Two years ago I could’ve sworn certain truths on my mother’s life. I would never vote for far-right, start lifting weights or bleach my hair. Let alone move to the Netherlands: my least favorite country.
I had already been to Amsterdam and Maastricht, and with the solid experience of a week, I declared it the most boring place on Earth. There was nothing in these low lands that appealed to me: the poor air quality, the cramped streets and dark, gloomy buildings. Endless wind. The incomprehensible growling they call the Dutch language!
When I was looking for a Master’s across our beloved Europe, just guess which country stood out as the number one for studying international law. Luckily, my mother is still alive and doing very well.
My year in the Netherlands has taught me a number of important lessons, for example having my fries with mayo and how to use an e-dentifier. However, perhaps the most valuable of them all is the significance of choosing one’s own attitude.
My time in Tilburg would’ve been miserable as hell, had I decided on dwelling in my initial negative juices.
Obviously, the transition wasn’t easy. On train platforms, I felt like a small child stuck in the grown-ups’ world. The Dutch idea of a national park made me cry: I could see the towers of the nuclear plant from the banks of De Biesbosch, whereas in Finland national parks consist of untouched wilderness where one can wander for weeks without encountering other human life.
I was missing all the previous places I’d lived in. The decadently beautiful, but crappy part of town in Vienna where I had to disguise myself as a teenage boy with an oversized hoodie in order to walk home safely. The snowy mountain panorama from our office window in the Arctic Norway. Lapland, my home, where my friends were walking pet reindeer on the streets instead of dogs.
But I kept trying, and slowly there was more silver lining than grey to my Dutch cloud. The houses didn’t look haunted anymore, but rather as if they were made of gingerbread. With no snow, it was possible to stick to my running routine all year round. And thanks to my high school German, I was able to comprehend almost everything written in Dutch.
I no longer hate you, Nederland. Actually, you will be missed. The careless biking in a summer dress, the herons and the ducks raising their young in the canals, the helpful Dutch providing me with climbing tips at the bouldering hall. Nothing can beat the Dutch asparagus. Dutch carnival and cantus songs sound so terrible that I fell in love with them instantly.
I’m a huge crybaby. When the final goodbye rolls around, most of my tears will be reserved for the lifelong friends I’ve made here. But some are dedicated to you, too.
Dank je wel. And I mean it. Swear on my mother’s name.