the netherlands - anonymous' reflections after spending decades there

posted by anonymous on 11/06/13.

2

How much time have you spent in the Netherlands?

I've lived here nearly 30 years total. We had three years in the States in between times.

How old were you when you came to the Netherlands? Where were you before?

I was here for 18 months in my late 20's. I came here for good when I was 33.

What brought you to the Netherlands? What made you choose the Netherlands over any other place you could've gone?

My husband is Dutch.

Describe the city you live in in the Netherlands and your impressions of it.

We started out in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is magical. When our second child was on the way we moved to Almere. Almere is a new city, built on reclaimed land. We always said, 'We will NEVER move to Almere'. At the time, it was easy to move to Almere. The houses were affordable, the commute to Amsterdam was an easy one, and it seemed a good idea at the time. We have not been sorry. It misses the 'gezelligheid' of an older city or village. (gezellig is a word that can't be purely translated but kind of means 'cozy').

How does the city you live in compare to other cities in the Netherlands? What drew you to the city you live in over other cities in the Netherlands?

Because Almere is new it is well thought out. There are separate bus lanes and a comprehensive system of bike lanes. Everything is convenient.

Was making friends and meeting people in the Netherlands in general easy or difficult? How did your social life evolve? What did you do to meet people? How does your social life in the Netherlands compare to how it is/was in other places you've lived?

In my experience the Dutch are less spontaneous. Most everybody has an agenda where they write all their appointments in. Sometimes a simple get together can be planned weeks in advance.

My husband's friends have become my friends. I have made friends at work as well. We have an English speaking club here with activities each month. I have discovered that it is important to be able to relate to others in your native language.

How does your race, nationality, gender, accent, etc. affect how you are treated or how people react to meeting you in the Netherlands? Positively? Negatively?

My ancestors are mainly German and Dutch. Until I open my mouth people don't know I am not Dutch. When I first lived here and was trying to speak Dutch, people would hear my accent and immediately answer in English. That doesn't happen as often now, but when it does I see it as somebody trying to be helpful, so I play along. In the 80's there was still some anti-American feeling.

How does the language barrier affect you (if it all)?

My written Dutch isn't what it should be. Sadly my English has suffered through the years. My feeling now is that I am not truly fluent in either language.

Do you have any observations or stories to share about dating, relationships, gender norms, or sex in the Netherlands? Or any impressions of how these things are different in the Netherlands than in other places you've been?

Things are pretty relaxed in our part of the country. We do have our own 'bible belt'.

What sort of work/school do you do in the Netherlands? What's it like working (or studying) in the Netherlands compared to what it was like where you lived before?

Before moving here I was an Art Teacher. I now work as a teaching assistant at a special needs school. It was possible to retrain and teach Art here, but I love my job and am very thankful to have a job in education.

What things are more expensive than you are used to and what things are cheaper?

As I have been here so long I have no real way or comparing. My son recently spent 9 months at an American university. He was amazed at how expensive spices were. We are talking 5 or 6 times as expensive.

Any good stories you can think of that you haven't mentioned yet?

The Dutch are very direct. They say what they mean. That combined with the shortness of certain vowels took some getting used to it. It all sounded so abrupt.

What are your favorite things about the Netherlands? Least favorite?

One of my favorite things is the culture. There are museums everywhere. We have a museum card which gives us free or reduced entry to most museums in the Netherlands.

I am also very fond of the public transport system. We have a bus stopping at the corner and a train station 8 minutes away on foot.

My least favorite thing would be the weather. For many the size of the homes would be a negative. We live in a typical 'row house' with three stories. We like it!

What do you miss while living in the Netherlands (could be something tangible or a cultural/social phenomena)?

I miss people. At the beginning I also missed having a personal history here. Now, 30 years later I have one!

Would you recommend the Netherlands as a place to live, travel to, or neither?

Both!

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