Ten things we are still getting used to in the Netherlands:
Daylight: Right now in summer, it starts getting light before 6am and stays light until almost 10. This is so nice for hanging out/going out/etc. It is not handy for trying to get kids to bed on time or even setting my internal clock. I’m usually such an old lady, eating dinner at 5:30 pm, in bed before 10, up by 6:30. Since our move, I’ve found it really hard to be in bed before 11 (usually it is even later). When the kids were sleeping in, this was ok. Now that they are up by 7…::yawn:: The flip side of this will come later in the year when it gets dark by 5pm. What then?? We will see…
The Time Difference: So we are 6 hours ahead from the majority of people we know and love in the US (7 hours for our Chicago cousins – holla!). The kids are randomly ending up on afternoon/evening Google Duo or FaceTime calls with loved ones (usually Josh and I are cooking or doing something on the house). As a partner in a Triathlon event business back home, it is hard for me to find my work groove. Typically I like to work in the mornings, but I find the later evenings here to be when I’m most active in communicating with my partner and others involved. So I end up staying up much later than I’m used to (also the daylight hours are keeping me up) but I don’t yet feel ultra tired in the mornings. Maybe this will be what converts me to a night owl…
The trash. While we recycle back home, the Dutch take trash collection/organization to a whole new level. We have:
- Eco Trash: all food/biodegradable trash goes into a special green trash can and if you use bags, they have to be these special green eco bags. I use bags because our can sits right by the outdoor seating area in our yard and the flies are gross. Everyone has a little “eco can” on their counter or in their kitchen where this stuff gets dumped after meals. A little weird to get used to at first.
- Glass/aluminum/paper/plastic – all this has to be sorted, not dumped into one trash bin. Even the glass is sorted by colors. This is picked up less frequently but there are neighborhood collection points where you can take your stuff if you need it out sooner. We have been buying so much lately that we have to go regularly to drop off, especially the paper (cardboard) and glass (umm…wine!).
- Regular trash – goes in a special bag and is collected at certain times. To get the special bags you have to ask someone behind a special counter in the grocery store. You can’t just buy them off the shelf.
Eco trash is picked up every week. The regular trash only every 2 weeks and the recycling you take on your own.
Cycling/Ped infrastructure. This is one of the things that attracted us to the Netherlands (behind our number 1 attraction –> Auntie Melissa). We love to cycle and we love that we can bike or walk everywhere pretty safely and efficiently (and often quicker than in a car). That being said, we are still getting used to the paths and knowing which are bike paths, which are pedestrian, which work for both, and what exactly the rules are for where you can bike. For example, there are streets/paths, especially around and in the city centre where you can not drive or ride your bike. You can park your bike, lock it up, and then walk around. Trying to drive there would be a nightmare for me. There have been a couple of times where I’ve accidentally ended up on my bike on a pedestrian path and gotten some weird looks. The paths are so large for both bikes and pedestrians, it just feels weird taking up so much of the road!
There are separate traffic signals for bikes, for pedestrians, and for cars. Most of the time anyway. But sometimes you only see lights for pedestrians or only one general green light. So sometimes I’m confused on when to actually move through an intersection. The good news is that even when you make a mistake, the traffic is so used to cyclists and walkers, they are generally on the look out for you and you’re pretty safe. I’ll write more later on bike life in the Netherlands.
The shower – no door/curtain, just a tall square shaped spot in a decent sized bathroom with the wall on 2 sides, glass side on a 3rd side and then entry side full open. For Josh and I – it hasn’t taken much to get used too. For the boys – water.is.everywhere. We have a squeegee and lots of towels. The real adventure is sharing one full bathroom with three guys 😳Y’all send some positive vibes before I lose my mind.
The stairs. We have stairs in our house back home, which is also 3 stories but these stairs are in a narrow/winding layout and they creak really loudly. Josh and I are on the 3rd floor (I.e. the “attic”) and the closest bathroom is on the 2nd, right by the boys’ bedrooms. Middle of the night pee breaks are something special and I feel like trying to get out of the house quietly for an early workout requires next level ninja skills.
The Locks and Keys. Lord have mercy all the doors have to be locked with a key. Even if you are inside, trying to lock up for the night. Must use a key. Also the bikes need keys. Sometimes the key stays in the bike when it is unlocked, sometimes you keep it – depends on the lock. All the keys look the same but are not the same so everyone keeping up with their key is ….well it’s what you’d think it’d be with an 8 and almost 10 year old. Caleb has lost his twice already. The first time it was found (he dropped it after unlocking it). The second time, it was after he locked it so the bike couldn’t be moved and that key has not been found. At least we had a spare and had finally put the spares in a separate place for this reason. After talking with others who live here (parents and non parents) it is a common concern so I’m not alone at least in dealing with this :p
**Update, the lost key was found and turned in so we were able to go claim it!
Weather. Everyone says the weather here is MEH. And I know that late fall/winter are going to be rough (cold, gray, rainy). But we’ve had really nice days. Usually the mornings start out a bit cool, then the afternoons are sunny and warm. What I did not expect, though, is the WIND. The gusts we get here remind me of Charleston in the days just before a tropical storm. Last night the wind shook our house (because we had the windows open) and sometimes the gusts nearly blow you off your bike. It isn’t constant, though. Just seems sporadicly windy. Many days it looks like it will rain, but doesn’t. Melissa tells us to take advantage of every “nice” day because it will not be like this for long. She’s been here
Feeling like a Foreigner. I know we will be used to this after some time. But I HATE not speaking the language and having to pull out the “Do you speak English?” question. So American of me. We all started learning Dutch through DuoLingo but in the days leading up to the move and in the days since, I have not spent any time on it (the boys are back at it though). Josh and I plan to get a tutor. While most Dutch people here speak English (along with usually 2 other languages), many signs/menus/websites/paperwork etc are not in English (nor do I expect them to be) and we frequently find ourselves using google translate to get us out of a bind or help us order (there have been several places with English menus, tho). IKEA had signs in 3 or 4 languages! None of them English though – HAH! I think it will force me to start back up that language training so I can at least try.
Dogs. There are SO many dogs in Maastricht! Like tamed pet dogs of so many varieties. And 95% of them are so well behaved that I think they must all be smoking something. Melissa says all the Dutch send their dogs to pretty strict obedience training. It shows. They never bark, never even come up to sniff you unless you ask to pet the dog (Mason is obsessed), never really react to seeing other dogs. Since almost all the restaurants have outdoor seating to enjoy the summer weather, many people have their dogs with them and it is so peaceful. Being a cat lady, if I’m going to live in a dog lover city – this is the life. But no, we are not getting a dog.
Mason is falling in love with all the dogs here. So many breeds!