I am aware there are many, many things that people Do Not Understand about my home country, the United States. Some of them I can explain (tax rates are different everywhere! that’s why we add the tax at point of sale and don’t include it in listed prices!); some of them I can’t (but that’s a post for another time).
As a foreigner in the Netherlands, I’m asked quite frequently what I think of this country — often by people who don’t seem to like it all that much themselves.
In fact, the question I probably get more than any other is, “Why would you want to live here?” (Usually accompanied by a raised eyebrow and that generally unimpressed tone the Dutch have when they speak in English.)
Despite my best efforts (which, admittedly, were quite pathetic, and generally restricted to “wishing and hoping summer would last forever”), autumn has arrived here in the Netherlands. I am of two minds about it.
On one hand, I have never been a fall person. You know fall people; they’re the ones who start posting about pumpkin spice lattes on August 15th and hold big leaves up for instagram photos. Other than my geeky affinity for school, fall has always represented one thing to me: the imminent onset of winter. Which, in Minnesota, means several months of ice and snow, and around three people per day telling you, “What, this? Nah, it’s gonna get way worse.”
Like most reasonable people who have recently committed to renting an apartment, and who have a multitude of tasks ahead of them (including but not limited to: installing new appliances, painting till their arms fall off, eviscerating dust bunnies, and constructing furniture from plastic nails and hopeless dreams), we decided to do literally none of that and go away for a couple of days last week instead. Because, you know. Priorities.
Considering how adamant I apparently am that I don’t live in Amsterdam, and how unlikely it is that’s going to change anytime soon (spoiler alert!), the place where I do live has received very little recognition on my blog lately. And considering that I may be the only person, currently or ever, producing content on the Internet about that place in English, it’s especially weird that I’ve forsaken it so frequently to write about places for which that is certainly not the case. Well, no more!
Despite the assumptions of a good many people who know me (and, frankly, should know better), the fact that I live in the Netherlands does not actually mean I live in Amsterdam.
I don’t. In fact, I live on the other side of the country from the Dutch capital city. How do you like that?
While we’re making confessions, there’s something else you should know about me. I’m…kind of a city person.
This doesn’t mean I refuse to set foot in any place without at least six Starbucks and 500,000 people complaining about public transit. One of the best summers of my life was spent in Kaikoura, a teensy-weensy coastal town in New Zealand. My parents started taking me and my sister camping all over the United States before we could walk. Hell, I spent twelve weeks in the Australian outback, chasing cows in a helicopter and showering in water our host wouldn’t use to clean his car. I am no stranger to dirt, isolation, or small-town life.
I’m a bit of an imposter when it comes to this whole “outdoor flea market” thing – it’s time I just came out and said it.
In my dreams, I stroll through such markets at a leisurely pace, lovingly eyeing old rotary phones and vinyl records, chatting to the stallkeepers who have worked there for decades, and then magically discover something breathtaking that I will cherish forever (/sell to someone else for 100x what I paid).
After living in the US, New Zealand, and Australia, moving to Europe takes some adjustment.
I mean, I’m used to space. I’m used to great distances, usually made of water, in between me and other people. When I move from one country to another, I’m used to grand trips, long immigation lines, annoying customs forms, and habitually ridding myself of half of my possessions so I can fit everything I own into one suitcase. For four years, this was normal life.