I truly fell in love with the Netherlands on February 2, 2018 - it was before noon and, for the first time, my luggage didn’t go over the weight limit the airline allowed. Three years later, I’m still more peaceful here than in Romania, but I wonder if and when I’ll go home again - and for how long.
In 2012, I had to give a testimonial of “Why I love my country” for a high school project and I wrote, among other things, that my heart beats in a Romanian way - it’s the feeling of living to the fullest, while being very conscious of death. The Merry Cemetery and this coffin ad are good examples of this “We’re all going to die one day, but at least let’s have some fun until then” statement, not to mention that our favourite dessert is eaten at funerals.
My best friend wrote a generous testimonial as well, but she kept telling me how much she wants to leave Romania and I got upset with her. Even though the medical system messed me up good, I insisted on having a patriotic spiritual duty, because I was frustrated with people who give up fighting the system and just leave. And yet, I became one.
I ended up in The Netherlands in 2018 because two of my colleagues were already exchange students at The Hague University of Applied Sciences; the fact that this country had the best program to match my studies at home was a bonus. Those six months spent there are still the best ones of my life - they made me reconsider my future. In 2019, I was again on a plane to The Netherlands, but this time for TU/e.
You know, nobody’s first words are “I want to become an expat!”. This decision comes after we are fully in charge of our cognitive function and we are shown the rest of the world (through education or some other means) - that’s when those 'more-opportunities' and 'a-better-life' thoughts pop out in our mind.
Living in another country is not for everyone. Besides courage and adaptation, it takes a high sense of consciousness and a deep desire of learning continuously - especially about yourself. You become aware of your behaviours, your strengths, and your weakness, and almost every day you realize how much you still have to learn.
When things get tough, you mostly have to rely on yourself. You don’t have your family to hug you when you go through a breakup or your childhood friends to pick you up from a random bar. You have to read the laws in another language and you can only hope you did translate them correctly, so that you won’t receive those blue envelopes.
Life as an expat in the Netherlands is great from the ‘possibilities-and-freedom’ point of view, but a little less great when it comes to social life. Most of the expats can easily adapt, but hardly integrate.
In November 2020 I started a remote job within a Romanian team - I never met my colleagues in real life and even though this doesn’t necessary impact my performance, I can’t help but wonder if this is truly the new normal. Trying to know each other over the screens. Trying to communicate, learn, work, and perform via share screens. Maybe our personality is also changing, spending so much time online. If last year we were cautious of how we look on camera and what furniture we have on the background, now we are too tired to keep up special appearances - we just want to feel close to each other.
There are 344 days since I last saw Romania. I’ve never been away from my family and friends for this much time and I don’t know exactly what or how I feel. I’m using texts, video or phone calls to chat with people back home. We exchange photos to show the weather. “I can’t wait to see you again!” became the new conversation closing. I am documenting my days - even though most of them are the same.
What’s the longest time you’ve been away from home and what’s the biggest impact this pandemic had on your personal or work life? I am truly curious and eager to discuss, so reach out.