A Dutch anniversary

I have recently celebrated my Dutch anniversary. I have now been a resident of the Netherlands for three whole years.

My oh my, has that time flown. I have seen eleven of the twelve provinces (I still have to get to Drenthe), visiting some beautiful cities such as Middelburg, Haarlem, Alkmaar, Maastricht, Groningen and Arnhem. Then there’s been some unforgettable little villages, like Baarle-Hertog, Giethoorn, Oudewater and Willemstad.

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The ‘Dutch Disneyland’ of Zaanse Schans. We visited back in June 2011.

I’ve danced around on Queen’s Day, learnt the rules of korfbal, sneaked into the Holland Heineken House and cheered on cyclists and ice skaters. Plus, I’ve worked in Amsterdam, studied in Leiden and lived in Dordrecht. Not bad.

However, when I think back, I don’t really feel as if I’ve been living in the Netherlands for three years, but rather Europe. Of the thirty-six months since I flew here from China, I’ve only been in the Netherlands for seventeen of them. More than half of that time I’ve been elsewhere; all over Europe in my work as a tour guide, back home in Melbourne a couple of times and even a month travelling in Southeast Asia.

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Quite possibly my favourite visit – and blog post – of my time in Holland. This is in the divided town of Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog.

Well, that’s all changing now. I’ve just started a regular, 9-5 job in Rotterdam and that means expat life is set to become a bit more normal. I’ve never really felt like an expat here in the Netherlands – I haven’t really made any expat friends and I just haven’t had any regularity over the three years to fall into any sort of rhythm.

So that means that there’s plenty of things that the Dutch do that I simply don’t understand just yet. Maybe it’s just a matter of time before I truly get such quirks.

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Dutch stereotypes abound. This is in Gornichem, pronounced ‘Gor-kem’.

For example, I still don’t understand that when it’s somebody’s birthday, why I have to congratulate everyone who has a connection to the birthday person. I mean, picture it. You arrive at the birthday person’s house, and you say congratulations to them, their partner, their best friend, their best friend’s partner, their great-grandfather and their second cousin. And they congratulate you back, as if you had something to do with your friend making it through another 365 days.

I don’t get why somebody thought it would be hilarious to break the bell on my bike. And I don’t know why this affected me so much, as if I’d had some emotional connection to a bell I’d never used.

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Ten minutes before I took this photo, it was pouring with rain. This is in Hoorn, one of the VOC cities.

I really don’t understand the obsession with milk and juice. I mean, seriously, why do the Dutchies drink milk at a restaurant? Why do they ask for apple juice at a party? Guys, you invented Heineken. You get to drink it in more places than simply a football stadium.

There’s the fixation with house plants. The popularity of the bakfiets. Shops being closed on a Sunday. Boerenkool. Yogurt in milk cartons. The fact that if you ask for someone’s opinion on something, they will give it to you, even if you really didn’t want it in the first place and really just wanted them to read between the lines and tell you what you wanted to hear. And I still flinch with the un-bleeped out swearing and un-pixelated nudity on the nightly news.

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Giethoorn, the little town with no roads.

I want to see more of this little country, this little corner of Europe that’s historically way too big for its boots. So cheers, Holland. Or the Netherlands, whatever you want to be called. I still don’t really understand you, but it’s certainly fun trying.

19 Responses to A Dutch anniversary

  1. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas March 5, 2014 at 11:22 PM #

    Happy anniversary!! Time flies, does it not?

    • Caitlyn March 9, 2014 at 12:19 AM #

      Thanks Cat! It certainly does, I can’t believe it’s been three years since I moved here!

  2. Agness March 6, 2014 at 2:29 AM #

    Happy Anniversary! I’m celebrating 2 years in China soon so I totally understand how exciting it is!! 3 years is a looong time! You must be feeling like a local already!
    Agness recently posted..Postcards from Alona Beach, the PhilippinesMy Profile

    • Caitlyn March 9, 2014 at 12:19 AM #

      I wish! The Dutch still totally confuse me! 😛

  3. Julia March 7, 2014 at 12:05 AM #

    Congratulations! I’m moving to Amsterdam this year, so it was funny to read about some of the customs that I hadn’t heard about (milk?) but I have to say that I’m actually excited about the bakfiets! I want to get one to put our dog in :) However I do always find it funny when I see people cycling three or four kids in them…
    Julia recently posted..Soda Bottles and Spray Cans: Route 66 Road Trip (Part 1)My Profile

    • Caitlyn March 9, 2014 at 12:21 AM #

      Oh, best of luck for the move! I never have understood the bakfiets – I’m heavy enough to cycle around, let alone a couple of kids too!

  4. Sammi March 7, 2014 at 11:20 PM #

    Congratulations on your new job- what is it? :)
    Sammi recently posted..Tank Riding in SlovakiaMy Profile

    • Caitlyn March 9, 2014 at 12:21 AM #

      Thanks Sammi! It’s an office job in Rotterdam – yep I’ve returned to the 9-5 😛

      • Sammi March 10, 2014 at 9:34 PM #

        Oh what I wouldn’t give for a 9-5 (I do Tues- Sun, splits except Friday & Sunday, tho it’ll be summer hours soon & instead I’ll be doing Sat- Thurs)!

        “9-5 what a way to make a livin’ ” :)
        Sammi recently posted..Walking Off the Night Before in BudapestMy Profile

        • Caitlyn March 11, 2014 at 8:11 PM #

          Oh, I don’t envy you!

  5. Heather March 10, 2014 at 3:56 PM #

    Congrats! I look forward to celebrate my next expat milestone after moving to Europe later this year :-)
    Heather recently posted..Becoming a Celebrity in ChinaMy Profile

    • Caitlyn March 10, 2014 at 7:08 PM #

      Oh good luck! Where are you headed?

  6. Deborah March 11, 2014 at 11:25 AM #

    Being Dutch and living in Australia now for 3 years I laughed so hard at your blog!!!

    • Caitlyn March 11, 2014 at 8:13 PM #

      Thanks Deborah! I’m sure we do some strange things too :)

  7. Narrie March 11, 2014 at 11:31 AM #

    G’day Caitlyn! Happy anniversary! I’ll be celebrating my 5th this May … can’t believe how the time has flown. Well, I’ll definitely be checking in on all your adventures in future now that I’ve come across your blog. Take care and happy travels :)

    • Caitlyn March 11, 2014 at 8:14 PM #

      Cheers Narrie! I’ll get in early then and wish you hearty ‘gefeliciteerd’!

      • Narrie March 12, 2014 at 10:52 AM #

        Haha, dank je wel Caitlyn! :)

  8. Amev June 5, 2014 at 12:38 AM #

    Time flies :)
    I’m trying to think if Paul has done the congratulations about the birthday thing??

    • Caitlyn June 9, 2014 at 3:55 PM #

      Probably not, he has been acclimatised!

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