Monday, March 22, 2010

Visit to the Netherlands - part 1

I just returned from a weekend trip to visit a Dutch friend of mine in Den Haag. The first day was pouring rain, the Sunday on the other hand was the first real nice and warm day of 2010. People were sitting outside enjoying themselves. We took a walk around the city and buried ourselves in bookshops (it was the end of the National Book Week).
My friend used to live in Groningen, which is just 2 h drive from my home town. Nevertheless, the differences due to each country's language and government are striking.

I noticed differences in the small things that you see:
- more bicycles & bike lanes (even in the middle of the street)
- different colors or form for certain signs, for mailboxes, traffic light posts, trams, taxis, road markings, supermarkets
- red brick houses (which we have in the North as well) with white trimming:
- an outdoor pissoir you'd never see in Germany (as far as I know)
- more smaller shops than big chains, also in bookshops
- many people are quite tall and skinny (even taller than Germans)

But I could also see differences in the big things. My friend is moving into a house with his girlfriend, for example. She owns the flat and she is about 27. My reaction was "Wow, she made it. She must earn an incredible amount of money to be able to afford a house at this age." My friend was surprised and asked when we would finally decide to buy a house. Then we realized the cultural misunderstanding. In Germany getting mortgage and a house is difficult and expensive. In the Netherlands on the other hand it is much easier and common for people who just started working. This means the whole order of achievements for people who attended university is different with regard to their personal phases in life.

In Germany the order often is:
  1. Moving out
  2. Studies
  3. Car
  4. Work
  5. Marriage
  6. House, Kids (depends which is first)

In the Netherlands it is often:
  1. Moving out
  2. Studies
  3. Work
  4. House
  5. Car
  6. Marriage
  7. Kids

There are plenty of exceptions, of course. Still, my fiancĂ© and I are not planning to buy a house soon even though we are getting married, whereas my Dutch friend's  relationship is still quite new and he will soon be sharing the cost of paying for a house. Student loans are also much easier to get in the Netherlands than in Germany.
And all that even though the Dutch border is just 1.5 hours drive from my place... Luckily my friend and I feel very connected on a personal level...

Next time I will talk about the things that were quite similar in both countries.

What's the regular order of life phases in your country? And is it hard for young people to own a house? Do you like it that way?

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