Expat Life Featured Musings

To my dear Netherlands

It was seven years ago when we met for the second time. I vividly remember how beautiful you were in that winter afternoon of January. The first snow had just fallen and you were covered in immaculate whiteness. I was so happy with your lovely welcome. Despite making my life a hell before allowing me to come here to settle (remember we hired a lawyer so you’ll let me in), I thought we finally hit it off that day. I must admit though, it took a while before I got used to your way of life.

Remember that first time we saw each other in the summer of 2008? I thought you’d remain like that all the time, warm, pretty, accommodating, full of opportunities. Remember how I had this part time job digging soil and pulling grass so that I could buy a cellphone for my sister? I thought that was really fun and I won’t mind doing that when I come back just so I won’t be dependent to my husband. I thought it’ll be easy to find a job when I’ve settled down. I didn’t know that you have a gloomy and cold side. And that finding a job here takes more skills than digging soil and pulling weeds.

But it was ok.

I have learned how to appreciate the changing seasons. I even became poetic about spring.

I learned how to entertain the way your people does. You know circle parties.

And you taught me the value of patience. I worked for €1 a day for an Indian lady for several months so that I could have a real working experience, which is apparently a big thing for you. You want people to have jobs. After all, you were kind enough to foot the bill so I could learn your language. I thought that was really a cool compromise. I think I even impressed you when I passed my language exams in flying colours in just one year. And when I got a real job (you know contract, loonheffing, and all) after half a year. Work I did and I paid my taxes. I know that’s  very important to you, the most important thing for you.

You gradually showed your true self. You weren’t as accommodating as I thought you were, particularly your doctors. They really aren’t compassionate, are they? One of them even told me off, telling me that “it’s different how we do things here in the Netherlands” while my request was completely valid. But huisarts are only part of this whole health saga in your country. The bigger drama is the health insurance. Remember how they charged me triple one time?

Oh and don’t forget how you try to squeeze our bank accounts dry whenever you send your municipality and water taxes. Sometimes I think you’re unforgiving when it comes to these taxes. There’s just no escaping it.

But I forgive you for that because it means you aren’t perfect. You still need to sort out your systems.

It didn’t take long before you adopted me as your own. After only three years (the longest three years of my life), you gave me the same rights as your own children in the form of a shiny, new passport, in a rather emotional allegiance ceremony at the municipal hall.

I remember feeling like a newborn and a traitor at the same time. You didn’t allow me to keep my Filipino citizenship so I had to abandon the nationality of the country I was born to. But that’s alright. Again, I know you like compromises.

My new passport indeed saved me from a lot of immigration headaches.

I’m still confused nowadays whether I should say “Dutch” or “Filipino” whenever someone asks me about my nationality. My first answer is still Filipino although I am getting used to saying Dutch more and more. I hope you don’t mind..

I wanted to impress you even more so I even took driving lessons to allow me to become more independent. It didn’t go as easy as I planned. It only proved that you’re more difficult in giving away driver’s license than Dutch passport. In the end I thought, I’m helping you earn enough to provide for all of us immigrants that you are taking under your arm. It does costs billions to teach us how to live the way you wanted us to.

I think by now we’re passed the seven year itch. You don’t irritate me as much anymore with your weather mood swings, ever increasing health insurance fee and still uncaring doctors and expensive dentists. If anything, I’ve become more and more Dutch in terms of frankness and complaining. I feel freer to tell people what I think, even to Filipinos who are usually more sensitive with the truth. And you should hear how passionate I complain about some of your stupid regulations.

With the way things are going right now, I think we would be together for a really long time. Although I still surprise myself whenever I utter the words “I love this country”, I am saying it more often lately.

Your overly organized systems bore me to death sometimes but I like it better than the chaos of my former home. Besides whenever I am craving for that chaos, I just cross the border to our neighbour Belgium. Such a shame that she still has better food but your Rotterdam is catching up very quickly. In the last seven years, I’ve witnessed so many changes in this city and so far I am enjoying what I am seeing.

Well this sentiment is getting very long. I know you don’t like cheesy love letters like this. I should avoid this too much display of emotions because the modest Zeeuws (my parents inlaw especially) would frown upon this sort of PDA. I just want to thank you for the first seven years of our life together. You opened up the world for me.

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