Possibly boring (possibly not?) changes …

A friend suggested I share how different life is for us since we’ve moved to Holland. And I argued that, compared to a lot of places we could have relocated to, it wasn’t that different from our daily routine in the US and we are still fairly boring and who cares anyway?

So then HE said, “… we never notice our own gradual, daily change… and from this side of the pond, the positive and radical changes come thru (imhop) in almost every post.”

To which I replied, “Oh.”

So, I’ve compiled a list of gradual changes I hadn’t really thought that much about and a few big changes I haven’t quite adjust to:

I don’t have to focus quite so much to survive walking sideways down the hellishly steep and narrow stairs of our 3-story apt anymore.

Winter weather here is very similar to GA – except for the wind. And if one more person tells me I should have anticipated the hurricane winds because: WINDMILLS, I’m going to smack them.

Translating labels to sort the difference between sour cream, heavy cream, & whipped cream is nearly impossible.

Outgoing mail must be taken to a box or a post office. And if you aren’t home when they try to deliver a package, they give it to your neighbor. Then you get to chat with your neighbor when you pick up your package.

You can buy alcohol any time/any day – even on Sunday morning!

More:

  • Attached to the grocery is a “drug store” where you get shampoo, CONTACT LENSES, makeup, etc. But you get your drugs at a pharmacy – attached to the doc’s office.
  • Everyone goes to the GP (ours is at the end of our street) – there is no pediatrician.
  • Lots of items ordered online have come in a fancy ziplock sort of bag inside the box.
  • Having no car payment/insurance/responsibility is incredibly freeing.
  • Our grocery store is 1/3 the size of Kroger but is close to home and has just about everything we need – except whole turkeys … and stuffing … and acorn squash … and corn on the cob.
  • To pay for something online, I log into my bank app and scan the QR code. Also, we don’t have checks here.
  • I ❤ my phone’s translate app.
  • So many letters! If the vaccine office (oh yeah, there is a vaccine office) wants to set an appointment, they send you a letter. If you email to tell them the appointment time doesn’t work for you, they’ll reply by email that they will send you another letter.

My kid bikes 20 minutes in the dark and/or rain and/or wind and/or freezing cold to school and I don’t worry (too much).

We have a combo washer/dryer – this feels very European.

I miss my dryer.

More:

  • I can’t wrap my brain around celsius and have no clue what the weatherman is saying so, I just open the door to see if I need a coat.
  • CNN has lovely British accents and covers lots of different countries!
  • If I have to order from Amazon, I get to choose from the Dutch, German, and UK sites.

I don’t worry about getting raped or robbed or mugged or shot.

That feels different. And weird. And really, really nice.

The bits I can’t quite get used to:

  • I say “sorry” far too much. If I’m in someone’s way, I say sorry when I should just get out of the way. There is no need to apologize.
  • Letting people go ahead of me. This goes against the grain and confuses everyone.
  • Teens (at least the ones I’ve noticed) do not show deference to the elderly in shops – even during a pandemic.  And my Dutch is not good enough (yet) to yell more that AFSTAND at them.
  • Being comfortable with having the right-of-way if I’m walking/biking. 50+ years of worrying, even in crosswalks with a walk sign flashing, and actually getting hit by a car once means this will take some time to get used to.
  • No one will hold the door for me because I’m female and for a southern girl, that’s just not right.

There are loads more differences I either haven’t experienced (having a baby, specifically a Kraamverzorgster, here would be AMAZING!) or I’ve forgotten. If I think of more, I’ll write Possibly boring (possibly not?) changes … the sequel. Until then … I will keep working on the art of Niksen.

If you are an expat & have anything to add to these lists, please leave a comment!

Here in Haarlem – Week 4

It is 7:30 on a Sunday morning here in Haarlem. It is still dark outside and the house is silent. The radiator is making its soft clunking sort of sound. Even our talkative cat, JoJo, is still asleep somewhere in the house.

“Somewhere in the house” makes it sound huge. By lower-middle class, suburbs of GA standards it is. I don’t remember how many meters it is or what that would equal in feet. It’s much smaller than we’re used to but somehow exactly enough. And right now it is blissfully still.

