By Vlada Tchirikova
I have been living in The Netherlands for about 7 years. I was born and raised in Russia and never traveled abroad before, so NL was my first abroad experience. In Russia, I studied languages– English and French, therefore NL was not even on my list of interest from the linguistic point of view.
When I came here for the first time, everything seemed small and gray (it was winter, and NL is known for its lack of sunshine), but at the same time neat and well-organised. The country’s social security and obscure possibilities to have a better life, became the major reason why I stayed here, despite not being fully adjusted to the unfriendly climate conditions, cultural incompatibilities, repeating sets of general boredom, and feeling of being misplaced and remote from my family and roots. The most honest answer to the question regularly asked either by the Dutch and expats: ‘What are you doing here?’ I usually say: ‘I don’t really know.’
But to be fair and pay the tribute to the country that has more or less accepted me and even allowed me to become a citizen, I will mention below its main pros and cons:
Location: a perfect starting point to explore the neighbouring countries– Belgium, Germany, France. You are also given good offers once you (go) farther to the south– Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal– or the north – Scandinavia, the Baltics.
Language: the Dutch language is horrific but thank God, many people here speak English bearably, less also speak French and German.
Attractions: personally, I am not easily excited about attractions here but it’s understandable: once I was shocked to realise that even people who live near the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona don’t have this deep admiration on their faces while passing it by on a regular, busy day.
- Amsterdam is a small and overcrowded city, full of old, crammed-on-each-other houses and muddy water canals, and is ruled by hordes of determined bicyclists. It’s a pity that the majority of tourists follow the usual route: the red light street, sex and drug museums, coffee shops, and flower markets. There are much nicer and more authentic places where you can experience the city as the locals do (parks, small side streets outside of the busy city centre, art galleries, and theatres).
- Utrecht is unfairly not a very popular touristic destination, though the city has much to offer: interesting architecture, broad water canals that host many boats and whose shores accommodate many cafes, bars, and restaurants. The city is vibrant with life due to a great number of students.
- The city of Rotterdam was bombed to the ground during WWII and was practically built anew, thus it misses an ancient air but can really surprise you by its skyline of a real megapolis. The best time for the visual effect is twilight or at night. Near Erasmus bridge, famous for its bright whiteness, you have an option to take a Speedo boat to reach the other side of the bay, or, if you are not in a great hurry, a pancake boat tour where you can eat a great number of pancakes. In the port, there is a bigger ship called ‘New York’ which is both a restaurant and a hotel.
- Leiden a university city with its (original) shops and restaurants. You can rent a boat in the outskirts and explore the complicated water canal system, even lakes with luxury houses on the shore, or anchor in small harbours to enjoy a coffee or beer at a cafe onshore.
- The Hague: I live here, so it’s nothing of interest.
- Zeeland. Did you know that New Zealand was named after this southern part of the country represented by small islands artificially connected with bridges and protected from the sea by complex dams?
- Texel is an island on the north of the country famous for its flat fields, sheep, and constant wind.
Vlada is a programme administrator at the Institute of Social Studies. You can contact her through Internations.org.
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