Last week marked the first anniversary of my move to Holland with the good wife. I’d like to say that the year has gone fast, and it has, but it has also been a fair slog. Relocating internationally to a new culture, even one as similar to my own as The Netherlands, takes it out of you. In the first year I have found full time gainful employment and we have purchased out first house which we are in the process of renovating. In fact, I am sitting down to write this after taking a short break from pounding mortar off an internal chimney, (for the study, you see).
I think for a first year that this is an extremely good result, and it is what I had planned towards. The other excellent result of our first year is that we have more money saved than when we left Australia. So after paying for relocation costs halfway around the world and the costs of purchasing a new house the end result is that we have more savings in the bank than when we started.
Looking back there are a few things that I would have done differently. I think the biggest would be to have moved my butt faster on the job front. I didn’t really get serious about it until the new year due to the promise of a job that never eventuated. Once I began looking I was working within a few weeks. In other words, I lost about 4 months of potential work time that I would have preferred to have taken advantage of in the circumstances.
I’d like to tell myself that I should have made a bigger earlier effort on the language but I don’t think that that is the case. The Dutch language is a bitch to get your head around and I think that the first year has not been wasted. I now have a good ear for the language and my pronunciation is improving greatly. This sort of stuff takes time, and the incremental gains that you make seem negligible at first but add up over time. Like a year. I’m not close to being fluent yet in the language but I think another year should see me well on the way.
Holland is a beautiful country. Every day on my drive to work I am calmed by the serenity of the early morning landscape. The natives make the claim that there is no nature in Holland but for me there is more nature here than in Australia. The skies teem with birds, great flocks of which move across the landscape, their numbers casting impressive shadows. I see large carp and eels in the river beside my house, and it is not unusual for me to have to slow my car for a wayward hare on its morning outing.
The Dutch are polite, curious, confident of their culture, calm, welcoming, and civilized. The women are beautiful and everyone makes an effort to dress well. Young people defer to those older than themselves and there is a marked absence of hooliganism. The streets are not marred by the sounds of souped-up vehicles blasting out atrocious music. I am largely free to do what I want as long as I do not impose on anyone else. There are exceptions to this; gun ownership being a prime example, but overall it is very accommodating.
The Dutch have good reason to be proud of their culture and their homeland. It is a privilege to live here and for that I am thankful.