• martaexpatlimburg

Just landed! Showers, bikes and trash.

I am back!!

So when you first arrive in a new country you are filled with expectations and want your life to be all rainbows, sprinkles, and unicorns... but who actually considers the differences between your previous life and your new life? For me, moving in with someone from an actual different culture -even though both of us are still European- and making our two worlds intertwine was an actual challenge.

So, right now I am going to tell you the 3 things that shocked me the most when I moved. It may not be big, life-changing things, but I hope they will give you a good laugh or two!

Bicycles, bicycles everywhere

I mean, I know what a bicycle is, I have ridden a bicycle back in my teenage years...but man here they take it to a whole new level.

I must admit that I am not a very sportive person in general and if I could get somewhere walking I would walk, and if not I would take the car, simple as that.

However, here they bike...and pretty much everybody does it...

From my parents-in-law who live roughly 25 km away from us to little kids (7 or 8 years old) riding alone on their way to school -which having kids going alone to school at those ages is already shocking enough, coming from a generally overprotective environment- and please don't get me started on those cycling clubs that wake up early in the morning to make routes like they are in the Tour de France...so much motivation!!

Even more, some companies incentivize going to work by bike...as you can imagine, that's something I have never benefitted from, whether because I worked too far away from work or because I would leave home 10 minutes earlier and go walking.

I've tried to get used to it, God knows I have, but is just too much for me. I feel insecure trying to keep the balance and I find cycling a risk sport, especially when crossing roads. I have some funny stories about cycling in Belgium that I hope one day I won't be too ashamed to tell...but let's leave that for another post.

Showers daily? Not really...

That is something I actually realized more and more with time. Back in Spain, I would shower every day (and sometimes in summer twice a day) because of the weather, which is generally much warmer and dryer, and therefore we sweat more and in the big cities, pollution gets stuck on our skin easier.

But I know some people wouldn't do it daily, and then when I became a nanny the parents would insist on controlling that the kids should shower every other day and to keep them short...but for me they are kids, they get dirty often, so why wouldn't they shower every day if needed?

Well, apparently, and according to my dermatologist uncle in Spain, here in Belgium the water is very "hard" and showering often damages your skin, causing dryness, and breakouts along with some other problems. So the best is to have shorter, less frequent showers, and use a good moisturizer afterward!

In my case, the most affected is my hair -I am a bit conceited, I must admit-, that while in Belgium looks a bit faded and the scalp is very itchy, in Spain it goes back to its voluminous, lively self.

Here is a little comparison... can you guess which picture has been taken where?

Garbage, recycling...what a mess!!

Maybe it's me, that I am dumber than it seems, or that my husband hasn't explained it properly. But for me, the garbage pick-up and recycling system is a whole new world to discover...

Do not get me wrong, in Spain we recycle, but the system is different and is not mandatory to do so, so it is less strict. Also, in the big cities, they pick up the garbage every day or have a zone of containers where you can leave your trash whenever you have the bag full (generally in the evening), just leave your trash there, then in the recycling plant, the workers will sort the different wastes per type.

Here you need, first of all, the official trash bags for your different kinds of wastes: the black ones (they were maroon last year) for regular trash, the blue ones for something they call PMD -which in Spain is "the yellow bag", but here yellow is for cardboard and paper-, and the white ones with green letters for compost, then the glass and the paper and cardboard go separately...I think, or maybe not...

And then it comes to the little picky issues about what to put in which place or not...because for example, you can put the paper bag of the McDonalds to recycle, but not the French Fries cardboard because is dirty. Or sometimes you have to rinse the can of tuna before throwing it to take out the oil residues, and you can put that, but not a yogurt package...As I said, in Spain you just put everything where it belongs and the recycling plant workers will sort it out and clean it and recycle it.

After 3 years I still don't get it and I make mistakes every single day, so I just leave my lovely husband to do it. That also works for me :)

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