There’s nothing I love more than sharing my travel stories, especially those about my travel in The Netherlands. Where does one get the desire to learn such a rough language, or even consider living in a place 3,700 miles from home? Call it orange fever, but part of this European discovery and my conquest to travel includes hopefully calling these low-lands my future home.
In any self discovery, through travel or internally, you realize your needs, wants and must have’s for a place or other people. This is the theme for Boekennacht; Book Night in Amsterdam where I will speak tonight: April 15th, 2011.
The theme of this year’s Boekennacht is “De Ontdekking” or “The Discovery”. It promises be an exciting and varied evening of books and book lovers with a wide array of authors, literary events and presentations in the participating book stores, cultural institutions, and cafés on and around the Spui.
All the participating venues have crafted their own program, making the theme their own. One can discover, poetry, music, art, evil, The Netherlands, Amsterdam, love, food, a theory, a calling and last but not least a great new author or a book!
I’m fortunate enough to be making a 25-minute presentation about the very topic. The composition is a personal recollection with a mixture of previous articles. I’ve decided to post it on Art of Backpacking so everyone can understand how I got orange fever.
The following is my presentation which will be read live in Amsterdam at the ABC Bookstore.
My name is Teresa Gotay and I’ve got orange fever.
Born and raised in New York City, the Big Apple, The City that never sleeps, the city with too many nicknames. So what would move and shake a native New Yorker to seek beyond tall buildings, 24 hour metro service and a lifelong comfort zone? And how did I end up with orange fever? Fate? Serendipity? A loss of self? How about, all of the above.
I’ve been traveling on and off for three years now; spending 5 months in South America in 2010 backpacking; a term familiar to the world beyond my home country of America. Luckily, my parents understand my travel habits, but did not expect it after years of having a curfew of 4pm. Because of this, my wanderlust grew and I wanted to see more. Both of my parents don’t even have passports, so I was the first in my immediate family to travel. My first trip to Europe was at the age of 16; thanks to a fund raising program, I sold $500 of chocolate towards this trip that would change my life. (Yes, I was once that girl who sold chocolate on the subway.)
Call me the life-long advocate of the travel diet; Everyone needs a little bit of travel in their life to have truly lived. During my University studies, frustrations with college loans, endless late night hangovers and a lack of gusto in my life made me take what I call now a “Life Sabbatical” It was in the middle of this trip backpacking where I hit rock bottom; lost a toxic relationship, my writing mojo, an adventurous spirit burned out by the Peruvian sun.
All I could do was look up. I had to; it was at this moment where I met my first Dutch person.
And like the beautiful tulips that takes time to develop and blossom, so did our friendship and now love. I have him to thank for moving and shaking my life up and reawakening my European spirit and introducing me to a little country I’d soon like to call home.
After my first visit to this country last year, I immediately felt my orange crush take over. I fell in love with stroopwafels, the high speed rails, Albert Heijn supermarkets; it was a contagious lifestyle! But, now that I’ve been here a bit longer, there are always good and bad things about a place.
I’ll be reading an article from my Travel Website: Art of Backpacking entitled: 20 things the Dutch are known for besides legal marijuana, clogs and cheese. But, I won’t say all 20, and it is an updated version: I’ll share 5 things I enjoy, and 5 things I just can’t get used to.
5 Positive Aspects
Small, but big cities/villages
They say opposites attract; you always yearn for an opposing view. After years of falling asleep to NYC car alarms and waking up to sardine filled subway cars, a little peace, quiet and space is needed. You think Rotterdam and Amsterdam are overcrowded cities? Try NYC during high season, which is all the time! It took me a day to fall in love with Leiden, which I called in a previous article a 20-something city. I’m surrounded by cobblestone streets, international youth expats, yet, I am still living the Dutch life.
Upon the completion of my New York studies this year, I will be hopefully attending Leiden University for my Master’s program.
A beautiful sailing community
Often do I tell my friends back home to travel beyond the beautiful capital of Amsterdam. Head over North to Friesland for some amazing sailing. Pictures speak louder than words. During a 3 day sailing weekend; I had a lot of fun in the sailing towns where communities party the Dutch way. The trip itself was extremely exciting for a girl that commits a Dutch sin: Not being able to swim.
A fantastic coffee ritual
As a New Yorker who loves her “cawww-feeeee”, I can find myself loving the Dutch and their appreciation of a coffee break. I’m told coffee time is between 10am and 12 noon. It’s important to take a break, have some coffee and light conversation to break up a monotonous day. I am trying to keep this in my lifestyle; as I am typically writing long articles for a long period of time without a break.
