What this expat does next will completely blow your mind!

International ping pong _ expatlingo.com

Or perhaps it will just leave you scratching your head.

Faithful readers will recall that I’ve suffered “serial expat angst,” also known as Dante’s Fifth Circle of Hell (for the sullen), since late January. Running, the wisdom of Bruce Lee and compulsively reading books about North Korea, have all eased the anxiety caused by gaping into an unknown future.

You see, I had spent at least half a year under the assumption that we would be moving to Shanghai this summer. As such, I giddily re-applied myself to studying Mandarin Chinese, searched out bi-lingual schools for my young expat kids and asked lots of questions of other expats about neighborhoods, daily expenses, housing, transportation, etc.

And then one midwinter day, my partner suggested that, for sensible work- and air pollution-related reasons, we consider an alternative move. I spent the winter mulling this idea over, frankly unhappy with the changed itinerary.

I eventually swallowed the pill of this new future and started afresh on my expat relocation research.

But climbing out of Dante’s Fifth Circle of Hell (for the sullen), I stalled at Dante’s First Circle of Hell (for those in limbo). Even though I excepted the probable reality of our next move, the move itself remained a work-related uncertainty for my partner until May.

Finally, when the next country itself was a secure decision, for a host of logistical, quality of life, school and cost reasons my partner and I remained uncertain about which city to live in.

So after much dithering and gnashing of teeth, I am pleased to (finally) announce that we are moving to the city of Utrecht in The Netherlands.

The packers come in three weeks. I will ‘summer’ in America, before taking up residence in Utrecht in August. After which, I will be cycling, boating the canals, soaking up the city’s mix of medieval charm and modernist edge, learning what some might call a ’boutique language,’ and nosing around for part-time work.

Between now and then, however, I am scrambling to enjoy every bit of Hong Kong and China that I can possibly squeeze in.

If you have something lovely to share about The Netherlands or Utrecht, please chime in! If, however, you were once robbed in a dark alley on the outskirts of Utrecht by a man wearing a Miffy mask on a rainy night after eating your fourteenth meal in a row consisting of meat, potatoes and bread, reminisce in private.

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59 responses to “What this expat does next will completely blow your mind!

  1. Jen – very sad to hear you going but I think your lungs will thank you for it. Have a safe journey and thanks for all the amusing little observations. I hope you will continue to post and look forward to hearing about your quest to find gluten free hashcakes…

    • Frankly, I am very sad too. I could easily have spent years in Hong Kong. But soldiering on. (Luckily only my daughter, who does not yet require hash, is celiac.)

      Bright side: the way things seem to go, I could easily be back in this part of Asia in three years time. Looking at trends, the landing spot would be either Macau or Shenzhen. 😉

  2. Ooodles of bloggers and twitter-fiends in the Netherlands, so at least you have plenty of people to connect with … hopefully IRL as well as online. And you can get great deals on flights around Europe, so think of all the travel opportunities! 🙂 I’m sure you’ll love it once you settle in.

    • Yes, as always, I’m sure I’ll come to love it (just as I’ve come to love every place we’ve lived)! But from my current vantage, getting from the goodbyes in Hong Kong to the new friends and routines in Utrecht, feels like a sad repetitive chore!

  3. AHH!! I know exactly the same feeling… trying to prepare for one country and then ending up in another instead! I did that with Denmark/Greenland, except i had two days to decide and then I flew off in three weeks!
    I haven’t read yet why you had to re-move to China in the first place, but I will check out your blog more to see the reason why! (why couldn’t you stay…?)
    Cheers
    Tanny

    • I actually don’t talk very much about why we move around! Funny, right?

      Well the easy story is that my husband’s job pulls us around (frankly would have stayed in Hong Kong longer if it made work-sense). The more complicated story is that we really enjoy China, and we also really enjoy charming smaller European cities, hence the ping-pong back and forth between continents.

      • My husband works for an international company that designs and makes consumer products (he’s an engineer by training). I’m a lawyer who worked for a great NGO until part-way through our time in Cambridge (when kids and time zones made it unworkable for me). Since then I’ve been parenting/writing/studying, and am interested in finding part time work once we’re settled in Utrecht.

  4. Wow that’s a big leap. Best of luck packing – and not getting mugged by any strange men once you get there!

  5. Now this IS news!!! The Netherlands will be fab, it’s a perfect base in Europe. Just imagine all the travelling you can do from there 🙂 And you’ll have decent cheese again!

  6. enjoy the legal weed, great beer and cheese, commutes and the bikeshare programs in Netherlands…(wish I was there…)

  7. Oh wow – how exciting! Just imaging all the things you can’t do in Hong Kong… biking, eating proper Italian ice cream, dining out on the street, walking on the sidewalk without bumping into the people… it will be fun! Save travels Jen!

