My Expat Story: Yayeri van Baarsen
A Dutch expat in Portugal
At Global Living Magazine we want to connect with our readers. We want to know what you’re all about, what you love, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. The best way to do this? Hear it straight from you!*
Together with her boyfriend, Dutch expat Yayeri van Baarsen (31) currently lives in Portugal, where she has set up ‘Enjoy the Algarve’ (www.enjoythealgarve.com), a free monthly online magazine about the south of Portugal. Yayeri was born and raised in Holland, but has spent a lot of time abroad, working and living in France, Spain, Austria and the U.K., and traveling in Australia, New Zealand, India and South America. She gets itchy feet quite quickly.
What is your favorite part of expatriate life?
The holiday-like feeling; things are different than they are in your home country, from the scenery to what they sell in the supermarket. This makes it feel a bit like being on vacation, even though you’re working. My favorite thing about living in the Algarve is that I’m able to go for a walk on the beach every single day. It’s only five minutes by car, but a different world altogether from sitting behind a computer screen at home. Especially now we’ve adopted a dog (or actually, the dog has adopted us; it came to our house and refused to leave). The best part of my day is walking barefoot on the beach, feeling the sand between my toes and laughing at Gustave our dog who’s chasing the waves.
What has been the hardest part?
Starting up a business in a new place. It takes a lot of hard work, especially when you’re unfamiliar with the country and don’t know a lot of people yet. However, it’s also one of the best parts as I get to see and do all sort of cool things in the Algarve because of the magazine.
Where have you lived around the world? Favorite places?
I lived in France, Spain and Austria, but only for a few months at the time as I was doing seasonal work there. I’d spend the summers as a receptionist in France or a club rep in Spain and the winters as a ski teacher in Austria. That was great, the best of both worlds: sunny beaches and snowy mountains. I also spent about three years in the U.K., working as a journalist. The Harry Potter-like atmosphere of cities like Cambridge is just adorable. It’s hard to pick a favorite place; everywhere has its own charms.
Where would you want to move to eventually?
New Zealand sounds like a great place to spend a couple of years, especially the South Island. They’ve got beaches, mountains, great nature, friendly people and dolphins. What more could you ask for? If possible, I’d get a beach house near Kaikoura and snorkel with seals every weekend. Shame it’s so far away from Europe, where most of my family and friends live.
What’s your sense of ‘home’?
To be honest, I don’t have a clue anymore. I think home is anywhere you feel comfortable, which can be a lot of places on this planet.
What advice would you give to first-time expats?
To go on holiday to the country they want to move to, but in the off-season. When there are monsoon rains or freezing snowstorms and when all these nice restaurants or amazing ski slopes have closed. If you still like it then, it might be a good idea to start learning the language.
Of course I forgot to take my own advice when moving to Portugal, so I was completely surprised by the torrential rains last November and whenever I go to the market it takes a lot of pointing and laughing to come home with exactly the wrong type of vegetables or fish. Still, I try to see it as one big adventure. Things will go wrong, they won’t show your favorite TV show, the supermarket won’t sell your favorite brand of soup and you’ll have to go back three times because you don’t have the necessary forms to apply for a fiscal number (and one time extra because you forgot to check the opening times and everywhere is closed for lunch here). It’s easy to get annoyed, so instead try to see it as a holiday. No, this doesn’t mean you should go to the beach and chill, it means that you should laugh and drink a glass of wine instead of screaming, “Why on earth can’t they just do things like they do in my home country?!” when things go pear-shaped.
What has been the most helpful thing in adapting to your home abroad?
The fact that my parents also live in Portugal. It’s great to have family living nearby who can understand any frustrations you might have about the way things are going here. It’s also nice that now I can just jump in the car and visit them for a cup of tea; no need to arrange time off work, book a flight and sit in a plane for three hours anymore.
Share anything else about your expat life that you’d like us to hear!
Just go and enjoy it. If expat life isn’t for you, then you can always move back to your home country, so why not go and take the plunge? Oh, and anyone interested in what the south of Portugal is like should check out my magazine “Enjoy the Algarve” (www.enjoythealgarve.com or magazine.enjoythealgarve.com for the latest issue).
[Image courtesy of Yayeri van Baarsen]
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