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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There’s no place like home.

It was really too short a time to have spent at home.

I spent three and a half weeks back in Australia in February, and for the first time in about five months I actually felt like myself, like there was more to my personality than aching sadness.

I landed in Sydney in the morning, and spent the day wandering around the city and generally revelling in the fact that I wasn’t wearing a coat, wasn’t being rained on or blown sideways by the wind. I was also struck by a few things that had faded in my memory of home:

1. Australia is ridiculously beautiful.

I have been aware of how living in an arguably ugly concrete and brick city, with a distinct lack of nature to break up the monotony of the buildings, has had a detrimental effect on my lifestyle and mood. Walking around the harbour, gardens and day tripping to the beach was like being fed the most flavoursome Italian meal after living on a diet of unflavoured rice. Trees! Flowers! Water! Birds! Space! The loveliest places I’ve been in Europe can’t compare with an even average Australian landscape.

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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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B’s Helpful Guide to Moving to the Netherlands.

Oh, if only I knew then the things I know now. If I could go back three months and re-move to The Hague, the things I would do differently! Actually, let’s go back five months and start the process again. I would change about 87% of what I did in preparation and once I got here.

But sadly, not matter how many episodes of Dr Who I watch, I still haven’t managed to master the art of time travel. So I shall simply content myself with passing on my infinite wisdom to any lesser mortals who choose to follow in my footsteps. So here it is:

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Heart attacks and happiness.

Upon arriving in the Netherlands, one of my immediate impressions of the in habitants of The Hague was that they were pretty fat. And I don’t mean that in a mid-2000s teenage ‘ph’ kind of way, but in a literal, everyone struck me as a bit tubby kind of way. Of course, all the starving students were off on holidays and all the scary fit Dutch people were off hiking, swimming to England, wrestling bears or whatever fit people do during the summer, so the city isn’t actually totally populated by beach ball lookalikes. But for the first two weeks it seemed that way. And that’s coming from an Australian. Continue reading

The Dutch are all…

It is taking a lot longer than I anticipated to bring my accommodation situation to a satisfying post-worthy conclusion. So in the meantime, I’ve been chucking a David Attenborough and observing the natives of my new country.

There are some nationalities that when mentioned instantly bring stereotypes to mind. For instance: Americans are all ignorant and stupid. Brits all have bad teeth. Germans are all humourless robots. French men are all arrogant bastards who smoke and drink too much. Canadians are all awesome and are welcome to crash at my place anytime. Okay, maybe that last one isn’t quite universal.

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