Week 9: Tiny Kox and Social Policing

1) People put actual stuffed storks on the front of their house when they are expecting a baby, with its rear end sticking outside and its head poking inside. To passersby, it is meant to look like the baby-delivering stork flew straight into the window. I seem to be seeing a lot of storks come down around this time of year, so while I’m no mathematician, it sure does seem like lots o' Christmas babies seem to have been made in this neck of the woods. 🧐


2) Dutch people love naming their kids things that sound absolutely ridiculous in English. Names like Joke, Freek, or Fokker are totally normal here. In fact, more than normal: they are encountered frequently. A leading Dutch politician's parents decided to bless him with the name: Tiny Kox. Can't make this stuff up, folks.


3) “Dat kan niet“ is one of the most common phrases here. It means "that cannot be done." A close runner up is "Het is niet mogelijk” Basically, tough luck. You want your coffee with almond milk? NOPE. You want the cable guy to come this week? NOPE. The Dutch are direct and don't care what anybody thinks.


4) When it comes to fashion, not making too big of a statement with your clothing is the best way of making a statement. I tend to blend in here with my affinity for neutrals and minimalist clothing, but when I put on my bright neon colored mountain puffies and beanies, I'm a bit of an eye sore. 


5) Dutch people are super into social policing. They love to tell you their opinion on every little thing, regardless of whether or not its asked for. If I had a dime for every single person who tried to tell me how or where to walk my dog / how to pick up his poop / when was an acceptable time to cross the road, I would be as rich as Richard Branson. Fortunately, most of this social policing is mumbled and delivered in Dutch, so I just smile, say uh huh, and continue on my merry way. No bad days over here!


6) Speaking of social policing, the Dutch care a LOT about not wearing shoes in the home / gym. They require you to bring a non-outside pair of shoes to the gym, and will pull you aside and yell at you if they catch you doing so. I'm all for etiquette and cleanliness, but when I've walked two blocks down the street in brand new shoes and hop onto the treadmill, I struggle with really needing to bring an extra "fresh" pair of shoes every time.


7) When it comes to Dutch food, you've likely never heard of someone say 'hey let's order dutch takeout tonight!' why, you ask? Well, when it comes to food, Dutch people like to either: a) mash the hell out of something, b) boil the sh*t out of something, or c) deep-fry the crap out of something! Stamppot is a perfect example Dutch dish, consisting not surprisingly of: a) mashing and b) boiling. Step 1: you boil the shit out of various veggies (potatoes, carrots, etc.). Step 2: you mash the hell out of all of them, throw a little sausage on the side, and voila, a perfect Dutch meal! Other popular dishes include Zuurkoolstamppot (sauerkraut mashed with potatoes), Andijviestamppot (endive mashed with potatoes) or Boerenkoolstamppot (cabbage mixed with mashed potatoes)?! See a pattern?


8 ) Dutch expressions fall into one of 3 categories: expressions relating to farm life, expressions related to Dutch weather, and expressions that make absolutely no sense at all. For example: "als de hemel valt, krijgen we allemaal een blauwe pet" which translates to, "if the sky falls down, we will all be wearing a blue cap." HUH??

9) Another weird phrase: de kat uit de boom kijken, which means "you've got to stare the cat down out of the tree," which is essentially used in the context that sometimes in life, you've just got to let things work themselves out. 


10) A final phrase for your week: roeien met de riemen die je hebt, which translates to "row with the oars that are given to you," i.e. do as much as you can with the things you possess. May we all “bloom where planted” this week and do the most with what we are given - and then some! 👍🏼

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Week 8: Boat Sharing and Darth Vader

1. All week I had been noticing backpacks hanging from flagpoles on houses around the neighborhood. After a quick Google search, what first seemed like a prank actually turns out to be rooted in tradition! Putting the flag out and hanging your child’s school bag on the pole is a sign that they have passed their high school exams! You will see this all over Holland around the second week of June. I like to think of it as the Dutch equivalent of the “my kid is an honor student” bumper sticker in the US.

2. Those orange carrots you eat? The Dutch introduced them to the world. Dutch carrot growers developed orange carrot in the 16th century through careful breeding of existing varieties. At the time, carrots were a range of colors, from pale yellow to purple, the OG.

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3. A person who is overstepping his authority here is said to be “Buiten z'n boekje,” which means “outside his little book.”

4. For locals or those spending a significant amount of time in Amsterdam, there are some really awesome boat sharing programs so you don’t have to buy your own. You pay a yearly membership fee and then an hourly fee every time you take one out. Like Zipcar, but nautical!

5. My favorite lessons learned are the ones I stumble upon by accident. When walking River around the corner from my house, I saw these tiny houses (pictured) built in between real houses. As it turns out, a design firm noticed that the real houses on the street jumped in address from Westerstraat 54 to 70 for no reason, so they installed these little houses to account for the missing numbers. Aren’t they just the cutest?

6. Singel 7 is the narrowest house in Amsterdam and is about the width of a door. Go find it!

7. Vader = father in Dutch, so when in Star Wars, everyone loses their minds when Darth VADER is revealed as Luke’s father, all Dutch people face palmed in unison.

8. If you had not yet noticed a theme, I absolutely love finding ‘hidden’ gems in plain sight. One of my faves? The Vondelbunker hidden under a bridge in Vondelpark, one of the main parks in Amsterdam. Here, you can find lots of counterculture activities/events: concerts, cinema, art exhibits and dinners. There is even a micro beer brewery located here called Bunkerbier. It’s all built in actual bomb shelter from the Cold War. Cool beans.

9. If you are a proactive person, the Dutch say: “Hij laat er geen gras over groeien” which means directly, “he doesn’t allow grass to grow over it,” i.e. he’s taking action immediately. As a relatively type A individual, I relish in this phrase. Get ‘r done!

10. Street organs are a distinctive part of Dutch street culture: on any given day, they can often be heard, although they are more likely to be blaring out pop tunes rather than the more traditional melodies. Tourists love ‘em, as they embody Dutch charm at it’s finest. As a resident? The things drive me absolutely nuts - especially when they park outside my house when I’m on a conference call.

Bonus #11: The Dutch have a phrase which goes “Uit het oog, uit het hart” which means “out of eye, out of heart” or as we like to say it back home, “Out of sight, out of mind”.

 

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Week 7: Koningsdag and Pinderkaas

1) Having experienced my first Kings Day a.k.a. Koningsdag in Amsterdam, I can confirm: it is possibly the most epic holiday celebration I have ever been to. This past Friday, what seemed like every person in the Netherlands dressed in orange and descended upon the city for a massive celebration. Not only is it celebrated on Friday, but Thursday night was a city-wide block party as well, with every block filled with bands, beers, & people. I can't believe no one ever told me to come to Amsterdam for Kings Day before, as it's incredible - I'M HOSTING NEXT YEAR, so book your tickets now!

2) Get this: the Dutch usher in the beginning of the spring season with Rokjesdag, a Dutch term which literally means "skirt day," aka the first sunny day of the year when women start wearing short skirts again. If I were to guess, rokjesdag was probably sometime last week when we had our first sunny spell 🙂 Classic!

3) When people think of Holland/Netherlands, they commonly think of a few things: Heineken, canals, and windmills. But there are actually only 8 windmills in all of Amsterdam, as most of them have been dismantled or destroyed. There are still ~ 1,000 historic windmills spread about elsewhere throughout the Netherlands.

4) I recently saw a humorous 5 commandments of biking in the Netherlands, which I found accurate, so I'll share: 1) Thou shalt only cycle on the right side of the road, 2) Thou shalt not cycle on sidewalks- only on bike paths, 3) Thou shalt ALWAYS lock your bike when unattended. Preferably to something. 4) Thou shalt ding your bell when passing people, and move to the side when bells ding for thee, 5) Thou shalt ignore Dutch people shouting about how much you suck balls at cycling.

