14 January 2010

The First Week in Amsterdam

Portrait of a Winter Bicycle

All through Christmas, as we saw family and friends, they all asked "Are you excited?" with expectant faces. The thing is, after so much uproar of selling our stuff and camping out in our apartment rather uncomfortably and rushing to get appropriate papers signed and stamped, we didn't actually feel that excited anymore. When it was all theoretical and the work of it was in the future, it was very exciting. Being in the process of moving, rather than before it, or finished it, wasn't as fun. All the potential of travel and new places and people and strange things to eat had been rather overwhelmed by paperwork and stress. And it's still feeling that way now that we're here. There's a labyrinthine process in order to get our government numbers, find an apartment, open a bank account and move moola into it from Canada, sign up for health insurance. And then there's all the little things that come so much easier in one's own country, like knowing which laundry detergent to buy and which slot it goes into on the machine.

pretty steps

I'm not really meaning to complain here, but more I wanted to be honest about how it really feels at the start of being an expat. And let me tell you that we've had it easy! Damian's company here has hired an immigration lawyer to do most of the paperwork for visas and file everything appropriately; they also set up our appointment at the (awesome) Expat Center, put us up in a long-stay hotel for the first month, and pointed us to a reputable housing agent. I can't imagine how much more complicated and stressful it is for people relocating without all that support.

giant lamp at the expat center

On Tuesday we got our all-important BSNs (the name for the government-issued number), and we went on a tour of some apartments with the housing agent. We've tentatively found one, but I don't want to jinx it until everything is signed. As we were in Amsterdam (our temporary home is in a suburb called Amstelveen), I hung out for the rest of the afternoon until Damian was finished work. I walked around a bit and took pictures, feeling briefly like a tourist again. We've been told that to see Amsterdam like this, with all the snow and ice, is very unusual. When I got too chilly, I found a café and drank koffie verkeerd (café latte) and read Mansfield Park. It was the first fun moment I really felt like I lived in Europe. So there are moments of excitement starting to peek through the paperwork!

Winter Canal at Sunset

(More of my new pictures of the city will be added to the end of my Amsterdam, Netherlands set, following the ones from our holiday in September and my pictures related to moving are here).

Photographs by Allison Gryski. © All rights reserved.


Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

I can SO relate to what you're going through Allison! Our move to Boston was so laden with paperwork I thought we'd never get settled! And that was all done in English. Doing it all in another language would be exhausting! And we also had the luxury of my husband's employer putting us up in temporary housing and a person who specialized in settling people from different countries in Boston. But there's nothing that can really make paperwork go faster. :) Our experience, after two big moves (to Ontario, and then to Boston), has been that it takes a good six months to start to feel settled and a full year for a place to feel like home and like you really know what you're doing. It will get better. And, as you said, there will more and more wonderful moments when you remember why it was you wanted to do this in the first place! Can't wait to see more pictures of your experiences there!

Blaise said... Best Blogger Tips

I couldn't have said it better. It's shocking how much of the common things you take for granted until they aren't there anymore. Finding the local equivalent of products/stores/services was a bit of a nightmare for us as well and generated a ton of low grade stress that built up and tainted the first few months.

The corrollary to this is when, 6 months down the road, you know enough to guide new expats and tourists.

One of the greatest days for me was when some befuddled tourists asked me where their hotel was relative to Courtnay place and I could, and did, answer :)

I'm also jealous that you guys got a lawyer and expat center available. That would have been very handy here as the canadian embassy was a bit useless.

Null said... Best Blogger Tips

Glad I found another story of the expat live. Though, I live in New York I really love reading about those who find their bearings in a new place. Maybe it's like I get to travel for free.

What is your art?

Allison said... Best Blogger Tips

Being an expat involves a lot more paperwork than you'd think, but getting to experience a new culture from (sort of) the inside should make all the hectic (dis)organization worth it.

I'm a photographer/mixed media artist. I'm planning to pursue those passions more now that I've been transplanted across the Atlantic.

Mark Cote said... Best Blogger Tips

Yup, all the same feelings when I moved there myself. I recall a big relief when I found that the Albert Cuypstraat market sold proper Haas avocados for a decent price. Little victories like that ease the transition.