Now that we’ve been in Holland for 259 days, I’m realizing that there are several factors that helped us to feel settled living abroad rather quickly. Here are a few things that come to my mind.
1. We hired an excellent, personal, relocation manager. Lion helped us to pick our rental property that would suite our family best based on our needs. He did the walk through with the owner and got the keys before we arrived. He referred us to rental furniture companies and met them at our house to let them in and set up our furniture before we arrived. He was here to meet us at our front door the first day we arrived with our 15 suitcases. The day we arrived was so hot, that he arrived early and opened all the windows to air out the place. Once we got settled, he drove us to the grocery store so that we could have a few things our first day. He has supported us every step of the way, and has been very humble, kind and generous and a true help to us.
2. Our Dutch Relatives. My mother was born in the South of Holland and her cousins still live here. Jeff and I have good relations with them and have visited each other both in Holland and in the States several times. When we arrived, Gerard and Anita and Dorine and Nadja helped us to shop for hours and buy furniture and assemble it. We have been to each others homes for dinners and birthday parties and they made us feel welcome and a part of their families. We also were invited to Rio and Helma’s dairy farm and to spend time with them too. Franca and Henk came to see us, along with all their kids and everyone enjoyed chatting and playing and getting to know one another. When you’re far away from your own home, family and friends, having a new family to welcome you is the best feeling. We didn’t feel alone and it was comforting knowing that they knew the language, culture, norms and could help us navigate the process of getting transportation cards, and such, and could help us if an emergency occurred.
3. New Friends. One thing I love most to do is to connect people to friends and knowledge and to help one another. It’s what I used to do in a past life, and a skill that I think has helped me to find my way. I was able to meet and connect with friends through PEO, a philanthropic organization to which I belong. that supports, celebrates and motivates women to achieve their highest goals. A Dutch friend of mine who worked with me at Stella & Dot, introduced me to one of her friends who lives in my new home town. Before I moved, I had a Dutch coffee at my house and invited my Dutch friends over. One of them had a Dutch friend that worked in the US Consulate. Another one had a sister in law that lives in my new home town, who brought us a house plant once we got settled.
Our children’s school made it very easy for us to build a community of expat friends very quickly. Once the children started making friends, I was able to meet the moms and dads of their friends, and friendships were formed. We started sharing experiences and new relationships have grown. I love my new tribe and am so thankful for each and everyone of my new friends.
4. I filled my time doing things I love and got out of the house. I met people who played tennis and found a group of women to play with indoors and they connected me to the right people to take lessons and play in tournaments. I found yoga and yoga friends. I sought out a place to paddle board and met the owner of a Dutch company to paddle the canals with across Amsterdam. Now if the weather just warms up! I took up running with my husband, something I’ve always wanted to do, and now found the time and place. I went to all the social events I could the first few weeks at school to get out and see the town. The school is so good at making newcomers feel welcome, with coffees, and outings and having an open door where parents can sit and socialize while waiting for their kids. And as I started making friends, we’d have girls’ lunches, and girls’ nights out, dinner parties and happy hours, celebrated a baby being born, and birthdays and all that is good. Bottom line is I’ve stayed busy and productive and happy and love the friendships that have blossomed through all these shared events. I am so lucky and never am bored.
5. I have a very supportive partner. I probably don’t say enough about my husband, who works hard day and night, working to build his global business and support our family. He worked so hard behind the scenes to get us here, without a support staff to do all the work for him, as he works at a start up company, and they don’t have these type of resources. He researched everything, set up our legal documents, bank accounts, car transfer, cell phones, drivers’ licenses, cable and internet services, etc. all while setting up a European company. He is smart and loving and supports me and laughs with me and makes me coffee every morning! I am blessed.
6. Social Media & Technology. Having Facebook, Skype, Email, Google Voice, What’s App, Instagram, Magic Jack, my blog, Apple TV and a VPN have helped me to feel still connected to friends and family and America. I’m able to share and see and connect with those I love every day. When I feel lonely, I can always check in – just sometimes have to wait for the time zones to be in alignment where we’re both awake at the same hour.
7. A thirst for adventure. We wanted to do something fun as a family and to learn about the world. Having something to look forward to every month is very exciting. Whenever we feel down or homesick, someone is coming to visit, a trip is planned or a package arrives. We aren’t bored or stagnant and there is a lot of excitement and adventure awaiting us, if we so choose, and most weekends, we’re choosing to see and explore and enjoy this journey as much as we can.
If you’re an expat, what has helped you to settle in to your new home? What makes you happy? Thanks for reading and sharing this journey with me. 😉