Monday, May 20, 2019

Ten pointers for living in The Hague

The title of the blog post is intentionally a little cut and dry. While I take immense pride in my extremely emotional self, I wouldn't exactly know where to begin if I had to pen down a sentimental post about leaving this city. Plus it cannot hurt to actually sit down and assimilate all that living here in Den Haag for the last one year has taught me.
So if you live outside the Netherlands and are moving here soon, or already have, then this might be what you are looking for. I wouldn't lie, this might not be entirely applicable in another city but the general advice might still do you good. 

  • GET OUT. EXPLORE THE HAGUE. AND EVERYTHING ELSE NEARBY: I had no intention of screaming this one out but a year and a little more here and I still feel like I have missed out on so many bits of this city and tiny villages and towns close by. The Hague is a melting pot of cultures and yet so deeply rooted in Dutch history. You could be eating an authentic Indonesian meal at one moment and walking across the Dutch royalties' residence the next. The weather plays a dampener on many days and it makes a lot of us expats extremely lazy but honestly, every little park with its own set of flora, every beach close to the shore, every little local snacks pop up across the town will add to your Dutch experience.
  • GET A BIKE. OR LEARN TO USE THE PUBLIC TRANSPORT LIKE A PRO:  This isn't intended to sound hypocritical. I didn't get a bicycle but I wish I had and I hope I do, at least in Amsterdam. Come rain, hail or sun, the Dutch always find it in themselves to get on to their bikes and bicycle through pretty much any weather. It helps that you have some really cute (with basket full of flowers a la Phoebe from FRIENDS) option. The other option is to ace you public transport skills. It took me a bit but I can quite comfortably map my way around any part of the Netherlands thanks to my OV Chipkart
PRO TIP: There's always Google maps to find the best train, tram and bus routes but if you    move to the Dutch app store on moving here, then 9292 is your best bet on the app to download for this purpose. It works around the Netherlands, not just the Hague.

  • PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE TO MAKE FRIENDS: We don't talk about this enough but forming meaningful friendships in adulthood is not the easiest job. Add to that, relocating to a new country at 28 and going from a huge social circle to a relatively cut off freelancer life. The freelancer life taught me to  socialise beyond my husband's friends and find my own. There is this facebook group called Expat Ladies The Hague that I highly recommend. And finally I started my own initiative of #WhatsThePlanNL that brings together women from all across the Netherlands at a monthly meet up event. Look up the hashtag on instagram and also find more on my instagram profile.

  •  LEARN TO COOK: I never thought I would ever propagate learning a life skill that I could barely get around to before I moved here. This is my personal opinion that the Dutch cuisine is not exactly the most diverse and as a result of which eating like the locals could get boring after a while. Regardless of where you come from, you will obviously miss your comfort food. While Den Haag offers a large variety of international cuisines both home delivery and eat out, a little experimenting in the kitchen will go a long way in making you miss your homeland a little lesser and making you less reliant on eating out. 
PRO TIPThuisbezorgd is your best bet for home delivering food in the Netherlands with a whole bunch of cuisine options.

  • INTEGRATING THROUGH DUTCH CELEBRATIONS: If there's one thing you can't fault the Dutch with, it's their zeal to celebrate their festivals. It is almost nigh impossible to not want to jump right in, into the swarms of orange clad crowds on King's Day (and King's Night). The King's birthday sends the whole country into a tizzy of mad day long celebrations but that's just one instance. You will have plenty of opportunities to integrate into the fabric of the fun Dutch culture so make sure you get right into it from your first year. 
PRO TIP: For any kind of costumes or props for Carnivale, King's Day, St. Patty's Day or any other, hit 'So Low' in the Centre on Spuistraat.

