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October 5, 2013 / Living Life Our Way

How it Feels to Live in Holland

My own post is further below and is based on this following piece called ‘Welcome to Holland’

WELCOME TO HOLLAND by Emily Perl Kingsley.

“I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.”

I love Holland, with all my heart. I had never really held much expectation of what Italy would be like anyway, I was realistic enough to know it depends which part you go to and what you do there, who travels with you and what you personally make of it. Yet slowly discovering I was actually in Holland instead of Italy was still both confusing and isolating. Where were all my friends who I was supposed to be meeting in Italy, they don’t seem to be here? Why is it what they are describing is not what I am experiencing? None of it makes sense!

Some people don’t even notice you are not in Italy and act as if you are. They assume when you describe the lovely windmills that you are clearly mistaken, that your description is inaccurate. It must be, for there are no such things in Italy. Or they wonder if you maybe went the wrong way, ended up in some random unknown part of Italy because you failed to navigate successfully. Was it your fault you ended up at this place?

Sometimes you do get to pop over to Italy for brief periods. You know how lucky you are to be able to take that trip and you embrace the opportunities it presents. However other people see you in Italy and they don’t understand that for you it is just a vacation. The journey you took to get there was difficult, yet they do not realise much effort it takes you compared to those who already live there. They are confused why you seem so tired and distracted sometimes and why you are often so late to arrive.

You start to realise that you have picked up the Dutch language along the way but when you speak to your friends they simply look baffled and respond in Italian. You no longer speak the same language so communication is hard and understanding each other’s very different experiences seems so difficult. A few friends stick around to overcome these barriers but others decide it is too hard work. You feel sad for the many people you have lost but grateful for those friends who make the effort to learn about Holland and who fully accept you now live there, even though it is not what you planned beforehand.

Some people actually make it clear they do not like Holland, they have read some negative stories about it and do not wish to be associated with those living there. The people with that attitude towards somewhere they have never even been is heartbreaking. Others have decided living in Holland is inferior to living in Italy, they do not acknowledge that it is not better or worse, just different. They ridicule Holland and all those who live there. Many people simply haven’t heard of Holland before and do not wish to know about it. They live in Italy, they like it there and are happy with it, they are exactly where they planned to be. They don’t feel the need to learn about other countries they might never visit, even if people they know live there. You wish they would think for a moment about the joys and hardships of living in Holland but unfortunately they will never spare time thinking about it, sadly they only care about Italy.

However there is a wonderful side to living in Holland. You meet other people who also live there, perhaps ones you never would have expected to meet, but they are lovely and welcoming. Some of them come from different parts of Holland and are not really familiar with your area, or you with theirs. Their experience is far more similar to yours than Italy is though and that is reassuring. Even though you didn’t intend to live there and it can be slow-paced yet exhausting all at the same time, Holland does soon begin to feel like home.

Most importantly of all, Holland truly does have many incredibly special and unique qualities. If you take the time to fully appreciate it, you realise that despite the many challenges, it can actually sometimes be an amazing place to live. If only everyone else understood what it is like to live in Holland it could be even better.

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