all the nuisance trams and bikes. You have to have eyes everywhere! But it doesn’t seem so big and cold as Rotterdam, maybe I’ve just not covered my ground well enough yet. Amsterdam was just big and a massive tourist trap – definitely worth going to see, but not necessarily repeatable. I also still have to experience places like Delft, Gouda and Eindhoven before I have a clearer idea of the Dutch and their culture… So far, I think that the Rotterdam race are the most direct of the Dutch when it comes to attitude – this can be interpreted as either good or bad, depending on your personality 🙂 But like most countries, there are also pockets of good and bad places, whichever city you find yourself in… In the meantime, I’ll just continue talking to my plants – at least I know that they fully understand me :)

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Bureaucratic Minefield :O


stuff and nonsenseWell, I am at the end of my tether with paperwork and fighting off supposed sunstroke, time to eat ice-cream and blog (can’t do much else at the moment). Sadly, the whole affair relating to following the rules and procedures (in order to register myself here in The Netherlands) is going to fill up an entire blog post – but I’ll try and condense it a little.

Two trips to the Gemeente Rotterdam (town hall), several phone calls, multiple form filling and additional documentation passing between the UK and NL – only to find that the IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Service) are not yet willing to fully register me as a legal/lawful citizen (or provide me with a registration certificate). I have already obtained the required Burger Service Nummer (Citizen number – for their poxy, personal records database system), which apparently allows me to deal with Dutch authorities, get paid/taxed, take out a bank account and obtain insurances etc.  Though, there were further mixed messages/confusion and miscommunication between the health insurance company (which you have to bloody well pay for) and IND – which finally got resolved today! I guess the BSN number is the main ‘gateway to the stars’ here – the registration part with IND is just an added extra, but proving to be a right royal pain in the arse…

However, because I am just/only working here voluntarily (until I find that elusive ‘proper’ job) I now needed to obtain a ‘joint’ bank account and proof of financial stability, with the person I live with. This would be all fine and dandy, if they were clear about what was/is needed to become fully registered here from day one – the message keeps changing and I am losing hope/patience, after arriving here on May 10th and still finding myself messing about with the formalities…  It’s not even like I wasn’t prepared for all this, after spending the last 3 years in another EU country.

The earlier need for an apostille stamp on my documents (birth certificate and name change) seems to have been become non important and not been required again since the first trip to the Gemeente :O  This is also not free and costs approx £40 plus postage per document, from the UK.

I would advise anyone approaching this whole nightmare process to take a Dutch speaking person with you, and even then – don’t expect to come out of it laughing for at least a few months or longer! I wouldn’t mind, but the trouble I had getting my British Passport was bad enough, despite my English nationality – being born overseas to a serving UK soldier helped to complicate that – but that’s another story… I honestly have no idea how another European country can be so procrastinatory (and inefficient) over something which should be so basic/simple. If the UK is happy with my paperwork, then the same should apply to the countries currently existing within the EU.

So, we have a 3rd appointment in August (yes, it takes them approx 3 weeks to see me again, each and every time) – will have to see what else they need, or they deem necessary to bat me over the head with…. In all sincerity, I can’t imagine what further paperwork they can ask from me, but I am not going to be shunned away like a naughty little girl who hasn’t done her homework, again.

It is times like these where I start questioning the relationship that the UK has with it’s Euro counterparts – everything should be made simple and standard by being part of this happy ‘family of democratic, political and economic European countries’. At the moment I feel as though I may as well come from as far away as Australia!

I have to say, that in comparison to Denmark (with their own annoying, discretionary methods – but free health care) that this part of the relocation chapter has (surprisingly) become much more nonsensical than I anticipated. :O

Rant over :/

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Knowledge is power!


So, I guess the longer I stay in the Netherlands the more I get to learn… Is this good or bad for my little blog spot here in the wide world of the internet? Hmmm, lets see…

Firstly, a funny way of looking at how a person is integrating into life in NL can be found here. I read this blog post and chuckled a bit – I already identify with the first few points mentioned, even after my initial two months here :O

Aside from the humour and [incoming non offensive, sarcasm…] potentially turning into the stereotypical blonde, cheese eating, clog wearing (unless cycling), direct (unless stoned) damsel […end of non offensive sarcasm] – there have been a few annoyances with the whole settling in process – namely the formalities (registering with the Town Hall). This has not been as straight forward as I’d hoped and there has been a little bit of conflicting information, from the officials. More time and patience will prevail there. We are due to go back for a second appointment, after getting at least one of my documents legalised with the apostille stamp and a possible ‘waver’ on the other non legalised document. In addition, more documentation is expected and another form needs to be completed… blah, blah, blah.

