Booking.com IT Partner’s Networking Event

Booking wall

Since Sean has started working at Booking.com it’s been obvious how much they are there to support the employee; but what we have found out recently is that they really want to help the partner of the IT employee as well. I don’t know all the details about how the departments differ in their support of partners, but I recently went to an IT (Department) Partner’s networking event. To be fair, I think most of Booking.com is IT. But either way, it was a great event!

Networking

They started the afternoon off with a coffee and muffins so we could chat with the others attending. I met a woman who just landed just 4 days earlier! It’s so great that she was able to take advantage of this opportunity to meet others so quickly. Then we had a session on how to network. It was informative and full of good stories. After our break, we went into a session about getting to know yourself better. It was very interactive! I didn’t mind that so much, but I didn’t really understand it. We were asked to describe someone’s traits just by looking at them. Are you confused? I was too. But it did create a lot of smiles and laughter.

Finger foods

The real mingling came after that session. Our partners got to come and join us to meet the other IT partners and mingle with their co-workers! There was food and drinks involved which seems to help any situation. Booking.com had also brought in various organizations and businesses that might be useful, particularly for the new arrivals. Everything from mortgage information to gyms to language classes to hair salons…they had a little bit of everything.

Such a cool experience! A big thanks to Booking.com for really reaching out to the partners so they can meet and mingle as well. I loved meeting new people and even got some email addresses to connect with later. This is just another reason that I am trying to find a position in the company as well. They really take care of their people!

Officially a Resident of the Netherlands

Jess with Dutch Residence Permit

After lots of paperwork and lots of waiting, I have my resident permit for the Netherlands! The immigration office (IND) took exactly 4 months to process some very straight-forward documents. But hey, red tape isn’t known for being quick anywhere. AmIRight?

Now a huge weight is lifted off my shoulders and I can work freely, get health insurance, and not have to use my passport as my identity paper for 5 years! This also means that I don’t have to answer the annoying question at border control of “how long will you be staying in Europe?”. Because my answer will be, “how ever long I please, thank you very much!”. Hahhahahaha. Okay. So that only goes on in my head and would never say that to border control because those people have power that I don’t want to mess with.

So, what is a resident card? It shows that I am a legal resident of the Netherlands with all rights associated with that including rights to the social system (which, of course, I hope to never need). Since I don’t have a Dutch driver’s license yet, it is my identity card which you need for simple things like picking up a package…I like packages 😉 It also means that I am on record in immigration with my photo and fingerprints.

Once I get some papers from the U.S., I can apply for Italian citizenship. Why? Well, partly because it is just easier to do that and not have to mess with residency and but also it would mean that I can go back to school for a masters for next to nothing compared to U.S. prices (though, they complain about the cost here!). I would have dual citizenship, so I would not be giving up my American passport and I have no plans to do that. Long term, it would just be easier, that’s all. How? Because I’m now married to an Italian!

All is good now and there’s no more waiting until I submit my application to the Italian consulate. To recap, I am an American citizen with residency in the Netherlands waiting to apply for dual-citizenship to Italy. Is that clear as mud?

Thank you everyone for supporting our move and this huge life change. Was it hard? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. Do I miss my friends and family? Yes. Am I happy with life? Yes. Any other questions? 🙂

A Day in the Life…

Amsterdam Centraal Station

Amsterdam Centraal Station

This is kind of a “Day in the life of…” type post so I’m publishing it on our personal blog, but I’ll link to A Wanderlust For Life throughout. I’ve touched on some of the hard bits of leaving everything you know to try out a new life and you’ve read why we’ve chosen Amsterdam as our home. It’s now been about 5 months now and normalcy is beginning to set in.

What is normal? Well, what do you do? You budget, you hang with friends, you go to work, you grocery shop and pay the rent. But I truly believe that you can still make awesome things happen as part of your normal life. And sometimes, awesome things you happen to you.

Here’s a look at a particularly interesting day I had recently. I left the apartment around 8:30am to catch the bus to the center since it has rained, sleeted, hailed, and then snowed over night, and I was not about to ride my bike on icy bike paths. Really Amsterdam? Really? I think they need to dig them all up and make them heated!

