Conny is a blogging and video content creator from the Netherlands, living in Dallas. She and her husband moved to Dallas nearly two years ago, and they have encountered relatively few low points in their transition – and some quite surprising ones. She covers topics like spirituality, being an expat, and fashion and lifestyle in Dallas. Conny is also super proud of her puppy Bentley, who has his own following on TikTok. If you'd like to hear more from Conny, check out her YouTube channel or her blog, CocoEleven.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I'm born and raised in Rotterdam, the Netherlands!
Q: What country and city did you move to?
A: My husband and I moved to Dallas, Texas.
Q: When did you move?
A: We moved in April 2022, so we've been here for almost 2 years now.
Q: Is this your first expat experience?
A: Yes! But we always knew there was a chance we would become expats one day, due to my husband's job.
Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/partner or family?
A: With my husband Mitchell
Q: Reason for moving?
A: My husband's job – he works at a tech company, and that's pretty big in Dallas at the moment.
Living in Dallas, Texas
Q: What do you enjoy most about your host city and your new country of residence in general?
A: I love the people in Dallas; they are so kind and positive. I also really enjoy all the restaurants and bars here – there are so many! One of the things I also love about Texas is the feeling of freedom: a lot of things are possible here and people have a lot of opportunities without many rules or government interference (even though this also has a downside for people less privileged). I guess what I love about the US overall is how big it is and how many different types of natural landscapes, cities and people exist here – so there's something for everyone here.
Q: Have you had any low points? What do you miss most about home?
A: I'm surprised that we didn't have many low points, even though of course moving continents has been very impactful, and we learned a lot from it. It is very disruptive and hard to just leave your life back home and move to a completely different country, where literally everything is different.
The first year, I honestly felt like a young child having to relearn EVERYTHING. But we knew what was coming, so I feel like we dealt with it pretty well. I really didn't know who I was the first year – but I didn't mind it. I knew that we would work it out eventually.
The thing I miss most about home is authenticity; a lot of things are fake and toxic here, in the literal sense (not so much the people, even though Europeans often presume that about Americans). I also do miss some European class and elegance. There's fabulous people here, but everything (culture, buildings, traditions, etiquette) is pretty new or recent and doesn't have much history – or not a history that people consider their heritage.
Q: What misconceptions about your host country, if any, have you learned were not true?
A: That the kindness is fake – I don't feel that way. It is a part of their culture to be kind and service-focused. So in a way, it is not how they truly feel in the moment, but it's also not like they are PRETENDING to be kind but actually think something negative about you. It's just a way of being social.
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life here? Did you experience culture shock at all?
A: The biggest adjustment was getting used to the fact that everything, literally everything, all the small things, are different: How you get a doctor, a driving licence, a social security card. But also the toilet paper, bread, supermarkets and clothing shops. Even the way you pay for your dinner! It took us about a year to really feel like we figured most things out and were 'settled in'. Yet still, when we go back to the Netherlands, we are relieved by how easy everything is for us. Just daily life, I mean.
There wasn't a big culture shock, more small things that surprised us. For example, we don't really feel as safe here as in the Netherlands. There are fewer rules here, so that makes you feel more free but also less protected. In the Netherlands, we say, 'The police are your friend'. Here, I haven't seen that many police at all, but I'm pretty sure they don't treat everyone as their friend, haha.
Another thing that keeps surprising us is how many Americans think that they live in the best country in the world, when a lot of things are worse than in most European countries. For example, we still can't get used to the bad food quality, the high prices for almost everything, the bad roads and public space maintenance, or the fact that there is so much poverty in a 'rich' country.
In many ways, the US looks like a third-world country to me, but with a lot of really rich, very pretty-looking parts – where we live, thankfully.
Q: What are your favourite things to do on the weekend? Any particular places or experiences you’d recommend to fellow expats?
A: My husband and I love to go out for dinner, so we've really been enjoying all the restaurants here. With friends, I like to go on a Sunday brunch or to a fancy 'cowboy' bar as I call it, and we've also really enjoyed the game seasons. The whole sports culture around basketball, American football and hockey is wild – we don't have anything like it in the Netherlands. It's a big show, and I enjoy how the players are almost seen as heroes.
Places I recommend in Dallas are definitely Honor Bar, the Northpark Center Mall and hockey games in the American Airlines Center. I'm also a big fan of the Arboretum and, of course, any Mexican food here – our favorite places are Mesero and Las Palmas. Definitely have the queso!
Q: What's the cost of living in your current country of residence compared to home? Are there specific things that are especially expensive or cheap there?
A: Almost everything is more expensive than in the Netherlands: groceries, clothes, hotels, drinks and healthcare. The only things we've found cheaper are cars, gas and labour. But since we pay way less tax here than in the Netherlands, we don't really mind. I do wonder though how people who don't make that much money could live (and eat) in Dallas.
