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Category Archives: Moving

Holland vs The Netherlands

Hi All,

The blog has emerged from the mothballs briefly to share a video that may be of interest. This video came out a few months ago, so many of you have probably already seen it, but I do still encounter people who don’t know where the Netherlands is, or the difference between the Netherlands and Holland. I’ve also run across people who lump it in with Denmark or Germany, but that’s besides the point. Enjoy, and I hope you learn something! I’ll try to post more again in the near future!

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Echos of Decisions Past

I was thinking the other day about the decisions and events that led me to where I am now.

Back in late 1998, I was in my sophomore year at college. I had never left the US, save for a brief few hours in Tijuana, Mexico. I saw that my school was hosting a meeting for students interested in studying abroad. I went, and learned that in the fall of 1999, they would be sending students to the University of Amsterdam for a semester.

Now, I’d been interested in going to Europe for a while, but Amsterdam? All I knew of it was its party reputation. I wasn’t exactly sure if that’s where I wanted to go, but I signed up anyway. After a few more meetings and discussions, I was set on going. Then, a friend of mine started talking about moving off campus for the following year. I was interested in living with him, but he couldn’t guarantee they would hold me a place if I left for a semester. I’d most likely have to play Roommate Roulette when returning, and get assigned a roommate by the school.

Other factors to consider were: the extra cost of spending a semester abroad, and that it would delay my graduation by a semester, meaning even more money spent. Add in that none of my friends were going (so I’d be alone), and the fact that I had a girlfriend at the time, I reluctantly decided not to go.

I ended up moving in with the friend, which led me to get a job working at Domino’s Pizza. I broke up with the girlfriend, and eventually met my future wife. She was the roommate of one of my Domino’s co-workers. We graduated, bought a house, and got married. Eventually, as you know, we sold the house and moved to Amsterdam.

I sometimes wonder, what would have happened if I had spent the semester studying in Amsterdam? Would I have loved it, or hated it? After coming home, who would I have lived with? Would I ever have met my wife? Would I still have been interested in moving to Europe?

I’m not complaining, it’s just funny to think: by deciding against Amsterdam then, the wheels were set in motion for me to move here later. What decisions am I making now that will have unforeseen results years from now?

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Life in the USA, Moving

 

Not So Lazy Saturday

Most of the boxes are unpacked, and the apartment is finally looking like people live here. Except, of course, that the kitchen was torn out Friday in anticipation of the new one being installed on Tuesday.

One of the biggest reasons we moved was a desire to be closer to things. Since our new apartment is just across the Amstel from De Pijp, we decided to finally take advantage, and took Churchill to Sarphatipark for a walk. One corner of the park is reserved for dogs, and yesterday did not disappoint, as there were at least 7-10 dogs playing happily in the mud. Churchill joined the fray, and made lots of new friends. He also almost pooped on another dogs head. The joys of dog ownership.

On the way home, we stopped for a coffee, and then noticed that some sort of crew competition was taking place on the Amstel river. There is a crew club just up the street from us, so it wasn’t a total surprise to see them out on the river.

Crew on the Amstel

There must have been 20-30 boats out on the river, with people shouting instructions over loudspeakers. It was quite the scene.

We returned home, and I continued the work to finish setting up furniture and unpacking clothes. We finished off the night by dining at Sa Saeda, an Italian “ristorante” just up the street from us. One of the waitresses had waved at Churchill earlier as we walked by, and they were unsurprisingly very friendly as we dined there (sans dog). Later that night, as we took Churchill for his final walk, our waiter was outside unchaining his bike to go home. He recognized us immediately, and asked us if we enjoyed our pizza, then wished us a good night. We walked down a few streets we hadn’t been to yet, and found a few more restaurants to try. It’s nice to have a selection of nearby restaurants, and they will keep us busy until our new kitchen is installed.

Sunday, we’ll hopefully bike down to Gamma (a home-improvement store), and then we’re meeting a few new friends to see Hugo in 3D. This is exactly the sort of weekend I had in mind when I found this apartment.

 
 

1 Year

Exactly 1 year ago today, my parents drove us to the airport and we said our goodbyes, as Roxy, the cat and I boarded our flight, and moved to Amsterdam. Due to the time zones and flying time, our 1 year anniversary of arriving in Amsterdam isn’t until tomorrow, but this is close enough.

