Only a few more days to go before the kids and I start our lives in the Netherlands (Josh having been there since November is already pretty acclimated). As I mentioned before, I think us going on vacation straight from leaving Barcelona has been a good thing. With a whirlwind 6 weeks so far between the cruise and being home here in the US, there hasn't been a lot of time to stress out about what we are getting ourselves into.
Though reality is starting to hit. Today I recognized that while I suspect that life will be a bit easier in the Netherlands than it was in Spain, that does not mean it will be easy. Things as simple as signing up to the kids' portal page for school which was all in Dutch (thank you google translate) to us trying to get a car - it's like starting back at square one again like Spain.
But I feel that we have it under control this time. We are older, wiser and this is not our first time at the rodeo. While we are fully aware that this is a different country and a different culture, we have an idea of what to expect since we've done this before and we've learned to laugh off the frustrations that come with being an expat. Ok, we attempt to laugh them off at least!
At the same time, while I know the first months won't be easy, I'm less intimidated by it than I was the first time around. I'm getting excited about this new adventure but at the same time, afraid to get too excited for fear that things are going to be more difficult than I expected. When we moved to Spain I was blindsided but just how difficult things were and as a result, I was incredibly depressed for the first several months, wondering what I had gotten myself into and if I would even survive the first year.
The biggest challenge in Spain was the language. While I had a base of Spanish to start, it wasn't nearly enough. And in the Netherlands I know absolutely not one word in Dutch (not even how to say hello). This is a bit daunting despite the fact that most Dutch people also speak English unlike in Spain. It's something we will all be working on though and the hope is that with the majority speaking at least some English, it will be much easier for us to integrate than it was in Spain.
I'd be foolish to think that there won't be some adjustments, I think I'm just better prepared for them. The biggest concern I have at the moment, despite the language barrier, new culture, etc, is the weather. I know that seems kind of silly. Being a New Englander, I should be used to crappy weather. But Amsterdam takes crappy to a whole new level. Not to mention that in the almost 5 years we were in Barcelona, we had acclimated to 300 days a year of sunshine and winters around 50-55F. To go to gray, cold weather for much of the year, well, that's going to be a tough one for me. And I'm honestly a bit scared of that. I have heard that this is one of the toughest parts of the acclimation process there and I'm not surprised.
In the meantime, as we wait to get there, Josh and I are working out as many details as we can. He's already secured his BSN (social security) number and arranged to get cable and internet at our house. Tomorrow he signs on our house and starts the moving in process. The movers are arriving on Friday and he will do some unpacking on Saturday and we arrive on Sunday. He's also been in charge of getting the car (this is a whole other entry that he's going to have to write as it was very different than what we've done in the US which was also different than in Barcelona). We are working with the movers to handle customs forms, something we didn't have to do in Barcelona since it was all taken care of on our behalf. We are getting things ready for the kids to start school on Monday (seriously no rest for the weary as we arrive on Sunday afternoon). And there are tons of other behind the scenes details that are too many to list but that we are constantly working on in order to make the process of our arrival as seamless as possible and to be able to jump right into our lives and start trying to integrate ourselves.
As far as integration, my hope is that we will do much better than we did in Spain. With the language barrier we found it hard to fully integrate ourselves into society and as a result I don't think we fully utilized not just the resources that were likely available to us, but also experiencing more of the culture, making more local friends, etc. We are hoping that will not be the case int he Netherlands, but we shall see.
Regardless of the unknown, we are getting excited. I don't know if it's the idea of a new adventure that is exciting us or having some semblance of normalcy for the first time in 9 months that is doing it but no matter the reason, I feel that we are ready to take on this new challenge in our lives. Only a few more days and counting til I can say we are there!!