Moving to Holland is not easy, but it's worth the effort. This blog tells the story of shifting from American life in Pittsburgh to Expat life in the Netherlands,
and all of our European adventures that follow.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Thanksgiving is only an American holiday, of course. So we have no luck with getting an official holiday off of work. Nevertheless, in order to keep our spirits up, and to feel connected to our fellow countrymen, we decided to take a day off anyway to celebrate. We took off Friday, instead of Thursday, so we could have a nice 3-day weekend. Although nothing could be quite as fun as last year, spending Thanksgiving together with all our old Pittsburgh buddies in Glasgow, we felt fortunate to have two good friends in Rotterdam, Jake & Erin from Houston, to share this great American holiday with.

It's actually funny the things we had to go through to make a dinner such as this happen. The week before we ordered (yes, ordered) a 4 kilogram turkey from the butcher shop. True to Dutch form, since we don’t have a car, Chad picked up the turkey, put it in his backpack, and biked home with it on his back. haha. We made all other foods from scratch, because they don't have the things we need in the grocery stores. I did, however, manage to score a can of Libby's pumpkin puree from a little American food shop in Amsterdam. So we could make a real pumpkin pie! Although, the day before we realized that we didn’t have a can of evaporated milk that the recipe called for, and of course the Dutch don’t sell it in their grocery stores. Luckily a colleague who bakes had a can that I was able to borrow, and the pie turned out great.

Another difficulty we encountered was that the Dutch evidently don’t use basters. Not a single store in town, including a kitchen supply store, carried a baster. And the people in the stores that we asked looked at us like we were crazy, and had never heard of what we were describing. So, we ended up using a soup ladle to baste the turkey, and it worked fine, it was just a bit more difficult.

A key component of a true Thanksgiving Day is watching football. Part of the benefit of celebrating on Friday instead of Thursday is that we could record all of the games as they were played overnight on Thursday (on Chad's favorite channel here, ESPN America). Then we could watch them on replay on Friday while we cooked. Hey, you gotta do what you can to ward off the homesickness. ;-)

The day before, Chad and Jake made a trip to a specialty beer store in Rotterdam that sells a lot of American beers. They loaded up their backpacks with as much as they could carry. I think the store owner probably thought they were either crazy or alcoholics (both are slightly true, I guess).

The dinner turned out to be great. We had all of the Thanksgiving staples: turkey, stuffing, gravy, green bean & sweet potato casserole (both cooked by Jake), cranberry sauce (which was difficult to find), crescent rolls, & pumpkin pie. Yum! It is nice to share the day with good friends, too. It makes it more special, I think. So, this Thanksgiving, I am most thankful for the friends that we have made here in Holland!


Pics from Thanksgiving:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Working hard, or hardly working?

Everyone has heard of the classic 'relaxed' European work mentality. In my experience, this is really the case here. It's not that I haven't seen my fair share of hard working people, because there are many. But every now and then I hear people make comments, or I hear stories like the below about those who don't want to work "too hard."

Case in point:
My colleague shared the story of his American neighbor who had a job in The Hague working in PR for a museum/curator. She lost her job unexpectedly, and the reason she was given was that she was making the other employees, including her manager, look bad because she was working 'more' than she needed to, & doing more than was in her job description. This is so ridiculous to me that I can’t even formulate a comment.

Another similar case:
A friend of mine (also not Dutch) received a call from his manager asking him not to work as hard at his job, at a hotel in the city. The other employees complained because he made them look bad. Again, this was a case of an 'over achiever,' or someone who was going to extra mile at work, even though it was not explicitly in his job contract. Instead of asking the other employees to use it as a good example, or work harder themselves, or even reward him for a job well done, they asked my friend to work less. Granted, he was working below his job potential, but they didn't have another job to move him into at the time, so they asked that he "work down' to this job level. Seems to me like they not only missed out on his potential, but some good quality work.

Obviously these are only two specific instances, and do not represent the workforce as a whole, or all companies. But still, I don't know how I would react if I was in either of these two situations. I think there is something to be said about putting in an honest days work and working to your full potential, not just simply sliding by. This is something that has been ingrained in me by my parents, school, & sports. I would not be happy, or satisfied with myself, knowing that I did not put in my best effort. I guess in every culture, you have a bit of both.