Marta, in the end, what do you like of the Netherlands? So many times I found myself looking for the right words to give a proper answer to this question. To motivate a choice that can look risky, selfish, far, strange, choosy. Actually, I’ve always been saying that I am in love with the Netherlands, but when I try to explain it, probably I can’t convey that mix of feelings. I do not believe in utopias, and I do not see the perfect place to live. However, there are things that make life easier, and it’s exactly in these small things that I find my well-being. So…what do I like exactly? [Italian here!]
The bike. Trusty friend in the last five years (to be specific, I should say a list of friends, that have found different owner without my approval)…with the rain, the sun, but undoubtedly against the wind -.-‘. No traffic, pollution, sedentary lifestyle. Jumping on the bike and going back home after work is priceless.
And of course the huge network of cycle paths. Have a look here, no words needed.
The flowers. Probably I’ve never been actively looking for them, but here it is impossible to avoid them. You can find tons of them (!) colorful, perfumed, cheap. Even at the supermarket. I choose only the flowers in pot, because I can’t think of making a flower die for my pleasure. My fingers have never been that green, but last spring I’ve seen my plant bloom again 😀 .
The international atmosphere. Housemates, colleagues and friends. Five years, three houses, three departments, three groups of friends, and on average fifteen people with whom I am sharing everyday life. Meeting in the kitchen with housemates that propose a walk together, that understand your internal struggle as expat, that make you try hand-made Indian delicacies, that initiate you to typical Dutch traditions, and that put in the middle of the table a chocolate bourguignonne.
At the office with the coffee break, jokes and all the technical discussions. And the Dutch colleague who fasts with a colleague doing Ramadan. Parties, chats and trips with friends (including destinations in other continents, to participate to spectacular weddings). In my personal experience, this is well explained by the Dutch word samenleving …it is really living together rather than cohabitation. I miss my family so hard, but surely here there are people who can warm my heart 🙂
The efficiency. A working system*. And solutions directed to make you save time in everyday stuff. For example a card for public transports that works everywhere (bus, tram, train), with which you can even rent a bike at advantageous prices. Rechargeable in train stations, on the internet or automatically. Or the cards from the municipality with which you can park the bike and open rubbish bins. Or the blood analysis that steal you something like ten minutes, without reservation. Or the automatic system for delivering perpetual medications. I do not even need to call the doctor, because he directly communicates with the pharmacy. Then I just need to get the medication from a vending machine (open 24/7).
*NB. I do not want to say that it is the ideal land, where there are no queues and everything works perfectly. What makes me wonder every day is the effort they make to let people live well. And in well-being, I include all these little things. Because they are little, but in an average day of every-day life they can really make the difference.
The sun. Uh?! The Netherlands are proverbially known as the land of rain. Well, since when I live here, I exploit each second (like Dutch people), exactly for that lack of sun. Especially May, with its long days and a particularly lovely weather, it’s fantastic. This way it is a continuous sequence of BBQs, borrels, bike trips and picknicks. Both in the weekend and after work.
The job. The opportunities: to choose, to do what I like and to apply what I’ve studied in the study years. The value: it does not matter where you come from and what have you done. Prove what you are able to do, and the career will adapt consequently. The bosses: three different people it the phases of my Dutch experience, but that all were characterized by their ability to listen, their efforts to get the best from me, and their openness to discuss with me. Nothing to do with the extremely vertical approach experienced in the past.
Hugging again. They can be for visits from family members and friends, or for my returns home…they are always extremely welcome. And maybe like for the sun, since there are such few chances, they are made even more invaluable.
And you, what do you like about the Netherlands?