Tuesday, April 15, 2008

General Observations NL & USA

Many of you have asked about what it's like living here in the Netherlands culturally, politically, economically, and socially, etc. So here's my take.
To start, Dutch people are very tall. I'm 5'4" they would say I'm 165 (cm). I would guess the average woman to be 5'10" and man to be 6'4. There are of course many other nationalities here, but you know who is Dutch just by their height. So I think I stand apart just because I'm short.
Bicycles really are the main form of transportation, it's not just a myth. As I've posted before, all ages, all clothing, all weather they ride. It still amazes me.
As you might conclude because of all the bike riding, there are very few overweight people here. In fact, the few you see really stand out because they are so unusual.
I'd guess that 70% of people smoke and from all I've observed they do not seem to have any clue how bad it is for you. In America it is well known how bad smoking and second hand smoke is. Many places are smoke free, and lucky for New Mexicans, there is no longer smoking allowed in any public building. We are especially protective of children and babies around smoke. But not here. In NL you cannot walk anywhere in town without the smell and if you enter a restaurant it's much worse.
80's music dominates the airwaves. In restaurants and stores there is always music playing and it's usually bad 80's music. But at least we understand it.
Print - all in Dutch, everywhere, every billboard, every menu, every everything. In Hobbs where I think the population is 55% Mexican, 40% white, 5% black (rough guess) much of the print is also in Spanish. This has always irritated me, and now that I live in a foreign country it irritates me even more. Especially when I see in Wal-Mart that the main sign is Spanish and the small print under it is in English. I'm sorry, but New Mexico is part of AMERICA, not Mexico! I do my best in the Netherlands to learn to read enough Dutch to understand what I need in stores and restaurants. And if I were to live here longer than 3 months, I'd be making serious effort to learn Dutch. I've also tried speaking it - pronounciation is really hard, and I'm appreciative that most people know enough English that we somehow can communicate. Why do we cater to Spanish speakers? All it does is enable Spanish speakers to never bother to learn English. It keeps them from ever integrating into American society. I could go on, but that's for another time.
What do Dutch think of Americans? Well, this depends, but generally I have found most of them like Americans. The ones that have visited the US all have liked it. Maybe it's because the dollar is in the crapper and they get so much more for their money? Anyway, most of them support Bush and most actually agree with the US in the war on terror. Many of them keep up with our presidential race and are generally concerned for our country. You may or may not know of the Dutch politician Geert Wilders who is known for being outspoken about Muslims taking over the Netherlands. I personally have not seen anyone walking around in a Burka, but there are a lot of Muslims, especially in Amsterdam. I've not been in any of the larger cities to know firsthand. I have not talked to any Dutch about Mr. Wilders, so I don't know their sentiment on that issue.
I think because Hengelo is a relatively small town in NL that the community is not used to seeing so many Americans for so long. There are 22 adults from the company and a bunch of kids. The first group here came in January and they will be here until the end of the year. And because we have become friends, we tend to travel together in groups. So we are at the local grocery store everyday and restaurants and other stores. Some of the locals have asked about us, why we're here, how long, etc. Only one mean fish selling lady at the market openly made some crack comments to us. We don't visit her anymore.
Personal Space: doesn't exist here. They litterally live on top of each other in the cities. Apartments are above every place of business, plus all the apartment buildings. It is very crowed in the cities and they use every space. Derreck and I have theorized that because of this the concept of personal space is non-existant. People will stand right up on you, touching you while in lines, which I am not comfortable with at all. And they mean nothing personal by it. Also, for example at the market there are no lines per se, only mass conglomerations of people each without consideration of anyone else trying to get what they want. Very hard to get used to. It makes me feel way too pushy, but if you don't, you never get in. Driving is similar. Lane changes are quick and close. In America, they way they drive would cause serious road rage.
School - very gov't controlled. As a homeschooler in New Mexico, our laws are very unrestrictive. Here, it is possible to homeschool, only for religious exception and it's hard to be approved. When I've told locals I homeschool in America they really had no concept of what it was at all. Some thought I was a tutor (not even their mom!) Some thought I was a teacher and that the kids were in my classroom - it's just not something they are familiar with at all.
Economically the country is somewhat socialistic. They boast on the fact that the most basic jobs have pay similar to white collar jobs. There isn't the big gap in incomes as in America.
Dirty. Even though the country is so beautiful, the cities are full of grafitti and trash, mostly cigarette butts, but you often see broken beer bottles - anywhere. There aren't really "good" areas and "bad" areas, at least in Hengelo. There are "coffee" and headshops throughout the town. To me, that just shows why it's so dirty. Now they do have workers to clean the streets every week, but the grafitti everywhere just stays. Too bad.
They do have an interesting trash disposal system here though. There are no big dumpsers as we have in the states. It's all underground and a big crane trash truck takes the container from underground to dump in the truck. That is really nice, as it keeps smells away and rodents I'm sure.
I'm sure I'll have more to add to this but for now, this should satisfy the curious.

No comments: