I’m not sure if i mentioned before that I lived a few years in Holland, or rather how they say in The Netherlands, so here is a post featuring a summary of my own experiences living here in the Netherlands as an expat and the ups & downs. While I rewrote this, it was interesting to see how much my views have changed. Especially how much more positive I’ve become, as most of my 2008 was spent dealing personally with culture shock. My pros and cons list here is based upon a website I once found, created by someone else who lived for a while in the Netherlands. Many points she shared were and are quite similar to the thoughts I have myself. Some topics are inspired by her page, while some are my own personal additions.
Pros—Things I enjoy about the Netherlands:
• Windmills which grace the landscape seem like a painting out of time past. I most likely will never become jaded by the sight of a windmill.
• I love the random ponds, green spaces or parks, found in the middle of communities and randomly throughout larger cities.
• The 3 C’s: Castles, Canals and Churches. All 3 offer postcard-like settings.
• Although I also love a larger variety in one-stop shopping, like what I grew up with, I also enjoy the quaint, small store shopping atmosphere. I do my some of my shopping at the butcher, the fish monger, the baker and the market for fresh vegetables and fruit.
• Learning another language. I have been learning since I first began with my plans to come here, and though the language seems like barely a drop in the pan, when it comes to all of the languages spoken around the world, it’s been extremely useful and a lot of help for me to understand as much Dutch as possible. Outside of the big cities, I’ve needed to use Dutch more than you’d think!
Experiencing a different culture. It’s best to keep in mind this culture in the Netherlands is likely to not be like your own. Keep in mind that, to the Dutch, you are the one who is different and it would be the same if they came to your home country. I try to remember this and think about it in a positive way.
• Fresh cut flowers and bouquets at the market and florist are abundant and very affordable.
• The canals are very romantic. There are not only canals in Amsterdam, but as well in cities like Utrecht, Delft and Giethoorn.
• History abounds everywhere! I love to think, while I’m riding my bicycle or riding in the car, bus or train, about the history all around me as I’m passing through.
• Usually the Dutch are very eager to assist you if you are confused or lost.
• Each part of the Netherlands has a different culture. If you drive 25 miles to another point within the country, you may already be in an area where the culture differs from the previous town. Also the dialect of Dutch can and will vary.
• Beautiful leaded glass in many windows of homes. I love to see this!
• Arts, music and cultural experiences are strongly encouraged and supported in schools and communities.
• Honesty, whether you like it or not. And I would rather people to be honest with me, up front.
The three K’s: Kaas [cheese], koffie [coffee] and koeien [cows].
• Many neighboring countries in Europe are just a few hours drive or an hour or two by plane.
• Driving along the canals or through the countryside during sunset in the summertime, which is around 10pm, is quite a sight to see!
• Some houses have a thatched roof [Dutch: rieten dak], and I think this is beautiful!
• A must-do: Ride your bicycle on the bicycle trails through the countryside [Dutch: platteland] and off the beaten path. There is so much more to see, nestled away from the busy roads.
Cons—Things I’ve needed to adjust to in the Netherlands:
• Drop candy. I haven’t yet acquired a taste.
• Minor adjustments I had to make. I’ve adjusted to almost everything OK now, but a few minor adjustments for me were:
1. Getting used to the metric system. This hasn’t always been an issue, but temperature has for some reason. I still can’t tell you off the top of my head what 75°F is in °C. I always have to look it up or do the math.
2. Some regular over-the-counter pharmacy purchases were not available here [on many occasions, I've found this to be a pro, rather than a con], and I had to either adjust to the items available or have items shipped.
3. Some products carried in both the Netherlands and America are more expensive in the Netherlands [e.g. a $4.00 tube of brand mascara is about $12.00 here].
4. Remembering to keep a trolley token [Dutch: winkelwagenmuntje], 50¢ or 1 euro cent coin with me for whenever I might need a shopping cart [Dutch: winkelwagen] at the supermarket.
• On average, the release of an American movie has a delay of somewhere around 2-3 months to movie theaters, and American TV shows can be up to two years behind the original release. This makes discussions about programs and movies with friends and family back in the States a bit complicated at first. I found myself often explaining how a movie wouldn’t be out in the cinema here for another month or so.
• Screens coming with a home on the windows to keep flies and mosquitoes out in the warmer months is a nice idea, isn’t it? I was baffled by this because everywhere we’ve lived, there have been no screens on the windows. We’ve always had to create and buy our own.
• The Dutch have a lot of respect for well educated people, diplomas are important for them. Unfortunately they don’t have something like GED programs and don’t know a value of GED diploma.
• The homesickness comes and goes. I try to go back to visit my family and friends at least once each year, and this mostly helps solve the issue.
• Culture shock is different for everyone, and from experience I can say it’s best to not surround yourself with negativity at the time when culture shock should arise.
• Be prepared for rainy days. It rains a lot in the Netherlands.
• If you plan on owning a bicycle, remember it might get stolen. You should get two keys for your bicycle lock when you buy a bicycle. Check that they both work before leaving the shop. Keep the second key somewhere else and not on the bicycle because you will need to bring it to the police if your bicycle is stolen. This helps prove, above all things, that the bicycle is your bicycle. To help prevent your bicycle from being stolen, it’s best to lock it in a storage, in your home/apartment or in the garage, whenever you are not using it. Whenever you ride your bicycle, lock it at all times it is not in use, and if you’re going shopping in a city center or plan on taking the train and must leave your bicycle behind, look especially for the bewaakte fietsenstalling [English: guarded or secured bicycle parking]. This is how it has worked for me in various locations: as you enter, the guard gives you a slip of paper with numbers written on it, as they also attach to your bicycle a slip with the matching numbers. When you leave with your bicycle, you will show your slip of paper to the guard, and they will check for the matching numbers on the slip on your bicycle. Note that someguarded bicycle parking facilities are free! There are some locations in Amsterdam [at this link], where you can park your bicycle for free for up to 24 hours.
I know I could’ve written more, but I believe this list will do for now. Maybe in another two years I will update it again. Something I want to point out is how this time my list has more positives than negatives!
What are your thoughts on some of these topics, and do you have anything you would add to your own pros and cons list?