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American in Europe

Where the Heck is Holland? Is that In Asia? And Other Tales of Geography Woe.

You constantly hear that the United States Education System is lacking. I never really put much thought into this because I feel like I got a pretty decent, broad education. Sure, I am not yet bilingual, but I took a class where I got to wield a blow torch. Perspective people, honestly. It wasn't until I started telling friends and co-workers about my upcoming move to The Netherlands, that I realized- American's have no clue about Geography. 

Of course, it is understandable that people get Holland and The Netherlands confused. Holland is actually two provinces in The Netherlands. North and South Holland. Utrecht is actually in the province of Utrecht. So technically, I am not moving to Holland, even though it has been used synonymously with The Netherlands for so long, I don't think anyone will freak out on you for using either.

I did an experiment today with some of my work friends, I printed out a blank map of Europe and asked people to identify where The Netherlands are. ( I know, it is a marvel that I have friends). The results were, well.... I know it is a small country, but dang. The most common answer was either Sweden or Denmark, kind of close, but no. The Netherlands is actually that tiny country located next to Belgium and Germany. It is not however, in Asia, which I have been asked from time to time. 

People tend to also not know what language they speak in The Netherlands. For the record, its Dutch or Nederlands. Someone also told me that they always wanted to go to Holland because they are a really big skier. For those of you who have been to The Netherlands, I will let you process that for a moment... For those of you who haven't been, The Netherlands is almost entirely flat and the reason for all the canals and dikes is all about Dutch ingenuity and reclaiming landmass from the sea. 

I am very much looking forward to the day that my friends come visit me in my new home. Assuming of course that they can find it! 

What are the weirdest things you have heard about the place you call home? Can you find The Netherlands?

14 Reasons I Can't Wait to Move to The Netherlands

I read a lot of expat blogs. Like a boy scout I like to be prepared. A theme on them this week seems to be about what people miss the most about their home country while being an expat. Since, I am trying really hard to become an optimist, I have decided to focus on tthe things I can’t wait to move to Holland for. Here is my list, in no particular order:

  1. Loek, I am looking forward to living with my verloofde for the first time and you know all that goes into living with your spouse. Plus, I kind of love him and miss him terribly.  

  1. Living in our brand new apartment will be nice, neither Loek nor I have ever lived some place brand new. I can’t wait to decorate!

  1. Never driving. I am not a good driver, I don’t enjoy it and I am very much looking forward to not having a car. Which of course means, I wont have a car payment, car insurance or pay for Petrol. (That’s right, look at me being all European in my terminology.) Of course, if I buy the Vespa of my dreams, I will have to pay for some of this list again.

  1. My European body. No car= walking and bike riding. Also, I plan to eat better and only have Frites once a week. Frites Fridays as they will be known in my house.(Frites are Dutch Fries).

  1. The art and architecture. I have studied Art History most of my life, so I am excited about being so near to the Dutch Masters.

  1. It’s freaking Europe! Europe is amazing because, you just have to hope a train and you can be in an entirely different country, will wonders never cease.

  1. I can’t wait to be cold! I know, my Southern friends will always give me grief for this. I have always been in the wrong place, I can’t stand to be hot. I only like to be outside when the temperature is below 80. I mean come on, you are talking about the girl who went to Russia in February, twice...

  1. A better work /life balance. Thanks to Holland Daze, I can accurately tell you that the Dutch are given at a minimum 20 vacation days a year. Vacation Days, not sick days! On average, The Dutch work 1378 hours annually, American’s 1768. I am very much looking forward to not working too much.

  1. Gezellig which wikapedia says is  “A perfect example of untranslatability is seen in the Dutch language through the word gezellig, which does not have an English equivalent. Literally, it means cozy, quaint, or nice, but can also connote time spent with loved ones, seeing a friend after a long absence, or general togetherness.”

  1. I have to grow up, my Mom is a whole ocean away.

  1. Learning Dutch, I have always wanted to be bi-lingual. I think total emersion is the best way to go.

  1. I'm going in business for myself. Time to make my own hours and play by my rules.

   13. The flowers, oh the beautiful flowers.

   

    14. All the new things I will get to try, and everything new there is to discover.


I leave in 68 days, I can’t wait for this adventure to begin.

