I was reminded yesterday that fifteen years ago I spent my first New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands alone. Completely and totally alone. In a new house, in a new country. Just me and my tears at midnight.
I had been in the Netherlands for just over three months and my Dutch partner and I were in the middle of making the house we had just bought habitable. We ‘moved in’ a week previously, and I use the term moved in loosely. The house was half painted downstairs; we had spent Christmas morning sanding the floor. It was sparsely spotted with a few belongings here and there. It was pretty dismal in the best of circumstances, let alone as the backdrop for the first New Year’s Eve celebration in a new country – alone. He had to work a nightshift.
I have written a couple of articles about celebrating New Year in the Netherlands, and none of them are very positive but on Facebook yesterday that very first New Year’s Eve flashed back suddenly when a fellow expat shared that she would be spending this evening alone because her Dutch husband is working. Been there. Done that. Wouldn’t recommend it. But looking back, it may just have done me some good. Going through the rough times helps you recognise and appreciate when you have it good.
Expat life is not easy for many of us, no matter what others around us may think. Even after fifteen years in the Netherlands life as an expat is still not without niggles and negatives. But I do know it gets easier. I promise expat life gets easier.
Each New Year celebration that comes my way allows me to see just how far I have come. I’m practically a local at this New Year in the Netherlands things (except for the indiscriminate blowing up of street furniture and the brainless random setting off of decorative fireworks in broad daylight) as I munch on olieballen and prepare a gezellig meal for the family, putting champagne on ice for midnight and waking the children up to gaze at the fireworks that light up the sky.
I couldn’t spend New Year’s Eve alone these days, even if I wanted to (and believe there are some days I wouldn’t mind an evening entirely alone, even New Year’s Eve!) as I have three young sons. They are not the only positive things, but without a doubt the best things to come out of the expat life I chose, the one that started with a New Year’s Eve alone, an evening that looking back I wouldn’t change a second of. It was part of the path that got me to today.
So, wherever you are celebrating, whether you are with loved ones, a room full of strangers, or alone I wish you a wonderful passage into 2016. If you are a newbie expat remember that this evening signifies the start of another year of expat life under your belt – and it gets easier. I promise.