Top 10 Reasons Being An Expat Off The Beaten Path In The Netherlands Is Best

By: Farrah Ritter

My family of 5 recently became expats in The Netherlands at the end of 2012. We have a 4 year old boy and 2 year old twin boys in tow. When faced with our living options, we could choose from any number of larger cities surrounding Tilburg (the location of my husband's job). True to our lives as doing the unpredictable- we chose a path in a smaller village on the outskirts rather than seek the shelter and community of a bigger city with a larger expat presence.

Farrah and her boys at the Kerkhovense windmill in Oisterwijk.
Farrah and her boys at the Kerkhovense windmill in Oisterwijk.

Why? Sometimes because I think we're crazy.. other times I think we just have the most astounding luck imaginable.

Oisterwijk boasts about 25,000 inhabitants- which also includes the area surrounding Moergestel and the community of Heukelom. With that many people- you might think that we weren't the only Americans living here, but in essence that's exactly what we feel like and I mean that in the best way possible.

10 Reasons Choosing to Expat off the beaten path in the Netherlands is a great idea.

  1. You will be seen as unique and people will want to know who you are. You might be the first in the flesh Americans that your neighbors have met- outside of cable television. What a wonderful world we live in to show them that Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo are not true representations of Americans in general!

  2. The Dutch love to practice their English language skills, and having a real family to practice upon nearby offer endless hours of conversation (and your own popularity). In addition, your own language skills will surprise you- though be warned that the dialect from a smaller village may not be useful anywhere else.

  3. Your children will thrive in a neighborhood school and immerse themselves in the Dutch language where there is no mini van carline- only a mass of people standing around in an unorganized and chaotic (yet personable) manner. Here you have the opportunity to mix and mingle with people of all sorts shared over your mutual predisposition to having children. Unlike the states- it seems that equally men as well as women get child pick up and drop off duty.

    Doors in Oisterwijk
    Doors in Oisterwijk

  4. You can experience the European way of life a the local health spa, al naturale- while having a conversation with your butcher or child's teacher and not feel weird. In all seriousness, this is true. I saw my 4 year old's teacher in her robe (thankfully) walking across the spa. Shed your inhibitions and your clothes. Experience the freedom of becoming one with your community!

  5. You can indulge on the most fabulous food fare imaginable and never gain a pound considering it's safer (and easier) to ride your bike everywhere you go. Oisterwijk offers some fabulous choices for restaurants which is unexpected and delightful. In a smaller village you have a better chance of tasting food more in tune with the community. In addition- there isn't a fast-food topia around for miles. Your health will thank you.

  6. You can impress your friends back home with your new found language skills just by pronouncing 'Oisterwijk' correctly. Every region might have its own dialect- but that shouldn't deter you from learning the language. The same grocery store clerk that checks you out every time knows you're learning and she will do her best to help you along. True story- as that's the case with me.

  7. In a smaller village you have the opportunity to gain insight and appreciation for the area around you-including the customs and holidays. You can personalize it and make it home. You can become a regular and a familiar face. Nothing says 'home' like everyone knowing your name at your neighborhood pub.

    Carnaval 2013 in Oisterwijk
    Carnaval 2013 in Oisterwijk

  8. You can actually live in one of the 'unique must sees' that the travel books talk about. It's not just a pit stop. It's a way of life you can learn from and appreciate. Sometimes taking a small bite allows you to relish the morsel just a little bit more than wolfing down the whole thing. Make sense?

    Biking In Oisterwijk- Living Like A Local
    Biking In Oisterwijk- Living Like A Local

  9. You will amaze yourself with your own resourcefulness and ability to adapt. One day you'll be surprised to see that an entire year has passed you by and you've made a completely new life for yourself. Be proud. You can do anything.

  10. You will hopefully become an ambassador for your new village and able to tell people what it's 'really like' living in Europe. Anyone can live in Paris, Amsterdam or Dubai. It takes someone special to jump into a place unfamiliar with expats. Go you!


About the author

Expat Blog ListingFarrah Ritter is an American expat living in Netherlands. Blog description: Twins + One and Everything Else... I have 2 year old twins and a 4 year old. We just packed up and moved overseas to try our hand at living in Europe. Parenting/humor/Europe travel included.
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Contest Comments » There are 2 comments

DannyZ wrote 11 years ago:

Perfect 10! I can absolutely relate to each one of your observations since we're living in a similar sized town off the beaten path. Totally agree anyone can be an expat in the big cities, but it takes courage, patience, and sometimes a whole lot of beer to adjust to life in a smaller town. Your whole list is great but the two that made my laugh the hardest were #5 & 7. I always go to the same check out girl at the Albert Heijn. I think she gets a kick out of the way I try to pronounce "dank uuuuuu vel" and I love how she pronounces in perfect clear and focused English, "Have a nice day." The spa one was great too. I checked out ours a few weeks ago thinking they'd have a swimsuit area, NOPE, it was like I was in Germany all over again. But I was past the point of no return, so there was no turning back. Not sure if my butcher was there though, I didn't strike up too many conversations. Great stuff! Good luck!

Colleen Lanin wrote 11 years ago:

It sounds like your "crazy" family absolutely made the right decision on where to live in the Netherlands! I love the idea of riding bicycles everywhere...and love the idea of eating whatever I want even more!

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