After almost two weeks, I got to go to Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam, and Utrecht. My words to describe this country include positively weird, sketchy, friendly, easy, developed, and overall wonderful.
Weird because of many things: in Amsterdam buildings are crooked, if you look upwards, is seems as though the building was tilted toward you. As if it was trying to peak over you, or as if it would eventually, with rain and time fall on you. This, in time, is a reason why Holland is friendly, the crooked buildings are done that way to protect the walking people from the rain.
Sketchy because of its very misty weather. As I walked around The Hague my clothes would just start dripping water because of the rain that came and left, came and left. Dark clouds filled the sky and me with uncertainty, would it rain or not? The sun would start to go down at around 5 pm, causing the city to seem asleep waaaay too early. Every day was way too short, because at 17:00 it already seemed as if it was 21:00.
Sketchy also, because returning home after going out with Joanna in Rotterdam with her bike, a guy started following us in his bike. Joanna warned me “don’t look at him, just say no, he wants to sell us a stolen bike”. And, he says, “good bike, good bike… You can try it if you want,” we say, “no thanks,” he continues, “good bike good bike.” As we continued to stroll he continued to follow and said “I can fuck you in your pussy, I can lick your pussy if you want, I can do it very well” disgusted, and creeped out, Joanna just pedaled faster, till he turned back. The next day we went to a bar and as we left, the same drugged man was there, telling us exactly the same thing. Angrily Joanna asked him to please go away or she’d call the police.
Holland is #4 in the HDI ranking if I’m not mistaken, and because of all of the good things said about how developed it is I felt really secure throughout my whole stay there. Houses and apartments don’t need fences, people leave their bikes sometimes without even locking them (I wouldn’t do it coming from Chile jaja), at the supermarkets there’s lots of trust, and police cars are not covered with protection as the ones in Chile are. This in mind, when the man came to us I was not scared that he would do us something (maybe I take the term developed too literal) rather, I felt extremely disgusted by what he told us.
Although I consider myself very empathic, in this situation I did not even feel pity for him. He was drugged, thus I could infer that he’d use the money to buy more drugs, and he had disrespected us with language, disgusting phrases. Joanna is the definition of empathy and understanding and opened up the topic that maybe he wasn’t so bad.
Magically, writing about this has given me a stomach twirl, he is probably not a bad guy. Circumstances.
My belief is that when you are in harmony with yourself, you become in harmony with others. Everyone has the capacity to do this. Each time this thought is more solid in my head, so I am surprised by events like this more.
Another positively weird thing about Holland is that christmast is not celebrated the same way. In the first place, Santa arrives to the city around the 14th of November. Secondly, he comes in his horse, from Madrid.
Holland is an incredibly friendly country, both because of its infrastructure and its people.
The sense I got is that Dutch are an extremely polite group of people. They are extremely helpful, seem to know what they are doing, and know what to eat. At many points I found myself in need of directions. For instance, when arriving to Utrecht, I asked a Dutch in the bus stop how to get to my destiny. He stood up, showed me the map, and helped me buy my ticket, saying goodnight and goodluck after I thanked him and said the same. Each time I asked for directions, they’d be as clear as possible, and because they know where they are standing, no one ever told me they didn’t know where the place I asked was.
What I had read in the internet was 100% true: in Holland, English can also get you anywhere. When I come to think about it, there’s so much contrast between this country and most of the ones I’ve been to. In Chile, when you go to the supermarket, you never hear a casheer speaking a language other than Spanish, or for that matter, any clients speaking other languages (except maybe 1/10 times you go). Here, as soon as you said Hi, the casheer, or anyone working there would switch their language. This is another reason why Dutchland is a friendly place, and an easy one to be at.
Although I’ve touched on points describing the development level of the country, I need to expand. To learn about sustainable methods, Holland’s streets have loads to teach. What I’m about to say is not based on statistics or any research, just what I saw.
It is not uncommon to see people with electric cars charging their batteries for free in the parkings exclusively for electric cars. I learned that taxis are all electric. This demonstrates the visionary mindset people have here. They are actually worried of the environment or they think in the longterm. It’s expensive to obtain one of these cars, but in the long run if you add all costs, just because of gasoline it is worth it. This also depicts how effective, necessary eco-friendly measures can be encouraged. For instance, for people who have these cars, there are exclusive parking spaces.
Then, come the windmills for aeolic energy. As I stroll through Holland to reach Antwerp I can see through the window the numerous, monumental mills, put across grass.
And, most obviously: bikes. Bikes are everywhere. I would say the majority of people living in The Netherlands use them as their means of transportation. You never go through a street without seeing some parked in front of a house, or people riding them. Bikes even have a back seat for passengers like me. Through Rotterdam I moved thanks to the backsit of Joanna’s bike, sometimes her bike or Gaby’s and often by foot. This is another way Holland proves to be extremely sustainable. Even less CO2 is emited because of this. Plus, my theory is that since people bike everywhere it’s hard to see obese people (i saw none), thus it’s not just sustainable, but it is healthy for the people. This works so well because bike lanes exist everywhere and everyone knows the rules. Bikes are treated as a vehicle, thus you can get tickets for not turning on your lights or missing a red light. Holland’s plus is that geographically it is pretty plain, therefore it is not hard to bike.
Some extras: when you go to the supermarket they ask if you want your receed, most people don’t, thus saving thousands of pieces of paper. Holland proves it is possible to enforce a “no plastic bag” supermarket. People frequently come with backpacks to put all their groceries in them. To get a bag you must pay, and thus nobody uses them.
Furthermore, at least in the four cities I visited, the transportation system is practical and accesible. Trams and buses are common, and to travel between cities, the train gets you anywhere in a matter of minutes. Although, I must say, the tram is not cheap (3.50€) if you’re not Dutch, or if you are a tourist with no OV chip card, or you forgot to charge it. This system makes it even easier to live without a car.
Holland proved to me several traits a developed country must have.
To encourage education, worthwhile education, they give students the option of traveling around Holland or their city by train, bus, or tram for free either on week days or on weekend days. This is done to encourage the Dutch to study what they want, as transportation isn’t a barrier. For example, Anna is from Alkmaar but she studies in The Hague because her career is only offered there. For a year she lived in Alkmaar, and took the train everyday to The Hague to study. Now she lives in the Hague and takes the train when she feels like it or needs it to visit her family and friends, or give tours to visiting friends like me. Education is a huge factor of development, and Anna is proof that the Dutch know it. Apart from facilitating the aquisition of an education through transportation, the government subsidizes it, allowing it to be even more reachable by making it less expensive.
When walking or biking through cities I often saw offices with people working inside. These offices struck me because in them there was a huge table with a computer for each person. In Chile I’ve seen this type of office in one place only. What I like about it is that it is open for the workers to interact, seems fresh, and doesn’t give the feeling of routine. This is my perception, but I feel this allows people get a greater feeling of satisfaction in their job, eliminating tediousness.
An important and controversial aspect to their development, in my opinion, is that they’ve legalized Marihuana and prostitution. Since they’re legal, crimes related to them are close to inexistant. Since prostitution is legal, prostitutes probably face less dangers, as those dangers that come along with pimps are less. And for the people who think Holland is full of stoners, note that most people who smoke weed are tourists. Tourists, not the Dutch, give Holland the fame for its legal weed
Overall, the Dutch know how to eat yummy (stroop waffles, fries with melted peanut butter sauce…), they DO know how to dance, they know the way, and really deserve to have their nation be called developed.
Without a doubt, we, people from undeveloped, and developing countries must take Holland as an example for our own progress, and Holland must keep up their innovations and practices.