When my husband and I were first presented with the opportunity to come live in The Hague, we did not really know what to expect. On one hand, we were super excited to have a new experience and, on the other, we felt full of uncertainty.
The date for moving came around, so we hopped in a plane from Madrid to Amsterdam with our one year old (in case you were wondering, it is super fun flying with a toddler!) and did not look back.
Actually, that is not entirely true; there was a whole lot of looking back… and forth, as well as overthinking absolutely everything about our life in the Netherlands. Here is a list of some of the things that caught us off guard:
First bikes, then bikes and lastly, also bikes
Need to cross the street? You better watch out for bikes incoming from every direction, even if there is no bike lane, even if you are in the sidewalk minding your own business. Now try doing it while pushing a stroller.
Stairs, that sums it up
Aw, Dutch colonial revival architecture, how pretty! Yes, the buildings are super nice to look at; combine them with the endless canals, cute bridges and the landscape is complete.
The catch to all this beauty becomes apparent when you open the first door and look up to some really (I mean REALLY) steep and narrow stairs.
I know Dutch people are tall but come on! Again, carrying the stroller up while holding my child’s hands seems like an impossible mission. Needless to say, when we were apartment hunting our number one item on the wish list was to have a lift… and let me tell you, it was not easy finding it.
Speak English? You are good to go!
Before moving here, we knew that, to some extent, we would be able to communicate in English. After all, if you are unsure about the time you will spend in a new country, it is unlikely you will dive in nose first into learning a new language.
To say that Dutch is not a particularly easy language to learn is the understatement of the year, so we were beyond pleasantly surprised when we realized English proficiency in the Netherlands is the best in the world. This is obviously great for so many expats living and enjoying this life in the lowlands.
The dreamy surroundings
Whether you need to step out of the house to run some errands or just to take a walk, the beauty you encounter on almost every corner is not one to go unnoticed. The couple of swans in the canal on your way to get coffee or the peace you feel when you take your little one to the park is truly remarkable. Most places look like they came from a fairytale, I mean, have you ever strolled around the Peace Palace?
If the sun is out, everyone is out
It rains a lot; this is not exactly a secret. Dutchies are obviously used to practically living in rain boots and can cycle through a storm without batting an eyelash.
However, when a sunny day comes around, you will see flocks of them enjoying the park, the beach, the nearest café or even a chair outside their front door, soaking up the golden rays like there is no tomorrow.
I guess it is true that you never really appreciate something until you know you can seldom have it. It is also likely that you will see me wearing my winter coat (ok, maybe without a scarf) while the locals are already sporting t-shirts and even sandals (sometimes with socks).
All kidding aside, after a little over a year living in such a cool expat city, I can say we officially call The Hague home, for now.
Are you an expat in the Netherlands? What has surprised you about life here?
Feature Image: sabina fratila/Unsplash