It’s been a few years since I moved as a lovepat to the Netherlands, and, boy, it’s been an emotional roller coaster.
Even more so when you move for love and not because you were offered a shiny new job, as is often the case for most expats living in the Netherlands.
It’s been a very steep learning curve and uphill struggle — wait, who am I kidding? I don’t feel I’ve even made it halfway up the Dutch hill yet! Culture shock is far too real.
There are quite a few things I’ve learned about Dutch life and Dutch people since moving here, but, for now, I’m going to share five things I took for granted when making the move to the Netherlands for love.
1. Being a lovepat would be the same as being an expat
The Dutch have a word for those of us who move not for work, but for love: a lovepat.
My partner had lived in the Netherlands for a whole year before I joined him. He at least had some work colleagues to see every day, even if those relationships hadn’t cemented into friendships yet.
For me, I wanted to go out and meet people, but that meant travelling into Amsterdam as the majority of meetups took place there. Which was an 80 minute round trip via train every week.
I went and did make a few connections, but none of them lasted. Perhaps because they felt travelling the 80 minute round trip to mine every once in a while was too much, or they simply found it easier to connect with lovepats that lived locally.
My saving grace was finding a church to attend. I connected with people there. Although, 10 months in, I still struggled to follow the sermons as they were all in Dutch.
2. Finding work would be easy
The first thing I wanted to do was find a job. Having taught English as a second language, I figured it’d be an easy transition from one country to another. But every country and culture is different, and English is widely spoken in the Netherlands already.
I had an advantage being out in the sticks, but the general consensus was, “why speak English? We live in the Netherlands, you should speak Dutch.” It’s a fair point.
READ MORE | Why are the Dutch so good at speaking English?
When I moved to Italy as an expat I threw myself into my new job, work colleagues, and language classes. Being a lovepat, on the other hand, often means no work at the beginning leading to a very slow monotonous day.
So, I decided to reinvent myself. I’ve thrown myself into my writing, which was a passion I let fall by the wayside for a while, and now I can work remotely from home, the library, or even a little coffee shop somewhere. It means I can explore the Netherlands in the day, which combats some of the loneliness that is part and parcel of moving as a lovepat.
3. Learning the language would be a piece of cake
Dutch is by no means an easy language to learn. Picking up Italian, some Polish, and learning enough Slovak to speak to my mother-in-law didn’t make me a language expert.
If you were someone who took German at school, then you might just about get by and make a connection between the two languages. I took French, and Latin languages did not help me here.
It is a case of persevering and taking it one day at a time. It really does help if you are able to make some Dutch friends, as they will speak to you in Dutch until you at least understand some of what they are saying to you.
That’s if you can make Dutch friends…which brings me to my next point.
4. Making friends would come with the territory
I’m a British-born Caribbean woman. Brits are notoriously polite (some would even say overly polite).
READ MORE | A Guide to making Dutch Friends
Also, it’s true that Dutch people really don’t appear to need more friends. It is often very difficult to break into Dutch circles, as the Dutch simply don’t feel like they need to invest in more friendships. Especially because the likelihood that an expat friend will move on in a few years is high.
But if you are living in a smaller town, like myself and my partner, making Dutch friends is a must as the expat community becomes little to nonexistent.
5. The Netherlands may never be your home (and that’s okay)
It doesn’t matter how many places we move to; England will always be my home. I grew up there, my family are still there, and my friendships are there.
I knew I’d see less of my friends and family when making a permanent move, but I guess I figured a one-hour plane journey would be easy to do more frequently. I’ve managed to see my mum just three times this year, only one friend has made the journey to visit.
I have to realise that just because I moved doesn’t mean I could press the stopwatch on life in England. Life goes on. My friends have their lives to get on with, and my family get busy and forgets to call me once in a while.
Christmas is strange, as they’re the smallest Christmases I’ve ever had, and there wasn’t any traditional Boxing Day madness with the whole family. So I’m set on making new traditions with just me, my partner, and our new dog.
Yes, moving for love and being a lovepat in the Netherlands is hard. Many sacrifices must be made, and you take for granted all the things you’ll miss and how much harder it is to make friendships as an adult.
But, on the plus side, I never thought I’d embrace the cold, wet and windy weather and still be smiling whilst pedalling full speed on the fietspad (bicycle path). I’m embracing new adventures and taking the ups with the downs.
Are you a lovepat in the Netherlands? What did you take for granted when moving to the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally written in 2018, and was fully updated in December 2022 for your reading pleasure.