Raluca Tarcea

Graphic Design

So Fluffy I’m Gonna Die!

Big decisions

About a year ago, it became almost certain that my then 3-month temporary move to the Netherlands would become a little more permanent. It is at this point that most people would start looking for an apartment, get a car or prepare in advance for all the paperwork to be filled in for residency. Well, that is most people. I, on the other hand, figured that what would make this place feel most like home, would be a dog.

My parents’ objections to this decision were mainly aesthetic: the smell, the possible mess, the not-so-freakishly-clean-anymore apartment and so on.

I even had my own objections and internal debates. When it came to dogs, I had an attitude that touched the edge of phobia. I was almost bitten by a really nasty German-shepherd when I was 5 or 6 years old, and even though it was not a terrible bite, the scare was traumatic enough. Over the years, I would cross the street and walk the other way at the sight of any dog that was taller than my knee-height. I still do.

So I wondered – what would I do if I was walking the puppy and another dog came along? Would I pick up my dog and run away? *UPDATE: I am, indeed, doing that, but getting better at facing my fear. I have recently become friends with a pitbull (Daisy) and an amstaff (Babe)*

Another objection of mine was that I severely disliked dog owners and their peculiar dog-owner character – you know what I am talking about: crazy laughter as the dog jumps on your newly washed white jeans with his paws full of mud, apologies for a dog’s bad behaviour that comes along as a smile that really says they think that behaviour is actually cute, “wet kisses” from your new furry friend and so on. I did not want to become one of those *UPDATE: I failed. I am one of those…*

Which one’s mine?

Although I had officially bought Yanni in May of 2014, it would be another month until I would bring him home with me.

I live in the Netherlands and Lora’s kennel where I bought him from is based in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Legal regulations state that a dog must be 6 months old minimum before being administered its anti-rabies vaccine, which he needed in order to be cleared for flying out of Romania.

In June 2014, shortly before Yanni’s 6 month birthday, I flew home to pick him up. Finally, I walked into Lora’s house. I cannot call it a Kennel, as that seems a far less name for what is a home full of love and care for these Maltese.

Before making a decision on where I’d get my dog from, I spent a good deal of time contacting various kennels and vet clinics for recommendations. Not having owned a dog before, it was no easy task.

I also wanted to see pictures of the male puppies that were available for sale. And when I saw Yanni’s photos, I was sold. See below. I thought those were the cutest “puppy eyes” I had ever seen.

Far from what I had been expecting, picking a puppy was no easy task – I had a choice between several tiny bundles of white fur and loving eyes that were running around me, wanting to play. They say you do not choose the dog. The dog chooses you. So I waited.

And then I saw Yanni. “That’s my dog,” I said simply as he was running towards me. And just like that, he was.


I took Yanni home and put him in his newly bought bed. That’s one tiny thing…, I thought. He looked at me with enormous eyes, stretched his legs, then curled up and five minutes later he was asleep. He was home.

He slept through the first night and all the nights after, quickly forming a ritual for ourselves every morning: him jumping on my bed, then racing across the apartment straight to the door in anticipation of the upcoming walk around the block.

In time, we adjusted this ritual and skipped a few steps – like the one with him jumping on the bed every morning when I wake up: he now sleeps at my feet, at the edge of the bed. I have, indeed, become one of those dog owners.

All is well when it ends well

As like with all dog owners, I’ve had my fair share of scares with Yanni. He gave me my first hold-my-breath-legs-trembling moment about a month after he came to live with me. Coming home from work, I opened the door and expected a rolling ball of fur to come jumping towards me. But nothing happened. As I stepped in the bedroom, Yanni was lying down in his bed, with his head on my worn out T-shirt that he had claimed his own once he settled in. He lifted his head as to let me know he acknowledged my presence, but he was too weak to move.

Looking around, I couldn’t tell what was wrong with him. Rushing to call my vet, she assured me that it is probably an upset tummy due to the change in food manufacturer and there is no need to bring him in just yet. But that I should keep an eye on him through the night and call if anything changes.

Hour by hour, I would wake up to check on him. At around two in the morning, I woke up again. He shifted a little as I touched him, looked at me and then rested his head on my palm. I stayed up with him all night on the bedroom floor realizing then what an irreversible hold this 6.5 pound soul had put on my heart.