In some ways, it doesn’t feel like we’ve lived here for a whole year. That sounds like such a long time. Of course, in that time, we have: spent 2 weeks back in the US, almost a whole week in the UK, 5 days in Rome, 4 days in Budapest, and 3 days in Brussels, plus visited Nijmegen, Den Helder, Maastricht, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and Haarlem, as well as drank beer at a monastery and visited a castle.

I’ve consumed countless Heinekens (it really does taste better here than it does in the US), developed a fondness for Trappist style beers, tried gluhwine, mixed Guinness with hard apple cider, and broken at least 2 glasses at bars.

I’ve pedaled my bike through the snow and the rain, as well as the occasional sunny day. I’ve almost been blown over by the gale-force winds that blow through the island we live on. We’ve BBQ’d in the park, consumed chocolate and waffles in Brussels, and wandered through several red light districts.

We’ve had our favorite Italian restaurant close, but we’ve discovered a place for great hamburgers, and one for authentic Mexican. I’ve strapped a small Christmas tree to the back of my bicycle, and eaten my fill of warm olieballen and stroopwaffles. I’ve also discovered the joy that is pannekoeken.

I feel like we’ve just barely scraped the surface of Amsterdam and Europe. We’re looking into buying a flat here, and plan on spending at least 4-5 more years here. If that time goes as fast as the past year has, we’ll be back in the US before we know it.

 
 

Buy or Rent?

The lease on our apartment will be up in a few months, so we’ve begun talking about what we want to do. Our current apartment is fine, but there are a few things we don’t like about it, so it has been a forgone conclusion that we would be moving out at the end of our lease.

The big question is: what do we do now? At first, I just assumed we would rent another apartment. Easier said than done. Amsterdam is an expensive place for renters, and landlords (and makelaars – the Dutch version of a Realtor) purposely screw over expats who don’t know any better. Ever since moving in, I’ve known we were overpaying for our apartment, and this has been confirmed to me by a few Dutch acquaintances.

What annoys me is that every blog, guide, or ‘how-to’ that I read that purports to offer “the best way to find the cheapest housing in Amsterdam” doesn’t really do so. They’ll all admit that expats generally over-pay, and tell you to try to negotiate. Then, they tell you to check out the same housing websites everyone is already using, where all of the overprices apartments are listed. How do the Dutch find apartments? Oh, they “know somebody.” That’s it. That’s the big secret to finding a cheap apartment like the locals. “Know somebody”. Gee, thanks.

As a result, I’ve been debating going the purchasing route. On one hand, I know that buying is generally the better financial decision than renting, since you will hopefully get at least some return on your money when you go to sell. The Dutch government does offer tax incentives (though they’re reducing them currently). Dutch mortgages work differently over here than they do in the States, so I’m not entirely sure I understand them. Also, to go with a particular bank or go with a mortgage broker? They both get their money somehow, is it better to pay the fee up-front or just bundle it into the mortgage? To go with a broker who specializes in expats, or not?

The other big question: Are we ready to commit to Amsterdam longer term? Right now, our lease is up in 4 months, and we have a contract with T-Mobile for another year and a half. Those are the only things keeping us here. Not that I’m ready to move, mind you. Roxy has a job, but not one she likes. I’ve told her I’m willing to move anywhere in the country if she finds a job that suits her. By purchasing a home here, if she were to find a job somewhere else, she’d be committing to a long train ride every day. This is not uncommon, as it seems like more than half of her co-workers live in other cities and commute by train. I suppose we could look at places in Haarlem or another nearby city where things might be cheaper, but who knows.

There’s no real point to this blog post besides venting a little of my confusion & frustration. I’m happy here in Amsterdam, and I do still pinch myself every now and again, just to make sure I really am living here, and not just dreaming it.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on May 14, 2011 in Life in the Dam, Moving, Uncategorized

 

Churchill: International Dog

Yesterday was the big day, taking Churchill from St. Louis to Amsterdam.  To begin with, in the days prior to departure, we went to PetsMart and PetCo and got him 2 plastic bowls that could be attached to the inside of his cage, as well as a “pet travel kit” that had all the needed stickers for his crate (a ‘Live Animal’ sticker, a sticker with ‘This Side Up’ arrows, one with his name, address, and telephone number, and one with his feeding instructions).  We also made 3 copies of his paperwork (his EU 998 Health Form, his State of Missouri health form, and his rabies vaccination record).  One of these sets of copies we put in a plastic liner and attached it to the top of his cage.

