It's about 5 months into our Grand Adventure and we're definitely feeling more at home. The busy-confused-paperwork stage is mostly over (at least Round 1, let's not be too optimistic) and we've settled into our apartment and a routine. We humans are quite adaptable. While I miss my friends and family (skype is so fantastic!), I love so many things about Amsterdam, that I don't miss Montreal quite as much as I expected.
A few lessons learned that might be helpful to other expats-to-be. Don't expect things you ship to show up in a timely manner. Even though our boxes were only 12 days in transit, all the paperwork and permits and delays meant that it was nearly 4 months before we saw our stuff again. If you want something right away, take it in your luggage. One thing I'm glad was in our luggage (and not our boxes) was our good pillows and the quilt I made. One thing I wish we'd put in our luggage instead of in our boxes was our good kitchen knives. That said, be very careful what you choose to bring since you'll almost certainly make assumptions that you won't even realise you're making.
We shipped some fridge magnets, but don't actually have a magnetic fridge door. At least that was a small mistake. We considered shipping our half-sheet pan and silpat. It's a good thing we didn't since our oven here is teeny... about the size of a microwave. And many of the apartments here apparently don't have ovens at all. Strangely (to us), they all have full-size dishwashers. In Canada, a full-size oven is basically a given, but dishwashers are usually reserved for only the most posh apartments. Another surprise was that furnished apartments are actually the norm for the expat market in Amsterdam and they're cheaper than unfurnished. I'm actually really happy having our own things, but it was a surprise. The up-front cost of renting is also much steeper than in Quebec, where there are no fees or deposits. Here, it's normal to pay an agent fee equivalent to one month's rent, plus 2 months rent as a damage deposit. At least you can expect to get the damage deposit back at the end, but it's still the equivalent of 4 months rent to start!
Overall, despite the stress and paperwork of the beginning, it's a fantastic experience to live somewhere completely new. As my Mom told me throughout our struggles to get everyday life set up, these things are why travel is broadening. And as my husband Damian said, if it was easy, everyone would do it. For everyone who gets the chance, I think you should do it. We've had lots of fun so far and learned a lot. We're both trying to learn Dutch even though almost everyone speaks English and we've definitely taken to the biking culture here. Reflecting on this move has made me ramble on, and I've already edited out 2 other blog posts worth of stuff (which I'll post later). Suffice it to say that moving overseas has given me a lot of experiences to think about.
Photographs by Allison Gryski. © All rights reserved.