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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Utrecht, Netherlands

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?


Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

No - The general "culture" in the Netherlands is not that different to NZ.

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

I now speak basic Nederlands. Before moving I did a class in introductory Dutch - after moving I realised how poor the class was. I spent 6 months doing part time classes - after the first term I was able to make very basic conversation. By the time I finished the classes I was able to understand Dutch quite well and can read the newspaper and also did not rely on the BBC TV channel only. I am now able to watch Dutch TV and can even understand the Dutch subtitles in English TV.

I have a Job in a company where the official "taal"is English - but I thoroughly recommend that you learn Dutch so that you are able to understand your work associates!

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?


How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

At first - only the language. I have also been very lucky with very friendly neighbours - I have heard stories from other people [from my Dutch Class] that it is very hard to make friends with your neighbours when you are not Dutch.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

Yes - the honeymoon phase is when nothing bothers you as you are new! But then irritation creeps in when you actually have do basics things that are so easy on your home land. Connecting the phone , bank accounts, connecting internet, Gemente interviews [if you are inburgering]. Rejection of the culture is more frustration mainly because of the language barrier. Even though English is the 2nd language here and most people can speak English, you will find that a lot of people dismiss you and If you say you cannot speak Dutch they just continue speaking Dutch LOUDER....

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

Homesickness - definitely. However I have family here - my husband is Dutch and my Dutch family are great!

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

For the first time in 20 years I am riding a cycle !...and using public transport.

I love how everyone skates when there is ice - I purchased my first pair of ice skates during our first winter.

Appreciation of the sun....I really took that for granted. Nederlanders worship the sun.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Visa, Inburgering, Language.... Fitting in - unfortunately you are always a foreigner - no matter how long you live here

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

The only embarrassing things for me are language blunders.....

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Try to learn the language - a little goes a long way..

get a bike...enjoy the fiets pads and safety of cycling in Holland

Be yourself!

Try not to keep comparing Holland to where you come from...lets face it there are things in your homeland that annoy you to!

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