Even though I’ve been living in Europe for over 3 years, this is the first time I’ve ever felt like an expat. It is a hodgepodge of complicated feelings, but the one that permeates right now is the constant reminder that I’m an outsider – peering through the looking glass, so close and yet so far from the local culture.
Prior to coming to Amsterdam, I read a lot of articles about how easy it is to make friends and meet new people. What a drastic change from the last country I was living in! I was ecstatic to delve into the Dutch culture. Unfortunately, I hit a couple of road blocks pretty quickly. I asked people to have lunch with me at work and they declined. Since I don’t work in Amsterdam, there isn’t time (or a location) to socialize outside of work. With the exception of people that I knew before, I didn’t even have access to meet other Dutch people in my daily interactions that live in Amsterdam.
This is having an unexpected impact: it made me appreciate my experience in Germany so much more. Not only did I move with a local, but I already had my own network since I was working for a German company three years prior. I was already integrated into the culture and its inner workings, which is unique.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve met some really nice expats recently. But being in Expatland is also extremely isolating and lonely. Even though there’s a shared experience with other expats, it’s not the same and in my opinion, not as much fun as being an integral part of the local culture.
I’m still not really sure how to remedy the situation. The information that is available to me is mostly expat related events. I’ve asked other expats how they met Dutch people and they told me either at school or at work. I’ll definitely keep you posted, but I am determined to visit the Netherlands again and check out of Expatland.
Do you have any suggestions? I’d love to hear them!