The Haves and Have Nots

It’s time for the Xpat Blog Hop again, and this one kind of amused me, so I thought I’d see what I could come up with. The prompt is: list 5 things your country doesn’t have and you wish they did, and 5 things they do have and you wish they didn’t.

Things The Netherlands Doesn’t Have:

  1. Air conditioning. It’s not really been necessary in our house this summer, but it still gets warm enough and humid enough that when you have to walk everywhere, you can get a bit warm and sweaty. Sadly, most shops and restaurants don’t have AC, so you can’t even get any relief when you arrive at your destination.
  2. Biscuitville. Admittedly, most places in the US don’t even have Biscuitville, but there’s nothing better for a hangover or just an easy Southern breakfast.
  3. Mega grocery stores. I miss the variety of products available, including the convenience of buying makeup, contact lens solution, sewing basics, and more in one store.
  4. Sunday shopping and 24-hour shopping. Occasionally, I miss the convenience of life in the US.
  5. Antihistamines. When you’ve got a cold, sometimes you want the kind of drugs that will dry out every inch of your body. Sure, you feel kind of parched when taking them sometimes, but at least you have a chance of breathing through your nose. Nose sprays are decent, but there are times when you want more. Or at least something that will knock you out during the worst of the misery.

Things the Netherlands Does Have (But You Don’t Want)

  1. The wettest summer since 1906. I like the rain, but this year has been insane. It’s raining right now.
  2. Geert Wilders
  3. Drop, aka licorice. It’s pretty popular here — supposedly the highest per capita consumption of licorice in the world — but it’s just not for me.
  4. Tax offices that legally can only speak to you in Dutch.
  5. I really can’t think of anything at the moment. I had to stretch for that last one.

I like Amy‘s idea of listing five things I’m glad the Netherlands does have, so here goes:

  1. Outdoor cafés and terraces. If it’s remotely possible, even just a table or two, most restaurants, bars and cafés will have outdoor seating.
  2. Always getting a cookie or chocolate with your coffee.
  3. Pataat met (aka french fries with mayo)
  4. Cultural Sundays here in Utrecht
  5. Dutch light (and a hint of a rainbow)

Dutch Light and a Rainbow

Hopping Over Obstacles

It’s Expat Blog Hop time again! I missed the last one or two, but thought I’d give it a go again this week.

This week’s topic is:

What was the hardest thing for you to adjust to when you moved to your new country? What tips would you give for new people arriving?

I’ve yet to have any major breakdowns over moving here, but despite being generally even keeled, there are the occasional moments of frustration for me. I mean, what’s a Southern girl going to do when she thinks she’s not going to be able to have okra again!
Okra!
Yeah, fortunately I found a couple of sources. It’s not as convenient as it was in the US, but it is available. Then there was the search for baking soda. Who would have thought that finding good ol’ Arm & Hammer Baking Soda would be so difficult! Fortunately, I found it at the same toko where I can usually get my okra. For the record I go to Toko Centraal over by Vredenburg/Hoog Catharijne. It’s a good source for harder to find items at reasonable prices.

In other words, it’s those little items that you took for granted at home that suddenly become a major issue when you realize you have no idea where to find them or if they’re even available. When you move to a new country, suddenly everything is that little bit harder. Where do you buy an iron? Where do you buy drain declogger? Where do you buy cold medicine? What do you mean they don’t sell antihistamines in Europe!!!

You soon learn that stores like Blokker are good for cheap household items, and that Kruidvat is a good Walgreens alternative (including a place to get drain declogger), but that Etos is nicer if you just need personal care items. As for antihistamines, get your family and friends back home to put some in every package they send you or pack extra any time they visit you. Otherwise, learn to love the nose sprays and paracetamol that will be your only option here.

Honestly, though, you soon learn and if you ask, someone’s bound to point you in the right direction. Plus, it’s half the fun of exploring and discovering new things!

Now that I’ve been here a while, the thing I find most difficult to adjust to is not being able to speak easily and almost dreading having anyone speak to me. The reality, living here in a city center, is that usually the person speaks enough English if I get stuck, but I miss being able to chat easily, even with strangers, or just make small-talk with shop workers or fellow dog owners. That’s the obstacle I’m trying to overcome now and I think once I’m more comfortable with the language, the worst of the adjustment period will be over.