Inês Neves is a Portuguese student living in Friesland, and in a lightly poetic way, compares and contrasts her adopted country to her own
By Inês Neves
I am a Portuguese student living in the north of The Netherlands. That is not difficult to see, although the Portuguese part might be mistaken for Spanish. Still, it is clear that I am not Dutch- or so I thought.
I lived in Poland for a while, it was cold and dark, and the people there seemed to carry this cold inside them. That made me believe that it was the sun that brought the smiles, but I was wrong and now I see it’s all a matter of mentality. Here, the people carry the sun in their hearts, which helped me settle in easily because it’s the warmth I need.
Originally, I rode with my head in the clouds on the wrong side of the bike-lane. I didn’t even know there was a right side to ride my bike on, but after a while of imitating the other cyclists’ mannerisms they are now automatic, and I am now a little more Dutch.
But what does it mean? To be Dutch? The canals carry the answer, but the water flows fast, and it becomes hard to grasp. I know they are friendly and polite; I know they have a lot of rules and bureaucracy that takes its time. I know they are perhaps more socially liberal. They like bread, and eat it for lunch every day, with dinner at 17:00 (but, then what happens at 20:00?).
They are always on time, making me continuously extremely late. In Portugal when something is at 17:00, everyone is there at 17:30. There still much to know and learn, except the language, which at first seems too hard to even try attempting.
The truth is I miss my coffee, and my cakes. If there is something for me to complain about, it is a lack of good and cheap coffee. It’s more of an either, or. I come from a place where no one survives without at least 3 espressos a day, but it is not only the espressos that I miss. I miss the bakeries from Portugal, and whilst it might just be me, I think that if a Portuguese bakery were to open here, well let’s just say that the owner with easily make a lot of money.
In Portugal, if it rains a little we stay inside or take our cars to the store that is 5 minutes’ walking distance. But here even when storm Ciara hits people take their bikes and pedal against the wind for twenty minutes straight. There’s an in-built belief that rough weather is to be embraced.
So, thank you Friesland for opening my eyes and allowing me to become a little more like you. I look around and all I see are bicycles carrying people with their heads in copper clouds, I let them guide me, I follow their path, and watch it converge with my own.