By Divya Susan Varkey
Looking out of my living room window, I see my neighbor’s house decorated for Christmas – Santa Claus, Christmas lights, reindeer and elves hanging in various angles across the wide glass. Walking past it, though, I never know whether I should take a closer look or how long I can look without intruding upon my neighbor’s privacy. For, as with most Dutch households, the curtains are drawn back and taking a closer look puts you in a position of seeing into your neighbor’s lives – or worse still, seeing things that may be difficult to ‘un-see’. Ten months into life in the Netherlands, and this part of living here is something I can’t seem to get used to. Walk through a street with houses on any given day and one can be certain to see, beyond the wonderful window decorations, people going about their daily life – watching football, sending e-mails, reading books, having their meal or taking a nap. Depending on the time of the day (and the neighbors you have), you may even happen upon someone changing their clothes, putting on makeup or brushing their hair. In our previous house, there was even a window facing our shower, which I obsessively closed every time I was in the vicinity! The thought of anyone looking in on me while I went about my daily life, whether in the shower or just having a meal, was (and still is) unnerving, to say the least.