4 August 2011 (the Netherlands)
We were in the Netherlands for a month to visit our family. I was asked if I have seen changes compared with 6 years ago.
Most of all there were some differences that we had forgotten. For example, as soon as we left the airport, I immediately saw the Dutch are much slimmer. And the children on their little supersonic bicycles were all fully decorated with the latest gadgets and they were fashionably dressed like miniature-adults (and matching attitude 😉 )
Recently I read in one of the Dutch magazines (I still read them) that in the Netherlands ‘the prosperity is gushing out of the dormer windows’. In real … that is true. And it’s notable. I saw an interview on tv about Dutch families who supposedly are in financial trouble. In the background I saw beautiful living rooms, top class furniture, wooden floors, modern decorations. Everything of good quality and looking in mint condition. I can’t take that serious. That is really a difference with here.
Yes, for a few days I was jealous of all that wealth and the unlimited choice. Not to say New Zealand is a poor country. I know it’s not Ethiopia. And we ourselves aren’t poor too. But the image around us though, is certainly looking a bit … eh … well … let’s not equivocate; a bit shabby.
However, after a few days I knew it again. Because don’t forget … if you always have to live in such a nasty climate, locked inside your house, probably you desperately need some extra fun/luxury in return.
I prefered the good weather.
Another thing I liked of being back was; Dutchies hardly do courtesy talks. In daily life and in business they can be bluntly honest to each other without affecting their relationship. They are going right to the point. For foreigners they may sound rude, but Dutchies skipping the courtesy talks feels like saving time for both.
A sound that struck me was the cooing of doves. Awww, I missed that. And the far sounds of church bells a couple of times a day. I totally had tuned that out when I lived in the Netherlands, but now I realised I hadn’t heard them for years!
But the finest sound actually, was a certain lack of sound … that eternal voice in the shops, “Can I help you?”
For me it was so liberating that in every Dutch shop (no matter how posh) you can walk in without the shop assistants jump right on your neck.
Beside in the Netherlands there is so much beauty for sale, the disinterest of the staff (or so you want; the skipping of the courtesy) made shopping a great pleasure. When I’m thinking about entering a shop in New Zealand, quite often the saleswoman already greedy tries to make eye-contact, while I am still outside! I can’t handle that and won’t come in then. I hate it and I feel forced. If I need help I know where she is. Everybody knows.
Although I like that New Zealanders always greeting each other on the street (Dutchies ignore strangers), that shop-thing must ne a Dutch habit I can’t get rid of. For Dutch people maybe shops are more a kind of ‘public area’. And for New Zealand people a shop is owned by someone who takes care for the visitors. Does that make sense?
The owner in the background is completely ignoring me and is reading his paper. Thumbs up.