November 13, 2008

This is a post about bloggers, driving, whisky, and travel

Things have been busier than usual lately with the usual life/work/friends kind of things, but there's a few random things I wanted to share with the internet.

Meeting real-life bloggers:

This past Sunday I was standing on line at Batavia with a bunch of other foreigners who had all signed up for Dutch classes being administered by the lovely folks at Couch Surfing. We were all introducing ourselves and starting the usual get-to-know-each-other conversations. When I introduced myself to one of the two non-Italian people standing around me, his response was "Tamara? Do you... have a blog?"

Turns out that Mr Glen and I were signing up for the same Dutch classes! He's another new-to-Amsterdam blogger and all around nice guy. It took me a few minutes to get over the small-worldness of the situation, but what a cool way to meet someone. I mean, "cool" if you um, think bloggers are cool. Anyway, I really like the way Glen writes about Amsterdam, so check out his blog and then maybe one day you'll meet both of us at some random cafe.

Getting a drivers license in Holland:

I know how to drive (and yes, I can drive a stick shift) and have a valid US drivers license, but I haven't needed to drive since arriving in Europe. A few days ago, I got a really cool offer to do a ride share to Italy in December, which I thought sounded way more fun than flying. Only deal is, I would have to share some of the driving responsibilities, which makes sense. Turns out there's this law that says Americans who move to Holland can obtain a Dutch drivers license without having to take any lessons, if they do it within the first 6 months of their arrival IF and only if they're employed and subject to the 30% ruling. So while I am employed and have a contract and a legal residence and all that, I am not eligible for the 30% ruling, and for some reason THAT is the reason I can't get the Dutch license the easy way. As the nice woman who works in the HR department put it "so basically you're screwed." Well, it's not really that big of a deal. If I desperately need to get a license here one day, I'll take the classes and do it the "hard" way. But for now, it doesn't really matter all that much, it just means I can't (legally) help drive a car to Italy.


Yes, a topic that deserves its own paragraph. Tomorrow night I'm going to Leiden for the International Whisky Festival and I am psyched. The admission fee of €40 includes unlimited tastings from 19.00 - 23.00, during which I plan to taste everything I can while still being able to stand upright. There's two major reasons I'm exited about this - #1, I'm going with someone who really, really enjoys whisky, possibly even more than I do, and who knows way more about it than me - so I'll get to learn a lot. #2, an event like this would cost ten zillion dollars if it was in New York City. Or at least $150. Or $500. I don't know, really, but there's no way on earth I could do something like this in New York for 40 bucks, so that's all the more reason to take advantage (and visit Leiden for the first time).


For as much as I love Amsterdam, I have been feeling a little claustrophobic lately and anxious to get out and be somewhere different. I'm going to do my best to visit Antwerp next weekend and Paris sometime in early December if I can find a rideshare or an amazing deal on tickets, but I also keep reminding myself that I'm very close to having all my debts paid off (lingering moving costs) and that having a zero balance on my credit card - especially these days, as the interest rate is skyrocketing - is worth postponing a trip to Paris. I also have to remind myself that I have a 16 days off in late Dec/early Jan, and I'll be spending the entire time traveling around Italy, hopefully entirely debt-free. I've started looking for Italian lessons in Amsterdam to add to the list of things I do besides go to work - climbing, Dutch classes, movies once or twice a week, and just the basic fun stuff with friends and hosting guests.

Anyway, since I've decided to stay in Amsterdam this weekend, I'm going to try and take care of the most important ingredient needed for the next big event: ordering a turkey for Thanksgiving.


dbf said...

Actually I don't see why you can't help drive to Italy. You just may want to "pretend" to be a tourist using your passport and US license if anything happens. I used my US license to rent cars in the Netherlands before I took the plunge and got the NL license. Just study up on traffic rules as they're completely different and often infuriating

Another American Expat said...

I've thought about that, but it's hard to pretend when I have this full-color, full page stamp in my passport with my visa to live in the Netherlands (if someone investigated). Honestly, I tend not to worry about the rules of the situation when it's just me, but I wouldn't want to make anyone else (ie: the owner of the car) feel uncomfortable. I could just play dumb and say "oh, I thought a US license was good enough to use in Europe," but again, if it made the owner feel wary I wouldn't want to put her in that position.

Anonymous said...

On an *entirely* different subject - Man with White Van - was indeed excellent. Moved all my stuff in two hours from storage to home (I say home, I mean the eyre at the top of the spire where I live) and he made an amazingly difficult task as easy as it possibly could be, which is to say we're both now knackered :-)

Anonymous said...

One other thing - I don't drive, so I can't vouch for this, but a South African colleague has been looking into getting his local license; he holds an SA license. Turns out he can't - but apparently if you want to do it the hard way, you're looking at 1,500 euros (!)

Another American Expat said...

the white van man is indeed the best mover in the history of movers. he could easily charge 10 times the price in NYC and still be considered a bargain!

fuck paying 1500 Euros, if that's the case for me - a license certainly isn't that important! thanks for the tip though.

lagatta à montréal said...

For the life of me, I don't understand why expats from the US (who are young and childless) would want to order a turkey to celebrate a US holiday when elsewhere.

Not a criticism - I really don't understand. Get a nice big roasting chicken instead - much nicer.

(and no, I don't celebrate Québec holidays abroad).

Another American Expat said...

Just for fun... and I like turkey. Is that a good enough explanation? :) all the holiday is to me is a big dinner party, and hosting dinner parties is something I do quite often anyway. the Thanksgivings I've celebrated with friends abroad before have always been fun, but it really doesn't matter what we eat (I believe in France we just had chicken), it's just always generally nice to fill the room with friends and eat.

But there are plenty of Americans who hate the holiday and are quite happy not to celebrate it if given the opportunity - for me personally, it's always been one of my favorites. No religion, no presents, just food!

Mr. Glenn said...

Hey, i must admit i've only just seen this post... thank-you very much for the kind words and the link :)

How was the class last night? Goedzo? x