What can you possibly learn about a country from your first trip there that lasts just a few days? Maybe nothing representative, but I’ll share my observations anyway. I already posted about the professional experience over at Living Single, Single-at-Heart in Holland, so this is the more quirky stuff.

A few of my favorite things (in no particular order):

  • Green things. In the dead of winter, there were vast swatches of green to behold from the train ride from Amsterdam to the town of Tilburg where the conference was located. At Tilburg University, faculty offices include a windowed wall looking out on a forest with little critters scampering around. Cool.
  • Cool, but not freezing! That was a nice surprise.
  • Tiny cars. Lots and lots of them. I’d love to drive a tiny car, but here in the U.S., with so many other huge hulking vehicles around, it seems unsafe.
  • A comfortable and efficient train system that runs often and on-time. Imagine.
  • Magnificently kind and generous people. As I mentioned in my other post, the social psychologists seemed really receptive to my singles talk. Now consider this. A grad student, Anna, came to meet me at the Amsterdam airport and a faculty member, Marielle, returned with me. For Marielle, that meant taking three trains and staying over, since we got to the airport so late. I would like to think that I would be that gracious as a hostess, but I don’t know. Also, I already had wonderful emails waiting for me when I got back.
  • Bread – all kinds. I expected the wonderful cheeses and salmon, but the variety of breads was a surprise.
  • Fresh fruit. I confess to smuggling some into the country, as I expected to be deprived if I didn’t. (I’ve gotten spoiled by all of the just-picked produce here in California.) Wrong! Offerings were everywhere – including at breakfast and at the conference, and in the welcoming hands of the people who escorted me to and from the airport.
  • Warm family ties. A number of people mentioned their parents in the most positive ways. A few were headed to help them in some way or to visit. Maybe that was in part because the holidays are so close. But it also seemed consistent with what I read in that book I discussed in a previous post, Not Under My Roof.
  • Internationalism. This was no surprise, but I’m always impressed to meet people who speak multiple languages and who have been to so many different countries.

To preserve my credibility, I’ll admit I couldn’t live there. Whenever I expressed an eagerness to return in the summer, I was immediately told that I’d have about two days to choose from. Hmmm. Couldn’t be in a place without lots of sunshine for long.

If you are Dutch or if you’ve spent more than a few days in Holland, what do you think? Are my observations idiosyncratic or on-target?

[If you are interested, check out my latest over at Single at Heart: Is marriage less appealing to singles who have already tried it?]