OK, so the Netherlands is not Japan, the signs that tell you that you’ve been here for too long are not nearly as hilarious. I mean, you don’t find yourself nodding your head back to the newscaster at the beginning and end of a newscast after a few years in NL. But there are some curious, funny moments when you realize you’re turning more Dutch than the locals.
- You get annoyed by people calling the Netherlands Holland.
- On birthdays of the Royal family you raise the flag.
- These birthdays are marked along with birthdays of your friends and family on the birthday calendar hanging in your toilet.
- You own a caravan.
- When you go on vacation (in your caravan), you bring a 10 kg bag of potatoes, a few kilo’s of cheese and two jars of Calvé peanut butter.
- You’re looking forward to this year’s Camping and Caravan Fair.
- You can taste the difference between belegen and jong belegen cheese.
- Your kaasboer at the market knows your taste in cheese.
- When abroad, you get irritated when you don’t get a cookie with your coffee at a restaurant.
- To your horror you actually like beschuit met muisjes.
- When cycling, you can multitask – read a book, roll a cigarette or even make out with your girlfriend cycling next to you.
- You and your wife own 5 bicycles between the two of you (plus two for each child).
- You measure distances in minutes of cycling.
- You think a pancake is a perfectly normal dinner dish.
- You recognize which province someone is from by their accent.
- People can recognize which province you’re from by your accent.
- You know what VVE, BZN and GVD stand for.
- Rivers flowing above the surrounding landscape don’t freak you out anymore.
- You can’t remember when was the last time you smoked weed.
- You can have a conversation on any topic using only quotes of Johan Cruyff.
- You own a t-shirt that says “Hup Holland Hup!” (despite point number 1).
There may be more than 21 signs you’ve been in the Netherlands for too long. If you have some of your own signs you’ve been in NL (or anywhere else!) for too long, I’d love to hear.
This is where you spend the summer vacation
A few weeks ago I’ve been to my nephew’s graduation ceremony. He’s only 5 years old, but is already a graduate – he’s got his swimming diploma! Holland has more water than any other European country, therefore, all Dutch kids are taught how to swim as soon as possible. Not only are they taught how to swim, they must know how to stay afloat with clothes on, because as the Dutch reasonably assume, one usually doesn’t take one’s clothes off before accidentally falling into a channel. I wasn’t brought up here, and I didn’t pass these rites myself. So while I was theoretically aware of the concept of “diploma swimming”, I didn’t really know what to expect.
I thought there would be a few kids and their parents, the kids would show they are able to stay afloat and perhaps swim a couple of meters, and we’d all go home. I was in for a double shock. Firstly, the pool side was teeming with mums, dads, uncles, grandma’s and all other types of relatives. It wasn’t just me who was surprised by the massive show of support for the little swimmers. My wife, who was brought up here, was quite amazed, too. Apparently, in recent years, what originally was a modest ceremony, has grown out to be a hugely important event. There must have been at least 300 people there. Of course, our hero was supported by a team of 9 relatives, so we also did our best to show presence.
The second surprise of the day came as the actual swimming started. It was just the A-diploma swimming (there’s also B and C), but it looked like a team of Navy Seals doing aqua ballet. They were swimming hundreds of meters in various styles, diving through hoops and dancing in the water. And they were dressed, too – including shoes! Mind you, the average age was about 5.5 and it was their A-diploma. By the end of the show I was wondering what they do for the B-diploma – pour oil on the surface and light it up? I guess the ones that get to their C-diploma alive are certified as deep-sea divers. With rescue qualifications. One thing I know – I won’t miss his next swimming graduation for the world.