The train service – well, I have a mini panic attack whenever I use the train services – especially after I managed to forget to use my OV-Chipkaart to check out of the train station in Den Haag Centraal, and realised it 30 minutes after walking away from said station. I had visions of the transport police giving me hell when I returned to the station, and a hefty fine. It turns out, I had up to 6 hours to check out – before they imposed an automatic fine on the card (but don’t quote me on that). Thank goodness I had someone ‘on the inside’ that I could message and get further info from!  However, if you continuously forget to check in or out then they can block your card… So, the onus is on the user to remember to check in/out each and every every time they start/end their journey – I guess I’ll get used to it and avoid potential problems. It’s a minor hiccup, and I am just a sucker for panic attacks.

Another noticeable view, worth mentioning is the amount of Albert Heijn stores in NL – they are everywhere! Unlike our UK, with their Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons M&S and Waitrose etc, there seems to be only one major chain of supermarket here – or am I walking around blind and in need of a cane/blind dog? This is not meant as a criticism, as I think that the chain is pretty good and they sell all you could really need, plus the prices seem in line with what they should be. I guess that there are the odd Lidl stores dotted around, but they are extremely outnumbered. If good old Albert were alive today he would be proud of what has become of his chain, founded in 1887!

Also, did you ever wonder why there is a relationship between the Dutch and the colour orange? The national flag has no hint of any orange in it and (like the Brits) sports the colours red, white and blue (though I guess if you mix the flag colours up a bit they could form a certain shade of orange….).  Anyway, as a football supporter I did often wonder… So, the real reason – orange is the colour of the Dutch Royal Family and dates back to Willem van Oranje (William of Orange), and it is a symbolizes a broad pride in the country and being Dutch. You’re likely to see the population here in their orange kit on Koninginnedag (“Queen’s Day”) – April 30th.

I guess I should mention how the new volunteer work and training is going… I have had fun with it so far and it gives me a little more purpose. It also gives me a chance to soak up a lot more knowledge, whilst trying to help others settle into life as a Dutch resident. Hopefully I’ll know more than the average bear very soon and will possibly re-create a self help guide myself, in future…!  I just hope that this experience gives me a little more confidence to attack the ‘proper job’ market more aggressively…

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The Brit hasn’t yet quit!


Accroches-toi a ton reve
Accroches-toi a ton reve
Quand tu vois ton bateau partir
Quand tu sents ton coeur se briser
Accroches-toi a ton reve

– ELO (Hold on tight)

 

Reasons to be happy

Just about hit my 7th week in (not so sunny as it was a few weeks ago) Holland and am a little more optimistic than I have been in the last few years.  I just managed to land my first voluntary job at a very nice organisation (ACCESS), in Den Haag – and can’t wait to start, next week!

The work is related to foreigners, new to the Netherlands, and I start on their Help desk. It just seemed so easy to find the organisation, contact them and get them to take me on, in comparison to my previous experience – (yeah you guessed it) – in Denmark 😉

Ok, so it’s not yet paid work, but… …. I am optimistic that it will help a lot, with my search for a “proper” job. I definitely could use the experience of being back in the office, getting out and about more, regaining my confidence and increasing my network circle here. The people I met were very nice, the city is pretty cool and their office looks cosy and comfortable. Will see if I’m a hit their soon enough, but am just glad to be given the chance to feel useful once again!

Also, I have now started using a really efficient online course, to help me with the Dutch language, which should help me start to stop thinking Dansk when the Dutch speak to me 🙂 The course is not free and details can be found HERE.

