Things I Miss About The U.S.

You can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take the America out of the girl

I thought, since my return to the U.S. is drawing near, that it would be interesting to list all the things I miss about the U.S. and why. Then, prior to my return to the Netherlands, I’ll list everything I miss about the Netherlands. Not so much as a comparison of which one is better or worse than the other, but to see what each country has to offer and to realize that there are both good and bad about wherever you are. So here’s my first list…

THINGS I MISS ABOUT THE U.S.:

1. 24-hour establishments The Dutch do not have these. Mostly because they’re courteous enough to think about the people who have to work at these places. But, when it’s midnight and you need medicine or wine/beer or food, you realize how much easier the 24 hour work day makes life.

2. Traffic lights not designed to make you stop at every single one to discourage you from taking your car This idea, though clever and environmentally friendly, is horrendous!!! Traffic lights are timed so you will stop at literally every. single. one. This can make even the shortest car trip last forever. So far, this has made me late to everything I’ve driven to, no matter how much time I allow for the trip. I understand the concept, but when you have to take the car, you have to take your car… no two ways about it

3. Theatre opportunities This is not to say that there aren’t any. There are certainly not as many as one would think would exist in a city as big as this. Most theatre (unfortunately for me at the moment) is in Dutch. From what I’ve seen so far, theatre done in English is reserved for the professional theatres. I don’t know what Dutch schools are like, but even in the international schools, there is very little in the way of music and theatre. And being an American concept, musical theatre is not done here very often. The Dutch tend to have a hard time with the idea of being so into something that you just have to sing about it. So far, I’ve been approached by an international school and a parent who’s child attends a different international school to start an afterschool or weekend theatre/musical theatre program so that there’s at least some way to be involved (esp. in English)

4. Diet Coke There is Cola Light, so it’s not as though moving to another country has me doomed to drink high-calorie colas. But it doesn’t taste the same. The best I can describe it is: there’s coke, coke zero, and cola light. and then on a totally different spectrum is Diet Coke. And I can’t wait to get back to the States and have a big, fat Diet Coke. God, I miss that stuff!!!!

5. Costco  I go to the grocery store at least every other day. It takes me about 2 minutes to walk there, but seriously…. almost every day?? God only knows what they put in the stuff to make the shelf lives so long, but there is a lovely convenience to buying in bulk

6. Obama presidency Although every newspaper on every newsstand had Obama smeared all over the front page the day after he won the Democratic nomination, after he won the presidency, and the day after the inauguration; although his name and image litters the television, radio, and newspaper; although the bookstores are full of his biographies and autobiographies (in Dutch, not English, I might add); although there are shows and songs dedicated to him; although the majority of the Dutch population watched the debates and the election and the inauguration…. I still feel like I’m missing out. Yeah, I really wanted Hillary, but I’m psyched as you-know-what about Obama and kinds wanted to witness firsthand his cleaning up after Bush

7. Family I think the hardest part about this and number 8 is the time difference. The Netherlands is 6 hours ahead. So by the time everyone’s home from work in the US, it’s midnight here. Add to that calling costs and the 7-8 hour plane ride to visit, and it’s not easy. On the flip side, Turner, Hubs and I are forming our own family, which is a wonderful thing! But I do miss seeing my family as often as I used to.

8. Friends Much the same as the above. I am making new friends: Dutch, British, Australian, American, Canadian. I love the the people I’ve met here so far. But I miss my friends back home too. Especially those who, in a very short amount of time, proved themselves to be amazing friends. I didn’t really have the chance to develop friendships the way I wanted. But they’ve proven themselves regardless of the distance and I find that we’ve gotten closer even so. I also regret the friendships I had just begun to rekindle before I left. I wish I had paid attention to them earlier. But thank goodness for the internet!!

9. Roadways so large with signs so obvious that even a blind man could drive safely Sometimes you can’t see what the name of a road is until you’ve driven past it. The line to stop at for stop lights here is almost literally on top of the stop sign. It’s next to you as opposed to in front of you and you have to really crane your neck to see the light change. And the road markings are a lot more obscure. Sometimes I’m turning onto roads that look more like sidewalks or shoulders than roads. Markings that in the States would mean two lanes doesn’t mean that here. You just have to sort of know if it’s a two lane going one way or one lane in each direction. There’s also no merge area when you exit onto the highway. And I’m pretty sure that one lane in the US is the equivalent of 2 lanes here. That’s what it feels like sometimes anway. And the amount of cars and bikes (both moving and parked) they fit onto one little road is amazing.

10. Broadway and NYC In all the cities of all the countries I’ve been to, not one compares to NYC. The sights, the atmosphere, the mood. It’s better than it’s ever been depicted in any movie. I have yet to attend a show at the Amsterdam or Utrecht versions of Broadway. Although I’ve seen signs for Tarzan and Dirty Dancing and the like. But the Broadway craze doesn’t exist here. NYC and a Broadway show are the 2 things I most want to hit up when I go back to the US!

11. Being updated on new movies Movies come out here a couple weeks after they’ve come out in the US. And the movie advertising industry isn’t quite the same. In the States, you can’t turn on the TV or radio, open the newspaper, or drive anywhere without hearing about the latest releases. There are also a lot more art films and international films here. And from what I’ve noticed, the selection seems to be smaller. But, the theatres are roughly one quarter in size of what the ones in the US are, so I imagine that has more to do with space and number of theatres than anything else.