I knew he was going to be fine when, as the first rays of light came through the window, Yanni jumped up and stole my socks. All was well in his world.

Unspoken words

The first command Yanni learned, and with surprising ease, was “Sit!. The terms are obvious: he would sit, then I would give him a snack. But, treat or not, he listened and did what told with an excitement that made it one of the most touching things I have ever seen. Sometimes, as soon as I grab the bag of treats, he immediately sits down as in anticipation of yummy treats he would receive.

In time, we developed a silent understanding between us. Going to the door means he wants to go out, bringing me one of his toys means he wants to play, a small but loud bark means I need to pay attention and so on. He even gets my state of mind. For some reason, he copies my moods and looks like a smaller version of my attitude: he is happy when I am happy, and gloomy when I am sad.

How does anyone live without a dog?
I can’t imagine.

Survival Kit: 10 Things You Should Check When Renting an Apartment in the Netherlands

So you’ve decided to move to the Netherlands. Congratulations. Now you may have sorted out long-term living arrangements prior to landing here, but if not, I suggest getting to it as quickly as possible. Proof of residence is necessary for pretty much everything you need to do next.

As I found out recently, finding an apartment here is a serious challenge for an expat.

The market is heavily controlled by private housing agencies that require a commission and administration fees. Prepare to pay three or four month’s rent in one go. You will be required to pay your first month rent, a deposit of one or two month’s rent, and one month commission to the rental agent (plus 21% taxes and about €200 in administration fees).

So buckle up and do the math… As an example, for a rent of €850, you will have to come up with around €3000 before you receive the keys to your new home.

You may also want to keep in mind that your apartment might be huur exclusief, which means you will have to pay your own GWE (Gas, Water, Electricity) bills and it can either be fully furnished (gemeubileerd), partly furnished (gestoffeerd) or unfurnished (kaal).

To search for housing options, have a look at Funda ( Dutch only website), Select A House, or Pararius, which also has a nice, very useful app.

Of course, you can also rent a room or house share, but I can’t help there as that was not an option I was interested in for myself.

Now, if you’ve skipped to the bottom of this post to see my checklist, here it is:

1. Is the apartment furnished, partly furnished or unfurnished?
2. Is the rent all-inclusive? Meaning would you be responsible for paying the GWE (gas, water, electricity) or will the landlord take care of that.
3. How much is the deposit? The deposit is usually one or two month’s rent, but I have also seen a three month deposit.
4. Will you have to pay the municipal taxes for the apartment or will the owner be responsible?
5. Is there Wi-Fi in the apartment? I strongly advise you to insist that your landlord takes care of that prior to your move. Even if it will increase your rent with the amount of internet cost.
6. Will you receive a signed copy of the contract in English? If not, I suggest you have it officially translated or at least go over it with a Dutch-speaking person.
7. Does the apartment have its own parking space? You might not have a car, but if the apartment owns a parking space, you may rent it yourself to someone.
8. Are pets allowed in the apartment? Having a cat or a dog may bring changes to the rental agreement, such as perhaps a higher deposit.
9. Who is responsible for maintenance and repairs of the house: the tenant or the landlord? As a tenant, you are responsible for small, inexpensive repairs that don’t require specialist skills, such as replacing your own light bulbs or similar. You must, however, notify the landlord in case of any larger maintenance issues and the landlord will responsible for having them repaired. If, for example, your washing machine breaks because it is old and you pay for the repairs yourself, the landlord will have to refund these costs. However, should it break because of your own mistake, then you are responsible to get it repaired.
10. What are the conditions of terminating the rental agreement? This is something most expats forget about. You may plan to stay here forever but you never know what happens and you might need to relocate. I advise you to ask your rental agent about having a clause in the contract that covers your move to a new country or so. This is called a diplomatic cause and if you mention it to your agent, he will know what you are referring to.

One thing I wish I knew is that the real estate agent can negotiate the rent for you. He might or might not be able to lower the landlord’s asking price, but you don’t lose anything by trying.

I also strongly advise you to get a local friend to tell you about all the hidden costs, to avoid surprises.

I hope you have found this information useful and if you have other tips and tricks about housing in the Netherlands, let me know in the comment section below.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read the following: I Am Expat.