Anyway, back to the point, I had two minutes until the bus came when I turned the corner and saw the last person boarding the bus. As I walked toward the bus I saw him shut the door, so I waved to see if he’d wait. Normally I would have run, but I was in wedge shoes and it was icy, so again, not happening. Despite the long line of cars behind him, he waited. I entered and “Dankjewel!” (Thanks so much!) and he asked me something in Dutch that I didn’t understand so I said “I’m so sorry, I only speak English right now”. And we had this back and forth with him speaking in Dutch and me in English (I understand a little), but I didn’t understand when he was testing me and said “I love you” in Dutch. I thought he said “How are you?” and I responded with “Goed, Dank u” (Good, thank you), and he laughed and the people behind him laughed, and he explained what he said and the difference between that and “How are you?”. Lesson learned, don’t pretend to understand when you don’t! It was all in good fun, I hadn’t seen a bus driver that enjoy his job as much as this one as he spoke to various people on the way to Centraal. Fun start to the day, yes?

Bucket Buddies works in a co-working space

Bucket Buddies works in a co-working space

At Bucket Buddies, the atmosphere varied quite a bit from completely quiet to chatting about the most random things that had us cracking up. You know when everyone at the table understands something funny that one person doesn’t quite get but it’s not exactly something that you should explain? Yeah, we had one of those. But anyway, it was so nice to just sit as a group and work in silence when needed, but poke fun when needed as well. And after work drinks, which I have never done except after one event in particular, was great. It’s just so cool that you can spend 9-5 together focused on one goal and then turn it off to get to know each other better.

Snow in front of Magna Plaza Shopping Centre

Snow in front of Magna Plaza Shopping Centre

Then it was snowing, HARD. And I had to change into a nice dress for a Yelp event and walk to Dam Square in the large wet snow that was coming down and sticking to the sidewalk. Not so much fun. But the event itself was great! We had a wine tasting mixed with learning about upcoming and exciting things with Yelp and some expectations for the Elites. So excited for this year! I love these events because I meet amazing people and have a great time!

Photo on right from Fanny B.'s Yelp Page

Left a photo from my Snapchat before the event. Right a selfie taken in the middle of the event. Photo on right from Fanny B.’s Yelp Page

After that event I headed to the tram stop around the corner and apparently missed it by one minute. But I got to chat with a nice couple from London about Amsterdam and I think I helped change their opinion of it. Because of the snow covered everything, it wasn’t as easy for the tourists to distinguish bike lanes, car lanes, and sidewalks. And they felt like the city was dead and wondered where all the people were! I explained as much as I could about the center, the tourists, the bikes, etc. It was just nice to chat about Amsterdam. Then on my transfer to another tram (which apparently skipped a run) I got talking to an older local lady and a man about the weather, trams, etc. I was quite chatty apparently! But it just goes to show that the Dutch aren’t closed off people who don’t want to talk to anyone. Just be friendly!

I think I’m missing a couple bits, but just wanted to share all of that. I was out of the apartment from 8:30am-11:30pm and worked, had happy hour then worked an event/enjoyed the event. All the while, I had great conversations throughout the day with new friends, and random people. So, yeah, life is life and we have to deal with money, relationships, jobs, and all the rest, but you can really take the time to enjoy the life you have!

Shameless plug: Since I’m now working at Bucket Buddies, visit Bucket-Buddies.com, check out the blog and follow them on Facebook or Twitter! We are about connect people with similar goals and achieving by connecting!

The World of Grocery Shopping in Amsterdam

Albert Heijn

Not sure why I have been putting off writing about the grocery store. But now that it’s part of our (almost) everyday life, I guess it’s time! Our closest grocery store is a large chain called Albert Heijn. They are everywhere, including train stations.

You have to keep in mind that we have smaller fridges than what is normal in the United States, so you can’t keep a whole lot of food, or leftovers. We have one leftover container which has worked for now. I’m not even sure milk comes in a gallon size, but we always got half-gallons at Friendly City Food Co-op in Harrisonburg anyway. So, now we by 1 ___ every 4 days I think.

milk

Milk, cold juice, and yogurt area

 

So, like Martin’s or Food Lion, we have a bonus card. It took us a while to figure out that all you had to do was ask for one at the customer service desk. There aren’t as many bonus deals that I’m used to, but it does help (until you forget it’s in your pocket and don’t use it…oops). The other way I find deals are the 35% off deals. These are items that have a sell-by date that is usually the next day or two. But really, when you shop every 2-3 days anyway, it’s no big deal.

