Interviewing Robert Nieuwland

3 October 2014 0 Comments Category: blog, Expats Interviews, Robert Nieuwland

Robert descrives himself as a father of two young children, journalist, translator and entrepreneur. All his time and energy is invested in his favorite activities: outdoor and adventure sports, mostly mountain running, but also paragliding, rock climbing, mountain biking, cycling, kayaking, skydiving…



When did you move to Spain?

I moved to Spain in September 2005. I drove my fully packed van from Holland to Madrid the same day I officially graduated, passing by my University to pick up my diploma. When they asked me what my plans were for the near future, I told them to look out the window, at the red van parked outside, with a canoe on top.

Why did you move to Spain? Was it a premeditated decision or was it a coincidence?

My partner, then girlfriend is born and raised here, in Madrid. She was visiting a friend in Holland when we met. Her friend was my best friend’s girlfriend, they introduced us and that’s when I knew who I would end up marrying.

¿Why do you live in Madrid?

Madrid was an obvious choice at first, because my girlfriend still had to do her last year of University. Afterwards it still was obvious because she started working here.

I drove my fully packed van from Holland to Madrid the same day I officially graduated


Can you remember what made most impact on you when you arrived? 

My first impression was how easy it is to make social contact with the ‘Madrileños’. Every time I went climbing I would end up with new friends. It’s still one of the things I most associate with this city.

Did you have any problem with the language? did that lead to funny linguistical misunderstandings?

Of course! Especially in the beginning, my first visits, when my Spanish was tremendously basic. I had to use the little Spanish I knew when I first visited Nuria (my wife) to communicate with her parents, who don’t speak any English. This led to several funny situations during dinners we can still laugh about nowadays. Also, one of the first times I met her friends, I presented myself with “Hola, yo estoy Robert”, which is something like “Hello, I feel like Robert”, instead of “I am Robert” (Yo soy Robert).

Any other misunderstanding because of the customs and habits?

One of these cases also occurred during a dinner with Nuria’s parents: in Holland, when we enjoy food, we show this by moving our hand beside one of our cheeks. But that’s a gesture very similar to what is understood as a threat in Spain. I made this gesture during one of those first dinners with my parents in law and Nuria quickly had to explain what I actually meant by it.

To what is it being most hard for you to adapt in your daily life in Spain, comparing to your country?

Traffic. Not the driving itself, because Amsterdam is quite chaotic as well, it’s more the attitude or lack of a sense of community and common sense that just really gets on my nerves. It still does after nine years. Especially the double parking makes me mad.

And if you got back to your country forever, what would be the hardest thing to leave beyond?

The reliable weather and mountains. I can’t live without mountains anymore, I would go absolutely crazy!

Have you developed any typical Spanish habits? (for example, you have an Andalusian accent, you sleep the siesta, you love listening to Spanish groups that were famous in the 80’s, you’re an expert making tortilla etc.)

I am indeed very fond of cooking, including various typically Spanish recipes, such as tortilla. But I also make a nice “cocido”, “arroz con leche” and other things. And yes, I do SOMETIMES sleep the siesta. But I guess that, in case of athletes it’s more usual, also outside Spain. I enjoy Spanish music a lot, of many different types, from “Extremoduro” to “Paco de Lucía”.

I can’t live without mountains anymore, I would go absolutely crazy!


In what way do you feel more Spanish than from your country?

I have founded the first and only Running Tours business in Madrid, the second in Spain after Barcelona. I have no intentions of going back to Holland permanently and I’m completely, 100% integrated, however, I still have many typically Dutch characteristics that I will probably never loose. I have a foot in each country.

I think in Spanish. I have more Spanish friends than Dutch. My wife is Spanish. I see my Spanish family (my wife’s) more than my own Dutch family. I like more things about Spain than I do about Holland.

Do you normally support the Spanish participants in any sports event?

Definitely! I’m a huge fan of many Spanish athletes. Spain is currently one of the best sporting countries in the world. Tennis, trail running, badminton, Moto GP, F1, triathlon and many many more! And I highly respect them and support them for that.

And if a Spanish team meats a team from your country?

I don’t really care if Holland or Spain wins in an important soccer match. I’m not a big soccer fan, but I think it shows I feel quite Spanish (as well).

Is a Spaniard born or made????

Both. There are certain patterns of behavior I think are impossible to ‘copy’. Others I think are actually quite easy to incorporate, even without noticing. It’s difficult to give good examples, but nevertheless it’s true.

I have founded the first and only Running Tours business in Madrid,


How would it be to develop your work in your country?

Impossible. No mountains.

Why is it so special here? Did you have to adapt it to local manners and peculiarities? (for example schedules, legal and administrative issues)

My business is the first one dedicated to international tourism in the mountains. Also the running tours were a first and some future project(s) in the making are also pioneer. No, no problems as far as adapting goes…


Do you agree with the stereotypes that define Spain: Sun, Siesta and Party?

To a certain extent I do. However, it’s a widely spread misunderstanding there is no more than that to Spain. I think Spain is one of the most divers countries in Europe (nature and culture), with an extremely interesting, rich and complicated history and it would not be fair to resume Spain with just those three words.

I think Spain is one of the most divers countries in Europe

Could you define Spain and the Spaniards with 3 or 4 words?

Sunny, social, lucky and underestimated.

What do you like most of Spain and your city?

Sorry to be so repetitive, but: the climate and mountains. Madrid: the social life and people.

And less?

A certain type of selfishness or lack of community awareness. It seems contradictory with the social life being so positive, but it clearly shows in politics or traffic, for example. Spaniards seem to lack a sense of “we’re all in this together”.

In what ways have your first impression of Spain and the Spaniards changed?

My first impressions were 100% positive. I’m less naïve now. But I still love them though.

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