Technology Is a Life Saver

I am by no means a techie nor am I even a fan of technology at times but I will say that surviving in another country is so much easier with technology.  If we don’t know where to go, we pull out our Google maps or use the navigational system in the car-it will even tell us when a speed cam is coming up.  If we don’t know what something means, we can pull up our translator app and either type in a word or scan an entire area of text and get a translation.  If we are missing someone and want to communicate, we just pick up the phone or computer and reach out through messenger for a video phone call (though some people do need constant reminders that there is a time difference!).  We can watch our American TV shows through Hulu and Netflix here, and if we don’t know what store to go to for a particular item, we can just pull up an online site with translation assist and buy what we need.

I may be no fan of technology but I’m super glad we have it-it may just be what helps us to survive!

 

*Disclaimer-we have not tried to translate “Where can I find a cheeseburger.”

Bikes Galore

To say that biking is a way of life in The Netherlands would probably be an understatement.  There are bike lanes everywhere, there are specific rules regarding traffic and bikes and at any time you can see people of all ages biking (not to mention the hundreds of bikes at the bike racks).  And then there is the bike store-I truly had no idea that picking a bike was such a scientific process.  In my mind, you go into the store and you pick a bike that looks nice and is in your price range.  It probably has some speeds but those don’t matter too much because you will mostly pick one and stick with it.  Not here….the store was filled with hundreds of bikes.  The bike salesmen were walking around much like you would find at a car lot.  Their purpose seemed to be to help you test the bike to make sure it is the appropriate fit.  You see, apparently, bikes come in different sizes (frame size and wheel size) based on your height, and there are male and female versions of the bike.  Once you have determined the correct size of bike that you need, you must then have the bike serviced to make sure that the seat is at the right height level so that you can sit up straight, reach the floor but not have your knees come up too high.  And I’m not even going to tell you the pricing levels for bikes (let’s just say it’s much more than the Walmart versions I have purchased at home).  Also, you must buy a heavy duty bike lock and if you want to carry things on your bike you will need a basket, cart or bag.  It was a lengthy process but in the end, we are all now proud owners of Dutch bikes.  Let the biking begin!

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Special Delivery

So I recently ordered some items, including a large area rug, online through an Amazon type site in The Netherlands.  The rug was supposed to arrive in two days so imagine my surprise, when the next day at lunch, I received a call from an unknown Dutch number.  It was the store that the rug was coming from.  They had received the order from the website but noticed by our address that we live just a few streets over from one of the employees/managers and wanted to know if he could bring it by on his way home from work that evening.  So, sure enough, we received our rug a day early.  Can’t imagine that happening in the US!

Ikea-Mecca of All Things or Hell on Earth

During our first week here in The Netherlands, we were at Ikea (for at least one or more hours each time) on 5 days.  That’s 5 days out of 7!  Now I had never been to an Ikea before.  Upon entering our Ikea here (by the way, the first time was about 5 hours after stepping off the plane), the sense of overwhelming decisions was apparent.  I’m not sure how to describe Ikea except that it has both endless choices and yet no real variety of options.  The hoards of people, similarly wandering around trying to make decisions, does not help the overwhelming feeling.

Let me describe Ikea’s setup.  In addition to being an all-consuming vortex of chaotic decision making, Ikea also sports a cafeteria and deli as well as a check in play area for kids in an attempt to make sure that you never need to leave.  They have a warehouse where you can pick up all the parts needed for your selected furnishings, or you can pay the store to pick it all up for you.  And then there is the massive checkout line which Ikea has down to a science.  The line moves at a good clip thanks to the multitude of check out registers and the TV monitor which informs you which line you should head to.  In total, Ikea has a map showing nearly 30 showrooms/shopping areas and all the shortcut paths you can take to arrive at different areas.  You might have better luck reading a subway route map.

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On our first trip, we had one goal-get beds so that we had somewhere to sleep.  We managed to select beds through the fog of jet lag and no sleep, but if we had the beds delivered on that day rather than waiting until we had selected the other big items like wardrobes, couches and desks, then the delivery charge would be double (where is our big truck when we need it).  So, bright and early the next morning we went back to Ikea to attempt to make more decisions.  Did I mention that the process of making decisions with overwhelming choices and hoards of people, is magically enhanced by your kids who do not want to stand around while you make decisions?  In fact, those kids just want to make sure that it is nearly impossible for you to think through any decision coherently!  Nonetheless, we did make decisions.  So after seven days of five Ikea trips, two furniture deliveries, a couple of trips of stuffing the car to the brim (I mean seriously, the kids had rugs squished in next to their faces in the backseat) and a couple of times in the return line (take a number and wait forever…you would think it was a DMV), we had the furnishings we needed to set up the house.

Now the real fun began.  You see, Ikea furniture comes in as many pieces as humanely possible-none of which are labeled-and instructions that use as little directional information as possible.  So those beds that we wanted for the first day, well they didn’t get put together until about day 5.  In fact, it took three days of a handyman working 8 or more hours a day, plus putting together several more pieces on our own, and a couple of furniture-related injuries, to get it all done.  We currently still have the outdoor furniture to do, but as those require an electric screwdriver and a wrench, both of which are still on that darn boat with the rest of our things, they will have to wait.

So after feeling like Ikea was our home and our sole supplier of life for the first week of our time here, I am happy to report we haven’t been at all in a week, and now I am left wondering if Ikea is a mecca of everything I need or just hell on Earth.  The jury is still out, but I’m not in a rush to get back (though my kid keeps asking when we get to go eat at Ikea again!).

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