Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in A...
Expat New Year’s resolutions 201430 December 2013, by Alexandra Gowling
New Year’s resolutions. There is something about a fresh beginning that encourages us to believe we can change.
Unfortunately, the natural state of humans to continue in their well-established behavioural patterns (a.k.a. a rut) is demonstrated by the existence of, the date by which most people have dropped their resolutions.
It’s on January 17, giving you two and half weeks to try your best. There is a theory that it takes three weeks to form a habit. Cleary most people don’t even give themselves that!
Resolutions for expat life in the Netherlands
While it is probable that there are a number of general resolutions we all promise ourselves we will keep, like watching less television, doing more exercise, eating more greens, drinking less alcohol and quitting smoking, there are some that are specific to life as an expat in the Netherlands.
If you’re going to live here for at least one more year, why not challenge yourself a little?
› Learn Dutch
The most obvious is, of course, to learn the language. Even though you can get through most situations in the Netherlands with English (expect the tax office, unfortunately), life is still easier when you understand what everyone around you is saying.
There are many Dutch courses available in language schools in cities across the Netherlands, suitable for all levels and work commitments.
If your Dutch is already pretty good, why not try another language? After all, many Dutch people are trilingual (or quadrilingual!) and there’s no need to let them feel too special.
› Cook Dutch food
It would be a shame to live in a country for a number of years and not have mastered a single native recipe to show for it. (This is assuming you can already cook. If not, learning to should probably be your number one resolution!)
Fortunately, traditional Dutch food is not necessarily complicated, so be brave and give it a go. And yes, it will taste better when you make it yourself - especially the bitterballen!
› See more of the Netherlands
One of the attractions of living somewhere small and close to other countries is the ease of travelling abroad. But what about staying home? There are plenty of interesting parts of the Netherlands to see that don’t require airports or highway restaurants.
Or go right down south to Maastricht, one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. Its celebration of Carnival is one of the biggest in the whole country.
› Explore Dutch art
Or of you like to explore the lives of great painters, there’s always Van Gogh’s house in Zundert in Brabant, Rembrandt’s house in the centre Amsterdam and a mock-up of Mondrian’s studio in Amersfoort.
› Meet more Dutch people
The best way to feel at home in a country is to have friends there, but meeting like-minded people can be tricky.
As every article on resolutions (or dating!) will tell you, the best way to meet people is to join: a club, a running group, a book group or an organisation, anything that interests you. A quick look for groups and clubs online reveals dozens of possible ways to meet new people who share your interests.
Another great way to meet people is by volunteering. It’s very popular here in the Netherlands and there is an enormous variety of volunteer organisations to investigate, from helping people in need, working for the environment or supporting artistic projects with your free labour.
› Learn more about Dutch culture
Confused about the Dutch sense of humour? Feel baffled at their taste in television? Wonder why every saying they have relates either to the weather or boats? Then maybe you might like to read up on it!
Foreign-language bookstores generally have a section guides, both serious and humorous, to Dutch history, culture and society. Especially for when you are feeling baffled and frustrated at life in a foreign country, a good laugh at the natives plus a little more understanding of them can make the experience more enjoyable.
Good luck for 2014
Even if your resolution to limit your intake of Trappist beer in favour of more time at the gym falls flat, hopefully you will be able to find the time to enjoy your expat experience even more next year.
Most expats are expats because they love the adventure and challenge of a new culture - so make the most of your choice in 2014.