12. Starbucks They do exist here. Don’t get me wrong. But there isn’t one every 20 paces like in the US. I haven’t had Starbucks since I left the US back in December.

13. Being able to just let Turner out in the backyard I do enjoy walking him, but when it’s ridiculously cold or I’m ridiculously tired or not feeling well, it is a P.I.A. Being able to just open the door and let him out and then open the door and let him back in when he’s finished was so nice. I’m sure he liked it better that way too.

14. Work Let me just re-iterate the fact that this is not a third-world country. The economy (though not so great) is better here than it is in the US. So there are jobs and there is work. But not when you don’t have a work permit. And although sleeping in, doing whatever I wanted and relaxing out or at home was lovely for the first few weeks, it’s getting old. I need to have something to do that makes me feel worthwhile… aka a job. I do, however, fully realize that when I have a job, I’ll be wanting back the times I didn’t have anything to do…

15. Bath and Body Works To be honest, I never used the products after the B&B Works craze in middle school. Not until I started to work there last year and started getting free samples and then got hooked and started buying the products in copious amounts. But now that I’m addicted, I miss not having it. I don’t know why since I brought enough products with me to start my own store here in the Netherlands and I have loads more still waiting for me at my parents’ house. They do have a Body Shop, but totally not the same thing. I have come to the realization that I will just have to re-stock everytime I go back to the US.

16. Miss America I totally missed it this year. For the first time since as long as I can remember. The BBC will broadcast the US presidential innaugeration, but not the Miss America pageant. I know nothing about the winner or the runners up and I feel so out of the loop. I don’t even know of anyone who taped it so I could at least see it… bummer

17. Sun and blue skies These things do not occur often here. It does make you learn to appreciate it on the rare occasions it decides to show it’s head. But more often than not, the weather here is very gloomy. Much like London.

18. Cheaper prices Yes, some of this has to do with the dollar to euro rate. But things in general are much cheaper in the States. Most of all, this applies to clothes and shoes. Boots are easily 100 Euro at their cheapest (this is ANY pair of boots) and the cheapest pair of jeans I’ve seen so far have been 50 Euro. I can’t think of the dollar anymore. I just end up converting the price into dollars and it’s always a very frightening outcome.

19. Shopping Malls Again, something we do have here, but they are very few and far between. Most of the shopping you do here is outdoors. Which sucks when it’s really cold or raining. Malls so nicely put restaurants, department stores, pharmacies, specialty stores, and more in a warm-in-the-winter, air-conditioned-in-the-summer, dry environment. The idea of one-stop shopping.

20. Sheetz Open 24-hours. You can get almost anything: magazines, gas, food, drink, toilets, porn. Close, quick, convenient. They just don’t have that here. But nor do they have them everywhere in the US.

21. Sugar that passes itself off as cereal Especially Fruity Pebbles. Not that I’ve had them in years, but I seem to be craving them more and more since I’ve been here. The cereals here are so freakin healthy! The only way to get Wheaties, Fruity Pebbles, Fruit Loops, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and the like is to pay 10 Euro for it at the American store…

22. Baking soda Seriously, how can you not have baking soda?? It cooks, it cleans… what more could you want???

Stay tuned for THINGS I MISS ABOUT THE NETHERLANDS. Coming mid-late February 2008!

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That Time I was Married… But Not

C’mon, Holland, make up your mind! Am I married or not?

To fill everyone in…

Our marriage is not recognized here in Holland. So, here, we’re just friends living together. ‘”Partners”as the Dutch refer to it. In order to get the marriage legalized, we need an apostille stamp from the Secretary of State (as in the one in Maryland, not Condy Rice or — in a few days — Hillary).

After a long journey (perhaps I shouldn’t have had the post forward all mail to “Tiffany Jarman” to the Netherlands), we have said stamp and Hubs went in this past Thursday to the gemeente (city hall) to have our marriage certificate —¬†complete with apostille stamp — legalized. Here’s where the you-know-what hit the fan.

Right now, Gemeente Utrecht is back-logged where marriages of Dutch to non-Dutch citizens are concerned. Whereas it usually only takes a few weeks to complete the process, it may now take a few months. After his visit to the gemeentehuis, Hubs stopped by the Immigration Department where he learned the following:

Every 180 days, a foreigner is allowed to stay 90 days in Holland, spread out or consecutively, on a tourist visa. Once those 90 days have accumulated, that person is not allowed back into the country for 3 months.

We did not know this. My 90 days expire on March 7th. At this point, we have no idea when the marriage will be legalized, but if I hang out here and it takes longer than March 7th, I have to leave my home, husband, and dog for 3 months. To avoid this, I’m coming home to the U.S. and staying until Hubs gets our marriage certificate back from city hall and we have the go-ahead to apply for my residence permit.

Once we’ve applied for my residence permit, I can stay here indefinitely (well, unless they don’t approve me, at any rate). But we can’t apply unless we’re both single (which we’re not in Maryland) or our marriage is recognized in the Netherlands.

So I have plans to return in February to avoid the expiration of my 90 days, but no return plans until I hear from Hubs that the gemeente has recognized our marriage in Holland. Keep your fingers crossed that they’ll finish before long!

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