What's up everybody!
I hope this post finds everyone well and you are excited for the upcoming holidays. I know I am and I am lucky we actually get a week break so I will be able to go back home to North Carolina at the end of December. I also hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Fortunately, even though I am thousands of miles away I was able to enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving meal here.
A very generous couple and avid fans of the team, Steve and Jet Roeske, cook dinner for the Americans on the team here from time to time. Steve is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin making him the second person I have ever met in my life from there. Jet is Dutch and is absolutely one of the best cooks I have ever met. The meal was nothing short of amazing. She really went above and beyond to prepare such a huge meal for 10 people which made me feel as if I was right at home with all my favorite foods. I am very grateful for their hospitality.
Now for a brief basketball update of how things are going here before getting into what the main theme of this post is about; my first impressions of the Dutch culture.
After winning three-straight games we started the second round of the EuroChallenge, where we play the other three teams in our pool one more time. Our first opponent was the Italian team from Brindisi. If you may recall from my first post, we upset them in our first meeting with them at our place. We knew we would be in for a tough one at their place. The environment was crazy during the game. They are known for having some of the most rowdiest fans in all of Europe and they certainly lived up to the reputation. We played tough but had a rough time from the field as team. We ended up losing by 14 points. We didn't have much time to reflect on the game as we had to quickly prepare to play last years Dutch champions, the Groningen Flames, at their place, which is yet another tough place to play. Needless to say, we did not give our best effort and suffered an embarrassing loss. Unlike the game against Brindisi where shots didn't fall for us, our spirit and energy was not there. That is just inexcusable and I was one of the culprits.
I can see my ex-assistant coach from Harvard Coach Blake pulling me aside telling me above anything else I need to have a great spirit out on the court at all times. I promised my coach here it would not happen again. Our next game was another EuroChallenge game against the tough German team, Ratiopharm Ulm, who shot us out of the gym at their place. We came out with an energy like never before and punched them in the mouth from the beginning. We went out to lead by double figures early and even though they would cut the lead to two at one point, we would not lose composure and went on to win by 11 points.
It's amazing how things work out for you if you just play the game with high energy and a great spirit. Coach Amaker always preached that and it was a huge reason for the success we had at Harvard. The win was a huge victory for us as it keeps our hopes of advancing to the second round of the EuroChallenge alive if Brindisi beats Ulm on Tuesday. Our next game is Tuesday against the Kings from Sweden.
I have been here in the Netherlands for almost four months and it's crazy to think it has been that long. I feel the adjustment for me has gone pretty well. A large part of that has to do with the Dutch culture and the lifestyle here. Here are my initial impressions of the Dutch culture and how I feel it compares to the American way:
First, just about everyone here speaks English. This is a big reason why the transition here has gone so well. The Dutch population is not a very large one and the Dutch language is not an easy one to learn. Therefore, most people learn to speak English growing up as well. This is very helpful because no matter where I go whether it is a store, gas station, or gym if I need something then whoever I speak with will try there hardest to speak English once they realize that I do not speak Dutch.
Another aspect about the Dutch people I was told about before I arrived here was how nice and friendly they tend to be. You really cannot fully understand what someone means by that until you really see it for yourself. Compared to how people are generally in America (especially up North), the Dutch are much friendlier. Here is an example: Upon first arriving here my fellow American teammate, Chris Denson, went to explore downtown. Once he arrived downtown he went up to some people to ask about places he should go to. Not only did they give him some places to go to but actually walked with him to each place! And downtown is no small area. I can honestly say in my 22 years in the States I consider it extremely nice if someone takes two minutes to give you directions to a place you are trying to find a place while visiting a new town let alone take an hour to walk you to the places themselves. More specifically, in my four years in Boston I would have been surprised for a person to stop at all.
That is just one of more evident examples I have seen here but in general I have found that the Dutch people are indeed extremely friendly. It did not take long for me to feel extremely comfortable with all of my teammates and people around me. I've only known these guys for a short while but I feel like it's been much longer than that.
On a different note, the most noticeable difference is the health lifestyle here. One of the first things I came to recognize very quickly is that there are not a lot of overweight or obese people here at all. Everyone knows how much of an issue this is becoming in the States. I have come to understand why this is not an issue here. First of all, a large percentage of people here RIDE BIKES. Upon learning to drive you learn real fast that you have to watch out for bikers at all times especially at all the roundabouts they have here. Bikes have the ultimate right of way and I've learned first hand that they do not even look if you are going to stop. I've seen people of all ages riding bikes. I've seen the elderly, adults going to work, and children going to school. They don't have school buses here. Instead I have seen groups of kids all riding bikes together. Obviously this is a great form of daily exercise and is a large reason for their more healthier lifestyle. Now I must also note that it is way more difficult to get a drivers license in Holland then in the US. My teammate told me you must pay for and take 25-30 lessons, then pay 1,000 Euros to TAKE the test, and then buy a car. When they put it like that i understood it a lot more. I would most definitely be biking myself!
Along with the biking, the overall eating habits of people here are much better. For starters, EVERYTHING here is smaller. The cups, the bowls, the plates, the refrigerators and the freezers are all on average much smaller then what you see in the States. Even when you go to a fast food restaurant I was stunned to see a Big Mac here was the same size as a dollar menu McChicken in the States! Naturally, I was kinda mad about this but then my coach made a good point (he is American and from Chicago). It's not that everything is too small here, its just that everything in the States is TOO BIG. That made everything click for me. Their size of bowls, plates and cups are what the actual "serving size" portions that are listed on the nutritional labels of foods are.
I learned in college that on average Americans eat and drink 3-4 times the actual serving sizes listed on our goods. A lot of this has to do with the size differences. I can eat a whole box of cereal that has an estimated serving size of 8 or 9 in about three bowls using the ones in my house. It would actually take all nine to do it using the bowls in my apartment. There are no Big Gulp cup options nor are there any free refills (don't exactly like that at all) but this makes it harder to consume too much juice or soda. Lastly, the food choices are much better here. Everything is much fresher and their stuff doesn't have a bunch of preservatives in it. You literally have to eat a loaf of bread and use the milk you bought within the week or will go bad. This is kind of annoying but it makes you only get what you need instead of buying in bulk and overindulging. When we go to lunch buffets as team instead of having a bunch of fried and greasy food that Americans love such as fries and burgers they usually have healthier options such as sandwiches with more vegetables then meat and soups with all the bread you can eat.
In all, I really feel that Americans can learn a great deal from the Europeans and people in the Netherlands especially when it comes to a more healthier lifestyle in regards to portion control and daily exercises.
That wraps up my post for this time.
Stay tuned for the next one. God bless!
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