The sun is beaming gloriously from a blue sky and it’s two days to go to the Easter weekend.
As a family we hate traveling at peak holiday periods, we know Schiphol airport (Amsterdam) will be bursting at the seams on Friday as the dutch make their getaway to places foreign, roads will be gridlocked, the ferries full.
As the locals leave town their numbers are replaced by holidaymakers from the UK, Germany, France and Belgium. It seems we’re quite popular in our small town, even though Wassenaar is not by the beach – we’re separated from it by several miles of dunes which are there for a purpose – to keep the sea from flooding the lowlands.
I quite like having these visitors around, it gives a jolly feel to the place. There are stands of postcards outside the shops, along with displays of colorful beach paraphernalia – glow-in-the-dark footballs, buckets, spades, beach towels, flip-flops and the like.
Hard to believe only a few months ago you could walk down the pedestrianised Langstraat and not see a soul, due to the driving snow and subarctic temperatures. Today outdoor tables and chairs, shaded by jaunty nautical sun umbrellas, are the order of the day.
It’s noisy – people are chatting, laughing, relaxing and enjoying the day, eating ice-creams, drinking coffee. It’s rather continental and not at all the town I’m used to. People are smiling, animated, dressed in light summer clothing and wearing sunglasses. Children are running around and nobody seems to mind. Dogs are everywhere, panting heavily in what you’d assume must be tropical temperatures. It’s rather cheerful.
I find it a little overwhelming, and so, well, different. Our sleepy little town has changed overnight and the social dynamics have altered too.
The first thing you become aware of is the cessation of hostilities between the Dutch and the foreigners who live here all year. Now before anyone gets tetchy, we all accept that relationships between the locals and the expats tend to be rather grizzly during most of the year – it’s the weather.
The sun comes out and attitudes change, people are civilised to each other but still there is an atmosphere of wariness on both sides. Bring foreign holiday makers into the mix and suddenly we’re all on the same team.
The real locals and the temporary locals find ourselves tutting at the bad parking, aimless strolling, walking on bike paths, inability to work cash machines and other inconsiderate behaviour people exhibit whilst on vacation. They seem to forget that we live here and have lives to organise.
Suddenly the food stores are full of entire families trying to figure out the contents of tinned cans, bemoaning the fact the labels are in a foreign language and there are no decent tea bags to be had anywhere. I feel their pain, I was the same when we arrived.
There is the shock at the check-out when credit cards are not accepted (it was brain numbing for me too) and they don’t have enough cash, leading to much agonised discussion as what items to leave behind.
I have to admit, although it shames me, that I do enjoy these moments – not because I take pleasure in the misfortune and distress of others, but because for the only time during the year there are other people below me in the pecking order of social rankings.
I’m practically hugged as I enter the local shops and greeted as a long-lost relative, the service is solicitous and kind, they cannot do enough for me – it is the poor holiday makers who are getting the brunt of local frustration. There is much muttering and eye rolling at the new folks in town, something I’ve been subjected to many times. I intend to make the most of it as it will only last a few months at most.
In the meantime we’ve decided to avoid this mayhem and are going away for a few days to visit family and friends over the weekend and hopefully enjoy some peace and quiet.
Will let you know how it goes.
You never fail to impress me with your Dutch, and isn’t it wonderful to escape the expat bubble for a while?!
So true! We went to the Keukenhof yesterday, and while crowded, I was amazed at how cheerful and pleasant everyone was. Do travel safely, and let me know when you’re back.
We had an entertaining time yesterday in a small cafe in Rijnsburg when the girl (after complimenting me on my Dutch pronunciation of “strawberry”) asked in Dutch where we were from. I attempted to explain (in Dutch) that we lived in Wassenaar but we had come on the train to Hillegom and we were cycling back through the tulips. You could tell she didn’t understand at all, and wanted to know where we lived. We resorted to English, and expained that we were not tourists, but that yes, indeed, we all lived in Wassenaar. She looked at us, and after a lengthy pause, asked with genuine puzzlement, “Why?”
Makes you realize how localized our expat community is!