So what’s it really like moving to a new country at the ripe old age of 150? It’s amazing and terrifying and exhausting and mind blowing. The history and beauty here is astounding. I know we have history and beauty in the US (and long before we barged in) but we didn’t live on a street Nazis could have stomped down. We didn’t bike down the cobblestone streets of a city established in the middle ages. These are the thoughts that baffle me as I’m standing outside Game Mania while my kid talks Fortnite with the clerk.

It’s true most people here speak English. And nearly everyone I’ve met has been incredibly patient and gracious when I sputter out “Sorry, nee Nederland.” Even the elderly lady in the pet food aisle of the grocery store immediately switched to English to chat about how she spoils her cocker spaniel with treats. But it is still scary. I still find myself mentally whispering, “please don’t talk to me please don’t talk to me” as I avoid eye contact with store clerks or stall vendors… terrified they will speak Dutch. OF COURSE THEY WILL SPEAK DUTCH, YOU IDIOT! And when they do, and I look at them like a deer in the headlights, they either gesture and smile until we’ve figured things out or they jump into English like it’s no big frigging deal. And yet, I panic.

So everyone here speaks English but guess who doesn’t… the street signs. And for a girl who has a terrible sense of direction anyway, I am quite literally lost most of the time. A good friend said, “You aren’t lost, you are on an adventure!” This is perfect. Unless the wind is blowing my bike backwards and it is raining and I’m cold and I just want to get home. Those are the times I want to click my heels and be back on familiar territory in my warm, dry, not-about-to-tip-over car.

You know who else doesn’t speak English? The announcer on the trains. Your ass better be paying attention or you will go right past Heemstede-Aerdenhout and end up in Vlissingen Souburg. So while everyone else is reading or quietly chatting (only the American tourists are loud on the (clean, comfy) trains as far as I can tell), I’m staring at my phone, watching the little blue dot slowly move toward my station.

On biking: It’s true that once you know how to ride a bike, you always know. The tricky bit is DOING it. I know how to give birth to a child. Doing it again might be daunting. Okay riding a bike is nothing like giving birth but … it can be difficult when you are 150 years old. And that’s just the basic riding-a-bike issue.  Now try doing it on narrow bike paths with a billion (or a handful) of people passing you or WAITING FOR YOU TO GET OUT OF THE WAY. *sigh* What seemed like a lovely bike ride to the store is now a nerve wracking game of Frogger or Pacman or one of those games where I’m sure I’ll be run over or eaten. It can be physically and mentally exhausting.

Once I’ve reached the store I lift my bike into the rack, lock the lock and tuck my key away. I enter Vomar Voordeelmarkt to find my favorite 3.00€ bottle of wine and know it was worth the trip. Until I have to translate which checkout lane takes cash and which accepts bank cards and I’m asked if I want a receipt and I freeze because … “Sorry, nee Nederland.”

See what I mean? Amazing and terrifying and exhausting and mind blowing. Every. Damn. Day.

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Help me, Sweet Baby Amphictyonis!

Everyone: How’s the move to The Netherlands going?

Me: Closing on the house, selling almost everything (except Tony’s polyurethaned frog souvenir, Ben’s “One and Only Ivan” book, Charlie’s slingshot and my coconut monkey head), packing everything else, acquiring a billion suitcases for said treasures, figuring out how to ship them, getting temporary housing, getting rental insurance on temporary housing, registering kid #2 for one month of middle school, figuring out the appropriate amount of supplies to buy for a kid going to one month of middle school, scheduling last-minute physicals/eye exams/dentist visits, attending school open house x 2 kids, delivering donations, taking kid to sleep away camp, cleaning house for the new owners, finding an affordable and available Holland apartment, convincing Dutch landlords that we are awesome and should be their tenants, submitting change of address, cancelling utilities, driving the big kid to/from work, driving myself to/from work, picking kid up from sleep away camp, visiting every friend and family member possible because we are going to miss everyone something awful, and … remembering to breathe.

Everyone: Um … may I offer you a glass of wine?

Me: You pronounced bottle wrong.

 

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