Living abroad as a Brit in the Netherlands has its ups and downs with advantages and disadvantages. Based on my experience of 7 years in Rotterdam, South Holland I want to share my joys and struggles of living abroad as a Brit. Of course there were challenges, but plenty of rewards in return.
Whether you are from England like me or living abroad from somewhere else, there will be similarities in this post you can relate to as an expat. Expat life will always take you out of your comfort zone so don’t hold back in learning new locations.
Why Living Abroad?
As of August 2018 I have been living abroad for 7 years. What feels like 7 very fast years too! This quiet introvert girl moved abroad at the age of 18. Unexpected to many, but the reason for it was love. Luckily for me, falling in love with a Dutch guy meant that the distance was just a 1 hour plane trip away. Unlike those who fall for each other from other continents.
Where Living Abroad?
My Dutchie was situated in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. A place I really call home, and what feels like home. To really see how the whole long distance relationship would work closer, I got a 1 year job as an Au Pair. I found the sweetest family with two adorable children, with the weekends free to visit and spend time with partner.
Now it is 7 years later and we are still in Rotterdam. A city I really love living in. As a countryside girl coming from the Isle of Wight, a city is completely different. I can walk along the street and not see anyone that recognises me, unlike the small village I originally come from where everyone knows everyone. Rotterdam is very international too with lots of events throughout the year, which I love.
The Struggles of Living Abroad
Lets start with the struggles of living abroad, and then we’ll end with the joys!
Not being there for those who are sick
This is hard for anyone living abroad or even for those just away for a vacation. A loved one at home becomes sick while you are so many kilometres away. With my large family in mind, I have already lost a few grandparents and I know somewhere in the future I will be losing more. Wishing good health to them all.
Seeing family grow older
Every time I travel back home it’s always a surprise to see how family have grown up. Whether its my parents, siblings or even nephews and nieces. A few months to a year away each time can really see a difference.
Own home sick feelings
There are always feelings of being homesick wherever you may be in the world. My homesick feelings gets triggered when it’s Christmas and a time to be with loved ones. You can read my main post about being homesick here: 13 things to help overcome those homesick feelings.
Yep, unfortunately the struggles are your relationships with friends. It’s not surprising but it’s now of course a lot harder to keep those relationships together. Luckily with the use of Whatsapp, Facebook and Skype it’s easy to send messages and keep up to date with each other without costing a thing.
On the other hand, it’s not just about the friends you left behind but its the struggles of making new friends abroad. It is hard to build new friend relationships but get stuck in with your usual hobbies and you’ll be sure to find new friends along the way. I also joined a few local expat groups for drinks and making new connections too.
The weather is…. actually the same
I’ve classed this as a struggle of living abroad from Britain, but technically it’s also a joy of living abroad. It is never a surprise when it starts raining thats for sure! From my experience so far the Netherlands and Britain have very similar weather, with it often raining or having sunshine on the same days.
These guys are literary my worst enemy. Striking mostly at night, I seem to have the perfect smell to attract them. Which is great for my partner as they completely ignore him and fly straight to me. The worst is when you wake up because you can hear them buzzing in your ear, you know that annoying sound right?!
Home food comforts
Not all British food can be found in the supermarkets of the Netherlands. We used to have a Marks and Spencers supermarket, where I was likely a top customer. But since the closing I have had to miss out on some British food comforts. Food I miss out on are the things like Yorkshire puddings during roast dinners, cheddar cheese and custard creams. I’ve spoke about this one in detail on my homesick blog that you can find here 13 things to help overcome those homesick feelings.
Proper British TV series
Yep, this qualities as a struggle. I’m a big fan of BBC documentaries, Saturday night comedy programmes and other series that are not always available in the Netherlands. Luckily there can be a few found on youtube and others streamed elsewhere, but it’s not the same.
As a Brit you will know that there is our trusty healthcare NHS – a free healthcare service in the United Kingdom. However in the Netherlands it is mandatory to get health insurance, with some of the basic ones being around €90 euros a month. Luckily I am qualified in getting aid from the government to help these costs based on my salary.
The Joys of Living Abroad
So ending on a much higher note with the joys of living abroad, realising that the struggles are not that bad after all.
Once a fussy eater, I now eat generally rather well. The Netherlands has some delicious food, though not necessary healthy. Favourite foods include pancakes with bacon, kaassoufflés and bitterballen – yum!
