Ellen's Blog

From Dubai to Kazakhstan

Culture Shock?

When people hear I came back to live in Holland after 25 years ‘overseas’ I can hear their brains going in circles. I get reactions that I understand and some that I just don’t get. Sometimes they start to speak slow and loud in Dutch and give me a compliment how well my Dutch actually is. Many find it unbelievable that anyone wants to come back to a country that is too full, not enough money to take care of their sick and elderly and aggression/crime on the rise. The weather is bad, the food expensive, too many rules and regulations and still no government? Well, what can I say? All the above is true, but it depends how you look at it. Let’s start with the government. Indeed there is only the former government sort of doing the most necessary things till the new (not agreed on yet) will be installed. But the country seems to be OK – maybe only the most necessary things (with no reason to make big ego trips for the politicians) is not so bad after all. Food is expensive: compared to what? Compared to the food in Dubai where life was also not cheap, or to London where two of my children live? We arrived in Holland around March, so definitely the right time of the year. Mornings still crisp, cosy heater on at night and Spring around the corner. The Summer was delightful. Long light summer evenings, warm – sit with your coffee outside – afternoons and refreshing breezes in between. Yes, some rain, desperately needed to refresh the gardens and cool down the bedrooms for the night. No airco in the Dutch homes….  I had to get used to that! And now Fall is here. Leaves are falling, warm sweaters and gorgeous boots in the shops and the occasional ‘switch on the heater moments’ increasing. But everyone is complaining all the time. It is too cold, too hot, too windy, not enough wind (water sport) too much rain, not enough rain (garden), already dark, sun is up too early so the birds make too much noise!!!!!  Arghhh.  Dubai is somewhat easier – just hot with the occasional sandstorm. So far I enjoy the selection of foods in the shops, the change in seasons, the chilly evenings with the heater on. If you are used to having a full-time maid around, going back to a life without is definitely a mayor change, I thought. As soon as I arrived it was top of my list to find a cleaning lady for 4 hours a week, especially as we moved into a house that needed some soap and water. I quickly found a lovely lady with references. She came and nothing was too much for her, but she moved like a snail going backwards. So weekly before her arrival I took care of all the clutter that easily accumulates around the house. I would change the bed linen – do all the laundry in between – emptied the Dyson and prepared a basket full of cleaning material and fresh cloths. By the time she arrived I wondered all the time that just hovering and dusting would not have been so much extra on top of what I already did. The vacuum cleaning I had to do on all the other days as well  anyway as we have two hair shedding dogs. As all cleaning ladies do, most of my furniture and actually everything that is not nailed down would end up at different places and/or angles. And I admit – I would put it all back as soon as she left. If it was a nice morning and thoughts of strolls on the beach or a walk through town came up – I had to stay home for her. Giving a key to a new cleaning lady is a definite NO NO here. OK we have the bathrooms to tackle! But unless we have visitors, that is one bathroom and two toilets. Hubby is traveling a lot so as all women know: if you are alone in the house somehow it all stays clean. The moment that the cleaning lady even ‘forgot’ the little corners in the bathrooms I had a “that’s it” moment. I thanked her for her wonderful job but I no longer needed her. As I still want to live in a reasonable clean house and my days are filled with dog walking, Russian lessons, psychology studies, piano practice/lessons, some social events and finally reading books, I did research to find the most enjoyable efficient way to clean. Many books have been written about this, most advice you not to make your bed (healthier to air it all day) and only clean the areas that you see. Well…..  things like that will not work with me.  I will have to make my own schedule and will keep you informed.

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