|Clogs of a different kind...|
And definitely so much has changed over there in the Netherlands since I decided to leave there for good. A lot has happened to me as well, and I'd like to share that — But no longer on this blog in the state that it's in. I've left it for over a year practically without a single touch-up and without my quirky posts about the Dutch lifestyle. Not even a post about the recent abdication of Queen Beatrix and crowning of King Willem-Alexander! Gasp! That is very much unlike my style — Normally I would have been all over that on here! Instead, I watched it on the news like the rest of the world and chatted personally with friends about my thoughts of it all.
I'll update here again soon about when/where/why my new blog [or different venture] is ready, but until then a few of my thoughts and updates:
Do I still speak/think/read/write in Dutch? Yes. Ja. Will I forever do this? Yes. Inderdaad! Regardless. I worked hard to learn Dutch, doggone it. I'm not just going to forget all of that hard work that I put myself through. I studied it and used it every single day for nearly 7 years!
Dutch, Dutch, Dutch. I love bumping into Dutch people — No, not physically. But I mean learning that someone is Dutch! I go right over to them and start speaking Dutch and without hesitation! It's awesome. It's always pleasant. Most of them who I meet in Australia have only learned Dutch from their parents and maybe used it a few times on visits to cousins or other family who still live in the Netherlands. Sadly, though, many who are Dutch don't know much Dutch at all because their parents decided to drop Dutch and use only English when they originally came to Australia. I also meet many who are from South Africa and their language Afrikaans is similar to Dutch because it's old Dutch dialects used by the Dutch settlers there in the 17th century. We speak to each other, them in Afrikaans and me in Dutch, and we can understand each other pretty well. It's great!
Wise thought to share with other expats who plan on moving to another country with a different language and culture: From my own experiences! It's a bit of a rant, but... Understanding ahead of time that you are now the alien in a group of Dutch people. It will be eye-opening for you, most likely, somehow, at least once. Understand though that it is you who is from another country and the people who you now live around are not going to be just like you. Ever. Never ever. You might even be judged just because you're foreign. The people you're living around will have different habits and celebrate festivities which you've never heard of. You should try to embrace this. Totally! Try it out and it will teach you some more about their culture and way of living, at the very least. You don't have to do it again and again, or you never have to again, if you don't want to. And remember that most likely they don't care that it's the 4th of July on that date the way that you do. But go ahead and celebrate it anyway if it still means something to you. Just don't bust out the fireworks because that would likely be illegal and/or alarm your neighbors if you start lighting off fireworks at 11 P.M. that holiday evening. And most likely they don't care that you care that they don't care. They'll over-share their opinions or say things that are way too honest [aka seeming far too blunt]. But that's them, though. That's how they treat each other too, so you're not being singled out. So don't waste your energy worrying about it. Just get out there, explore, try, enjoy, hop on a bicycle [rain or shine] and live. Most importantly: If anyone has a chip on their shoulder against you, it's likely because you're not being 100% Dutch, like them. You're not stuck conforming to their ways completely. If you're like me, you feel free to pick and choose the good cultural habits and decide not to take on what you think are bad Dutch habits — And they're actually not stuck doing it either. They just do it because they know no other way and/or will be put back into their place by another for even trying to think outside of the box.
Have I visited the Netherlands since I left in 2010? No. Will I again? Maybe. Actually, it would be good to see specific areas that I didn't get to see, such as Maastricht or Giethoorn.
Do I miss living in the Netherlands? No. And that's not said with a cold heart. Where I was, it just wasn't for me.
Did I dislike living in the Netherlands? No. And yes. I liked the Netherlands. The Netherlands did nothing wrong to me. As a matter of fact, let me explain this a bit because it's certainly not a simple experience that I had. My experience there overall [both good & bad times] really opened my eyes. The world could totally be something else than what I had thought or was used to. It taught me a lot about myself too because I constantly found myself looking at how I felt, feeling and looking at it from within more often, which is something I guess I normally did but never consciously realized.
And maybe you can learn from this too, before making a decision to move to the other side of the world with someone who you've fallen in love with: In the Netherlands, I stated several times to those close around me that I constantly felt a bit like a child when going to do some simple tasks outside of the home, for about the first year after I arrived. I didn't feel quite adult, but that was because I didn't yet speak Dutch well enough and therefore I lacked confidence in speaking to strangers, so I felt often compelled to try my best to at least understand and speak some Dutch as quickly as possible. It was that or not talk to people at all. No thanks! I like to talk. But my need to learn Dutch so fast was also mostly due to my circumstances — I learned Dutch quickly because I lived at first with my former mother-in-law there who spoke no English, and I really wanted to communicate with her because she was so lovely to me and so patient. I'm always thankful for that. So while most who come to the Netherlands are blessed to not have to learn it so quickly, ironically I was blessed to have had the urgent need to learn Dutch when I arrived because it also helped me get by and I felt more like an adult.
Note: A lot of people speak English there secondarily, but often in smaller communities and especially the social circles you become involved in with the Dutch require that you speak Dutch and nothing else [with the exception of their local dialect]. Besides, if you ever sit in a room with a bunch of Dutch women drinking coffee, you'll find that there is maybe only one or two of them who really want to speak English to you the whole entire time. In all of my experiences, though, the ones who will do it are always the ones who unfortunately ramble on about how much they question/dislike American politics/culture. Oh joy.
I tried to make it all positive by thinking and doing positive, but I couldn't accept my circumstances overall. I was constantly alone. I made friends but, apart from a few who lived local, most of them lived elsewhere in the country or moved away to some other country for work. All in all, I should have considered the fact that my former partner would be travelling all over the world for his work, and how this would affect me. I was of course accepting of it, but I remained mostly in the Netherlands by myself more often than I had hoped and this became too difficult for me. My soul purpose for being there was off on the other side of the world again for a few weeks at a time for work, soon to be sent off to another foreign locale, and then another, and then another... That works great for some but, as I learned, it doesn't work for me. At all. After the required full-time Dutch language course at the ROC, I had difficulty finding work at first where we lived and was alone at home often again, and it only made it harder on me, but then I did eventually find a wonderful job at a university which kept me busy enough. Above all, love and curiosity were what kept me there, but I obviously had grown very weary from always being alone. I had few trusted people in my life who I felt comfortable enough talking about all of this to [or anyone who actually understood how I felt] without them passing judgement on me, so that was the reason why I began this blog was to help others [and myself, ten-fold] by reaching out through this blog, figuring that there must be some others out there who I could reach, who were feeling exactly how I was feeling. That it would somehow help. It worked too! I'm so glad that I began this blog way back in February of 2008.
You may notice that no more of my posts, with the exception of this one and the My Firsthand Survival Guide for Expats entry, have been removed. Well, all of my posts that I had shared here still exist. I have just taken them down until I figure out what I will do with them next, and that [like I said] I will share soon.
Until then, are you new to living in the Netherlands as a spouse or partner of someone who is Dutch? Are you living there for work? Are you there with your spouse/partner for their work? Perhaps you'd like to share what your initial thoughts were when you came to the Netherlands and began to settle-in on your own blog? If so, please let me know that you have in the comments here by leaving a link to your post! I'm sure it will be helpful to other readers who are or will be in the same situation. This type of feedback is valuable to expats, folks — So please share away!