Why are you here?

Since moving to the Netherlands this past summer, I’d say this is the #1 question I get from people. This question is not asked in a rude way, because after all, the Dutch are known for their directness. Rather, people seem surprised that we would leave a big country like the U.S for a country smaller than most states.

The Netherlands, shown to scale with the U.S

I could write a book listing our reasons why. Usually, I give the short and sweet answer which is “Better quality of life.” I’m sure I’ll eventually explore some of our more specific reasons in depth here, but I think this answer sums it up best. Many people, both from the U.S and here in the Netherlands, have asked if the move was some sort of political response. You know, a “I’m packing up and moving out of here if so-and-so wins the election” situation. I kind of wish I could say yes it was, because I think that’s a pretty kick ass thing to say and do. The truth is, it’s something we dreamed about doing for a long time, and something we put in motion years ago. Of course, the current U.S political climate did help to reassure us we were making the right decision!

I think a lot of people dream of running off to Europe and starting over. (Or, if you’re European, running off to America perhaps. I can’t tell you how many Dutch people I’ve met that tell me their dream is to live in California!) I think the classic European dream is to run off to Spain, Italy, or France. Somewhere known for its Mediterranean climate, and/or delicious food. The Netherlands is of course, not known for either of these things!

So then, to answer why the Netherlands specifically, I’ll have to go back in time a bit to 2013. I was living in New York City, while a dear friend of mine was attending graduate school in Leiden, Netherlands. She invited me to visit over spring break, and having never been to Europe at all, I was thrilled. I boarded a plane, took a lot of benadryl, and eventually (after my plane turned around half way over the Atlantic, a story for another time), made it to the Netherlands!

Arriving in Holland for my first visit, little did I know I’d be moving there just 5 years later. (Note that my friend greeted me with tulips!)

I spent a very nice week with my friend, exploring all of Leiden, and a bit of Amsterdam. I remember riding a train through the Haarlem train station and commenting “Oh look, it’s like Harlem in New York!” Now that I call Haarlem home, I of course know all about the Harlem/Haarlem connection!

After returning home, lots of big things happened. I finished graduate school, moved to Chicago, and had a baby boy in 2014. At some point in the Joe’s newborn phase, I really started daydreaming of a big European move. I vividly remember sitting down at the computer, while wearing Joe in a baby carrier (the only way he would sleep), and desperately googling “How to move to Europe”. I soon came across information on a pretty obscure agreement between the U.S and the Netherlands called the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty (DAFT). If I hadn’t recently visited my friend in Holland, I might have skimmed right over this information in search of a more common European-move destination. Luckily, the trip I took was still fresh in my mind, and Holland left a great impression on me. I recalled how family-friendly the country was, and imagined myself as a bakfiets mama.

First visit 2013: A stranger asked us to watch her baby while she ran in her house to check her stove was off. Evidence of the laid back, trusting nature of the Dutch.

My husband and I started talking about it, and it eventually evolved into a real thing, complete with hiring an immigration lawyer, applying for a visa, and selling our home/90% of our possessions. I’m sure I’ll write more about the DAFT in the future, but the main thing to know about it is that it’s a visa designed for American freelancers/business owners who would like to move their company to the Netherlands. It was a great option for us, as it allowed Joey to work with new clients in Europe, as well as his established ones in America. If you’re curious about his business, check him out at Make Lovely.

So, that’s the cliff notes of the story. A short outline of how and why we immigrated to the Netherlands. I’d like to explore this topic a lot more here on the blog, as I know reading the experiences of others really helped when we were going through the process. Until then, tot ziens!

Carefree cool girl visiting Holland, 2013
Semi-carefree cool mom living in Holland, 2018

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