I've been living in Holland as an expat for over 15 years. Looking back now, when I left my native Australia I was sure I was going to be back two to three years later. I remember promising my mother I wouldn't be gone long, only to have her tell me, once you put yourself out into the world you have no idea what will happen, and when you'll be back, or if you'll be back. I thought mum was being melodramatic at the time - there is probably some truth in that - but it turns out she was pretty much right.
Ending up in Holland though wasn't a conscious choice, it wasn't like I was drawn to this place because of work or a desire to experience Dutch culture. Truth be told, it was more luck than anything else. In my very early 30's I was travelling around the Egyptian Sinai peninsula, and I had crash landed in a little place called Dahab where I got stuck for a lot longer than anyone deserved to stay. Dahab was a stop on the serious traveller's route for those moving north and south on the peninsula coast. It was (back then) a shabby place of cheap hut-like accommodation and even cheaper weed to smoke. My wallet was stolen almost upon arrival which immediately meant until I had a replacement arrive, I was living off the notes I'd stashed in my backpack, and my friend's credit. This meant instead of being in Dahab for a few days as was normal, we were there for 6 weeks. That almost made us locals. For the beach bar/restaurant where we almost exclusively spent our days and nights, we were locals.
Over the weeks we were there we watched travellers come and go, and all the while we stayed put, working on our tans and learning bad Egyptian swear words. At some point through the seemingless endless series of days two Dutch girls turned up to our bar and we quickly became friends with them. The girl that I paired up with was looking for something deeper than a cheap fling, and so we started a small romance that had us keep in touch after we parted ways. Soon after this my replacement bank cards arrived and we were able to move on and leave the place where it really seemed time stood still.
We were to head back to London as our next move but going back there never made me feel happy. Unlike a lot of Australians who move to London, I wasn't in love with the place, and I never wanted to stay long term. My visa was coming up to expire and I said as much to this Dutch girl, who we can call M. She said to me, why not come to Amsterdam and stay with her for a while, at least until I planned out my next move. A couple of months with her to see The Netherlands and relax for a bit after the hectic lifestyle of London sounded like a perfect relaxing holiday. So with my last few months in the UK I put the plan together to wrap up my life there and move to Amsterdam, albeit temporarily.
Once I got to Amsterdam, I was there for only 2 weeks when M said she had seen a job that I might like to apply for. While I wasn't looking for a job, I thought, fair enough. If it's temporary I can at least save some money while I'm here. Well, I got the job, with that, I started my life in Amsterdam. I had no idea that would be the beginning of me staying.