This title is rather misleading. As you will know, if you’ve read my previous posts, I think the Netherlands is a fantastic and enviable country. So, in order to balance things, after having now lived here for well over a month, I thought I would focus on a few aspects of Dutch life that could be improved upon. So, here goes.
- Staircases: houses in the Netherlands are, by and large, very well designed, stylish and utilise the space in the most logical and sensible of ways. Dutch people also tend to take a lot of pride in their homes. It amazes me, however, that the Netherlands has one of the longest life expectancies in Europe when, with the most narrow and steep of staircases I have ever encountered, I wonder how they don’t have more accidents and stair-related deaths. How do the elderly manage? They can’t possibly all afford stair-lifts. Or maybe, as a previous post explored, they really are so much healthier, perhaps because of the stairs.
- Cyclists: I think cycling is a great form of exercise and a mode of transport that should definitely be encouraged. I love the fact that so many people in the Netherlands cycle every day. It speaks volumes about the importance they place on their health and the environment. However, as a driver, I hate it. As if the roads aren’t narrow or confusing enough, at times, constantly keeping an eye out for cyclists and priority cycle lanes that run across junctions and roundabouts, not to mention the scooters that are also permitted to use cycle lanes (another pet hate), is a continual worry. As I have discovered, this is the Dutch policy – confusion and worry, thereby encouraging drivers to be far more cautious and alert. I certainly am.
- Music: the Dutch are a pretty talented people, particularly in the creative field. It would be a lie to say that I hate all Dutch music. As a country, it does, after all, produce a disproportionality high amount of successful DJs for such a small country and some talented global music artists too. But there is some Dutch music that simply defies understanding. Its not that other countries don’t also produce a lot of crap, musically speaking, but that such huge crowds of Dutch people, probably one of the most culturally advanced and sophisticated nations in so many ways, will pay good money to see such people as Frans Bauer or Guus Meeuwis in concert is beyond me. I defy you to listen to such artists and not be mistaken into believing you are tuning into a music program for kids on CBBC. Or, at other times, I have, perhaps unfairly, equated such artists to what I frequently describe as ‘German marching music’. Imagine hoards of people heading to the O2 to see Chaz and Dave in concert. OK, folk music is one thing, but nursery rhymes for grown adults is quite another. So banal, childish and basic – everything I don’t identify the Dutch as being, and yet they lap this shit up.
- Rounding-up: as someone who was taught (unsuccessfully, sadly) to be as frugal as possible when it comes to money, the principle of ‘looking after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves’ was constantly drilled into me by my father. So, imagine my shock when it came to paying for my 99 cent knoflook (garlic), giving the cashier a euro coin, but receiving nothing in return. Just when I was about to complain, my girlfriend held me back and explained that this is what is done here – shops round up, or down, to the nearest 5 cents. Of course, this works in your favour if the price is, for example, 1.02, thereby save two whole cents. But, let’s be honest, how often are prices like that? More often they are something .99. Why Dutch people give into, what I can only class as corporate theft, en masse, I know not. But it gets my goat every time!
- Finding a home: this is perhaps the most frustrating. Having moved home several times around the UK and to Spain, I can genuinely say that finding a place to rent in the Netherlands is, by far, the most difficult. You can’t begin to look until you’re in the country and if you haven’t got a job, forget about it. Even having a Dutch partner makes the process no easier. Some have even advised us to look over the border in Belgium, stating that its far easier there. The search continues and there are some slim possibilities with friends of friends, but until we have built up at least 3 months of work experience, the chance of an agency or a housing corporation taking us on is slim indeed. What we would do if were literally homeless (although, in technical terms, we are), I shudder to think. So, if you know of anywhere, drop me a line.
So, there you go, Blighty. You thought things were rosey and shiny over here, didn’t you? Well, by and large, (and in most comparisons with you), they pretty much are. But, in every rose, there’s a few thorns. Next time you’re over in these parts (although I think you’ve made it pretty clear that won’t be happening any time soon) don’t allow yourself to get a little prick.
Your loving Brefugee,