An American in the Netherlands

Am I the only one who wishes I could just pack up and move somewhere?  Get out of town for a few years.  At least travel.  I did the math last night, if I spent 10 days in each country, it would take 5.6 years to visit every country in the world!!!!  Who’s with me?!?!?!

On that note, my parents moved to the Netherlands about 4 years ago and I am lucky enough to have their stories to share with you!  I don’t think it’s as glamorous as I once thought it was, but I definitely think the rewards might be worth it.  Instead of reading my chatter today, you have the opportunity to read a guest post from my mum about an American in the Netherlands.  They’ve graciously invited me to their home in the Netherlands twice now and I have a trip planned for spring 2016.  It’s quite a lovely place to visit!

Goede dag van de Nederland. Ik ben Cheri en mijn man is Roy. We houden van het leven in het Nederland.
Good day from the Netherlands.  I am Cheri and my husband is Roy.  We love living in the Netherlands.

Hello!  I am very excited to be doing another guest post on Starting Small!  First, I wanted to share a little bit about us.  This post is a little more personal than my last post and I’d like to give you some background on where we come from.

Roy and I in a field of tulips
Roy and I in a field of tulips

Both Roy and I grew up overseas and have traveled most of our lives, however, this was our first time to live outside of the USA as adults.  We knew there would be some difficult times, but we figured it’s Europe-how hard can it be?  Well, it has been extremely difficult and yet so rewarding at the same time.  Nothing is easy-a simple trip to the grocery store became a long drawn out affair at first.  Nothing is in English and we had no idea what the products were or what the cuts of meat were.  Unlike in the USA where it is common to see English and Spanish, there is no Dutch and English.  There is only Dutch.  Figuring out how everything works and especially how to bank in Dutch took so much time and energy-it still does.  The rewards of living here are incredible though, and make all of the trials and tribulations worth it.  We have universal healthcare, peace and quiet, tolerance and freedom as well as unbelievable scenery and experiences.  We feel more at home here in the Netherlands now than when we visit the USA every year.

The following are just a few things I’ve learned in my time here in the Netherlands.  I hope you enjoy!

  1. There is a huge difference from most of the Netherlands to the province of Friesland.  It is almost as if it’s a separate country.  The rest of the nation looks at Friesland as second rate, but Friesland sees itself as all that matters.  They even have their own language and the Dutch don’t understand it!  When we travel to other parts of the Netherlands, we tell people where we live and they stare at us and ask “why in the world would you live there?”
    Shaggy cows we see walking/biking through Friesland
    Shaggy cows we see walking/biking through Friesland
  2. If you as a question, you will be given that answer.  If there is more information you may need, it will be held until you ask the correct question.  This makes life very difficult trying to figure things out and complete application processes.  We had many unnecessary trips to City Hall and Immigration!  When asking questions, we have learned to listen to how the Dutch respond and then as our question again in a different way.  Sometimes, you can ask the same question 3-5 different ways and get more and more of the answer you need!
  3. You try to speak Dutch and no matter how you say a word, you are corrected.  If you don’t try to speak Dutch and speak in English, you are scolded for not speaking Dutch.  In other words, you really can’t win!  Here in Friesland, there are some people who will speak nothing but Friese to me.  The UPS deliver man is one such person.  No matter how much English I speak to him, he rattles non stop in Friese to me.  He has come every month for the last 4 years to deliver our mail from the USA, so he knows us very well, yet still no English or Dutch.
  4. In Friesland, an outsider is “watched.”  It took 3 years for the neighbors who see us every day to begin talking to us, waving, and being friendly.  For 3 years, I would walk through the neighborhood and greet people with no responses.  This past Spring, I was getting groceries out of my car when an old man stopped and asked “so you’ve been here three years now, are you going to stay?  Do you like it here?”  He knew almost to the day when we had moved in.
  5. As it rains so much here, rain is never an excuse to not do something.  You simply don your special rain gear and get on with it.
  6. The Dutch do not clear the roads of snow in the winter, but there is a special little machine that drives down the bike paths and clears them.  Cars stay home on snowy days.
  7. If the canals ice over and it is declared safe, everyone is out in-line skating; kids during the day and adults at night.  Lights are hung along stretches of canals to illuminate night skates.  You will see people pushing baby prams and old people in wheelchairs on the ice.  I believe this is why the Dutch are so amazing at in-line skating in the Olympics!!!!  Every winter, people start talking about the Elfstedentocht-The Eleven Cities Race.  The Elfstedentocht is a 200 kilometer long canal skating tour held in Friesland.  The entire country goes crazy with excitement, but it is only held when the canal ice meets certain standards.  The last time it was raced was in 1997, but they came close to racing it in 2012 and the province was abuzz.
    People skating on the canal near our home
    People skating on the canal near our home
    Pushing a pram while canal skating near our home
    Pushing a pram while canal skating near our home
  8. Everyone has healthcare and their needs are met.  As people age, they are provided with equipment to keep them as independent as possible.  It is not uncommon to be walking on paths and be passed by a high speeding wheelchair or scooter chair.  Everyone loves the outdoors is spends as much time outside as possible.
  9. The Dutch start as toddlers learning to ride a bike.  They have little bikes with no pedals where the kids just walk the bike.  As they get older, they graduate to bigger and better bikes.  By the time they are teenagers, they ride bikes 2-4 across and use no hands so they can play games on their phones.  The Dutch are expert cyclists
  10. They actually wear klompens, wooden shoes, in public.
    Klompen heels
    Klompen heels
    These klompen are a lot heavier than you'd think!
    These klompen are a lot heavier than you’d think!