Voordeel: Nederland – Cheese

Dutch Cheese at the shop
Dutch Cheese Shop (photo by Mollyali)

The Dutch eat 14,3 kilos of cheese per person per year on average. Plus, they produce 650,000,000 kilos of cheese, of which two-thirds is exported. This makes the Netherlands the largest cheese exporter in the world. And boy, is it a delicious export!

On our last visit to Canada, RB and I were ordering a pizza with some friends. RB was looking at the list of toppings and said, “The best kind of cheese is…”

“… extra cheese.”

We all had a laugh about how the Dutch guy wanted extra cheese. And then ordered it. Obviously.

Curious what else I think is great about the Netherlands? Check out my full list of Voordeel: Nederland posts.

No longer employed (and it’s not a bad thing)

I’ve never been fired before.

I came close once because of restructuring during tough economic times, but the people making the tough decisions decided I was worth keeping around, and I am still thankful.

I had a job in the Netherlands for 3 weeks, less 1 day, and I enjoyed every minute of it! It was my first experience working in the start-up world, and what a world it is. I felt like I’d been transported back to university where the goal everyday was to learn as much as possible.

The co-owners of the company where I worked made it clear to me that they were happy with work I did for them, but they needed an operations manager who was able to attend all of the events and meetings of the accelerator they joined. These events were plentiful and often ran late into the evening. While I was (and still am am) amenable to sporadically spend late nights at work, spending every night at the office was just not something I was willing to do. I moved to the Netherlands to be with RB, and making sure we can spend time together is something I am not prepared to compromise on right now. As much as I was enjoying the work and the people, I couldn’t justify spending ALL my time at my job.

The co-owners and I agreed that we all should have been more clear in the beginning about what our expectations were. We both underestimated the intensity of the accelerator and just how time consuming it would be.

While this experience has shaken my confidence (more on that in another post), I’ve learned a whole heck of a lot from it. For instance, I need to be abundantly clear about how much time I am willing to spend, and what I expect from the job. I also need to ask very specific and detailed questions about what the company expects from me as an employee.

I wish my former colleagues nothing but the best, and hope that in the future, when things have settled down for them, that we will be able to work together again.

Until then, I’m back on the job search.


Half way to getting my Dutch driver’s license

I got my driver’s license on my 16th birthday. That means I’ve been able  to drive for longer than I haven’t been able to! So you can imagine my surprise to learn that I was going to need to go through the exam process of getting my Dutch driver’s license!

For citizens of non-EU countries, drivers licences are valid for six months from the date you register at your local municipality. There are some countries that have special license exchange agreements with the Netherlands, and while Canada is on the list, it’s only for Quebec Class 5 licenses. That means that I couldn’t exchange my Ontario Class G license, and I need to take the theory and practical exams before driving again.

First up was the theory exam.

RB’s dad is a driving instructor and he lent me one of his theory books in Dutch to study. I spent so much time looking up what all the words meant that I missed a lot of the rules that I was supposed to be learning. Thankfully the study guides are available in English! Mine is available to borrow, please let me know if you’d like it!

2015-10 Drivers License TheoryThere are some subtle (and not so subtle) differences between the rules of the road here versus in Canada. I struggled because there are specific rules for every type of road user – cars, trucks, motorcycles, mopeds, light mopeds, four-wheeled mopeds, disabled carriages, bikes and pedestrians. Sometimes rules apply to all the road users, sometimes to a sub-set of road users, and sometimes to just one type. I kept getting confused which rules applied to which road users. One of the weirdest thing about driving in the Netherlands for me is that there are uncontrolled intersections! When you arrive at these intersection at the same time as another vehicle, the vehicle to the right has the right of way. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that, and am keeping my fingers crossed that doesn’t happen in my practical exam!! 2015-10 Drivers License Theory

There’s an entire chapter in the study guide that I re-titled “don’t be a jerk.” I think my favourite passage from the chapter has the following to say about “old people:” “Show respect, patience and social behaviour. In time, you will also be old.”

2015-10 Drivers License Theory

After reading through the manual, I found an online test system which offered exam style questions to practice with. After I booked my exam, I paid for 2 weeks of access so I could do as many practice tests as possible. While I had some issues with the system, it gave me a glimpse of the types of questions I could expect on the exam.

On the day of the exam, I almost missed the bus because I ran back home to get my passport! It turns out I only needed my visa and the reservation number, which I wrote down on a scrap piece of paper rather than printing the whole letter.

The CBR has a handy little brochure which describes how the exam will go, and it was pretty accurate. After you register, you just have to keep an eye on the screens with the lists of candidates (by number) for instructions like “put your stuff in a locker,” and “check in with the desk.”

