Sunday, April 01, 2012

Almost 10 years in the Netherlands: Looking back to the things I hated much

This August I turn 10 years in the Netherlands. Looking back I must say that I have come a long way. I am living the life now that I envisioned when I first came here. My first few years in this country was not an easy walk in the park though. It was those years that I almost gave up. On many things, and I had many chances as well.

One of the facts of life living and working in the Netherlands: the high taxes. In this advert, it states that March 32 does not exist, which means people need to file their taxes on or before the 31st of March.

Here is a list of the major facts that I went through (read: STRUGGLE) in my first few years in the Netherlands.

I hated the fact that I have to learn a new language. I was 32 when I moved here and language may come easy to my ears but there was a time in my Dutch learning phase that I have reached the ceiling. A stalemate. A plateau. How can I break through it? I struggled to push through to the next level but I just can’t. WHY? Why is it so damn hard, I keep telling myself. It did not help as well when I only had English-speaking jobs back then. My Dutch never improved. I do not need the social basic Dutch, I need the serious real Dutch that I can use for my career. Now I can say that I speak the language fluently, with an accent and I admit, I have grammatical errors. I am not perfect and never will be. My English isn’t flawless either.

I hated the fact that I have to re-build again my career in this country when I have already reached a significant achievement back home. Biggest frustration ever. I am a very ambitious person. I fear failure. I am not born to fail—I keep telling this to myself but starting all over again your life and career at the age of 32 was not something I was looking forward to. Well, let me rephrase it... I looked forward to being with the Dutchman, finally and living in the Netherlands with him, but I did not expect that it will turn out into a drama with lots of sequels to rebuild my career. I cannot and will not be housebound. I cannot and will not depend on my partner financially. I cannot and will not accept a job below my level. Tough statements and standards in there but those statements and standards got me through to where I am now. And my pride? I had to kill it slowly along the way.

I hated the fact that I had to get again a driver’s license. This was a real traumatic experience for me that I even had nightmares. I was desperate but I fired my 2 instructors. I failed twice because I was too stubborn to really listen to them. When you have been driving in the Philippines for a decade where traffic rules does not remotely exist, it is a massive challenge to unlearn things that have become hard habits moulded on stone. On my 3rd attempt I passed but I have already spent 2000 euros on a freaking pink paper. Those were hard earned money back in the Philippines and to convert the amount into pesos just made me more angry! The driver’s license was a must for me, being in sales, I must have a driver’s license otherwise no company will hire me. Chicken and egg situation. How will I visit customers? By train? For those that do not know, getting the drivers license in the Netherlands is like the holy grail.

I hated the wind, the cold and the humidity in this country. I have allergies due to the unstable temperature and humidity in the Netherlands. The sea climate is my enemy. I get attacks on my skin, under my skin, at times I feel its burning sensation and sometimes I feel something nasty is crawling under it. I have been to the doctor and to the dermatologist many times, I even went to a Chinese quack doctor. They have no cure for me. I cried helplessly many times. They say it is in my genes—suck it up or move to South Europe. It’s my cross in this country, even up to now. I look forward to retirement in Spain. I am not sure if I will miss the Netherlands but I will only come to visit during summer.

I hated the fact that I have to do household chores. I am not a spoiled brat but in the Philippines it is normal to have your own maid. I grew up with househelp and its like part of the culture in the country. I lived on my own and I have one that comes every weekend to do everything for me. Of course I can hire someone here in the Netherlands as well but the Dutchman does not buy this lazy crap. I am willing to shell out but when in a relationship, we have to compromise. It is very sad but it is a serious handicap for me. I am not kidding. I am glad though that the Dutchman is more than willing to do it for me while I tend the kitchen. Just do not let me clean please! But, I am learning bit by bit...

I hated the fact that I have to pay so much tax. From where I come from this is RIDICULOUS. Unheard of. I look at my gross income and I am happy, but when I look at my net income, it makes me so sad. I work hard and I try to work smart. I know that I have come a long way in this country, I have been through ups and downs, but it makes me angry when I see many people abusing the social welfare system. Moreover, when you decide not to spend your money, the government still taxes you on your already taxed money. Well, what else? This is the Netherlands! It takes getting used to. Nowadays I am used to the high taxes and I am eyeing the politics scene carefully making sure I vote accordingly.

Ah, it is almost 10 years. I do not consider myself an expat or foreigner here anymore, even though ethnically I am a foreigner, but technically Dutch, because of my Dutch passport. I now consider myself a local.

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