Clogs and Tulips: An American in Holland has been given yet another blog award! The Beautiful Blogger Award was bestowed upon me today by Isabella over at A Touch of Dutch! To be given such an award, particularly by someone so renowned in the expat blogging world as Isabella, is a huge honor. In receiving this award, I join such esteemed company as A Flamingo in Utrecht, From Argentine to the Netherlands, for Love, The Misadventures of Mub, Greetings from Holland, Orangesplaash, and Presépio com Vista para o Canal.
The impetus for starting this blog was actually three-fold. The first was to chronicle my thoughts, observations, experiences, etc for myself as well as to act as a therapy of sorts to help me through the highs and lows of expat life. The second was to give friends and family back in the United States an idea of what I’m up to and what kinds of things I am seeing, learning, and experiencing. The third and most important was to act as an aid for fellow expats: to give them a place to go where they can see that they are not alone in experiencing their feelings; to give them an idea of what to expect in the hopes that they – unlike myself – do not have to learn the hard way; to offer resources and information as well as a place to leave thoughts and comments. Awards like these affirm the fact that my blog is serving a purpose and is appreciated. Thank you to all my readers and the other members of the NL expat blogging community who I feel, though we have never met, are a wonderful group of people and friends.
This award is another one I have to “work” for. The rules are as follows:
- Thank the person who gave you the award
- Paste the award on your blog
- Link the person who nominated you for the award
- Share 7 interesting things about yourself*
- Nominate 7 bloggers
*This particular rule is one I am going to bend, taking a cue from A Touch of Dutch. Instead of listing interesting things about myself (which I did previously for another award), I am going to list 7 beautiful things about life in the Netherlands.
When it was decided that I was going to move to the Netherlands, I was terrified. Surely I was the only woman ever to leave her home country for love to go somewhere as obscure as the Netherlands. I had learned and knew shamefully little about the country before meeting my Dutch husband and could not imagine it to be a diverse land where I would find people in the same situation I was in. Boy was I wrong! Even my husband was shocked at the sheer size of the international community right in his own backyard and continues to be surprised by all the non-Turkish/non-Morroccan immigrants that seem to be continuously popping out of the woodworks. I have friends from more countries than I had ever imagined possible. And though we come from different cultures and backgrounds, we all have one invincible bond in common – that, for whatever reason, we packed our bags, left our home countries, and found ourselves in the Netherlands. Recent surveys done in Amsterdam have found that one in every eight people living there speak no Dutch whatsoever. A simple trip to the next Expatica “i am not a tourist” fair or a quick Google of ‘expats in the Netherlands’ will show you just how large the international community in this country is. This makes for a divine buffet of cultures and languages no matter where in the Netherlands you are.
Having spent some significant time living in the UK and having close British friends, the idea of a modern monarchy is not a new one to me. But there is something about the Dutch Royal Family that is oh-so gezellig. They walk amongst and interact with their people in a way that you don’t see in many other countries. Though I have met or seen in person not a single one of them, I feel like like I know them somehow. This is particularly true with crowned prince Willem-Alexander and his Argentinian-born wife Máxima (even the princess is an expat!). There is just something about the royal family that is so personal, so genuine, and so accessible.
I often hear about how bland the landscape in the Netherlands is: no hills, no mountains, no valleys. Just flat and boring. For me, this could be no farther from the truth. I love that standing on top of the Domtoren in Utrecht, I can see as far as Amsterdam on a clear day. There is nothing like gliding into Schiphol airport and seeing nothing but lush green, lined with polders and dotted with windmills. While driving in the car, I can look around and see for miles, my view almost entirely unobstructed. The cows, the colorful tulip fields, the old buildings, the quaint farms. There is so much beauty in this country and it can all be seen no matter where you are – no ugly hills or mountains, or valleys getting in the way of simply gorgeous stretches of land.
Coming from a country where, in most places, public transportation is a rarity (either that or far too difficult to use or too expensive to be of any real use), I find the public transport here in the Netherlands so liberating! A five minute cycle and a 30 minute train ride, and I’m in Amsterdam. Sure beats the 1+ hours it would take to drive there, not to mention most of that time would be sitting in traffic. And that’s not taking into account the time (and money) lost trying to find parking. Once at Amsterdam Centraal Station, a tram or bus can quickly take me anywhere my feet can’t. With my bike, I can get just about anywhere. Believe it or not, many times, cycling is faster than car or bus (trust me, I’ve held races with both)! Public transportation is cheap, quick, relaxing, and easy to use. Though I used to be 100% dependent on my car while living in the US, now I only use it as a last – very last – resort. No matter how cold it is or how hard it’s raining!
I find the directness of the Dutch so very refreshing. The Dutch are probably the only people in the world who know what honesty truly is. Perhaps, they are even honest to a fault. They also have this idea that they are entitled to certain things. Sometimes this can be a turn-off for us expats, but I also think it’s a very admirable quality. Sales people and servers in restaurants, bars and cafes feel entitled to their share of respect. While I think sometimes, they take this to the extreme, those holding the same positions in the US, for example, might as well be slaves, the way they allow themselves to be spoken to and treated all in the name of “the customer is always right.” And how about that word dreaded by all Americans: socialism. What’s so wrong with the idea of taking care of your fellow man? When did healthcare become something that not all men and women are entitled to? All in all, I find the Dutch very helpful: the man who went out of his way to help me find my way, the man who picked a fight with the man at the Plus who butted in front of me in line, the kind lady at the kassa at the Gamma who took the time to correct my Dutch, the librarian who – though he spoke no English – was determined to help me find what I needed, the girls in my singing group that so quickly accepted me. The Dutch are a strong, proud people. Of course there are those who are rude and ignorant and nasty and pushy… but, you know what? You find those no matter where in the word you go.
Start at one end of the state of Maryland by car and, four hours later, you’re still in Maryland. According to A Touch of Dutch, twelve hours non-stop in the car will get you from one end of California to the other. Less than four hours in the car from Utrecht and I’m in Germany. Eight hours in the car from the same starting point would put me in France. Two hours, and I’m in Belgium. And that’s if you travel by car. Hop on a train and you have a heaping handful of European destinations at your disposal.
Rich Culture & History
Utrecht has been around since 97AD. Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands is over 2,000 years old. The country I come from was first colonized in the 1600’s. Quite the difference in age, I’d say. What I always found baffling about America is that, when a building is old, we tear it down to build something new. In most European countries, by contrast, old buildings are gutted to create something new while the facade remains unaltered. Take this church in Maastricht, for example. I was flabbergasted to cross the threshold and find that it was no church at all, but a Selexys bookstore! For as small a country as it is, The Netherlands has over 400 castles and museums located throughout the country.
Living in the Netherlands this past year (and almost three months) has been one of the most incredible, life-changing experiences. I have learned so much about myself, about people, about language and history and culture, and – surprisingly enough – about my home country as well.
Thanks again to Isabella for the lovely award! Please be sure to catch up on her blog A Touch of Dutch for some invaluable information, endless entertainment, and astute observations. And now for my nominations. This is difficult as I have just joined the blogging community not too long ago and have not had the chance to read through all the ones I follow and even more difficult as Isabella already nominated most of them 🙂 But here they are, in no particular order:
- A Letter from the Netherlands
- Invading Holland
- Random Walks in the Low Countries
- What a Concept
- Rambling Thoughts
- Life As It Goes On
- Expat Women
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