Occupation: Freelance copywriter, producer, copy editor
Length of time in Amsterdam: 4 years
How did you end up in Amsterdam?
We lived in Singapore, where there was a big emphasis on work and career. People we met were very temporary, as it’s another huge expat community. So we were thinking, this isn’t the place we want to have a family. At the same time, we wanted to do some long-term travel as a last hurrah before we started a family. So we decided to try to combine the two and move somewhere interesting and somewhere where we could travel a different part of the world before we started a family. My husband, Marlon, was offered a job in Amsterdam and we decided to go for it. We came to Amsterdam six months after his first interview with Philips. Now he works for Heineken.
What was it like adjusting to a new life here, and then to a new life as a parent here?
The first year was really a honeymoon period. I was just really excited to go to the supermarket and do all of the normal things. The second year was very much reality. It started to become difficult. I realised I needed to make a bigger effort to integrate. That’s when the Dutch lessons started. It totally changed when I had my daughter. Suddenly I was doing completely different things, going to the boerderij (farm), spending a lot of time in the park. And, actually, we moved to Westerpark to be around a more happening area. We used to live in Oud Zuid and it was really, really quiet. So we moved here to be around everything that's happening and guess what? We don’t get to do any of it, because now we have a baby! [Deepa laughs loudly] But, yes, having a child has completely changed my experience of Amsterdam. There’s something for everyone. We didn’t run out of things to do when it was just the two of us, and when we’re with her, there is so much we haven’t experienced.
Is there a stereotype of Amsterdam that you’ve found to be inaccurate?
When we first moved here, everyone was like, cool! You’re going to do drugs all the time! And what I tell them is that Amsterdam is one of the most family-friendly cities in the world. Someday, as a public service, I’m going to stand in front of Central Station with a big arrow that points everyone to go right. Go to the Jordaan. This is Amsterdam. When we moved here, Marlon’s parents, who are very Catholic, were a little worried about us moving to “the capital of sin”. And we found this to be completely untrue. I think the stereotype exists because for a lot of people, it’s more interesting to talk about things that are forbidden, about this one city that lets you do everything, rather than the nice time you had and the really good apple pie you ate.
Is it important to you to lay down roots, or to keep your landing gear up in case something better comes along?
It’s hard to call Amsterdam the final resting place but we’re really happy here and we don’t have any plans to leave. It would have to be something really spectacular to lure us away. It’s changed a bit since having a child. Now that she’s approaching school age, we’ll need things to be a little more permanent. We’re interested in making more of an effort to become rooted here. We bought this house two years ago, which is a big commitment.
Where could we find you on a Sunday morning?
If it’s the first or third Sunday of the month, we’re usually at Westerpark at the Sunday Market. We love it, and the Neighbourfood Market. Mostly we’re at the park, feeding the ducks, playing in the leaves. If it’s summer, Tala is in the children's pond.
"Someday, as a public service, I’m going to stand in front of Central Station with a big arrow that points everyone to go right. Go to the Jordaan. This is Amsterdam."
Do you find anything challenging about living here?
The lack of sunshine. I thought it would be the cold, but I found I actually really love the cold. And in the beginning, people were very direct; that was very different for us, especially coming from Southeast Asia, where everyone gets things done by being super polite and being very small. Here, it’s the opposite.
When the sun is shining, where is your favourite place to be in Amsterdam?
Besides Westerpark, Amsterdam Noord. We love Pllek. When I have to work, I go to the EYE Filmmuseum. It’s big, and usually empty. They have WiFi, and cakes from Patisserie Holtkamp. This is very important. Or I go to Restaurant Stork, which has WiFi and a huge terrace facing the IJ.
Has your work changed since you moved here?
Definitely. I work a lot less. My field is TV, and, well, the TV is in Dutch. I can speak enough to get by in daily life, but I miss a lot of the humour and word play that makes copywriting interesting. So I’ve focused more on being an entrepreneur and networking. It’s been a little difficult without my networks from back home and in Singapore.
How do you get around?
50/50 bike/tram. No car. We love to cycle. I learned how to cycle when we knew we were coming here. As in professional cycling lessons. I found an ad in the Singapore newspaper that said, “Learn to cycle in four hours or less.” There were four one-hour sessions, from a guy who gave the lessons in his apartment block. It was really embarrassing, because in front of me was a four year old, and in front of her a six year old. And then there I was, at the ripe old age of 29. But it worked!
If you had a friend visiting next week, what would you not let him or her leave without seeing?
We’ll take a walk in the Jordaan to see the canals. Have coffee at a nice café, a slice of apple pie at Winkel 43. Cross the River IJ to Amsterdam Noord. Then the Red Light District. The Rijksmuseum. The Van Gogh Museum. I really like it that after four years I can actually pronounce Van Gogh correctly. The Sunday brunch at Restaurant Fraiche in the Jordaan is amazing. Then we’d have freshly made stroopwafels (syrup cookies) and poffertjes (mini pancakes) at the Albert Cuypmarkt, and bitterballen (savoury bar snack) at a cosy little brown café. Food is important to us.
How are you handling raising a multilingual child?
I speak only Filipino with Tala. As I don’t have a lot of outlets to use my native language, my skills have gone down considerably. It’s helpful to speak it with her. Marlon speaks to her only in English. In the Philippines, there was a whole generation of kids told not to speak Filipino, to sacrifice it in the name of learning English.
Is there anything you’d like to see change in Amsterdam?
I’d really like to see the metro done, because I have fallen in love with Noord in the past year, and we would totally move there. I wish there would be more baby-friendly trams. There are still a lot of the old trams running that aren’t very child and baby friendly. And I would really like to see scooters off the bike paths. But I’ve realized that I’m really very happy with the city.
Any advice for someone who’s just moved here?
Get out there, cycle in the rain, experience things. And keep an open mind – the comparisons will inevitably happen, but try to keep them to a minimum.