January 3, 2008

Getting ready to leave New York - first Portland, then LA, and finally Amsterdam

I purchased one-way flight tickets from New York City to Portland, Oregon and from Oregon to Los Angeles. I leave New York on the 29th of January, and I'm spending five days in Portland before heading to LA to begin my (temporary) new life as someone who works at an accounting office as of February 4.

While in Portland I'll be meeting with the woman I talked to about a potential job in Amsterdam at an editorial company. Getting in with this company would give me the best chance at a legit way of living and working in the Netherlands and would do wonders for my career, so obviously that is my first choice. The company has their main office in Oregon, a very small operation in NYC, and a growing operation in Amsterdam. I already met someone from the NY office and really fell in love with the entire company and filled my head with all types of wishful thinking.

I also started writing out my application for the Binger Filmlab. From what I can learn about this school, it sounds like a dream. If being accepted meant that I got to apply for a student residence permit, the timing would be perfect. It would also be absolutely amazing to spend five months working intensely on my film in a creative and supportive environment.

In the time between Christmas and the New Year, I really went back and forth a million times about taking this next step. Quitting my job here in New York, moving to the west coast for a few months, planning out my living situation in Amsterdam... it definitely all started to seem a little overwhelming. But what I keep coming back to is this very simple fact: if it doesn't work out, I'll do something else, and that will be okay. If the weather or the flat landscape of the Netherlands depresses me too much, or if I really can't find a way to get the proper permits, or if I run out of money, then I will just simply do something else. I mean, it's possible that I might try to make the film and discover I don't really have the dedication that I think I have, though of course I really hope that's not true.

Here's the thing I've learned after having moved around a bit from city to city, and it's a very simple lesson: I need to allow myself a decent amount of time to figure things out. When I lived in Paris, I honestly never really felt like it was my home until I had been there for about a year. It took about that long to figure out my routine, to find my regular spots, and to stop having to ask questions about the culture/language/policies before doing everything. After about a year, I had been to French doctors, done little things like give directions to other Parisians who would end up lost in my neighborhood, and I found a job. When I moved to New York City - a place I've been visiting my entire life - it took about six months before I felt similarly comfortable. I had to learn a lot of things about this culture that I didn't know that I needed to know, if that makes sense. I had to act like a ten-hour work day was something I was totally familiar with, when in fact I had just moved from a country where I worked about six hours a day max. I had to figure out how to survive without any health insurance, it took months to find an apartment, and everything in NYC is done through favors and friends and knowing the right people. The rules are always bent and things are always just a little (or a lot) illegal, from apartment terms to work conditions.

Living in Paris was originally a six-month experiment that ended up stretching on for almost two years. There was so much I figured out as I went along, and it's been the same for NYC. I thought I would move to NYC and stay for a few years, but after about six months here, everything in my personal life changed and it prompted me to come up with another plan. I love this city and I love the people here, but this isn't the life that I want right now. If you had asked me about a year ago, I would have given a totally different answer.

So what I'm going to do is keep trying to learn as much as I can about living in Amsterdam. I'll keep listening to podcasts on Radio Netherlands and trying to teach myself as much as I can from books, message boards, blogs, and expat communities online. I will save as much money as humanly possible in the next several months and keep working on research for my documentary. However, I know that no amount of research is really going to teach me all the things I'm bound to pick up along the way. No matter what happens, I'll keep this blog updated and hope that someone out there is reading, and maybe even learning through the mistakes that I'm bound to make!


Anonymous said...

Hi, it's Jolien again! You've probably already read it, but 'The Undutchables' is quite a good laugh and will teach you a thing or two about the Dutch way of living. And just like you say: you've got to live there for quite some time to really get used to your new home. No worries, you'll be fine.

Yes, the wheather and flatness can be quite depressing, but unlike the States (where you need a car or subway for practically everything) we're a very cosy and outdoor country, so it's lovely to walk alongside the canals in Amsterdam, feed the ducks in the Vondelpark or do your grocery shopping by bike.

Amsterdam is one of the prettiest cities in the world and just the memory of Amsterdam in summer will drag you through the winter :) Keep looking forward to it, it'll be great!

Another American Expat said...

Hi Jolien! Thanks for still reading. :) You know, I've visited Amsterdam four times, and every single time the weather was perfect, the people were helpful and friendly, and I had an amazing time. I know it's not always like that, but it sure has left an amazing impression in my mind.

When I was in Amsterdam last September (in 2006), my favorite part of the trip was just hanging out in Vondelpark by myself. I rode around, read a book, took pictures of cute dogs, etc. No one bothered me or gave me a second look, and I loved that. It was almost impossible in Paris to do anything by myself without comments, stares, or getting hassled in one way or another.

I haven't read "The Undutchables," but I heard them talking about it on Radio Netherlands. I've also grown to really like the podcast "Laura speaks Dutch." it's a nice little language lesson, but there's also some stories and lessons about Dutch culture that have been really interesting.