Things I love about my adopted country …

So I've been here 6 months now  … well, to be precise, 6 months, one week and 6 days.  There are a lot of things I miss about Australia, but I'm slowly adjusting and finding substitutes for all the wee things that still plague me (Oh Allen's lollies … you are sadly missed!) 

Anyhow, here's a list of the things that I've learned to love about this place.  No, my husband doesn't make it on here … he's a given haha.  When he behaves, of course.  I'm talking about the things that have made integration here a little easier.

1.  Bicycles having right of way.  And if they don't have it, they take it.  The cycling culture here is phenomenal – and is totally supported by the infrastructure.  You can pretty much cycle the whole country and there is a path that takes you where you want to go.  There's no need for a helmet because people actually share the road …

2.  Olliebollen.  Stroopwafels.  Pannenkoek.  Frites.  The Dutch have taken simple food and turned it into an art form.  You haven't lived till you've inhaled powdered sugar whilst eating a Dutch Donut (olliebollen), burned your mouth on the syrup in a hot stroopwafel from the market, experienced bacon and apple pancakes or had your chips with real Dutch mayo.
I could also add to that list my new love, appelbollen, which is half an apple with cinnamon and sugar wrapped in pastry and cooked … YUM!

3. The people.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that the Dutch have a certain reputation, but to be honest, I haven't seen it.  Most of my interactions here have been so positive – people are helpful and friendly, and genuine.  The things I love about the Dutch people I meet is that they are so brutally honest – you know where you stand within 5 minutes of meeting them.  They go out of their way to help out as well.  Case in point – we recently purchased a house – and I vaguely know a lady who lives nearby.  She organised to get us invited to the neighbourhood street party 2 weeks before we moved into the place so we could meet the neighbours.  I've had offers to help with the unpacking, the decorating … All from people I've met only recently.  Just amazing.

4. Sorting rubbish.  Now for those of me who know me well, you're going to laugh at this one.  This does actually appeal to my anally retentive side and I love it.   Your bins are actually 4 seperate containers here – general rubbish, paper, green waste, and plastic.  Everything must be meticulously sorted, and the correct bin put out on bin day. Glass is also sorted into white, green and brown, and every neighbourhood has collection points for these!  (as I wrote this, I realised out plastic bin was still out so did a mad dash to the end of the street!). You'd be surprised once you have to start sorting things how little actual "general" rubbish you have!

5.  Accessibility.  Do you know how close everything is?  Most of the time, it's a couple of hours by train to anywhere you want. Paris is 3 hours, Belgium 1-2 hours, Germany about the same … We are actually planning a shopping trip to Germany in the near future just before Christmas … incredible! 

6. Clogs, windmills, tulips and cheese.  C'mon, you knew that was coming!  The culture here is great, so much more history than home, and there is always something interesting to do.  We live in one of the youngest cities in the Netherlands, Almere only came around in the 1970's, but across the water from us are medieval cities and fortresses.  When they built the polders here, they actually reclaimed land around small inhabited islands so in the middle of the new land, you have a city that is hundreds of years old.  The Dutch have been ingenious in their creation of their country, and they value their history and heritage.

A break in proceedings …

I just was published on a website.  I won’t make any money from it, but hopefully some notoriety!  I wrote an article for International Almere on the perils of shopping in Holland – you can find the link to the article here – “Grocery Shopping – Dutch Style”, but I’ve also placed the article here for you to enjoy.  It was my first foray into this style of writing for a long time, so be gentle with your criticisms :).

The full article, behind this cut….

Buying bread from a man in Brussels …

He was six foot four and full of muscles
I said, "Do you speak-a my language?"
He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich …

After Bruges, it was time to hit Brussels … So off we went.  The European capital beckoned with it's bright lights, multiculturalism and impressive monuments. 

About this time, we discovered the joys of Big Red Bus tours.  How fantastic is it to be able to go around the city for a fixed price (sometimes for 48 hours) and see so many sights without having to walk… Anything that encourages my pathological laziness is to be applauded.

We spent just 2 days there, soaking up the atmosphere of the city – first stop was of course, Mannekin Pis.  I think we pretty much checked off all Belgian experiences there – waffles, chocolate, friets, beer, to name a few.  (Sorry, Siggi, no moules!)

The Market Square
The Market Square
Mannekin Pis
Me and Mannekin Pis
Tin Tin!