Tiptoe through the tulips
“Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.” ― G Radner
The time of your life
The decision to move abroad, independently of the length and distance, is certainly one bringing as much considerations and doubts as opportunities. It will most probably be one of your very most exciting adventures. Although it will most certainly also mean you’ll have to make considerable changes in the way you run your life. For several months boredom, routine and “normal” will cease to exist, I guarantee.
This expat-on-the-way-to-fit-in dichotomy will keep things in tension. Not the negative kind, but rather the keep-on-your-toes sort of tension that can unexpectedly pitch or top these sudden rushes of excitement or anger you have sure started to be familiar with. Indeed, we all know that everything that comes up does eventually go down. Ah! Bitter-sweet taste of freedom.
First aid kit
A study published in the Forbes magazine placed the Netherlands high up on the list of most unfriendly and unwelcoming countries. Please let me entirely disagree. Hopefully you will do so too.
Although learning to pull through awkward cultural misunderstandings can sometimes feel like fence jumping, it was always part of the deal. New language, food, environment, tomatoes that aren’t red enough — let alone tasty — and never-ending cold, grey and rainy summer days. The so-called “culture shock”.
However, if you want to get the most out of your expat experience, you should break out of your comfortable little cocoon and try to plunge in the local culture. After all you are a guest in a foreign country. Try to be patient, at least until you experience the transition from being just an expat to becoming the closest to a fellow citizen. Otherwise it will feel like you stumble and fall after every single step, and you will very much need a survival first aid kit.
Bitterballen with hagelslag
As the Dutch say: there are no roses without thorns.
Moving abroad will bring you a new set of challenges to look forward to. Which will lead to a better understanding of yourself and of how you deal with those challenges. On the other hand, you will sure in occasions miss and be missed by your family and friends. Sometimes more than what you would have expected. However, if you live abroad long enough, once you go back you will also start feeling like a tourist in your own country.
And believe me, this strange sense of not wholly belonging anywhere pretty much resembles eating bitterballen with hagelslag: nothing you would voluntarily go for.
“And tiptoe through the tulips with me”
Complain about the weather. Complain about NS. Complain about people who cannot stop complaining. Write your first ever Sinterklass poem in Dutch. Improvise a swimming pool in your terrace on the warmest day of summer. Talk things through and be straight to the point. Ice-skate. Hang a calendar in your toilet. Don’t forget to congratulate someone’s dog on their birthday. Buy what’s on bonus. Curse. Make appointments. Venerate cheese.
It is generally known that Dutch cues take no prisoners, but you will in no time figure out it’s not too tricky to sneak into the integration line. There is of course no one-size-fits-all piece of advice. But if one day your colleague comes through the door and calls you “a Dutch undercover” it probably means you are doing a good job.