What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Name three things that you wish you had brought and three you wish you had left at home.
We downsized and generally packed well, but I'd say we should have brought more jeans, running shoes, voetbal cleats. (Items are much more expensive here and there is less selection.)
Left at home? More of the 'stuff' that may fit in American closets (but you really don't use). I continue to weed out clothes that are too big/small/never worn. We find that we like to update our photos/paintings and artwork based on our travels, so we need to downsize some of that. (Tom Frost at Expat Alley wrote a great post about living with less because you outgrow your stuff and have new experiences.) I thought I was being ruthless but I need to be more so as closet/storage space (especially the hanging kind) is at a premium.
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What advice would you give someone preparing to move to your area about the actual move, choosing a neighborhood and finding a home?
Think long and hard about how you would live your life, what kind of life you really want. I chose to transition from working outside the home (US) to working at home (writer), so we wanted an urban, Dutch lifestyle. I actually enjoy wandering up to the shopping street to buy my daily groceries and run errands in the late afternoon. We use public transportation for everything except my picking up the kids from school (20 min. away) 3 days a week when they're in the middle of sports and activities (as they're in high school and have tons of homework). My husband walks to/from work, and we're able to eat meals as a family. My friends who live in the 'expat enclave' near the school 1) have no Dutch friends, 2) don't really speak any Dutch and 3) their husbands are 'ghosts' in their families - never around due to long commutes.
What type of housing do you live in? Is this typical for most expats in your area?
We rent a 'rijtjeshuie' which is basically a 3-story brick 'town house' on a quiet street in a relatively upscale neighborhood, near a popular shopping street that is a great mix of everyday requirements (good grocery store, hardware stores, drug stores, great specialty stores and also fun boutiques and upscale stuff to window shop). It's fairly typical in this part of Den Haag/The Hague, although probably a bit on the bigger side than some.
How did you choose your neighborhood and find your home or apartment?
We were fortunate in that my husband was here 6 months ahead of the family. He used that time wisely visiting neighborhoods and nearby towns to get the 'vibe'. He also spoke with anyone and everyone - where did they live, did they like it, did they wish they lived elsewhere, what did they wish they'd done differently.
Through this we made the tough decision that we wanted an urban, Dutch experience, not 'expat suburbia' as if we were counting the days until we left. Then we honed in on the best neighborhoods within easy walk/commute, and went for best layout on a quiet street near (but not too near) good shopping and public transportation. We used a rental agency but we'd done the tough work.
Are your housing costs higher or lower than they were in your home country? What is the average cost of housing there?
Factoring in space/square footage, probably a little less. Depends on what you came from and where you settle here. It isn't cheap.