Now that I have lived in Holland for two years, I feel that it is time for a positive post about the country. Here are the things I like about living here:
1. The winters are mild. It’s nice that weeks with -10 degrees Celsius are quite rare, and I gladly give up snow for having less cracks in my lips and being able to breathe when I am outside.
2. The dunes. Unfortunately it took me 1.5 years until I figured out where I can find actual nature and something close to wilderness in Holland. Biking through the dunes is like a meditation. Only bikes are allowed, no cars, so it is very quiet. The bike lanes are meticulously maintained, but outside of it is nature which looks untouched by humans with surprisingly diverse plant life.
3. The Indonesian Rijstafel. I will miss peanut sauce terribly when I leave Holland.
4. The cities in the fall, in the fog, and at dawn and at night. The Dutch cities have their strange aspects, but thanks to the dark brick buildings, the canals and the old-fashioned street lights they can be super-atmospheric when the light is right and when not too many people are outside.
5. The tolerance. At first, I was disappointed to find out that the Dutch are actually not more open-minded than people in other countries, contrary to my own stereotype about them. But the political principle of tolerance is more important than the individual opinions of people, and it is impressive that Holland has been tolerant to different beliefs since several hundred years, while the rest of Europe was far behind.
6. The wide sky.
7. Dairy product. Drinking milk for lunch is actually not a bad idea, once one gets used to it, and karnemelk (sourmilk) and vla (liquid pudding) are good too. I can even live with the cheese-sandwiches by now, which is surprising given that I have hated cheese all my life. Granted, the reason for this is just that there is nothing else to eat at lunch.
8. Biking by numbers. It took me a while to figure this out, but the Dutch have this ingenous system of numbering “points” in their network of bikepaths, that make it easy to do long and complicated bike tours, even through cities you have never been to. It is fantastic how seriously they take biking here, and that bike lanes are as well maintained and connected like roads, with their own tunnels and roundabouts.
10. No train tickets. Instead of buying tickets, you just scan your public transportation card when entering and leaving trains, busses and trams alike. This makes it very easy to get around in all the cities of the country. In most of the rest of Europe, every city has their own idiotic system of calculating fares and it takes half an hour until one understands what kind of ticket one needs to buy.
Ok, so that was not even that hard.