5 things I love about Holland as a South African
I recently moved from South Africa to the Netherlands and it has been quite a journey. They (whoever ‘they’ are) say that you should live abroad at least once in your life. So I decided, I have no responsibilities tying me down, so why not. I packed my bags, rented out my apartment and off to Holland I went. The Netherlands is a lovely country with friendly people and a functioning government, but I’m getting ahead of myself, here are 5 things I love most about Holland thus far.
Safety in Holland
Anybody living or who has ever lived in South Africa can understand when I say I enjoy the safety in the Netherlands. Walking or cycling almost anywhere is safe, you never feel threatened when seeing other people on your path. Kids play outside unsupervised, you rarely hear of violent crimes. Yes, it’s not without petty crime, bicycles get stolen and you still have to lock your doors, but you don’t live in fear of waking up in the middle of the night to find a burglar in your house. I’ve been to the city center of both Amsterdam and Utrecht, and as you would imagine going to the city center of any South African city you would expect to feel unsafe, but that is not the case in the Netherlands, the only threat to your life is getting run over by a tram or a cyclist (seriously, be aware).
So the Netherlands is one of the most centrally located countries in Europe, meaning that travelling around Europe from here is extremely easy, and affordable. Belgium, Germany and London to mention only a few are within driving distance from anywhere within the Netherlands, not to mention all the other destinations where you can travel to within 2 to 3 hours by train or plane. Another benefit with getting a Residence Permit in the Netherlands is that it opens up travel to all countries in the Schengen Agreement. I would suggest compile a bucket list of sites you want to see, and don’t forget the Netherlands have plenty to offer as well. Europe is your oyster, go see it all.
CPI inflation for the past year were under 2% for every year except 2011 and 2012 clocking in at 2.38% and 2.9% respectively. This means that 200 euros worth of groceries year on year for 10 years remained more or less the same groceries. In contrast with South Africa you actually see your tax money at work, the government is constantly busy maintaining and improving public infrastructure. While poverty is a worldwide problem, it is noticeable that here in the Netherlands a lot of effort has been put in to keep the poverty line as low as possible.
Public Transport System and Cycling
Trains, trams and busses can get you almost anywhere in the Netherlands, that’s why so many people don’t even own cars. All you need is an OV-chip card and it’s all open to you. The fantastic thing about the great public transport system is that it is stress free and timeous travel ensured. The city planning here is done so efficiently that you can reach just about any destination in a city on your bike and for anything else you can cycle to the train station, lock up your bike in their designated bicycle parking and get on a train or a bus to where you need to be.
Efficient Government Departments
Imagine walking into the Department of Home Affairs or the Licensing Department and everything just works, reliably and efficiently. That has been my experience here in the Netherlands. For all governmental tasks you have to make an appointment, thus ensuring that it is never overcrowded, they plan for your specific needs, and that you get helped on the same day you went. In my experience the staff helping me were always friendly and understanding if you are uncertain about something. The mail system works and because of your BSN number, as long as you update your address at your new Gemeente you will always receive your mail at the right address.
The Netherlands is a fantastic country and I would recommend anyone to come live here. Above are only a few things I love about the Netherlands, but there is plenty more, so live a little, come on an adventure and discover it for yourself.