A Year And A Half In The Netherlands: Settling In

One and a half years in the Netherlands! It’s a new normal over here, with Brian's residence application approved (just today!) and Erica getting into the swing of things at work. We have a life here now, and it feels really good that things are no longer up in the air.

Brian is able to have authentic Dutch conversations with his "basic" Dutch skills. People enjoy talking to him, and even if they sometimes speak too fast and detailed, he usually gets 75 percent of it. Round of applause! He always strikes up random conversations with strangers by announcing that he is Canadian and has "Jip en Janneke taal" (children's book level of Dutch), and then obviously they want to know more.

I'm still in the listening phase. Where I work, the official language of the company is English, but a lot of conversations and some emails still happen in Dutch. I insist that people continue in Dutch if they're already on a roll, and I think I might understand a third of what is said. I probably make my colleagues feel awkward because I'm staring intensely at their mouths (as if reading lips would help me understand better), but I hope they understand. This Dutch thing is freaking hard.

Nougat has been enjoying himself, perhaps a little too much. He figured out how to sneak out the bathroom window onto the rooftop patio, and got fleas from his rooftop comrades. Thankfully it's not too bad. We've been diligently brushing him with lemon juice, washing his blankets and medicating him -- which he's been tolerating. What he's really upset about is the window now being closed for the season.

We're still discovering weird things here and there. It surprised us that we don’t qualify for a Dutch credit card on one professional income. They don't just hand them out to anyone at the grocery store, and that's probably a good thing. It’s an inconvenience, but one we know is temporary.

Things are still tight budget-wise. It turns out that one income in a two-person household does not change the fact that it's really expensive to live in Europe. It does mean that we are able to -- just barely -- leave the remainder of our meager Canadian savings intact. So, until we are a two-income household again, we are still living lean. Brian is managing the budget and finding creative ways to stay within the ballpark of 10 euros a day outside of our regular bills.

On the home front, people are starting to realize that we might not be coming back. Nothing is set in stone, but next time we set foot in Edmonton it will be a visit, not a return. I think it's fair to say that some people of a "certain generation" are not thrilled about it. We understand it's difficult.

I’m sure this is not a new phenomenon -- people leave home all the time -- but we’re not sure how to gracefully handle this aspect of the transition.

On one hand, we know what it's like to miss someone far away, because we are doing it too. On the other, it sometimes feels like some people want to hear that we failed or that we're unhappy. Doing this on our own terms, being successful and feeling happy is a big achievement. But for some, accepting our go-with-the-flow approach while heartily disagreeing with it is difficult, and I think I can speak for all of us when I say: it sucks.

Sometimes acorns fall far from the tree, and are hidden by squirrels, stolen by crows, nabbed by raccoons and end up far from home. That's life, and it’s ok. With any luck, they still grow into majestic trees that still remember where they came from.

We miss being in close proximity to our families. But we’re excited about the life we’re living here, and unfortunately it’s not something we could easily replicate in Canada. We’re chasing goals and trying to be successful, and we’re really killing it right now. We don't always want to toot our own horns, but it would be nice to be able to talk freely about things that are going well. In some conversations, those topics are really off limits. That sucks.

Brian likes to say that lots of people who do interesting things leave home -- explorers, astronauts, inventors, travellers, athletes, experts -- and they have parents and family and friends. They still do what they have to, and thank goodness. The world would be a different place if they just stayed at home.

Not that we are on the same level of awesome as astronauts, obviously, but sometimes forging your own path is the right thing to do. Even if it's hard. Even if things don't go as planned. Even if people you care about disagree (it doesn’t mean you don’t love them). Life in the Netherlands just feels right, a year and a half since moving here. That’s why we’re still in Haarlem.

We hope our story inspires you to do something cool. Tell us about it!

~ Erica ~ Brian ~ Nougat