The past few months (or has it already been years?) were spent commuting from my bed to my couch — interrupted by frequent kitchen delays. Work, leisure, fun and pleasure all merged into one big blob that I like to call ‘my quarantime’ (quite original, right?)
Guaranteed, we probably had it easier than our direct neighbours Germany, Belgium & Denmark, who were pretty much house hostages. Regardless, life without bars, restaurants, parks, and museums was no cakewalk for the festival-loving, sun-relishing Dutchies.
Thankfully, June 1 marked the end of that long hibernation.
After six weeks of an intelligent lockdown, the Netherlands woke up. Since May 11, the economy has been gradually reopening. But while a cobbled street lined with friet takeaways and tall-blonde mensen drinking their beers is a typical scene from your Dutch guide book, it won’t be quite the same. As the country continues to ease all lockdown measures, we prepare to live the new normal.
Remember busy restaurants, bustling with dinners at closely placed tables? That is so 2019 BC — Before Coronavirus. In 2020, dining out involves strict reservations, long queues, and empty tables.
You can no longer just walk into a bar, you need to have a reservation. And after almost three months of no eating out, the Dutchies are hungry. Make sure you call into your favourite restaurant before going there or else be prepared to wait for hours. Speaking from a place of experience, these bookings can easily run into weeks for popular places. Welkom deliberation, doei spontaneity!
As an expat, the one thing I associated the most with the Netherlands was open spaces filled with local pubs and restaurants. This, however, is set to change. As much as we love these small and gezellig family-owned pubs, we have to admit they are an ideal breeding ground for the virus.
To prevent this love story from happening (the virus and the pubs, not the pubs and us), the authorities are allowing businesses to expand into the side-walks and other public squares. I am certainly not complaining — I knew the Dutch had a history of reclaiming land but reclaiming roads? That’s taken space retrieval to another level!
Boodschappen doen (grocery shopping)
Buying groceries would never be the same. Do you recall your casual indecisiveness in selecting an item and then putting it back once you realized you didn’t want it? Well, that won’t be possible anymore…unless you’re up for some suspicious glances from other shoppers.
The humble grocery basket is mandatory now, coupled with a sanitizer and paper towel. Lastly, brace yourself for long queues at the checkout because only alternate self-checkout machine work, to adhere to the social distancing guidelines.
Most companies went into a work from home mode midway through March and are expected to continue doing this till September 1. This decision is a direct implication of the virus; everyone wants to avoid public transport as much as possible.
Even though the Netherlands has the highest number of people who work from home in Europe, working from home for five months continuously is no cakewalk. Remember that meeting which could have been an email? Well, the tables have turned now — every email is a meeting. The perks? Pants not necessary!
While the local Albert Heijn isn’t limiting the number of people, your favourite retail store is. Only a selected number of people are allowed inside, with a mandatory dose of hand sanitizer at the entrance. Certain shops have made trying on clothes off-limits whereas others have constrained the number of fitting rooms.
Rejected clothes are kept in a separate area where they are sprayed with what I’d assume to be an air or gas version of sanitizer before being whisked away to their usual shelves. Once you’re done with the entire process of clothes selection, you are greeted by a plastic screen at the till, behind which the cashier asks for payment by a pin or gift card — cash is strictly not allowed. Not that the Netherlands needed to be any more cashless.
With coronavirus cancelling most summer plans, Dutchies have turned to intra-country vacations. In comes the trusty NS, also known as the backbone of the country. Even though the trains never really stopped, they have returned to their usual schedules from June 1 albeit a small change — mandatory face masks. In fact, this isn’t just limited to NS; use of any public transport requires masks. The Dutch were never really fond of crowding up, but now the trains and trams seem eerily empty. Thanks (not) coronavirus!
While the bars, shops and stores are rejoicing, gyms and fitness centres are left sulking in a corner due to their expected opening from September. The Dutch exercise more than anyone else in Europe, with 80% cycling, walking, swimming, dancing or gardening on a weekly basis, according a study by the European Commission. The European average stands at a flimsy 44% in comparison. What option does lack of gyms leave for our fitness-obsessed Dutchies? The good ol’ running along the canals or hopping onto those bikes — thank god for the “good” weather!
Alles goed but what about love? Contrary to popular belief, love actually blossomed during the lockdown. Dating apps, just like video calling ones, experienced a surge in their user base. Assuming people had ample time to get to know each other through virtual mediums (c’mon, three months is long enough), they are now initiating personal meetings. Was it love or just loneliness triggered by a global pandemic? Only time will tell.
Much of our lives have been changed permanently because of the coronavirus. How are you coping with this nieuwe normaal? Tell us in the comments section below!
Feature Image: DutchReview/Canva