Köln Kerstmarkten

So a couple of months ago, I told everyone that I would be discussing places in the Netherlands, and then right away, feature a place like Cologne (Koln) that is not within it. Sometimes I’ll deviate from the script, I guess. Since it is December, I thought it might be fun to feature Christmas events, and it would be inexcusable to not include a German Christmas market. Every other event discussed this month will be in the Netherlands. Also, we bought a very used car this summer, and were itching for a road trip – Cologne is about two and a half hours away, I had some time off for Thanksgiving, and we figured, why not?

Cologne has eight Kerstmarkten (Christmas Markets) and we made it to five. Each market has its own theme and serves its own gluwein – a spiced and warm red wine served in its own mug. Gluwein is an acquired taste, and I acquired it more than Manon. The markets were crowded, but we were able to scout them out on Thanksgiving – which was by far the least crowded day, since it was drizzling and a work day for most folks.

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Where we were – Leeuwarden

Netherlands Friesland 1

Leeuwarden is Manon’s hometown, and we lived there for the first half of 2013. That year was an exciting time for Leeuwarden since it was chosen as the European Capital of Culture for 2018; its beloved voetbal (soccer) team moved up to the Eredivisie, and DJs took over the town around Christmas for a fundraising event called Special Request. Since we moved from Austin, TX, a town that receives accolades daily for everything from BBQ to the job market, Leeuwarden really had its work cut out for it. Thankfully, it was up to the task.Continue reading “Where we were – Leeuwarden”

A little help

A couple of people have contacted me; both of whom are Americans in the US that would like to move overseas and are exploring their options. I completely understand why someone would seek advice before making the decision to move here like we did. And while I went though the Dutch American Friendship Treaty process, I still feel like have a lot to learn about running a business here. Like I’m the one that should be seeking advice, not dispensing it right now. This is not to say I want to shirk any responsibility – I’m actually happy to help, and it shows that there is a need for information. So whatever I find I’ll pass along.

Today, we attended Expatica’s i am not a tourist event in Amsterdam, which was enjoyable and informative. Top takeaways:Continue reading “A little help”


Inburgeren basically means assimilation, and for me, it’s not just a goal, it’s now a requirement. When we initially came over, I applied to stay by invoking the Dutch American Friendship Treaty – a visa that allows me to live and work in the country for two years. But a lot has happened since that time – Manon and I were married this year (!), and I am able to remain in the country for five years. My end of the bargain requires that I learn the language and be able to answer basic questions about history, etc. within three years. And frankly, if I haven’t made more attempts to assimilate by that time, I probably should be shipped out on the next boat back to the US. I can’t think that my quality of life would be really good if I haven’t managed to adapt better to where we’re living by then. Right now, I call myself Rapunzel, as I work from home from my third floor home office, so I’ll need to put some effort into my inburgeren.

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DAFT Update

In March 2013, I came here with a business plan, financial documents, and not much else in hopes that I would be able to invoke the Dutch American Friendship Treaty and start a sole-proprietorship in the Netherlands. My visa was granted a couple of weeks ago (until May 2015!) – and while I am still waiting on paperwork to finalize it, I wanted to describe the process for anyone else looking to do the same, or anyone else who knows me and is wondering what the heck I’m up to lately.

Biggest mistake: I paid twice for my financial statements to be reviewed – they just need to be reviewed by a Dutch accounting firm.

I’m glad: I hired a lawyer. I’m sure that there are other people who have successfully navigated this process on their own but I think it would have been very hard for me to do this on my own. That said, if anything I say here helps you do this on your own, right on. Also, I’m glad that I went through this process with someone who was a native Dutch speaker – my understanding of Dutch is LIMITED, so it was incredibly helpful to be able to rely on Manon for help.

I found that this was a very linear process, and each step had a certain amount of logic to it. Here’s the process I went through, step by step:Continue reading “DAFT Update”

It’s getting better


(Front page of a newspaper in Leeuwarden in March 2013. The article was just existing quotes from celebrities such as Justin Timberlake, Madonna and Betty White in support of gay marriage.)

When I wrote this yesterday, I was a little excited. I realize now that the rulings are a mixed blessing; they didn’t change much for our friends in Texas, for example.  That said, it’s a victory – hopefully there are more to come. (Update: two years later, on June 26, 2015: the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage nationwide.)

