Five days down and I’m adapting to the Dutch way of things very quickly. I’ve got my voice back but have been left with an irritating cough and the sniffles 😦 I’m also swamped with college work after two days so naturally I’m avoiding my thesis completely to give you guys a very quick update!
The first major observation I have made since getting here is that the Dutch people are the friendliest nation I have ever come across by far. Everyone we have encountered have been so charming and helpful with the exception of one man today who very rudely told us in Dutch that we should not speak English when we are in the Netherlands. The majority of people speak English and are very willing to assist you with anything. The charming taxi man who helped us move our luggage to our new accommodation (WITH DOORS – more about this soon!!) had little English, however made a lasting impression on us because his engaging personality shone through the language barrier.
Something I didn’t know about the Dutch before I got here: they don’t use credit cards. Nor do they accept credit cards in shops either. They accept Maestro or Visa Electron only. This means that we’re paying for everything in cash – if you can find an ATM that will accept your bank card! They use a system called Chipknip that is essentially a debit card that one tops up with small amounts of money straight from one’s bank account. I find this concept bizarre.. why don’t they just use debit cards and eliminate the need to go to a Chipknip point to transfer money on it?! The mind boggles… anyway, I need to purchase one to pay for things in college, use printing facilities etc. A royal pain but it has to be done.
IMPORTANT OBSERVATION: There is a HUGE difference between bicycle paths and pedestrian paths but sometimes it is hard to tell as they tend to run into each other. This I learned pretty quickly after a few near misses with angry cyclists who take road rage to a whole new level! There are also these fascinating ramp/stair things on the ground floor of apartment blocks and basements to facilitate these abundant transportation devices… As you can imagine, I had more fun running up and down the ramps than I should have!
The nice thing about this country is that it reminds me a lot of Ireland, especially Dublin suburbs – lots of leafy areas and the parks are really pretty 🙂 To make us feel really at home, we’ve discovered that O’Leary’s Irish Pub serve great sausages that they get from Taste of Ireland based in Amsterdam. There is a huge Irish community in the Netherlands also – we’ve already befriended cúpla duine living in Utrecht!
It’s not even been a week but I feel like I have lived here for a couple of months already. Such a lot has happened in the last few days from moving house to starting college (both I will blog about later). To really immerse myself in Dutch life, I am buying a bike tomorrow… Eeeek! I feel like I need to pass a cycling test or learn the rules of the road before I embark on any journey.. I have a feeling this is going to be a sink or swim situation.. wish me luck!!