Expat Tales: Discovering her Dutch heritage

Jessica loves that other interesting towns, cities and sites are just a short train ride away.
Jessica Zonneveld

Jessica loves that other interesting towns, cities and sites are just a short train ride away.

What inspired your move, and how long have you been there?

I wanted to discover more about my background as my grandparents and ancestors on my father's side were Dutch. I was offered a teaching job and have been living here for nearly four years now.

What do you do there? 

While the Dutch landscape can be beautiful, Jessica misses the mountains and beaches of New Zealand.
Jessica Zonneveld

While the Dutch landscape can be beautiful, Jessica misses the mountains and beaches of New Zealand.

I teach English to children in a school where they already speak at least two or three other European languages. I'm also training to be a professional coach with a New Zealand distance course. 

What are the greatest advantages to living there? 

One is the regulated housing market. If you have permanent employment you can buy a home with little or no deposit. Another advantage is being able to travel easily. Recently, we took a roadtrip with family from New Zealand to the beautiful Champagne region in France. In five hours, we went through three countries. Our Kiwi relatives found that amazing. Most European destinations are only an hour or two's flight away and flights are relatively cheap.

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The cold, dark winters! But, they can be cozy with candles, wine and books!

How expensive is it compared to New Zealand? How much is a beer? 

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Food is slightly cheaper than in New Zealand. For example, 1.5 litres of milk is €1.40 (NZ$2.20), camembert is €1.99 (NZ$3.16) and 20 free-range eggs are €3.15 (NZ$5). Twenty-four bottles of Heineken are €15 (NZ$23.83). A beer in a bar is about €2.50 (NZ$3.97).

What do you do in your spare time? 

Visit other places by train. Den Haag is 10 minutes away, Delft four minutes, Rotterdam 20 minutes and Amsterdam 50 minutes. I also explore cool cafes. My other hobbies are reading, studying and cooking.

What's the local delicacy and would you recommend eating it?

Aside from the plentiful beer and cheese, raw herring with raw chopped onion  – my fiance goes crazy for it. Bitterballen is a deep-fried savoury Dutch treat to eat when you're enjoying a drink with friends, along with old Amsterdam cheese dipped in mustard. 

Easiest way to get around?

We bike almost everywhere. Most cities, towns and villages have been set up so you can bike or walk to your nearest supermarket, doctor and necessities. The public transport is impressive so you don't really need a car .

What's the shopping like?

Great. We have all the big-name brands such as H&M, Zara and Mango as well as smaller boutiques and designer stores. Noordeinde, where the king's working palace is, has some very exclusive shops. My mum bought her wedding dress a couple of years ago from Karen Millen on Noordeinde.

Best after-dark activity?

The Grote Markt has a great vibe for drinking freshly made cocktails from VaVaVoom or one of the many European beers available in the bars surrounding the main square. The Plein has its own square and vibe and attracts more of a professional crowd. Visit the Denneweg for fine dining.

Best time of year to visit?

Spring if you love flowers , and summer if you love free concerts and events. 

What are the top three things you recommend for visitors?

The Binnenhof and the Ridderzaal are very old, still active Parliament buildings. Once a year, on Prinsjesdag (Little Prince's Day), the king and queen ride around the city in a golden carriage before the king reads out the new laws. Also, try the Dutch borrel experience – drinking with friends and family on a sunny city terrace and eating bitterballen, old cheese and fried snacks. Combine this with a trip to Rotterdam, or Delft  and you have another experience altogether! I also recommend Kinderdijk, a World Heritage site full of windmills!

Besides family and friends, what do you miss most about home?

Fresh fish, going to stunning locations like Waiheke Island, simple things like the waves at the beach and the variety of landscape (it's very flat here – both land and sea). Also, beautiful birds like fantails and tuis.

How easy is it for you to get back to New Zealand?

I have been fortunate enough to get back about every two years. On the last trip I brought my fiance, who loved the landscape variety.  

For Kiwis looking to move there, which industries are seeking fresh talent? 

Kiwis could try websites for internationals like togetherabroad.nl. LinkedIn is also very popular. 

If you know an expat who wants to share inside knowledge of their home away from home, email escape@star-times.co.nz with Expat in the subject line.

 - Stuff


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