Living the 'alternative' life in Amsterdam
When Jarka Adamcová relocated from her native Czech Republic in 1999 to study macrobiotics in the Netherlands, along with alternative healing , she learned about a new way of life.
Name: Jaroslava (Jarka) Adamcová
Residence : Amsterdam
Birthdate: 9 July 1976
Marital status: Single
Employer: Kushi Institute (Macrobiotics)
Function: Office manager
In the Netherlands since: 1999
After I became familiar with macrobiotics in the Czech Republic through a friend of mine, I started a course. It was organised by the directors of the Kushi Institute, Amsterdam, and this way of life appealed to me. I received an invitation from them to come to the Netherlands where their European head office is situated. Since I had considered moving to the Netherlands for two years, I decided to make the move. I already had my own company in the Czech Republic so the decision was not an easy one to make.
I could begin my studies at the Institute immediately, and was able to stay at the director’s home, so I found myself in an 'already made bed'. Besides I was from a little village and found the transit to the big city of Amsterdam a bit too much. They lived in Castricum, which is situated close to the dunes and the sea and I found it fantastic. I love the sea and went hiking a lot.
The family that I lived with had five kids so I observed all the family traditions from the inside. The Sinterklaas celebrations with the surprises and the poems I really liked. In the Czech Republic we only celebrate Christmas and then only give presents to each other. The children’s birthday parties (in the Netherlands) are also celebrated more elaborately. Birthday kids hand out sweets at school, and have a party with a special dinner.
A city of diversity
It struck me how many nationalities there are in Amsterdam. In our village in the Czech Republic there are only Vietnamese people and gypsies, although the last of course aren’t foreigners. The way of dressing also is distinctly different. You really can wear anything you like here, or very little – nobody will mention it! You see all styles mixed together, from easy and casual to very classy.
I like biking very much, so I love the way the Netherlands is organised as far as bike trails are concerned. Also you can put a lot less effort in the biking because the country is so flat!
I am also very positive about public transport, because in the Czech Republic you never know if the train is even going to arrive. However, I have to say that after ten years in the Netherlands I now have consideration for the way the Dutch complain about the delays.
Life of the party
Queen’s Dayreally was a shock for me! As much as for the enormous quantity of people it attracts as for the even bigger pile of trash they leave behind. Nowadays I don’t celebrate it every time. I find the Vondelpark where all the kids go is the nicest, especially the games like throwing eggs or eating as many as biscuits as possible.
A land of plenty
When I was little, the Czech Republic was still communist and there was little one could get. You could get cabbage or carrots for vegetables. For grapes or bananas you had to stand in a queue. And even now there is a lot more variety in the food you can get here in the Netherlands. You can really get every kind of vegetable, fruit, spice, and cereal, which is also due to all the different cultures living here.
As far as Dutch food goes, I like pickled herring but don’t bother making me a cheese sandwich!
Sometimes I get bothered by the consuming people do without thinking. They take all the wealth for granted but I know how different it can be. We used to use everything for as long as possible. I remember we had acquaintances that fled to Switzerland. Every now and again they would come back and bring us their used clothing. It usually was expensive brands that were as good as new. My grandmother used to make all my clothes for me. I was sixteen when I got my first real pair of jeans!
Speaking one’s mind
I was struggling with the Dutch habit to have an opinion about everything at first. In a communist country. like mine was, you were not allowed to have an opinion. When you did have one, you were considered a danger to the safety of the state and risked getting arrested.
When I was doing my NT2-education, I was working in groups where I had to give my opinions all the time, and even had to defend them with arguments. In the beginning I was really uncomfortable!
My overall opinion about the Dutch is that they are really friendly. Although to a point, you can’t ask them much! They, however, are very curious; they keep fishing, want to know everything about you.
Also I find it petty that you can not spontaneously visit somebody; there always has to be an appointment.
In stores it is clear that the customer is king. Staff members really try to do their best and give you all the attention. In the Czech Republic they usually look annoyed because you are interrupting them doing nothing. Fortunately that is slowly getting better.
I have also noticed, both the Dutch and the Czechs complain but the way they do it is different. The Czechs can keep on complaining about something that can’t be helped anyhow, anymore, sometimes an hour at the time – very exhausting. The Dutch are done with it more quickly. They have less trouble accepting things that can not be changed anymore.
Healing the rift
Compared to the Czechs, the Dutch are suspicious of alternative healing, at least the medical community is. When the slightest mistake can be pointed out, it will be and immediately. The medical community is very rigid and thinks only one way is right. That is what we as an institute have to face. We are not doctors nor do we push the issue, but we do try to do preventive work by promoting a healthy lifestyle.
Big ideas in a small world
A thought occurred to me the other day that everyone who comes to live in the Netherlands should visit Madurodam first. There you can see all the important things about the Netherlands in miniature. Not only buildings but bridges as well – you can even see how they open – the old and the new mills and Schiphol. Very educational.
Standing in the doorway
I don’t want to go back to the Czech Republic right away, but I do know of course that the backdoor is always open. Besides I visit the Czech Republic a few times a year for work or a family visit, so I do keep in contact. I have become aware that I sometimes have difficulties with my native language. When I speak Czech I often think: “How do you say that in Czech?”
A thing that I would really miss in the Czech Republic is the sea. That’s the first thing I would consider!
29 October 2008
Jarka Adamcová told her story to Nicole van Schaijik, who owns and operates Talent Taaltrainingen (Dutch Language Courses), based in Amsterdam (www.talent-tn.nl). (Tel: 020 420 66 59 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Translated from the Dutch language by David van Bakergem.
Edited by Laura Beeby / Expatica
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