Bikes’n dykes – An expats’ review of the Netherlands

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So here I am officially living in the Netherlands for 1 year now. The struggling procrastinator in me is rather surprised (“no way a year passed by”) at the irreversible passage of time. This is an article about my shift in perspective on life, society and human interaction. The Netherlands have embraced me like I was always one of them. You know, that moment when you “put on new shoes and suddenly, everything feels right”. One question still lingers though – what is home?

Language and living

English is spoken by everyone. There’s an acceptance in acknowledging that you’re foreign. Their eyes truly lid up though when they can hear you trying to make yourself understood in Dutch. And here is where I found it most hard because it is so much easier to obviously stick to English. But because I want to live here, to get to know people in their own habitat, I want to speak Dutch as good as possible. Luckily enough I found a great language course close by the Voorwartz language training school. With their help and my own study, I am managing to crack this code and pass the language barrier

Favorite word: zodra meaning “as soon as”

A culturally diverse land

Doe maar gewoon dan doe je al gek genoeg  – which translates to “Just act normal, it’s crazy enough as it is” is a great reflection of the dutch society. As opposed to the Romanians, the Dutch won’t sugar coat their views, they are direct and can come off as somewhat rude and cocky.  Nevertheless, the three kisses on the cheeks are definitely proof of how warm the Dutch truly are. The culturally rich society reminds me of utopian worlds of acceptance and order, where everyone adds to the whole down-to-earthiness. Honeymoon phase much?!


The food

Dutch cuisine took some getting used to. As a country that still holds the marks of its impressive diplomatic and foreign policies, The Netherlands’ cuisine is a worldwide spice mix. The asian and thai influence is highly noticeable in the store ails. The Dutch love to experiment with foreign, exotic food. Nevertheless, the local meals and snacks are genuine. I can name frikandel, bitterballen, kipcorn (indescribable fried objects), stroopwafel, poffertjes, and of course, drop (liquorice). They love this stuff so much, they even drink it as shots.

Favorite dutch snack: Bitterballen

Cities and villages

As someone raised in front of the tv, I too had a slightly different vision of what was there to come for me when I moved here. Surprisingly, as I kept seeing more and more of the country, I began to wonder where the cities were. Coming from the baroques and art-nouveau styled Oradea, urban meant large imposing buildings, impressive architecture and concrete, lots and lots of concrete. Dutch cities (or, villages) are small, packed and kind of rural. Obviously the Randstad (Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht and The Hague aka the economical hot zone) has everything you could want from a European urban landscape. There are no former communist grey mammoth buildings here and I kind of miss them.

Favorite city: Rotterdam

Festivals, parties and clubs

Even before I moved here I was very well aware of the great variety for cultural expression in The Netherlands. I’ve met and seen an amazing display of subculture and multi-genre expression during the Fantasya festival in the summer. The variety of Dutch cosplayers ranged from the mundane to the bizarre and back. I’ve seen delicate fairies, mysterious vampires, gaming cosplayers, viking settlers and of course my favorites, handy-dandy steampunk adventurers.

I had my kick when it comes to electronic music from the Awakenings festival. Attending this great yearly event meant that I got to hear and see in action a lot of my favorite DJ’s, such as Adam Beyer, Nina Kravitz, Jeff Mills, Ben Sims, Digweed, Alan Fitzpatrick, Gessafelstein and many many more.

Clubbing is not really my thing but the Dutch clubs I’ve managed to see around Breda and Amsterdam were packed, clean and smoke-free. Not to mention to above medium quality of the sound system. For my surprise I did encounter the obscure, well lid and down right dirty as well. Social life is giving, there are café’s everywhere and for everyone. The Dutch know how to party.

Favorite Dutch events: Emporium Vernesque, ADE

I am still adapting to all this and more. Therefore, the culture shock is slowly transgressing into acceptance. So what is home? Home is where you love and live.