Thursday, September 03, 2009

Impressions of the Netherlands

Roxi and I have been back from Europe for a month now and as our time in the Netherlands fades into memory, and we embark on our next adventure, I wanted to finish the blog post that I started in my mind shortly after our arrival overseas. In all honesty, I've been physically writing this post for more than two weeks and I really probably should have broken it up into multiple entries, but this felt like the best way to wrap-up our Dutch experience (except for the videos I'm still in the process of editing). We've been working very hard on our move to Memphis, TN and as a result, my blogging has really suffered. I really urge all readers to follow me on Twitter as I'm finding it much easier to micro-blog than sit down and write a full post at this particular time in my life. Anyway, without further ado, my impressions of Holland are:

1. The cost of living is really high in Europe even in a small city like Enschede. Say what you will about the value of the US dollar, but you can buy a whole lot more with it in the States than you can buy with a euro in the Netherlands. It doesn't completely translate to all EU countries because things in Paris seemed to be cheaper than things in Holland, but then again things in Dublin were even more expensive!

2. It took us a while to find affordable bikes (see #1) but once we did, I loved having them. Bicycles are the principle form of transportation for a lot of people in the Netherlands so the roads and trains have been designed to accommodate them. The bike lanes are extremely well designed, maintained and span most city streets. The only problem is that motorcycles are also allowed to use the lanes which to me defeats the entire purpose of having a separate path. It was very stressful to be riding along on your bike, minding your own business, when a motorcycle or scooter would roll up behind you and expect you to immediately get out of the way. Any form of transportation that requires a license plate should not be allowed to use paths specifically made for un-licensed bicycles!

3. The best place to visit in Europe for an American who only speaks one language has got to be the Netherlands. Everyone there speaks English so well that we abandoned our plans to learn Dutch due to a loss of motivation. I have to hand it to the Dutch, and a lot of Europeans for that matter. Despite what they might think of their English language skills, most speak our language more fluently than I will ever be able to speak any of theirs.

4. Dutch food is bland. Being from Cajun country probably stacks a lot of things against Holland right away, but in all honesty, I don't like really particularly spicy food. However, Dutch food is so bland, I used more Tony Chachere's and Slap Ya Mama in the seven months we were there than I've used over all the other years of my life combined.

5. For the most part, I liked not having a car. I was actually surprised by how many cars there were in Holland. Rail and bus travel is pretty convenient but not as efficient as having a car, especially in such a small country. I would like to think that rail travel would be possible in the US some day but only if they managed to run trains on schedule like the they do in the Netherlands.

6. I've always loved French Fries very much, especially with an enormous amount of Heinz ketchup. The fries in the Netherlands and around Europe are fantastic! However, in Holland, they eat them with mayonnaise. I don't even like putting mayo on my sandwiches let alone dipping fries in them. Ketchup was available but you usually have to pay for it and you hardly get any for the price. Then again, there's also curry sauce which is surprisingly good on a fresh batch of French fries.

7. The Dutch are very helpful people, but most of the ones that we met didn't seem as interested in become friends with foreigners. We were at an international school and we found that most of our friends were people from other countries. It seemed that the Dutch preferred to mostly be friends with other Dutch people. There are of course exceptions, but we really only had a few Dutch friends.

8. The Dutch have a much different idea of personal space than Americans. I didn't become fluent in Dutch but I was familiar with enough to know that when people ran into me at the market, they never said anything to apologize or excuse themselves. Not only that but I found that people waited too close to me in line and I was usually being stared at on the bus or train. I know there are cultural differences, but it's really hard to handle when someone tries to walk through you in a crowd.

9. Behold the power of cheese! I never knew that Dutch cheese would be so good when I found out that we would be traveling there. Not only do they have great cheese, but I learned that Gouda comes from the city of the same name! And it doesn't stop there. Some of our favorites from the cheese shops at the market were the pesto, walnut and tomato-basil cheeses. Worse yet, despite the higher cost of living (see #1) fine cheese was much cheaper in Holland than you can find it here in the States. I will miss the abundant cheese very much.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but those are the main things that come to mind as I've brainstormed this post. If I think of anything else, I'll certainly amend this blog, but honestly, I will probably be too busy with our impending move to Memphis to add anything anytime soon. All in all, I had a good time in Holland, although I am very happy to be back in the United States. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything, but I think the most important thing I learned is that I am an American boy through and through!

No comments: