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.