My life as a young teenager in the Netherlands was pretty fantastic and I think I took it for granted. I love that the speed of life travelled as fast as the bikes and the society was carefree and fun. I look back at the five years I spent in the Netherlands and smile with nostalgia.
As you probably know, bikes are the preferred mode of transport for the Dutch. They ride bikes like the Americans drive cars. Their baskets on the front of their bikes are filled with groceries or sometimes there is a baby inside the basket. I definitely assimilated to this part of the culture. Every morning I would wait outside my house until I saw my friends cruising towards me on the bike path. I would jump on my bike and join them. It was a great time before school filled with laughter. We would congregate at the school gates and join our friends who also rode to school. Besides school I would still ride my bike everywhere, even to the beach or the closest city.
I actually didn’t go to a Dutch school. My school was a part of the European school system. I would arrive at school around 8:50 am and go to class at 9:00 am. That’s a pretty good time to start compared to American schools, which start about an hour earlier. In the morning we would have a few 45 minute classes and then take a 15 minute break. After the break we would have a couple more classes until lunch. During lunch we had a lot of freedom. We could stay and eat, play outside or even leave school. Often I would leave school with my friends and we would ride our bikes to town. In town we would normally go to the Albert Heijn and buy some snacks or gets fries at Bello. Then we’d ride back to school just in time for our classes. If you had a free period you could also leave school. It was a pretty loose schedule compared to many schools around the world and I love the fact that we could be free. I took all that for granted.
Sometimes after school and on the weekends my friends and I would gather in groups and go to the cinema or the beach at Bergen Aan Zee. We would have a great time either sitting in front of a big screen or playing soccer on the sand. Besides hanging out in big groups, we would travel to our friends houses to play Fifa or eat food from their home country. Our social lives were filled because there was plenty of opportunities to hang out with friends in school and out. Now my friends lives have changed a little though. They have more responsibilities with school, but they choose to party more on the weekends.
I really do miss this life, but I believe this change has been essential to my development. The lifestyle difference between Americans and dutch teenagers may seem minimal, but I can assure you that it is a big difference. The dutch ride their bikes everywhere, have a flexible school system, and a packed social life. I miss the Netherlands and my friends and I can’t wait to go back in about three weeks. My friends lives might be very different during their last school year or I might find it very similar to old times.
Have you ever lived in another country? What are the main cultural differences? Tell us in the comments. I’ll see you in the next post.
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Learn more about dutch life with: Why The Dutch Are Different: A Journey into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands.
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