Out with the new, in with the old

Last updated 05:00 20/03/2014
Dutch expat

MY HOME: The boulevard in Vlissingen.

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We asked expats to share their views on how their new home country compares to New Zealand.

I guess you could say I am a 'returning child of expats' expat.

I am a New Zealand-born and bred child of Dutch immigrants who, in 2009, moved to the Netherlands to live in (old) Zeeland.

Despite what many people assume when I tell them where I live, it is not Amsterdam.

In fact, most of the things people associate with the Netherlands - public use of drugs, open mindedness, tolerance, over populated cities, prostitutes dancing in windows - are certainly not the things of Zeeland.

Zeeland is farming, shellfish aquaculture and shipping country.

It is also in the Bible belt where in some smaller towns very conservative people are referred to as "black stockings", because the women only ever wear dresses with stockings.

On Sundays you see streams of suited men and women in dresses and hats all walking to church; they are only allowed to drive a small number of kilometres on this day.

However, living in Vlissingen, a tourist city that gets invaded by Germans and Belgians every summer, isn't so bad.

I love biking on the bike paths without a helmet through the farmland studded with WWII bunkers and visiting the many beaches, if it's warm enough and not too windy.

The Dutch are not so easy to get to know but once you do, and they have scheduled in a time to hang out (possibly months in advance), they can be very friendly and fun, although never as laid back or spontaneous as the general Kiwi.

I also love the fact that we are within driving distance of so many different countries and cultures. This makes New Zealand really seem isolated from the rest of the world.

I find working here is pretty great. Unlike in New Zealand, I feel valued financially for my degree and being on a highly skilled visa I also get tax breaks.

Holidays are important here and it is expected that you take your holidays and go on winter holidays, March holidays, spring holidays, summer holidays, Autumn holidays and Christmas holidays. I get 10 weeks off a year!

It is also very common to work part time hours. I have small children yet can maintain my career working three days a week, something New Zealand could really learn from.

The cost of living is pretty expensive though. Everyone has compulsory private health insurance which costs about €100 a month for a basic plan. On top of high rental costs, bills, cars and tax, your monthly salary does take quite a hit.

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The availability, variety and cost of fresh produce is much cheaper here than in New Zealand. Oh and they love their pre-prepared foods - aisles and aisles of pre-cut veges, frozen veges and ready made vege mixes. Not that I complain, it is quite convenient.

I love New Zealand, but I don't think I could move back, mainly because Christchurch has been altered beyond recognition since I left and it no longer feels like home, but also because professionally the opportunities just aren't there for me.

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