Six months in Amsterdam – the learnings so far

How is it that things in the past can at once feel like they happened like a lifetime ago, and “just yesterday”. That’s how our arrival in Amsterdam and it’s a bit bizarre to realise we’ve been here for HALF A YEAR already. Huh? For the last 3.5 weeks we’ve been in lockdown (restaurants closed in October already), and we have another 3.5 to go at least, which I guess messes with my perception of time.

The “honeymoon” isn’t over, despite warnings on one of the Facebook groups, and though I might not speak the “taal” and by no means feel Dutch, this really does feel like home. Most of the things that I expected to be hard didn’t turn out that way, and other things that I never thought would challenge me became tough. If I’ve learnt anything, it’s that no two experiences in relocating are the same, and you can never anticipate what you’ll feel along the way (to state the obvious).

Other lessons, observations and reminders from the last six months? Here they are:

  • You can teach an old dog new tricks, like cycling. In the beginning, I felt I would never successfully make it past my parking spot, and indeed, I had two falls right by it. But with practice and confidence, I’ve gotten better. There is still some shakiness and panic, and the inability to lift up one hand and indicate is an issue, but hopefully I’ll get there.
  • Seeing real snow for the first time is thrilling – for kids and me. It was amazing experiencing it with my kids – it’s like we all went through the same awe and excitement together.
  • The dark mornings and evenings aren’t as horrific as I thought. I dreaded this part so much, but it’s just one of those things. I suppose it helps that I don’t really have to go out in the dark because I’m working from home, but it certainly isn’t bringing the anticipated doom and gloom.
  • I never knew I could be so moved and excited by efficiency and friendliness.
  • There are no bad potatoes in The Netherlands, or none that have passed my lips, ever.
  • There’s no such thing as “bad weather” – it’s rainy, cold, overcast, but never bad. This really helps to keep up the optimism – one’s day isn’t really defined by the weather.
  • There is not much as quick as postman who leaves something at your door, rings the bell, and bolts before you ever see him/her.
  • To settle well, one needs to fit into a new country, not the other way round.
  • I can’t keep up with cleaning up Dutch dust.
  • The Dutch understand the few Afrikaans words I remember from school – I usually panic in shops saying thanks and goodbye, so I just revert to Afrikaans.
  • Being in lockdown in South Africa and not having access to friends, family and “normality” prepared me for emigration. The missing out is not a new thing, and therefore is a bit easier.
  • Walking alone at night is still quite scary (I wonder when I’ll be able to shake off this feeling)
  • Where we live, it’s okay not to have a car. I thought this would be harder to adjust to, and I thought I would be losing my independence by not having my own car. It’s free’d me up though – there are lots of options getting places efficiently, without much stress. There have been about three times I’ve wished we had a car, and they’ve been related to getting to play dates/parties in Amstelveen, up to 10km away (though Uber is readily available and efficient).
  • My family is super strong. I always knew this, but I’ve been reminded of it here. They get on with things, don’t complain much (aside from when the wifi goes down), and have adapted to this new life positively and with eyes looking forward, never back.

I’m excited for the next few months – spring, summer and hopefully some travel and some jabs in the arm sooner than later.

Here are some snow pics from last weekend:

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