We loaded up the Nissan Rogue we had through Hertz, and began the 5 hour drive from STL to Chicago.  We had fed him a can of food the night before, and left some dry food in his bowl after that, but before my Mom went to bed around 2 or 3am, she removed the dry food.  You’re not supposed to feed dogs for 12 hours prior to departure.  We stopped a few times on the drive and let him do his business, and drink some water, but we arrived at O’Hare right about 3pm for our 5:15pm flight.

First challenge, all the doors to O’Hare said “No Dogs Allowed”.  Hmmm.  I went inside and found a KLM worker and asked her, and she said to just bring him in anyway.  We walked in and assembled his crate while standing in the back of the airport.  I went to check-in, while Roxy stood with him and his crate.  I was directed to the ‘special baggage’ lane, where the attendant had no clue what to do, so I was moved to a different lane.  Roxy brought Churchill and his cage up to meet us, and we got everything checked in.  The new attendant was very happy that we had a copy of the paperwork that she could keep.

After checking in our baggage, we were directed to take Churchill and his crate down to TSA.  They searched his crate and then cleared it.  At that point, we put him in the crate, and the TSA guy said “You can give him food and water now.”  Well, everything we read said you can’t (which made the dishes in the crate all the more confusing), so we hadn’t brought anything.  We figured he’d be okay, and we left him at TSA.  Went back to KLM to tell them he had cleared security, and they radioed somebody to come and pick him up to be loaded onto the plane.

Our flight ended up being an hour shorter than scheduled (only 6 1/2 hours).  When we arrived at Schipol in Amsterdam, it took a while to get off the plane, but once we did, Churchill was sitting at the baggage claim carousel waiting for us (along with a bottle of water someone from KLM had thoughtfully marked ‘For the Dog’).  He had a small accident in his cage, and had rubbed his nose raw trying to open the door, but other than that he was in good shape.  We disassembled his crate, got our bags, and took a taxi back to the apartment.  The cat was in fine health, having knocked over the bag of dog food we had purchased, and ripped it open, so she had a nice snack.  We did some unpacking, and then the four of us took a nice long nap.  Churchill was exhausted, and as I type this, he’s laying at my feet taking another little snooze on the rug.

Today (being Sunday), we’re going to try to find a pet store that is open, and buy him a bed to sleep on.  He’ll get his first real taste of Amsterdam since we’ll probably walk him up to Brazille (where the stores are).  Happy to have him here!

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2010 in Moving, Travel

 

Insurance, and the US

Recently, my wife and I both got our passports stamped at the IND.  My stamp is good for 9 years, whereas her stamp is just good for 6 months.  The IND will “review” her case, and then decide whether or not she can stay here for a f ull year.  That shouldn’t be a problem, it’s just how the process works.  After getting her stamp, she was finally issued her burgerservicenummer (BSN – which is like the Dutch version of the US Social Security Number).  With that, we signed up for insurance, or so we thought.

We got a letter in the post yesterday that basically states this company won’t give us insurance until the IND sends us a letter saying we’re legally allowed to be here.  Stamps don’t count.  Never mind that’s exactly the purpose of the stamp, to prove that we can legally be here.  Roxy can work, but evidently we can’t get insurance, through this company at least.  I don’t have time to fight them right now, since we leave for the USA on Thursday morning!  I’m in a friends wedding back in St. Louis in a few weeks, so we’re using this opportunity to visit both sets of parents, eat and drink some things we miss, and bring back our Dog.

At this point, I’ve called Delta/KLM somewhere around 18 times, and spent several hours on the phone with them.  They keep losing our reservation, or it keeps getting rejected and more info requested.  We’ve given them the dimentions of the dog crate at least 5 times now.  FInally, we got somebody on Delta’s end who worked with a KLM supervisor to get everything straightened away.  Of course, when we called back the next day to verify, they had to do it all over again.  At least now 2 different people have confirmed the reservation, so I’m feeling good.  I won’t feel completely at ease until we’re back here in our apartment in 3 weeks, with Churchill sniffing around and exploring it.