Goodbye, Netherlands. Goodbye, Europe. In honor of my departure this week, I’ve compiled a list of some things I’ll miss when I return to the States, and also some things I won’t.
Thing I’ll Miss
Passing fields of sheep on my way to work (or the grocery store, etc)
I’ve always thought the countryside was peaceful, but the irrefutable suburbia inside me cringes at the thought of driving 30 minutes to get to a grocery store (it’s how I was raised, can’t help it). Utrecht and the Netherlands has given me the best of both worlds – I get to bike/walk past sheep and cow pastures everywhere I go, including the 5 minute bike ride to the equine clinic. In fact, my dorm is surrounded on three sides by pastures. If I feel like it, I can take a quick break in my journey and pet a friendly cow (or sheep, depending on the direction), and then continue on my 10 minute bike ride to the grocery store. Perfection? I think so.
Having a nature park in my backyard
Seriously, look at these pictures! Just another afternoon stroll behind my dorm. At home I would have to get in a car and drive to get anything close to such a relaxing retreat.
Being able to bike everywhere
Come on, America, why don’t we believe in bike lanes? Why do we have sidewalks that just…end? (For Danielle: What would Shel Silverstein have titled his book if he had been Dutch?) I know I’ve already discussed this here and here so I won’t rant for too long, but this might be the thing that I will miss the most. It’s healthy for us and the environment, it just doesn’t make sense not to support this.
Having access to a functioning public transit system
The trains/flights/buses in Europe are not as cheap as people will often lead you to believe. True, you CAN get 20€ train tickets, but only to certain destinations and only if you book pretty far in advance. But that’s not my point. My point is that the system exists to get you almost anywhere you want to go without a car. This frees you up to do other things in your transit time…like writing blog articles or texting while not driving.
Tomatoes that actually taste good
I have a strange relationship with tomatoes. My vehement childhood hatred has sizzled into an indifferent tolerance. It isn’t unusual for me to eat half a burger with a tomato and then decide, “Nope, I’m done with you,” and remove the tomato, discarding the half-eaten thing on the edge of my plate. Given this background, maybe it will make sense that the concept of ‘mater sandwiches confuses me…because in my mind I would get halfway through, remove the tomato and be left with…bread and mayonnaise? But before all my southern friends disown me (or accost me with a parade of sandwiches), let me say that I get it now. The tomatoes I’ve found in Europe are delicious and I’m a little sad to leave when this relationship was just getting started.
If I had left a month ago, this would have been in the “Won’t Miss” category. However, we’ve now reached highs of 21-25°C (70-77°F) and I’m really enjoying the cool breeze through my window while being comfortable in shorts and the sunny walks through the fields and forests in my backyard (see pictures above). Contrast this with the world to which I’m returning, where my current high becomes the lowest of lows in the dead of night and the high makes me want to hide in a cave (because it’s cooler in there).
The metric system
Ok, this one’s kind of silly, but using the metric system makes me feel like a rebel. Because I can use it and [most of] my American friends don’t, it’s kind of like I get to use an exclusive secret code (yes, I know that the majority of the world uses the metric system, so really my secret code should be using anything but the metric system). At any rate, I get a little nerdy thrill by being able to say, “Oh my gosh, the high is 25 this weekend!” and to mean “I can’t believe it’s finally so warm!”
Thing I Won’t Miss
Construction outside my window
Apparently 7:30-8am is an appropriate time to start repairing the roof, scaffolding is much more important than residents having access to their stairs, and placing a ladder directly in front of the door to someone’s flat is the best place to gain access to your project (instead of one meter to the right, in front of the window). I know I’m in a college dorm, but the intrusiveness of this ongoing roof replacement project is definitely something I will not miss.
Hanging my clothes to dry
I try not to do this often, but please indulge me (and forgive me) while I sound like a spoiled, first-world brat. I want to put my clothes into a machine and have them be dry in 60 minutes. I want the lint removed and the wrinkles out. Nothing makes you appreciate what you have like living without it for a few months.
Hand washing dishes
Same thread as above. I thought I was against leaving dishes in the sink. Turns out, I’m only against leaving dishes in the sink if you have the option to leave them in the dishwasher.
Being a foreigner
I love traveling, and I plan to do a lot more of it, but it really wears on me to be the foreigner. There’s nothing that makes you appreciate your native language like being submerged in the perpetual challenge of being forced to get along without it. Sometimes it’s a fun game (“Ok, a means b and c means d so ac probably means bd?) but a lot of times it’s frustrating (That sign is very clearly trying to tell me something important. Maybe it’s saying No Entrance? Should I enter anyway? It looks inviting. Maybe it means that entrance is allowed? What happens if it means No Entrance?). When I returned from Mexico last October, I started laughing when the poor, unsuspecting greeter at customs welcomed me to the United States just because I was so happy to hear English (and this was after I had one of the best weeks in my life practicing Spanish with a group of people that I came to absolutely adore). It’s also exhausting to be challenged with explaining the way people think in your country. I don’t know why we’re stuck in a bipartisan mindset, I don’t really understand why we need social studies as a prerequisite for vet school, I don’t know why we get so involved in other countries’ wars, and I, too, think it’s strange that teachers get so little respect. I can’t explain these things to you, Dutch person, I don’t understand them myself.
Well, in case you didn’t do the math, the Miss list definitely wins. I will certainly be happy to return to my own country, but I am also incredibly grateful for the opportunity to spend the summer abroad. No worries Europe, I’m sure I’ll be back soon 🙂 Tot ziens!