‘Going Dutch’ – Guestblog by Edoardo Valvo

You can hear his voice from miles away, his laughter is contagious, he know how to hold the attention of the crowd.. he if fit as f*ck, fast as f*ck and funny as f*ck.
He knows the words to Britneys’ hit me baby on more time’ ( thank you NP karaoke night for teaching us this gem )
He never steps away from a challenge and is always ready to #raceeverything !
In less than 40 days he will be at the starting lines of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, barely recovered from injury but hey, who would pass up on a day froliking in the Italian mountains for 87 – EIGHTY SEVEN – kilometers!

Here’s a guestblog by our favorite Italian on ‘going Dutch’ 😉

Photo by Seth Profet

“Excuse me” says the manager of the bar.
“Yes..” I reply while on my way to the door. 
“I am sorry to ask, but do you have a problem with the tables?” she tells me with an expression between the amused and the serious
“No, they are fine” I respond.
“Then, you do know that you can take a seat when drinking your coffee”.
I laugh and explain that in Italy this is how we drink it, straight from the counter and then we all go about our business. 

This is me dealing with the Dutch way of doing things in my first few weeks in the Netherlands. I moved here for my studies having never seen its ground before. A leap of faith of a 23 year old kid with the hopes of building a life outside of his comfort zone. Fast forward five years, I now usually assess a bar by the coffee machine type and how many tables there are. 

The adaptation of the human mind is something truly incredible. Whoever has spent a fair amount of time outside of the place where they grew up, can sympathise with the situation in which, whenever entering again your own borders, you observe everything with a different eye. It is not because we have seen something new, but because we live into it.

Whenever I go back to Italy I cannot stand its unorganised queues and in them I can have the funniest conversations. I dread the traffic jam in the busy streets of Rome and yet it feels more familiar then the biking lanes to which I got accustomed. The people are chaotic in the street and sometimes they do not make a lot of sense. Yet, I can read the authenticity of the messages in their gestures. Rationalising this process, it is actually very funny. Values that we have never been taught during our education become part of our way of behaving just by means of adaptation. In turn they affect how we relate to our people back home. 

Here are a few things I learnt in my expat life here in Northern Europe that have shaped the way I approach the world:
– The perception of the amount of rain has a negative correlation against the amount of beer you have drunk. This is especially useful if:
1. It is King’s day 
2. You rented a boat to cruise the canals with your friends 
3. It is raining like there is no tomorrow. If the situation looks adverse, just push the crazy a bit further and enjoy the rain.
– Biking without hands on the handlebar is not madness but a survival skill. Imagine you are biking in February with snow and wind (and trust me you will bike in these conditions in the Netherlands) and you do not have gloves, biking while having both your hands in your pockets can be the line of separation between frostbitten fingers and crashing on your face. Sometimes you do not have a positive outcome at hand. If that is the case just keep biking.
– Social communication filters are unwarranted, unwanted and will very seldom be accepted. Try writing in a work email “Thank you in advance for….” people will look at you like you just told them “I will be watching over your shoulders until kingdom come”. Just be real and thank people only when they give you something. 
– Being direct is a thing to be appreciated. Even when a compliment sounds like an offense. Just to give you an example of how this works, imagine you are at a party of some friends of yours and they show you a picture of themselves a few years back when they had some extra pounds on their waist line. Normal people would say :” You lost so much weight!” Now, if you want to translate it to Dutch you can flip the logic of the sentence and say: “Oh wooow! You were so fat!” It still counts as a compliment. Sometimes, when you are on the receiving end of a conversation, do not take yourself seriously and appreciate words meant as they are said.
– The sun is apparently a rare sighting around here, but makes for the best celebrations. In the Netherlands there is an unspoken rule… more of a gentleman agreement across all society. The first sunny day of the season colleagues will start disappearing around 4pm, you might even catch your manager with one foot on the door waiving you out. 
There are some small achievements to be celebrated every once in a while, and they usually come like the sun in late April around here. 
Be like a Dutch and go enjoy it in the park.

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