Tag Archives: Dutch

Koningsdag

It still sounds odd. Koningsdag. After decades of having Koninginnedag (Queen’s day), the Dutch unofficial national holiday is known since 2014 as Koningsdag, as the country has its first male monarch since 1890. But its still the “worst street party in Europe”. The Netherlands is a very colourful place to live in.

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21 signs you have been too long in the Netherlands

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.

  1. You get annoyed by people calling the Netherlands Holland.
  2. On birthdays of the Royal family you raise the flag.
  3. These birthdays are marked along with birthdays of your friends and family on the birthday calendar hanging in your toilet.
  4. You own a caravan.
  5. 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.
  6. You’re looking forward to this year’s Camping and Caravan Fair.
  7. You can taste the difference between belegen and jong belegen cheese.
  8. Your kaasboer at the market knows your taste in cheese.
  9. When abroad, you get irritated when you don’t get a cookie with your coffee at a restaurant.
  10. To your horror you actually like beschuit met muisjes.
  11. When cycling, you can multitask – read a book, roll a cigarette or even make out with your girlfriend cycling next to you.
  12. You and your wife own 5 bicycles between the two of you (plus two for each child).
  13. You measure distances in minutes of cycling.
  14. You think a pancake is a perfectly normal dinner dish.
  15. You recognize which province someone is from by their accent.
  16. People can recognize which province you’re from by your accent.
  17. You know what VVE, BZN and GVD stand for.
  18. Rivers flowing above the surrounding landscape don’t freak you out anymore.
  19. You can’t remember when was the last time you smoked weed.
  20. You can have a conversation on any topic using only quotes of Johan Cruyff.
  21. 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

This is where you spend the summer vacation

 

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The 5-year old graduate

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.

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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.

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How being a man almost got me killed

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Since I am a man, I am blessed with tunnel vision. I can’t find my keys, my glasses or the honey jar in the kitchen cabinet. Basically, I can’t see much that is not directly in front of me. And to be honest, not a lot of what’s in front of me, either. Aggravated by my pathological absent-mindedness, and the early hour, being a man almost got me killed this week.

I was cycling to work, as usual, when I looked to the right and saw this couple. At 8 in the morning, in the December freeze, they were sitting in their garden, just chillin’. I almost fell off my bike, narrowly escaping getting underneath the wheels of a passing bus. Are these people all right? Are they alive? Should I say something?

After I regained my senses, I had a better look, and saw the big picture. They were puppets. Live-size puppets, with faces printed on cardboard attached to their heads. I also saw the huge sheet on the house wall, saying “50 years of marriage”. In Holland, as in most places, being married for 50 years is a big deal. But the Dutch have a special relationship with the number 50. The huge puppet is a part of that 50-fetish. When people turn 50, or are married for 50 years, their friend and family “bless” them with a huge, ugly version of themselves, in the garden, on the chimney, or nailed to the door, sometimes dressed in an “interesting” fashion, or other-wisely “spiced”. I’m OK with traditions, but putting a warning sign for the cyclists would be a nice gesture.

The big picture

The big picture

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When is the Chrismas vacation? I just don’t know.

On my way to work I often get stuck in traffic. So far, nothing unusual for a small European country. Except that I get stuck in bicycle traffic.  I usually cycle to work, but even I have to leave home early if I want to get smoothly through the city centre. The school kids flood the cycling paths at 8:00, but the crossroads are filled with cyclists waiting for the light to turn green as early as 7:30, as the roads are swamped by rush hour traffic.

That’s why I really like the school vacations. During the school vacations I can cycle in daylight without having to swim my way through the kids, and if the weather is bad or I’m really not in the mood to cycle, I can take the car and actually be faster than if I’d cycle. The only problem is – in the the Netherlands, you never know when the vacation is due.

Chrismas vacation is a good time for a picnic on the water

Chrismas vacation is a good time for a picnic on the water

The Dutch school vacation schedule is purpose-designed to be confusing. The only vacation that starts at the same date is the Christmas vacation. Well, sort of at the same date. Depending on the day of the week of Christmas Eve, the Christmas vacation can start anywhere between 18th and 25th of December. And that’s actually the predictable vacation. The dates of the autumn, spring and May vacations are all not rigid and its an understatement (the so-called spring vacation is actually in February). To complicate the matters further, this small European country is divided into 3 regions, each of which has different dates for the vacations.

