December 7th, 2021 | Natalia Wants To Dance.
Here We Go Again: No Dancing In the Netherlands.
The same story all over again. The Dutch government announces the next lockdown. Which one is it this time? Fifth? Sixth? All the convention stores and locals get closed after 8 pm again. People walk around in face masks again. And all the madness on the media starts all over.
You know, Dutch people are sensitive and panic easily when it comes to COVID-19. If there are no tomatoes left for a day in an Albert Heijn store somewhere in the countryside, the photos of an empty shelf immediately get viral around the country. “We are out of supplies! We will all die!” The headlines yell to you. No wonder now once we heard of the new Omicron variant, the Dutchies fell into a panic even more than before.
And it happens that I recently got engaged in a research project that involved modelling the COVID-19 pandemic dynamics—A top secret project at this stage and I cannot reveal too much about it. But one thing is: in this research, it clearly comes out that the new mutation of the virus is even more contagious and deadly than the previous ones.
At some point, it came to my mind that this situation might last for another year or two. I was working very hard this year, and yet, there was no chance for me to have a proper rest and get some fun.
I have always been into dancing, and now, after two years of dancing around my room with my headphones on, I felt I had way more than enough of the situation. I felt more and more down, knowing that it might literally take years before I would be free to just go out at the weekend and get on a proper dance floor here in the Netherlands.
The world is more than just the Netherlands. Suddenly it came to my end that I COULD go out dancing—just not here and now. And so I started looking into my options.
Well, there were more or less two places in Europe where no lockdown restrictions were introduced. Namely, Belarus which was just leading a hybrid war with Poland, and Sweden which was full of introverted people and where, possibly, no one would speak to me just like that. What a choice!
In the end, it came to my mind that at the very least, in Sweden they won’t shoot me and the music should be good by definition. Stockholm didn’t seem to be the capital of dance when I was visiting the last time about 12 years ago. However, now, in absence of other options, this was my best chance to catch some beat. So, I made up my mind: I’m going to dance in Sweden. Dot.
People On The Way.
And so I went, without thinking too much about it and making too many plans. I don’t like overthinking travel as travelling planned in every detail is not where the magic happens. In daily life, setting goals and planning is the only way to go. After all, as Jim Roth once said, “If you don’t have a plan, then chances are that you end up in someone else’s plan.” But on travel, the rules are different.
I only booked a place in a hostel close to the city centre, nothing else. I wasn’t searching for comfort, I was searching for people. As I mentioned in one of the previous posts, I like to think that the moment you start compromising and going for comfort in life, you start ageing.
And quite as expected, I met interesting people in this hostel. All kinds of people with all kinds of stories. Like a guy who is actually Polish, who was playing second-league football, and then making samples for first-league DJs before alcoholism and a few misfortunate events derailed his career so he is almost homeless now. This is always sad to watch. Why do some people start so well and end up so badly just a few years later? And vice versa? There are also billionaires like Grant Cardone who were derailed and had nothing but a number of addictions at the age of 25, and yet, they recuperated and made spectacular careers later on. No idea how to jump from the bottom like this.
The housekeeper’s story was sad too. Shimelis was a young immigrant from Ethiopia, and he is actually doing a PhD in hydro-engineering in Stockholm. Since he is not European, he isn’t getting enough allowance to survive. Therefore, he needs to work as a housekeeper in the hostel for two days a week to meet ends. I cannot even imagine that lifestyle.
PhD in itself was hard enough to graduate from. How can one graduate? while spending every weekend suffering from noise, drunk people, thieves, arguments, aggression, dirt, interrupted sleep, and an overwhelming solitude! Crazy. I promised to help him somehow although, honestly speaking, I had no idea how to get him out of this other than telling him to find another, more sane job for the time being.
Obviously, while walking around the city, I met more interesting people. For instance, I met a retired gentleman sipping a beer in a sports bar, who told me his story back from the times when used to work as a business developer. He told me that one simple truth that he learned from forty years of doing business was that, business is only about two things in fact: finding new customers OR figuring out what your customers might want next. That’s all. He is right when you think about it…
Sad Life In Sweden.
But anyhow, I came to this place to have some fun. And so I thought to myself: let’s get proper dinner at a proper place. Not homemade like every day, but a proper dinner in a proper restaurant this time. And so I went to some Italian pizzeria in the old town, but I wasn’t too impressed I have to say. All the waiters were black, and their manager was Caucasian.
And then I realized how much of a segregated society it was. The vast majority of the waiters, bartenders, shopping assistants, and physical workers I’ve seen on the way, were immigrants from Africa.
On the contrary, in the Netherlands jobs such as a “waiter” or a “shopping assistant” are student jobs. And that’s how it should be—you start from low experience and low income in life, and then sweat all the way to top positions on your career track of choice. When you pass by the Netherlands pay attention to this: the vast majority of people who serve you, are Dutch not ex-pats. They just learn and get their first experiences as employees this way.
