• Bike riding is terrifying. It seemed like a good theory, but everyone looks so confident. It’s going to take me a while to adjust to that once I start riding (I’m giving myself a bit of time – besides, the bike in the house is too high, and I refuse to ride a too-high bike!)
  • I have to get a maintenance contract for the furnace. I didn’t even know I had a furnace. It turns out, though, that there’s a hotwater service with a booster that heats the water both for showers and stuff *and* for the all-through-the-house heater things. Nice, if apparently a little inefficient. I have to keep remembering to turn off the heating when I leave in the morning.
  • Those heated towel-rail things are the best ever. At first I was just in love with the warm towel when I got out of the shower, but I have also discovered they are a wonderful way to dry clothes… well, woolens at least – not sure about synthetics yet…
  • A bed that looks like a double bed may in fact be two single beds pushed together. Sighsigh.
  • The community created around New Years’ fireworks is kinda amazing – bunches of people gathered in the street, sending things up into the sky (mostly – I saw one go whizzing off down the street at foot level – eek!). It meant I was surrounded by things going off. I stood on my balcony for a short while, wrapped in my doona (I was sickly and couldn’t go out and play with the Dutch kids) and then started worrying about whether bits of fireworks come down… hot… clearly my Australian childhood didn’t prepare me. Didn’t prepare me for the fire in the street, either – apparently completely normal. So used to freaking out over fire! Also, there’s a limited amount of time that people can set off fireworks in (from 10 am on new year’s eve to 2 am on new year’s day). Anyone letting off fireworks outside that time is made to clean up the mess the fireworks leave on the streets on new year’s day.
  • Health insurance is compulsory and about 130 bucks a month – cheapest. Sigh.
  • Electricity will likely cost me about the same amount per month. Eep.
  • Tiny birds hanging around for winter are extremely cute.
  • There seems to be a thing about candles – they’re always lit in windows in the evening. Intriguing! And kinda pretty too!
  • It’s really odd walking down the street, passing windows without curtains in them and then thinking ‘oh my god, that’s someone’s loungeroom and they’re watching TV! I am such a voyeur!’. I’m so used to street-front windows only belonging to shops!
  • (Old) Dutch stairs are the steepest ever. I hit my knees if I try to go up too fast. Calling them ‘ladders’ would probably be less misleading. Seriously, my foot doesn’t fit on the step. Which is okay going up, but coming down is a bit scary.
  • There’s an extraordinary array of curry pastes and powders, and vegetarian not-meats at the supermarket. Like, extraordinary. Scary, even, one might say! I think I’m just overwhelmed with the variety and not being able to tell whether any of them are vegetarian!
  • Dutch cheese is squishy and comes with wax on the outside.
  • I really have *absolutely* no clue what people are saying to me in Dutch. As a result, I’m tuning out a lot of random conversation around me. I didn’t even realise until I was in the supermarket and suddenly realised the girl who had been pondering the cheese next to me was in fact speaking English…
  • There appear to be 10 TV channels which are mostly shopping channels, at least for some proportion of the day, and many of the ads are terribly American.
  • Dutch talk shows look a lot like they’re taking place in someone’s house…
  • You pay for *all* maps, including tourist maps with lots of ads in them, and bus route maps, which are apparently wrong anyway.
  • I haven’t yet discerned whether cafes are in fact coffeeshops, and eetcafes are cafes, or what. I’m poor just now, but I plan to find out soon. Also I have a coffee shop across the road from me – cutely called Ragamuffin, and done in Jamaican/Rasta colouring) which explains why everyone parks on the pavement and puts their hazards on, just outside my house!
  • Everyone parks on the pavement, almost everywhere. The streets are *very* narrow, and really not designed for cars at all.
  • There are some pretty people in this town… and some of them own some pretty awesome coats
  • The inner part of the town feels like it should be stress-free, with no cars around, but the bikes provide traffic instead!
  • Dutch lessons are expensive! Thank goodness work’s paying.
  • I am not a fan of being called an ‘ex-pat’. I get why I am, but I have associations with Singaporean ex-pat society (it was my first encounter with the term, I think, and with what it might look like) and they are ugly.
  • Lots of Dutch people work 4 days a week. This is completely acceptable. This I kind of love. It’s also part of this whole ‘you work your hours’ thing. Although my boss has made some suggestions about ‘coming in on the weekend,’ most people seem to stick fairly closely to their assigned hours. Nice.
  • For working 40 hours a week, I get…. 8 weeks of holidays a year. Although again my boss said something about how no body takes them all. I am dubious about this fact, though…
  • Everyone says that the Netherlands have ‘really high tax’. It’s about 30%. From what I remember, that’s pretty close to Australian taxation (though I don’t know if they have a tax-free threshhold thing).
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