Settling into Amsterdam: Answers to your frequent questions

Every week (I promise I’m not exaggerating) I get messages on social media and via email from people wanting to know about the emigration process and how things are here now. I’ve covered more about the emigration process in previous posts, but I thought I’d use a post to write about the things that people typically want to know.
1. How are your kids doing at school?

They are doing so well, and I salute their resilience every day. Max went straight into Dutch school, and has Dutch lessons every day while the kids are learning other subjects. Hopefully he’ll be able to join the other kids in less than a year, but the school will take his cue and see how he’s progressing.

There are some kids who speak English in his class, and he’s getting by. He was last at school in March, which makes this change even bigger. He hasn’t complained, he walks happily to school each day, and generally gets on with things. He’s a fairly confident child who doesn’t overthink things or internalises things – he just takes things in big leaps.

He has started cricket at a club nearby one evening a week, and cycles home confidently. The other night he wanted some butter to cook with. We had none, so he walked to the nearby shop to get some. I think the independence is incredible for him, and perhaps this has contributed to him feeling good at school.
Rebecca also hadn’t been to school since March, and has also settled in brilliantly. In the last month, she’s been in two classes – moving from kindergarten to the big school this week on her 4th birthday. We were worried about the transition especially after being in the kindergarten for such a short time, but like her brother, just gets on with things. We’ve had about three weepy mornings in the last month, and seems to settle shortly after arrival. The teachers will explain things to her in English where necessary, otherwise it’s Dutch all the time.

Max taking Rebecca to school on her first day of her new class

Aren’t you worried about the winter?
Not really. The weather rarely drops below 0 degrees. We were here in Winter for a few days, and honestly I’m colder in Joburg in winter than I am in Europe (I’ve been to the US, Italy, France and the UK in winter). It’s cold outside, but it’s possible to wear T-shirts indoors, depending on how high your heat is cranked up. Restaurants and shops are warm, so you don’t have to sit indoors with your coat and layers.
I remember before we left practically sitting on the heater to keep warm, and going to sleep in layers and my thick gown to keep warm. That’s not the case here, and I’m actually looking forward to cosying up, and seeing the beautiful lights.
Winter also brings a lot  of gezellig, a word that doesn’t really have an English equivalent, but can best be described as cosy. While it means cosy and and enjoyable, it also connotes time spent together.  So for example, a boat ride on the canals is gezellig. In winter, it could mean nights with family eating soup, seeing the Amsterdam Light Festival, skating (um, I doubt I’ll be able to do this owing to lack of balancing skills), and visiting the Christmas markets and drinking mulled wine.

How are you getting around without a car?

Very easily – by bike, walking and an excellent transport system.

We order bigger groceries online, and if there are places we want to go that make sense to go to in a car, or if we want to travel more once things are easier with Covid, we’ll likely rent a car. If it’s raining and I don’t feel like riding a bike or walking, I’ll get an Uber. We are close to stations (metro, bus and tram), and I can see into the school playground from my bedroom window, so at the moment we’re not needing a car. If we one day move further away from the city, and public transport isn’t that accessible, we’ll reconsider. We simply don’t have a car at the moment because we don’t need it, seriously.

How are you managing with the cleaning?

It’s funny, because on Sunday nights, I’ll leave something out, figuring that someone will be around to clean on the Monday, but then I realise that no one is coming, and I’m in fact the cleaner!

We are open to getting someone in to help, but there hasn’t really been a need. We live in a fairly small apartment (130 sq metres) and have no pets, so cleaning up is fairly easy. I do bits every day, and it’s like a non issue. I do a load of laundry every day, and clean things as I go. It does involve a bit of juggling as I’m working full day, but it’s all manageable so far.

People think that this is the hardest adjustment when one leaves South Africa, but we haven’t found this yet, and I’m not hating the cleaning. If it gets too much, we’ll get some help (at a scary average of around 20 Euros per hour!)

Any other questions? Fire away.

Prev post: The expat series: from Johannesburg to DelftNext post: The expat series: from South Africa to Veghel

Related posts


  • Bernice Vermaak

    September 18, 2020 at 10:21 am

    Sounds awesome. Love reading your posts.

Leave a Reply