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Spain vs. the Netherlands: similarities and differences

Spain vs. the Netherlands: similarities and differences

We are spending a few weeks in the Netherlands to recover from packing, cleaning and painting, and to meet up with family and friends before our long drive to Spain.  Holland has been basking in glorious sunshine coupled with heatwave temperatures ever since we arrived, and so being here feels a bit like being in Spain, albeit with some notable differences….

A short cycling holiday

Holland is made for cycling, with its temperate climate, flat landscape and amazing network of cycle paths that are safe, easy and quiet.   However, on our two-day mini tour, we were cycling up and down through the dunes, without shade, and in a heatwave – so probably not too dissimilar from a Spanish cycling experience.  The sea provided a very welcome cooling off, and I found that dipping a t-shirt in sea water and wearing it on my head prevented me from having a heat stroke, though I appreciate it’s not the most elegant of attires!

Wet t-shirt, wet bandana – anything to keep cool!

We have discovered that Spain can be good for cycling too, and we’ve found some great places to cycle in Andalusia, such as the Via Verde and along the Malaga coastline.  Just not during the heat of the day in the middle of the summer!

Water

The biggest difference between the two countries is the presence of water.  In the Netherlands there is seaside all around, and it’s also full of lakes, canals, rivers – you can’t go far without seeing water somewhere.  This couldn’t be further from the truth around Casa Campestre, where the river beds run dry in the summer and the local lake (Lake Iznajar) is no longer visible from our house – until the rain comes in the winter and the snow melts from the Sierra Nevada.  So, when it rains in Spain, we are always incredibly pleased!

Food and Drink

I love being in Holland, and the food and drink in the supermarkets reminds me of growing up here.  Living in the UK, I’ve sometimes longed for ‘drop’ (Dutch salty licorice), ‘rijsttafel’ (Indonesian dishes) and ‘karnemelk’ (Hilary describes this as milk that’s gone off, but that clearly isn’t true, it’s a cross between milk and yoghurt, and utterly refreshing).  Now we’re moving to Spain, we will miss English cuisine, such as roast dinners and rhubarb crumble.  But we also feel that the best thing about being in a new country is exploring different tastes, ingredients and ways of cooking – and we can’t wait to experience it all.   And we love Spanish supermarkets.  Especially the Mercadona, where the staff are always amazingly friendly, the fish is fresh, and the vegetables and fruit look great.  It’s all a very different and a much more upbeat experience than shopping in our local Sainsburys. 

Cost of living

Hilary and I were very surprised at the prices in the Dutch shops – even when ignoring the current terrible pound/euro exchange rate, it felt like prices have gone up enormously in the past year or so compared with the UK.  We are concerned about the exchange rate, as our income in Spain will largely come from the UK, but cost of living in Spain is definitely a lot better than in the Netherlands. And as long as Spanish prices stay stable and the pound doesn’t go down too crazily in this whole Brexit saga, we think we’ll manage.  Uncertain times, though, with the threat of a ‘no-deal Brexit’ becoming increasingly real.

Time

The most marked difference between the Netherlands and Spain is time.  In Holland (and yes, I use ‘the Netherlands’ and ‘Holland’ interchangeably, I’m not a purist!), the day starts early, lunch is early (12 noon is not uncommon) and dinner is early (5pm onwards) and we go to bed early.  When we’re in Spain, we tend to have breakfast around 10am, lunch around 3pm and dinner around 9pm.  Or sometimes even later.  In Spain, children are often still up and about at midnight.  It’s a different way of life and a different culture, and that is what makes our move to Casa Campestre so exciting.

City vs countryside

In the Hague, where I’ve grown up, you’re never far away from a shop, a supermarket, a cinema, a theatre or entertainment.   The same goes for where we lived in the UK.  In Casa Campestre, however, the nearest village store is 25 minutes’ walk away and the nearest supermarket is a 30 minute drive.   This means we have to plan our shopping expeditions much more carefully, and it also means it’s a much calmer existence.  Fewer commercial distractions, more time for reading and reflecting – and writing blogs!   It may prove to be too calm for me, and once we are in Spain, I will want to explore what’s out there, and what I can get involved in.  Can’t wait!

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