From Johannesburg to Hilversum: the expat series

This week I feature Lauren Hamilton, who I’ve known through social media and the “mom circuit” for years. We started chatting at the beginning of last year about our plans, and we have shared resources and tips along the way. Lauren and her beautiful family moved to The Netherlands in November, and I’ve been loving following her journey, and seeing her happiness living here and exploring new places.

Here Lauren shares a bit about her life here:

How old are you and where about do you live?

I am 34 years old and I live in Hilversum, North Holland

When did you emigrate and who did you come with? 

We arrived here on our middle son’s 7th birthday, Sunday 15th of November. I came with my husband and my three sons (9, 7 and 3). Oh, and out two miniature French poodles arrived on Monday 16th of November.


What do you do here? 

I am still running my business in SA, which is a social media agency that’s been going for the past 11 years. I have recently opened a branch here in The Netherlands which I hope to start growing very soon.

Why did you choose NL?

For so many reasons! We came over for a visit in Jan 2020 to see if we’d be happy here and my goodness, we didn’t want to leave! Some of our reason: the safety, they have some of the happiest children in the world, the education system is excellent, they have a wonderful work/life balance and the list goes on and on…

Tell us a bit about where you live

We live in the centre of Hilversum. The tree lined, green roads are what first caught my attention when we visited. It’s just a beautiful little town, it also have everything you could need in terms of shops and a mall too. Everything is central and we are only a 20 minute train ride to Amsterdam.

What was the most challenging part of your relocation?

I’d say it was probably everything before the day we actually flew out, all the planning and knowing when to book what etc was really daunting! You think you know how it’s all going to work until it doesn’t and you find yourself having to replan everything! I think for me it was also trying to find a home to rent on the other side of the world, while relying on a makelaar (agent) to tell you if the home is good or not, as well as ordering all your furniture online and hoping and praying it’s good quality and will fit.

What’s it like being in lockdown when you were so new to the country?

I am loving it! It’s given my family and I time to really explore our little town without it being busy and overwhelming. I have loved all being together in a new country. It’s been a lot of fun (hard at times as we are all on top of each other 24/7 but worth it).

What have been your most useful resources here?

Yeah I’d say Facebook groups have been a great help, as well as friends like Tanya who have been able to answer all my (silly) questions and put my mind at ease. We also made use of an excellent relocation specialist who has been invaluable to this whole process.

Describe a typical day here

You really want to hear it? Ok, here goes. We wake up around 7/7:30 and then my little boss (Grayson – my last born) demands that we go downstairs and make some tea for him – and coffee for me of course! Once we have all woken up we get ready and start our day. I usually hop onto my laptop to see what work needs to be sorted out and I usually have a Zoom meeting or two to get through.

My husband studies a bit and the kids go between doing one or two “school” activities and watching their iPads or playing Playstation. We then make sure we go out for a walk or a cycle at least once a day. It’s then dinner time and bath and bed time. Riveting, I know!

Aside from people, what do you miss most about SA?

To be honest I don’t really miss anything at all! Maybe the odd Ottimo pizza and pasta or Kung Fu Kitchen sweet and sour chicken!

What has been the most difficult/challenging thing to adjust to?

Not having a car and having to cycle everywhere, rain or shine!

What do you love most about NL?

I couldn’t possibly choose one thing because I love EVERYTHING about The Netherlands!

What are your new favourite foods?

Fries and mayo, De Pizzabakker pizzas are to die for, fresh fried fish, potatoes, potatoes and more potatoes and the list goes on and on!

What are your favourite Dutch products etc in the shops?

There are so many things, but some household items: Lenor fabric softener is life changing, the Swiffa (if you know, you know), LU biscuits, Joppie Saus Lays crisps.

How would you describe your bike-riding skills?

I’d say fairly good! I am slowly getting the hang of things, although I still need to get the hang of the bakfiets so that once my husband has a job and I need to take the boys to school, I can do so on my own.

What do you love doing on weekends?

Exploring Hilversum and finding somewhere new to go. We have been visiting a few war monuments or we just ride out and look at the pretty houses.

Do you speak Dutch, or are you going to start?

I don’t speak Dutch yet but I really want to learn. Our gemeente (municipality) offers free lessons so I have signed up for those and I am waiting to hear when I can start,

Describe the Dutch in five ways…

Kind, to the point, simple, smart and friendly

What advice would you give to someone wanting to come and live in NL?

Just do it, you won’t regret it and you’ll never want to leave.           


Are you a South African woman and would like to be featured here, along with some of your pics? If so, comment below, or email me here.

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