They have carts, but most people use the baskets (some have wheels!), or the kid-size carts when their kids are with them. Really, you don’t usually need much more than would fill a basket. We usually buy a pizza of some kind, milk, eggs, bread, cereal, cheese, salads, meats, and whatever else we’d need to make dinner and lunch for a couple days.

shopping basket

There is not a large frozen section and what is in there isn’t much variety. You’ll have pizza, some frozen snacks, a couple varieties of veggies, and breaded fish. Of course there’s another section for desserts. The only thing I’ve paid attention to is ice cream. They have these great one-serving tubs of deliciousness. There are big ones too, but it helps us not to eat much and we only get them every once in a while anyway.

Another easy and cheap meal is pasta and sauce! You can get fresh pasta or dried and there are jarred sauces to choose from or sauces made in the store. We mix it up and sometimes get jarred tomato-based sauce with curly dried pasta and sometimes we get store-made pesto with fresh tortellini filled with cheese. Lots of options and combinations.

pasta

Fresh pasta and sauces

A couple fun notes, and things I haven’t figured out yet

There is an orange juice maker from oranges that you see. Haven’t tried it yet since I don’t know how to work it.

There’s a scanner device you can use to scan as you shop then pay at a machine when you leave. But you need the type of debit card they use here. I also don’t know how to use this yet either, but I hope to soon!

Eggs are not refrigerated. Not everywhere needs to refrigerate eggs. Though, I will admit that they go in the fridge when we get home.

Eggs on the shelf

Eggs on the shelf

Milk and other items like that are behind that heavy plastic sheets instead of a door. Honestly, it’s probably more energy efficient that way.

Bread is baked on premises constantly and you could walk home with warm bread.

There are toiletries and some household items in the store, like deodorant (they don’t seem to use a lot of solid deodorant here, but opt for sprays) and toilet paper.

toiletries

Wine is probably the item with the largest selection.

We love many of the pre-seasoned/almost pre-made items including ground beef and chicken.

I can’t find breadcrumbs, so I bought bread sticks and used the food processor-type machine to make crumbs.

{So sorry about the quality of photos! I was trying to be discreet with my phone in the store}

Not sure if this answers questions. If not, leave the questions below and I will get back to you!

Bowling and Friend-making

Our Bowling Group

Our Bowling Group

Before we moved over to Amsterdam I knew that making friends would probably be one of the hardest things to do. As a friend back home who is just starting her life outside of college told me, in school and work you basically have automatic friends…at least you are exposed to people and are made to interact. So, what happens when you go somewhere without a job or school lined up? A lot of depending on your partner and not a lot of talking to other people.

I want to make it clear, I am not saying the Dutch are not friendly. They, like most of us, just have no reason to strike up a conversation randomly on a tram or in a restaurant. While sitting in a chinese take-away restaurant with a menu written in Dutch in front of me, I asked for help from the woman next to me. I asked if she spoke English (even though this is a given, I do not like to make assumptions), she said yes, and I asked if she could help me figure out what to get. I am catching onto the language a bit, and found what I wanted, but couldn’t figure out what was chicken, pork, etc. So, she described things to me and then made a recommendation, so I just went with that. We chatted a bit and then her order was ready and she left. But she was incredibly nice and helpful. I didn’t necessarily make a friend, but I had a conversation with someone and that made my day.Balls

There are a couple meet up websites that I browsed through and found a couple meet up groups on meetup.com. There is also Eat to Meet and Saucially (based around food). And since Sean’s a big user of Reddit, we found out there’s a Reddit group in Amsterdam that meet up once a month. We saw that one of the meet up groups was going bowling and there were two spots left. We thought this was a cool way to get to know people since bowling is fun and you are on teams. It ended up being incredibly easy for us to get to since it’s right next to the bus stop on the bus line that runs by us.

Bowling!

We were the first people there along with another American. None of us had been there or been to any meet up before, so we just hung out until other people found us. It was so much fun! We met people from around the world and some locals who just liked to get out and have some fun. I think there were 5 teams of 4-5 people each and that gave us plenty of time to chat and get to know each other with the basic questions. What brought you to Amsterdam? What area do you live in? Have you gone to meet ups before? Where do you work? It was awesome, and not just because I bowled 3 strikes.

Another Bowling Group...Great People!

Another Bowling Group…Great People!

We made new friends from our team and other teams. Sean got close with the other American and an Italian and I became friends with those guys and an girl from Indonesia. There were so many great people including a couple local ladies and local guy on our team, but there was only so much time. We really look forward to next month’s game, but are going to hang out with our new friends before then. I just love that there are groups specifically to make new friends and I’m glad we took advantage of them!

Bacchus Wijnfestival

Wine Festival US

Can you read the title? It says “Bacchus Wine Festival!” I knew you could read it!

