How to Fit Your Life into Two Suitcases: Tips for Moving Abroad
Two months from now, I will be living 3,700 miles away from home in a country I’ve never visited before.
My boyfriend and I have decided to move to Holland, where he is finishing his degree in The Hague. Several months ago, he asked me to come with him and after much deliberation, planning and money-saving, I’ve decided to take the plunge and come along for the ride. When he first asked me, I was terrified. I’ve never ever visited Holland, how could I move somewhere I’ve never been? I don’t speak the language, how would I get around? Or get a job? What could I do as a job? Where would we live?
Being the planner that I am, I started tackling my list of fears one by one.
How could I legally work in a different country?
Well, it turns out the Netherlands offers a one year working holiday visa for Canadians. All you need to do is register once you arrive in the country and after a background check, you receive a stamp in your passport that allows you to work for a year. This option is only available for Canadian, Australian and New Zealand citizens under thirty and is valid for a year. I found all of the information I needed on the Dutch embassy website.
What kind of work could I get?
Well, it turns out 87% of Holland’s population speaks English. In fact, they’re third in the world for English proficiency as a second language. After scouring Dutch job websites, I realized a good majority of employers don’t even require their employees to speak Dutch. There are also many au pair and nanny jobs available for young foreigners (I love greataupair.com.) There are even websites where you can post a profile featuring your experience nationality and background where you can search for employers and families in your area. It’s kind of like match.com but for nannies.
Where would we live?
Well, after looking at renting sites, I realized renting in the Netherlands isn’t much different from renting a place in Toronto: You still put first and last month’s rent up front, submit your credit score and struggle to find a place within your budget. We’ve looked mainly at pararius.com and funda.nl for apartments.
How would I communicate with locals?
Despite the high percentage of English speakers in Holland, I’m determined to learn Dutch. Duo lingo has been incredibly helpful -- it’s a free app you can use to practice any language on your iPhone. It even sends you (slightly passive aggressive) daily reminders to keep you on track! Although I still can’t form a full sentence and my vocabulary is limited to basic words, numbers up to twenty and some random words that Duolingo seems to think are crucial, such as “olifant” (elephant) “aardbei" (strawberry) and “neushorn" (rhinoceros), I’m confident that my Dutch will improve once I’m over there.
But the hardest part of moving has been figuring out how the heck I’m going to fit my entire life into two suitcases. When I moved to Toronto, my clothes alone took up ten boxes. My furniture and other incidentals mandated an entire moving truck. Every morning when I get dressed I look at my closet and feel daunted; how the heck is this all going to fit? I know it won’t, so I have to prioritize what’s important to have with me. Every time I do this, I’m reminded of that part in Eat Pray Love when Julia Roberts eyes her storage unit and says, “My whole life fits in a ten-foot box,” to which the moving guy tells her, “Do you know how many times I hear that in a day? Most of them never come back for their whole lives.”
I guess what I’m trying to say is the world can seem daunting and big, a lot like trying fitting ten boxes of clothes into two or looking at a map and realizing just how vast 3,700 miles is. But then I remember, it’s just clothes. Home is only a plane ride away. Skype is always there. Suddenly, moving to the other side of the world doesn’t seem so scary. After all, I’m twenty-two years old. I’m lucky to have found a pretty spectacular guy who wants to show me the land of tulips and Gouda cheese. If I’m not brave enough to take a leap of faith now when there’s nothing holding me down in Toronto, will I ever be?