Life in a Dutch village

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The village kiddo

More than once I call Utrecht a ‘big village’. Which is one of the reasons this city makes me feel right at home since I grew up in a small village with around 6500 inhabitants. Well, let me introduce you to the magical village life. It’s been five years since I moved to Utrecht now. But once in a while I visit my parents who still live in that same village.

The nostalgia starts when I enter the village by bus, over a dike surrounded by green fields with those classy black-and-white cows. Just before I can see the welcome sign we pass two –still working and inhabited- mills along the road. Can’t get any Dutchy-Dutcher. Despite the fact the bus doesn’t cross the center of town, I still get a glimpse of it.  According to my ex-boyfriend the center looks like –I quote- an open air museum. He has a point. The scenery of the small houses along the tiny canal with drawbridges can jump right into a picture frame. Anyhow, I arrived at my parents place.

The next morning –since it’s quite a journey, I mostly spent more than one day at my parents- I decide to go for a run. And of course I run into the neighbor from across the street who is walking his dog in the same (read: the only) park. Once back at the house, the next door neighbor waves friendly from her front yard.

The day continues and groceries need to be done. Going to the supermarket here is a whole other social event. I have to be prepared for bumping into at least ten familiar faces and go through five small talks. Oh and well, if that’s not enough, the cashier is a girl from my class at primary school. I always wonder whether she honestly doesn’t recognizes me anymore or whether she wants to avoid the forced small talks as well.

Groceries are done. So that’s that. But a visit to my parents isn’t complete if I also visited my grandma. It happens to be that my dad was born in this same village. Which means my grandma lives just a few steps away. But these few steps are just enough for more familiar faces. No idea why, but one way or another I always manage to bump into my dentist. This time during the two minute walk to granny. Funny thing, the dental clinic –and I’m pretty sure his home address- are not even located in the village but in the city next to it. Ah well, he is a friendly guy so I am okay with seeing him more than twice a year during my routine dental check-up.

As you might have noticed, the village life is not familiar with the aspect of anonymity. But it does forces you to be social almost 24/7. Social in the simple way of pass-by greetings and small talk. But also social on a higher level. I’m convinced that growing up in this bubble teaches you to sympathize. Huh what? Well, let me explain. The fact that I know the cashier in the supermarket since we went to primary school together makes me see her right away as ‘more than a cashier’. As result, I’m super friendly to her. The same goes for the firefighter who happens to be the dad of a former classmate and the pharmacist who is also my mum’s swim buddy. It makes sure you don’t miss the bigger picture. It somehow makes you treat people in a better way. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t claim all villagers are like this nor am I claiming this is the only way to learn to sympathize. It’s just something I realized as a former village kiddo. So far a little insight in the magical village life and one of the lessons I learned from it. A lesson which I –don’t worry- also bring in practice in Utrecht.

By Femke

2015-03-21 The village kiddo (3)

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