Technicalities & Frivolities

I still haven’t got all my paperwork sorted out yet and am hoping I don’t need to involve a notary or solicitor! It’s all about the name change I did back in 2003, on a night of much wine and the film, Thelma & Louise… but that’s another story. The fact that I’ve lived with the name for 10 years should be sufficient enough, to be honest :/

The search for paid employment is tough and I’ve now heard from a few other internationals here, who are having similar problems :/ But, at least there are actual jobs I can apply for occasionally. I should start writing pleas to international organisations and beg them to hire me! Another project to look at soon, I guess…

I have to confess, am getting panic attacks with the travel system here – just about the checking in  / out when I board / leave the trains. They seem very strict here and my travel card does get checked more than anywhere I’ve been to in Europe. The trains are very frequent and efficient but I worry about ‘checking out’ with my ‘OV-chipkaart’ every time I leave. There are financial penalties if you fail to check in or out – and my memory is not similar to one of an elephant.

I have found a little gold mine of a shop here – called the Woodleaf shop. It has a few nice things from back ‘home’. Though to be fair, the Dutch seem to have enough choices in the shops to distract me from missing Brit stuff. Most of the stuff they eat here is very similar to us anyway. I even managed to create a few traditional Brit dishes without having to shop around, for the stuff needed! :O

Cycling is still scary. I am a little more confident on the bike, and the motorists have been kind to me, so far. I just need to push myself a little bit further and step out of my ‘known routes’ comfort zone now.

So, life is a little more positive overall. I just need to keep pushing myself and get noticed more and more! Lets just hope it leads to gainful employment and more experiences, without the need to return to Old Blighty.

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Latest on life in a Dutch world…


thinking_outside_the_box_cartoon_buttonsOk, so approx 5 to 6 weeks into my move to the Netherlands and already the dreaded fear of failure is present, in my thoughts…

I can barely speak a word of Dutch and my job hunting leads are not producing much, yet…

 

What have I done?

  • I am still having to deal with stupid government paperwork – having to re-send official documents back and forth to the UK – all for the sake of a a few ‘Apostille’ stamps… Which means I have the necessary BSN number (burgerservicenummer) and I can go to work, but cannot open a bank account, or see a doctor yet… Thankfully my health is much better these days, but the bank account would be nice – especially as my Danish bank card expires next month :O
  • I have registered with 3 or 4 recruitment agencies, in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, and will now be looking for others in the Utrecht area…
  • I’ve applied for approx 7 or 8 jobs now, but not having much luck with them.
  • An appointment has been set up with a volunteer organisation next week, called Access – based in The Hague. I figured this would at least help with the future job prospects, if they can find something suitable / useful for me to do in the meantime.
  • I’ve joined a few online expat communities, just to gain a little more insight, from the foreigner perspective 😉
  • And, I have 2 study books and cd’s to start me on my way with the Dutch lingo – though my motivation needs a gentle shove. I am ok with the odd word and the alphabet so far…
  • Oh, and I’ve drawn a few pictures – for the first time in many years! 😀

Impatient beyond belief, or not thinking about enough alternatives?

Well, I just have to ask myself (objectionally and without too much self criticism) – am I doing enough?

Also, what are the other alternatives, if any? Is there anything I can do to enable me to become self employed? If so, do I have a skill I can sell? If I changed direction, what could I study/train to do – quickly? What kind of work related skills are needed for work in the Netherlands, that are currently lacking?  How do I learn to think about it all from a completely different perspective? Have I exhausted all the possibilities? How would others approach this new beginning in the land of the Dutch, and is there anything I can learn from them?

So many thoughts and questions – just no answers, yet. I obviously need to do more networking, and am hoping that any volunteer work will help me there, but what about other expats? Would they help me integrate more or just help segregate me from the locals? I know that the expat community in Denmark was needed, but I did have my reasons for that…

Hmmm, think I need more sun time and peace to let my brain unravel itself and start working properly.

Kicking the habit

I am also kicking myself every time I use Danish here in the Netherlands! How many times do I need to stop myself from speaking crappy dansk instead of crappy Nederlands? Though, to be fair – I know enough dansk to react to everyday stuff, but not near enough Nederlands yet. If anything, I should just reply in English, as it is understood here – so, why the hell am I using dansk?!!  It’s absurd and I have to laugh at myself when I remember how reluctant (and scared) I was to speak dansk in Denmark. Will have to listen to Nederlands radio more and remember where I am!

