From Italy to The Netherlands - Expat Interview With Ute

Published: 27 Nov at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Netherlands
Ute Limacher-Riebold is an expat-since-birth. She's a German citizen, grew up in Italy, studied and worked in Switzerland, went to Italy (Florence) for work and came to the Netherlands in 2005 with her husband and son. Her twindaughters were born in Delft. She worked as researcher, teaching assistant and lecturer at the University of Zurich and is now freelance translater, language teacher and writer. In her blog Expat Since Birth (see listing here) she writes about being expat, parenting, twins and multilingualism.

Expat Since Birth

Here's the interview with Ute...


Where are you originally from?
I'm originally from Germany, but I've never lived there. I grew up in Varese, Italy.

In which country and city are you living now?
Rijswijk, a small town close to The Hague in the Netherlands.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
We've been here for 7 years and will probably stay forever.

Why did you move and what do you do?
We moved because my husband found a job at the European Patent Office here. Before we came to the Netherlands, we were living in Florence, Italy, for 3.5 years. I used to work there on my research about a medieval Florentine poet. Before that, I lived in Zurich, Switzerland for 16 years. I studied Romanistics and got my PhD in Medieval French Literature and worked at the University of Zurich in the Departement of Romance Studies. - Now I'm a freelance writer, translater and language teacher.

Expats Since BirthDid you bring family with you?
Yes, my husband and my son (he was 2.5 years old when we arrived in the Netherlands).

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I'm an expat-since-birth, so it's nothing unusual for me. I like the challenge to live in an other country. I sent my son to daycare in order to learn dutch and get to know locals. We both did learn the language pretty fast and as for the rest, I consider it like a great adventure.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
It wasn't difficult to make locals as well as international friends. I'm well integrated into the dutch community. I joined several clubs during these years and got in touch with locals and other expats. I also did volunteer work in a Dutch Research Institute for a while. I consider it very important to know the language of the country you live in and its culture, of course, as we will probably stay here for a long time. Our friends are very international: German, French, Italian, English, Greek, Taiwanese, Australian, Nigerian, Lebanese etc I think that if you're going to stay in a country for a long time, you need to be a good role model for your children and try your best to integrate. The children will spend their childhood in this country and they probably will consider it to be their home country. I'm totally aware that my kids are TCK (Third Cultural Kids) and I want them to feel at home in this culture too.

Expats Since BirthWhat are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Well, it depends on what you're interested in.
If you're interested in culture, you can visit musea in Rijswijk, The Hague (Mauritshuis, Gemeentemuseum, Meermanno, Kinderboekenmuseum, Museon, Fotomuseum, Escher in het Paleis, Beelden an Zee, Gevangenenpoort, Letterkundig Museum, Haag Historisch Museum etc.), Leiden (Botanical Garden, Naturalis, Museum Volkenkunde, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden etc.) and of course Amsterdam and Rotterdam etc. A Museumkaart (www.museumkaart.nl) enables you to have free or reduced access to about 400 musea in the Netherlands and even in some places in Germany.
In The Hague you can visit Madurodam (http://www.madurodam.nl/en/).
You can visit the Zoo: Diergaarde Blijdorp in Rotterdam or Sealife in Scheveningen.
If you visit the Netherlands in May-June, the Keukenhof is a must. The Haagse Markt is an incredible market! You can find fresh fish, spices, nuts, grains, and loads of items from Asia and Middle East.
Expats Since BirthFor children there are plenty of in- and outdoor playgrounds, but the best "playground" is the beach. The coast is beautiful. You can have long walks and bikerides in the Dunes.
Also the Veluwe (in Gelderland) is worth a visit!
You can find precious informations about what to do with kids here: http://www.tips4kidsgids.nl/ and here: http://www.jmouders.nl/kidsgids.htm

What do you enjoy most about living here?
I like that you can go everywhere by bike. Public Transport is great (Openbaar Vervoer: http://www.ovreisinfo.nl/). With your OVchipkaart (http://www.ov-chipkaart.nl/) you can travel with tram, bus, train etc..
Dutch people are happy people, they enjoy their lives and value the life outside of their career. Their mentality is very refreshing.
I think the Netherlands are a great country to raise children. Children are always welcome in Restaurants and public places in general. And most of the Musea are very child-friendly.

Expats Since BirthHow does the cost of living compare to home?
I think it’s comparable to the rest of the EU. Groceries and household items are much cheaper than in Switzerland, but comparable to Italy and Germany. Eating out is not cheap. But you can find a huge range of good Restaurants: French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Thaiwanese etc. Fresh flowers are beautiful: they last for weeks and are quite cheap!

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
It's not easy to find a good plumber and handyman in general. Sometimes they make you wait for weeks and you really have to accept their "koffietijden" when they work for you.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Get a bike and learn the language. There's nothing better to be taken seriously!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The hardest aspect is that I couldn't pursue my carreer. I've spent the first two years looking for a job at one of the Universities in Zuidholland, but unfortunately this didn't work out. But I learned to "reinvent" myself and am happy now.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn the language, especially if you plan to stay longer. And insist with people in your local stores to talk dutch to you, read everything you can.
  2. Get a bicycle! It's the best and most common way to get around. If you have small children, you can get or rent a "bakfiets" (http://bakfiets.nl/). Dutch people are incredibly inventive about what to transport on their fiets!
  3. Join classes to meet new people.
  4. Explore the country whenever you can. The Netherlands are 300km per 200km: you can easily make daytrips in the weekends!
  5. Forget umbrellas: what you really need is good rain gear! Usually rain comes with wind and umbrellas need to be stormproofed.


Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog expatsincebirth is an outlet to talk about the topics I'm interested in, like multilingualism, parenting, twins etc. I publish a few articles per week about what it means to be an expat (or TCK). I'm a mom of two twin girls, and I write articles about twins in general and about raising multilingual twins. I used to work at a Linguistic Departement in Zurich and studied bilingualism. I am multilingual myself and I blog about what it means to raise multilingual children in a multicultural context. I also discuss about parenting styles and issues related to this topic.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I would be glad to talk to future or current expats! I will answer any comments on the blog or respond to emails: ute(dot)limacher(at)gmail(dot)com

Ute blogs at http://expatsincebirth.com/ which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Expat Since Birth has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Ute, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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Comments » There is 1 comment

Kathy Voyles wrote 2 years ago:

Excellent and positive article Ute, very inspirational and so true about joining things, trying to learn the language and getting out and about! Thanks very much, Kathy

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