And we now say goodbye to Hayley…

Hayley at Stockholm

It’s now time to sadly farewell yet another young star from our club. Hayley Becht, 23, originally from Auckland, New Zealand, came here in September 2017 on a Working Holiday visa. With her working visa due to expire and attempts at prolonging residency unfortunately not working in Hayley’s favour, she plans to do some travelling before heading back home just in time for the New Zealand summer. She has agreed to share some of her reflections and experiences from this past year in making the move to her ancestral home, The Netherlands.

What brought you to Amsterdam?

Living in Amsterdam has always been a dream of mine. I visited the city for the first time with my Mum, Dad and my younger sister when I was 12 years old. I fell in love – the beautiful crooked canal houses, the delicious food, the bicycles, the people!

Most importantly, it was where I truly felt like I was home. We had always heard stories about our Dutch family, but it wasn’t until I met them all for the first time that I properly understood what they meant to me. And what they all must have meant to my Omi and Opa.

I knew one day I would live here to connect with my Dutch heritage, by being immersed in the culture and language.

My partner, Connor, and I decided to move to Amsterdam at a time when we were both ready for adventure (and had been working very hard on our savings to get out and explore the world!). We travelled for the best part of six months during the European summer. It was amazing. Then we settled in Amsterdam with no real plan (no job, no house); just the goal to constantly push ourselves outside our comfort zones.

Connor and Hayley on her birthday

How did you come across Amsterdam Netball?

I joined Amsterdam Netball almost right away! It was Delle who posted about the club in the Kiwis in The Netherlands Facebook group. I read the word “netball” and I was sold! I flicked her a message on Facebook and next thing you know I’m coming along to my first training. I started at a time when the club had close to 30 members. Everyone was super friendly, and of course very international. It was such an easy way to meet like-minded people who were trying to get their heads around expat life.

I’ve played netball since I was seven years old, and not skipped a single year! The love of the sport, and sport in general was instilled in me by my parents. For me, just playing has never been enough! I have a keen interest in umpiring and coaching, so I quickly became involved with the Training Committee. I loved this experience. Getting involved with planning and running training sessions, and helping players gain their confidence on court as a player, as well as an umpire. My Mum gave so much of her time to the sport that she’s inspired me to do the same.

What was your favourite highlight with Amsterdam Netball?

Highlight was 100% our trip to Stockholm. A weekend getaway that saw us play some amazing netball and end up winning the competition! I loved the feeling of playing competitively again. There’s something that excites me about being part of a team and literally putting your body on the line to win (I’m looking at you Nick!). It was also a chance to get to know all the amazing guys and gals that make up the club. We did a lot of sightseeing, eating Swedish meatballs, drinking wine, and partying to ABBA singalongs!

Stockholm Winners
Stockholm Winners (Hayley is third from left)

What were some of the main differences or transitions to Amsterdam/Dutch life compared to NZ?

For me, there was little to none culture shock. I guess I was used to the ‘Dutch directness’ having grown up with my Omi.

One main, very obvious difference is the bike culture. The Dutch are totally bike mad and I love them for it! I never thought getting around on a bicycle would be so easy and enjoyable! Feeling a little down? Jump on your bike! Want to see your friends for dinner but it’s raining? No problem, pop on a raincoat or better yet, grab an umbrella and jump on your bike! I’d love to get a bike back home, but I’m slightly worried that the not-so-flat landscape of NZ will have me sweating like a pig! Not to mention the agro Auckland drivers that jump at any opportunity to yell at or complain about cyclists.

Another key difference is what people do in their social lives. I feel like Amsterdam is almost bursting at the seems with things to do, and the Dutch most definitely embrace this.

A working week is broken up with drinks on a canal-side terrace (yes, I was blessed to experience the 2018 Summer heat wave). Or movie nights in a beautiful old cinema (The Movies or Filmhallen are two favourites). Or dinner with friends at an insanely delicious restaurant (can’t pick one, there’s too many). Or picnics in Vondelpark. Or swimming in the questionable Amstel River. Or going to a festival. Or heading along to a story telling evening at Mezrab. Or second hand shopping at Ij Hallen or vintage stores. Or trying out some weird kind of yoga, experimental dance, or meditation class. You name it, Amsterdam’s got it!

