Before and After Meme for Expats: After

I’ve walked a mile in someone else’s clogs

Several months ago, Isabella over at A Touch of Dutch posted the following Meme to get an idea of many an expat’s first impression of the Netherlands and how they feel after having lived here a spell. I decided to join in on the fun! Here are my answers:

AFTER

Upon arriving, can you remember the overall impression you had in the first 48 hours?
It was so much to take in. I actually ended up hiding in my new home with my husband, unpacking, getting over jetlag, making myself at home, and spending time together. There were a few “what am I doing here?” moments, but also a wonderful sense of adventure. It was a bit scary at first and I remember feeling so alone in taking this big step – like I was the first woman ever to move to the Netherlands for love.

Tell me about your bicycle, if you have one. Is it borrowed or rented or do you own it? Have you ever had your bike stolen? Feel free to mention and elaborate on anything special concerning experiences you have or have had with your bike.
Her name is Bonnie. Oddly enough, I never had the inclination to name any of my 3 cars, but the bike didn’t go for more than a week without a name.

She’s my husband’s bike (his friend never used his bike, so gave it to my husband so we would each have a bike to use) and has back-pedal brakes and is a putrid brown color. I’ve since jazzed her up with a pink fietstas and a pink Disney princess bicycle bell. My plan is to paint her pink with white stencils.

Luckily, no one’s ever stolen Bonnie or any of her accoutrements. I love Bonnie – she’s the best! I’d rather take her out than take the bus or the car, even if it’s raining. The biggest issue is getting my dog Turner used to her. He’s an American dog and absolutely chicken about everything. Especially bikes.

I’ve had my share of spills and embarrassing moments, but now I can cycle while carrying an umbrella, in heels, with Turner, with flowers, with ridiculous amounts of cargo on the back, while sending text messages and making phone calls, and I can keep my balance in almost all situations! The only thing I haven’t done that I’m dying to try is carry someone on the back of my bike. I just need to find someone brave enough to give me a chance!

Name three of your favorite things about the Dutch culture that first come to mind.

  1. Bringing flowers or a bottle of wine for your host
  2. Acceptance of animals in public places (restaurants, cafes, shops, parks, etc)
  3. Cycling!

Of the things you never knew before coming here, what have you learnt about the NL?
There are over 400 museums and castles in the country. Different regions have their own dialects and, in some cases, their own languages. It was occupied by the Nazis during WWII and much of the Dutch army at that time traveled by bike. The most fascinating things are all the connections with New York. There’s even an Utrecht in New York!

Culture shock. Does it ring a bell?
Yes, but not a particularly loud one. I think the biggest thing for success in moving here is to get over your own culture. No, they don’t do things or behave here like they do in your country, but guess what? It’s not your country! I hear all the time about how rude the Dutch are and, while I agree in some instances, I am making this judgment while holding them up to American cultural standards. In the US, they would be considered rude. In the UK and France, the same. But we’re not in any of those countries.

You also have to realize that many of the things you do that are acceptable in your culture might not be acceptable here. When we’re in someone else’s country, we need to adopt the “when-in-Rome…” attitude.

The first month I was here, I noticed the lack of excuse-me-pardon-mes and even got grabbed by the shoulders and physically moved to the side so someone behind me could get past. It doesn’t go unnoticed that the waiters would let me sit and rot before they’d think to come and get my order. But that’s how things are done here more often than not and I need to accept that and move on.

How far have you come with learning Dutch?
Not bad! My husband and I have 2 days during the week when we speak Dutch to each other and I now speak mostly Dutch with his friends. I’ve only taken one formal class, but am going to be starting my inburgeringscursus later on this month. As part of my inburgering, I’ve opted to do a Duo Project where I’ll meet with a native Dutch speaker one day a week and talk with them (in Dutch, of course). I’ve also joined an all-women, all-Dutch singing group, which has been a fun little challenge. And I speak only Dutch when I go into town.

Has your view of politics or world issues changed from how you previously viewed things before living in the NL?
I always knew things were less than desirable in the US, but moving outside of my country made me realize just how bad it is. How naïve, closed minded, and self-centered many Americans are. It has been interesting to see some of the same issues from a different perspective and I certainly understand the idea of a modern-day monarchy much better now. I’ve always been very liberal in my thinking, so I fit in much better here than I did in the US!

Coffee-shops and smart-shops. What is your opinion?
To be honest, I have no idea what a smart-shop is. Coffee-shops though are fine by me. I’ve never been in one and of the people I know, if they end up paying a visit once a year that’s a lot.

I’m a huge advocate of the philosophy that if you can do it and it’s easily accessible, you’re less likely to want to do it. There’s something so uncontrollably appealing about forbidden fruit. Plus, if you make it legal, you can control it. In the US, people pay a fortune and can’t guarantee that what they’re paying for and using is safe or good. People get killed in drug busts all the time.

The main problem with coffee shops and the legalization of drugs in the Netherlands is that when tourists come in, they abuse the privilege, binge on it, and ruin it for everyone else. FYI: the UK, the US, and Australia are just a few of the countries that have a higher rate of soft drug use than the Netherlands.

Since living here, have you learned anything new about yourself? Or perhaps you have learned something new? A new hobby or a new way of life?
I’ve certainly made a lot of new friends and seen a lot of new things and been to a lot of new places. I’ve become more independent. I started this blog and began my journey to becoming a freelance writer.

I also got up the gumption to start selling some of my handmade yarn products at http://www.stuffmadewithyarn.etsy.com/ and started my own business, which is something I never would have had the guts to do before. My company, Little Broadway travels around to international schools with an after school musical theater program. So far, I have 2 schools lined up for this fall.

I’ve also gotten much closer to my dog. About a week before moving here, I got married and married life has also taught me many things about myself. And I’m loving everyday of my marriage and my adventures here in the Netherlands!

Check out the previous post to see my BEFORE answers

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