Occupation: Integration Engineer
Length of time in Amsterdam: 8 years
Hi Denise! How did you end up in Amsterdam?
I finished my studies in Germany, and then I had a lot of internships but they didn’t really go anywhere. I decided I wanted to leave and experience a different country so I was looking at the US and New Zealand, but then I found a job in the Netherlands by accident and decided to go for it.
Had you been to Amsterdam before? Did you have any preconceptions?
No, I’d never been to the Netherlands before and I had no idea what it would be like. To be honest, I think I just thought that when I live in Amsterdam I can go shopping! But for the rest it was a bit of a blank. I had no ideas about Amsterdam – I just jumped in feet first.
How quickly did you settle in and make friends?
I actually found that fairly easy. I lived in a shared house at first, so I immediately had a group of friends there. They had been living here for longer, and they showed me a little bit of their world. And then when I started working at Chellomedia, it was a sociable team with a lot of social events, so I discovered a lot about the city that way. I think Amsterdam is quite open to foreigners and everyone speaks English, so I did find it very easy to settle in.
Was there anything you found unexpectedly challenging when you first moved over?
Yes, actually. I found it hard to set myself up with things like a house and a bank account in the beginning. But it was my first time doing all that stuff anywhere by myself, so that was probably the problem.
Eight years into your life here do you find there are still new things to learn about the city?
The city changes all the time, so I always feel like I’m lagging behind! One thing I learned recently by speaking to Dutch people is that I should have a rain jacket to cope with the weather. After eight years here I still hadn’t figured that out! So I’m going to buy one now.
"The city changes all the time, so I always feel like I’m lagging behind!"
Speaking of rain, how do you get along with the Dutch weather?
I do find it very frustrating and demotivating sometimes. But now I have my new strategy, I’m going to deal with it much better!
Have you learned Dutch?
Yes, I learned to speak Dutch partly thanks to the girls I lived with when I first moved, and partly through work. I don’t speak it properly and I will switch to English when I don’t understand, but I can speak conversational, street Dutch.
Is it important for an international resident in Amsterdam to speak the local lingo?
I find it very helpful. And I see that the response from the Dutch people when I speak their language is a very warm one, even if I say it wrong or they correct me. They really enjoy it. But I understand that it is a bit easier for me because I already speak German. I started Spanish lately but I find that much harder. Dutch is easier for me.
What’s the best thing about life in Amsterdam?
There are so many, but I do love the fact that I can do a lot of workshops in all sorts of things. Whatever you want to do - creative, sporting, yoga coaching. Anything that comes to mind, Amsterdam offers it.
What’s your preferred mode of transport?
Actually until my boyfriend moved over from the UK I didn’t have a car – I did everything by bike or train. But now we have a car everything is changing. I don’t find it easy to have a car here. We have an old car just to avoid any damage because we park it outside on the street. I was lucky that in my area we could get a parking permit easily. But I do find it very frustrating driving in Amsterdam – there’s too much going on.
What are Dutch people like to work with?
I think that Dutch people discuss things a lot more. And you can’t just say ‘this is what you need to do so do it’ - you need to convince them.
And how about generally? Any traits or characteristics you've picked up on?
I found that they love to go dancing for a long time! But what I do find it that they have a very good approach to expressing themselves. Some people hate it when they are direct, but they do not struggle with balancing what they try to say with what they are allowed to say.
"Anything that comes to mind, Amsterdam offers it"
How would you describe Amsterdam in three words?
Creative, fair and open.
What's your favourite neighbourhood?
I love the east, where I live. Everything is so close. I have two cinemas in walking distance, really nice restaurants, and things are always opening and shifting.
Do you have a favourite place to hang out with friends?
If I meet people we mostly go to Studio/K, which is run by students. They make good dinner and there’s a cinema, and you can party there if you want to. So it covers all bases.
How would you like to see Amsterdam change?
Sometimes I wonder how the city would look if there weren’t any cars in the centre, and I think that the city itself is looking at that. So I’d be really curious about this. Even though I am a car driver myself, the public transport is so well developed here that you can easily do without a car.
Have you changed since living in Amsterdam?
I hope I have! I try to be more like the Dutch people. More open and direct. And I’ve noticed that I have a different view on money. The Dutch are good traders, and I think that’s influenced me.
Where is home for you now?
My parents will kill me for saying this – but I think it’s Amsterdam now.
Do you have any advice for someone making the move to Amsterdam?
Buy a rain jacket and some wellington boots!