I sometimes fear that I have a reputation as being a complainer. Can’t think why. Although I think that most people who blog are people whose friends are sick of hearing them moan so they try and find another, safer outlet.
Anyways today I’m feeling positive. I’m determined to prove that it’s not all doom and gloom and what better topic to pick than my adopted country. It’s very very easy to complain about things when you live in a foreign country often blaming day to day problems on the country itself. So to show that windmillland can be pretty fantastic I’ve come up with ten great things about living here. Don’t worry, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.
1. There is no doubt about it but the Dutch are a great looking bunch of people. Doesn’t matter if they’re tall and blond or short and dark they’re usually still strikingly beautiful. And all of this without the ego to match. They’re generally down to earth and take their looks as being nothing unusual. Your average looking Dutchman could go to Ireland and become a supermodel overnight!
2. People have an incredible confidence about them here. From an early age there’s a feeling instilled in the Dutch that they can do anything. Of course this can also have a downside but I am not mentioning arrogance here as today’s is a positive post. I’m very jealous of people brought up in such a positive environment (ironic I know).
3. Boy do they know how to make bread. Even in the supermarkets you can buy delicious bread of all shapes and sizes with a whole variety of seeds and grains or whatever is your crunch du jour. Bread from the bakeries (there’s one on nearly ever street) is even better. I would seriously think about selling a couple of my best friends for a freshly baked pumpkin seed bread.
4. You can cycle anywhere in the land without fear of being laughed off the road or run down by speeding maniacs. Every single road in every town and city almost without exception has a bike path on both sides. In fact there are 10,000 kilometers of them! And it’s not just for green freaks or the poor either – everyone cycles here from grandparents to business men in suits. The Dutch are very proud that even a former queen used to cycle to the supermarket (that’s the very least she could have done if you ask me but that’s another story).
5. Being gay in the Netherlands just isn’t a big deal. It’s not even so much that it’s accepted or tolerated – it just isn’t so important which is exactly how I like it, thank you very much – I mean why should anyone care? I used to live in a big student house with about seven other people. It took over a year for some of them to find out I was gay. In Ireland that probably would have taken roughly ten minutes.
6. There is a much healthier attitude to alcohol in The Netherlands. You don’t see hoards of drunkards getting sick on the streets in the weekend or gaggles of young women wearing little more than belts with a can of cider in one hand and a hen night fairy’s wand in the other. And that’s not to say the Dutch don’t enjoy drinking because they certainly do. They just don’t drink to excess as a rule. The beer is served in glasses slightly bigger than half a pint which I find much more conducive for a good night out than the pint glass. The beer stays cool and fresh and it gives you a chance to take a break between drinks as you have to go to the bar more frequently. Also nobody looks at you like you’re George W if you have a coke or water for a round. Oh and incidentally the legal age to drink beer here is 16 and the bars/clubs stay open very late – is this the answer to sensible drinking?
7. You can fill your house with fresh flowers for almost no money at all. In spring tulips of all shapes, colours and sizes and in summer sunflowers galore. Just a couple of euro will fill a large vase and cheer up even the dullest day. What costs you about €30 in Ireland will be around €5 here.
8. The Dutch transport system is brilliant! As an Irish man from Tralee I was gobsmacked when I arrived to hear everyone complaining about trains being five minutes late. Five minutes late? I would exclaim in disbelief – sure that’s early! There are about six trains an hour from The Hague to Amsterdam and trains even run all night long in the Randstad so you can go out in Amsterdam and still catch the train at 3am to go home and begin hangover therapy. Twenty minutes will bring you to Rotterdam, 45 to Utrecht, 30 to Schiphol. All without ever changing in Mallow. And the most exciting thing is that they have double decker trains!
9. Sinterklaas. On the 5th of December the Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas. Santa Claus is basically the result of pimp my Sinterklaas (He looks like a red St Patrick). The focus here though isn’t so much on presents as on how the presents are packaged. People go to extreme creative lengths to wrap them in the shape of funny items. They spend hours and hours making cardboard castles and the like to put the gift into. It doesn’t stop there either as you have to write a poem to go with it. We’re talking less Wordsworth and more ‘There was a lad from Ballymuck…’ the whole lot together though is a lot of fun.
10. The Netherlands borders Belgium and Germany and is also within fairly easy driving distance to at least five other countries. An hour in the air (not talking smoking dope here) will bring you almost anywhere in Europe. So if you get sick of the yummy bread, positive attitudes and moderate drinking it’s as easy as pie to go somewhere else fabulous!
I haven’t even mentioned the scrumptious cheese, the pretty canals and crooked houses, the national park with an amazing museum hidden inside, the wonderful coffee …. well you’ll just have to come visit to see the rest!