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.
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”.