Have you tried some Dutch food before? See my full post about Delicious Dutch (or not!) food!
New Language / Dutchies speak English
Before I moved abroad I started private Dutch lessons to prepare myself for living in Rotterdam. Realistically it wasn’t needed to start with as every Dutchie can speak a good level of English. They learn from school, tv series and movies, gaming, music and more. Plus from experience they love speaking English to you if they hear you cannot speak Dutch. Nothing is dubbed over like you find when in France. However for myself, I was determined to learn and joined classes during my first two years of living in the Netherlands.
7 years later I class myself as fluent, but my writing skills I definitely need to improve. I am confident to speak Dutch most of the time, even at home with my Dutchie. I have not needed to complete the government Integration exams since I am from the UK. But for others that it is mandatory, I think it’s pretty doable with a few classes and strong focus.
Grown As An Individual
My 7 years abroad means that I am now in the middle of my 20s, 26 to be exact. The achievements I have made with my life abroad are positive, and I am proud to see where I am today. I know what I like, dislike, want and don’t want. I think I know where I’m heading, with no regrets from where I’ve been. I try not to worry about what the future may bring, what’s the point worrying until something happens right? Live in the present and enjoy every day as it comes.
No Visa Or Problems To Work
Just like not needing to complete the Integration exams, a visa to the country was also not needed. I never thought about it much before, but I literally arrived 7 years ago with one suitcase, moved straight in to the family as Au Pair and started working straight away. With my British passport it’s definitely been a privilege. Only important things I had to sort out in my first week was to be registered at city hall and get a BSN number, receive health insurance and get a bank account.
As for my driving licence, that is also accepted here and 7 years later I still have my British driving license. However I may end up changing this to a Dutch one soon when it is outdated. Luckily again as a Brit, I can just apply for a Dutch one as I meet the requirements unlike others who likely have to retake their theory and practical exams.
Yep you read that correctly! After completing my 1 year contract as an Au Pair, I decided to complete my Bachelor Degree at Hogeschool Rotterdam. Graduating abroad not only saved me thousands of debt in the UK, it allowed me to stay in Rotterdam as a student.
If your interested, see my full graduation post and what it was like to graduate abroad here!
Making A Home For Myself
Finding a home in the Netherlands was rather easy, as I first lived with the family as Au Pair, then moved in with my Dutchie and his mum. You might think that this might of been awkward, but we lived together perfectly as I have the best mother-in-law possible! As a student I was home first most days and would help by picking up groceries, preparing dinners and washing up.
It was harder to find a home when my Dutchie and I moved out to our own place. You can read how hard it was to find a new home to live in Rotterdam here!
Netherlands is very active for cycling
Back in Britain I was active with weekly activities such as swimming, but I became more active in the Netherlands. Since my 3rd year living abroad I have been an active dancing, weight lifting and cycling girl. My love of Les Mills classes at the gym keeps me active a few time a week and in 2017 I bought my first race bike. I love getting out on my bike cycling the flat bike paths of the Netherlands to places like Kinderdijk. Though don’t think of me like those Tour De France guys, I do it for a fitness hobby and not for actually racing!
Whats The Plan After 7 Years Living Abroad?
With the uncertainty of Brexit I am still unsure about getting Dutch citizenship. Realistically being able to have duel citizenship is the best option, allowing me, us or any future kids, to have an option of entering Britain easier. However in the Netherlands as a Brit, duel citizenship is only possible through marriage or registered partnership… so we’ll see!
I have a full time job since graduating abroad in 2017, which is great news! I hope to gain more knowledge and stay at the company as I have a great team and I really enjoy the work. I’d love to work more on my website but feel that I am spending enough of my spare time on it with achieving a new blog post every week!
After the struggles of finding a home in Rotterdam, we are still enjoying the place we were lucky to get. The size for us is still perfect and location even more perfect. Maybe we will move in the near future but we are not in a rush to find anywhere else for now.
My own goals in life are increasing too, such as wanting to cycle 100km in one day (Determined to do this before the end of summer!) and see more of the world with our passion for travelling. I can’t really say where I will be at the 10 year mark of living abroad, but hopefully looking back and seeing so much more from the next three years!
Are you thinking of moving abroad or what it might be like as a Brit in the Netherlands? I hope my struggles and joys help you see what you may encounter!
Pin For Later:
Any questions? let us know in the comments!