Moving to The Netherlands as expats for the second time has been much easier than the first, thankfully. We arrived in Amsterdam in mid-August just before school started for our teenage daughter. We moved to a country we lived in previously, even if it was 20 years ago. And we moved to a country that loves the potato. As much as the Americans do. As much as the Irish do. As much as the French do.
The Dutch must have the best fritjes (french fries) outside of Paris. They are delicious. No matter where you order them, they come hot, salted, a teensy bit on the dark side, but not overdone and most importantly, they aren’t greasy. And they come with mayonnaise. We Americans have ketchup, the Irish have vinegar, the French have mustard and the Dutchies have mayo. I love the mayo. Everyone is happy and content when the potatoes arrive. This is one constant and comfort we seem to be clinging to in our new life here. The potato. And the potato is clinging to me, unfortuantely.
As a middle aged mom who dropped my first born off at college back in the US a little over a week ago and then hopped on an international flight to Schipol with a 7th grader, two dogs and husband in tow, plus seven bags that cost $700 in extra baggage fees, I feel pretty stretched. Not only with dollars. Stretched with lists miles long in my head, with grief of missing my son back in the US, with inner pangs missing my family and friends I so wish I could have packed and taken with me, all with the effort of taking in another culture again, another regimen of life and trying to speak rusty Dutch to locals who only want to speak English. At least I can read it, sort of…
Moving and setting up house is fun in some ways, and trying in others. Packing took weeks. Unpacking took two days. Learning how to use new appliances in another language, where to take out the garbage and recycling and how to use public transport without a chip card, or purchase anything without a local bank account yet, is beyond frustrating. Then settling my daughter into a new and very large international school comes with its own set of emotions. And trying to enjoy this new cool Euro lifestyle all at once is challenging.
Luckily, no matter where I am in this city, I can sit at a local nearby cafe and order a beirtje (small draft beer) and a side of fritjes. Maybe an order of bitterballen too. As I dip my fritjes into that yummy Dutch mayonnaise, all stress leaves and I feel comforted in sharing the same fondness the Dutch have with the potato. There is that connection of two worlds colliding through the vegetable we are all grateful someone decided to first throw in a fryer.
As I take in my first week of living in Amsterdam I am pretty proud of myself. I haven’t fallen apart, I suffered through a week without a local bank card, (more on that later), without TV, radio or a constant stream of subscription mags. I’ve embraced my new normal. I confess, it helps that I packed every thing I knew I would need to make our lives here just a little easier and feel more like home. Even though my husband was like “we have 20 boxes for one year here?” he does appreciate the ziplocs, the Reynolds wrap, the Splenda, the picture frames and books that remind of us of who we are, or once were. Because after living here already just one week in, I feel changed. We will return at some point to the US different, but still, I hope, with the same fondness for that old potato. And for me, a gym membership.