Living in Holland in my mindset is sometimes like being on holidays. Only difference is, this is our life and we are not on holidays (not counting next week when we really are on holidays in Bruges, bring it on). I don’t know about you, but when I’m on holidays all rules get thrown out the window, calories don’t count and anything goes.
So you might be already thinking I live my life with wanton abandon (I think that was written in one of my school reports once, or maybe it was wanton foolishness?). While deep down I’m a carefree spirit wannabe, the one major thing I do differently in the Netherlands is WORRY!!!!
Worry, worry, worry. No. I do worry less than since I first arrived in this country with a 4 week old baby in my arms and a 2 ½ year old tiger (she has been downgraded to a lion). I worry less now (after being here 7 months) because I’ve had plenty of time to work out all of my contingency plans for my worry (Mum, stop reading now I’ve already worried enough for both of us).
My major worry has been about water. That’s right water. Coming from a land surrounded by water, you might wonder about the concern? It’s that water is everywhere. If we ran off the road we could end up in water, our lion could get out of the house and end up in water. I could ride my bike with the lion and the lamb into water. What if we got flooded? Okay I don’t think I need to go on, you get the gist.
While we are on the subject of water, it is something I do use with wanton abandon (take that - teacher’s name I have no idea of). Having such an abundance of water is so different from drought ridden Australia where dinner party conversations can be about how many litres of water you consume per day. Here, we have showers or baths till the hot water runs out, I clean veggies with the tap running, I wash one pair of socks in the washing machine (okay I’m exaggerating). Not having to think about conserving water is fantastic (greenies don’t berate me now for all the energy we use heating that water).
Now what were the other worries I have? Mmm can’t have been that worrisome if I can’t remember them. I think when you come to a new place there is a certain element of fear of the unknown. It doesn’t take that long for familiarity to breed contempt (no I don’t think that was in a school report, more like.... Liz distracts others, some things never change).
So what else do I do differently here? Glad you asked. I let the kids eat just about anything (I know, I’m a crazy-o-bonkers). Well within reason, it’s not like they are eating lekker frikandel with any great frequency (translation – delicious refried sausage – you shouldn’t think too hard about its contents). But I did let the lamb (that’s my son not a young sheep) eat a freshly cooked and delicious stroopwafel the other day (translation - syrup waffle) and he thought it was heel lekker (Australian translation - bloody delicious). My carefree attitude to my children’s diets has been born partially from shopping and partially from baby feeding guidelines. You see shopping here (and finding what you need) can be hard enough without reading labels to find out what nasty additives and colours are included. And the advice you get on what to feed babies differs here from Oz and it differs again from the UK (a quick hello to Annabel Karmel, love your book). So I’m going with the good old Australian ‘she’ll be right’ attitude.
Love thy neighbour. Another thing I do differently here is talk to and interact with my neighbours (outrageous I know). We invite each other’s children to birthday parties, we play in the park together (that’s the kids not the adults), we pop around to each other’s houses at 10pm at night (actually I don’t go to anyone’s house at 10pm and was very surprised to have a visitor at that hour). Having great neighbours and neighbourhood complete with children’s playgrounds is going to be something I really miss when we move back to Oz. It is great social fabric that keeps this country together and something that is missing from urban Australia (exclusion here to rural Australia which is different).
Apart from eating too many Dutch delicacies, I live a much healthier lifestyle in The Netherlands. Terra Mia in Bulleen (a pizzeria) must be suffering from our lack of custom. I walk. Everywhere. I walk the length and breadth of Zoetermeer pushing the gypsie wagon and about 25 kilos of precious cargo. Now I’ve got my bike I ride too. We don’t eat out. I mean never. I cook delicious meals (well at least I think so, the kids and Dutchman aren’t always convinced) so we eat home every night (at nana time – 5:30pm). This is the land of incidental exercise. We park our car away from our house (no drive in garage here) and I have to walk up and down two flights of stairs to put on endless loads of washing. No wonder the Dutch aren’t so ‘fatso the fat arsed wombat’ (rights to Roy & HG) like so many Australians are. Australian’s weight imbalance problems stem from driving our V8 holden commodores everywhere. In Australia we gladly drive two minutes up the road to the bakery for a meat pie and snot block (Dutch translation – it’s like a tompouce but with delicious thick vanilla vla like filling).
So you’ve read enough? I’ve said enough (and it's bedtime at 11:45pm - very unAustralian). In summary, life is different here, in some ways worse, in many ways better. The future challenge for our family is to take the best from everywhere and find contentment where ever we are.