During my first full day in Amsterdam, we headed to Amstelveen (just south of Amsterdam) by tram and then walked and walked and walked. Only later did we learn that we could have taken a bus from the tram stop to the entrance to the park, oh well! It took about 35 minutes to walk there and the festival was waaaay in the back of the park. Easy trail to follow, though, with lots of walkers and cyclists.

The festival had different kinds of seating/standing areas and each wine store was labels with the greenish signs.

The festival had different kinds of seating/standing areas and each wine store was labeled with the greenish signs.

Tokens

Tokens

This really is a festival for the locals, no signage in English at all. And that’s completely fine with us! We just had to figure out how to go about participating. We knew the website said they would only take coins, so Sean had been saving up Euro coins. Turns out, it was a bit of a mis-translation. We think a better term is tokens. You pay for your tokens with cash and then you buy everything from your rented wine glass, to wine tastings/full glasses/bottles, to food with tokens. Once we figured that out (thanks to a super-friendly lady in the token booth) we were good to go.

winefest2

Typically at the festivals we went to in Virginia, the booths were run by the wineries, but these are run by shops. You had a little bit of everything, from the folks that spoke English all the time because there were folks from all over the world working and the only common language was English, to those that were definitely Dutch and then one booth even had an Aussie representing her brand from the shop. This woman literally flies around the world doing wine festivals. Everyone was pretty friendly. Some even wanted to help figure out what wine you would like. We were some of the first people there, so they weren’t burned out yet…I would assume they would get that way eventually. You could get a tasting, a full glass, or buy a bottle of the wine. We got cards from each of the booths we really liked. When we explained we were moving to Amsterdam they said we needed to find our wine store, and they wanted to be it!

Food truck...one of a dozen or so.

Food truck…one of a dozen or so.

Another cool aspect were the food trucks! They would pair the trucks with the types of wines…French, Spanish, Italian, South American, etc. It was a really great set-up and it’s their first year. Our last stop of the festival was a french bakery that has macarons. Oh my goodness. They were amazing. We had a 1/2 token left and asked the guy at the bakery if there was anything they had for a 1/2 token, and although they didn’t, he gave Sean a bonbon anyway for it.

Amazing Macarons from Patisserie Tout -Photo from their Facebook page since we were too busy scarfing these babies down.

Such a great experience and I really hope we get to go next year!

DJ  was doing his thing from a tractor...with real vinyl records. You cant get cooler than that!

DJ was doing his thing from a tractor…with real vinyl records. You cant get cooler than that!

*Cross-posted on www.awanderlustforlife.com.

Icelandic Layover

Sunrise in Iceland

Sunrise in Iceland

There’s a lot to write about but it’s been a while since any post, so I thought I’d share my photos from Iceland. I arrived at 6:30am Icelandic time (2:30am EST) and got my tea and ate a snack to feel like it was a normal time in the morning for me. Then, I got my bus ticket for the Blue Lagoon and waited in the downstairs area. Here are some photos from the airport to and from the Blue Lagoon.

20140904_055524

20140904_055202

20140904_054715

It was surprisingly warm so the water wasn’t that big of a shock. What was a shock, was the amount of people already in the water! I didn’t stay in too long, but then lounged in the resting area overlooking the water. After getting dressed again, I went up to the observation deck to get a few photos too.

20140904_082604

20140904_082543

20140904_081624

20140904_081452

Always a nice visit to Iceland. I hope we can go visit for longer next time!

Settling in

DSC_4495

Lots of people have asked lately how I’m settling in since the move to Amsterdam. It’s been a week now, so I feel like I should be getting the hang of things here.  But is that actually happening yet? It’s a complicated question, really. Amsterdam certainly doesn’t feel like “home” yet. Jessica isn’t here yet, I don’t have a full-time job, I don’t have a Dutch bank account or cell phone, and we don’t have more permanent housing lined up.  Aside from all of that stuff, though, I really do like it here, and I already think we made the right decision. Once I have the job thing sorted out (several interviews this week, looking good so far), and Jessica is here, I feel like it will be smooth sailing. That is when the real settling in will happen.

So, with that in mind, I wanted to share some things I’ve noticed in the first week:

DSC_4065

– The people here seem mostly happy. I see a lot more people smiling here than I feel like I do in a lot of other cities that I’ve been, especially American cities. People in cars wait for you to cross the street.  Tram drivers greet you as you enter.  There definitely is a culture of tolerance in Amsterdam, and I think that tolerance goes a long way towards helping people feel accepted, which certainly increases overall happiness.