During the exam you’re only allowed to have your ID and reservation number. There are lockers available for use, which were fairly easy to operate and contained instructions for their in Dutch . Even so, I had to show a few young guys how to use them – I guess they didn’t see the instructions.

There are two parts to the theory exam:

Part 1 includes 25 questions about danger recognition/ hazard perception, and requires a score of 13 to pass. As an experienced driver, I found this part straightforward. I regularly got 20 questions right on the practice exams, and had 20 in the regular exam.

Part 2 includes 40 questions concerning traffic rules and insight into traffic situations, and requires a score of 35 to pass.  This was the part I was nervous about. I regularly got 32 questions right on the practice exams and most of the questions I missed were because I didn’t read the question closely enough. Despite not being sure about several of my answers, I managed to get 36 right on the exam and passed!

What I failed to do was note my locker number…

Thankfully I found it on the 2nd try, but not before trying to get into the locker of the guy standing behind me. Whoops!

Finally Employed!

** Please see my post updating this situation **

After spending the past 8 months unemployed, I am very excited to say that I have finally found myself a job! One interview was enough to convince my new bosses, the co-owners, that I was right for the Operations Manager role that they were looking to fill. And it was enough to convince me to jump into the startup world with them – we got along really well!

I will be the operations manager, but we are all still figuring out exactly what that means! In the short term, I’m going to be making sure that the co-owners are on top of all the workshops, mentor meetings, presentations, pitches and tasks for the accelerator they are attending, which starts today. I’ll also be learning the day-to-day tasks required to run the business, so that I can take on as many as possible to let the CFO and CTO work on growing and improving the business.

I can’t say for sure, but I suspect there will be more posts about this new company and new role for me.

I’m very excited about taking this step in my new life here. It’s really starting to feel like I belong here!


3 October Festival in Leiden

The 3 Oktober festival commemorates the anniversary of the relief from the Siege of Leiden during the Eighty Years’ War. In 1573 the Leidenars were prepared for the siege; large supplies of food were stored within the city walls. Leiden withstood the siege without any issues, and when, in March 1574 the Spaniards suddenly withdrew, Leiden celebrated. Unfortunately for the Leidenars, the Spaniards returned in May – the siege had only been lifted temporarily.

The supplies that had sustained Leiden during the first siege hadn’t been replenished, and soon provisions began to run out. During the siege, one-third of the population died and the rest were dangerously close to starvation. On the morning of October 3rd, the army of Watergeuzen led by William van Oranje, entered the city and fed the citizens herring and white bread, and Hutspot, a dish made of boiled and mashed potatoes, carrots, and onions.

Leiden is the closest city to us, so I hopped on the bus to celebrate a friend’s birthday and to see what all the hoopla over 3 Oktober Festival was all about!

The festival sort of reminded me of a bigger version of the Kermis in Roelofarendsveen. There was a huge midway, lots of live concerts going on at the bars in the downtown area, a parade, and lots and lots of people on the streets having a great time!

3 October festival in leiden!

A photo posted by Lyndsey (@localabroad) on

I was hoping that I could try some of the traditional meals, but the Hutspot was being served on Friday at dinner time and the herring was being served early on Saturday morning, neither of which worked for me. Plus, I needed to register on Thursday to partake! Maybe for next year’s 3 October Festival!


Locally Famous!

A few months ago, Rick and I were interviewed by a friend who writes for the local magazine, Hier in de Regio. The paper version came out just before the Kermis, and the online version was just posted!

The article is in Dutch, understandably, so I’ve posted a translation here.

DSC_2252Here! How is … Lyndsey Lewis, who, in early 2015 traded her life in Toronto for one in Roelofarendsveen to be with her boyfriend, Rick Baker.

In the cafe
Lyndsey: “It was the final of the Champions League in May 2011 when I first met Rick. I was with colleagues in a cafe in Toronto, he was there with two friends on vacation. I pointed him out to a friend, and she made sure that we started talking with each other. Ricks holiday’s were over the next day, but we kept in touch by BBM and Skype. There was obviously a spark between us, so I decided three months later to visit the Netherlands for an extended weekend, and it was fantastic. We realized what the consequences would be – many trips to see each other – but we also knew it was worth it.”

 Moving to Canada?
“In February of this year I moved to Roelofarendsveen. In terms of a Visa, it was easier for me to come here than for Rick to move to Canada. Of course it’s difficult for me sometimes; I miss my family and friends very much. I still have a lot of contact with them through WhatsApp and FaceTime, which makes it a bit easier. Rick and I have not excluded moving to Canada, but in the short term we’re happy right where we are.”

