I did it! I survived my first year in The Netherlands. It has been an interesting year, that’s for sure. In many ways, it feels like the time flew by, but I think that’s because I spent nearly two months back in Chicago over the year. Going back to Chicago was both good and bad for me in regards to my adjustment to life abroad. Because both trips were planned before the relocation, I knew I was going back “home” and never fully started to settle in. I postponed some things that would have helped with my adjustment because I knew I’d be gone for a chunk of time and I didn’t want to deal with the interruption. That said, even with my adjustment delayed, overall I think the trips home were good for me mentally. Being abroad in a country where you don’t speak the local language is tough, so sometimes going home is good for the soul!
While being home was good for the soul, it was also stressful! I was quite happy when I returned in July, even though I was unsure of when I would go back to the States. With that realization, the reality sank in that I live here now. With no plans to return to the US on the table, I think only then did I start to do things to establish myself in my new country. I got serious about improving my Dutch. I’m doing more to build my networks– both social and professional. I’m more engaged in the world around me. Though I miss many things about home, I am happy being abroad and I think that makes a world of difference for the experience. Physically, I relocated a year ago, but mentally, I just made the move.
After that bit of reflection, now let’s talk about the quirky country I call home–the good, the bad, and the very Dutch.
Ease of travel around Europe
Cheese, Cheese, Cheese
Work Life balance
The Weather –it hasn’t bothered me much, but there can long stretches without sunlight
Restricted hours–many stores close at 6 pm and don’t open on Sundays. Goes along with the work-life balance, I suppose
Tiny refrigerators (actually, tiny kitchens in general)–Yeah, I’d be that person on House Hunters International complaining about things like this
No Ice/free water– I know this may seem weird. I read an article today about how Americans are obsessed with ice and Europeans think it’s strange. I am absolutely obsessed with ice (probably moreso than the average American) and would really appreciate it if my drinks came with ice. Not the one or two cubes I occasionally get, but a glass full. Sometimes I’m lucky and I can have ice if I ask, but it’s definitely not a given like you’d get in the States. Also, forget about getting a glass of free water at a restaurant. Not happening.
Bicycles everywhere–there can’t possibly be a place more bike friendly than the Netherlands.
Poffertjes and Pannekoeken–I’ve written about my love of Dutch pancakes before, but they are one of my favorite Dutch things.
Hagelslag–Hagelslag is just a box of chocolate sprinkles. Not for ice cream or sundaes, oh no, the Dutch sprinkle it on bread with butter, and it’s a part of breakfast. See the picture above to get an idea of this Dutch curiosity.
Bitterballen– Delicious meatball like snacks.
Directness–The Dutch are very direct. Some people take it as rudeness, but I don’t…anymore.
I could surely add more things to each list, but I’ll keep it short for my one year abroad wrap-up. I’m curious and excited to see what the next year brings.