One of the complaints of expats in Holland is that they don't know any Dutch people. The Dutch, while friendly, have a reputation of being aloof. My father even taught me a little ditty from his childhood in Iowa to warn me off. "The Irish and the Dutch, they don't amount to much, but I'd rather be an Irish than a Goddamned Dutch". All signs pointed to an unsatisfying cultural experience where I only hung out with fellow expats.
That hasn't been my experience, however. In general, I've been extremely lucky during this eight months (!!) and have met some great Dutch people. This post is a shoutout to all my Dutch friends who have made this transition better. While I've had my struggles, in general, I'm not sad that I moved here. I love this city and Dutch people and can't wait to spend another year exploring it.
First up are my Dutch friends from my time back in DC at "Melrose Place" - Saskia, Vinz, and Remco. They have all been extremely warm and welcoming to me - Corinne and Remco even put me up in their house for a few weeks when I moved here! They all repeatedly reminded me during my darkest moments that things were not lost - they were there and they would help me. I learned how to eat bitterballen, was instructed on the proper way to celebrate a baby's birth with muisjes, why Swarte Piet is not a colonialist racist tradition (I'm still not convinced), and fortitude in bicycling. My rear end is still bruised from learning how to ride on the back of a bicycle behind Saskia in Antwerp. Carolyn and Corinne (while not Dutch) both count as honorary dutch friends due to the fact that they can order food in Dutch and help me understand Dutch men. (and they are the support that keeps me going on despite their own trying years, thank you ladies!)
Through my Dutch friend Margo in DC, I met Sandra and Luuk and Clara - all of whom were responsible for helping me through "the Great Housing Crisis of 2007". They've taken me to cool restaurants and bars and taught me Dutch beach culture (fries on the beach! yea!). I even managed to make friends with Fabien, Sandra and Luuk's little son despite the language barriers.
Another wonderful Dutch friend is Esther - who makes me laugh and stimulates my intellect with great discussions on gender. I don't see her and her new husband enough but that's a new year's resolution.
At work, my friend Willy has served as a sounding board for my frustration, a translator for my health insurance and online shopping needs, and a much needed happy hour partner. She's encouraged me to learn rowing, join a gym, and dress nicer. Other dutch colleagues like my friend Akke and Monique have reassured me that my frustrations are not specific to the Dutch culture but shared - therefore allowing me to focus my frustrations where they belong - on the individuals- rather than hiding behind lame cultural complaints. I am hoping Akke comes back soon so we can spend more time watching Bollywood films together and I look forward to more cups of tea in the lovely waterlands with Monique.
I may have left a few out but as 2007 draws to a close, I just wanted to say "Dank u wel" and I'm looking forward to seeing you all in 2008 and getting onto your agendas early so I can see you more!