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.
But when it comes to settling down and living somewhere – which, I realise, is kind of laughable, given the entire point of this blog – I will pick city, every time. At the end of the day, I want to wait in long lines for restaurant seating. I want to shout to be heard over the din of crowded streets. I want to ignore everyone around me unless we have specifically arranged to pay attention to each other.
Is that so much to ask?
Apparently: yes. Because when Simon and I relocated to the Netherlands, we ended up here: Dedemsvaart, in the province Overijssel, known here as “De Voart” (or, “Zoom in again,” if you’re on Google Maps). The town sits about 1.5 hours from Amsterdam and is home to around 12,300 people.
Dedemsvaart is Simon’s hometown, where his parents and many of his friends still live, which explains why we came here initially; but whaddaya know: it’s several months later and we’re, uh, still here. The best-laid plans (if, “oh, we’ll figure it out when we get there” counts as a plan).
Dedemsvaart is located in what the Dutch people call “the countryside,” but given my American Midwestern upbringing, I have a hard time taking that description seriously. Country means something to me — sprawling cornfields that go on for miles; “towns” set two hours apart and consisting of one petrol station and a McDonald’s; hours of driving with nothing but the swoop-de-woop of power lines to look at.
This? This is the suburbs, with cows. Sometimes, the only hint you’re among farmland is the strong smell of livestock.
Despite my grumbling — because I don’t know who I am without at least a little bit of grumbling — this town’s got a certain kind of charm.
Everyone buys their bread from the bakery and walks their dog by the water and greets everyone else at the drugstore, whether they know them or not. The kids come home from school to eat lunch and the neighbours routinely stop by for coffee without calling first. Personally, I think my head would explode if people kept ringing my doorbell without any notice (I mean, surely sometimes your neighbours are naked when you show up?) but everyone here just seems to expect it.
And they’ve always got coffee ready.
It’s certainly been an adjustment: after four years of living with mostly other foreigners, I now find myself surrounded by Dutch people — many of whom have lived all or most of their lives in this area.
In theory, this should really help with my Dutch language skills. So far, I can buy groceries and say hi to people on the street. (It’s a process.)
Wondering how I’m getting on in the Netherlands? See the Yearly Report tag for updates!