It’s two years that I’ve been living in the Netherlands. For the past year, I’ve been working on my PhD. I’ve (almost) got used to life here, but, as it always happens when you go to live in another country other than your own, the beginning wasn’t easy and there are some differences that, for better or for worse, I had to get used to. In a few words, today’s post will be about the six differences between Naples, where I was born and raised, and the Netherlands that I find striking.
Don’t worry, I will try to avoid any commonplaces and, as I already mentioned, encountering differences and problems is unavoidable when you go to live abroad; I will do another post about the experience of moving abroad (I have actually lived also in Greece for a couple of years, but that’s another story). So, ready? Here’s the six differences that most surprised me.
1. The weather
Yes, I know this won’t sound very original or new to your ears. What I mean, though, it’s that not only can it be way cooler and cloudier than in Naples, but that living here gives you completely different parameters. I was surprised about how, with the same amount of degrees Celsius, people here are generally dressed way more lightly than me (and no, I don’t suffer so easily from the cold).
But now I have realized that it is the scale that is different: winters here are cooler, so winter in Naples corresponds to spring here, and spring temperatures in Naples correspond to summer temperatures here. I should also mention that here it is way more humid, so when it gets slightly warmer and there’s no wind (something rare here, because there is often some wind, whatever milder or stronger), it feels a lot hotter and clammier.
Something else very different from Naples, and in general from Italy: who you congratulate for birthdays and name celebrations. In Italy, we congratulate only the person who is celebrating something, but in the Netherlands, they congratulate, apart from the celebrated person, also each and every family member of the person in question!
Another difference between Naples (Italy in general) and the Netherlands, which is actually nothing major, but something I had an hard time to get used to (out of force of habit): when Dutch people kiss to congratulate or simply to greet – something they actually don’t do so much as we Italians do – they give three kisses, while in Italy we give two.
Yes, it is known worldwide: Dutch people use bicycles a lot. But actually I’m not much of a bicycle person; it’s something I was never used to (in Naples it is just impossible to use bicycles as a means of transportation). I’m not interested in it and I prefer walking. So, I would like to talk about this from another point of view: that of a pedestrian.
Now, I would like first of all to emphasize how I appreciate that people prefer bicycles to cars or motorcycles, and how it is a wise and sensible choice. But I have also to admit that, unfortunately, cyclists often seem to rush a lot, and don’t seem to be very careful about cars or pedestrians or even other cyclists, or even to respect road regulations.
So, as a pedestrian, I have always to watch out for cyclists if I don’t want to be run over, and in the beginning it was very difficult for me, because I wasn’t used to it at all. It happens that cyclists just cut you off or recklessly overtake you. As they are also very silent, you can’t either take any precaution to avoid accidents.
There are two things about food that surprised me when I first came to the Netherlands.
First, here in the Netherlands you can easily find places where you can get French fries to eat on the go, and people just buy it as a snack, with with either mayonnaise or curry sauce. Of course also in Naples, and in Italy, we eat French fries, but it is mostly as a course in a meal, and we have other kinds of street food.
Second, in the beginning I was surprised by the fact that here in the Netherlands it is very common to go and eat in foreign restaurants, while in Naples when we go out to eat it is often to eat pizza (yes, it’s true!) or to eat other Italian specialties.
Here in the Netherlands, foreign restaurants are indeed very common and very used, and you can find not only Spanish, Mexican, Greek (these three are easily found also in Naples), Argentinian or Italian (yes, of course Italian here is foreign food), but also many Oriental restaurants, such as Japanese and Chinese (these two are the most common), Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Indian.
Here it is common to travel by train, and all in all the service they offer is not awful (though the ticket price is a bit on the expensive side). What I found surprising, though, was how common it is to travel using electronic cards, not only on the trains, but also on trams and buses. Here you have devices both to check in (touch in) with your card where you get on the train, and to check out (touch out) with it when you get off, and the fare is subtracted from the money that is on the card.
Well, I have to say that I found it very hi-tech and that I like it. In Naples we still use the paper tickets very much, though we also have cards, that you can get if you do any kind of subscription. The problem, however, is that people usually don’t have a subscription, exception students.
So that’s all for this post. I hope you enjoyed reading it, please let me know your comments. Also, if you have any, I would like to know how was (or is) your experience as a foreigner in the Netherlands. I also hope to see you soon on this blog again soon. Ciao ciao!