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)