You know you live in Holland when…

So you’ve been in Holland for a while. Think you’re “home”? Not unless you do these things:

• you have a bike. Or more!
• you understand German, English and French but the German and the English and the French don’t understand a word you speak
• you terrorize new tourists on bicycles and enjoy their torment
• you can multi-task: riding a bike while holding an umbrella in heavy rain while keeping your groceries dry as you hold your Phone to type on WhatsApp in perfect balance and expect everyone to get out of your way
• you don’t ask “Do you speak English” anymore. You just speak English. (I really love Holland!)
• you speak better English than most Americans
• you don’t care much for tips in restaurants anymore
• your Moleskine (or another agenda) is stuck to your hand and fully booked for the next two centuries
• you’d rather wear two sweaters than turn up the heater (I thank my friend J. for this insight, but I’m still turning up the heater…)
• you now complain that not all the countries in the world have bike lanes
• you think “Verantwoordelijkheidsgevoel” is easily pronounceable
• you know what “gezellig” means but you have no idea how to explain it to other foreigners
• you know what a “kroket” is and you avoid the really orange ones
• you still don’t speak Dutch but your English and other languages have improved immensely
• you now think that a 2 hour drive is a long one
• you aren’t surprised anymore that clubs close at 2 or 3 a.m. and you actually enjoy it more that way
• you use 9292.nl like it’s the sacred place of all things buses

Do You Get Creative With Your Out Of Office Auto-Reply?

I was reading this article on Mashable earlier today so I went down the rabbit hole and spent the next hour laughing or at least slightly smiling at some other funny OOO auto replies.

So far, Ann Handley‘s from MarketingProfs is my favourite and just had to share it. I started following Ann after her guest appearance on the FIR B2B podcast where she talked about content marketing and its challenges & benefits for B2B. And if you’re wondering what Ann said, check it out here.

But that’s content for another post. In the meantime, smile a little at Ann’s out of office auto-reply.

As I am leaving on vacation in a couple of weeks, I could not help but craft my very own auto-responder which I have safely saved in a draft until the time comes to use it. And use it I shall.


Out-of-officeWhat’s your auto-responder? Do you like to get creative or do you prefer the classic message?


Let me know in the comment section below 🙂


50 Lessons in 25 years of life

One of my favourite Twitter accounts to follow every Monday morning is Zen Habits and this past Monday I came across a post that got me thinking of where I started and where I ended up. I must say, it’s been a hell of a ride so far! Looking back on my life I realize how much each win or loss has had some impact on where I stand right now. And despite the rough roads, I wouldn’t change a damn thing. Came a long way from the shy bookworm to a PR person with an overly articulate life.

As I continue to learn more on life and myself, I’ve picked my brain to think of what I’ve learned so far. Initially, my list had a “25 for 25” flair, but thankfully, it seems I’ve learned more. Enjoy!

