For my last article I chose to write it from the airport. “Chose” being the operative word, as I was too busy travelling and writing essays and rushing to the airport to do it before hand – oops.
For my last piece, I thought it’d be cool to share a few things about the Netherlands and Europe in general. Firstly, I’m really going to miss the Schengen zone and just the general ease of travelling in the EU – if you’re reading this from Europe, then make the most of it! In my time away, I visited 21 countries and several more cities. Truly, a once in a lifetime experience.
Also, because I’ve never clarified this, but there is in fact a difference between Holland and the Netherlands. North Holland is a province, which includes the city of Amsterdam. The Netherlands is a union of several provinces, including South and North Holland, which together form a country. Essentially, it would be like saying Victoria is the same as Australia – it’s just not. Having said that, despite their reputation for getting offended about calling it ‘Holland’, they all in fact just say Holland, because let’s face it – the Netherlands is a mouthful.
I’m also really going to miss my classic story-book looking bike, but I know it’s gone to a good home. The whole biking culture of the Netherlands has been fantastic, and I can proudly say I’ve ridden through strong winds, snow storms and even the occasional patch of sunshine. And just the sheer number of bikes and cyclists! I’ve gotten so used to riding without a helmet (because only tourists wear a helmet in the Netherlands), I’m pretty sure I’ll forget in Canberra.
Another fun thing has been the monthly alarm, the Waarschuwingsstelsel, somewhat reminiscent of those used during the Blitz or for a tornado – if you hear it not on the first Monday of the month, then you’re in trouble. It hasn’t happened since it started a few decades ago, so it’s not all bad.
Although Australia has some fantastic animals (including the kangaroos we ride to school and the terrifying drop bears out in the bush), Europe has history on its side. I’m going to miss buildings that are a casual 800+ years old. Utrecht is in fact much older than Amsterdam.
The Dutch people are just incredible. They have a reputation for being quite direct and pragmatic, a statement I’d have to say is both true and not a bad thing. They all speak great English, even if they’re being modest and say that they’re terrible.
I am sad to leave. I’ve rooted myself firmly into the newly established Utrecht Netball Club and have met some truly great people everywhere I went – whether at netball, or in class, or in some other manner. At the same time of course, I am quite excited to be going home. I’ve managed to fit my life into a (slightly overweight) suitcase or two and am on my way home to a glorious summer. Though my exchange may be over, and I now hand the story-telling baton onto another bright-eyed Aussie, I know one day I’ll go back, at least for a quick visit!