I’ve been back in this flat country for almost two weeks now and will stay, for the first time since moving away three years ago, for almost two months (discounting graduation week in Wales and a short trip to Germany). While my stay will only be temporary (as I’ll be starting a master in Scotland), it kind of feels like this is what it could have been like if I had chosen to move back permanently. This isn’t just a short visit and it’s a little strange as life is different here. Once I am back, I usually experience some sort of small culture shock.
I miss the British Politeness
The thing I struggle with the most is the difference in the way that people interact with each other. Generally speaking, it seems like the Dutch are ruder compared to the British. People will walk into each other and blame each other by stating their annoyance, rather than simply apologising and recognising that it just happens sometimes and it’s no one’s fault. Chill, people. Seriously! People seem to think that they are the most important person wherever they go. They need to be served first and they are never in the wrong, causing little arguments of annoyance. This made me feel a little anxious in the beginning, but I’ve adjusted fairly quickly. (Of course, not everyone is like this and a lot of Dutch people are also incredibly friendly.)
I also keep noticing how people never add ‘please’ when they are ordering something. I don’t know if it should be necessary to do so, but it’s like a nonwritten rule in the UK to always add please. I’m pretty sure we were taught about this in English classes during high school and I think it’s nice and polite to do so.
How did I forget my native language?
I’ll be having a conversation with one of my friends and suddenly, I want to say something, but I can only think of the English way to say it. It might be a joke or something and it’ll take too long to translate the sentence back into Dutch. The moment passes and I say nothing because I couldn’t think of the Dutch in time. Sometimes I will just say whatever I thought of in English, but I always feel very silly doing so. I mean how did I forget my native language?
Another issue I’m having is remembering the right order in which to pronounce numbers. In English, 24 will be twenty-four, while in Dutch, 24 is vierentwintig (four-twenty). I can’t keep track of which is which at times.
Driving on the ‘right’ side
I don’t really care whether the right or the left side is the ‘right’ side to drive on, but after living in the UK for almost 3 years, I automatically started driving on the left side of the road. It only takes me a second to realise that I’ve chosen the wrong side but it’s quite astonishing that it’s become so natural for me to drive on the left side instead of the right.
Close to the city and everything else
While there are certainly places in the Netherlands that are remote, I’m pretty sure none will be as remote as when you are in Wales. It takes me less time to cross this country than to get to a football match in Wales. The city is right on my doorstep – or at the length of a 20-minute bike ride. And the city has everything I need. All different types of shops, as well as any type of food that I want to eat (note: lots of sushi). Additionally, tennis clubs with some proper courts are also pretty much on my doorstep. It’s great.
On the flip side, I do miss the beautiful hills, the Welsh nature and the sea.
I love being surrounded by bicycles and bicyclists wherever I go. I love having bicycling roads everywhere and I love being able to go anywhere on my bike. It feels so normal to live in a country where bicycles are such a big part of the daily transport. If I were to say that I’m proud of being Dutch, one of the things I would be proud of would be the bicycles (but I don’t like to be patriotic).
Coming ‘home home’
Returning home also has the advantage that I get to see my family and friends. The one massive disadvantage of moving countries is that you have to leave some people ‘behind’ (temporarily anyway) and therefore returning is always rather nice.
An additional advantage to coming home is that I don’t have to cook for a little while. For the first time in months, I haven’t felt worried about what I’m going to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Overall I wouldn’t say coming back is negative or positive perse. It’s simply different and that’s okay and I do enjoy being here and having of all the things I’ve missed while I was away.