  1. The most valuable gift you can give someone is your time: don’t waste it on the wrong people.
  2. The most valuable gift you can receive is someone’s time: appreciate it.
  3. Nothing worth having in life ever comes easy. Just remember it takes 13 hours to build a Toyota and 6 months to build a Rolls Royce.
  4. You can be confident. Just don’t be arrogant.
  5. If you’re not happy, change it.
  6. Here’s one for boys only: don’t be an asshole. Just…don’t.
  7. If you’re in couples’ therapy, I’m sorry, but it is already over.
  8. Don’t make money your only goal, but use it to keep score. (Donald Trump)
  9. Don’t make promises you know you won’t keep.
  10. You cannot change the past. Learn from it.
  11. If this is the longest thing you’ve read all week, that’s just sad. Open a book once in a while!
  12. Acknowledging your mistakes goes a long way. Man up and say “I screwed up, but I’ll fix it”. Learn from it and do better next time.
  13. Stop holding grudges. The person you hold a grudge on has probably forgotten your name already.
  14. Figure out what makes you valuable.
  15. Save money. Just…save money.
  16. Spend money! You can’t take it with you.
  17. Be generous.
  18. Embrace constructive criticism.
  19. Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. There will always be those who will try to take advantage of that.
  20. Don’t burn bridges, you never know when you need to cross back.
  21. Trust your intuition. Listen to your heart, most times it knows what to do even though it steered you wrong in the past.
  22. Be honest in all your relationships. Liars always get caught.
  23. There are no coincidences: everybody comes into your life for a reason.
  24. Business is personal.
  25. Perfectionism is a vague illusion. Strive to be the best you can be and learn from your mistakes.
  26. Learn to say “No”. If it doesn’t make you better, happier, wiser or lights you up, find the things that do.
  27. Alarm bells are often a good indicator: if you feel something is wrong, chances are, it is.
  28. Kindness and affection can go a long way: you are never too busy for a good word, a compliment or telling those who matter to you how much they do.
  29. Be lovable.
  30. Remember that age is just a number.
  31. There’s no better endorsement than the grapevine: make sure what is said about you lets you sleep at night. (My mom)
  32. Find what you love and hold on to it. Fight for it if you must, but you’ll regret losing it if you do.
  33. Treat people the way you wish to be treated.
  34. Be brave. Even if you’re not, pretend to be. Most times nobody can tell the difference anyway!
  35. Give people a second chance, but not a third, fourth, etc.
  36. Whatever you do, do it with passion. Love or hate, but do it from the heart.
  37. It is better to say you wish you didn’t do something rather than have to say you wish you did.
  38. Stop complaining. Most likely, you’re having a bad day, not a bad life.
  39. Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams. Nobody else will do it for you.
  40. Live in such a way that in your last days your regrets for what you lost aren’t bigger than the things you chose instead.
  41. Love. Pure and simple. Just love.
  42. Money alone won’t make you happy, but having enough can give you time to find the things that will, without worrying you can’t pay your bills.
  43. Don’t hide behind excuses like “This is my fate”. You make your own choices, hence you make your own destiny
  44. Being the tough one isn’t always the best thing. Swallow your damn pride and apologize if you must.
  45. Happiness is not for sale. It’s DIY.
  46. Don’t let the little things ruin big things. Does it really matter he didn’t finish the ‘Honey-Do’ list? You might win that fight, but you lose the battle..
  47. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. Find someone who does and learn.
  48. Love isn’t “all” you need, but if you don’t have it, your life will be very empty.
  49. Don’t be a mindless sheep. Stand up for yourself and go against that damn flow if that’s what makes you happy and feels right.
  50. Love shouldn’t be mediocre. Don’t settle for anything less than extraordinary.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my little pieces of wisdom. Feel free to comment in the section below and let me know what you’ve learned so far!


Inbound Marketing takeaways from Hubspot

On March 12, Hubspot ran an event in Amsterdam on inbound marketing tactics and strategies directed towards lead generation and lead nurturing. Topics ranged from content creation, social media and marketing analytics to how you stack up against your competition.

The Hubspotters present included Jeetu Mahtani, Managing Director of Hubspot, Ian Byrne, Inbound Marketing Specialist, Kim Darling, Senior Marketing Manager and Nikita Smits, Senior Channel Consultant.

The day kicked off with Jeetu’s presentation on where inbound marketing stands today. So, fellow marketers, it seems we have a “lovability” problem: we stand somewhere between politicians and stockbrokers when it comes to how much people love us. You get the picture… Although I do love my stockbroker! And M., if you are reading this, go make me some money!

Here are some key points to take away from this presentation:

  • Many marketers and companies create bad experiences – stop creating boring marketing!
  • If you interrupt your customer from his busy life, make sure you make it worth his time
  • How your customers buy today: people prefer to educate themselves before they speak with a sales guy. Whether they get this information online (Twitter, Google, etc.) or from their trusted sources (suppliers, friends, etc.), by the time you reach them, they already know who you are, what your company does and whether they want anything to do with you or not.


Google searcg

1. Understand your audience 

This one is pretty self-explanatory: you can’t sell if you don’t know what your customer really wants.

2. Attract and convert with content  


Your content must do at least one of these four things:

  • Add value
  • Answer questions
  • Solve a problem
  • Simply entertain

3. Personalize your marketing: 

Inbound marketing

4. Measure like a pro! 

Needless to dwell on what the use of analyzing your actions is. Think ROI, NPS Score, number of visitors, leads, etc.

