I moved here with an open mind. I decided that I wasn't going to close myself off to things that I may not have liked before. What's the point in moving to a new country if you're not going to experience something new?
With this mindset, I can't say that I've experienced any real culture shock since coming to the Netherlands as an au pair. I'm lucky because in my home here, the host mother is American so I only speak English with the family. Everything in the Netherlands but the language is very similar to back home, so I haven't had a hard time living here at all.
Making friends via Facebook groups
As soon as I got here, my host mom suggested that I make a post in an au pair group on Facebook to try to make friends in the area. At first I kept putting it off because normally I'd wait to meet people until I was in my language class. Not wanting to wait three weeks however, and seeing as I had decided to try new things, I ended up doing it. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to meet someone right away and we quickly became friends. After that first step, it was a lot easier to be comfortable meeting new people! It has made my weekends a lot of fun with always having something to look forward to!
Explore the country
Since coming to the Netherlands in January, I've been able to see a lot of the country. I've been to more than ten different villages and seen so many different museums and historical buildings. I've been able to experience so much in such a short time and have enjoyed every minute of it!
My suggestion to other people, not just au pairs, is to experience as much of this beautiful country as possible. I've talked to people who've lived here their whole lives that haven't been to some of the places I've seen. It's been such a great experience, and being able to tell Dutch people about places to visit has been really exciting.
Quick tips for making the most of your stay
- If you're staying for a year, I'd highly suggest getting a personalized OV-chipkaart with weekend vrij. It gives you free train travel on weekends and a 40% discount during off-peak hours on weekdays. (This is only worth your money if you plan to travel a lot within the Netherlands.)
- An OV-fiets is another good add-on to a personalized card! You can rent a bike for a day from nearly 300 locations for under €4! It saves a lot of time instead of having to walk It's also usually cheaper than bringing your own bike on the train with you.
- Having a Museumkaart is one of my favourite If you are a museum-goer, I'd highly recommend getting it. Even if you opt out of getting it, having a student card of some kind gives you a discounted price for most museums!
- Simply Google "museums in the Netherlands" and once you find one that interests you, search for other sights to see in that area.
- Don't just stick to the main cities like Den Haag, Leiden, and Amsterdam. There is so much to see, even in smaller villages!
- Be flexible with your plans. I've found that most places very rarely update their sites so you won't know a place is closed and under construction until you get there. (Trust me, it has happened a lot!)
- Packing your own lunch saves a lot of money. Eating out every once in a while is great, but if you're going out every weekend it starts to add up.
Brianna Riggs, Kickstart student