This is part 2 of 4 Reasons I love Dutch Culture. I'd love to read your experiences and perspectives. Please comment or send me an email :)
3) Work/life balance
When I visited Rotterdam for the first time last year, I was pleasantly surprised to meet people people with low stress or part time jobs, still enjoying a fairly high standard of living. This struck me for two reasons:
1) The ability to enjoy a comfortable life without working yourself into the ground is almost unheard of in Southern California.
2) The ability to relish a normal or average life is so foreign in my overachieving cultural upbringing (we're all special, hardworking snowflakes, dammit!). I'm accustomed to a culture where workaholics wear this imbalance like a girl scout achievement badge - and I've been guilty of this - while the Dutch think "what's wrong with your priorities?". I suppose this really ties back to my previous point about valuing cultural normality, "doe maar gewoon".
My own observations aside, in 2013, the average Dutch citizen made $47,000 (in USD) per year and worked 29 hours per week AND enjoyed more flexible working hours. Paid vacations are written into law, part time workers are protected. I'm not going to even start with health care right now. Bottom line is, work/life balance on a cultural level is a very complicated issue, but the Dutch are on to something and I've found benefit in taking note.
4) (English) Friendly
Almost every person I've met here speaks English and is happy to do so. In fact, almost 90% of people from the Netherlands speak English. I've needed help with public transport, finding items in the grocery store and even my way around Dordrecht. Most of the time I only get 3/4 through "Pardon, spreekt u Engles?" before I'm interrupted with with warm eyes and a firm "Yes!". What's amazing is that most Dutchies speak at least Dutch and English - it's very common to have some proficiency in German, French or Spanish as well. This has made acclimation to life here (and feeling like a linguistic failure) much easier than I expected.
Conclusion: While I've only spent around 4 months total in the Netherlands and I'm certainly not a cultural expert, this little country has stolen my heart. I'm looking forward to getting to know the people and country on a deeper level and telling you all about it. My next post will be much lighter in terms of content (but not calories).
Until then, be well!