We’re Matt (left) and Ryan (right), the odd couple behind KnockKnock.
After two very different childhoods — Matt’s in the remnants of western Pennsylvania’s steel country, Ryan’s on the manicured lawns of suburban New York — a two-line e-mail and one helpful coincidence brought us together.
We’ve spent the last three years sharing our love of small towns, smart design, and the pleasures of a simple life. (And since Matt proposed in April, they'll now be many more years to come!)
The impetus behind this blog is a very big change we made to our lives in July. It was then, after nine months of anticipation and preparation, that we hopped on a one-way flight from New York City to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.
We moved our lives 4,000 miles away for Ryan to take a job with the International Baccalaureate, an educational services provider based in Den Haag. A life abroad was appealing; Holland seemed to promise a quality of life we couldn’t imagine having stateside. Despite the trepidation that came with leaving behind friends, family, and stable, rewarding jobs, we couldn't turn down such an enticing offer.
The audience for this blog is manifold. It is part digital time capsule — a repository for pictures, stories, and reflections on our time in our adopted home. We are writing for our friends and family back in New York, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, so that they, too, can share in the experience.
In the same way that we benefitted from others who did the same, we are also writing for the next group of expats, who we hope will benefit from our experience and avoid some the gaffes, missteps, and frustrations we endured trying to “go Dutch.”
ZERO FEET ABOVE SEA LEVEL
Our new home is Delft, a college town of 100,000 with a long connection to the royal House of Orange. It sits exactly at sea level, nestled within the Randstad, a trapezoidal conurbation that accounts for almost half of The Netherlands' 17 million inhabitants.
Delvenaaren (born-and-raised locals) bemoan the 15,000 students who flood their streets with beer cans and their ears with bass. Yet they can’t seem to forsake the beauty of old center: the herringbone pattern of the brick streets; centuries-old homes that seem to be peering down into the canals; and the Old Church, whose size takes your breath away and whose tilt sends shivers down your spine.
The older and younger factions seem to have brokered an (uneasy) peace. In between them, a vibrant group of young entrepreneurs has introduced the city to the concept of the local economy; a growing cluster of cafes, shops, and restaurants offer locally-made, responsibly-sourced, and up-cycled products.
And Delftenaaren (residents of the city born elsewhere) like us? They come and stay for all sorts of reasons. Suffice to say we were hooked during our second visit to the city. In our last hours before flying home, we went for a short walk that took us from the 700-year old church at the center of the city to vast stretches of farmland on the nearby Delftse Hout.
The walk proved the most important thing we'd read about the city in the months leading up to our trip — that the city’s location seems to have been triangulated so as to be set right in the middle of everything the region has to offer.
And that, precisely, is what we hope to share with you.