On my way to work I often get stuck in traffic. So far, nothing unusual for a small European country. Except that I get stuck in bicycle traffic. I usually cycle to work, but even I have to leave home early if I want to get smoothly through the city centre. The school kids flood the cycling paths at 8:00, but the crossroads are filled with cyclists waiting for the light to turn green as early as 7:30, as the roads are swamped by rush hour traffic.
That’s why I really like the school vacations. During the school vacations I can cycle in daylight without having to swim my way through the kids, and if the weather is bad or I’m really not in the mood to cycle, I can take the car and actually be faster than if I’d cycle. The only problem is – in the the Netherlands, you never know when the vacation is due.
The Dutch school vacation schedule is purpose-designed to be confusing. The only vacation that starts at the same date is the Christmas vacation. Well, sort of at the same date. Depending on the day of the week of Christmas Eve, the Christmas vacation can start anywhere between 18th and 25th of December. And that’s actually the predictable vacation. The dates of the autumn, spring and May vacations are all not rigid and its an understatement (the so-called spring vacation is actually in February). To complicate the matters further, this small European country is divided into 3 regions, each of which has different dates for the vacations.
As of this year, the Ministry of Education sets the dates for the summer vacation and the Christmas and May vacation (the not-spring May vacation). They “recommend” the dates of the other vacations, but schools can and do deviate from these dates. So the Ministry of Education did not set the dates for school vacations so far? What did they do then? And why not just set the dates for all vacations, and choose the same dates for the whole country? It seems a case of Dutch megalomania, thinking the country is so big, it actually needs to divide its school vacations between regions. Being brought up in the Soviet Union, the largest country in the world, that had the same dates for school vacations across 10 time zones, I just don’t understand such complications in a small European country.
Where does it all leave me? I have no idea. I live in this small European country for 11 years already and I guess the vacation schedule will remain a mystery to me. I just try to find my way to work here. So far, I knew the vacation has started only when I noticed there are no school kids swarming the cycling paths in the morning. And since nowadays I actually go to work early, I really have no way of knowing. Fortunately, for now, I don’t care, too.