by Lianne Bergeron
I have just arrived home from two hours of ice-skating. The whole country is frozen which means every waterway is skate-able – and I would dare say that there are more waterways than roads here. Sounds pretty decadent doesn’t it? Drop off the kids, put on my skates, then come home and get some work done. But let me tell you, I wasn’t alone on the ice…
The Dutch don’t think twice about not going to work because there is ice to skate on or it’s a hot sunny day.
Is it decadent? Or is it part of the reason that the Dutch, in general, are more balanced – and therefore happier -than North Americans?
It’s a right to enjoy life here – not a privilege.
So are Dutch mothers the happiest in the world?
Many husbands work four days a week and take care of the kids on their “day off”.
There is little emphasis on what you do for a living. It just doesn’t define them.
It’s a small country so parents and family live close by for extra support. In fact, everything is close by.
There is a very good social system, so even if you lose your job you will generally be ok.
Health care, schooling etc. are well taken care of.
There is less pressure to be great (which I struggle with) but it means that Dutch moms aren’t bringing their kids to hockey practice three times a week. Good enough is OK.
Body image is not as intense as in some countries.
Everyone gets a good amount of vacation time every year – read 25 days+ (for 40 hour week) and is expected to use it up.
You can drink wine everywhere (ok – that makes me happy… whether or not it makes Dutch women happy I can’t say). And a good bottle of wine costs about $5.
Everyone has a bike and rides daily – so there is some built in exercise and fresh air in the daily routine.
But the Dutch have a “just deal with it” mentality – they don’t show a lot of emotion, there is not a lot of passion. It’s hard to tell what’s really going on. Their houses are always very clean and ordered, which drives me nuts (and therefore emphasizes the disaster in our house).
They tolerate things more than accept them. As they work to live rather than live to work, there is not a lot of entrepreneurship or high salaries (but does that make one happy and balanced?). They literally live on top of each other – houses are all attached and there is not a lot of space here. Most don’t have dryers (I mean really???). And the weather… How can anyone be happy without the sun?
For me, happiness and balance walk hand in hand. I think that every mother struggles with balance no matter where they live. Working or not, one or four kids – it’s a lot to deal with; kids’ activities, cooking, caring, giving, organizing and the list goes on… We all try and do it all while also doing the best we can. However, Dutch mothers do have a lot going for them that makes that balance thing a little easier to achieve.
All in all I would say that women are more balanced here than in North America. But the happiest?
Add eight months of sunshine and 10,000 km more space and I just might have to agree…
So this all brings up the question: Why do I live here?
I live here because life is more balanced and because of the wine… It’s that simple.
Lianne Bergeron is an author and entrepreneur who lives and works near Amsterdam with her Dutch husband and four kids. She’ll share her life abroad without family support, kids that speak Denglish and traditions that aren’t hers. Life with four kids and 10 bikes and her on-going quest to balance it all on her bicycle built for six. Follow her on Twitter and read more about her books at LiannesQuickGuide.com.