Here comes the rain again. While it’s falling on my head and in my face and all over the place.. like a tragedy…. as Annie Lenox would say, I keep reminding myself how fabulous it is to live in Amsterdam. It’s my battle strategy.
The kids are back to school, leaving in the dark with umbrella in hand, darning coats, then coats and scarves, then add hats and finally gloves, all in the span of a week. My dogs are dragging in the mud, dead leaves and that unmistakable aroma of “wet dog” from outside. And I have turned on the heat. Fall is here.
Heading out in the Dam these days, I continually battle with myself trying to decide if I want to bike and brave the elements or deal with the tram. Which option will be least troublesome? Pedaling against the wind and driving rain and getting chilled and wet, then trying to find a place to kickstand and lock it up, or squishing into a packed tram weaving in and out of other trammers through a sea of wet backpacks? Both equally unattractive. Nine times out of ten, I opt for the tram.
Waterproofing is key here, just ask my landlord who’s had to hire workmen this month to inject our rental’s basement walls and floor with some kind of chemical to keep out the ground water. The Dutch are experts at rerouting water, even inside their homes.
After living here a year, I now own three pairs of waterproof boots, two waterproof jackets, have lost and replaced at least 6 umbrellas, have many more scarves and hats and need a new pair of gloves pronto! If I don’t get them as soon as they hit the stores, I know they’ll be gone in a week. I think I’m turning Dutch, although that can’t be because true Dutchies don’t fret about biking in the rain.
An impressive quality of the Dutch, in addition to their ingenuity and astounding resilience, is patience. Americans, on the other hand, like myself, not so patient. The Dutch don’t seem to get upset, slightly annoyed or even bothered if they have to wait in a really long line anywhere. Even in the rain. Is this socialism? Is it outstanding self-control? Or is it that the Dutch are simply unfazed by bad weather?
Yesterday waiting at the tram stop as I tried to point my umbrella in the direction of oncoming gusts of wind and rain, I was tapped on the shoulder by an American. “Excuse me, do you know which direction is Dam Square?” “This is the right direction,” I answer. Then she stared down the tracks and asked “How long do these trams usually take?” I sensed her impatience, heightened by the typical inconvenient Dutch weather and her non-waterproof attire, and replied without thinking “Not long, it should be here any minute.” Was that true? No. A good ten minutes later as the tram arrived, I watched my compatriot pushing her way to the front of the little crowd as the tram stopped. Her behavior screamed “American.” It was at that point I moved down to the other set of opening doors with the more patient crew of Dutchies.
The frequency of rain in the Dam is a recurring inconvenience that forces one to approach outdoor excursions with a kind of battle strategy. You can’t let it defeat you. You must get out, keep your appointments, rethink that walk through the Vondelpark or to the Nine Streets. Chances are there will be breaks in the rain with short intervals of sun. Maybe even a rainbow. Seize those moments! The Dutch must have this ingrained in their psyche. For expats, this ingraining takes time. My advice to those who’ve just arrived – as my mother who was not Dutch, used to say – “It’s not bad weather, it’s just bad clothing. Now get outside!”