Always say yes
“I started learning Dutch in Canada, which makes it easier to communicate. I feel at home here – everyone is so friendly! I have met a lot of new people because of my participation in the local bootcamp and yoga classes, as well as through Rick’s family and friends. I also made a rule for myself that I would accept all invitations, and I do!”

By bike
“The main difference between Canada and the Netherlands are distances. My parents live a hundred kilometers away from where I lived, and that’s not unusual. One of the things I really like here is that you can get around by bicycle on the paths everywhere. That’s very different than in Toronto, where there is always a fight between motorists and cyclists!”

Original article by Katy Boer. Photo by Gilbert Bakker

Read the original article here.

A night of painting fun

I have a number of friends who’ve recently posted pictures of themselves in painting smocks showing work that they’ve done at an adult paint evening, and I was intrigued. So when a good friend suggested going to one when I was back in Canada, I was all for it!

2015-09 Paint Nite

I was a bit late arriving, but thankfully they were also a bit late starting and my friends has saved me a seat.

2015-09 Paint Nite

Once the artist and her assistant were finished distributing paint to everyone, they showed us the exemplar of what we would be making, a monochromatic lake scene.

2015-09 Paint Nite

The instructions were easy to follow, and we had a great time watching our canvases develop.

2015-09 Paint Nite

2015-09 Paint Nite

Near the end we were supposed to add some birds flying, but I was very unhappy with how mine turned out, so I painted over top of them and blended in with the sky! Good decision for me!

One thing that stuck me as great about this event was that even though we were all given the same instructions, everyone’s pairing was just a little bit different!

2015-09 Paint Nite

Now the big question is, where do I hang this beauty up?!

2015-09 Paint Nite

Exercising my voting rights

I never really thought that I’d write anything political in this space, it’s not really my style. However, I’m going to take a minute to talk about voting as an expat Canadian citizen.

This May, the court overturned a previous judgment that restored my voting rights as an expat Canadian. Unless something changes, I will only be allowed to vote for the next 4 years while I am in the Netherlands.

There have been many articles written about it, including this Globe and Mail article that I found particularly well done by Alison Loat and John McArthur. Please read it, it’s worth it.

Being Canadian is part of my soul. I have said from the moment that RB and I decided that I would move to the Netherlands that I will only pursue Dutch citizenship if I can also keep my Canadian citizenship. I have a vested interested in how Canada runs: my family is still in Canada, I still have my savings (small as they may be) in a Canada bank, and I would like to return some day. I want to remain proud to be a Canadian!

So while I still can, I voted!


Elections Canada has a small section of their website devoted to Canadians living abroad, and the process is reasonably simple. I downloaded the form to be included on the International Register of Electors, sent the form in, and received my special ballot voting kit in the mail a few weeks later. I then filled in the ballot with my candidate of choice and mailed it back to Elections Canada. Hopefully I will be able to repeat this process during the next election!

Kermis – Bloemencorso

Saturday morning, the town lines the main streets once again, this time to watch the flower parade, or bloemencorso. Kids decorate their bicycles with flowers and the local schools, clubs and businesses put together themed floats also covered with flowers.

Friends of ours have a house with a lovely garden right on the parade route, and we gathered there in the morning for a cup or two of coffee, some morning baked goods while we watched the parade.

Note that all flowers are from the Oranjecomité’s website, since I didn’t bring my camera to this event. I have learned my lesson, and will be bringing it to next year’s parade!

I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve been here for 6 months, and am a bit more aware of the news here, but I feel like the floats were much more topical this year.

There was a float dealing with the refugee crisis, which made me a bit uncomfortable given that it’s still going on, has affected so many people and there does not appear to be and end in sight.

There was also a float dealing with ISIS, which I also found a bit disturbing for the same reasons I found the refugee crisis float disturbing.

Two floats dealt with the economic situation in Greece, and float riders were throwing fake currency around.

One float dealt with the dentist who paid $50,000 to kill Cecil the lion, about which I had mixed feelings until I saw the back of the float, where a lion was performing dental surgery on the dentist with a reciprocating saw!

One of our friends who visited Canada while we was there in May and her friends’ float dealt with the Dutch football team having trouble qualifying for the European football championship, by saying it didn’t really matter since the team is ready for the Olympics in Rio 2016 instead.

And it seemed like there were quite a few schools and kids who had Minion themed bikes and floats!

Finally, there were some floats that were just fun, including this 80’s workout themed one!

There were no photos that did this incredible witch/warlock themed float justice!

I’m already excited to see what the creative minds here come up with for next year!