5) Many places in the U.S. were actually named after Dutch cities: Flushing, Brooklyn, Harlem, Bloomingdale, and many others! https://en.wikipedia.org/…/List_of_place_names_of_Dutch_ori…

6) I continue to be shocked at how loose the Dutch are about certain things: in a city where everyone ride bikes and are exposed to numerous opportunities to get injured, not a single person wears a helmet while cycling. On Kings Day? Someone set up a swing off of a canal bridge, and drunk people climbed to swing out over the canal all day long - and noone did a thing to stop this. These are just a couple examples of things that would never, ever fly in the US or the UK.

On the helmet front, many argue that helmets are simply not necessary in Amsterdam as the Dutch have created an intrinsically safe road environment. There are bike lanes EVERYWHERE here (literally, we did a 40km ride from Leiden to see all of the tulips this weekend and were on a dedicated bike lane nearly as wide as the road the entire time - if only it were like that everywhere!)

7) Amsterdam has been making a concerted effort to plant more tulips around the city itself. The motto of the Amsterdam Tulip Festival the last couple of years has been "a tulip for every Amsterdammer". Last count, they had planted around 650,000 which means they are getting close (current population hovers around 850,000).

8 ) You know how when you spill a secret, you "let the cat out of the bag?" Here, the expression is 'Nu komt de aap uit de mouw' or "the monkey comes out of the sleeve." The supposed backstory: in the past, street artists would often perform tricks by hiding a monkey in their coats. At the end of the performance the monkey would “come out of the sleeve” and reveal the trick!

9) Pindakaas = peanut butter. But why it's weird is: pinda means peanut, and kaas actually means cheese. So really, this translates to: peanut cheese. The reason? The word ‘piendakass’ appeared in the Surinamese dictionary in the mid 1800's and referred to a large block of crushed peanuts that locals sliced in a similar way to that of a block of cheese and ate on bread. Peanut butter, as you and I know it, was not introduced until 1948. However, it was not possible to market it under the name of ‘pindaboter’ due to the ‘Butterlaw’, which stipulated that only butter could call itself butter. So there you have it: why, to this day, Dutch peanut butter is really called peanut CHEESE!!

10) The Dutch have a way with insults; so much so, that there is even an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to them. I'll leave those right here for you, but my favorite is to call someone a pannenkoek, an idiot, or more literally: a pancake. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_profanity

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Week 6: Waterongevallenwagen and Subpar Tacos

1) When the Dutch have a misfit in a group of people, they don't call it a misfit, they call it ‘a small outside leg’ (Buitenbeentje). They seem to have a thing with legs, as the Dutch also don’t wake up in a bad mood, or get out of bed on the wrong foot…they step out of bed 'with the wrong leg’ (Met het verkeerde been uit bed gestapt). Funny folks!

2) People are obsessed with keeping the sidewalks clean of dog poop (and dog owners seem to be notoriously awful at cleaning up their dogs feces!) River dog stumbled over this delightful sign saying 'Poep Niet Op De Stoep' (pictured below) which Google Translate says means, "Shit Not on The Sidewalk." #class

3) Tacos here are so, so terrible. Having tried 3-4 places in town, absolutely nothing compares to Mexican food from California. And the funny thing is, the best place (i.e. most tasty) I've found here has the worst ratings online. The Dutch are not well versed in burritos and queso!

4) King's Day is imminent! On April 27, everyone in the Netherlands dons orange clothing for an all day city wide street party, an annual Dutch national holiday in honor of King Willem-Alexander. Really, it's just an excuse to party your face off. If you like a good crazy party (SF friends, think Bay to Breakers x 100), then plan your Amsterdam visit around it!