  • LEARN TO DRESS FOR THE DUTCH WEATHER: This one has been a struggle for me even after having lived in The Hague for more than a year. I come from India where the summer and winter is quite clearly demarcated and it's fairly easy to maintain two wardrobes. However, the weather in The Netherlands has a mind of its own. I will go as far as to say that I freeze my butt off in this country almost throughout the year. It's windy even during the summer and while global warming has drastically changed the face of the Dutch Summer (it went as high as the 30s last year!), there will almost always be a chilly wind to accompany the sun too. The snow is not too bad but the rain is pretty frequent too. So prepare for four distinct seasons with an overarching theme of a  very cool air (if you feel as cold as I do! ). Also, if you're equipped for the moody weather, you're definitely more likely to enjoy the seasons in this absolutely knockout of a country.
PRO TIP: If you've never had an umbrella in your life, now is a good time to purchase one.

  • LEARN TO UTILISE YOUR SPACE EFFECTIVELY: Not proud of it but I was somewhat of a hoarder in India. Dutch houses (some don't come with storage space either), make you quash your hoarder tendencies and become wiser of what you buy and bring into your house. Use pieces to maximises your space (mirrors for instance), check for a storage space with your apartment and in general adopt a more judicious practice of buying things for your house that require a lot of space. Having said that, the layouts and the facades of the Dutch houses are so chic, for a lack of a better word. There is so much you can do with the large windows, cute balconies, cosy Scandinavian inspired interiors. So leave all your baggage behind, no pun intended.
PRO TIP: A good place to look for a space to rent or buy is Funda.

  • LEARN THE BASICS OF THE DUTCH LANGUAGE: This has been my most controversial takeaway from having lived in The Hague for the last one year. I know a lot of people (myself included) have made it work without a working knowledge of the language. But the gap is undeniable. Everything, literally (no, not metaphorically I'm quite sure yes) everything in this city is communicated (print, oral, otherwise) in Dutch and even if you specify that you do not speak the language, the likelihood of it being a seamless conversation is not a 100%. More tourist riddled spots have English menu options but again, that is not the case anywhere. So in my opinion, a basic understanding of the language (enough to not open Google Translate every time you have to order food) goes a long way in feeling more comfortable and at home in the lovely city of Den Haag. P.S: All your communication from your banks, the government etc comes in through paper mail and is entirely in Dutch.
    P.P.S: A good free service to start with the language might be 
    the Duo Lingo app and then you could proceed to take classes
    by personal tutors or at Universities to get to the next level.
    I'm hoping to start (get back to?) with the app myself on moving 
    to Amsterdam.

  • BE PATIENT AND BE KIND: It's not an exaggeration to say that kindness can wade you through the toughest waters. A new country is hardly a match. My experience with the people I've encountered in this city is 90% good and 10% bad, if I can even call it that. The Dutch are straightforward and no bullshit and that is a trait a lot of us could also do with. At the same time, everybody is not the same and at a lot of times, being an expat and not speaking the language can put you in situations of a little strife. There is nothing you cannot get through if you are patient, kind and smile when you convey what you have to. That kind of disposition will always win you friends and also ease you into the process of learning simple protocols that you are supposed to know. For instance, always enter a bus from the front door (the door next to the driver). 

  • STOP TO SMELL THE ROSES: Last but the most important is to remember to stop to smell the roses (tulips?). The Netherlands is one of the most stunning countries I have ever had the fortune of visiting and living here has been a dream (albeit not always the easiest of course). Metaphorically and literally, appreciate the art, visit the large number of museums (Dutch artists are phenomenally talented!), talk to the local people, meet as many new people as you can (expats, non-expats, it should hardly be an issue) and enjoy the insane number of flowers and flowering variety of plants and trees in the Netherlands. On the literal front, a few seasons to look out for include the tulip season (DUH), magnolias and cherry blossoms in spring, wisteria at the onset of summer and the large number of unidentified flowers all over the Netherlands (that are just as picturesque for your Instagram!). 

Thank you for being a lovely first home in the Netherlands, The Hague. You will always be special. Firsts always are ;)

Wearing: Dress by ASOS, Earrings: And Other Stories


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