How I planned going to Italy but ended up in Holland
This article is inspired by the story of Emily Perl Kingsley “Welcome to Holland”, who brilliantly described the experience of raising a child with a disability using the allegory of Italy and Holland. It totally echoed with my actual dilemma of wanting to live in Italy, but finding myself living in Holland.
Imagine, that you are planning a fabulous trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Vatikan. The gondolas in Venice, the Pizza tower. You even learn some handy phrases in Italian.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland!”
“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy!
Well, very often our dreams and expectations are not meant to come true. Life prepares a totally different scenario for us. And we usually have two choices: to regret and to blame ourselves or others, or to accept and to look at it from a positive perspective.
I never thought I would marry an Italian, I never dreamt of going to Italy until the day I visited the country for the first time. I fell in love with its beauty, easiness, hospitable people, delicious food, unbelievable cities, atmosphere of tranquility and enjoyment. I thought to myself: “That is the place I want to live! That is the place I fell like home!” By the way, Italians and Moldovans have lots in common. When Marco’s family comes together it is as noisy, joyful and chaotic as my family. They can sit hours at a table full of food talking to each other simultaneously, eating a lot. With the only exception- they drink way much less then Moldovans.
Wow! I’m so lucky! While so many people dream of Italy, spend lots of money on visiting this country, I won a lottery ticket – an Italian husband! Things simply couldn’t be better!
But while dreaming about perfect life in Italy, my life took a totally different turn which brought us to Netherlands.
Netherlands is the total opposite of Italy. It’s slower paced than Italy and less noisy. It’s humid, cold, windy and not sunny. People are self absorbed and busy. Scenery is boring – no mountains, no forests, no hills, only plains and cold dark North Sea. This country reminded me of a pancake – perfectly flat and always tasting the same. That is how I saw Holland when first visited it in January 2014. Marco had a job offer and we came to meet the employers and see the place. We stayed one week in Almere (not the most marvelous city in the Netherlands). Disregarding the weird architecture, it was frightfully empty. It seemed that sharp at 6 in the evening somebody with a huge broom came and swiped all the people away. In those six days I fell into a real depression! Moving here was excluded! No way! Even if Marco loves the job offer, even if they offer higher salary, even if it’s clean and organized! No way! Never! Over my dead body!
Now, imagine the shock of the employers, when after staying one week, meeting and talking, discussing the working conditions, negotiating the salary, we finally said: No! Thank you! They probably thought we were the biggest weirdo’s they’ve ever met!
But! Never say never! After a month, due to a number of circumstances we changed our plans and said YES to the new job, to the new country and to the new life in the kingdom of the Netherlands!
I thought to myself: “Life gives you an opportunity, take it and try to make the best of it. And I tried. In June 2014 we moved to the Netherlands – two sons, a cat and me! Marco was already waiting for us!
This time I came to Holland with a totally different attitude. I was ready to look at it from positive perspective. It was summer. Everything was green and in blossom. We started discovering the country, visiting beautiful cities and places. I even started loving Almere. It is very green and cozy, the living area is just great, with small houses and lanes, canals and ducks. We enjoy cycling, when it isn’t coupled with wind and rain. But most of all I like Duch people. They appeared to be very simple, modest, friendly, open-minded and perseverant.
Once my kids and I were going to visit new friends in Almere. In the middle of our bicycle trip it started raining with one of those marvelous shower rains. We took refuge under the nearest bridge and waited till the rain stopped. While waiting we suddenly saw an old lady, probably in her 80-s all covered with black rain coat, so that we could see only her eyes, nose and chin, the wind was blowing her raincoat, creating the effect of the wings. She moved through the storm with astonishing determination! She looked unstoppable! Suddenly my younger son exclaimed: Mama. I know who she is! She is the Batman’s granny! In that moment I’ve realized that the resistance and perseverance of Dutch people is something to strive for!
And maybe I will never be like this elderly woman in my 80-s, may be I will never eat “brotje kaas” with a bottle of milk for lunch, maybe I will never put on shorts and T-shirt as soon as I see some son (even if its April), maybe I will never manage to eat dinner sharp at 18.00, most probably I will never agree to take Paracetamol as the panacea for all diseases in the world, and most probably I will never ever become Dutch …
BUT! I will definitely enjoy the very special, very lovely things about Holland: the tulip fields, the wind mills, delicious cheese, the masterpieces of Rembrandt and Van Gogh, the warmth, not of the weather, but of the Dutch people.
Ik hoop dat onze leven in Nederland gelukkig, leuk en gezellig zal zijn! Hartelijk bedankt!