It’s not you, it’s me… I just need some space.

I often complain about the Dutch lack of kinaesthetic awareness. I think that in two and a half years in the Netherlands, I’ve been bumped into by more strangers than during all the other years of my life combined. I accept that sometimes this happens because the top of my head sits so far below the standard Dutch eye level. But mostly I think it’s a matter of personal space.

Australia has a population of 23 million. The Netherlands has a population of about 17 million. However, Australia is about 205 times larger than the Netherlands, which means I require about 160 times more personal space than the average Dutch person.

Australia vs. Europe

You would think that with a large population in such a tiny area the Dutch would be more, not less considerate of getting in other people’s way. But having spent the Christmas break (plus a bit more) in Australia and being instantly overwhelmed by the crush of people upon my return to Den Haag, it has been illustrated time and again that this is not the case.

I’ve identified four public spaces that are favourite congregation points for Dutchies:

1. At the end of an escalator. Because it’s inefficient to move to the side to figure out which direction to take, in case you end up on the wrong side. Much better to deliberate exactly in front of the escalator.

2. In the middle of a flight of stairs. A perfect place to catch up on some gossip, make Saturday night plans, or ponder the meaning of life.

3. In the crossroads of busy pedestrian corridors. With relentless tides of foot traffic coming from every direction, the best approach is to plant yourself like a rock in the middle of all oncoming traffic in order to consult Google Maps.

4. Immediately inside or outside a doorway. It would appear the Dutch value the ambiance of a shop as much as the products they sell, as they prefer to step just inside a shop in order to decide whether they actually want to peruse the merchandise. And if they do perchance make a purchase, they will hover immediately outside for a few minutes, just to be conveniently close in case they end up with buyer’s remorse.

I often end up startled and alarmed whilst out and about in the Netherlands as people encroach upon my personal space . To those Dutchies that I jump away from with a look of horror and disgust, it’s nothing personal. I just need my space.

Space that happens to be the exact same height, depth and breadth as you.

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Future self will deal with that.

The other day, during the daily ritual of pointless procrastination on Facebook, I came across this posted on a now-forgotten someone’s page:

Being an Adult

Amongst all the “inspirational” quotes, clickbait headlines and 50s memes that are plastered all over Facebook, this struck a chord, precisely because I’d been having a conversation earlier with The Guru about how my new life goal was to become a functional adult.

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I quit sugar.

If I had to describe myself in three words or less, I’d go with “raging sugar addict”. It shames me to admit it, but I have been known to add five teaspoons of sugar to a cup of hot chocolate. Those desserts that most people outgrow by the age of eight because they become nauseating to eat? Yeah, I eat those for breakfast (when I bother to eat breakfast). When The Wasp asked me what to include in my next care package from home, I insisted on CSR brown sugar, because I had not found an acceptable version of brown sugar in the Netherlands. Yes, I’d tried out more than one type.

So facing the not-medically-confirmed possibility of having my legs amputated from diabetes at age 30, I decided drastic action was needed. I was going to face my kryptonite, wrestle my delectable demon, conquer the cake. I decided to quit sugar.

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When in Rome…

So before the advent of Sorrowful September, I was lucky enough to spend Awesome August in the country that gave us the Renaissance, pasta, Pavarotti and in-floor heating. That’s right people, I literally spent an entire month luxuriating under the Tuscan sun.

I had been awarded a scholarship to study a four week Italian course at the Michelangelo Institute in Florence, which I was super excited about. Not only because I got to learn Italian in Italy, but because I would have a full four weeks of eating authentic pasta and gelato. And it would be glorious. Friends from Australia who now live in Germany had done the same course a month before, and my appetite (both literal and figurative) for all things Italian had well and truly been whetted by their Facebook pages.

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Wishful thinking

I’m going to admit it: I suck at shopping.

As a girl, I realise that this is an activity I am supposed to have a natural affinity for, and that being a female human sans shopping stamina is a bit like being a panther without claws or like a dolphin that can’t swim. Unless my shopping trip involves chocolate or books, my enthusiasm levels match that of Marvin the Paranoid Android, and I’m about as fun to be around.

Marvin

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Indicating is optional.

I made it.

I have survived a full academic year in The Hague. Well, full is possibly a bit of a misnomer. Sure, up until my singing exam at the end of May I was all into practicing, studying, rehearsing and being a good little student. But since that was over and I gained acceptance into the Master’s programme for next year, my level of dedication has been noticeably lower. In fact, I’ve pretty much been on holiday since then, despite June being the month of all other exams. My mind just decided that my life outlook would henceforth look a little something like this:

The barren field...

So I went to all my other exams with a minimum of study or care, handed in assignments and did presentations with the bare skeleton of preparation, watched movies and fuelled my addiction to peanut M&M’s. I have also discovered a few new things about Holland, the main ones being:

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The Wasp, M.D.

Sometimes it takes very little to evoke the memory of someone. A smell, a tone of voice, a quote from a movie, an act of public stupidity that you wished they had witnessed. The Wasp, M.D. has been on my mind a lot lately, brought to the front of my mess of a brain by sometimes the most unexpected events.

Perhaps this has been brought on by the fact that I recently flew back to Australia in order to be the totally useless* maid of honour at her wedding. Maybe it’s the visiting Australians, maybe it’s the stress of my exams making me revert back to my childhood, I don’t know. All I know is that I have to resist the impulse to WhatsApp totally nonsensical messages to her every other day based on some tenuous link between that thing I just did/ate/saw and that thing that happened at some point in our childhoods that she probably has forgotten and I’m probably remembering wrong anyway.

* I was three hours late to the hens night; I improvised my speech on the spot; I napped through the day-after-wedding-bushwalk; I had laryngitis and couldn’t sing during the ceremony. Bringing me back from The Netherlands = worst investment ever.

Seeing as I can’t think of any cleverer way to present this, I hereby present the top five triggers that get me thinking of the Wasp, M.D.

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