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May 2020, Utrecht – the Netherlands
Realising we’re in a new country for more than 6 months took us by surprise. Thinking that we are living unprecedented times due to the pandemic, made us even more aware of the changes we’ll witness around the world.
And because we want to mark somehow half an year of living abroad, here’s a short update about life in the Netherlands after 6 months. We will answer the most frequent questions that our friends and readers asked. Hope this also serves as a testimony of the current situation, for when all goes back to normal (will it?).
We felt it would be good to return back to Romania for Christmas, and spend quality time with our parents. Even though the reunion was nice, the chaos from the airport, plane and then in Bucharest itself during Christmas did not contribute to a better state of mind.
Thinking back now, maybe it’s better to shift the visit to another time next year. Or invite the parents to the Netherlands, why not.
We started the year with a short trip to Malaga, that gave us back all our senses. Then, Palma de Mallorca was our last destination before this whole lockdown happened. It was a dream! As we were enjoying the beautiful weather and taking for granted the freedom to explore new places, socialising and walking outside with no worry in the world, we never imagined such an event that put everybody on pause.
We returned to the Netherlands on the 8th of March. In the next weekend we got the official announcement from the company to remain working from home.
We are at home now for 60 consecutive days, trying to get back to our hobbies and just find joy in other than traveling. We play table tennis in the livingroom, build puzzles, colour books, read, take online courses, watch movies and documentaries. Beer with friends turned into online drinks sessions.
Individual sports like cycling and running are allowed, as well as walks with keeping the distance. This makes things a lot more manageable, so we’re happy the lockdown found us in the Netherlands and not somewhere in Bucharest. We are concerned about the future, but not stressed. Maybe we adopted the Dutch way already.
Official measures in the Netherlands can be found here.
It was time for parents’ visit, but it all got cancelled. Whatever plans of ours were ruined, it is nothing compared to the people who lost loved ones or even their lives. We will see each other when it’s safe for all.
Easter in the Netherlands is celebrated one week before ours, with lots of food and a treasure hunt for chocolate eggs. So on the weekend of Orthodox Easter, it was completely empty everywhere. We celebrated in a new way: went to a picnic with friends from Utrecht. Of course, picnic blankets were 4 meters from each other. It was so fun!
We adjusted all the expectations, and realised that the most importand gift of all is just to BE. 😊
King’s day, celebrated on the 27th of April, is probably the most fun day of the year in the Netherlands. Partying, wearing orange costumes, going to flea markets, concerts, you name it! We were so excited to be part of this special day.
Unfortunately, all events were cancelled until further notice. Some people were still wearing orange shirts and displaying the Dutch flag outside, but no celebration.
The highlight of our day was leaving the house for groceries. 🙂
We were lucky to be here also on Liberation day, celebrated on the 5th of May. It marks the end of the Nazi occupation during World War II.
No celebration this year, but got the day off from work. That’s something! 🙂
Fun fact: february 2020 was the wettest february since formal records began in 1901! The rain average was 3 times higher than the normal average. Now you will understand why we went to Spain twice in less than 2 months. 🙂 Leaving the joke aside, 4 rainy months were a bit hard to digest. It never snowed.
But the hope was there. We visited a new place every 2 weekends, if not weekly. So combining bad weather with the excitement of doing something new, we got over it.
Fun fact again: since the lockdown, we are witnessing probably the sunniest start of spring ever in the Netherlands! The joy of seeing the sun washed away the february memories. Now every day fees like a miracle. 🙂
For work related matters, we probably need more time to come up with a conclusion. Everybody might have a different experience depending on the domain, company, colleagues, etc. Also, when people from all over the world work together, it might be a mistake to categorise the style as Dutch, because it’s rather universal.
What we both noticed were 2 aspects so far. If you’re coming from a relaxed environment in an IT company in Romania, don’t expect to go on coffee breaks and chat with colleagues all the time. People work quite continously for several hours, but then go home early to spend time with family. On the bright side, you can choose the classical 40 hours/week contract, but it’s also common to have a 36 or 32 hours/week one. A lot of people work part-time in the Netherlands!
Second thing different from Romania, is that the hierarchy is rather flat within the company, there is no concept of ‘the boss’. Also, potential conflicts or problems are to be solved individually, do not expect to ‘escalate’ things to somebody else (kind of do-it-yourself mentality).
In the first month of lockdown we’ve experienced all the stages of change: from denial and anger, saying that this cannot happen, it will go away, to exploring what possibilities we have in the absence of traveling, and probably moving slowly into acceptance.
Out of everything that’s happening, it might be a good moment to stay at home with the ones you love, call more often family and friends, reconsider what really brings you joy in life, get back to your hobbies.
But maybe a break from so many to-do lists is a good thing! Sometimes we only live for our future plans, and this makes us completely lose the present.
One thing is certain: traveling as we knew it has become a thing of the past. Discovering remote hidden gems in the Netherlands is probably our only plan for 2020.
And that’s ok.