I wasn’t expecting this when we emigrated

There are obviously so many things I could not have predicted I’d feel when we came to live in The Netherlands. Add a pandemic to the mix, and things were even more unexpected and unthought of.

You can read the comments on the expat Facebook groups, and try to remember what friends who emigrated years prior had said about their process, but nothing really prepares one (I guess it’s like having a baby, or even running Comrades Marathon for the first time). We all navigate our way here in our own time, some of us long to go back to South Africa, while others will never look back. Some find the Dutch people unfriendly and unwelcoming, while others settle into the country so easily because they think the Dutch are so hospitable. Many criticise the medical system and the fact that GPs don’t dish out antibiotics at every consult, while others laud it.

We all have a different way of experiencing people, situations and settling in, so even if I had have paid more attention to what people were saying, my experiences were always going to be my own only.

There were big and fairly obvious things I anticipated when we moved – the difficulty of adjusting to late sunrises and early sunsets. The longing for home over special birthdays, Jewish holidays and December. The adjustment to having no help or support system here, and not having the freedom to go out with my husband (our last date night was in March, but who’s counting?). The new juggling of my time to include laundry and cleaning. The missing of friends and family.

Then there were things that I didn’t expect, like the efficiency. I mean, one hears about it, but I didn’t think government departments could be this punctual, organised and friendly. I largely attribute to the ease of our settling in to the efficiency of all the systems here.

I didn’t expect that Covid would have such a big impact on our settling in and integration. I haven’t socialised much, and there haven’t been many organised events and gatherings, Even in summer, when things were a bit more relaxed with restaurants being open, there weren’t and still aren’t gatherings or arranged events (unlike in South Africa, where a lot of socialising and parties are still taking place). It feels like people who I might have befriended or made arrangements with in “normal” times, have been at a distance, and I wonder how things would look socially in non-Covid times.

I didn’t expect that the kids would fit in so well. I know kids are resilient, or so everyone told me before we emigrated, but I didn’t expect my kids would take to the lifestyle, weather and huge changes fairly easily. I imagined difficult periods of transition, and huge challenges in adjusting to so many new things (I wrote more about my kids settling in over here).

I also didn’t expect that my mental health would be so much better. With a year that dished up so much (Covid, the death of my mom, emigration), I’ve cut out some meds, and I didn’t think I would be in a position to do this. I guess so much of my day-to-day living anxiety has lessened, which has had a knock-on effect on other things. While I’ll never be 100% jolly, optimistic and confident, I’ve taken huge strides this year, and I’m ending the year in a good space.

And lastly, while I like to keep busy and get involved with things, I didn’t expect that I’d swiftly raise my hand for so many things, and take on new little-big things, like keeping plants alive, something I’ve never nailed. I’m a class mom x2, and it’s a good chance to learn more, integrate and keep busy. I’m also contributing to and editing for the website Amsterdam Mamas, and I begun this blog a few months ago on a whim. There are one or two work things I’m hoping to get involved with, and I’ll see what else I can do once restrictions are eased a little next year (our daily numbers have halved since the end of October when there was a spike, so here’s hoping).

Below are some pics of a very chilly day at Zaanse Schans in Zaandam. It’s charming place with lots of windmills, but I’ll probably always remember it as the time I should have worn another layer under my jeans. I underestimated the cold, and felt bad for not prepping Max better (“Don’t worry“, I told him. “No need to bundle up too much“). That night, I went onto Uniqlo to order more thermals for Max and me.

   

 

                 

 

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