We have a new Amsterdam Expat in the Spotlight. This time Jon Woodroof takes time out to answers our questions and the answers are a very interesting insight into expat life in the Netherlands. Family man and biking fanatic, if you love cycling too check out Jon’s website and links to other social media accounts in the article and at the end of this blog.
Here we go….roll cams ! :
1. Where do you live now, and where did you move from?
I live on Haarlemmerdijk in the Jordaan. Before that my family lived near Surinameplein but before that both my wife and I lived in Atlanta, Georgia for 10 years. We’ve been in Amsterdam nearly three years.
Photo by Jason Perry jasonperryphoto.com
2. What do you miss most from home?
Easy: country roads & Mexican food. I’m a big time cyclist and feel claustrophobic in the bike lanes sometimes. Rolling, curving open country lanes outside of Atlanta are so nice. And you just can’t find places like El Myr or Nuevo Laredo in Amsterdam.
3. How did you make new friends in your new home?
Cycling. My work is split between sales and PR projects and the common thread is bikes. Either I ride with clients or people that know potential clients. I even lead a weekly 6:30am ride on Fridays aimed at connecting people: instagram.com/rollcallams/
Photo by Alexander Rhind: http://www.alexanderrhind.com/
4. What do you appreciate the most in your adopted country?
I could say the infrastructure for cycling but perhaps even more that that the pragmatism that leads to so much opportunity here. I feel like The Netherlands has an open mindedness to new ideas that enables lots of development. This permeates everywhere from business between small companies & ZZP’ers to enterprise multinationals and government policies. Right next to that is the blunt feedback that is so common. New ideas + great feedback = the best ideas win.
5. What is your favourite restaurant here? Favourite expat bar?
6. Have you started learning the language? Any tips on the best way to do it?
Yes. My Dutch is pretty damn good! #1 tip is always listen. I think expats zone out the Dutch and miss out on on adding words to their repertoire daily. If you constantly listen to the language around you, you can take an overwhelming task of learning Dutch into empowering progress as you understand more every day.
7. Favourite place in the world?
Oh wow. Pretty tough question. Part of the benefit of living in Amsterdam has meant that travel by way Schiphol has been quite easy and frequent. Picking a favourite place is very hard. If I ask myself where I could see myself spending the most time for the rest of my life, maybe that’d be near Nice, France. A typical day would be getting an espresso at Café du Cycliste & heading up any of the many local climbs.
Photo by Paul Carver http://www.paulcalver.cc/ for Vulpine.cc
8. How often do you go back to your hometown?
Annually. I grew up in Oklahoma but went to high school south of Atlanta in Griffin. My father & sister still live there.
9. Do you obviously stand out as being foreign? What’s your experience with this?
I like this question. Ironically, my wife’s friends first thought I was foreign in America! ; ) Often I pass for a local and people admire my English to which I reply: because I’m American! My experience with this is that I avoid conversations with tourists by speaking Dutch to my kids at a playground instead of English. I’m into into assimilation but like to keep keep my own style. Pretty sure most locals see me and know I’m an expat.
10. What were the biggest challenges you faced when you moved?
Growing my network. I hit the ground running doing sales and meeting as many people as possible. I even attended events done completely in Dutch just to make more connections. Beyond that telling the different Grachten apart was hard at first!
11. And the nicest surprises?
After losing two jobs here, the nicest surprise was how it easy it is to set up your own company and win new business. Now with a team of 5, my company is doing great headquartered here in Amsterdam. I don’t believe it would have been that straightforward in other cities. This relates to the answer to #4 too. Bonus nice surprise: Amsterdam is amazing for kids too! My 4 & 6 year old children love living here too.
12. Any tips for beating home sickness?
As a former exchange student in Germany and perhaps the last generation to know daily life before social media: beat homesickness by living where you live. Get off the computer and into the city. Amsterdam and The Netherlands beyond offers so much. Embrace your time here by thinking about the possibilities at your doorstep and not what you’re missing out on across the ocean.
Illustration by Matthew Burton
13. How do you occupy your time? Do you have a job?
I work. Maybe too much by Dutch standards? I use rescuetime.com to track that ; )
14. How do you spend your free time (in your adopted place)?
A mixture of getting out on the bike with my friends and spending time with my family in the city. Recent highlights were Urban Sports Week & Rollende Keukens : ) I like capturing the adventures with photos and sharing them on instagram: @twotoneams & @JonWoodroof
15. Is this it for you? Or is there a new destination?
Oof! So hard to say. I think I’m more in love with Amsterdam and Holland than my wife and often ask here where else she’d like to live. For me, I’d be happen to remain here for many, many years to come. You just can’t get this kind of gezelligheid elsewhere can you?
16. And finally, if you could give one piece of advice to someone considering moving to where you live, what would it be?
I do this a lot. Share advice with potential expats, that is. It spans tips from getting intros in advance to specific paperwork to file but above all: practice riding your bike before arriving ; )
Recap of Jon’s links :
Website : http://twotoneams.nl
Instagram : http://instagram.com/jonwoodroof/