In my goal to inspire people, I write these interviews, revealing expats’ personal journey’s.
Arriving in a new country and feeling ‘’at Home’’ is a challenge. So how do you integrate easily?
This month I introduce you to an American girl, Allison.
Interview with Allison
Original country: USA
Expat countries: Uppsala, Sweden
Current country: Haarlem, Netherlands
Who is Allison
I was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and moved to California with my mom when I was 17. My mom believed it was important for me to understand the vastness of the world. After my first trip to Europe (Italy) in the winter of 2007, I knew that it was only the beginning of an international lifestyle for me. I went to University at California State University, Chico, and decided to study in Uppsala, Sweden for my 4th year in International Media and Communication.
Then, I extended my European stay and moved to The Netherlands, and became an Au Pair for 9 months. It was a great experience, learning about bakfiets, boterhammen, and sinterklaas. The biggest challenge was communication with the children since they didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Dutch. I took a course, and with playing charades (communication with hand gestures), we were able to form a communicative relationship.
I returned back to my homeland to finish my BA degree in Chico in Music Industry and Technology. It was really challenging being back, I felt more at home in Europe, surrounded by my European friends than I had ever felt in The States. That was confusing, and exciting since I had felt that I had finally found a place where I fit in and belong.
After my studies, I decided to take a job in San Francisco as a Live Music Event Producer. An incredible experience to work at Noise Pop Industries with bands such as Outcast, Alt-J, Massive Attack, Death Cab for Cutie.
After a year, however, I was really missing my European friends. So I had to make a choice: Stay with my current dream job, my homeland, and American relationships, or turn the page to a new adventure. After heavily weighing out my options, I chose the latter.
Only 1,5 year ago I packed up my car with all my treasured belongings, shipped my auto-pod containing my life, grabbed my suitcase, and hopped on a one-way flight. I waved goodbye to The USA and said hello to The Netherlands.
I had secured a job before hopping on that flight. Unfortunately, after about 3 months at that company, I realized that the function was not suitable for me, so I began searching elsewhere and quit that job as a Contracting Coordinator. It was pretty challenging finding something of interest to me, however after about 5 months, my friend sent me a link to apply for my current position as a Social Selling Coach for the US market.
In the past 4 months I have been working on this project, I have started my own consulting and coaching business, I run the operational angle of Microsoft Social Selling Worldwide program, and function as a freelance Relationship Manager for Microsoft as well. Alongside, I have a fun, side job working at the Frietkamer 31, with my friend and colleague, who is loved by many locals and has the best fries in North Holland! It is a great place for me to, literally do some work with my hands, and communicate with people.
It continues to help me improve my Dutch language skills, since we all know that is something that Dutchies find heel belangrijk
At first, I had a relationship with a Dutchman, I was introduced to the direct Dutch (Haarlem) community. It was challenging when at parties, for example, everyone around me spoke Dutch, or would make jokes about cultural nuances, and I was unable to follow.
In that moment – when the entire room is hysterically laughing and you are silent because you are unaware of what happened – you can feel really alone and insecure.
It has gotten better for me over time because I have learned a lot more Dutch, and more about the culture, but that was my biggest challenge.
Where you find inspiration from?
The little moments. We are all so busy in today’s fast-paced world.. What I find the most inspiration from is those in between moments, moments of commute; cycling or sitting in the train. I notice that I am actually on a bike, passing through small cobblestone streets of Europe, and often times (we all know Dutch weather) appreciating the raindrops on my cheeks. It’s during these moments when listening to the Dutch language all around me, I immerse myself in the culture that surrounds me. I’m doing it – living in this new adventure that I decided to take, and fully embracing it. That’s what gives me inspiration to appreciate the moment and strive to achieve more.
What is your current business?
You can find my NLP coaching (in the works) website: www.mindspatreatments.com
Was it difficult to start your business in a foreign country?
I am 26 years old, so it is an interesting time in my life and career. Since I was starting from a clean slate, professionally, upon my move to The Netherlands, I saw an opportunity to re-evaluate what it is that I am truly passionate about and where I can add the most value to individuals. Coaching and consulting was what I discovered to be the perfect fit for me, and so I searched for people who could help educate me further, and suddenly all the pieces sort of fell into place. Since I am from The States, we have the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty, which makes starting your own business quite simple actually.
How you stay motivated
I hired my own Results Coach and realized it was exactly the path I wanted to go down; I thrive off of people’s growth and development. Continuing to be fueled by others results and growth, and achieving my own professional milestones keeps me motivated.
Useful suggestion for expats
Do something in the community – a normal thing that Dutchies would do (like a job at a local shop).
Plans for the future
Continue growing my network and nurturing my community.
I have began to write my first book, so I plan to make significant progress on that over the next year. Additionally I will expand my coaching and consulting clientele, and possibly expand to public speaking.
Improvement of my Dutch language skills, and getting my Dutch drivers license are a couple other plans for the future!
Did you integrate and adjust smoothly with the locals?
My ex is Dutch, so I was easily integrated into his direct network and family. It took a while for them to fully accept me, which I found to be quite interesting actually. In The States, people instantly accept you, and take you in, calling you a friend. In The Netherlands, the process of developing a friendship takes a few more steps. I noticed that people liked to observe who you are as a person, and see you in different situations before deciding on whether you are ‘friend worthy’. According to my experience, Dutch folk truly value loyalty, and to them friendship is a lifelong commitment. If you have made a Dutch friend, you can count on them as someone who will stand by you through thick and thin. Lucky for me, I have found my way very well into the Dutch community.
Your TIP(s) when moving to a new country
It is really hard to get adjusted to a new environment, community, culture, but in time, it will come easier and you will become fulfilled.
Really invest in learning the language, because this is what is going to help you better understand your surroundings and interact with the community.
Be active! Join local groups or find MeetUps to participate in. The thing that matters most is forming your network of people who you can lean on, and enjoy moments with.
Thank you very much!
As an expat myself, I have been living and working in various countries, speak 6 languages, and experienced many challenges that I learned to turn around into new opportunities.
Workshops in cultural diversity and keynote speaking is what I enjoy doing.
I love to inspire people and help them to become their best selves! Life changes, and so can you!
Latest posts by Rachel Smets (see all)
- Money money money abroad. - September 27, 2018
- How finding your tribe can help you succeed. - September 27, 2018
- Challenges of Expats – Summer Interview with Jessica Stazzone Manazza - July 31, 2018