I recently celebrated my one year anniversary of living in Netherlands and I have gotten to know the country and it’s people quite well (some people very well, hint hint.) I have come to love it here, even on the rainiest days of the year! (Did the rain part sound believable?)
I even bike everywhere like a real Dutchie, although I have fortunately avoided the most common right of passage, having my bike stolen. So, what are some of the things I love most about this tulip covered, orange wearing, bike stealing, Heineken drinking nation?
1. Fattening Food
The fact that adult Dutchies eat chocolate sprinkles on toast for breakfast says it all (this is called “hagelslag” for anyone who wants to give it a try.) And what about lunch or a snack?
The fried food here is like something I feel I must have dreamed up, but no, it’s real. Dutch fried snacks are the perfect stomach lining during a night out which is why you will see 20 Dutchies standing in front of the wall of food, heads bowed against the rain, trying to keep those 10 Heinekens down (this wall of food is called FEBO if you want to check it out.)
Bitterballen are a national treasure. The first time I ate one I didn’t realize the dip was hot mustard and I put a huge dollop in my mouth. It burned my nostrils so bad that with tears in my eyes I chugged my entire beer while my date stared at me in horror (but I paid for my half of the drinks and he was only an inch taller than me so I knew I had no future with him, however that didn’t stop me from sleeping with him. YOLO.)
Poffertjes, I could write a love poem about these.
Fluffy mini pancakes.
A poem by Sarah Veldman
Unfortunately for poffertjes I cheat on them with Oliebollen; deep fried balls of dough dipped in powdered sugar. They only come out for New Years and at carnivals; they play hard to get with me, which just makes me want them more.
What about grocery stores? Albert Heijn, all the way.
I love Albert Heijn ceaser salads; though they’re a little expensive, I formed an attachment to them after eating one in my hostal in Amsterdam. My first time in an Albert Heijn was during that trip, and now, one year later, I have their bonus card; I’m really moving up in the Dutch world.
Lastly, cheese. All the cheese. So. Much. Cheese.
2. Dutch Language
The first time I came to visit my boyfriend in Netherlands, he taught me how to say a common Dutch phrase: Neuken in de keuken. You can find the translation here: Neuken in de Keuken
I recently finished B2 level Dutch classes, thank you very much. Yet, I somehow feel as if I don’t speak any of the language at all.
Who did I have in my classes?
A kindred spirit who unfortunately flew back to Canada as her list would have been: 10 Things I Hate About Netherlands.
“Annoying British guy” who asks a question about literally everything and really makes me question if I’m actually “zen.”
A brown noser type from Kosovo who answers every single question. She even answered for me when the teacher asked my name. I have to stop myself from lunging across the table and ripping out her dyed orange hair.
And another brown noser from Finland who lets me know five times every single class that she is currently working towards her PHD.
“What types of articles do you write? Political, economic?” she asked.
“I write erotic fiction,” I responded. She wrinkled her nose, and turned away.
At the moment, I’m at the level of: “Ik spreek een beetje Nederlands” and I can answer the questions they ask me at the grocery store.
I love biking here (although I have been known to complain when hail is hitting me in the eyeballs or rain is hitting me in the face like I’m on Maid of the Mist at Niagra Falls.)
The look Dutchies give me when I go on a bike ride just for fun is quite similar to the look you give Tom Cruise when he talks about Scientology, but I do it anyway. The bike paths here are something out of a fairytale; hell, there are even miniature ponies staring at me as I go past.
My first summer here, I biked all the way to Groningen from my town, (about 22 kilometers each way) and by the end of this mini excursion my legs were like jello, or post orgasm legs as I like to call them.
One thing I have learned quite quickly is that signaling with your hand is very important and God help you if you don’t because that is when the very polite Dutch give you their evil eye, and maybe a few curse words (but this has helped greatly in my learning of the language as I want to sound like a true native.)
Biking in a big city in Netherlands is like taking an intensive course which is what I learned the first time I was in Groningen. While on the bike path I signaled to turn left, however I did this as I was making the turn, and almost knocked a lady clean off her bike. This wasn’t as bad as opening my car door while an old lady was biking past; she wasn’t happy. But my thought process was “Fuck off, I’m an American, I can do what I want, freedom and all that.”
Dutchies love a good festival, and I have grown to love them too. My favorites are food and music festivals, and if it’s a combination, even better. Granted, I spend as much money at a food festival (what is with the little plastic coins, can’t I just use cash?) on a small hamburger and crepe on a Styrofoam plate as I do at a pretty nice restaurant, the atmosphere is why I still keep going. Cute little food trucks, jazz musicians or a DJ bobbing his head to an 80’s remix, the smell of barbecue, all the hipsters are in their element; it’s perfect.
Unfortunately for me my first King’s Day saw Netherlands worst holiday weather in probably 10 years (there was hail) but this did not rain on my parade or dampen my spirits (did you like that pun?) I went out with a friend for King’s Night and this involved playing cards at a frat house while they made me wear an old green hat for some reason (I should have been on Gilligan’s Island), and braving the cold for exactly 15 minutes before I called my boyfriend begging for him to pick me up. The U2 cover band wasn’t going to change my mind, no matter how much the lead singer looked like Bono.
