I’ve been in Holland for three weeks, and in this time certain observations have turned into realizations of fundamental differences between where I was and where I now reside. That’s a convoluted way of saying, it’s different, bruh.
Different in a good way. Different in a life affirming way. You never know if a move like this is going to work out, but when the payoff comes it makes the risk worth it. Although still early days I think that we’ve been right on the mark with this one. Let me share with you a few of the things that have struck me since I’ve been in the land of the cheese-heads.
Most cyclists in Australia are wankers. This is due to their inversion of the road dynamics. Australia is built and designed for vehicles. They are the top dogs. Cyclists are the bottom dogs. Thirty years ago when I was an avid amateur cyclist this all worked as intended because as cyclists we knew our place. We understood that it was our responsibility on the roads to make it as easy as possible for the surrounding vehicles. Everything worked fine as a result of this healthy dynamic.
Today cyclists are virtue signalers. They cycle for ulterior motives. One of the big motives is that they believe that they are saving the planet. Due to their perceived virtuousness they act on the roads as if they are the top dogs. But the road network is still primarily designed for vehicles. This has created a very unhealthy dynamic. The state of Victoria introduced a ludicrous law where a motorist must give a cyclist a meter of space when overtaking. There is no onus on cyclists with this law. In theory a cyclist could hang out near the center of the road and never be legally overtaken. It is a band-aid solution for what has become an unworkable situation. I didn’t go near a bike in my last six years in Australia.
In Holland the dynamic is different. The road system within the towns is designed for bikes first and vehicles second. Bikes are the top dogs and drivers act accordingly. The dynamic is healthy. So far I have done everything on a bike. I do the shopping on my bike with its two huge panniers for putting my groceries. When I visit people I grab the bike. I go to the gym on the bike. It helps that the weather has been stunning since my arrival, but thus far I see no need to even purchase a car.
Which leads me to my next observation. Kids on bikes. There are kids on bikes everywhere. And I’m not just talking teenagers. Little gangs of 5 year olds regularly flash by me, their tiny legs peddling furiously, and the parents nowhere to be seen.
Like when we were kids.
The streets are alive with kids at all hours of the day. The local neighborhood parks are crammed with them. They play ball, they hang off climbing frames, they run around shooting each other with over-sized guns. Just down the street from my house is an area that I can only describe as a swamp. It’s about thirty meters wide but stretches in a straight line for almost a kilometer.
The swamp is full of playground equipment. There are random raised trails and wooden forts. The kids play in the swamp. It is the best swamp playground that I have ever seen, and like all the other times that I see kids playing there is rarely an adult to be seen.
In Australia we now have the reality that parents will receive a police summons if they allow their 12 year old children to go down to the park unaccompanied. The main park near my former home in South Yarra was Como park. I never saw kids playing there by themselves. What I mostly saw were adults in dog walking groups. When I describe this to Dutch parents they look at me with a complete lack of understanding. Back in Australia we have this media influenced mindset where everyone in Europe is dictated to by Brussels.
That’s not what I’m seeing. Compared to Australians the Dutch have personal freedom. All those kids zooming around on bikes that I mentioned? No helmets. Not a single one. On several occasions I have witnessed a teenage boy giving his girl a ride on his bike. The girl is usually facing the boy, her legs dangling over the bike in a relaxed manner, as she casually smokes a cigarette. It is the epitome of freedom.
Kids don’t play in the street in Australia. Kids don’t get themselves to school anymore. The roads are clogged with parents driving their children here, and driving their children there. It is a sterile society.
In Holland kids don’t always play in the park alone. Sometimes there is a row of adults sitting nearby. Perhaps some mothers, perhaps some randoms thrown in, just out and enjoying the sunshine. The other day I decided to perform a mild social experiment. I was passing a little park where some children were nosily enjoying themselves. A row of adults sat across from the children. They were chatting amongst themselves and enjoying the day. I stopped my bike and ambled over to the bench. I was somewhat trepidatious because at about this point in Australia I would have been rugby-tackled and arrested for being an obvious child molester with evil intent.
Instead I sat down on the bench, and made my good-days to the other assembled adults. They smiled back and wished me good day and then we watched the children play. Nobody thought anything wrong with my presence. It was liberating. I enjoyed hanging out and watching the kids. I felt a part of something, part of a community.
In Australia men are the enemy. A woman with a pram will view you with open hostility. You are one of them, an evil child molester and potential rapist until proven otherwise. The assumption is that as a man you are an undesirable element. Let’s be honest, as a man in Australian society you generally are an undesirable element. The social dynamics have been corrupted. The feeling that I used to get was generally one of suspicion.
From my initial observations the Dutch family units seem to be much healthier, and this robustness is amplified out into the general community. It is noticeable only because it is such a contrast with what Australian society has devolved into over the last twenty years. I’ve had a few conversations with Dutch neighbors about these things but they really cannot understand what I am talking about. What I’m describing is completely alien to them, and what I appreciate about their society they view as completely normal.
It was normal in Australia too, once upon a time. But if you don’t value what you have you can easily lose it.