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When I arrived in Holland as a refugee with only a little money and a travel bag packed in haste, things looked quite different. I thought about the approaching winter with horror. When I arrived at the airport, it was still a long time before winter. I was wearing a woolen coat, which was good enough for spring or for autumn. Not for winter, of course. I had been planning to take a woolen hat along with me, but I had forgotten to. I had a thick woolen sweater, but, in the very beginning of the winter, I washed the sweater in the washing machine, in which something went wrong: the water suddenly began to boil (this happened to washing machines in the asylum seekers' camp where I lived). As the result, the sweater became too small even for a doll. I had to spend almost all the money I had to buy winter clothes. And what I could buy was not of the best quality, of course. Still it was better than nothing. Later, when I already lived in the apartment where I live now, I received a waterproof winter coat, a pair of very good boots and two thick sweaters from the Committee for Assistance to Refugees. Never before, I had received clothes from a charity... Back in my native land, I had been well off... When they gave me these clothes and boots, I burst out crying. I felt so humiliated and, at the same time, so thankful. I really needed all these things. I had no job at that time and was trying to survive on an unemployment allowance.
The first winter I spent in Holland was not very cold. In addition, it was very warm in the asylum seekers' camp. There was very good gas heating. Real problems began when I moved to an apartment. Heating is very expensive. I am acquainted to several immigrants from Africa who had to leave their apartments because of debts in heating payments. Apartments are expensive enough, but, if you add heating costs, the price will be really shocking. When I was a student, I had spent years in a colder place than Holland. I was used to cold weather (unlike the majority of immigrants). Yet living in an apartment, where the temperature is almost never above 18 °C for months, is a terrible experience even for me.
The winter of 2012/2013 was one of the worst winters I have seen in Holland. The spring of 2013 was the worst. Beginning from January, the temperature was almost always below zero, and there was snow... As a rule, winter is already over in March here (in Holland it is not as cold as in Sweden or Norway), but, that year, there was snow in the end of March. And it stayed rather cold until the end of May and in June it still does not look like real summer. In June it was warm enough for me to wear a summer dress, but there were days I had to put on a cardigan... I am used to cold weather, so a cardigan is enough for me. When I was at the bus stop, however, I saw an African woman who was wearing a winter coat. Had I been less used to this sort of weather, I would have put on a winter coat, too...