Short survival guide or how someone spends 10 months in Holland and still wants to stay

1. Don’t put too high hopes in learning Dutch
If you still believe that your solid German language skills would accelerate the learning process, I have some bad news. German is actually pretty useless when it comes to learning Dutch. Although it may initially help you recognize some of the words and meanings, it soon turns out to be an obstacle rather than assistance. The frustration reaches its maximum at the point when you realize that you are not able to speak neither Dutch nor German anymore. 

When everyone around speaks proper English, getting motivation to study a new (and, to be honest, not the most finely tuned) language is a peculiar achievement. 

My advice how to face this linguistic challenge is to take it easy (given that there are no urgent reasons which would convince you in taking a more rigid approach). Listening to the conversation on the train, following the Dutch TV or radio programs and showing curiosity in understanding the Dutch habits, lifestyle and society will help you grow fond of the language. After reaching a certain level of motivation, it will be much easier to sit at the desk repeating the irregular verbs and memorizing the articles. 

2. No smartphone, no life
Living without a (smart)phone? Better not in Holland. Looking for a parking spot in Amsterdam city center? Use the mobile app. Taking train to work and looking for the right platform? Use the mobile app. Trying to get discount on your coffee? Use the mobile app. Getting lost in the labyrinth of the Amsterdam, channels? Use the mobile app. Booking a manicure? Use the mobile app. Etc etc. 

Frankly, I would not dare going out without my phone. Not only would my bag suffer from sudden loneliness, I could hardly move away from home for more than kilometer. The (un)bearable lightness of living with the latest tech achievements is what makes Holland so attractive and successful. I very well remember the speech of one of the partners at our last quarterly meeting; the Netherlands is considered the world leader in IT expertise which enormously expands its business opportunities and necessarily requires expanding human capital (and let me proclaim myself as a living proof of that).

3. Working hard pays off
Every Dutch student is entitled to the studiefinanciering, the national granting scheme which gives him/her the right to free public transport tickets and a fixed amount of monthly allowance. Supposed that a student completes the studies in a required period, the state grant is transformed into a gift and does not need to be paid back. 

The rest of the EU students, which, by the way, represent an important part of student population at Dutch universities, face much stricter conditions. Without having lived in Holland for 5 years or having married a person that full time works in Holland, they are only entitled to the benefits if, in addition to their studies, they work 56 hours a month on a basis of a regular employment contract.

Letting the discriminatory issues aside, the Dutch system undoubtedly encourages devoted and prompt studying. Many hard working international students are proving that studying and earning money at the same time is indeed manageable. Consolidating both types of the duties teaches you how to balance work and free time also later in career. 

4. Accepting the AH specific assortment – the sooner the better!
Forget about delicious Mulino Bianco products, tasty Slovenian ricotta and original Serbian cevapcici – you are now in Holland. In fact, kwark may well replace ricotta and, slowly, everyone gets used to Dutch toast. I still have not found the ideal replacement for cevapcici, however, I heard about a Serbian restaurant in Rotterdam, so maybe even this hurdle will be soon overcome.

5. Family and social state not Dutch priorities? Incorrect!
There is something special about the Dutch way of life. Has it been the protestant history that influenced their understanding of society and the role of an individual in it or are they just pragmatic and, in opposite to the southern European nations, less afraid to deviate from social norms? Take for example students – many of them move away from their parents as soon as possible, rent their own apartment, start living with their partner and, while keeping in touch with family and friends, consider their home a holy place and only open the doors to a limited number of people. 

Weekends and festive days spent with family are the highlights of their lives. I have never in my life seen so many young families going for an afternoon walk on Sundays as on Dutch pathways. I have never heard so many questions about the past weekend as on Mondays’ mornings in the elevator to the 9th floor in our office. I have never seen so many “Home sweet home” decorations on the window shelves, doors and doormats as in Holland. Despite the fact that capitalism has been the driving force of their prosperous economy, Dutch have achieved a considerably high level of social awareness. One could say that the Dutch social state functions much better than in countries where the principle of welfare has been written in the constitutions and proclaimed a fundamental principle. 

6. Boots are (Dutch) girls’ best friends 
It is July, the 9th. Before going to work, I put on my trench coat and plastic rain boots. Also waterproof makeup is appreciated these days. In some strange way I enjoy rainy July in this green country, full of contrasts. Slightly rough bur friendly people, flat but beautiful nature, wealthy economy but humble population made me finally feel at home.
Short survival guide or how someone spends 10 months in Holland and still wants to stay Short survival guide or how someone spends 10 months in Holland and still wants to stay Reviewed by Helena Uršič on 5:44 PM Rating: 5

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