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Netherlands for Noobs…


Just thought I’d share some usful information and write up a little update about my 3.5 week period of life in this new country…

Firstly, I’d like to thank all of those I have met so far, who have made me feel welcome – if you’re reading this and identify yourself as one of my new Dutch friends, then give yourself a high 5 / pat on the back 🙂

Business first

Ok, so I think I wrote about how simple it was to register yourself for living / working in the Netherlands as an EU citizen, and obtaining the required BSN number… This turned out to be a little more fun than I thought. The ‘oh so kind, smiley, warm, welcoming, pleasant, friendly’ (cough…. bullshit – world’s rudest employee!) lady (cough… cow) at the Rotterdam City Hall (Deelgemeente) advised me that I needed to have a few of my documents (birth certificate and Change of Name) legalised from the country they were produced (the UK). Luckily, the passport was enough to get me the all important BSN number, but it was still necessary to legalise my docs and arrange another appointment
with them… I was advised not to raise a stink or fuss with the rude employee, so bit my tongue several times! Apart from the rude staff member, it was pretty straight forward for me to get legally registered. I was just glad that there was a happy Dutchman, wanting me to fill in a customer feedback form at the end of the ordeal with the official, who was happy to humour me and translate all the questions for me.  Revenge is so sweet, if you ask for trouble from this little Brit 😛  Once I contacted the British Embassy for some help and advice the stupid, tedious process of legalising my documents began – via payment online and posting relevant online form and my papers to the UK.

Insurance is also a ‘must’ here, and the 2 needed asap are Health and liability. You can only be insured for health, liability, funeral, household content, automobile insurances, once you have your BSN number.  I am now covered and can quite happily race into oncoming traffic, cause a major amount of damage and need substantial amounts of medical care, if I wish to… (by accident of course). More info can be found here.

Jobwise

So far, I’ve applied for half a dozen jobs and been interviewed by an International Recruitment Agency – “Undutchables”. I have also had another agency showing some interest (online only), but I guess it’s only been 3.5 weeks and I have to be a little more patient! I have now updated the CV (again) and changed all LinkedIn online details, so time will tell. I’ve also used LinkedIn to make new contacts and join a few Dutch groups – so, I’m trying, I guess.

NL v DK – trying not to make too many comparisons here, but….

Like the UK, the Dutch have their apartments, houses etc numbered. In DK the residents names are used for mailboxes, front doors and at the point of where you buzz flats to enter the apartment coomplexes. I always thought that having your name on display, for anyone to read, was a little different and for security reasons kinda bugged me.

Lets talk T.V. Apparently the Dutch have approx 10 channels of their own, a few channels from Belgium, France, Germany and the good old UK – which means I can tune into the BBC stuff and watch Eastenders! (if I wanted to…) :O  In comparison, I guess the Danes seem to have channels from Germany, Sweden and Norway, as well as their own… I was just so surprised and happy when I made the discovery about the BBC channels – it was great to hear the news in English again 😀

Tourist fun (messing about on the river…)

tulipsOk, so far we have tried to see tulips in Sassenheim, near Lisse but we were too late – they only bloom until around 8th May 😦  There is also a huge garden area, called Keukenhof in the same area – also closed until 2014. They are open for the first 4 months of the year, only.

We also drove onto a place called Leiden, for a drink and a nice boat tour. The Dutch seem to like their boats nearly as much as their cycles :O The tour lasted one hour and was a pleasant way to learn about another Dutch town, in the sun and at a very relaxed pace. It was fun to watch the tour guide onboard throw the occasional insult or 2 at other mad boaters at the same time 😉  I even heard him use the word “klootzak” a few times, my first real life experience of that word! I also tasted my first Turkish Pizza and it was simple but tasty. And, we took in an all important Frikandel at Noordwijkerhout 🙂

I am not sure how many windmills exist here, but I am spotting them nearly everywhere I go, so cute! They have a reputation for having them for a reason. Not sure I’ve seen anyone wearing the traditional clogs yet though 😀

Kralingse Bos is a great lake to cycle round, and we managed to hit that place on my first sunny day here. It was very pretty and full of Dutch people cycling, boating, skating, walking and having fun. I think it was my first long cycling day too and my bum really needs to get used to being back on the bike!

This next week or so, we are going to take trips to Gouda and Amsterdam! Will blog about that another time…

I guess more time will also be spent on the usual, looking for work and learning Dutch – need more focus maybe, but off to a good enough start for the 3.5 weeks so far, I think…  😛

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Reflective in Rotterdam


“No river can return to its source, yet all rivers must have a beginning.”

