Name: Dorothy and Stanley
Occupation: engineer/stay-at-home mum
Nationality: British/Philippines
Moved to the Amsterdam Area in: 2017
Living in: Heemskerk

What does your job involve?

Stanley works in R&D as one of the experts assessing options on how to reduce CO2 emissions from the steelworks. Dorothy is a stay-at-home mum taking care of our son, who is 22 months old.

Why did you decide to move to the Netherlands?

We moved to the Netherlands because of Stanley’s job.

Why did you decide to live in Heemskerk over other parts of the country?

We chose Heemskerk because it is very close to Stanley’s place of work. We prefer a country/small-town lifestyle to big-city living. We really enjoy living in a small, quiet town surrounded by lots of nature. Stanley is not new to this area. Between 2002 and 2005, he lived and worked in IJmuiden for a research foundation. When we moved to the Netherlands in 2017 for Stanley’s current job, we had a choice to either live north or south of the North Sea Canal. At the time of the move, the Velsen tunnel was very hectic and always busy during peak hours. Therefore, we decided to look for a house north of the canal and found an affordable house in Heemskerk. We have loved it ever since. Life in Heemskerk is slow-paced, serene and relaxing: totally different compared to living in big cities with all the noise and traffic. Additionally, living in Heemskerk gives us a better quality of life. The fact that it is accessible to big cities such as Amsterdam, Haarlem and Alkmaar means we don’t lose out by not living in a big city. More importantly, we have an affordable house that is significantly larger than something we would get if we lived in one of the cities.

What has working and/or living in the area taught you?

We realised that we had to start learning Dutch very seriously because most people in this town are not quite comfortable speaking in English, unlike in the big cities where conversations in English are very common. Additionally, and more importantly for us, once our son starts school, having an efficient grasp of the Dutch language can really come in handy because we want to be fully involved in his school life and academic development.

Undiscovered gems in the area (food, drinks, bars, clubs, places to visit)?

Food – both of us love eating. We are foodies. In fact, Stanley is a food connoisseur (both oriental and western cuisines), as he grew up working in his mum’s restaurant. Here are some of our recommendations for places that we have very much enjoyed:

  • Restaurant Delight, Vrijburglaan 3, Heemskerk: This is a buffet-style restaurant with a lot of varieties of food, including food being cooked in a teppan, wok, grill and more. What we enjoy most is their lobster, fish, prawns and sushi – and it’s all for a very reasonable price. More importantly, restaurant staff are very warm and accommodating. It is a very family-friendly restaurant.
  • Jasmin Garden, Dorpsstraat 2, Castricum: This is an upscale fine dining Chinese restaurant that serves delicious authentic Chinese cuisines. We have befriended the owners of the restaurant, and when we come here we can order food that’s not on their menu (if we order in advance). Our favourites are their steamed garlic prawns and the steamed fish with soy sauce and spring onions, both cooked in authentic Cantonese or Szechuan style.
  • Restaurant La Trattoria, Dorpsstraat 40, Castricum: The pasta cooked in a bowl of parmesan cheese is one of the best things on their menu. Definitely worth a try!
  • Pizzeria Tarantella, Relweg 5, Wijk aan Zee: Fantastic environment. Authentically cooked Italian food – sumptuous pasta, pizza and steak at a very reasonable price.
  • Parrilla Grande, Kennemerlaan 93a, IJmuiden: Stanley has known this place since 2003. One of the classic steakhouses. They serve one of the best steaks (T-bone, ribeye, sirloin...) in town. And you can have as much salad as you like with your steak.
  • Xixo Gastrobar, Kleine Houtstraat 31, Haarlem: If you fancy some Vietnamese cuisine, this restaurant is one of the best. We like their spring rolls.

My Amsterdam: Dorothy and Stanley

How is the area different to your country/other cities you have lived in?

We have always lived in small towns or the countryside. Heemskerk has a similar feel – being a countryside location, it’s very much like the small town we lived in back in the UK. Heemskerk is also special because of the beaches nearby. Dorothy doesn’t like beaches, but Stanley does love a stroll on the beach and playing there with our boy.

What’s your ideal day in and around Heemskerk or the Amsterdam area?

An ideal day for us is to visit museums, then ending the day with an enjoyable and quiet dinner out. We love visiting and exploring different museums and we appreciate the history of the country or town we are in. We are quite impressed with the artistic treasures that the Netherlands has. On a normal day, Stanley goes to work and Dorothy brings our baby to the library for the weekly storytelling session or to the toddler playgroup at our local community centre. Sometimes Dorothy arranges playdates for our boy with other mum friends she knows who also have children of the same age. And Dorothy has joined the church choir of our local parish.

Was there anything unexpected about living/moving here, including any challenges?

Difficulties with the Dutch language.

How were these challenges resolved?

We are both taking weekly Dutch language lessons.

Any advice for people thinking about moving here or who have just moved here, including tips for settling in and making friends?

Our advice is to do your own research and always trust your instincts. We always follow our interests and look for friends with the same interests. Do not be afraid to explore. For a young family such as ours – we prioritise our life around our boy. In this regard, Heemskerk is an ideal town for raising a family.

How do you like to spend your weekends?

Go to church. Go grocery shopping. Have barbecues and dinner get-togethers with friends. Sometimes we take our child to one of the museums. Most often, we go sightseeing in nearby cities.

My Amsterdam: Dorothy and Stanley

How do you stay connected to your home country?

We keep in touch with relatives back home through emails, texts, the Line messaging service, WhatsApp and Christmas cards. Although we have different nationalities, we are both originally of Chinese descent, coming from Taiwan and the Philippines. We speak a combination of five different languages and dialects in our household: Chinese Mandarin, English, Filipino, a Taiwanese dialect and, occasionally, the Fukien dialect. Our home has a very Chinese atmosphere, from food to language to home décor (which is influenced by a little bit of Chinese feng shui). Chinese Mandarin is our primary language at home, especially when speaking to our son. We want him to learn and get used to the language. We watch Chinese TV shows, read Chinese storybooks and listen to Chinese nursery rhymes at home. Our boy may grow up here in Europe, but it is very important for us that he also knows and remembers his roots and ancestry. We want to instil in him our Chinese values and customs, starting from a very young age. Every year, whether it was in the UK or here in the Netherlands, we celebrate Chinese New Year, the mid-autumn Moon Festival, Chinese Valentine’s Day, which falls on the 7th of July (based on the Lunar calendar), Chinese Father’s Day, which falls on the 8th of August, and other Chinese festivals and traditions.

What are the best things about living where you live?

In terms of work: Stanley’s work is very multicultural because he is in the R&D department. In his line of work, English is commonly used. As for culture and lifestyle, the people of Heemskerk are very warm, friendly and kind. And, maybe because it is such a small town, we always tend to come across friends or other familiar faces when we are out and about in the centre of town, which is a very nice feeling. Our lifestyle is very relaxed, calm, serene and slow-paced.

We are amazed by the education system in the Netherlands, and we’ve tried to do some research to learn more about how the whole system works. Recently, we visited several primary schools here in Heemskerk, scouting around for a primary school for our boy, and we were very pleased to discover that there are plenty of good schools in this small town.

When it comes to housing, we are very fortunate and blessed to have found a house that we really love, and in a neighbourhood with very friendly and hospitable neighbours.

So far, we are really enjoying our life in Heemskerk.