26 Things Before I'm 26

I saw this idea on a blog I just started reading, The Lighthouse Keeper,  and I thought, hmm I should make a list like that. I love lists! The particular blog was 25 things before turning 25, but since I turn 25 in less than a month, I decided to get a head start. So without further ado, here you are:

In no particular order:

1. Move to Utrecht.

2. Be able to communicate in Dutch.

3. Get married, I'm engaged so this isn't a huge jump.

4. Take up ballet again.

5. Find a core group of friends in my new country.

6. Develop a sense of personal style and dress accordingly.

7. Learn to bake and cook in my Nederlands kitchen.

8. Start my tour guide business.

9. Learn to sew.

10. Go to Paris. (I went when I was 11, but the Louvre was on strike the whole time)

11. Write letters to my friends back home.

12. Get back to the weight that feels best on my frame.

13. Read 100 new books, including some classics.

14. Start making metal jewelry again.

15. Book my honeymoon, we probably wont go right after the wedding.

16. Learn how to share, I was practically an only child.

17. Become an expert bike rider.

18. Attend Amsterdam Fashion Week.

19. Knit a sweater.

20. Learn the art of light layers.

21. Eat better, I have a horrible diet.

22. Start bringing in money again.

23. Continue adding to the retirement fund.

24. Laugh more.

25. Get over my fear of boats.

26. Stick to my plans.

What do you want to accomplish before your next birthday?

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Attachments, Part 2 of Stuff Series

Monday, I started talking about the effect that possessions have on some people's decisions to move, especially abroad. Today, I want to touch on my own personal attachment to things. 

For me, I have never been terribly sentimental. I don't look at photos from my childhood that often and I prefer to look towards the present rather than the past. I think that people tend to equate stuff with having it all and want people to know that they do. For me, my show items were always my cooking, art and books, I wanted people to know how well read I was.

I think my upbringing has a lot to do with they way I feel about things. My mom has collected flamingos for her entire life. Every time there is an occasion which calls for presents, she gets something with a flamingo. Because of this, I think I have decided never to collect anything. My grandmother is also a borderline hoarder. Don't get me wrong, I love her and I inherited her messiness, but I have no problem throwing stuff away. If something of mine gets ruined, I either don't replace it, or I get a new one. I'm also incredibly cheap, unless it comes to food. So I never want to spend my money on too many things.

Of course, there are things that I love and have felt like they were worth packing away in boxes to move across town. Books mostly. But with the high cost of shipping things to Holland and the constraints of air travel, I have had to make some serious choices. As I mentioned on Monday, when I was in Holland, I left 4 boxes worth of stuff at Loek's current apartment. I took with me a bunch of clothes and boots that I knew I would not wear again before it was time for me to move. What also made the cut: All 7 seasons of my favorite show, Gilmore Girls,  a peacock print I got in Venice,The New York Times Essential Cookbook by Amanda Hesser, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Like I said, I love to cook! 

Of course the Lorelei's made the cut. 

As of now, I have packed one of the duffels I mentioned in my last post. (The smaller one), In it, I have packed my mother's jewelry box that my real dad gave her. (We don't have a relationship and this is the only thing I have that he gave anyone) As well as, my K stamp and calligraphy pen that I got in Italy, the new bike bedspread I bought, some clothes I won't wear in the 76 days I have left here, and my copy of The Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis. 

My next post in this series is going to be about what else made the cut. Stay tuned. 

 Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Loek and Kait, An Engagement Story

Loek and I got engaged in April while I was in Holland. We had talked about wanting to be engaged before I made the big move across the ocean, so I had an inkling it was coming. Before I left, both Loek and my mom were acting a little suspicious. I spent the entire time in Holland waiting for it to happen.


On Saturday the 9th, we decided to go to the Keukenhof. The Keukenhof is this huge flower park in Lisse, the town where Loek grew up. It is a popular tourist attraction in Holland that is only open from the beginning of April until Mid May; when the flowers are blooming of course. (Seriously, it is beautiful.) It is also the most crowded of any place I went in the Netherlands. In my mind when we were traveling to the Leiden Train Station where you catch the bus to the Keukenhof, I thought that this would be the perfect place for Loek to propose. Then I saw the crowds. For those of you who have actually known me for a long time should know that I have no problem with being the center of attention, but I am very much a private person, unless you know me very well. So the thought of Loek proposing in front of all these strangers, made me very nervous. But still, the Keukenhof is beautiful. We spent about 4 hours walking around the park, I ended up lobster red!  

Flowers at the Keukenhof

After we finished looking at everything, Loek announced that it was time to leave. Leave! Maybe I was wrong, it doesn’t happen often. Loek then informed me that he wanted to show me more of Lisse. We had already been there earlier in the week to see his parents, but had really only seen the street where their house is. Loek took me up the street to the opening of the forest. The trees were pretty spaced out and while I have an obsession with trees, after the beauty of the Keukenhof, this forest was slightly disappointing. After about 5 minutes, we came to a clearing where there was a quaint little farm, complete with ponies and two giant pigs. I remember thinking to myself at the moment we came upon it, that it was an odd place for a farm to be, in the middle of the wood. We walked a few minutes more and suddenly standing in front of us was a small castle. Kastel Keukenhof and we had the grounds all to ourselves. Loek suggested that we sit and rest on a bench for awhile. It was there that he got down on one knee and proposed. That’s right at a castle! Apparently, I asked Loek if he was serious. It all happened really fast, but was the best moment of my life thus far.