On King’s Day my boyfriend and I watched the Buienradar (rain radar, and the most popular app in Netherlands for a reason) and went out in the afternoon once it was dry and sunny. There were tons of people selling things (no license needed on King’s Day!) and we had some watered down Heineken.
Bevrijdingsfest at Stadspark was on a sunny day with blue skies which meant it saw the biggest turnout they’ve ever had, standing room only. My boyfriend and I went there by Vespa so we could go right to the entrance, and stayed for an hour to see my favorite Dutch band, Kensington. My only complaint was being behind tall people; I simultaneously love and hate that people in Netherlands are tall. I love it because tall guys are damn sexy, and they make me feel tiny, which in turn makes me feel feminine and dainty. I hate it because at a concert I’m looking at the back of heads rather than the stage.
Tip: If you go to a concert in Netherlands, bring a step stool; in this country you’re a miniature pony surrounded by a pack of stallions.
Overrated in terms of partying and underrated for it’s culture. Dutchies are not huge fans of Amsterdam; internationally it gives them a reputation for being high and constantly walking around with raging boners.
I love Amsterdam because as much as the tourists are annoying, after traveling for a long time, it gives me comfort seeing people who are also foreign, and sometimes I even run into Americans (although I’m always praying they don’t embarrass the rest of us with their Disney world t-shirts and fanny packs.)
Amsterdam has some of the best museums I’ve ever been to. I went to the Van Gogh museum completely high; I feel as if I can simultaneously recommend this and also tell you to avoid it. The whole museum was very well organized, even including letters and pictures from Van Gogh’s much too short life. My favorite letter was one from his brother Theo, in which he advised him to “flick the whip” every now and then (that means masturbation, for those of you without a dirty mind.)
The Anne Frank House was so moving and since I braved a thunderstorm to get there, nobody else wanted to, which meant I didn’t have to wait in that dreaded 2 hour line people are always complaining about on Trip Advisor. However, it’s a very emotional place so I recommend a trip to the bar for some Heineken’s afterward.
6. The Small Cities/Villages
Zwolle: I have a big attachment to Zwolle; my viking boyfriend asked me to “officially” be his girlfriend while we sat on a bench in front of the water there. We then went to a bookstore inside a converted cathedral and he bought me The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown; after this he took me for my first plate of poffertjes, and the rest is history.
Meppel: Meppel is where my parents stayed for 3 months in an apartment overlooking the main square. We spent our most raucous Thanksgiving ever there; I told my boyfriend Thanksgiving always involves someone crying, someone drunk, and someone arguing but I didn’t know we would exceed his expectations. My aunt’s “boyfriend” was visiting with her and after making quite a scene, he got completely hammered, stripped off all his clothes and crawled inside my parents bed; we all still think of him fondly.
We also celebrated Sinterklaas at Christmas time in Meppel last year, and enjoyed a cute little parade that ends with Sinterklaas coming in on his white horse. My mom and I squeezed past all the children in the front to make sure we got proper pictures which the adults did not like (what can I say, we’re American!)
7. The Beaches
My viking and I are the adventurous types who like to take spontaneous drives to random places when we have a day off so he took me to Callantsoog. We had the kind of weather that Dutchies yearn for constantly; sunshine, a nice breeze. I had no idea Netherlands had such nice beaches, and I was quite surprised to see this as we walked over the sand dunes. We had lunch (bitterballen for me of course!) and strolled along the beach; we even found a nice, secluded sand dune for some sex on the beach (not the drink) so I can check that off my bucket list now.
8. Driving around on a Vespa
Actually, my viking drives while I sit on the back, and this is super romantic. You know in the European movies that Americans are always watching when a girl goes on a trip to Italy and the guy drives her around on a Vespa and they fall magically in love?.) Well, it’s like that, but we’re driving through beautiful meadows, and going by lakes; every time we do this I really stop and look hard at how cool my life is, and I feel pretty damn grateful for it.
My boyfriend tried to teach me to drive the vespa when I visited him for the first time last summer. I actually managed quite well; although he said I tend to lean to the left because Americans have bad balance ( I tend to think it was his 200 pound body on the back) but we had a good laugh.
While Netherlands has miles and miles of tall white windmills that resemble those aliens in War of the Worlds, they still keep the old ones for picturesque postcards and tourists.
I shout “Windmill!” every time we go by an old one here in Netherlands which happens pretty frequently, and doesn’t even make my boyfriend jump out of fear anymore.
Tulip fields in Netherlands require all manner of skipping, prancing, and galavanting through the rows and rows of colorful flowers.
The first time I saw tulip fields I felt as if I was Alice in Wonderland, running through a fairytale world. I was half expecting a rabbit with a pocket watch to run by me.
Rows and rows of tulips lined up in color coordinated lines makes me very happy.
There are a million things I love about Netherlands, and until my bike gets stolen I will continue to love it (just kidding, I’ll love it even after that.)
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