This time we have the wonderful Stephanie Ward as our Expat in the Spotlight. Thanks Stephanie for taking the time to answer our Q&A. Stephanie helps businesses grow by using her extensive expertise to make sure they are making the right marketing choices. A seasoned networker, if there is a networking event in Amsterdam she is sure to be there.
1. Where do you live now, and where did you move from?
I live out in the country (Apeldoorn) surrounded by nature. In five minutes on the bicycle, I’m in the Veluwe. I’m originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma and moved to Houston, TX after graduate school at the University of Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner) and then to Dallas, TX and finally to Columbus, OH before I moved to the Netherlands in 1999.
2. Is this the first time you’ve been an expat? If not, where have you lived before? If so, what was the leaving process like?
Yes, first time for me. It was hard in the beginning because I didn’t speak Dutch. But now that’s a distant memory and I feel very at home here.
3. How do you spend your time? Do you work?
I started my own business in 2002, http://www.fireflycoaching.com. I help Small Business Owners create meaningful and prosperous businesses by helping them design a solid business model, develop memorable marketing messages, and find the right marketing strategies that fit for them so they can grow their businesses.
4. What do you miss most from home?
Friends and family, of course. And Tacos. Really all Mexico food in general. I also miss enormous, English language book stores. The ABC Book store in Amsterdam is a fair substitute and it’s in Amsterdam and I live in Apeldoorn.
5. What do you appreciate the most in your adopted country?
I love that everyone uses bicycles as transportation. And since it’s a very flat country that also suits me personally (not a big fan of biking hills).
6. How did you make new friends in your new home?
My first friends came from my partner, Johan and the first job I got in NL. After I began my own business, I started networking offline and online and met a slew of interesting people who became friends.
7. Have you started learning the language? Any tips on the best way to do it?
I speak Dutch (with mistakes), understand Dutch, and read Dutch. I have not attempted to write in Dutch. The best way to learn a new language is to start speaking it as soon as possible. Listening to Dutch radio and TV shows also helps. Look around and find a teacher you connect with, there are many great choices.
8. Do you obviously stand out as being foreign? What’s your experience with this?
I’m actually half German by birth. My Mother’s parents are 100% German and their ancestors came to the US from Bremerhaven in the 1860′s. Add the fact that I’m tall and I have blond hair (thanks to my hairdresser) lends to people assuming that I am Dutch.
9. If you have children, what are your observations on Third Culture Kids?
10. Any tips for beating home sickness?
Visit as much as you can. Skype is an amazing way to stay in touch with loved ones. Writing letters is another way to create connection with people in your home country. And ultimately, home sickness or any kind of stress, is caused by wanting reality to be different than it is. Staying in the present moment, and being grateful for what is, always works.
11. What’s the most common question you are asked about being an expat?
That’s a tough one. I suppose since I’ve lived here so long and most everyone knows I live here, so I don’t actually get many questions about this anymore. I have been asked about differences in weather between the US and NL. Oklahoma is hotter in the summer and colder in the winter than NL and I adore living somewhere that has four seasons so NL suits me well.
12. How does the cost of living compare to where you were before?
Anything that really surprised you as being particularly cheap or expensive? It’s been a long time since I’ve lived in the US. But what I know for sure is that cheese, wine, and flowers are MUCH cheaper here in NL. Just a few of my favorite things.
13. Are you settled here now? Or do you plan to move on one day?
Settled, yes. We never talk about moving and you never know.
14. Would you share something embarrassing that happened to you as an expat (but that makes you smile when you look back)?
Oh yes, many things. One of the funniest ones was when I asked Johan where Buiten Dienst was because I saw a lot of the buses in town had that listed on the front of the bus as their destination. Buiten Dienst in Dutch means ‘Not in Service’ so that was pretty hilarious.
15. And finally, if you could give one piece of advice to someone considering moving to where you live, what would it be?
Learn the language, that is good advice for any country and also for NL. It’s true, the Dutch have one of the highest percentages of English speakers. But, if you want to feel like you’re a part of the community (and want others to see you as part of the community), it makes a big difference to speak the language.
Essential links :
Firefly Business Coaching - www.fireflycoaching.com
Facebook - www.facebook.com/fireflycoaching
All photos by Cristina Stoian - cristinastoian.nl