Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
Following the holiday spirit, we decided to spread some love around. And as love comes in all forms, shapes and sizes, we’ve asked the staff and volunteers of Connect International to share what they love the most about the Netherlands.
Ann van Voorden (USA), Connect & IWCN Staff: Everyone associates the Netherlands with bicycles, a god-send for me. If my destination is not too far, I always try to bike. It keeps me in shape, contributes to clean air and saves me parking! Bad weather? No such thing, just a poor choice of clothing (as the cliché goes).
Elly Song (South Korea), Assistant Events Coordinator: You cannot not fall in love with the beautiful and colorful flowers in the Netherlands! First thing that pops up into people’s mind when they think of ‘the Netherlands’ is indeed Tulips (yes, along with windmills, cheese and coffee shops). In spring, you can get these flowers in all different colors throughout the Netherlands in any flower shop. Who says roses are the flowers for the Valentines? Why not go home with tulips this time?
Emma Agneray (France), Social Media Volunteer: I found in the Netherlands a sense of simplicity and freedom, coming from two elements: one is cycling and the other one is the Dutch directness. One physical, the other one communicational. I had to get used to both of them, but once passed the sore muscles and cultural shock (French indirectness vs. Dutch directness), I could truly enjoy to cycle everywhere safely and communicate openly. Not much preparation needed: just get on the bike, have some fresh, windy, rainy, snowy or icy (for even more fun) air, exercise and go where I want, when I want and speak my mind!
Jani Mahoney (USA), Connect & IWCN Staff: What I’ve found absolutely wonderful here in the Netherlands is how easy it is to cycle everywhere. My two wheels take me everywhere, and I can’t help but feel relieved that I’m making up the difference in my carbon footprint after having driven a car for so many years. I now have bikes for almost every purpose, therefore helping to maintain the national average of 2.5 bikes per household.
Karen Prowse (USA), General Manager: I love the freedom (and health benefits) that riding my bike to work and for social occasions gives me. After being attached to a car since I was 16 in the USA, it took a while for me to realize how easy, cheap, healthy, and good for the environment using a bicycle really is and how fortunate I was to have the opportunity to divorce myself from my car by living in Groningen. Over the years, I have become addicted to just hopping on my bike to go anywhere. However, I must admit that I do curse whenever it storms so hard that it rains sideways and one has to pedal hard against the wind just to stay in place! These days are compensated for by other days, when the weather is crisp and cold, or sunny and bright, and cycling brings me energy either to begin my day or to relax on the ride home.
Margaret Metsala (Canada/Finland), Connect & IWCN Staff: I love exploring the Netherlands, and toured Friesland by boat and covered much of Groningen and Drenthe on the Pieterpad and on a bike. I’ve been knee-deep in mud walking to Schiermonnikoog and visited all of the islands. I also know where the best coffee is. I moved to the Netherlands for love and stay here because I love it. With my wonderful partner Hans, I have become deeply rooted in The Netherlands.
Maria Kuznetsova (Russia), Events Coordinator & Russian Language Coordinator: In the Netherlands I’ve found my biggest guilty pleasure: Patat! Patat (also called “Friet”, “Frites”, “Patatje”) is the Dutch version of French Fries (invented in Belgium in fact). What makes them so special? They are thick, they are firm, they come with an insane variety of toppings (my favourites are Joppie, Oorlog and Zaanse or Brander mayo), and they are available literally on every corner! [For the best (organic) patat in Groningen visit Frietwinkel Groningen (Folkingestraat, 69).] Every year over 41 million kilos of patat is being eaten in the Netherlands, and I can’t even imagine what my personal contribution to this number is.
Michelle Calderón Romero (Mexico), Legal Matters Researcher & Spanish Language Coordinator: One of the many, many things that I love about The Netherlands is their fabulous dog-friendly culture. Dogs are allowed to join you practically everywhere! Whether in a restaurant, on a train, in the bus, in a bar, doing some shopping, on the bike, right next to the bike, in a park, in the airport… you can see these adorable four pawed fellas in all sorts of places and no one seems to be a tiny bit bothered (at least from my experience!). Dogs are truly considered another member of your family, and for that same reason, you must also ensure their well-being. They even get to have their own passport so that they are free to travel within the EU with you. How cool is that?
Outi Heikka (Finland), Arts Club & Crafts Club Coordinator: “I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike, I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like”, – just like Freddie Mercury praises cycling, I love to cycle and I love how easy it is in the Netherlands! I love the bicycle paths and own traffic lights for cyclists.
Terrin Tamati (USA), Events Volunteer: In Groningen, one of my favorite things to do is walking to work. I know, it sounds strange! But, I have my reasons… In the U.S., it’s extremely rare to live so close to your work (or really anywhere). I always dreamed of living in a place like Groningen where everything is just next door. Beyond this cultural detail, I love the morning exercise and the momentary break from my day’s to-do list. Above all, the slow pace of walking gives me time to notice just how beautiful this city really is. And, for me, that’s a great way to start the day.
Can you relate to some of the above mentioned experiences? Let us know in the comments below!
Connect International Team