"So how are you doing over there?!?!?!"
It's a common and innocent question that, as an expat, you get all the time. I usually give an honest answer, which is: "Okay!"
We are okay.
Some days we LOVE it here in the Netherlands, if the sun is shining, if we've gone on a long bike ride, if we've finally made it to a museum or park we've been talking about for months. With three kids we tend to stay close to home, but sometimes we venture out and see the cool stuff. Having our third baby just before we moved here probably took a bit of the adventure out of our experience. We rent a house in a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts (it kills the city girl in me to write 'suburbs') because when we were moving I couldn't imagine functioning in the bustling city center with an infant and two small kids!
Other days I long for home and stare at the calendar wanting it to magically jump ahead to the end of our assignment.
|just waiting for the bus, living our best lives.|
Please don't read this as anything other than me being real. YES, I am very grateful that we get to travel around to other countries and see new places with the kids. The school year is structured a bit differently here (shorter summer, more long breaks during the school year) so we take advantage of traveling during those breaks. I live for our adventures! But the fact is that the exciting adventures are 5% of our time here. The rest is just normal life.
At four months into our assignment I shared my thoughts in this post. The first four months were hard.
After six months things really started feeling more comfortable here.
After nine months I felt confident, even!
After nearly a year and a half? The shimmer has worn off a bit. Life is so much easier, but not as exciting, if that makes sense. There is a flow of normalcy to our world now.
A few of the things I've learned here, about Dutch life and about myself...
1. No, I'll probably never stop missing Target.
2. I do miss seeing people lose their s*** sometimes. The Dutch seem very stoic and very practical. This is nice...but also, sometimes maddening! They will matter-of-factly point out when you are doing something against the rules, whether those rules be "official" or simply rules they believe all people should just follow. Example : If it is a bit chilly and you aren't wearing a scarf they will point out your error. Dress appropriately for all weather, all the time. Use the correct bike lanes. Enter bus from front and exit in the back. If you are carrying more than two grocery bags it is too much food. Et cetera.
3. I looooooooove riding my bicycle and think all cities should have bike lanes like the Netherlands has. It is awesome!
4. People seem healthier here, in general. I guess everyone is just biking everywhere and not buying very much food. (see #8!)
|There are adventures to foreign lands, but mostly it is just our everyday adventures...like walking along the canals every day with Whit.|
6. On that note, if you don't buy your bread before 6pm you might not get bread. Also, if you don't eat it in a few days you'll need more bread, as it gets moldy fast!
7. There is one facing of bagels in the grocery store (branded "American bagels") and if you want microwave popcorn you have two options : sweet or salty. However, there is an entire 4 ft section of mayonnaise! Big love for mayonnaise here. And sprinkles!
|A couple dear friends I have made.|
8. While I'm on this whole grocery store tangent : I ALWAYS seem to have have the most groceries in my cart of anyone in line. An elderly Dutch woman asked me in a concerned voice the other day, "Where will you put all of that?" as she gestured at my overflowing shopping cart. (The refrigerators here are tiny! And you can't buy in bulk.) Most people here go by the philosophy of "buy what you need for the day and then come back tomorrow." I guess they don't have three kids, one being a baby who really hates being in a cart. Side note: None of the carts here have seat buckles! And they require a coin to ensure you always return it to the corral. Also, make sure you bring your bags as you'll pay for new ones - no free bags 'round here.
|having friends + family come visit is THE BEST when you're an expat!|
10. So much daylight! (But not necessarily sunlight.) In the spring and summer it is bright out from 5am until 11pm. Literally bright as day. It is confusing for the kids at bedtime. Blackout shades are a must.
|5am. So bright!|
11. Flower and plant selection is SO GOOD HERE. Quite inexpensive, and extra lovely! There is no excuse not to buy yourself fresh flowers all the time.
|I try to get a fresh bouquet every week!|
Being an expat is definitely an amazing experience, no matter how you do it. If I could go back I wouldn't change my mind - I'd do this again in a heartbeat.
That being said, it has taught me to more fully appreciate the simple things...