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by Adrianne George

 

Toronto, Canada is a large, vibrant and diverse city and it was the first city Jemitra visited outside of the United States. She hails from Winston-Salem, North Carolina a place, “where there are more pigs than people”, and “has more churches per square mile than any other city in the U.S.”, she notes.

But she dreamed of travelling beyond the borders of North America. “When I was seventeen I wanted to go to the American University in Paris to study French and International Relations”, she recalls. “My mother was of a different mind though. Under no circumstances would she allow me to move thousands of miles away fresh out of high school. It took me 17 years to make it to Paris, but make it I did”.

 

Stepping out on faith

Jemitra is partnered with a Dutch guy she met online, however, they were separated by thousands of miles. They kept in touch with each other via email and when Jemitra attended the Paris wedding of a friend she made a side trip to the Netherlands, “to finally meet that Dutch guy”. They were smitten with each other immediately and she decided to stay.

Panorama of Rotterdam’s Erasmus Bridge and the River Meuse. Visible in the background from left to right: New Luxor Theatre, KPN headquarters, Montevideo and World Port Center highrises.

Now Jemitra lives in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. She is the creative director of  The Green Doorway, (http://thegreendoorway.com) a LOHAS (lifestyles of health and sustainability) company. “Through customized holistic lifestyle programs, I serve as a guide who assists my clients on a personal journey toward attaining radiant health, finding inner balance, and unleashing their full potential”, she explains. In this capacity Jemitra is a personal chef and caterer, yoga teacher, provides Thai yoga massage, and is a holistic health counselor.

 

You’re not in Cali anymore

While Jemitra is disappointed with the quality of the fresh produce when compared to what was available during her time in California, she has adopted a somewhat Dutch lifestyle. Though she can’t get the produce she wants, she eats like a Dutch person when it comes to wielding a knife and fork. “I’ve adopted the continental style of eating in which the fork is held in the right hand and the knife, held in the left hand, is used to cut food and push it around on your plate”, she realizes and “I’ve adopted the cheek kiss”, she explains. “The Dutch kiss three times and make a smacking noise in the process”.

“But I sure do miss good (American-style) customer service”, she laments. But she has been able to navigate by speaking English thus far. “Most Dutch people speak English (to varying degrees) and I’ve not had any problems communicating”, she notes. But not content to get by on English Jemitra plans to become fluent in Dutch because, “many cultural nuances are often only revealed in language, and I don’t want to miss out on them”.

 

Becoming part of the gang

Membership in a hair care forum has facilitated new friendships and Jemitra has met quite a few new friends through that avenue. Jemitra also recommends “couch surfing” as a way to make friends. And of course her partner has introduced her to a whole new group of people. She has also joined the expat community. “I’m actually amazed by how quickly we found each other”, she reflects. And while it is crucial to make new friends Jemitra takes the time to write letters to old friends and family.

 

Staying off the tourist track

“I’ve made a point to not do touristy stuff”, Jemitra boasts. Her idea of taking advantage of her locale is to languish for hours at the sauna, stroll through the market at Afrikaanderplein or Blaak eating kibbeling (deep fried mussels), and “dancing to the edge of oblivion” at the Sunday night dance parties at the Supper Club in Amsterdam.

She also enjoys the beach at Scheveningen, De Parade traveling theater festival that begins in June, and Queen’s Day. “It’s the day people celebrate the Queen’s birthday. Everyone wears orange and has free license to go buck wild, particularly in Amsterdam”, she confesses.

Rotterdam’s Blaak Open Market which takes place each week on Tuesday and Saturday.

 

I didn’t know I had it in me

In addition to becoming a personal chef and starting her catering business Jemitra has completed a book proposal. She has also become aquainted with her many moods, and, “when it comes to getting my needs met, I’ve become much more assertive and in some cases, more aggressive”, she says proudly. Being far away from home will bring that out and she thinks her Dutch partner “is not keen on taking the initiative”. Jemitra has found that, “I actually like the new more assertive and aggressive me. All I need now are black stilettos and a whip ;o)”, she jokes.

But she is serious when she claims that, “I have no idea what the future will bring. I’m enjoying the ride. I will say that, at the moment, I have zero interest in returning to the U.S.”

 

Living & Spending in Rotterdam

 

Monthly rent:

350 to 400 euros for a studio and 500 + euros for a one bedroom.

 

Cost for meals:

Dutch people don’t eat out much. So there aren’t a wide variety of eating establishments. The ones that exist are expensive—17 euros for an entrée at a middle-of-the-road Thai joint.

 

Transportation costs:

40 euros for metro, tram, and bus; and 40 euros for train tickets to other cities.

 

Compared to your home country are most things cheap/same/expensive?

I lived in Washington, DC and then in San Francisco. So things are much, much cheaper here—especially rent.

 

Recommended monthly living budget:

569 to 750 euros (bare bones).

 

How modern are basic amenities/infrastructure?

Modern.

Cube House – modern architecture in Rotterdam.

 

Any legal hurdles all foreigners have to face to live there?

I haven’t encountered any so far.

 

Top 3 things you would recommend someone to bring when they come:

Make sure you bring: (1) an electrical outlet adapter, (2) a U.S. power strip, (3) and copies of vital records. You never know when you might meet a long-legged Dutch guy and decide to stay.

 

Top 3 things you would recommend for someone visiting or living here to do:

Make sure you try: (1) chocolate hagelslag sprinkled on bread. Add a layer of butter first. That’s what keeps the hagelslag in place. (2) Poffertjes. They are mini pancakes that are dusted with powdered sugar and served with a slab of butter. (3) Try fresh seafood at one of the markets. Note: Funny how all my recommendations are food related.

Photo credits: Jemitra’s portrait – Jemitra Hairtston, other images sourced from Wikipedia media: panorama – Massimo Catarinella, Blaak Open Market – Pengyao Lai, Cube House – Staka.

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Facebook comments:

5 Responses to “Jemitra Hairston – Behind the Green Doorway in the Netherlands”

  1. Jemitra says:

    Hey Adrianne. Jemitra here. This is an awesome interview! Thanks for this opportunity.

  2. Thanks for letting us share your inspiring story!

  3. Lori says:

    Hi Jemitra, Goodness Girl I also fell in love with a long legged Dutch Guy. Little did I know I would be here almost 11 years later.

    Lori van Echtelt
    http://www.mariposa-import.eu

  4. Brandy says:

    Oh yes there is something to be said for the long legged dutch men..LOL I really enjoyed reading your interview and had to smile to myself more than once.  😉

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