You would be surprised at how many blog post begin with the “So sorry I haven’t posted in awhile!” thing. But since this is my first lagging post, I think I deserve it…just this once. So… Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile! I totally missed you guys!
I am now cuddled up under a blanket, blogging from my living room in Amsterdam. Monday night we arrived back from our three week vacation to my motherland: Dover, Ohio. It was a jam-packed tour de friends and family…one that my heart longed for. I’m still recovering from the copious amounts of love, parties, and delicious comfort foods I had been missing. I wasn’t sure what to expect from returning home. Though I had a feeling it would be weird finally understanding what everyone was saying around me (and I was right!). For example…if I (accidentally) cycle in front of another cyclist here in the Dam, cutting them off, they might shout something at me in Dutch. It never bothers me in the slightest though, since I don’t speak Dutch. Keep hurling those insults my way! It doesn’t phase me in the slightest. In the US, however, when cruising in my car through a pedestrian crosswalk and nearly hitting a woman…I could definitely hear what she was saying…and felt like an asshat. I didn’t miss this at all. Random moments of minor conflict with people.
I had read several other blogs like this one prior to arrival, and I suspected that my experience may be similar regarding people not knowing what to ask about the Netherlands. I’m happy to report that everyone did have questions about my new life across the pond. Of course there are some people who (when I rant about the magic fairytale quality of life in Amsterdam) just can’t appreciate that any country could be “better” than what they already know. Even people who recognize that there are problems in the US, and that they likely won’t get any better anytime soon, still have a hard time believing that life can be so different. This is also true about myself (prior to moving). Hearing about a different way of doing things can seem threatening…or almost old-fashioned.
“You ride bikes everywhere? WHY?? Do they not have cars in Europe?!?!”
I proceeded to explain that Europe is a Westernized country…which means that we have all the amenities of the US and still CHOOSE to live an alternative lifestyle. This means cycling, doing sports, buying organic, and appreciating the small things…like a day of sunshine. Ok, this is also possible in the US I am sure…but for me it really wasn’t. In fact my amazing father fixed-up two bikes for hubby and I to roll around town on while we were visiting. We used them a few times. But overall the number of cars and the lack of bike lanes (and in a small town, mind you!) was still quite terrifying. If I moved back, for example, I’m not sure I would feel safe enough to ride around alone. But I would surely try.
So what has affected our perception? When we first arrived in the Netherlands, we didn’t know a single person here, but luckily everyone spoke English. That is all we had going for us. I remember the initial feelings of being totally lost…there is no Target. There is no Walmart. There is no one-stop shop for EVERYTHING to furnish your new apartment. You don’t have a car to haul everything home. You don’t know where to buy a bike, or how much you should pay for one. You don’t know where to live, or if there is a “ghetto”. You don’t know what anything is at the grocery store (unless it’s a recognizable fruit or veggie). Karnemilk does NOT go in coffee…for example. You basically can’ t tell your ass from a hole in the ground for several months. You really need to flex that mental immune system to survive.
But this was our choice. I decided to uproot myself from everything I had known my entire life based on a few days in the city, and only a few hours with my new colleagues. Slowly but surely…you find your own way. You make friends. You accept what you cannot change. You find new hobbies. You embrace difference. You keep busy. You build a new life for yourself…because you don’t have another choice. And after some time, you love your new life and everything you have done for yourself. You never want to leave.
Which brings me to my next point. Repatriating. It has taken some time (and it is still a work in progress) to have a life here. While on vacation I spent time with my family and closest friends, some with children now, and I realize that they are the people that matter the most to me. With life being short and whatnot, should I move back home…eventually? Most people do, I suppose. But will I lose the lifestyle things that I love most about the Netherlands? Yeah. I will. The real question is whether that will matter to me. I am guessing that if I did repatriate I would remember my old lifestyle in Amsterdam fondly, but that mental immune system would provide me with happiness no matter what circumstance. Until then, I think I will try to come home more often .