Getting to Know Us: Stephanie Ernst-Milner

As a ginger leftie*, Stephanie was lucky to make it through childhood, let alone across the globe to Almere – thank goodness you’re not a generation older hey Steph..?

Where were you born?
In a town called Gladstone, in Central Queensland, Australia. Please don’t hold it against me, I escaped.


Where have you lived?
Around Queensland mostly, growing up in Gladstone, followed by a long stint in Brisbane. I also lived on Moreton Island for a while for work.


Where can we find you online?, Facebook … and most of those fail websites. You know, the ones where people type things into their phones and autocorrect kicks in …


What brought you to Almere?
A plane. Boeing 737 owned by Cathay Pacific, followed by a trip on the wonderful NS rail network. I’m kidding! I followed my husband here. The restraining order still hasn’t been approved …


Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.
Amazingly enough, it isn’t the bitterbollen and stroopwafels! I love the architecture here – and I love going up to La Place and seeing the rooftop gardens. We are so lucky to live in a city that is so accessible and pretty!

How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?
It really wasn’t until we got our own home here that I’ve felt truly at home. It was hard adjusting to living in the middle of a city when I come from a small town and even when I lived in the big smoke, I was in a semi rural area. So my greeting to Holland was Koniginnedag, followed by Liberation Day, followed by Euro Cup … you can kind of see I didn’t sleep much for a few months. However, I have made some wonderful friends here who have helped me out so much, so I am grateful to International Almere for being here for someone like me. It’s a big step to quit your job, leave your family and come to a country where you don’t know the language, and be welcomed by a group of amazing people who are experiencing or have experienced the same things as you and offer their support and friendship.


Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?
People are going to judge me when I say Kwalitaria – but really, for quick, cheap meals they can’t be beaten. Especially on those nights where you really can’t be bothered to cook. Lido holds a very special place in my heart – it’s where we had our second marriage celebration, and the food is just spectacular. You also can’t beat the Sushi Grill places … seriously – challenge yourselves and see how many rounds/dishes you can do. Between 2 our personal best is 4 rounds, 29 dishes …
And let’s not forget Yamas! That little Greek waiter who speaks a crazy combination of Dutch/French/English/Greek is just too cute for words, and the food? AMAZING!


Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?
I really define myself as me. I guess that sounds a wee bit trite and pretentious, but I don’t believe we all fit into boxes. I think anyone who has made the decision to move to another country really has a challenge on their hands. So we adapt and change small things about ourselves and our upbringing to accomodate the differences in our lives. Some people embrace change, some don’t. Wow … I think I went on a tangent there….


How long do you plan on living here for?
Indefinitely. The mortgage monster has bitten hard, so we’re here for a while. Does that frighten anyone? *insert evil laugh here*


Tell us how you found International Almere?
As a hardcore Googler, one day I was intrigued by the city described as “The Ipswich of Amsterdam” by my husband. We had confirmation his job was here, so I started a heavy session of Google. When I typed in “Expat Group Almere” a link came up for International Almere’s Facebook page. It was here that I learned that it wasn’t like Ipswich, Queensland at all. Noone wore flannel shirts and ripped jeans, noone drove hotted up Toranas and Falcons, and certainly noone had 2 heads. Instead I found a beautiful city full of people like myself!


Have you been to any International Almere events?  Which was your favourite?
Many! I loved the Aussie Style BBQ, the picnic, and just recently started going to the Quiz nights. Go Team Gingernuts!


What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?
Go for it. Embrace this city because it is a fantastic place to live (after all, we now have Primark!), it’s readily accessible to most places within NL and even across the borders, and with a support group like IA in the mix, you will seriously fall in love with this city.


What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?
Getting over my morbid fear of anything orange, stamppot, paardenworst, wooden shoes and open front curtains.. Seriously, I really couldn’t get over people walking past my house and looking into my kitchen for around 3 months. Then I started leaving the window open to torture then with the smells … and then I just started waving back and giving a cheerful “Goedenavond!”


If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?
Hmm. Tough question. My bike probably. I’ve fallen in love with it.


What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate?  Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?
I had my first Sinterklaas here last year, and it was a load of fun. I still have my poem stuck on my fridge! I’m sure I will enjoy Koninginneday much more this year as I’m not right in the middle of it, or trying to sleep through it, although I may be traumatised by the orange overload …. I’m also looking forward to Sint Maarten’s as well – it must be cuteness overload! Other than that, pass me the bitterbollen and the beer, and Proost!


More in the Getting to Know Us series:

Getting to Know Us: Nicole Peetsma-Epker

Getting to Know Us: Carly Bridgeman

Getting to Know Us: Becky Riddle

[box style=”rounded”]Would you like to take part in the Getting to Know Us series? We would love to hear from you!

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*the ginger comment is meant entirely in fun, I apologise to anybody who does not see my intended humour – Stephanie jokes about this herself…