Monday 13 July 2020

Coronovirus in the Netherlands: your personal stories

Photo: Brandon Hartley

Loneliness, financial problems, questioning life in the Netherlands and trying to make the best of it – these are some of the issues the country’s international workforce is grappling with during the coronavirus pandemic, the DutchNews.nl survey shows.

The statistics can be read here. And hundreds of you also shared more details about how coronavirus is affecting your lives.

Some of you described how lonely you are and how difficult you are finding it to integrate. ‘We are very scared. We are alone and we have no money,’ said one. Another reader said they felt very alone but were glad they were not back home, living under military curfew. Several readers said they were missing partners who had been stranded abroad.

‘It has made me feel incredibly isolated. I do not have friends in my local area. Since traveling by train to see my friends in another city is not a safe option, it has made me quite lonely and depressed,’ said another reader. ‘At the same time, I’ve been worrying about my family at home – the borders to my country are completely closed so even if there was an emergency, I would not have a way to travel back.’

For readers who have just moved here, the situation is particularly difficult. ‘I moved here on the 1st of March and within a week everything went to hell,’ one reader said. ‘I spent a year planning my move and I wasn’t going to delay it as I had already quit my job in the States. But the virus has made all of my employment prospects evaporate and I feel like I am hanging by a thread.’

Government

Despite the overall approval of the Dutch government’s approach, in your comments many were critical of the Dutch approach to dealing with the crisis. Several readers said they felt the government was putting the economy ahead of public health and criticized the lack of testing. And you also criticized that lack of criticism of the government line in the media.

This sex club is supporting local entrepreneurs. Photo: DutchNews.nl

‘The lack of testing and contact tracing ability and ICU beds and availability of masks and PPE is incredibly poor compared to other similar wealthy countries,’ one reader said. ‘It palls in comparison to its neighbours on all these fronts. Overall I am shocked by the poor standards, and seemingly utilitarian approach to life and death.’

Others gave examples of all the ways people are flouting the 1.5 metre rule. ‘I wish that the Dutch took the virus more seriously,’ one reader wrote. ‘Whenever I am outside, no one makes an effort to stay 1.5 metres apart and even the shopkeepers to not enforce the distance.’

Not all of you are critical. ‘This whole ordeal has been an incredible demonstration of the government’s ability to manage a disaster,’ one British reader said. ‘Although the response is not perfect, I do not think by any means any country is able to do a perfect job (if a perfect job is even achievable in this situation). I feel significantly safer and more confident in the government’s ability to take care of the citizens (and expats!).’

Some of you commented on the lack of manners when you are outside. One new mother spoke about how no-one gets out of the way when she takes her baby for a walk, and that she is forced to move on to the road to keep to 1.5 metres. ‘The lack of respect or even minor effort to accommodate others is truly shocking and shameful,’ she said. ‘My experience is almost exclusively coming from educated and well-dressed Dutch people.’

Practicalities

You raised practical problems as well, such as delays to those key citizenship exams and the difficulties of finding work, as well as the difficulties of dealing with children out of school.

‘The impact of the lockdown on my children has been terrible,’ one parent wrote. ‘They are not learning anything in their online classes and they are becoming depressed as a result of lack of social contact. No one is looking at the mental health effects of these measures.’

Several of you said how worried you are about money, and that you do not qualify for help in any of the government’s schemes.

‘I’m not sure whether the government is really taking things seriously,’ one reader told us. ‘As a freelancer whose business is a secondary victim (I can do my job, but my clients’ businesses are in trouble, so they’re not giving me work), I feel nervous about finances because even the top-up payments (if I qualify) are not sufficient to live on. Basically, I don’t feel that the government has got my back.’

And several of you said that the virus was making you rethink being in the Netherlands at all. ‘It has become a big factor in the balance of pros and cons of being an expat,’ one reader wrote. ‘I am wondering if being so far from home & family is still worth it.’

Discrimination

Several Asian readers said they have become the target of discrimination. ‘I’m Japanese but some people shout ‘Corona!’ ‘Wuhan!’ to me and hide their faces, and even say ‘F**k off terrorist!’ and try to punch me,’ one reader wrote.

‘I can explain to these people that I’m Japanese, not Chinese, but it doesn’t mean that Chinese should be blamed. Most Dutch are nice but I’m always scared about being attacked, which makes me crazy because I’ve been already stressed with this quarantine, like everyone else.’

Despite all the problems, some of you referred to the unexpected positive effects of the pandemic and how happy you are with simple things like being able to walk in the park. Others said they are surprised how productive they are working from home, and that five days a week in the office are a thing of the past.

Garden fences

‘I have been happy about the continued delivery of groceries and other items from local businesses,’ one older reader said. ‘I am 69 years old and don’t want to go into stores more then I need to. I have had many kind things done by my neighbours who know I am here alone. Flowers and fruit were brought by. We chat over our garden fences. It has been quite nice to see my neighbours wanting to know me better. I just moved into this area in January and had no time to make friends.’

And some readers are making the best of the crisis. ‘I am taking things easier. I have more time for family and myself, both physically and spiritually,’ one of you told us. Others said they felt life is now more relaxed and quiet. ‘I like the fact no-one is panicking,’ one reader said.

Another reader told us their close-knit family had been brought closer together. ‘It has made us more grateful to live next to the forest and the beach. We have also explored more gardening than we had previously. The coronavirus has been difficult for many families and we are grateful we have had not had such hardship so far. We are also very happy with the approach the government has taken because it has made the best of a bad situation instead of extreme harsh measures that would potentially make the current situation worse.’

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