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My Marriage Moved Me To Amsterdam

Newness is incredibly intoxicating, isn’t it? Like marrying someone for example. But what about a bride who plans her wedding from scratch and then moves half way around the world six days after her nuptials? Too much new? I’d say a resounding yes and please don’t misinterpret my use of the term ‘too much.’ Every single bit of my transition from New York City to Amsterdam with my husband is characteristic of my life so of course I’m the one who skips town after her wedding, still it was something to which I had to adjust.

My first few weeks in Amsterdam felt like a well deserved break from my life in New York. I didn’t have any real responsibilities and I was getting used to being a wife. I didn’t miss home because I had Skype and I’ve lived away before so at first Holland felt like a short trip.

As my first year living abroad wore on my hardest ordeal was transitioning from independent fiancée to dependent wife. It took a long time to learn to live securely in that space. While I was emotionally ready for marriage, I never thought about the rough period of waiting for my visa papers to clear and being totally dependent on my husband. I went from being someone with her own money and freedom to needing assistance on everything. Since I couldn’t work thanks to my visa process, I couldn’t contribute financially to my household, a major blow to my ego. I’m used to pulling my own weight and being taken care of was a humbling experience but it drew my husband and I closer though I had other hurdles.

Amsterdam is a maze and my husband helped me learn everything, from my surroundings to the Dutch language. I’m a free spirit who likes to go at my leisure, so having him accompany me everywhere and not understanding the language was frustrating. Every other block looks almost the same and memorizing street names was daunting. I resisted learning Dutch which made life more difficult and when I ventured away from my neighborhood, I was lost. It took awhile to recognize landmarks and then there’s the added layer of learning Amsterdam’s public transport system and the city’s bicycle paths. I’m still learning the bike system — I never rode a bike prior to living here, don’t judge me — but I’m getting better.

Many cultural differences stopped me in my ex-pat tracks but the biggest was the lack of personal space. There’s no three-feet-of-space rule in Holland like in America. It’s one thing when someone you know is close but quite another when a stranger stands on your heels while you’re line. I was losing my mind, but now either I don’t notice it or I’m sending off a radar saying ‘Get away from me.’

One thing that makes Amsterdam special is the city’s laid back vibe. I’ve never lived in a place where no one is rushing. It’s refreshing to step into a higher quality of life and not have to sacrifice anything for it. The constant easy feeling is addictive and it’s not because we’re all high. This is a society that fosters life away from work. The air is better and I live two blocks away from Amstel River. This may be a strange observation but I love that most of the city is the same height. If you visit the terrace at the city’s public library, you get a beautiful unobstructed view of most of Amsterdam.

In hindsight, I am happy my husband and I’s first year of marriage unfolded as it has. This was the first time we lived in the same city, let alone the same space and we’ve learned to maneuver around each other. I’ve made my own set of friends, I know how to get everywhere without my beau’s help and while I can’t speak the language fluently, I understand enough to have general conversation. Good and bad, Amsterdam is full of history and it’s all there for me to discover.

– Sherisa D is a jewelry designer, freelance writer and amateur vegetarian chef originally from Brooklyn, NY now calling canal-lined Amsterdam home with her husband and crazy cat, Pixel.

Last 5 posts by Sherisa de Groot

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  • Soundslikewah

    Great article! I didn’t move quite as far but relocating with a significant other is not for the faint of heart. On the flip side it can really bring you both closer together and strengthen your bond.

  • I loved it! Thanks for sharing your experiences, I can relate to it somewhat. I made the move to the U.S from Sweden, and I was used to not having to rush as much and to not just focus on work, where as living in the States for little over a year now, all I do is work. 

  • Jason Gilmore

    Thanks for sharing your story Sherisa. Of course, as a filmmaker, I’m reading it thinking, “This would make a great short film.” But a lot of that is due to the quality of your writing. I’m really enamored with you & the hubby’s story. If I ever make it to Amsterdam, at least I know someone there. Keep exploring!

  • Tatiana

    Wow, I JUST wrote about this today! I went from being a working single mom in Alabama to being a stay at home mother and wife in Gemany. Not being able to contribute was definitely something I had to adjust to as well. Still, I think I’ve finally found my happy place.

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  •  Thank you love! Moving to a new unfamiliar place is all the same. You are exactly right about being brought closer together. So true.

  •  So happy you enjoyed Ysabel!

  •  Where did you write about this, Tatiana? I’d love to read it. How long have you been in Germany? It definitely takes getting used to and it can’t be rushed. That’s one thing I’ve learned.

  • E.

    Im just here to support this post and let sherisa and dennis know how awesome they are. that is all.

  • Tu-linh

    Thanks for sharing, Sherisa. I went through a very similar experience moving from Montreal! xxxxxx

  • Parmila

    I loved reading your post Sherisa!

  • Ladidejo23

    I love it. It was touching for me to read, but so beautifully done. Proud of all you have become. Much Blessings and love to you.

  • m1981

    As someone who has been in a bicoastal relationship for the past several years, I can definitely relate! I look forward to the time my husband and I are finally in the same city. Congratulations and thank you for sharing, stories like yours are hard to come by and I love reading about other folks who have made it work and stayed together 🙂

  • I can totally relate to the weird feeling of dependency, the whole visa experience feels like it’s throwing my off balance to feel so needy (that’s what my partner and I are dealing with right now!) It’s good you gave yourself enough time to adjust and settle in, congrats! 🙂

  •  Thanks for the comment, Lily! I’m happy I’m sharing my stories now because people are crawling out of the woodwork and really relating to what I’ve gone-and in some cases, still going through.

  •  Making it work is so rewarding in the end when you’re together. Thanks for the comment and YAY for LDL (long distance love)

  •  Thanks so much, Jason!

  • Pieternella28

    I was married in 1979 to a American and within 2 weeks I moved to the USA we arrived in NC he was military and black and I never realized that that meant you stepping in a different world . In Holland we did not have rasists but in the states you did , boy that was scary at first because it was better that you did not say what you thought about it either. We could not even get a taxi cab together and the bus was really something just married and he was told he could not sit next to me. From NC we went to Florida with the bus and visited his parents in a all black neighborhood and when I went outside I saw a guy who almost ran into the back of the bus cause he saw a white woman in a black neighborhood . Than from there we had to go to California but I really felt uncomfortable everybody stared at me and called me terrible names like N lover etc . I knew the USA from TV and

  • Pieternella28

    Dallas but it was not that way. But now 33 years later I am still married to my husband we have 4 beautifull children 1 lives in Amsterdam were she is a freelance fotographer speaks 3 languages and is doing great . Than 1 kid lives in Utrecht and works in the corporate world, numer 3 lives in Los Angeles and is getting married this year works at a Hotel as a events manager graduated from UNM with cumlaude with honors and the youngest is living in Belgium and still looks to see what he wants he feels like a American and in Belgium at least that part they ate rasist to now do time is turning around . I myself have a European Bistro and at Foodchannel in Ma I was called the best cake baker from NM so after all I did something that I can be proud off in the USA , live changed a lot in the years for mixed couples but they still have a long way to go. But that is for other country’s too

  • I’m super late in replying, but I could TOTALLY relate to the “blow to the ego” part! I went from being a full time working single mom in Alabama to being a stay at home mom in Germany, and I did NOT anticipate how I would feel about that! It’s been an adjustment, but it’s still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.