Expat zone
Posted on: Sep 12, 2014

Culture shock in the Netherlands

Johnnys Garage

This post is also available in Greek

And how you could avoid it when your first day in this new country can be certainly called “incomprehensible”? Frankly, I don’t know if there are any other words to describe what I experienced.

How cool you can be when you have been trying for hours (more specifically from the moment you landed in Dusseldorf) to cross the borders between Germany and the Netherlands and finally you succeeded to reach your final destination after 6 hours?

Delays, stops in train stations with unknown or incomprehensible names – in both German and Dutch, continuous questions to everyone you will find standing next to you and seems a bit trustworthy, ongoing transfers from one train to another, carrying stuff that only a donkey can carry and all these experiences lasted for more than 6 hours! Three Greeks, two females and one male who met in the airport were in search for something familiar in this unknown land and a good company to pass in the Netherlands (fortunately or not in some cases a good company should speak the same language with you if you want to avoid feeling endlessly alone in this world!), which passing took more than 6 hours and cοnsumed most of our personal mental strength.

By our arrival in our destination we thought that we would feel calm and everything complicated had finished. However, we kept receiving new information and experiencing unexpected situations – and of course not always pleasant!

First shock: Staying in a two-floor house – haven’t done it before!

Second shock: Having housemates from different places of this planet – also haven’t done it before!

Third shock: After 7 o’clock in the evening you cannot go out and find easily something to eat. Everything seems closed – from restaurants to stores that you can buy sandwiches. By luck me and my Greek housemate found a super-market on our way – for our first and basic shopping – and during the next minutes we found a Dutch – really weird! – “gyros-place” which actually serves kebab. And I was feeling so hungry that I was thinking “I will eat from this kebab even if I will go later to the hospital!”.

And then I tried to figure out what the hell from all these things that are served in this kebab restaurant could be easily eaten without a significant risk. And finally we ended up ordering pork and chicken kebab. And yes, it looks like gyros but it is kind of tasteless and not so much qualitative – although the really kind employees of this restaurant tried to make it good!

And none of the usual salads which are combined with meat exist – and I should not mention anything regarding fries! Some lettuce and some pieces of tomato were included in this – kind of again! - Arabic pie. The worst of all happened in the end! They asked us what kind of sauce we wanted in our sandwiches and from all the strange things in front of us we chose the tzatziki sauce – yes, they claimed that they had tzatziki in their restaurant! And what they have done? They brought the tzatziki next to our sandwich! Attention: NOT INSIDE the sandwich, but next to it in a small bowl with a tiny spoon for each of us. Almost automatically I wanted to ask why they violently isolated tzatziki from the rest sandwich! But the next moment I just didn’t want to ask anything more. My hunger was so strong that I thought to put tzatziki on the top of the sandwich – Like it was salt or pepper – since I already paid it!

At some point later, one of the talented “cookers” asked the “dangerous” question: “Where are you from?” and after our answer, he just continued doing his job, like he never asked, like we never answered. Hey, you blond human being have you ever thought that you work in the Netherlands and you sell kebab, gyros, souvlaki, tzatziki sauce or whatever they are – and not inside, but outside sandwiches! – because some people somewhere started cooking them first? And then a lot of people “woke up” in many countries (this country included) and started opening restaurants! (Yes, I know, sometimes I just cannot help my nationalism but sometimes I just feel so “Greek”!).

And my housemate started wondering from which country/countries all these people could come from – since except the blond one that pissed me off all the rest were brunets. I thought – without of course having any will to be informed about it – that they could be Turkish, Arabs, Syrians or anything else unpredictable. But for sure, they couldn’t be Greeks! No Greek, even the biggest asshole, would have left tzatziki out of the sandwich! End of this conversation!

The idea of going back to our place was considered like an oasis after lots of hours walk in the desert despite the fact that in the whole returning route we were passing huge wonderful houses with big windows (God, how enormously wide are windows here! They could actually constitute a whole wall on a side of a house! That’s why Dutch don’t give birth to many children! – naughty laugh here! For whoever understood the comment!

All the houses are like doll-houses: beautiful gardens, cute bicycles, small statues and fountains with running water! And all of them so beautiful but right now so non interesting! My only wish is to reach my new house and go directly to my room and speak digitally with someone familiar who can relax me – because it was impossible to relax by myself!

And after the chats and since it was too late and I was feeling really sleepy I decided – since I was calm now – to go to bed after this full day (yes, this is what you can call a full day!). But after two hours of sleep I suddenly woke up with a really bad mood and with close symptoms to a panic attack! I ran to the next room, I woke up my housemate – she already started enjoying our cohabitation! – and despite the fact that she was still half asleep she tried to make a maniac – yes that was me! – feel calm and better in some way. For some minutes I kept asking her if we will make it staying a year in this country with this weather and the existing conditions, far from Greece and everything we knew.

As our old ones say “pain which is shared, it is cut in two pieces”, so my sleepy housemate succeeded after ten minutes to make me feel more tranquil and convinced me to go to my room and try to sleep again. My trial started with me full of doubt that I will manage to sleep. Finally, it was successful with the help of some music it was going deep into my ears. The result was more than positive – if you think what happened previously – and I woke up really refreshed and for sure in better mood! Some talk with my beloved ones in Greece and few good jokes with my housemate were enough to make me start looking for what clothes I am going to wear to go for my first true shopping in Maastricht – after this post that I am writing right now.

Panic / stress or whatever attack was last night and as I will be getting used to live here, it will seem a more and more old moment. Sun is really shining today and comes directly into my room. Stop writing, stop negative thoughts! I am going out to the Dutch sun!

Harmonia Coaching

I am a psychologist who loves travelling, reading books, listening to music, watching movies and theatre, tasting different cuisines but especially writing (almost about anything) when I don’t coach and I don’t read stuff regarding Psychology. I am passionate and I always tell the truth. By the age of 50 I will be an owner of a bookshop (I hate e-readers!) and I will have a small house with a big garden in Chalkidiki!

Read more by me at:
Tis fanis tis fanike oraio
Harmonia Coaching
Ms Psyche blog