  8. I’m glad you are out of the Dante’s first circle of hell (for those in limbo)! I believe in the ‘serial expat angst’ ‘what to expect’ guide you are allowed several weeks to a few months in Dante’s fifth circle of hell (for the sullen), before embracing your new life in Utrecht. This is the part of the expat adventure that sucks, however you make the entire experience such fabulous reading for the rest of us! Thank you for that! Congratulations on Utrecht! and I’m sorry life is in flux again. (But I really think you will like the Nederlands (chocolate and cheese!!)

    • It’s only taken me since February to crawl out 😉 . And while I accept our decision, with 2.5 weeks left in Hong Kong, I’m in deep good-bye-mode sadness. Perhaps the worst I’ve experienced. Doesn’t seem to get easier with practice.

      But yes, chocolate, cheese, cycling, blue skies, clean air, cool art scene, historic charm, canals, etc all sound rather idyllic! Will embrace it fully come late August!

  9. Ha I love your “upworthy” style title!

    If I hadn’t been accepted into Nintendo, I would have gone to Utrecht university to do my masters in linguistics. I sometimes wish that I had gone down that route. I can’t wait for your stories and photos!

    • Glad someone noticed that! (Everyone else probably just thinks I’ve gone a bit mad!).

      Oh, studying linguistics would have been fascinating. All these different paths… always interesting to ponder these decision points!

  10. Thank you for sharing your insights for the past few years. It is always interesting reading your unique perspectives/observations about the city I regard as a second home town. NL should be a nice change of pace after the hectic environment of HK and Chinese cities life (even Amsterdam seems laid-back to me compare to HK.) I ‘d think it won’t take you much effort adjusting to the new place as I thought you spent some time in Groningen before?

    I wish you good luck on your next leg of your expat journey and looking forward to you next post from the land of tulips.

    • You have a keen memory! Yes, we spent 4 months living in Groningen back in 2005, so I do have some taste of the Dutch life. The city of Utrecht should be rather nice and I am certainly looking forward to cycling everywhere.

      Thanks very much for the good wishes! While I’m looking to the future with optimism, saying goodbye (yet again) is very, very hard.

  11. My condolences on not coming to Shanghai, we might have been able to have a few adventures together! Think of the bread and cheese you will have, and the distinct lack of pork floss available! (these are about the only good things I can come up with. I get depressed when I think about leaving China myself). Godspeed and have a safe move!

    • I am broken-hearted both over leaving Hong Kong and over not moving to Shanghai. Thanks for the good wishes. Despite my reservations, vow to jump into Dutch life with both feet!

  12. Jen, that’s glorious news! Utrecht and the Netherlands are fabulous. We lived in Amsterdam, loved every single minute of our time there, and would go back in a heartbeat. Congrats, I think you’ll really enjoy it. All the best, Terri

  13. Potable water and Albert Heijn supermarkets are plusses, however you’ve still got a two-digit flight time-wise back to Seattle…

    Still, you should take advantage of all of that good regional Chinese food while you’re in the area, so hop on up to Shenzhen and 狼吞虎咽.

    • Does it count if I grabbed McDonalds french fries I my way back from the Dafen Art Village in Shenzhen? Probably not. I am ashamed.

      To potable water and Albert Heijn, I’d add clean air and safe roadways. (And yet, I can still barely accept that I am leaving Asia (for the time being…).)

  14. Sounds wonderful! I would love to live somewhere where it’s convenient (and safe) to bike everywhere.

  15. Pingback: Eating my way through the Hong Kong departure pain | Expat Lingo·

  16. Just picked up this post. Bummer – life in HK will surely be less interesting, scratch that, more miserable, without your blog company! But glad for you to move to a place with better air, among others. Hope you’ll keep up blogging so that we get to experience your adventures voraciously! All the best!!!

  17. Well enjoy the clean air, biking, and Oranj. In order to fit in, just stock up on hunter safety orange at your local Ranch & Home in the states. We spent our Spring Break in Zeeland. It was so lovely. Another nice thing about the Netherlands, they have the BBC on TV with Dutch subtitles.

  18. I just learned I have a colleague in Utretcht! And the Netherlands in the World Cup! Hurrah! Does Utretcht have a Chinatown?

    • Come to Utrecht and help me find the Chinatown! There is no sign of it on the web, but there must be a couple Asian grocery stores someplace. And as for my newly adopted football team: suppose I’d better pull out an orange t-shirt Wednesday.

  19. Yes, like others have said, your lungs will thank you for Utrecht over Shanghai. Hey, didn’t they sign some treaty over there in Utrecht? And what treaties have heralded from Shanghai? Nada. Except for the Dim Sum Edict of 1872, which stated you cannot tackle the server pushing the little push carts full of egg tarts, no matter how much she’s ignoring you.

    Don’t forget to email me when you’ve a free moment in Seattle. Will be here all of July and August.

    • Clever lady to remember the Treaty of Utrecht. As for the Dim Sum Edict of 1872, has it also become applicable in Hong Kong under the Basic Law since handover in 1997? Based on experience, seems likely.

      Email has been sent!

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