At the beginning of the year, Manon and I attended a Sex Symposium at Southwestern in Georgetown, TX (a Symposium with benefits). Dan Savage was one of the speakers, and he was asked if he thought DOMA would be struck down. He said no – partly because he was crushed by the Bowers verdict when he was younger, but also because (I’m paraphrasing) “I’m a Catholic, and we fear for the worst”. I thought it was strange, because I attribute that trait to Midwesterners, not Catholics. As a Midwesterner, I have always feared the worst, because if that doesn’t happen, I’m relieved/elated. It’s a conservative, pragmatic and exhausting way to be. However, I suck at this strategy when something’s very important to me. (Importance > stiff upper lip?) I’ve been waiting for this day like it’s Christmas, and I have been hopeful. Today, I wasn’t disappointed. Today, like Andrew Sullivan said, “is a transformative day”, and it’s a wonderful, happy and absolutely incredible day.Continue reading “It’s getting better”

Ik ben trots op y’all


Yesterday made a hero of Wendy Davis (and rightfully so), but I wanted to give some props to the folks in Austin to stayed until 2 or 3 in the morning to back her up. I’m extremely proud of my friends who volunteered their time at a moment’s notice to stand up for what they believe in. Thanks for the videos, news articles and updates from everyone in ATX. Get some well deserved rest!

Busted Dutch

I stole that phrase from a New York Times article about Megan Rapinoe, a US soccer player that is currently playing in France. I say that I speak a “klein beetje Nederlands”, but that really doesn’t capture what I do the way “busted Dutch” does.

Here are some of my favorite words so far:

  1. Echt – Really? What’s nice about echt, is that it expresses the same incredulousness of Really??!? but you don’t have to tart it up with punctuation. The ech is the question mark, and the t is the exclamation point.
  2. Geweldig – (ha-veld-da) Great! I say it in an exaggerated game show host voice because I learned it from a game show host named Linda De Mol. She seems to host the majority of game shows here, and looks like Kristin Wiig with yellower hair.
  3. Makkelijk vs. moeilijk – Makkelijk means easy, and moeilijk means hard. These words are used quite a bit it seems like, and it’s helpful to be able say, “that is hard for me”, when I’m learning.
  4. Gezellig – Loosely translates to cozy, but I think of it as a moment you’d like to stay in. It’s basically the opposite of eating fast food by yourself in the car.

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It’s not so DAFT – the Dutch American Friendship Treaty

Some of you may wonder how I am able to stay here – generally it’s not that easy to immigrate to another country. The two most common ways to enter: as a student, or as a knowledge worker, weren’t the best options for me. I’m not going to be a student – I need some type of income. Getting a visa as a knowledge worker would be difficult now for lots of reasons: European Union citizens are given preference for jobs, the economic downturn has led to stricter rules on who can enter and/or stay. Plus, Manon’s unsure where she will find a job, so it would be nice to not be tethered to a location.

That leads me to the Dutch American Friendship Treaty. This treaty allows US entrepreneurs/sole proprietors to stay in the Netherlands for either two or five years as long as they meet certain requirements, such as proof of US citizenship, a minimum of 4,600 euros in a bank account balance at all times, health insurance, and a plausible business plan.

Tomorrow I am going to Zwolle to apply to stay under this treaty. (Zwolle is pronounced swole with an ‘a’ at the end. I know swole is not a word, but I have lived in Texas for the past ten years, so I took a little liberty.) My passport will be marked so that I can stay longer than a regular travel visa allows (three months for Americans) while they consider whether to approve my business. So I’m een beetje (a little) nervous, even though this is supposed to be more of an intake meeting. Wish me luck!

Update (August 2015): I was successful in obtaining a two-year visa to work as a sole-proprietor in October 2013. Another post, DAFT Update discusses the process of obtaining this visa.


When I moved here in March, I wanted to have this blog up and running by Koninginnedag. That was yesterday. Koninginnedag (pronunciation: cone ing in a da – it’s actually super fun to say), means Queen’s Day, and it’s a national holiday here – schools and businesses are closed. This year is remarkable because Queen Beatrix is abdicating her throne, so that her son, Willem-Alexander can become king. Before we moved here, I figured that we would go to Amsterdam, because that is where the palace is, and it is going to be a huge party, and basically, I thought, party, Amsterdam, yes please!

We ended up staying in Leeuwarden for a number of different reasons. It’s a little surreal for me, I’ve never had a monarch, and the US was formed after revolting from one, but it is fun to see how excited everyone is here. And they seem charming, especially Willem’s wife Maxima, who’s from Argentina, has lived here for fourteen years, and is now fluent in Dutch.

Willem-Alexander and Máxima
Willem-Alexander and Máxima (Photo credit: Captain Chaos)

There is a ton of odd swag you can pick up to celebrate. Below, for example, is a package of soup you can make with oranges, orange peppers and carrots; all put together solely because of their color. (To the Dutch, the color orange is patriotic, for William of Orange, who led the revolt against Spain.)


Lekker! (Lekker means yummy, but it’s used more broadly – for example, a good looking person can be a lekkerding, or yummy thing.)

We’ve already seen lots of houses with banners and flags. If we see anything good, I promise to document it, and not wait a month to post. Check out this flag: eat your hearts out car dealerships!