5. Hire the right people



Following Jeetu’s presentation, Ian gave us a nice overview of Hubspot in action which made it clear on how it works and what you can expect from the software. I’m not going to go into details on this one, but you can check out more information about features and pricing here.

The last part of the event featured three cases that successfully implemented the Hubspot approach. The speaker panel included Thomas Witt of Thomas Witt Consulting; Fred Zimney from Open University Netherlands and Anabel de Vetter from Showpad. You can follow Anabel and Showpad on Twitter as well to see their latest updates. Discussions lasted way past the allocated time slot as all panelists were keen to share their experiences during the networking lunch that followed.

All in all, there were some great takeaways from the event and I am looking forward to more learning opportunities like this.

For the love of marketing, as they say, go out and make your marketing valuable.


Anabel, Thomas and Fred tell their approach to inbound marketin

marketing mary

Here’s one for all the Marketing Marys out there.



I am expat.

As a foreigner learning to get to grips with the Dutch way of well..everything and even though many things are similar to other cultures I experienced so far, my lovely Dutchies always find something to surprise me with… In my 6 months-ish in the Netherlands, I’ve come up with a list of “very-Dutch-things”. So here goes:




The first thing I noticed was that the Dutchies sure love their bikes! If you’ve been here even for a few days, you know what I mean. They’re everywhere! Storm or sunshine, heels or no heels, the bikes are there. Now you might say that you have bikes in your country as well, but trust me, you cannot ride a bike like a Dutch woman. You should not be surprised if you see a Dutch woman on a bike in heavy rain wearing high heels and a dress, biking through the raindrops while talking on the phone, carrying her bag and neatly balancing a baby in front of her as well. Please do not try this at home, we are not the superhuman Dutchies.I can tell you this though: beware of angry cyclists. Hell hath no fury like an angry Dutchie on a bike…


To this day, I still find it cute to see a room full of adult Dutch business men sipping milk during lunch. The same Dutch business men that maybe an hour before signed million dollar deals or had a meeting with Richard Branson or something of sorts. Priceless!


Now imagine that next to the milk glass above, they have a piece of toast with Hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) on it. For lunch. I could not stop staring the first time I had lunch with my new team in the Netherlands. Not wanting to look like an impolite blonde, I started staring at my own “tosti”, which, by the way, had ham and cheese on it. I kept thinking, “are those chocolate sprinkles? No..they must be some seeds or something..But they do look like cocoa sprinkles..!”. On my way home I phoned a Romanian friend who had been living in Holland forever and asked him “Do you guys eat choco sprinkles with toast bread for lunch over here?” He confirmed the unthinkable was happening and that it had undeniably rubbed off on him as well. Yes, they do eat choco sprinkles with toast bread for lunch.

Personally, I will probably never get around to having Hagelslag on toast for lunch, but instead I just revert to the plain old “eating sprinkles from the box with a spoon” . It is, after all, chocolate!


When I first moved in to my apartment I felt like everyone was staring in my living room (even though I live at the top floor of my apartment building, which also happens to be the tallest around the block…). There were no curtains! So for the first week I stayed with the light on 24/7 and the night curtains (yes, that, they have) pulled until a light bulb burned. Then I called my landlady and informed her that I am going to Ikea and she’s going to have curtains in her house. She’s a darling, really and we still giggle when we think of how desperate I was not to be the next sight of a voyeur.

I have no theory to why the Dutchies prefer curtain-less houses. You walk down the street and it’s the most normal thing in the world to look right and see what some family is having for dinner or what they’re watching on TV. It used to be the funniest thing in the world, and I used to giggle about it on the phone with friends from Romania but now I am so used to it that I don’t even notice it anymore.


Lekker is one funny word for me. I first heard it at the office. When asked if they wanted a cup of coffee, my colleagues would answer: “Lekker”. I, correctly, found it safe to assume it meant some sort of variation of Yes/Sure/Great/Yummy. However, people, experiences and feelings can be “Lekker” too. WARNING: don’t you go around calling your boss “Lekker”, as you would have just told him he’s yummy.. (Sure, you can call that tall, blonde, hot neighbour with blue eyes “Lekker”.  And yes, chances are at least a couple boys in your apartment building fit that description.).