It seems that, Loek and my mom had been conspiring because he had asked her permission to ask for my hand. A few weeks before I left for Holland, my mom and I went ring shopping just for fun. I had seen the perfect ring and my mom had apparently taken a picture of it and sent it to Loek. My mom went back, got it and sent it to him. I mean he paid her of course. Now let’s talk about this ring.It is a cushion cut peridot, my birthstone, surrounded by small diamonds. It is unique enough that I love it, but also not very ostentatious. Which is good because, the Dutch are not very ostentatious. I love it. And, it didn’t break the bank.

I am very excited to be getting married to quite possibly the sweetest man on the planet who I know loves me, . Loek and I have not started wedding planning yet, because we have so many other things in the immediate future to figure out. All I know is that it will be taking place in Holland, and I promise to keep you updated on the plans as they unfold.

 

I Want to Ride My Bicycle. I Want to Ride My Bike.

Have you heard about the Dutch and their bicycles? I can assure you that is one stereotype that is 100% true. Dutch people ride bikes, be they 80 years old, 3 on the back of their mother’s bikes or like 9 months pregnant. There is even a story about the Germans stealing Dutch Bicycles during WW2.
What is not to love right, Holland is the perfect place for a leisurely bike ride. The country is almost completely flat and there are these great bike lanes, separated from the cars (Imagine that America) that makes getting around on a bike super convenient. Unfortunately, this posses a problem for me. The last time I was on a bicycle I was 16, so about 9 years ago. I went Mountain Biking with my first real boyfriend because I wanted to be impressive. I wasn’t. Since then, I have been a little scared to get on a bike, I have an innate sense of protection of my body from anything that could cause physhical pain. Plus, riding a bike in most states, Georgia included is terrifying. I mean you have to ride in the road, with the cars! Needless to say, I am slightly embarrassed by this fact and am afraid that I will be laughed at when I try in the Netherlands. I am sure there will be lots of falling down and scraped elbows. Not to mention, even when I was little, using the brakes was never something I was able to do effectively. And, I know there is that expression when you do something that you haven’t done in a long time it is like riding a bicycle. Well, that is a bunch of crap. You aren’t just instantly able to get back into it.
However, I really do like the idea of riding a bicycle. I always really wanted to be in the scene in Wedding Crasher where Rachel McAdams character is riding her bike serenely. She seems so carefree sans helmet. I picture being able to do this and what my bike will look like. It will be a lady bike of course, with a basket for flowers in the front and a saddle bag on the back for groceries. I am not too picky about color, I just want it to be feminine. I would ride it everywhere-to the City Center of Utrecht, around Lisse along the flower fields.,up to the coast. My bike and I will be inseparable, especially since I will not have a car for the first time in 10 years. If only I could get over myself and learn to ride. Do you think if there were more places to ride your bike in the States you would?

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Stereotypes and Ignorances

 People have all sorts of stereotypical ideas about other cultures: The French are rude, Germans are militant and direct, all Russians are mobsters, Americans have a crappy education system-Hey one of those is unfortunately true.  you get it, I don’t need to go on. Most of the time, these opinions are based on word of mouth or what we see on television. A lot of these stereotypes come from ignorance for other cultures norms.
It is my opinion that if you go to a place thinking that its people are a certain way, you will never be disappointed by lack of evidence. If you go with an open-mind you will be surprised about how most of the assumptions you had were wrong. When I met Loek’s friends for the first time, I was extremely nervous about what they thought about Americans, (Would they ask me about the Bush years? Would they think that I talked like the Jersey Shore cast? Yes, that show has even made it to The Netherlands.) I was arming myself for what stereotypes I would have to overcome, after all, I was an American.
Much to my relief, the only questions I was asked were about dining habits. I was asked if I ate pancakes everyday like the Americans on tv. To which I answered that I haven’t had a pancake in probably a year and that I live in the South so I eat a lot more waffles, because of Waffle House which is open 24 hours a day. (Man, am I going to miss the hashbrowns)They also asked me if in America it was polite to eat with a hand in your lap. That one threw me for a loop. They explained that was how Americans ate on tv. It wasn’t until later in the week that I realized that when I was eating my left hand in my lap. I noticed that everyone around me was eating with both their knife and fork and I was using only my fork unless I was cutting something. Hence the assumption that it is polite to put your hand in your lap. Because I can’t really put it too many other places.
As I live in The Netherlands, I am sure I will encounter many cultural differences. I will do my best to describe them to my readers not from a place of ignorance but from more of an anthropological study, it was one of my 9 majors in college (some habits die hard)
Do you believe stereotypes about other cultures or do you make your own opinions when you travel?

