Photo: Saffron Pape

Name: Tracy
Occupation: Vice President, Global Talent
Country: United States
Moved to the Amsterdam Area in: November 2016
Living in: Haarlem

What does your job involve?

I work in human resources for Ahold Delhaize, an international food retailer that serves more than 50 million shoppers each week in the United States, Europe and Indonesia.  My work focuses on talent, ensuring that we have the right people, in the right roles, at the right time, to deliver our business strategies. I collaborate with associates in all our operating brands to strategise, design and implement talent solutions to help our associates love what they do.

Why did you decide to move to the Netherlands?

My previous organisation, Delhaize Group, merged with Ahold in 2016. I was offered an opportunity and new role in Amsterdam as part of the new structure – it was a chance of a lifetime.

Why did you decide to live in Haarlem over other parts of the region?

We initially visited Amsterdam, which was slightly overwhelming, but were immediately taken by the charm of Haarlem. Internationals within my company who had previously lived in the Netherlands had great feedback about living in Haarlem. The agent that we worked with at Settle Services recommended it based on our preferences and proximity to my office in Zaandam. It was the perfect choice for us!

When did you first feel like an Amsterdammer? How does being based in Haarlem affect that?

All our friends and family that we stay in touch with know and connect with Amsterdam, so we constantly talk about the city and the experience. We immediately felt comfortable and safe in the area, and quickly adapted to the lifestyle. It’s such a short train ride away, so we visit Amsterdam all the time.

Photo: Saffron Pape

What has working and living in the Amsterdam Area taught you?

Living in a new country, surrounded by a new culture, language and lifestyle has been an amazing growth experience for both myself and my husband, Jamie.  We have learned to be more adaptable, embraced the city life, and now have a new appreciation for what the Netherlands and Europe has to offer. But the bikes! I’m not sure we’ll ever be as comfortable as a native Dutch person on two wheels.

Undiscovered gems in Amsterdam and Haarlem?

For food, you can’t go wrong at Tierney’s Irish Pub in Haarlem. Their food is always delicious, and the owner and staff are wonderful. There are also several great pizza restaurants, but we prefer Back to Basics for their authentic offerings and friendly service. There are so many amazing places to visit, shopping is always great in Amsterdam, the windmill in Haarlem is beautiful, and the canals in south Amsterdam are some of the prettiest. 

How is Amsterdam unique to your country or other different cities you have lived in?

Amsterdam is very diverse and international. We also always feel safe here, which is an important consideration for us.

What is special about living/working here?

The transition has been very easy, especially because of the language. It’s no surprise that the Dutch are recognised as the best non-native speaking English population in the world. Initially, people may seem somewhat standoffish, however we have found everyone to be very welcoming and always willing to help when asked. Dutch cities are beautiful – there is so much to see and do.

What’s your ideal day in and around Amsterdam?

An ideal day starts with a quick train trip to Amsterdam for some great shopping, or a trip to the market (Haarlem’s Saturday market is also excellent). Then, as the sun starts to set, there are so many picturesque places to take amazing photos.

How do you like to spend your weekends?

We try to make the most out of our time here, so we plan lots of activities for the weekend. We take full advantage of the festivals and events in the area, but also plan day and overnight trips to get outside of where we live. We visit other cities, go to the beach, sightsee and shop. It’s so easy to travel locally and within Europe.

Was there anything unexpected about living/moving here?

The cultural adjustment was the most difficult for me. I am from the south in the United States, which is a much more rural area. Typically, you greet people on the street and just generally act in a friendly way. Amsterdam’s fast pace, packed streets and constant onslaught of cars, pedestrians and bicycles took me a while to get used to.

Photo: Saffron Pape

Any advice for people thinking about moving here/just moved here, including settling in and making friends?

It’s always great to get first-hand perspectives from people with similar experiences and learn what worked for them. You must be willing to try new things, expand outside of your comfort zone and make an effort when it comes to meeting new people. There are many Facebook groups and social sites that bring people together for this purpose.

What do you like and dislike most about living in the Amsterdam Area?

We love having so much available to us – experiences, restaurants, shops, museums – and the overall quality of life is great. However, we don’t like the crowds and the weather!

Any survival tips for city visitors?

Bring good shoes! We have walked more here than anywhere in our lives. It’s an easy area to navigate by public transportation and on foot. Investigate and learn about some key differences; some restaurants and stores don’t take credit cards, the hours of operation for retail stores are also very different than we are accustomed to (especially once you get outside of Amsterdam), take general precautions like you would in any city regarding your belongings and safety, and have fun!

What are your essential things to do or see if you only have 24 hours in Amsterdam and the surrounding area?

The classics aren’t overrated; all the museums, Anne Frank’s house, the windmills of Zaanse Schans, and the markets on the weekends are wonderful. There are many great towns to visit that are close by – we love Leiden, Delft, Rotterdam, and Alkmaar. But, of course, you must walk the city and canals and maybe take a boat ride, too. 

Photos by Saffron Pape