Firstly, a funny way of looking at how a person is integrating into life in NL can be found here. I read this blog post and chuckled a bit – I already identify with the first few points mentioned, even after my initial two months here :O
Aside from the humour and [incoming non offensive, sarcasm…] potentially turning into the stereotypical blonde, cheese eating, clog wearing (unless cycling), direct (unless stoned) damsel […end of non offensive sarcasm] – there have been a few annoyances with the whole settling in process – namely the formalities (registering with the Town Hall). This has not been as straight forward as I’d hoped and there has been a little bit of conflicting information, from the officials. More time and patience will prevail there. We are due to go back for a second appointment, after getting at least one of my documents legalised with the apostille stamp and a possible ‘waver’ on the other non legalised document. In addition, more documentation is expected and another form needs to be completed… blah, blah, blah.
The train service – well, I have a mini panic attack whenever I use the train services – especially after I managed to forget to use my OV-Chipkaart to check out of the train station in Den Haag Centraal, and realised it 30 minutes after walking away from said station. I had visions of the transport police giving me hell when I returned to the station, and a hefty fine. It turns out, I had up to 6 hours to check out – before they imposed an automatic fine on the card (but don’t quote me on that). Thank goodness I had someone ‘on the inside’ that I could message and get further info from! However, if you continuously forget to check in or out then they can block your card… So, the onus is on the user to remember to check in/out each and every every time they start/end their journey – I guess I’ll get used to it and avoid potential problems. It’s a minor hiccup, and I am just a sucker for panic attacks.
Another noticeable view, worth mentioning is the amount of Albert Heijn stores in NL – they are everywhere! Unlike our UK, with their Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons M&S and Waitrose etc, there seems to be only one major chain of supermarket here – or am I walking around blind and in need of a cane/blind dog? This is not meant as a criticism, as I think that the chain is pretty good and they sell all you could really need, plus the prices seem in line with what they should be. I guess that there are the odd Lidl stores dotted around, but they are extremely outnumbered. If good old Albert were alive today he would be proud of what has become of his chain, founded in 1887!
Also, did you ever wonder why there is a relationship between the Dutch and the colour orange? The national flag has no hint of any orange in it and (like the Brits) sports the colours red, white and blue (though I guess if you mix the flag colours up a bit they could form a certain shade of orange….). Anyway, as a football supporter I did often wonder… So, the real reason – orange is the colour of the Dutch Royal Family and dates back to Willem van Oranje (William of Orange), and it is a symbolizes a broad pride in the country and being Dutch. You’re likely to see the population here in their orange kit on Koninginnedag (“Queen’s Day”) – April 30th.
I guess I should mention how the new volunteer work and training is going… I have had fun with it so far and it gives me a little more purpose. It also gives me a chance to soak up a lot more knowledge, whilst trying to help others settle into life as a Dutch resident. Hopefully I’ll know more than the average bear very soon and will possibly re-create a self help guide myself, in future…! I just hope that this experience gives me a little more confidence to attack the ‘proper job’ market more aggressively…