The Netherlands entered its first ‘intelligent lockdown’ late in the afternoon on Sunday, 15th March of this year. I say first because as of this writing it’s becoming clear to me that the worst is yet to come. I am not hoping for it, but looking at everything happening — political inaction to civil protests around these lockdowns — it’s becoming clear that a lot of things are happening when they shouldn’t and at a speed that’s best described as hasty.
Intelligent lockdown for Netherlands has essentially meant life as normal. There have been about 8,000 fines handed out for violating the 1.5 meter rule or for organizing hangouts in public (or even hidden inside homes in some cases). Restaurants have been closed for the most part, some catering to takeaway and delivery customers, although, from all I have seen, it’s mostly been an exercise in survival, not profiting. Schools and ‘contact professions’ have been closed for about 2 months; the latter has been a huge point of contention as people could skip out on meals, but a haircut is worth protesting over.
Today, the contact professions were allowed to reopen their businesses. This led to people getting haircuts at midnight! Daycares also opened up although attendance wasn’t at 100%. Even then, a surprisingly large number of families were obviously waiting for them to reopen as only about 15-20% of children missed out on day 1.
So, what changed for me over these weeks? In short, not much. I did start making coffee at home. We have had a Moka Pot for a very long time and only used it a few times up until March. What used to be a daily routine of going to my favorite cafe for a couple coffees and newspaper reading has converted into a long walk with podcasts playing, followed by coffee at home. We have been going on twice-daily walks, and although V had the initial bout of daily cooking (for some sort of competition with friends online), cooking is back to normal levels.
What has changed a lot, though, has been our immense appreciation towards Amsterdam. While it was always special to us, the lack of crowds has made the city ever more wonderful. Where we would fight crowds every weekend to get to our favorite spot for banana bread (interestingly, lockdown’s favorite recipe globally has been banana bread; I guess we had it coming), these days it’s a calm and peaceful walk through the center of the city. The bakery is not crowded inside (since only takeouts are allowed) and the owners even spend minutes chatting with us. It’s all very ‘quaint’ in a way.
Cycling through the city is a lot more pleasurable now. Indeed, whereas previously my idea of a warm Saturday was to take the train to somewhere to cycle in the nature, this time around we’ve been undertaking a lot of cycling trips straight from home. I even got a brand new bicycle, for the second time in 10 years, a couple weeks ago.
It turns out that less tourism makes cities more livable.
In the long term, I am not sure what changes we’ll see, but already a lot of governments are talking about changing their approach to tourism and inviting the ‘right’ kind of tourists; those that appreciate the city and try to go beyond the obvious sights and flavors. This could potentially also mean new kinds of travel businesses that connect travelers with the locals.
One thing is for sure — we’re not going to be back to normal anytime soon, not without a magical intervention.
And that’s good. Time is exactly what we need to mindfully appreciate what we’ve given up over the years and to be thankful about getting the chance to bring it back in our lives. We’re spending more time with family, reading more, writing more, and even learning more.
Sure, life hasn’t been all rosy for a lot of people impacted by job losses or financial difficulties, but it could have been far worse. We’re quite fortunate.