Throwing one crazy birthday party
Apparently, there’s a really big party going on next week? Great timing to mention how I deliberately extended my trip to make sure Id be in town for Queensday. Orange madness seems to be something I have to experience to understand it and I cannot wait.
The phenomenon even goes as far back as NYC; a good friend of mine who organizes monthly borrels for the Dutch American expats hosts the biggest party outside of Amsterdam. You Dutchies are just everywhere!
Have a wonderful attitude about life
“Gezelligheid kent geen tijd” (Cosiness doesn’t have time.) is a life attitude I plan to take with me forever. It means a multitude of things: cosiness, fun, being in a nice atmosphere, spending time with loved ones or general social happiness.
For me, it is the definition of Dutch culture. I wouldn’t have been able to travel so long all over the country without the huge generosity of the people I met on my trip in South America. The Dutch are everywhere. (Just look up) and if you see one, say hello and I’m sure they will end up being great company. I’m enamored with the culture, the people, the lifestyle and so many things and can only hope more people can realize this country is more than meets the eye.
5 negative aspects
Having a blunt, no nonsense attitude:
This can probably stem from having a hard work ethic; but I am told by expats and the Dutch that they are as straightforward as my hair. (After blow drying it that is.) Is it being direct or just plain rude? Don’t confuse arrogance with demeanor; it’s just the way you guys are. Facts are facts and don’t be surprised if a Dutchie wants to correct you. Don’t be extra surprised if you get the silent treatment if you’ve corrected one.
This is known as the Dutch negotiation structure: lengthy negotiations to come up with a solution that satisfies all parties. You can write an entire thesis about this method, but it comes down to this.
Consensus decision-making, which are supposedly typically Dutch is seen in everyday life from political decisions to what to make for dinner. Perhaps that is why my Dutch boyfriend always and I can take a while to decide on what to make for dinner. (Spanish or Italian? Spatalian it is!)
Doesn’t have a reliable weather pattern
Rain rain, go away, come again… in 5 months or so. I wouldn’t like to be a weather forecasters in The Netherlands. My experience was evident: It’s hard to predict the weather. Storms over the North Sea, which is right next to the country, are often powerful and unpredictable.
This means if the weather says there is a 30% chance of rain, it might be an all day pour, it could rain for 5 minutes and end up ridiculously sunny, or it could be a 30% chance of rain. The best thing to do is to pack EVERYTHING clothes wise when you visit.
Shopping centers closing when?
After a long day of writing, I find myself strolling down to Beurs station to unwind and fill my shopaholic needs. Unfortunately, you cannot shop till you drop at later hours when shops seem to close by dinner time. And if you find yourself trying to buy a sweater at H&M at 5:45pm with one cashier register and a line full of women, you’ll find yourself unhappy with your favorite past time.
When can a girl shop in The Netherlands? Seriously, someone let me know…
Spreekt u Nederlands?
Nee. Nee. Perhaps every Dutchie-in-training goes through the frustrations of learning a new language, but any English speaker learning Dutch will easily find that they don’t make certain sounds.
Don’t ask me to say the following words in Dutch:
- truck (vrachtwagen)
- egg (ei)
- onion (ui)
- canal (gracht)
- that beach near The Hague. (Scheveningen)
Stay tuned for my next article: 10 words I can’t say in Dutch unless I have a cold.
I’m passionate and dedicated to learning the language, but you’d better believe I have every Prisma, Rosetta Stone and Pilsner language learning book.
Discovering New York
For now, I’m at the brink of trading my red, white and blue for orange… wait… your flag has those colors as well. Until then, I’m a native New Yorker which will always be my home. It is where my entire family is rooted.
I’m surrounded by diversity all around me; which is maybe why I’m drawn to Rotterdam in particular.. tell people to visit my neighborhood- Spanish Harlem; founded by the Dutch, inhabited by the Italians, Puerto Ricans and now is a melting pot for everyone. If you find yourself here, know that this is where Central Park starts, where you can find cheap and homemade Spanish food and even The Museum of The City of NY, which people often forget is here.
The best way to explore NYC is to get lost and be ready for anything and everything to happen during your time there. Stay with locals who will give you THEIR version of NYC; a flavor of the city no Lonely Planet Guide will put a price on.
Luckily, the Euro is killing our U.S. Dollar so shop till you drop! Stores close around 9pm! Every night, there is something to do in the city; especially in the happy hour culture. Don’t pay more than $6 for a cocktail; I have a great article about Happy Hour culture in NYC.
So bring an empty stomach, a clean liver and leave your Senseo coffee machine at home; I promise, there is plenty of coffee in NYC for coffee breaks!