5) As the sun is starting to come out, people are emerging from their winter caves, and everyone makes a habit of sitting on their front stoop in the late afternoon/early evening sun. Finding a place with a solid stoop set up is considered a major win. All the better if you've got one large enough to host the neighbors. #stoopgoals

6) I've said it once but I'll say it again: Amsterdam and the Dutch are leading the way in Sustainability/Circular Economy efforts. There are so many groups here who are heavily involved in leading initiatives to ensure Holland is at the forefront: Impact Hub AmsterdamPlastic WhaleCirclInstockMarqtHolland Circular HotspotAmsterdam Airport Schiphol. The list goes on. I'm planning to attend an event early this evening put on by World Wildlife Fund and the Impact Hub Plastic Ocean Accelerator, followed by a Global Waste Dinner at Heineken as part of the Young Professional network of the UN Global Compact. #eliminatefoodwaste All on a Wednesday evening! There's so much going on in this space, which is really inspiring for people passionate about these global initiatives (more to come on this, as I plan to soon share more on my work/learnings on these topics :))

7) Some words are extremely long and seemingly even more random. Yet here I am, walking around the hood and confronted with the "waterongevallenwagen" (pictured), which translates directly as "Water Accident Car". You can’t make this stuff up.

8 ) The Dutch also have a word which means to "walk in the wind", 'Uitwaaien'. It's their way of saying to go for a walk, often out into the countryside, or to clear one's head. I think this is the closest they come to a word for 'hiking', my favorite activity.

9) Odd laws: it is against Dutch law to urinate in a canal – but acceptable if you are pregnant. When you gotta go, you gotta go! But really: there are strangely exposed yet private street urinals available for men on pretty much every street, so there's really no excuse.

10) While Americans slave away at their jobs 40+ hours a week (I'm v. guilty of having done this in the Bay Area tech bubble), most Dutch professionals enjoy a 36-hour workweek and a generous 4-6 weeks of holiday per year (yes, this is how I am able to travel so often over here). Spoiler alert: The Dutch are doing just fine. In fact, better than fine.

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Week 5: Frozen Canals and Small Shoes

1) The Dutch refer to nearly everything in the dimunitive. Example: “Ik doe mijn schoentjes aan om met het hondje een blokje om te gaan” (I’m putting on my shoes to take the dog for a walk around the block - but literally: I’m putting on my SMALL shoes to take my SMALL dog around the SMALL block.)

2) It’s hard to find medicines which I would buy at home here. When shopping for my Nepal trip and trying to find altitude sickness medicine, the best they could sell me was ginger pills which are supposed to help with altitude (to be fair, they did). Alka seltzer, Benadryl, standard Advil - not to be found here. It goes along well with the Dutch concept of “uitzieken” which literally means ‘outsicking’ or ‘to sick it out’: when you just let the illness run its course and rest until it is over.

3) The Dutch don’t order a cup of coffee…they order ‘a little cup of solace’ (Een bakje troost). Gimme summa dat!

4) There is a private island east of central Amsterdam called Vuurtoreneiland where you can enjoy a 5-course meal in a temporary structure with a view over the water and a tiny lighthouse, followed by a boat ride back to the city. We were the only non-Dutch on the adventure; others were so surprised to see us on board as English speaking expats that they wondered how we even found out about the experience. It’s a MUST-DO experience for anyone visiting and an absolutely gorgeous building! http://vuurtoreneiland.nl/winterrestaurant/

5) In keeping with Dutch simplicity and directness, they tend to avoid creating unnecessary words. For example, they call gloves “handschoenen” a.k.a. hand shoes, shoes for hands. Makes perfect sense, really!

6) Europeans will be familiar with this, but maybe not so much Americans: always add in a buffer of 15 min when expecting to leave a cafe/restaurant if you are telling someone you will meet them, or if you are going to order an Uber etc. It takes what sometimes seems to be an inordinate amount of time to get the waiters attention, get the check (bill) and then to account for the Russian roulette event of whether or not your card will work. Customer service is much much slower here as part of the culture (I do miss American efficiency!) and shops at times seem extremely arbitrary in the cards they will/will not accept.

