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!