During Chrismas vacation bicycles get stuck not only in traffic

During Chrismas vacation bicycles get stuck not only in traffic

As of this year, the Ministry of Education sets the dates for the summer vacation and the Christmas and May vacation (the not-spring May vacation). They “recommend” the dates of the other vacations, but schools can and do deviate from these dates. So the Ministry of Education did not set the dates for school vacations so far? What did they do then? And why not just set the dates for all vacations, and choose the same dates for the whole country? It seems a case of Dutch megalomania, thinking the country is so big, it actually needs to divide its school vacations between regions. Being brought up in the Soviet Union, the largest country in the world, that had the same dates for school vacations across 10 time zones, I just don’t understand such complications in a small European country.

Where does it all leave me? I have no idea. I live in this small European country for 11 years already and I guess the vacation schedule will remain a mystery to me. I just try to find my way to work here. So far, I knew the vacation has started only when I noticed there are no school kids swarming the cycling paths in the morning. And since nowadays I actually go to work early, I really have no way of knowing. Fortunately, for now, I don’t care, too.

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The taste of Dutch summer

They say that in India, there’s a festival celebrated somewhere in the country every day of the year. Supposedly, its a testimony to the richness of the Indian culture. Some Indians, though, say its a testimony to the unwillingness of the Indians to work and their inventiveness in coming up with excuses to avoid working. As I am not concerned with India, but with Europe, I will leave this matter to the Indians. All I can tell you is that if you scan the calendars of the European countries you’ll surely find a festival every day somewhere on the old continent.

With over 50 countries and countless regions dotting Europe, the variety of festivals and celebrations is hardly a surprise. Some of these festivals, such as the Carnival in Venice or the running of the bulls in Pamplona, are well-known and are a regular feature on bucket lists. Others are more local, and maintain the local charm, swarmed by locals rather than the bucket-list waiving crowds. Like the Vlaggetjesdag, or Flags Day, in Scheveningen.

Originally, Vlaggetjesdag was the day when the herring fishing fleet would sail out to sea, on the Saturday before Pentecost. Nowadays, it is the start of the herring eating rather than herring fishing season that is being celebrated, and the festival has shifted to early June (8th of June this year). While not as famous as, for example, La Tomatina, Vlaggetjesdag events in Scheveningen, the Hague’s harbour, attract huge crowds. The first barrel of herring is auctioned, and the proceedings, running in tens of thousands of Euro, are donated to charity.

The taste of Dutch summer is new herring

The taste of Dutch summer is new herring

The question is – what do you do with herring? The Dutch usually treat it as a snack, eating it with or without onions, plain or in a white bread bun, and with a pickle in Amsterdam. But what if you want to make a meal out of it? As it requires extra no cooking, there’s no point in doing anything with the herring, but what does raw herring go with? Well, since new herring is available in the summer, how about a fresh quinoa salad?

Ingredients (for 4 persons):

  • 8 herrings
  • 300 g quinoa
  • 2 raw beetroots (300 g)
  • 150 g feta cheese
  • Fresh mint and parsley
  • Lemon julie
  • Olive oil

Cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the package. Skin and rasp the beetroots. Crumble the feta cheese. Chop the mint and parsley leaves. Mix everything together and spice with lemon juice, olive oil and some black pepper and serve with 2 herrings per person. Enjoy your very summery salad (with or without the herring).

Beetroot and quinoa salad - perfect for the hot summer evenings

Beetroot and quinoa salad – perfect for the hot summer evenings

 

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A new (and a very small) European

This week, me and my wife made a new European. Her name is Noura and she is very, very small. Not too small though, she’s got all she needs and she’s doing just fine. In the coming weeks I will be focusing on growing and caring for my tiny piece of Europe, and blogging will be a lower priority. Hopefully you’ll stay with me until I get to writing again. In the meantime, I’ve got another diaper to attend to, the 4th this night. Ciao!

The best European ever

The best European ever

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