7) Another entertaining word (there are soooo many of them here & all amusing): “mierenneuker” or literally: somebody who is intimate with ants. To the Dutch, this means someone who is way too caught up in the details. I fight the temptation daily to tell my clients to stop being such a mierenneuker when it comes to contract negotiations and to just sign the dotted line 🙂

8 ) In the US, we are accustomed to our friends/colleagues doing something special for us on our birthdays - whether it be cake, a gift, a special lunch, etc. In Holland, (this was similar in England), you are expected to bring your own cake/treats to work for your birthday. So much for birthday month!

9) Mayonnaise on fries. This has become such a normal part of my life that I don’t even blink at it anymore but it’s all they do out here is add mayonnaise and various types of sauces onto their fries/frites. Just a sampling of regular topping options from our favorite local shop include: curry, tartar sauce, citrus mayo, spicy ketchup, American ketchup, ketchup curry, Belgian mayo, cocktail sauce, English mayo, garlic mayo, mustard sauce, chili sauce, truffle mayonnaise.

10) The canals (of which there are 165 in total) only freeze over in winter about once or twice a DECADE - so this past week’s frozen canals were a very special treat! And they only lasted for 48 hours before melting! (Photo proof below)

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Week 4: Like an Angel is Peeing on My Tongue

1) The highly commercialized Valentines Day is hardly a blip on the radar here. No heart candies or roses are even to be found at my local grocery stores - the day before V-day! I read a statistic that only 1 in 5 Dutchies celebrate it, and 90% think it’s a stupid commercial holiday - I would have to agree!

2) When you’re online shopping, you don’t fill up your “Shopping Cart”; you fill up your Winkelwagen. This will never get old to me. The idea of filling a cute little wagon just makes me delighted... ok, enough.

3) The Dutch really care about avoiding food waste. There’s a restaurant here called Instock which prepares every single delicious breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner entirely from food that would otherwise be thrown away by local grocers. There are also two different iOS apps called TooGoodToGo and ResQ which alerts app users to food that will otherwise get thrown away by restaurants and allows you to purchase it instead. Good stuff.

4) Dutch pea soup is called snert. Yes, snert.

5) The word “hoor” is used liberally and often indiscriminately at the end of Dutch sentences (and no it doesn’t mean what it sounds like in English). It means something along the lines of ‘you know’, or ‘yeah right’ or ‘sure enough’ or ‘no certainly not’ – you get the picture. It’s extremely multifaceted, but the best thing about it is that you can use the word sarcastically, too.

6) Despite cheese of seemingly every variety being sold every 5 feet, cheddar and many other types are not a thing here. Goat cheese is common. Sharing a link here so you can get a better understanding of the varieties available, as they are quite different than back home in the US! https://www.thespruce.com/guide-to-dutch-cheese-varieties-m…

7) There’s a Dutch saying that goes “Doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg,” which literally means “just behave normally, it’s crazy enough!” The Dutch consider modesty and being down-to-earth as important traits and arrogance/pretentiousness is considered a high crime in Holland. Quite a bit different from some current American attitudes of entitlement (ahem, Trump!) Consequentially, Dutch businesses tend to be flat with leadership based on merit, competence and achievements.

8 ) Dutch love to eat herring and you can find it everywhere - even on the street corner walking to work. My personal favorite: herring dip on salty crackers. Yum!

9) You can string diseases together to make expletives in Dutch. For example, if my moronic self accidentally walks in front of a bicycle (easy to do here, you have no idea), the cyclist may call me a “kankertyfushoer” (which means a cancer typhoid whore). Fortunately, my Dutch is still so poor that I am not even aware of the lovely things I’ve likely been called. Joke’s on you, Mr Cyclist!

10) If something tastes delicious - for example, you are really enjoying that cod for dinner - the Dutch say “it’s like an angel is peeing on my tongue” (Alsof er een engeltje over je tong piest). Try using that back at home!

(Photo taken outside of our new home and @rivertheadventuredog is loving it!)

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Week 3: Kaaspapier, Rabobank and Ertwensoep, Oh My!