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Worry, Why Do I Let Myself Worry?

I don’t want come across as one of those people who don’t realize how truly blessed they are, you know, the ones who complain about the opportunities given to them that most people will never get to experience. That being said, moving to a completely different continent is proving to be more challenging than I could ever imagine. By nature I am a worrier. Seriously, it is the only thing about me that drives the fiancee nuts, (well, that and my constant planning, which comes hand in hand with being a worrier). Right now,here is what has me stressed. I am sure I share some of them with anyone about to embark on a big relocation. 

 Money: Let’s face it, money is almost always going to be an issue. I am worried about being let go from my current position because of all the rumors running rampant about me. ( I am not actually moving to Asia this summer, last I checked, The Netherlands is in Europe and I am not moving before October). I have to pay off some things before I move, I have to figure out what to do with my car. The exchange rate sucks for Americans, so even though I am saving lots of dollars, that doesn’t equate to lots of Euros. With the visa I am getting, it will be a few months until I can legally work and find a job. We will be living off of Loek’s salary and on a serious budget. While I realize that millions of people do this everyday, I have been basically supporting myself ever since I was 16, so having to rely on someone else is going to be tough for me. Add to that, trying to plan a wedding in Europe with plenty of notice so that friends and family from the US can be there without an income, is going to be tough.

Loneliness:  I am abnormally close to my mom. We currently live together, so that I can save money to move, we also work at the same company so we carpool together. Thankfully, we don’t work on the same floor because that would just be too much. I have never lived more than 4 hours by car from my mom. I have been to Europe more times without her though so maybe that will help me out a little. In addition to my mom, I am also super close with my half-sister who I full love and several cousins. I have a large and close knit family, many of whom, as much as I love them, will probably never make the plane ride over to see me.(wimps). I also have some great friends. I still talk to people from 1st grade and I made the wedding cakes for both of my best friends of the last 14 years (thats right Christy and Hayley, over half our lives). While I don’t get to see my friends as often as I would like, practically no one lives by me, it is comforting to know that we are mostly all still in the same state. I am worried that I won’t know where to meet people in Holland and Loek has the same problem I do, where everyone moved away after college. He also lives in a different town than any of his co-workers so they don’t hang out much outside of work. In the words of Paul Rudd’s character in one of my favorite movies ever, “I got to get some fucking friends”.

Other adjustments: Here are some of the changes that I am worried about with moving to a place that speaks a completely different language, and just does things differently- the Dutch are so logical! I am worried that I will not be able to cook the recipes that I have in my vast variety of cookbooks. I worry that I wont ever learn Dutch. That I won’t be able to find a job, that Loek will get tired of no longer having disposable income. That I will be seen as a tacky American. That Loek and I wont be compatible at living together,( he has never lived with a girl before). That there will be a problem with my visa. That my cat wont be able to come. That my mom wont be as close as Loek’s mom is to our future children. That no one will come to our wedding. That I won’t be able to sleep with it being sunny until 11pm during the summer. That I will be depressed with the cold and dark that comes with Winter. I know a lot of this is irrational, but I have already told you that I am a worrier.
How do you overcome your fears? This peach is open to suggestions!    

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Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?

Welcome to my blog!  
The Who: My name is Kaitlin, I am in my mid twenties and newly engaged. I rock at jeopardy and I love beautiful things. I also have quite a snarky sense of humor, so you know if you are easily offended or you just don't like snark, this might not be the place for you. 
The What: This blog chronicles my journey; both preparing to move to Europe and the adjustments I will make after I am there. It is a way to keep my friends and family up to date on my life. As well as, a chance to make new friends. Drop me a line I would love to hear from you. 
The Where: Right now, I am based out of Atlanta, this fall I will be moving to Utrecht, Netherlands. Utrecht is the 4th largest city in the Netherlands. It has a beautiful city center, and most importantly, it is where my love is. 
The When: A month that ends in a -ber, that is all you are getting for now.
The Why: People have been asking why it is that I am moving there and he is not moving to the States. That's simple here are the reasons: Emigration to the States is tough for people in love. The Euro is stronger than the dollar. Loek can't drive a car and I don't particularly like it. I was an Art HIstory Major in College so where is better than Europe. I am obsessed with travel; as is Loek and most of where we want to explore is in Eurasia. So why is it called a Georgia Peach Abroad with the title being called Georgia Peach in Utrecht? Well, I was raised in Georgia and though I may not always like to admit it, I am a Southern Lady. 
The How: Loek built this blog for me so that is how you are getting content. As far as the whole how am I getting to move to Europe thing? You will just have to wait and read. 

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