Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ten Years in the Netherlands

Photo by Patrick Lebeda

Today marks the ten year anniversary of my arrival in the Netherlands. Ten years ago today, I moved with everything I owned piled in the back of a trailer to take up residence in an unknown land, an unfamiliar setting. It was a huge step. I started life as an expat.

However, at some point in the last ten years, it has snuck up on me, and quite frankly taken me by surprise. Suddenly the Netherlands feels like home.

When I go back to England, I feel like I have walked into a house I once lived in. It all seems familiar yet it is no longer my home.

 The kitchen is in the same place it always was. The living room, albeit with a different shade on the walls and a new carpet, bears a resemblance to the room I once kicked off my shoes and relaxed in after a hard day at the office. And yes, the bathroom is the same, yet the unfamiliar shower curtain bugs me and there are toiletries littered on the shelves that I do not use. The garden brings back fond memories of English summers, BBQ’s with friends and lazy afternoons on the lawn. However, I never planted that row of conifers, and roses blossom where I used to keep my patio chairs.

I know it is a house I have lived in, it breeds familiarity, but someone came in and redecorated. Somebody rearranged the furniture, planted new shrubs and flowers and erased the little touches that made it my place. I know my way around but it is clear I don’t live there anymore.

An English Pub (Photo:Bill Graham)
When we drive through the rolling English countryside I realise I miss hills and a landscape that provides variety. When I am pushing my trolley around the one-stop supermarket, it reinforces my yearning to shop every week surrounded by such choice and variety.  When we pass a traditional English pub, tucked back on a country road tempting the passer-by with Sunday roast dinners, I cannot deny happy memories flood back, and the desire to have such a stop-off on my doorstep again is overwhelming.

However, when I am back in England I feel like a visitor. It is no longer my home. People I love live there but I no longer have a base there. When we get into our car and make our way back to Dover to catch the Eurotunnel over to mainland Europe, or head to Harwich to get the ferry back to Hoek van Holland I know I am heading home.

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