After being in a new country for nearly 2 weeks, there is a lot to write about! Denmark has  left a bit of a negative mark on me, but I am slowly feeling a new sense of optimism and looking forward to possible, brighter prospects. I do have healthy, unconditional and direct support from a very special Dutch guy, which is a huge boost – and I can’t imagine doing all this without him.

However, I can’t yet say that The Netherlands is the best place on earth, as I’ve not been
here long to judge objectionally enough. However, there are a number of comparisons I can draw on, which make it a better place already.

The Positives – Where do I start…?

Firstly, the fact that the centre of Rotterdam has international recruitment agencies, aimed
at non Dutch speaking staff is a good sign. The jobs listed are a little more limited than
those requiring bi/multi lingual jobs, but I have applied for 4 or 5 of them already!

I then have to mention the shops in general and choices of food – they are much like those in the UK, which is great for an English girl like me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a great
shopper and love to sample foreign delights, I just missed the choices I had back in the UK.
They even have good old Fish and Chip shops here! And, their Frikandels are – wait for it…
Legendary!

The lakes and Dikes are so pretty, and everywhere! Maybe I’m lucky to be in the area I live in, but within a 5 minute walk, it is peaceful and very pretty.

They do have a lot of cycle paths here too, the downside is – I have to get used to them and
the traffic rules, as they are a little different than the ones in DK (though, still safer
than the road cycling we do in the UK).

There is a stronger sense of multi-culturism here, maybe that’s due to a difference in
population size – and I am still in DK / NL comparison mode. But, I’ve also noticed that the
people here (in general) are all very polite and seem to smile more!

I’ve met some pretty awesome people so far and have been made to feel very welcome here.  They have helped make me feel relaxed, and I know I’ll be seeing a lot more of them.

Immigration/registration seems quite easy for EU members – I just need to acquire a BSN number and I can feel free to live/work, as I please. Apparently, all that is needed are:-

  • passport or identity card,
  • birth certificate,
  • a rental / tenancy / home purchase agreement,
  • or, if lodging with someone, a copy of the identity document of the main occupant and a declaration stating his or her permission for you to live there.

In Denmark, you need to either have a job (to obtain a CPR number), or your spouse/partner needs to earn x amount and sponsor you financially, and provide proof of enough disposable income.

They have a good enough football team here (Feyenoord), for me to start supporting, and they seem to enjoy the sport! I have to admit, I have really missed watching football and my interest has been re-ignited! I can’t wait for the footie season to start again, and I will be keeping a very close eye on the English footie, a lot more. 🙂

Everybody speaks English!

The down side

Health insurance – you need to take your own insurance out, or face being fined. You also
need your BSN number to obtain your health insurance.

The Dutch language. Personally, I am finding that the Dutch language seems to be a mix of
English, German, Danish and a bit of it’s own uniqueness… They do have exactly the same
letters as the English alphabet – big bonus! I just struggle trying to say words containing
the ‘G’ and ‘CH’ letters (they are very throaty sounds).  And, I guess after trying to get my head round the Danish language, my enthusiasm to learn another language is not as it good as it could/should be.

The Euro – always hated the idea of that stupid currency and the non too apparent reasons
behind it. I preferred all European countries to stay individual, and actually enjoyed
exchanging my notes and coins when I went off travelling… As far as I’ve heard, all those
who have switched to the Euro have nothing good to say about it.

New priorities

Job first! ‘Settling in’ is important, time consuming and that is still ongoing, but it’s
definitely progressed and making the job searches/applications/potential interviews seem a little less daunting, already.

Dutch – it seems less of an issue to be required to speak the native language, so far.
Obviously speaking Dutch helps, but there are many here who have managed to get by without it. In time, Dutch will be my next biggest priority, but right now I am picking that up at a more relaxed and leisurely pace.

Making time to study something new, for better career prospects again. Thanks to a new
friend I have begun to practise using the Eclipse application and created a few Java projects. I’m going at snail pace at the moment and not sure I have the aptitude for it – but willing to try, there are always other projects I can pick up if this is not the right one for me…

Having fun! Finally, winter is over and I’ve got a lot of sightseeing to do and new people
to meet/relax with!

In short, I don’t know if my views of Rotterdam or The Netherlands are going to change too much, I know I went through a ‘honeymoon’ period in Denmark.  I doubt they will and I hope the future is much more promising, but time will tell of course… 😉

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