I felt very unwell after this dinner, to say the least. It was just too disgusting for me to eat in such conditions—when people of another ethnicity jump around me and serve me. Argh! And we are in Europe in the XXIst century, come on!
But there was more to be sad about. The centre of Stockholm looked monumental of course—especially the central station, perhaps the most impressive train station I’ve ever seen. However, I noticed quite a few people begging for food in subzero temperatures in central Stockholm. If the income taxes are at 50% and more, then what do they do with these taxes if they still have homeless people on the streets? I haven’t seen one homeless person in the Netherlands in ten years of living there. Perhaps don’t have as mind-blowing buildings there, but hey, some things are more important than that!
Convention stores were also quite repulsive; rather dirty and stinky, with some perished fruit and vegetables on the shelves. It reminded me of convenience stores in poor regions of South America or poor quarters of New York. I have never experienced that repulsive feeling while being in a sore in the Netherlands.
Overall, it looked to me like life here in Stockholm was really sad, and on at least one level lower than on the other side of the sea. Damn, every time I travel abroad, I conclude that I live in heaven and that the Netherlands is the only sane place to be. Despite the COVID-phobia.
One Hell of a Night In Stockholm.
Fortunately, then things became much better. I stuck to my original plan and as soon as the evening came, I went downtown with the intention to dance. I entered the first club that looked solid from the outside—and it turned out to be a gay place. I am not gay myself, but the place looked good and it was so cold outside that I decided to stay. And it was a good decision. Good music, colourful people, interesting personalities. And I wasn’t there looking for any form of adventure, so it was actually perfect.
And I suffer from this professional disease: anywhere I go, I start looking at people and at the way they work. In this club, I met a bartender who clearly was the right person at the right place. He was making a victory dance around the bar with every drink that he was selling. And he was smiling non-stop. What a happy guy he was! I was his fun a “hello.” And I thought to myself, “Most gay people have to struggle in some way a work. And this guy really found his place on Earth like no one else.” He is one in a million. Kudos to that.
And now I need to somehow explain to the Dutch tax office why I pay in gay bars in Stockholm with my business card. These guys know nothing about the intrinsically complex process of writing books!
And then, the strangest thing happened. At 3 am, they closed the doors of the club and there was nothing better to do than just go home. It was freezing cold, about -15C (about 5F). I marched back to the hostel only to find out that a (probably, Vietnamese) guy was just lying down in front of the hostel in a sweater only. His jacket was wrapped in the snow next to him. He was sneezing and completely drunk. He didn’t even want to be moved and protested—clearly hypothermic at this stage. I took a course in alpinism many years ago, and I knew exactly how it looks.
And so I dragged him to the hostel hall by force, despite he was protesting really hard claiming that “he is fine” and “he is just taking a nap.” Fortunately, four beers and dancing with drag queens gave me supernatural powers, so I didn’t care. And I dragged him all the way up the staircase, to leave him on the couch in the hall with some water and cake at disposal.
I’m pretty sure that if I passed by, he would have died because all the clubs were already closed. And most likely, nobody would be there until 6-7 am. And according to Google, he should be dead in under 2 hours in such conditions.
I still have no idea who this guy was. When I looked in the morning, the hall was empty. The cake disappeared too, which is a good sign!
I always wanted to know how it feels to save someone’s life. Now I know. The strange thing is: that I didn’t feel anything at all. I just woke up in the morning, I packed, and went for my plane. And I haven’t thought of it much since. What a disappointment. Resembles smoking weed. Or the first kiss. Or a PhD. Or whatever.
What I Also Learned About Sweden and Swedish On The Way.
Well, I also learned a few things about the Swedish on the way. Firstly, the Swedish can play any music in the club as long as it is Swedish. And even if not Swedish, then at least it’s a Eurovision song. Moreover, I learned that Stockholm Skavsta is not Stockholm, technically. The airport is over 80 kilometres away from the city 🙂 So, if you think of visiting Stockholm, always choose the Arlanda airport.
Was It Worth It?
Sure it was! Before I departed I was hesitating about whether I have time for this, but it was a great decision to go. One of the main points of travelling is to start missing your home again. Plus, I got some beats just as I wanted to. Plus, I talked to lots of people whose lifestyle is very different from mine. Plus, I scored one life. Not bad for two days of travel and at a budget of 200 Euro door to door. It was a bitter-sweet experience but I definitely have more material for my new book right now. Highly recommended to say “no” to the pandemic once in a while!
Please cite as:
Bielczyk, N. (2021, December 7th). Natalia Wants To Dance. Retrieved from: https://nataliabielczyk.com/natalia-wants-to-dance/
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If you would like to read more about careers (for PhDs and other white-collar professionals) and effective strategies to self-navigate in the job market, please also take a look at the blog of my company, Ontology of Value where I write posts dedicated to these topics.