Positively addicted to living abroad; this is Piet Hein’s abroad journey

Positively addicted to living abroad; this is Piet Hein’s abroad journey

Are you born with itchy feet? With a tremendous thirst for adventure? Then you have to read the journey of Piet Hein!

Over the last ten years, Piet Hein has lived abroad, repatriated, and moved overseas again. He is positively addicted to living abroad and loves the adrenaline rush he gets from new experiences, new friends, and new cultures.

Though he loves the adrenaline rush, Piet Hein agrees that it can be challenging. “You have to be open-minded,” he says.
Read more about how Piet Hein overcame challenges he faced while living abroad when single. And how his recent move to Chicago together with his wife was way more fun!

Piet Hein: Positively addicted to living abroad


Hey Piet Hein!

Before we start talking about your life in the US, could you tell us a little bit about how it all started? Was moving abroad always your dream – or was it a work opportunity that made you move to Sydney?

Living abroad has been an ambition of mine from a young age. My dad worked as a diplomat, and when I was young, we lived in Prague, Czech Republic, for some years. I remember that my sister and I were very disappointed when my parents decided to move back to The Netherlands. My parents felt that Dutch education would be the best preparation for university, so they insisted we complete our high school in The Netherlands. On top of that, my parents also wanted us to have a home base. 

After studying in Rotterdam, I started as a trainee at a Dutch financial institution with a sizable international presence. So after working in Amsterdam for a couple of years, I finally found the work opportunity to move abroad. Destination: London.

After London, you moved to Sydney. Do you remember what challenges you faced? How did you settle in?

After 3.5 years in London, I had the opportunity to work in Sydney. I was hesitant because I really enjoyed working and living in London. I didn’t know much about Sydney and never really considered it as a place to live. Luckily I met a group of Australians in London who convinced me of the Ozzie lifestyle, and I decided to go.

Sydney is very far away from home, and I remember that it was challenging to adapt. I arrived in a new city where I had never been before, and I had to adapt to a new way of life all by myself. Apart from settling in at a new job, I also had to find the right place to live, evaluate the cost of living, adapt to the culture, make new friends, etc.

You have to be open-minded when you are on that journey, and I remember accepting every opportunity to connect with new people and seeking their tips and advice during those first six months.

When you moved to Sydney, you were single. Do you feel there are special challenges in moving as a single? For example, not having the practical and emotional support of a partner? Moments that you felt lonely? Would be great if you could share your experiences and insights.

Moving as a single person has challenges and benefits. The main challenge is that you are on your own during the settling-in process. Nobody will make friends for you, find an apartment, open a bank account, etc. When you are together with a partner, you can “split” jobs. Also, absorbing new experiences like visiting Bondi Beach for the first time – those things are more fun when you can share them with a partner. 

On the other hand, the benefits are (and this is personal, of course) that you can explore and organize your life the way you prefer. You have no responsibilities or commitments. Personally, I loved going on spontaneous trips, weekends with no plans, going with the flow, and embracing new things.

Piet Hein: Positively Addicted to Living Abroad

After a couple of years in Sydney, you moved back to the Netherlands. Expats often talk about a reverse-culture shock, a sort of personal disorientation – can you tell me a little bit about your experience with moving back home?

I moved back to The Netherlands after 2.5years in Sydney. In total, I had been outside of The Netherlands for six years. It was quite a shock. You feel as if you are taking a step backward.

Nothing seems to have changed. You go back to your old ways. It took me a while to get back into it. I remember looking for that same spontaneity, no-commitment lifestyle. Living abroad can be like an addiction. You are searching for the adrenaline of new experiences, visiting new places, and meeting new people, but it was difficult to find that while being back home.

When you move back home, there is a lot of change (you changed, home has changed) – how did you adapt (or re-adapt) to life back in the Netherlands?

Piet Hein: Positively Addicted to Living Abroad
Piet Hein with his daughter Vesper

I just kept breathing 😊 . You have to approach it as if you are moving to a new city; go through the settling-in process again. Although it is a familiar place, try to see new places, meet your old friends and make new ones. It will help create a new life in your home country.

After some time in the Netherlands, you decided to go to the States with your partner. Was it a deliberate decision or one driven by work (or both)? Moving the third time, how was it different? Did you plan things differently?

After three years in The Netherlands, I was ready for a new challenge workwise. In the meantime, I had met my wife. Naturally, I also explored international opportunities and found a vacancy in my company’s US office in Chicago. Living in the US has always been on my wish list. Luckily, my wife was open to moving abroad (that’s probably why we got married 😊), and we went. I remember being a lot better prepared this time around as my wife has less of a “we will see how it goes” mentality – which was great. When you go on an adventure together, it’s a lot more fun!

How has the move to the US changed your relationship with your wife?

Our relationship has grown significantly. Living abroad means you almost do everything together. You meet friends together, and you explore new places together, etc. We have a one-year-old daughter named Vesper. She was born during the pandemic, so after eight weeks, we traveled back to The Netherlands to visit the grandparents as they could not travel to the US.

How has living abroad changed you on a personal level? How do you feel you have changed?

Not sure if I have changed much as a person. It feels like it has always been in my blood to live in different places. I have always been looking for opportunities to move abroad and probably will continue to do so.

Piet Hein: Positively Addicted to Living Abroad

Can you name three reasons why moving abroad is the best thing anyone can do?

I recommend everyone to move overseas, regardless of what life phase you are in. You frequently hear people say: “I would have liked to have moved abroad, but the time was not right because X, Y, or Z,”…. In my opinion, if you create/ get the chance..do it! It forces you out of your comfort zone. You will better understand why people have different views/opinions. It enriches your life. It gives you great memories, unique experiences, and new friends; I can go on and on!

 Any last advice for people who are thinking of moving abroad?

Just do it!

Are you thinking of moving abroad? Or move to America? Discover if moving abroad is something for you with the Let’s Move Abroad Book.

Or check out 11 amazing things that living abroad teaches you and see why it is so easy to become addicted to living abroad 😊

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