1) When you buy cheese at the grocery store (which of course I do every week, because it’s delicious here), they always kindly ask if you would like kaaspapier - which I now understand, finally, to be CHEESE PAPER! for the record, these are still the only Dutch words I know - though I have become “familiar” with many others which I see often - on menus, at the store, etc (bier, anyone?) The cheese paper is truly miraculous, though. Wrap your cheese in foil/saran? Mold! Wrap it in kaaspapier? Lasts for weeks!

2) To get a cell phone plan, one must have a bank account. To have a bank account, one must have completely obtained official residency. So for those of you wondering why I was so keen to end my phone calls for my first month in the country, now you understand why (Sim cards are the worst!) - I’m now happily a resident AND a Rabobank and T Mobile customer!

3) Though English is very frequently spoken here, lots of standard life things that need completing is all in Dutch. Super fun setting up cable boxes, bank accounts etc with the Google Translate app in hand at all times (shout out to the translator though as it has saved me over and over again).

4) Despite the fact tourists still love to talk about and visit the *coffee* shops, the number of coffeeshops in Amsterdam has fallen by half since 1995, from 350 to just 167. New regulations have forced the closing of many: for instance, one of the most popular shops closed because it was within 250 meters (the new law) of a school: a hairdressing school, at that.

5) If you take a leisurely stroll down any residential street in Amsterdam, you are sure to notice a persistent lack of curtains on street level apartments. Dutch people seem to love looking out just as much as they love and welcome people looking in. I’m convinced everyone just wants to show off their beautifully minimalist homes. Others postulate that it stems from Dutch people’s Calvinistic roots: allowing passers-by a full view of your living quarters shows that you have nothing to hide. I mostly love it - although there is the guy down the street with whom I always seem to make eye contact as he sips wine and River dog poops in his front yard. Supes awkward.

6) People love their traditional Dutch pea soup here. And I can see why. Ertwensoep - as it is called - is delicious!

7) Hagelslag. Dutch people’s sprinkles. Here in the Netherlands it is perfectly acceptable to eat a piece of toast with some chocolate or fruit flavored sprinkles at meal time. All of the various sprinkle options fill the shelves right next to the peanut butter.

8 ) If you’re into the Nordic hygge, or the Swedish lagom, you will love the Dutch “niksen.” It is a stress-reducing practice that literally means to do nothing, to be idle, aka to slow the heck down! In practice, it means “doing something without a purpose, like staring out the window, hanging out, or listening to music.” Something I think we all can get on board with during these very short January days.

9) The Dutch continue to take advantage of their geographical position to play a heavy hand in the global import/export market. Their exports of agricultural goods reached an all time high of almost 92B€ in 2017 with the most exported goods being: horticulture (cut flowers, bulbs, plants), nursery products, dairy, meat and vegetables.

10) Many large global companies are domiciled in the Netherlands through a shell or letterbox, but their actual domestic presence is quite small. Top truly global AND truly Dutch companies include: Philips, Rabobank, Royal Dutch Shell, ING, Aegon, Heineken. Interestingly, there seems to be a push from companies with US headquarters to finally wade into and capitalize on European markets & it’s fairly evident from discussions across industries. Hopefully some of the European sensibilities will also flow the opposite way. I’ve spent some time the past week with the Patagonia Europe team and look forward to seeing more outdoor/conservation efforts and initiatives from the US brought out to the EU and beyond!

Bonus 11) The Dutch LOVE a good weekend market and I LOVE to partake - so I’m off to market hop the rest of the day for organic veggies and fun vintage finds for the new house. HAPPY SATURDAY!

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Week 2: Burgerservicenummers and Tony's Chocolonely

1) There are a total of 165 canals in all of Amsterdam. And about 25,000 bikes end up in them annually. Around a third of those bikes are removed, which means the canals are basically still filled with rusty old bikes.

2) The BSN or “burgerservicenummer” is the equivalent of the US social security number and you need it to do virtually anything important in The Netherlands (open a bank account, etc). Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with delicious cheeseburgers.

3) The Netherlands is extremely welcoming to entrepreneurs and has even created the ability for entrepreneurs to come to Holland for up to a year via an entrepreneur visa program (*US friends interested in doing a stint in Europe should definitely look into this!)