Each night after work, Connor and I found ourselves experiencing something completely new. And this was all thanks to the social lives the Dutch lead. We found so much beauty in making the most out of our week, not just living for the weekend like we did back in NZ. This is something we both hope to continue to do throughout our lives!

Money money money – it’s true, the Dutch are definitely tight with their money. But also very honest and fair. It’s expected that when one pays for a round of drinks, they will receive drinks from everyone later on. In flatting situations you’re often expected to use an app such as Wie Betaalt Wat (who owes what) to ‘go Dutch’ on everything from dinner down to toilet paper. I see some value in this, as the Dutch want everything to be fair. If one contributes in some way, so should the others. But I’m afraid this is something I don’t want to take home with me. The Kiwi ‘she’ll be right’ approach is much more my style. When people give with no expectation of getting something in return.

You’re heading back to NZ after your application for citizenship was unfortunately rejected. Are you happy to go back home? What plans do you have when you finally return?

Well for starters, I’m writing this while on a plane to Barcelona from Amsterdam for a holiday with friends. I have left my job and home for a month and a half of travel around Europe. Life could definitely be worse!

If I’m honest, I am really disappointed that my application for Dutch Nationality was rejected. Feelings of sadness, anger, and confusion all come to mind. I think what hurts the most is the fact that I put so much effort into the application, and we invested a lot emotionally into our lives in The Netherlands. For the first time in my life, I felt so connected with my culture, and in particular my (late) Omi.

Hayley (2nd right) with her Dutch Family

My Dad has never held a Dutch passport, therefore my application to regain Dutch Nationality through my grandparents (who left The Netherlands after WWII for a fresh start in New Zealand) was always going to be tough. When I received the news that the application had been rejected I was incredibly emotional. Connor and I both. We both sort of looked at each other like, “WTF do we do now?!”.

But as always, we picked ourselves up and saw it as an opportunity to head off on another adventure! If Amsterdam was where we were meant to be at this time, then everything would have worked out. Someone (I think it’s my Mum up there) is trying to send us a message: “It’s time to get moving and exploring again”.

Connor has headed home to New Zealand (his Schengen visa expired before mine unfortunately). He’s found out what it is he wants to do and is back home motivated more than ever to upskill and gain experience. I’m incredibly proud of him!

For me, I see it as an opportunity to travel again. This time, with some of my best friends from back home. It’s another dream come true! I feel like although my time in Amsterdam has been incredible, it has most definitely been a hustle. Jumping from house to house, and experiencing a lot of growth in my career. It’s time for me to have some fun, with zero responsibilities!

Hayley (right) at NDSM with friends

I’m also really looking forward to getting home just in time for a Kiwi summer! I’m also super excited to spend some quality time with Connor, family and friends. Perhaps we get out and explore our country some more. After all, everyone we’ve met has told raved about how beautiful New Zealand is!

In terms of my career, who on earth knows! I’m still so young and I’m trying not to take everything so damn seriously. Haha. One thing I do know; I would love to turn my passion for film and television production into a career rather than just a side-hustle or hobby. I’ve dabbled in the industry in the past and loved it! Connor and I were the sound team for a feature length film while in Amsterdam. *INSERT SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION* The Red Heart, Blank Face Film premiere is on October 13 at the Tuschinski! We’d love for you to come along!

Hayley (2nd from left, back row) on the Red Heart, Blank Face film set

I also have this feeling that our time in Amsterdam isn’t over forever. Who knows?! Perhaps with some more experience and skills under our belts, we will return on a sponsorship visa!

What will you miss most about Amsterdam and your time here in The Netherlands?

THE PEOPLE. Ugh I have a lump in my throat and teary eyes as I write this. In our short time, we have met so many beautiful, unique people who have shown us nothing but love. They’ve helped us explore and experience the city (and the rest of Europe) in so many weird and wonderful ways. We’ve really made some friends for life in this little city.

The Dutch phrase ‘Kort Maar Krachtig’ which translates to short but powerful best describes our Amsterdam experience. It has been a much, much shorter experience than we expected, but boy oh boy has it been life changing!


Hayley (standing, left) at Down The Rabbit Hole festival with friends

By Blythe Forde

Blythe Forde is a member of Amsterdam Netball and regular content contributor.