My Third Year in the Netherlands

My Third Year Living Abroad in the Netherlands

It’s autumn again, and you know what that means (mostly because, presumably, you’ve seen the title of this post by now): it’s time for the third annual round-up of my life as a foreigner in the Netherlands!

For reasons unclear to even myself, I structure this post a bit differently each year. This time around, I’ve decided to split it up by seasons, beginning with last autumn. Let’s get started!

PREVIOUSLY: Year One | Year Two

Autumn

Well, this part’s gonna be short. Autumn 2016 was, unfortunately, not a particularly happy time — due both to personal reasons and, shall we say, more public ones (aka, the never-ending shitstorm that was 2016). So while I wouldn’t say it was uneventful, I also don’t have a whole lot more to talk about.

Autumn day in Enschede, the Netherlands

Highlights

• I celebrated six years of traveling and living abroad in November (and am now on track to hit seven).

• Um.

Notable blog posts

Six Experiences You Can Only Find in Minneapolis — a little ode to my hometown, inspired by our visit late last summer;

A Brief Statement on My Non-Neutrality — my response to the 2016 US elections (but really, about much more than that);

Traveling by Hop-on Hop-off Bus in New Zealand — why I chose this method of transport in NZ, and why it doesn’t make you boring or a “bad backpacker” if you do, too.

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WINTER

Winter was a little more interesting than autumn — in a good way. We had a nice low-key holiday season and welcomed 2017 in typical Dutch style (AKA, thousands of fireworks and a huge fire in the middle of a residential street).


Dedemsvaart froze the hell over in January, and though I remain staunchly Against Winter, it did look really pretty. (If anyone asks, I will deny I ever said this.)

Highlights

• We spent Christmas in Amsterdam, exploring the city’s annual light festival. The festival takes place over a couple of months every winter, and if you can swing it, the 25th is a great day to check it out — the crowds are much smaller than most other days.

Christmas in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

• My friend and former roommate Christina came to see us from Germany! We’ve met up with her previously in Amsterdam and her kind-of-hometown of Cologne, but this was the first time she’s been to visit us out here. She also now holds the distinguished position of first international guest to actually sleep in our second bedroom instead of the living room. So, that’s exciting.

• We took a day trip to the Hague in February to see the beach and check out Madurodam: a theme park comprising a miniature verison of the Netherlands and its most famous buildings and landmarks. I’d been wanting to see Madurodam before I’d ever set foot in the Netherlands; so even though we picked the single coldest day of the year to visit and my face was basically numb the entire time, it was totally worth it.

Tiny port of Rotterdam at Madurodam -- Den Haag (the Hague), Netherlands

Notable blog posts

To Everyone Who Asks, “If you hate the US so much, why don’t you just leave?” — in which I tackle one of my least favorite questions/responses ever;

The Unexpected Side Effects of Staying in a Hostel — a cheeky look at what happens when you stay in shared accommodations while traveling;

Celebrating and Critiquing the Women’s March — discussing reactions to the Women’s March, plus a round-up of some of my favorite relevant articles.

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Spring

Spring is always an eventful time around here, thanks to the abundance of Dutch holidays in April and May and the (hopefully, somewhat) improved weather conditions. We also kept our streak going and hosted not one, not two, but three more guests from overseas! (Okay, two of them came together and yes, that was my parents.)

Highlights

• First up was Amanda, a friend of ours from Australia, who was studying abroad in Sweden and flew down to spend a weekend with us. It was a whirlwind couple of days; among other things, we climbed up a windmill and visited De Haar Castle near Utrecht — the first Dutch castle for all of us, Simon included.

Kasteel De Haar (De Haar Castle) in Utrecht, the Netherlands

• Just a few days later, it was back to Schiphol to pick up my parents for their first visit to the Netherlands since we moved here (not to mention, since Reagan was president). We only had one week together, but we managed to see and do quite a bit in that time — including King’s Day in Zwolle, an afternoon trip to Giethoorn, and a weekend away in Valkenburg and Maastricht.

