Published in September 2015. Photos by Jayne Robinson.
Occupation: Community manager and travel blogger
Length of time in Amsterdam: 1 year
Tell us a little bit about your background. Why did you decide to move to Amsterdam last year?
What brought me to Amsterdam is my husband. He’s American, but of Italian descent, so he has Italian citizenship. We knew that we wanted to live in Europe, and he is a data centre engineer, so we looked at the main European hubs for his sector which are London and Amsterdam. We visited both cities, and fell in love with Amsterdam. London’s just too big for me, but Amsterdam has everything you could want in a city, while still feeling very small.
What is it about Amsterdam that stands out, compared to other places you’ve visited?
I think just the quaintness, which is surprising when you talk about a major European city. I love the feel of it; the architecture, the parks. What we really enjoy is being able to have all the resources of a major city like a major airport, major train station... but also concert halls and all those things that I had to drive two hours for in America. And now they’re half an hour’s bike ride away. And just the feeling of cosiness – I love the fact that there aren’t towers and high rises everywhere!
What three words would you use to describe Amsterdam?
Beautiful, active and friendly.
How difficult (or easy) did you find it to settle in when you first moved over?
We actually found it really easy. I am an introvert but I’m also an outgoing person, so I made it a point to know how to get involved with things before I left. So I knew about meetup.com - and we actually ended up making some of our best friends from there. I got involved in Yelp soon after moving here too, so I basically have a third of my friends from Meetup, a third from Yelp, and a third from The Library (a wine shop on Singel). So socially, it was easy - and the actual bureaucracy of it all was also easier than expected, but I think that’s because we were prepared. Being prepared is a huge thing – in fact when we went to the gemeente, they were shocked that we had all the right documents!
Were there any challenges or unexpected surprises when you first moved over?
I think what took me by surprise was how nervous I was biking. That is such a huge part of living in Amsterdam, but it was a good month before I bought a bike - and then it was a good month after that before I felt even remotely comfortable. There are still intersections that I'm wary of; I don't like making left turns. But when you realise that biking is actually faster than public transport you kind of force yourself.
You moved to Amsterdam without a job in place – how hard was it to find work once you were here? Was it a priority?
Neither me or my husband had a job actually – we moved here because of his ability to find work here. And he’s the European, so we needed him to find work in order to sponsor me. It wasn’t difficult for him to find a job, but it was difficult for him to find a job that paid decently. So that was the struggle. Before we left he was applying for jobs, and the recruiter said ‘you will have no problem, but you need to be over here’. And she was right. He got a job about two months in, and then he could sponsor me. As far as me finding a job, it wasn’t a priority because I was dealing with everything else. But I wanted to do something with my time and bring in some more income, so I found that interning was going to be the best option. I did two internships - they paid almost nothing, but I did learn a lot and one of them, Printr, I stayed with. So that’s where I’m working now.
Would you recommend interning as a way into paid work in Amsterdam?
Absolutely. There are so many opportunities here. Amsterdam is one of the start-up capitals of the world - it’s amazing! Interning gives you an opportunity to try something new - the only drawback is when everybody else is younger than you. It can feel a bit weird being at the bottom of the ladder when you already have experience, but it’s a great way to get on your feet in a new city.
"There are so many opportunities here. Amsterdam is one of the start-up capitals of the world - it’s amazing!"
Are you learning Dutch?
I’m learning, yes. I took an introduction to Dutch class – my husband works for Booking.com so I had access to a ten week course, which was great. And I have so many friends who are willing to speak with me if I want to. I don’t create sentences very easily yet, but I do understand a lot more now.
How important do you think it is to learn the language if you live here?
You don’t have to. But I do find that when you can’t read your tax information, or when the gemeente sends you something in Dutch and you have to take it to work to ask your colleagues what it says, then you’re dependent on somebody else - and for me that isn’t ok.
What’s your opinion of Dutch people? Are there any stereotypes that you’ve found to be true?
The only stereotype I heard before I came is that they’re rude – and I’ve found that to be completely untrue. Yes there is that straightforward nature that they have, but not rudeness. I’m from the South so I’m used to people holding doors and tiptoeing around subjects, but even with that background I have never found the Dutch to be rude. Since being here I’ve noticed that the stereotype about them being punctual apparently only applies to some things – not social gatherings. Stereotypes are there for a reason, but you should come with an open mind and not see people as a group.
Do you have a favourite part of Amsterdam?
Well I didn’t think it would be, but I am actually partial to the centre. And Oud-West I really like a lot - it’s very up and coming. I love my neighbourhood Westerpark, and the Jordaan, but really I find that I’m usually in the centre.
Where would we normally find you on a Saturday night?
Here, at The Library! It's a wine shop on Singel where lots of my friends hang out. Definitely here.
What would you suggest a visitor do if they only have one day in Amsterdam?
I’m still trying to figure that out! I’m literally writing a blog post about that right now. In one day, you are not going to see Amsterdam for what it is, period. Definitely see the Anne Frank House and Rijksmuseum, and just walk around, soak it up. But the one must-do is a canal cruise. It doesn’t matter which one, but you just have to see Amsterdam from the canals.
How would you like to see Amsterdam change?
No cars in the centre! That would make my life. But I really love Amsterdam for what it is and I honestly don’t have any other complaints – except that maybe the tax office should really have some information in English.
"I’m far more appreciative of what’s around me now. I try to make sure to sit on the side of the canal and just take it all in"
Has Amsterdam changed you?
Yes. Amsterdam has made me more social by far, and more appreciative of relationships – both business and friendship. Networking and meeting people is so important for everything here - from finding a new apartment to where to buy your bike, or where not to buy your bike. And I’m far more appreciative of what’s around me. I try to make sure to sit on the side of the canal and just take it all in. Because you’re here – and you don’t want to take that for granted.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone moving over to Amsterdam in the near future?
Try to get help finding an apartment. If you know somebody locally, ask for their help. And plan ahead to make sure you know what you’re going to need for deposit and fees.
Can you see yourself settling here permanently?
Yes. As of right now, absolutely yes. We love it here!
Find out more about Jesssica and her experiences of Amsterdam at her blog, A Wanderlust For Life