The two-week emigration update

It’s hard to believe that two weeks ago, we were lugging our eleventy pieces of luggage, meeting the apartment to which we had committed a year (and paid three months of rent), and seeing all the IKEA furniture that had been bought and assembled. In a way it feels like we’ve been here much longer – I’ve had my nails done, set up a new blog (hello!), we’ve learnt how to recycle our plastic bottles at the supermarket, I have a playdate with a mom I met on Facebook after asking where to find a challah for Shabbat, and we’ve even made a call to the municipality to let them know that the paper recycling bins are full and to request someone to come and clear them (you can see recycling is a big thing for us).

My life in South Africa feels distant, maybe because things here are so different – from the season and way of transport to apartment living. But while “that life” feels distant, the longings for the familiar and my dear people feel close. And I guess this is what relocation involves – adjusting, missing, enjoying the good, dealing with the harder things and learning how to live with the new, and without the old.

There are some things that might take a little longer to learn – like which side of the road to look before crossing. I generally look at both to cover all my bases, but a few days ago I was on my bike and only looked to my right side, which was actually the wrong side, and thank Gd I was at a pedestrian/bike crossing as I might have got hit. Thank Gd too that cars seem to stop at these type of crossings too.

Other things might take long to unlearn too – walking around on high alert, with my bag zipped up and slung towards my front. The other night, we went to a restaurant for the first since SA lockdown (woohoo!), and I noticed after a while that I was sitting with my bag on my lap and scrunched between my legs.

Max on the canals

Rebecca in Amstelveen

I am really enjoying doing laundry and cleaning and long may this last. We’re not in a huge space, so cleaning seems manageable so far. Perhaps when school starts and my work demands increase, it might be harder to allocate as much time to cleaning. For now, it’s bringing me great joy.

Other things I’ve been doing:

  • I’ve been looking after house plants: We needed some greenery, so we ordered three house plants and two orchids. My success rate at keeping green things alive is low, but I’m hoping to keep these going. Once the orchids lose their flowers, I intend to regrow them, but no promises here. I ordered some pots from IKEA, two of which arrived broken. I tweeted the IKEA support line (because it’s so much easier than speaking to a human voice) and they will hopefully be sending me new ones. Their initial reply was really sweet, and it took away all my initial irritation.

  • I’ve been trying to stop converting euros to rands as it’s too disheartening. To keep it real though, I paid R120 for my recent stroopwafel, and R600 for a gel manicure. Once I start earning in euros, it might be easier to not do the awful maths in my head.
  • Prepping myself for a new job (I’ll write more about this at a later stage).
  • Trying to not crash into other cyclists – I’ve had two close calls, both my fault.


An interesting story:

I’ve heard from some expats that they haven’t learnt any Dutch because everyone speaks English well, and that if you speak in Dutch, you’ll likely get an answer in English.

I’ve found that Afrikaans is helping me to understand a fair amount of basic written stuff, such as various emails.

I was chatting to the woman doing my manicure, and I told her I wanted to learn Dutch to not only immerse myself properly here, but to show respect for the people and country. She laughed and said it makes no difference what language I speak, and while this is a sample study of one, I wonder if this is a common sentiment, and whether this is one of the reasons why English speakers don’t often study Dutch. It feels like the Dutch don’t guard their language as fiercely as maybe the French do, but I might be wrong.

In any case, I still plan to learn Dutch to understand more written stuff, and to be able to converse, and potentially to understand what my kids are saying in Dutch once they’ve mastered it. We can’t have them plotting things in Dutch, you know. I may just pretend I can’t speak a word, just to catch them out.

Rebecca at her so-far favourite park, Amstelpark

Walking home after going out for supper

My ride home (in the rain)

Max and the greatest stroopwafel we’ve ever tasted, from van Wonderen

Prev post: Week 2 in Amsterdam: thoughts, bike rides and more friesNext post: We’re official residents of The Netherlands – the 3-week emigration update

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  • Cristene van Jaarsveld

    28 July 2020 at 6:59 pm

    Hey - welcome to NL! I loved your blog entry as it resonates so much with what all of us is going through when we […] Read MoreHey - welcome to NL! I loved your blog entry as it resonates so much with what all of us is going through when we first arrive! There is a very nice south african dutch course you can do that highlights the differences between afrikaans and dutch - offered by the South African house in Amsterdam. Might be a good first step for you in learning Dutch! Email your interest to Read Less

  • Bernice Vermaak

    28 July 2020 at 7:01 am

    Wow. Glad your settling in well. Seems lovely there. Cant wait for our turn. Wishing you all the best on this new venture.

  • Andrew Perkin

    27 July 2020 at 9:37 am

    I'm embarrassed to use my pidgin Dutch... the ggrrr sounds just sound so wrong! But as my boss says... the Dutch are the worst to […] Read MoreI'm embarrassed to use my pidgin Dutch... the ggrrr sounds just sound so wrong! But as my boss says... the Dutch are the worst to learn Dutch from, because they just revert to English. I'll keep trying though, for the same reason - respect / acceptance. Yes - earning euros, you do tend to get over the conversion. My first few weeks I spent money earned in ZAR, and a lot of things *seemed* expensive. Like 4 lamb chops (albeit delicious) for €5. Subsequently I've been dropping € here and there, and measured against my € earnings, it's almost negligible. Seems spending a large portion of my ZA salary on non-discretionary things like medical aid, security, school, bond, car finance left very little for casual spending. Here it's the opposite. Read Less

  • Tanya

    27 July 2020 at 9:20 am

    Thanks so much! xx

  • Bailey Schneider (Vanilla Blonde)

    27 July 2020 at 7:53 am

    Congratulations on your new blog! I love it and I love reading your journey! Thank you for sharing it with all of us! Big love

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