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NO. 2

English  / Korean  


Alone in the Netherlands

Shinyoung Kang

Film “Home Alone(1990)”

    Kevin from "Home Alone" and Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas is you" seem to be planted somewhere in my body and pops up whenever the season arrives. Some might say they are tired of these Christmas clichés, but I'm rather thankful that they start up the season and fill the Christmas vibe wherever I am. It might be because of the restriction imposed by Covid-19, but the End-of-year in the Netherlands is rather quiet this year. It is even more so when I compare it to how it used to be in Korea, where the days pass quickly with all those year-end and new year gatherings. Since most of my foreign friends visit their parent's house or return to their home country for the holidays, I tend to look around my surroundings more quietly when I spend the end of the year in the Netherlands.

    As summer time ends and the nights in Europe get longer, the Christmas lights on the streets fill the dark night. With another COVID lockdown, I assumed the streets would be quiet since the stores closed early and the Christmas markets were cancelled. Surprisingly, I could still feel the Christmas mood from the Christmas decorations and trees of the shops. In Korea, where it's always lighted up at night, I realised the season by the white snow that suddenly came during the busy days or by the songs played on the streets. This is the fifth time I have spent the end of the year in the Netherlands. I gradually feel the season in the Netherlands by the nights getting longer and by the decorative lights on the streets that increase the numbers each day.

    The nights on the streets are getting longer, but the nights in the Dutch house are even longer and deeper. The lights in the house are originally dimmer than in Korea, but you can make the room a little brighter with the candle's warmth if you light up one or two. (Also, you can get rid of the smell of food.) Sometimes I wonder if Europeans prefer less bright lighting so they can use the candles. It's so romantic and charming to light the candles, and it has become one of my small pleasures. The European winter is so long that it's necessary to take vitamin D to survive. Still, sometimes, I can't wait for winter so I can light a bunch of candles at home. 

    At my first and second end of the year in the Netherlands, I had European-style ribs stewed with wine, salmon, crackers topped with cheese, and gluhwein as if I had to. Now that I think about these days, I must have missed and craved spending the good old days with my friends in Korea, where we enjoyed warm golbaengi-tang and soju on a cold winter day. Maybe that's why I tried so hard to have the European year-end suffer as a kind of reward for myself. As another kind of reward for myself, I decided to make Kimchi and steamed pork this year (a tradition in Korea in the winter season). I'm also planning to make an instant version of rice cake soup (Ddeok-guk) by simply putting rice cakes in the ready-made beef bone soup on the first day of the new year. When I was in Korea, I always spent Christmas with my parents and had Christmas cakes. I wish I could order a luxurious cake for my parents, from a famous hotel bakery where I should've made a reservation at least a month in advance. Well, I should not forget and try to send them a coupon so my parents can at least pick up a cake from the bakery around the corner.

    When I was in Korea, I used to go to the winter beach or mountains covered with pure white snow to watch the year's first sunrise on New Year's Day. Come to think of it, it's a very typical hard-working Korean thing to get up early and greet the morning sun of the new year before anyone does. Once I went to Jeongdongjin (a famous beach on the east coast) to watch the sunrise on a freezing day, with overnight trains and buses packed with hundreds of people. It was one tiresome trip, but it seems I miss the good old days rather than the sunrise itself when I think back about that day. It's funny enough that I couldn't actually watch the sunrise as it was cloudy that day. On the other hand, here in the Netherlands, we start the new year with fireworks decorating the sky all day long. Although it was banned last year and again this year due to Covid, the 31st of December is (officially) the only day when fireworks are allowed. Maybe that's why almost everyone goes on the street and sets off firecrackers like little children on the last day of the year. And I must say that Dutch people are pretty cute in their own way seeing these from a Korean perspective. Still, thinking about the ear-hurting sound of the explosion from the night of the 31st to the morning of the 1st, I miss more the quiet morning in Korea waiting for the first sunrise, rather than a sleepless night in the Netherlands.

    Left alone in an empty house, Kevin unexpectedly spends a special(?) time with the thieves and is reunited with his beloved family in the end. Like Kevin, the end of the year in a foreign country can also be a bit lonely. But I hope it turns out to be a precious time missing things that are not by my side or reminiscing about the old days, not only for me but also for everyone else. Everyone tried their best this year. Whether this year has been good or bad, tough or fun, it would be a very satisfying year-end if my deep sympathy could touch anyone who spends the year-end away from their family.


Shinyoung Kang︎︎︎    
    Self-proclaimed spatial experience designer and religious believer. Born and raised in Korea, came to the Netherlands at a relatively late age. Enjoys discussing our somewhat frustrating and sympathetic life from different perspectives.

See other articles by this wirter...
Vol.01  I Article No.1  I Corona-munal Space

Vol.02  I Article No.3 I Online Amen with Jesus
    자칭 공간 경험 디자이너이자 신앙인. 오롯이 한국에서 먹고, 자라고, 치열한 사회도 겪고 다소 느지막이 네덜란드로 건너왔다. 왠지 모를 답답함과 괜스레 공감 가는 상황을 새롭고 다양한 관점에서 얘기 나누는 것이 좋다.  

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