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Crossing Borders ‘Expat Stories from the Netherlands’ ft. Michael Arriesga

December 11th, 2023

Get ready to dive into the fascinating world of expat life in the Netherlands. In our blog series "Crossing Borders," we're sharing short personal tales straight from the hearts of those who've embarked on this incredible journey. From cultural quirks to conquerable challenges, delightful discoveries to career twists – it's all here.

In this edition of ‘Crossing Borders', we are sharing the story of Michael Arriesga, who recently relocated from the Poland to the Netherlands.

Could you please share some words about who you are and what enthused you to move to our country?
Hi, I’m Michael! I’m originally from the Philippines and I recently moved from Poland to the Netherlands in November 2023. While I was living and traveling Europe for over a year, I always had warm encounters with Dutch and immigrants living in the Netherlands and was fascinated by their experiences, lifestyle and culture. I visited the Netherlands months before I moved just to feel the environment and later found myself taking a job opportunity with a US company based in Rotterdam who helped me transfer to the Netherlands.

What were your first thoughts when you touched down in the land of tulips and windmills? Any amusing culture shock moments?
I moved alone, with no immediate family in Europe and no close friends in Rotterdam but the smiles, simple greetings and kindness of strangers made me feel I am welcomed and not alienated. I’m fascinated by how warm people are with immigrants and how multicultural the Netherlands is.

We've heard about Dutch cycling culture. Did you embrace it right away, or did you have a "wobbly" start?
I definitely embraced it! After my first week of moving and observing first the cyclists in the streets, understanding the traffic rules and the cycling culture, I quickly borrowed a bike from my hotel and explored the city. I just recently moved to my apartment and one of the first things on my list is to buy my own bike!

Tell us about a funny 'slip of the tongue’ you had while trying to navigate the Dutch language or customs.
I always unconsciously say “Ha?” (“What?” in my dialect) when people speak Dutch fast but they always switch immediately to English when they realize I didn't understand and always end the conversation with a smile. I still want to learn Dutch though but so far in my experience, language is no barrier.

What's something about the Netherlands that brings an instant smile to your face? It could be a local tradition, a picturesque spot, or even a quirky habit!
Warm smiles and greetings from strangers I meet on elevators, hallways, offices and public spaces. The cyclists and people in the streets even if it rains. And my love for stroopwafels!