Maastricht was number one on my list of Dutch places to see this year, and it did not disappoint. Not only is it a beautiful city packed with history and gorgeous architecture, but it has a completely different vibe to any other Dutch city I’ve been to so far. Plus, there are real live hills (which, in the Netherlands, is kind of a big deal).

Vrijthof in Maastricht, the Netherlands

I’m also happy that we decided to spend the weekend in nearby Valkenburg, instead of the city itself (shout-out to Simon for that suggestion). Valkenburg is a small village about 10 minutes from Maastricht. It’s pretty touristy, but also rather charming and atmospheric — and with an adorable train station to boot.

• Last but not least, I turned 29! My parents were still in town, so we celebrated together with a day trip to Groningen, a small city about 50 minutes north of us.

Notable blog posts

(I guess I went through a road trip phase.)

Road Trip — Duluth and North Shore, Minnesta — sharing some of northern Minnesota’s natural beauty;

Unexpected Moments from West Coast Australia — kayaking with dolphins, and other animal encounters in Western Australia;

Three Stunning Road Trips from Queenstown, New Zealand — because whether you love Queenstown or hate it, you probably at least agree its surrouding landscape is amazing.

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Summer

Summer continued the trend of reunions with friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. It also brought a couple of short but fantastic international trips — and, as always, it was much too short.

Highlights

• I met up with Tessa, another old friend and roommate from Queenstown, for a couple of days in Brussels — which, despite living in the Netherlands for almost three years at the time, was actually my first ever trip to Belgium. I can’t say I was blown away by the waffles or the fries (sorry) but the architecture and statues were definitely, uh, somethin.’ And, of course, the beer was top notch (and cheap — at least compared to here).

Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium

• Simon and I did a long weekend in Berlin, a city we’ve both wanted to visit for awhile. We absorbed loads of history at the standard spots (the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Topographie des Terrors); took an Alternative Berlin tour focused on street art and the city’s various artistic and activist communities; and met up with my friend Maria of Global Brunch at a fantastic rooftop terrace for drinks.

Long story short: it’s easily one of my favorite European cities so far, and I will be back the first chance I get.

East Side Gallery in Berlin, Germany

• We wrapped up summer with a day trip to Schiermonnikoog — one of the Wadden Islands off the northern coast of Friesland. Schiermonnikoog is the smallest of the five main islands, home to fewer than 1000 people and a single village (also called Schiermonnikoog). Which, as you’ve probably discerned, means it’s freakin’ adorable.

Lighthouse on the island of Schiermonnikoog

Notable blog posts

What to See and Do in Overijssel, Netherlands — some tips and recommendations for my adopted Dutch province;

Good Hikes in New Zealand for Not-Quite-Hikers — shorter/easier options for people who enjoy hiking in moderation (preferably with a cocktail afterwards);

25+ Things You Might Want to Know When You Visit the Netherlands — a general collection of tips for your first/next visit to NL, including info on holidays, public transport, and more.

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Something I continue to love about my time in the Netherlands is how many opportunities I have to meet up with people from my backpacking days in New Zealand and Australia. I never really expected I’d get the chance to see some of them again, and I’m so happy I was wrong.

On a somewhat more negative note: despite all the (mostly) fun things listed above, year three was probably the toughest so far. You expect year one to be hard, and maybe year two; but by now, I figured I’d have my shit sorted out and be perfectly fluent in Dutch and feel like I totally belong here.

Spoiler: not so much. And maybe it’s time to accept I never will — at least, not in the way I originally assumed. (Ooh, cliffhanger.)

Anyway, that’s about it for this round. Same time next year?

• • •

The annual round-up of my life abroad in the Netherlands, year three. | #Expat #NetherlandsThe annual round-up of my life abroad in the Netherlands, year three. | #Expat #Netherlands

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