After several weeks in Rotterdam I realise I may as well be on a different planet. Coming from Africa and arriving in Europe is a radical change.
So to highlight just a few adjustments and observations so far… well security would be a big one for me. There are no private security company vehicles patrolling the streets. There are no armed response adverts/signs stuck up on every home you walk past. In fact the concept is quite foreign here. There are no burglar bars on the windows. There are no beams in the garden to alert to possible intruders. There is no razor wire, no electric fences, etc. There is, in the South African sense, very little security. At first I would battle to sleep feeling so exposed and vulnerable. Now quite the opposite as I no longer wake up in a cold sweat imagining intruders inside my home. Don’t get me wrong, you take regular precautions such as locking ones door and checking it’s locked! The apartment buildings have access control so no one can wander around inside the buildings uninvited. But it’s nothing like stressing about having a gun put to your head just driving out your driveway!
Walking… besides cycling, everybody walks here. There are pedestrian walkways and cycle paths everywhere. Walking is safe. Motorists stop at pedestrian crossings! I haven’t seen a single vehicle go through a red traffic light [yet]. We found ourselves walking the short distance from the train station to home just after 9:00pm one evening and felt, relatively, safe. I am jumpy at the slightest sound or rustle of leaves and that will probably never wear off. But walk you can, without taking your life in your hands with the traffic and/or isigebengus (isiZulu for criminals).
Public transport is a whole new concept! Firstly it exists. Secondly it works. That’s all we have at our disposal outside of walking and have been amazed at how efficient it is.
Dealing with government departments. Oh gosh, how efficient. You make an appointment, arrive at your allotted time and are promptly attended to. No queueing for hours in the meager hope that you will get to talk to an official. No waiting two years just to get a print out of one’s birth certificate! If they say they are going to do something, well, they just get on and do it.
Postal services actually work. Back in SA it takes weeks to receive anything, if it’s ever received. Here it takes one or two days and the item is in your post box! Companies, government, etc. rely on the postal service here. This made me nervous. The bank said they would send my bank card by post! Eeek. I nearly had heart failure. But true to form within three days I had received all three packages from the bank. A government department informed me that some important documents were sent by mail to me. Gosh, a day later I received them – fancy that!
All in all this is a period of tremendous adjustment and great adventure. I will be sure to write more in the coming weeks.
Yours in lifelong learning,