One of Mama’s Losin’ It’s writing prompts for this week is to list ten things you like about your state. I tried listing things I like about my province, but it’s proving too hard to write about Gelderland in English. Therefore, I’m cheating a bit and writing about my country as a whole. After all, a U.S. state is often larger than the entire country of the Netherlands.
1. The landscape. This is something I particulalry like in the province of Gelderland. The landscape here consists of woodlands, hills and rivers. In the western part of the Netherlands, many areas below sea level have been man-made. These areas are called polders. I was born practically in the Alexander Polder in Rotterdam, which is the lowest point in the entire country, being six meters below sea level. Most people who are not from the Netherlands like the polders better than the hills and woodlands of Gelderland.
2. The Wadden Islands. I could’ve included them above, but I like them in particular. These are a set of islands north of the mainland. My parents, sister and I would often go on vacation to Vlieland. I loved the dunes and beach of Vlieland, but the island also has some forestry.
3. The politics. No, I dn’t like the Dutch government, since it’s led by a conservative prime minister who gets his way in every area. Labor is on the government too, but they are fake lefties anyway. What I like about the Dutch politics is that small parties like GroenLinks and the Socialist Party can get onto the parliament too. Of course, this does mean that the Christian right gets on the parliament too.
4. The climate. Dutch people tend to think it’s typcal of the Dutch to complain of the weather, but I believe this is a universal way of starting smalltalk. We have a little of all four seasons, though fall always seems to last the longest. I particularly like the springs and summers here and like the occasional day of snow in winter.
5. The values. The Netherlands is considered extremely liberal by American standards. Most people are irreligious and don’t shove their beliefs down your throat. Though I am a Jesus follower and like to participate in American-based Christian culture sometimes, I like to retreat to my little, liberal church too. The Dutch are usually tolerant, though this has gone down a bit since 9/11 and the emergence of first Pim Fortuyn and then Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party.
6. Social security. It’s pretty good here compared to the United States and even most of the rest of Europe. I get around €770 a month. People not in institutions get more, but they substract my long-term care copay. Many benefits are income-based, which is good sometimes for me but not so good at other times because my husband has an income too. However, generally speaking, the Dutch system is mostly egalitarian despite almost fifteen years of right-wing governments so far. I like that.
7. The health care system. The Netherlands maintains a number one position in the European Health Consumer Index, which measures quality of health care systems. Though health insurance was liberalized a bit with the 2006 Health Insurance Act, health insurance is mandatory and usually quite affordable. The government decides what is covered in the basic package, which is the mandatory piece of health insurane, and people can buy additional coverage (with insurers being allowed to refuse them or raise premiums based on pre-existing conditions). The Long-Term Care Act went into effect in 2015 and covers institutional care. For community supports, local governments decide who will be eligible.
8. The educational system. Though we aren’t as much of a knowledge-based economy as the government would like people to believe, education is usually quite good and a lot more affordable than in the United States. College tuition, unless you take longer than usual to graduate, is about €2000 a year. Elementary and secondary education are free until you’re eighteen. We do have a few expensive, private schools, but not nearly as many as other countries do.
9. Music. Though I don’t care for famous Dutch singers such as Frans Bauer or Marco Borsato, I do like music sung in dialects. My parents live in the province of Groningen and I love listening to music from that province.
10. Queen Máxima. No, that’s a joke, but I couldn’t think of anything else. Most people in the Netherlands at least used to adore the queen. She isn’t head of state, as her husband Willem Alexander is, and this probably gives her some extra cuteness.