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!
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.

12 thoughts on “Hopping Over Obstacles

  1. Good evening,
    It seems that this strange vegetable – Okra is very popular here, in Thailand. It’s also very cheap. I also saw a dark red variety of it. In the Netherlands for me it was difficult to find yeast (not instant). I also understood that it’s quite difficult to find job there, unless you know Dutch well.

    I was cycling a lot around Tilburg, Noord Brabant and few times had issues with local guys. I had a nice bike and once I noticed that a very strange guy is following me, this was not nice at all, especially in the middle of nowhere between two villages. Earlier I thought that the Netherlands is absolutely safe.

    I wish you have a nice day,


    • Okra is a traditional food in the southern part of the United States, although not everyone likes it. I didn’t like it as a child, but I love it now and miss having it so readily available.

      Sadly, everywhere has its strange characters, but generally I feel safe here. Of course, I do like to take my big dog with me when I’m walking around on my own, just for extra security. 😉

  2. I have lived in Germany, in England and in Spain and everywhere I found things that I started to miss as soon as I left. From Germany I missed Apfelkraut and the big variety of lactose free products, I missed Spätzle and Klöße, both of which I can’t eat anymore, and a few other things. From England I miss tasty gluten free croissants, victoria plum jam and kettle crisps. And from Spain I miss turrón, white courgettes and generally the quality of vegetables! Moving country is always a bit difficult. And I actually found it quite frustrating to not know Spanish so well when I was in Spain. Sometimes you just want to say something quick, but everything becomes such an effort if you have to think about the right words and tenses first. Totally understand your problem …

    • As you said, sometimes you just want to say something quickly and you realize you can’t. I’ll get halfway through putting a sentence together and then realize I don’t know an important word! That just takes time and practice, though. I’ll get there eventually. 🙂 If I were to leave the Netherlands, I’m sure there would be certain foods and such that I would miss. All the differences are what make traveling so fun!

  3. This is so true, and one of the reasons I started writing my blog..to get the frustrations out there and for friends to understand how good life is and yet, complicated. The biggest struggle has not been the shopping, although there are times when I want to scream when they don’t have the simplest things, like baking soda.
    The biggest struggle has been language, I am a talker and can chit chat almost anyone. To not be able to do that now, just kills me. What do I say when a Dutch person talks to me? “Ik ben Americans” and that stops them right away, and I feel bad when they walk away. I want to say “I am quite charming and bright, and normally would talk to you and help you.”
    It is a very slow process, and I want to wave a magic wand and magically know the language.

    • I used to be very shy, but eventually got more comfortable speaking with strangers, but now it feels like the shyness is coming back, because I get so anxious that someone will speak to me. I used to enjoy chatting with random people I’d come across. My problem now is that I can read Dutch a bit better, but I can’t speak it easily yet. If I know the topic, I can sometimes follow along when I hear it spoken, but when I have no idea what the topic is, it can be hard to follow along quickly enough. Then I have to revert to English and only then realize that I might actually have understood them. So yeah, a whole variety of frustrations! Good luck to you!

  4. Alison, did I ever give you the link to my Baking Soda post?
    Here it is if I didn’t…
    I’ve seen orka heaps of times at the Haagse Markt (ok you are some distance away from here but any similar Markt in a large Dutch city should also have it).
    Look for a “Tropische Winkel,” near you for other exotic (ie not typically dutch) fuits and veggies too.
    If you have specific items that are hard to find please let me know… I’ve searched and found a zillion things over the years and am happy tp help you, or anyone else if I can.

    • Oh, there’s a kraam at the Saturday market here in town that sells okra and other more “exotic” vegetables and fruits. I’ve even seen durian fruit there a few times! I found them fairly early on, and between them and my tokos, I’m good for most things I need. I haven’t found the chipotle Tabasco that I love here in Utrecht, but I know of places to get it in other cities, if I ever go and remember to look.

  5. HI Thanks for linking up! Great!
    I have never heard of Okra. I find getting sweet potatoes here really difficult, they were really abundant in Gran Canaria.
    And I get my family to bring over Lemsip from the Uk for colds.
    It is true though it is the small things that really matter

    • I think okra is also called lady fingers in some countries, which is funny, since I think of lady fingers as cookies. We’re lucky that the Super de Boer grocery near us regularly carries sweet potatoes, so when I get the urge, it’s not too difficult to find them. Of course the differences in products from one store and one city to another is often quite big here. There’s never any guarantee that you’ll even find the basics at the stores! Truly, I sometimes think grocery shopping is my biggest challenge here. 😉

  6. Hi Alison.

    I’m enjoying your blog and working my way though some of your different topics. You mention in this on how difficult it is to speak. It’s now almost a year later, how do you rate your abilities now?

    Dank u wel,

    • While my ability to understand Dutch has improved slightly, I’m sorry to say I still can’t carry on a conversation. Other elements of life have gotten in the way this past year and sometimes the motivation to learn the language on my own tends to wane. Sadly, lessons are so expensive.

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