It’s approaching a year that I’ve been away from Holland. Yes, I’ve come back often but this is the first time in years I’ve actually been away for a long stretch of time, with only sporadic visits. I’ve written extensively about my home country and the differences between it and the Netherlands. However, just like some things were apparent to me once I moved there – and I missed my homelands – so now do I really miss the Netherlands. This text is a tribute to the Netherlands from a distance – one could even say, more realistic than the ones before. If you notice similarities with my other text on the good things in Holland – its because that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Its part 2 of a trilogy. Peter Jackson will direct.
It’s also the melancholy season of autumn; that’s why the title you see? It’s a double entendre! Writing points for me! So what can an expat expect (alliteration!) to really miss once he leaves the NetherRealm? No, it’s not tulips or weed. In no particular order, three things I will miss when I leave the Netherlands.
1. The weather
Yes, you read that right. A colleague on DutchReview already wrote why you should love the Dutch weather and now it is my turn. I shall cleverly fuse this with the amount of forest and overall greenery the country has, and turn this into a mini-ode to how very…druidic living in the Netherlands can sometimes be. The combination of flat land, fast moving clouds and clear (or cloudy!) open sky makes a hell of a background for brooding, thinking and inspiration. Combined with the above-mentioned greenery and what you’re left with is a very suitable backdrop for any kind of creativity – from simple philosophic thought to artistry of any kind, be it writing, painting, music, whatever. What an emo moment – maybe even the windmills go into this one.
2. The open and international vibe
The Dutch have a history of closeted (or boxed? *cue Oost Indische Compagnie * joke!) racism, but then again I come from a country in which homophobic, racist sociopathic football hooligans periodically wreck the city – so I think we can ignore this ever-so-subtle tinge of Dutch racism to focus on the thing I really like.
Everyone speaks English. Everyone is *mostly* up to date with world politics. There is, for better or worse, far less obsession with domestic affairs than in the self-obsessed, retrograde Serbia. There are international schools and universities (but more on that in a different text.) Due to, amongst other things, its former colonial nature (a bad thing!) the country is rife with various other cultures and peoples – thus giving the country a palette of diversity that can, quite literally as in my case, expand someone’s horizons and knowledge (a good thing!). This is the main point – I’ve never felt as free as when I lived in the Netherlands. I could dye my hair pink, wear a faux fur coat and doc martens – no one would care. The sheer amount of different people I could meet in the local British bar for example (holla at Fiddler!) would teach me more about other cultures than the internet ever could. Once I moved to Holland, an irreversible process of de-provincialisation from my relatively narrow Serbian perspective has begun; I’m still grateful for it.
If you take the time and read all my texts for Dutchreview you will notice mostly share a theme – the comparison of Dutch culture and lifestyle, with the Serbian one. All of them, along with the points in this text, boil down to one thing, a major factor that gives the Netherlands a slight edge in the lifestyle battle (if there is such a thing): The Netherlands are The World. A first world country. They border Germany and Belgium, furrchristsakes! How much more cosmopolitan can you get? And though none of the cities in Holland have that air of a Metropolis (even Belgrade and Brussels have it) – it’s not that particular “vibe” I am talking about here. It’s all the benefits and privileges that being a proper, fully fledged and European citizen entails.
Most of you reading this will not understand, whether because your liberties and opportunities were never stifled (if you’re a EU citizen) or because you never had the opportunity to leave your home country (a LOT of people in Serbia, unfortunately) – but living in one of the more prominent countries in the developed world, and Europe, is an AMAZING privilege and luxury; and it is a luxury you should all use and be happy for it.
Which leads me the final point.
There we are. The Nexus. The core. The mothership. The HiveQueen. The single biggest reason I will miss the Netherlands. Oliebollen.
Its like the more lavish, gluttonous cousin of donuts made sweet sweet love to a candy store and produced offspring – that’s Oliebollen. Cheap and delicious, warm and with their distribution perfectly timed so they are in sync with the weather; they even stop being available just days before you get sick of them. If you have one take-away from this entire text, its that the single most prominent reason you’d go back to the Netherlands is oliebollen.
PS. As long as I’m around in this rainy but lovely little country I’ll keep sharing my stories with you through DutchReview. Maybe you should too?