If there is one thing I dread most is asking someone out for dinner or drinks. Simply “popping by” at the pub after work is usually a no-go for the Dutchies unless it was agreed upon in advance.  Four weeks in advance, that is. I don’t even want to talk about showing up at a friend’s house if you happen to be in his neighbourhood. Whaaaat? Without an appointment? Not unless you have a death wish and you want to be on social exile for the rest of your stay in the Netherlands.I first got to experience this when I proposed that my gym buddies and I do drinks together “soon”. It was a Monday evening. “Soon” meant that week. I kid you not, my three gym buddies pulled out their phones and came up with a time they were ALL free for a couple hours. Four weeks after. We did have those drinks, but by that time I was already accustomed to the Dutch way of schedules and we are good enough friends so I could make fun of them (I still do). And boys, if you are reading this, you know I love teasing!I was shocked at first, but now I have come to accept that this is how it goes and I go on my spontaneous trips and outings with my non-Dutchie friends. Although sometimes I feel this is rubbing off on me…I’ve said “let me check my agenda” more since I have come to the Netherlands than in my entire life!


VINCENT:  But you know what they put on french fries in Holland instead of ketchup?
JULES: What?
VINCENT: Mayonnaise.
JULES: Goddamn!
VINCENT: I seen ‘em do it. And I don’t mean a little bit on the side of the plate, they ******* drown ‘em in it.

(Pulp Fiction)

I rest my case. Mayo overdose!

So this is about the French Fries in the Netherlands. You even see Dutchies walking on the street with a paper cone filled with French Fries as ‘to-go’ food. It’s amazing!

The bitterballen are a whole different ballgame. Served with mustard, they are THE best thing ever invented since toast bread. I can’t seem to get enough! I think I am addicted… They are some sort of meatballs but softer on the inside and crispier on the outside. Probably drowned in fried oil, but health reasons aside, they are my number one guilty pleasure or comfort food.


Yes, lovelies, you read this right. I have not one, not two, but countless Dutch friends who do a 3 or 4-day work week. The reason?  It’s not rocket science: they love to take time to enjoy life. Now, all those agendas make sense…otherwise you’d need a PA to schedule all that free time! Some Dutchies even take days to work from home. More than any other nation I’ve seen! And I don’t mean “work days” where you spend the entire day at home doing one slide of a PowerPoint and call it work. They actually DO work! I asked a friend of mine if their boss doesn’t mind him taking a day to work from home every now and then. He told me that he uses those kinds of days to run his errands in between doing work. Work until noon, run errands for a couple of hours, have lunch, work for a couple more hours, pick up groceries, do dinner and then work another couple of hours. At the end of the day, it still amounts to a full work day. Except in the meantime you also did some house chores and ran your errands. This has also rubbed off on me a bit although I still don’t feel fully at ease asking my boss a day to work from home. But it sure is a great help to have this option when you have out-of-office engagements to take care of.


There’s more on my list, but for now, I will stick to these 8 traditions, some of which I have already adopted myself even without realizing. Life is good over here, folks…

A John Lewis Christmas

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t yet thought about Christmas. It is, after all, only November. And yet today I came across this Christmas-related ad from John Lewis. And it is truly amazing. A-MA-ZING, I tell you.

 Give someone a Christmas they’ll never forget.

For me, there was one so far. And I knew right then and there that it will be very difficult to have another Christmas at least as wonderful at that… I was 6 years old.

And since then, I was often asked: “What would you like for Christmas?”.  Usually I smiled and was glad they could not read my thoughts. What I wish can’t be bought in a store.

Google Much?

Twitter search bar is becoming a lot like the search on Google. Filters, exact quotes and links are given the same approach. Like! I was searching for some Nikon news earlier and to my surprise, Twitter suggested this:

Apparently there is so much more than images, news or videos that you can find. To make it clear, here’s what I mean:

  • Nikon news – this will give you a result containing both “Nikon” and “news”
  • “Nikon news” – containing the exact phrase ‘Nikon news’ (or whatever you place between the inverted commas)
  • Nikon filter:links – contains “Nikon” and will link you to relevant URLs. Same goes for Nikon filter:images and filter:news. 
  • My personal favourite: flight 🙁 with #WizzAir filter – containing “flight” and a negative attitude tagged #WizzAir … Oh I was sure there are many of these and I was right: