Expect The Unexpected

December 15, 2017
  The 16th of June 2017 was an important date for me, not just because I had a plane to catch to Amsterdam from Kuala Lumpur, but it is also the date when I moved to the Netherlands for good.

Unfriendly country?

Collage of photosI had mixed expectations before I moved here. I still remember, Forbes Magazine used to rate the Netherlands among the ‘most unfriendly’ countries in the world. I guess, that could be the reason why my visa application process took “forever” to be approved. For this reason, I expected to be treated differently when I arrived in Den Haag. I was wrong. Instead, I met a lot of interesting, kind-hearted and friendly people around here. One thing that I noticed about Dutch people, although they all speak English doesn’t mean they always want to. Just something to keep in mind or else you might just think that some of them are terribly rude.

The weather

My second expectation concerned the weather. Coming from a tropical country, we don’t experience spring, summer, fall or winter. However, we do have haze season, flood season, dengue fever season and even ‘durian’ season. I think I love winter about as much as Dutch people hate it. At one point, I even thought I would experience snow during winter time in Den Haag, until my partner told me that it was not going to happen – sigh. If you wish to experience thick snow where you can build your own snowman just like in the Disney’s Frozen movie, then you might need to find yourself a Russian partner instead. Everybody knows that marijuana is legalised in the Netherlands. Back home, I would be imprisoned for selling, buying or even smoking it. I expected to see weed smokers at every corner of the city as well as the countryside. Funnily enough, it can actually be very difficult to find shops that sell marijuana. You cannot buy it everywhere, as you may think. So, don’t expect to come across weed smokers everywhere in the streets.

What about the food?

Collage of photos number 2I love food. I believe that every country has their own delicious cuisine that they are proud of. For instance, if you go to my country Malaysia, you must try our popular ‘Nasi Lemak’ which is fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and a pandan leaf serves with squid sambal, together with delicious slow cooked beef rendang on the side. I expected the same of Dutch cuisine. So, when I asked my partner to take me somewhere (like a restaurant) where I could try Dutch cuisine, he drove me to Scheveningen instead. I remember we walked along the harbour and stopped at one of the small stalls nearby. That was the first time I tried haring – lekker! Back in Malaysia, most travel agencies promote the Netherlands by displaying pictures of people on bikes in the middle of tulip fields and windmills in the background. They all look happy and gezellig. Forget about it. Cycling here can be absolute chaos, especially in the cities. There are people on bikes everywhere, and a lot of them. They expect you to get out of their way. Therefore, it can be quite dangerous if you are not paying attention while crossing the street. My recommendation for the newcomers, get yourself a bike for your own good. Apart from cycling, I also heard that public transportation in the Netherlands is one of the best in the world - good service, punctual, comfortable and safe. I totally agree. Whenever I feel too lazy to bike, I just take either the tram or the bus because I know I can rely on it. If you plan to live here longer and travel like a Dutch person, then you must get your own personal OV chipkaart. It is literally the second important card to have after your betaalkaart. Although the reality is different from what I expected, it is also better than I expected. Things turn out best for those who make the best out of the way things turn out. Doei!

Ahmad Hafiz Rozian, Kickstart student