Home: One Year in the Netherlands

Hello again, readers! I’m currently in the middle of writing part two of my Childhood in the Netherlands series. I am in fact, pretty excited to get all of my thoughts on the Dutch education system out into the world. Spoiler alert: I have a lot of positive things to say. However, I realized late last week that a very important date was approaching and I felt it necessary to commemorate it with a post. Today, June 13, 2019, marks our one year living in the Netherlands anniversary!

To mark the occasion, we decided to go downtown for a family date night. We rode our bikes around, took a photo in front of St. Bavo’s, and had dinner at an Irish pub. Maybe you could argue an Irish pub is a strange choice to mark this occasion, but they have philly cheesesteaks (yup, also ironic I suppose), and I really wanted one… so there you go.

I don’t think I owned a raincoat before we moved here… now we have the family collection

Looking back on the past year I’d say it’s gone by extremely quickly, and has been pretty transformative. I might even say as transformative as the year Joe was born? Newborn… new country? Which one is more shocking to your sense of self? That’s too deep of a question for me today, so as Tyrion Lannister said, “Ask me in ten years.” Side note– that obviously means there is already a GOT sequel in the works for 2029, right?–

So over all, I’d say this past year has been a time of slow adjustment. Luckily, and perhaps not surprisingly given his young age, Joe adjusted faster than anyone. Heck, he’s pretty close to fluent in Dutch now, he thinks herring is tasty, and he rides his bike like a boss… just give the kid a Dutch passport and call it a day. For the adults however, it’s still a work in progress. I’m pretty sure it took me six months to figure out the small things, like where the brown sugar is kept at Albert Heijn (next to the coffee, and it’s called bastered suiker 😲). Big things, like how to efficiently pay your taxes, still require us to hire someone to help.

Happily adjusted Joe

Despite the uncertainty and general sense of discomfort that a year of feeling out of place will do to you, there are so many things I really love about my new home. It was hard to do, but I’ve paired the most important down to this:

  • It’s beautiful Seriously, when I named my blog “This Place is Nice”, it was for good reason. There’s this very casual beauty pretty much everywhere you go. Flowers sprout up out of the cracks in the sidewalks, cows and sheep keep you company as you ride your bike through wooded paths, and there were so many rainbows this past winter I lost count.
  • It’s simple I mean this in the best way. It’s a little like stepping back in time. Children ride their bikes outside with their friends, families have dinner together, omas and opas pick their grandkids up from school and take them out to the park. Work/life balance is very important here. Many people work only four days a week so they can spend more time with their families, or pursuing other interests. “Papadag” (a day set aside for dad’s to take off work to be with their children), is quite common as well.
  • It’s safe Of course, whenever I say this, I always preface that I know anything can happen anywhere. I lived in major US cities all of my life, so I’m certainly not naive to crime. With that said, I feel very safe here. If you watch the local news, the most commonly reported crime is bike theft. Gun laws are very strict, with gun ownership seen as a privilege rather than a right. As a parent, and a decent person with half a brain, this helps me sleep better at night. In fact, the prisons here are so underpopulated, many are closing and being reopened as art centers, hostels, or refugee housing. Ironically, I have actually seen more fist fights since moving here than I can ever recall seeing in the states. My theory is that people are more comfortable to duke it out because they aren’t worried the other guy has a gun?! Either way, I’ll take a few people throwing punches in the Ikea parking lot (true story), over mass shootings anyday.
  • It’s home Get ready for a pretty mushy story. I was recently reflecting on what “home” means to me. We’ve moved around enough that I have yet to connect it to one specific place. I guess that hipster song “Home” is true to me- it’s wherever I’m with you (the Joe’s). However, one day many months ago I came across a little sentimental treasure I’ve carried around for years. It’s a small seashell dove that was at one time one of many that hung from a wind chime. A dear friend of mine, who sadly passed away very unexpectedly while we were teenagers, gave it to me shortly before he died. I had the wind chime hanging in my bedroom but it fell not long after he died, and all of the doves except one shattered. I wrapped the lone survivor up and have carried it around all of these years. I told myself I’d hang it up again when I found the right “home”. We moved apartments many times over the years, even buying one and staying in it for a record breaking three years, but those places never felt right. Well guess what? When I found the dove months ago, I immediately knew it belonged here. I gave it a nice spot hanging in the sunny kitchen window. When I look at it, it makes me smile, and I can’t help but think…this must be home.

Little dove has finally found a home

Well, that’s all I have to say for now. I hope I’ve done this lovely little country some justice with my words. I’m incredibly grateful to be here.

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