DSC_4493

 

 

– It is seriously beautiful here. Old buildings, canals, tulips, slanty canal homes, step gables, quaint cafes, hidden gardens and courtyards . . There is something picturesque around literally every corner.

– I’ve notice that I feel short here. I’ve never felt short before. At first, I thought maybe it was just due to feeling a little bit like an outsider or being a little timid in a new place. But the feeling persisted for the whole week. So, i decided to do a bit of research. At 5′ 11″ I am a few inches above average for men in the good ol’ US of A. However, the average height for men in the Netherlands is about 5′ 11″, and for women it’s 5′ 6″!

DSC_4515– Amsterdam really is ALIVE. I can’t communicate this enough. People are out doing stuff. Day, Night, wet, dry, it doesn’t matter. Anywhere you go, something is going on. People are walking or biking or sitting at a cafe. Tourists are looking at maps and taking in the usual sights. Various markets are always going on.  Street performers are doing their thing.  I really enjoy just picking a spot, sitting on a bench, and watching the world go by for an hour or so. There is so much going on all the time.

 

 

– It is really super diverse here. Now, I know that part of the reason it seems diverse is because Amsterdam is a major tourist destination, so people of all nationalities are around. Even still, it’s pretty awesome. I have heard so many languages spoken in the past week, I can’t even count them. The other day, I was at a tapas bar, run and staffed by Spaniards, speaking Spanish. At the table next to me were two German men. Just behind me, people were speaking Dutch. A few tables down, there were some Brits. I hear French, Italian, and Japanese being spoken all the time.

DSC_4453– The city center is really, really old, really really small, and really really densely populated (something like 8 sq.km and 85,000 people). There is so much history here. The oldest still-standing home in Amsterdam ( Begijnhof 34, which I actually saw today) dates from 1425. Fourteen Twenty-Five. It’s almost 600 years old, and people still live there! I can’t imagine what history the collective occupants of that address saw during the last 600 years. FYI, The oldest building, period, in Amsterdam, is the Oude Kerk (Old Church), in the heart of the Red Light District, which dates from about 1250 (making it  750+ years old).

– Real public transportation is awesome. This is something that I realized from Day 1 the first time I came to Amsterdam a few years ago. Trains, trams, buses, Metro. It’s all easily accessible, gets you just about everywhere, and is not super expensive. If you come to Amsterdam, It is likely you will arrive at Amsterdam Centraal Station. Once you exit the building, cross the street (beware trams and bikes!), head into the GVB building, and pick yourself up a 7 day transit pass. For 32 Euros, you get 168 hours of all-you-can-ride on any GVB run transit. It’s a bargain.

– Before I moved here, I spent a combined 4 weeks or so in Amsterdam, throughout a good cross-secition the year. The weather was great. Warm in the summer, cold but manageable in the winter. I don’t think it rained three days in those four weeks. What I have learned in the last week is that It really does rain A LOT here. I mean, a lot. I got here on Sunday, and today is the following Sunday. It rained EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. On and off, drizzle and downpour. I also learned this week that biking in traffic in the pouring rain is not the least bit fun.

So, that about wraps up my first week in Amsterdam!

Emotions

I am crying a lot. I cried four times at the JMU Picnic when someone said something encouraging or just said we’ll miss you. Does this mean I don’t want to go? No! Does this mean I will miss these people, all my family and friends, and this place? Yes! It also means that I will miss my husband while he’s gone.

But it’s not just that. This is an extremely stressful time. It’s not like we’re just taking a couple suitcases, have a year-long apartment set up, and friends waiting for us. We have bags, boxes, a bike, and guitars to deal with, will be in temporary housing with the hopes of finding and being awarded a longer term apartment, and lots of paperwork to fill out and turn in. Though it is all possible to get through, it is stressful. There is still so much to get done, a ton of questions to ask, and a hope that people will work with us. I mean, we certainly aren’t the only ones that have ever done this!

This post is not to make you feel sorry for us! We are excited. It’s just to let you know that while I may be crying, and may seem a little out of it, I truly appreciate all the support. We just have to work hard and believe in ourselves, because if we don’t, we’ll never move forward and we’ll never end up where we’ll want to be.

“Leaving what feels secure behind and following the beckoning of our hearts doesn’t always end as we expect or hope. We may even fail. But here’s the payoff: it can also be amazing and wonderful and immensely satisfying.”

― Steve Goodier