4) Euthanasia is legal, but only with doctor assistance in cases of "hopeless and unbearable” illness. The Netherlands was the first to ever legalize it. In 2010, a group of citizens attempted to (and gained quite a bit of traction with their efforts) change the legislation under an initiative called “Out of Free Will” which demanded that all Dutch people over 70 who feel “tired of life” (womp womp) should have the right to professional help in ending it. As you can imagine, the law did not pass.

5) More than a quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level. Our apartment is at exactly 0m.

6) Amsterdam is extremely safe and I have yet to see a homeless person. In fact, it is so safe that Dutch prisons have been closing because they are so empty. In recent years they’ve actually had to import prisoners from other countries just to keep them open!

7) The Dutch were the first in the world to legalize gay marriage - in 2001! Crazy to think how long it has taken other countries to follow suit - almost two decades!

8 ) Tony’s Chocoloney (yes actually a real thing, and not from Willy Wonka) is the best chocolate in the world (no, really) and is manufactured in a warehouse down the street in Amsterdam. It’s sold everywhere in the Netherlands and has now begun to expand worldwide. The company follows fair trade practices, opposing slavery and child labour by partnering with trading companies in Ghana and Ivory Coast to buy cocoa beans directly from the farmers, providing them with a fair price for their product and combating exploitation. We eat a couple bars a week some weeks. A must purchase when you come to Amsterdam. The orange wrapper is the best flavor.

9) The land is extremely flat with the highest point being 323m above sea level. Quite the pill to swallow for a mountain lover like myself. Fortunately, Schiphol Airport has more direct flights than any other airport in the entire world which makes it easy to get to more mountainous regions!

10) Dogs are as welcomed here as they were in London! River comes with us to many of the bars and restaurants. Woof!

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Week 1: Sinterklaas, Zwarte Piet and Suriname Cuisine

1. They take their speed limits very seriously here. Infringements are very seriously punished. Best to set cruise control.

2. Most places here strongly prefer to (or will only) take Dutch-issued debit cards rather than credit cards. (We experienced this firsthand when TJ had to hold up an entire cashier line to get cash just so we could buy Doritos 😂). No bueno for my collecting of AMEX points to help fund travel ✈️

3. Like many other European cities, you will find far less peanut butter options here than in the US; only a few options on the shelves. Mayonnaise on the other hand? Shelf after shelf of it - in all different flavors!

4. It rains as much as they say - so far. The ground is constantly wet.

5. Tall is relative. My 5’11’ stature blends into the very tall Dutch population; the average woman here is 5’7’ (for perspective, the average woman in the US is 5’4.5’) so just imagine how many women have to be 6’ and above to contribute to that statistic...

6. Tis the season of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas)! He is assisted by many mischievous helpers with black faces including one character in particular called Zwarte Piet (or “Black Pete”). Black Piet has become quite a divisive character as many believe the depiction of Black Pete is racist (despite the fact that the Dutch have always demonstrated extremely tolerant and anti-racist beliefs in both history and open policy).

7. Suriname, a sovereign state in NE South America, used to be a Dutch plantation colony. It is the only territory outside Europe where Dutch is spoken by a majority of the population. There are Surinamese restaurants galore here. And streaming of some Suriname TV stations.

8. The Jordaan neighbourhood, where I live, was built in the 17th century as a district for the working class and emigrants. In the 1970s, a large modernisation was started which led to today’s Jordaan: lots of boutiques, restaurants, pubs.

9. Bitterballen are highly overlooked by tourists. They are a Dutch delicacy and essentially are croquette-like balls of chunky beef or veal that have been rolled in flour or fried and complement every possible beer you could drink in Amsterdam. Don’t be fooled by the common mistranslation of “bitter balls”!

10. The Amsterdam equivalent of the British pub is the “Brown cafe”. It’s basically the same thing and got its name from the cozy dark wooden interiors and fully embodies the Dutch word “gezellig” which roughly translates to cozy in English.

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