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‘Settling here is not for everyone’

19 December 2018

There’s some fun wildlife, the temperatures are pleasant for nine months of the year and you can cycle to work easily. But surgeon Hidde Kroon wants more out of life than that. He is hoping to return to the Netherlands in the foreseeable future.

Hidde Kroon
Hidde Kroon

Hidde feels sorry for Father Christmas in Australia. Just like in the Netherlands, Santa goes around sporting a thick red suit and fluffy stick-on beard – but in temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius. If he has to operate in spaces where there’s no air conditioning, it’s hell for him. ‘Christmas is completely absurd here. The season is all wrong.’ Hanging fairy lights in your garden in a country where December is the month with the most daylight hours does indeed seem a tad eccentric. Hidde Kroon and his family tend to spend Christmas outside, sitting by the pool or the barbecue.

Hidde’s wife Indy is Australian. He met her 11 years ago when he was in Sydney doing his PhD research on melanomas. Now, they have a five year-old son and a two year-old daughter. In the Netherlands, they both qualified as specialists, Hidde as a gastro-intestinal surgeon and Indy as an anaesthetist. At the start of 2017, they went back to Australia to work in Adelaide.

Adelaide
Adelaide

Plans have not yet been finalized, but Hidde hopes to return to the Netherlands with his family in the foreseeable future. ‘Australia is nice for a holiday, and great to explore, but settling here is not for everyone.’ In a country that was not officially founded until 1901, he misses the cultural depth, the traditions, the cohesion. ‘They have a few things of their own. There’s Australian Rules Football, which is a sort of cross between rugby and football, and there are a few typically Australian expressions, but otherwise it’s a cultural hotchpotch.’ In autumn, winter and spring, the weather’s good. In summer, it’s unbearably hot. Sure, there’s some fun wildlife – kangaroos, koalas, emus – and plenty of natural beauty. And Adelaide is flat, which makes cycling to work a good option. But that’s not enough to make you develop an attachment to a place. Not for Hidde, anyway. He struggles with the every-man-for-himself society – the huge gap between rich and poor, the individualism. And individualism is something that he encounters every day at work – first at the Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide and now at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. ‘Don’t get me started about the specialists here. In the private hospitals, they each have their own patients, and they guard them fiercely. Colleagues are barely allowed to look at them, let alone touch them. Your colleague is your most dangerous competitor.’

When working as a gastro-intestinal surgeon in Leiden and Rotterdam, he was used to being part of a team of surgeons, with shared responsibility for practice and training and a handover each morning. ‘We took time to drink coffee together and confer. Here, it’s straight from the car to the outpatients’ clinic or the operating theatre. It’s a pretty lonely existence, frankly.’

Before moving to Adelaide, he lived in Sydney. ‘Sydney is a fantastic city. Adelaide is rather sleepy and mundane in comparison. I think I need more excitement.’

Last modified:19 March 2020 10.30 a.m.
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