Rural Living

With the move from The Netherlands to Ontario, Canada, we didn’t only change countries but also our lifestyle. We went from city living to rural living; this transition was almost 100% positive. That was a great part thanks to our wonderful neighbours.

When we arrived at our new home a plastic bag with a loaf of banana bread and a card from our neighbours three houses up the road was hanging on the doorknob. The next day I dropped a thank you card in their mailbox, they were in the garden and this meeting was the beginning of an extraordinary friendship between our families. 

After two days the neighbour two houses up the road came by. He moved from the Netherlands 60 years ago and grew up in the same area where we came from. He gave us books with info about the wildlife and flora in Grey Highlands and lots of information about the habits and important differences between our home country and our new country, and we were invited for tea later that afternoon.

That same week the neighbour from a mile up the road walked all the way to our home, she must have been in her late seventies. She came with a welcome gift and we had tea and chatted for a while. That welcoming attitude of our neighbours so surprised me and it made us really feel at home.

Our boys also enjoyed the outdoors. They could explore the 140 acres, although sometimes they unpleasantly surprised me with the wildlife they thought was very interesting. I absolutely don’t like critters without hair. When they hand me a frog, I will hold it for them, but that is how far I will go. When they showed up with a snake I slightly panicked and told them to let it go far away from me, It might be dangerous if it would bite them. But my 5-year-old said very reassuringly, “No it won’t bite, it has no teeth!”. I guess he checked. After that summer I realized the snakes in our area are not poisonous.

After that first summer, the vacation was over and the boys had to go to school. That was a big difference from their school in the Netherlands, where parents take the kids to and from school themselves. Here they were being picked up by the school bus. It really worried me if they would be able to find the school and the classroom and the right bus to come back home. Their knowledge of the English language was not very good, and they were only 6 and 8 years old. So I followed the school bus and spied on them if they were ok. Everything went fine. The bus-drivers were great as well as their teachers. By the time it was Christmas they both spoke English among each other already and they made friends; it was a tough time for them the first three months but they came through it and did very well. Soon they found friends within walking distance, which is pretty rare in a rural community, and spent many great outdoor adventures with the whole gang of 5 or 6 boys. And when we see one of the school bus drivers today they always remember those two little dutch boys on their bus.

In November Jan had to go back to the Netherlands for three weeks to finish up some business, so I was on the farm with the boys and our first winter. Lucky enough the snow stayed away and our great neighbours kept an eye on us. If necessary I could even call them in the middle of the night. How lucky can you be with friends and neighbours like that?
I can recall so many times that neighbours help each other out, especially in the winter.

If our driveway was full of snow in the morning and neighbour Bill came by with his tractor and snowblower and cleaned our driveway.

Or when there is a power outage a neighbour came to the door to make sure you are okay. Returning your runaway dog because everyone knows everyone’s dog. And in the summertime when the kids have the vacation from school, everyone is keeping an eye out for them.

When they went swimming in the river or playing paintball in an abandoned barn that might collapse at any moment. So that barn was flattened down and buried in an afternoon to avoid accidents. Kids in rural areas have so much freedom because the neighbourhood is watching out for them.

You really start to change when you live in the country. Your attitude changes and adjusts to a calmer way of life. It is good to help each other without being in each other face all the time.

After a year of school and farming, making friends, joining sports, finding a church we felt very at home in our new homeland. And never felt the urge to move back. 

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