The Dutch love babies, which isn't what I expected. Before coming, I'd imagined them to be a bit like the English based on their famous directness and an article I read where a man threw a fit in a restaurant over a stroller. I couldn't have been more wrong. Everywhere we go people will stop, smile and comment to our daughter. In fact, they rival the Spanish in their adoration of the little ones as I've heard them called here, although they seem to listen a bit more to the baby and not constantly ask what's wrong when she fusses or worry if she's cold.
Then again, one of the common comments I heard about the Dutch was they could be a bit aloof and even mean. Granted, my contact has been limited, but so far it's been quite the opposite with locals going out of their way to welcome us and make our stay more enjoyable. I've had more visits from the neighbors in two weeks than some flats in which I'd lived years in Barcelona. I do wonder, though, how much of it is due to a certain, let's say, noisy curiosity, similar to the American neighborhood welcoming committee. The country did invent reality TV after all, or so I've been told.
But in general, much of what I'd read or thought would happen hasn't panned out. The infamous Dutch bureaucracy and lack of service that is often cited as negatives by expats in forums and articles has yet to materialize. I was able to get the social security number in one visit even without all the documentation or speaking Dutch, which would have never happened in Spain.
How much of our good fortune is due to luck? Probably, a bit, although I've found people are generally better than they're represented in the media wherever I've gone. The seven years living in Spain have definitely changed my concept of service, so perhaps the slowness and lack of perkiness of the waiters is less of a shock and more of a norm than a recently transplanted American. I also think living in a medium sized city like Alkmaar rather than Amsetrdam or the Hague makes a difference; there's a bit more of a village feel. Anyway, so far no complaints and nothing but praise. Hell, the weather's even been decent lately.