Q: What’s public transport like in your city and across the country?
A: There is some public transport in Dallas; we have a train and some buses. However, it doesn't really take you everywhere, and people have told us not to use it due to safety. I guess Texas is made for cars, so the only people who use public transport are the ones who don't have a car. Of course, public transport is way better in cities like New York or Chicago, and they are very comparable to public transport in the Netherlands.
Q: What do you think of the healthcare available in your current country of residence? What should expats expect from local doctors and hospitals?
A: Our experience is that once you can get healthcare (with insurance) it is very good and very service-oriented. I would say our doctor here is better and kinder than the ones we've had in the Netherlands. However, it is harder to get good healthcare here than it is back home; healthcare isn't accessible to everyone here, and unless you have a good job it is really expensive. In the Netherlands, healthcare is cheaper and for everyone.
Also, we found that dentists here are less medical and more about aesthetics. They were very thorough but also wanted to do a lot of work on our (healthy, perfectly normal) teeth. It seemed like they just wanted to make money, which in the Netherlands would never happen – dentists are more like doctors there.
Q: What’s the standard of housing like in your city? What different options are available?
A: Dallas has a lot of apartment buildings and townhouses. I would say most of the people here live in mid-rise apartments, but there are also some high-rise buildings more downtown and some really big mansions in the Highland Park area. Overall, the prices are high if you want to be in the city and not in a suburb like Addison or Plano. I think prices start around USD 2000 (in 2023) for a one-bedroom apartment. In the Netherlands, that would be way cheaper.
Q: Any areas or suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: We started in Victory Park, which we loved for the location (close to uptown and downtown) and the modern, clean looks. We recently moved to The Village (more up north), which is a lot more 'American style' and homey, also lots of green and close to Northpark Center. Generally, I would recommend trying to find an area that is sort of walkable and not too old in Uptown.
Meeting people and making friends in Dallas, Texas
Q: Was meeting people and making friends easy? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: It was easy for me, but I have heard different experiences. I was very quick to find friends online, on Instagram and this app called Geneva. I just tried to look for women my age in Dallas, chatted a little and then met up with them – very similar to dating. I now have about five friends I regularly hang out with, and I have grown significantly close with two of them.
I do have to say that it was kind of hard in the beginning to know who I clicked with. American women are very kind and don't want to be harsh or too direct, so it was hard to know if someone wanted to be my friend, or just didn't want to offend me by saying no. I also had to get used to their concept of time, most of my friends are always late! Which was hard to get used to, being Dutch (we are very strict on time).
Q: Have you made friends with locals, or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends with the locals?
A: I only made friends with locals; not on purpose, but there aren't that many expats (yet) in Dallas, and the ones I did meet just weren't a good match. It would be nice to have some Dutch people here to talk to, but I think they are slowly discovering Dallas! So that's exciting.
Working in Dallas, Texas
Q: How easy or difficult was getting a work permit and/or visa? Did you tackle the visa process yourself, or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: Since we came here for my husband's job, his work played a large part in getting the visa and the whole process. I wouldn't say it was super hard, but it did take some legal work, and they definitely don't easily just let you move to the US. I'm on a 'spouse visa', and that was pretty obvious to get because we are married.
Q: What is the economic climate in the city like?
A: It's hard to say for me because we are kind of in this 'successful people bubble' because of where we live. I didn't grow up here, and I don't have a big social circle, so I can't say with certainty whether it's hard or easy to get a job here, or anything about the unemployment rate.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: I wouldn't know because I'm self-employed, but what I understand from my husband and my friends is that the culture is very different. I feel like American people work a lot of hours but are not that 'smart', if you know what I mean. There isn't a good work-life balance like in the Netherlands, and always being available is seen as a good thing here. It also still surprises me how easy it is to fire someone – in the Netherlands, it's really hard to get fired unless you just don't do your job or misbehave.
Family and children in Dallas, Texas
Q: How has your partner adjusted to your new home?
A: My husband adjusted fine, and he likes Dallas. He also relalises that moving continents is very hard, and life has been more challenging for us in the past months than ever before, I think. But that's just part of it – that's also how we grow and learn.
Q: Any advice you'd like to offer to new arrivals in your current country of residence?
A: I would say just take it step by step, day by day. It can be very overwhelming to not understand anything at first, but you'll get there in time. Google is your best friend, and also try to make American friends quickly – they can help you and advise you on things. Don't be afraid to ask questions to random people or strangers – Americans are very friendly and happy to help. And if you need help from a Dutch person, you can always send me a DM on my Instagram :).
►Interviewed on November 2023