Being Dutch

The 13 best Dutch food and drinks to devour at Christmas time

Oliebollen stand outside Hilversum station

Oliebollen stand outside Hilversum station

Guys, is it even December if we don’t talk about food!?

It’s dark and cold outside, so you might as well use the excuse of Sinterklaas, Kerst (Christmas) and Oud en Nieuw (New Year) to sit indoors and get as fat as Santa. So without further ado, I present to you Bitterballenbruid’s 13 best festive food and drinks from the Netherlands…

1. Advocaat

Or eggnog… a traditional Dutch alcoholic beverage made from eggs, sugar and brandy. The Dutch love it because it’s basically boozy custard. And who can blame them?

2. Appelflappen

When anyone thinks of New Year in the Netherlands they think of oliebollen – but apple fritters / beignets (or apple turnovers as we’d call them in English) are v.popular too! My Dad used to be a baker and I loooooved apple turnovers when I was a kid.

3. Banketstaaf or banketletters

Pastry shaped into a log or a letter containing an almond flavour paste (known in the Netherlands as spijs or amandelspijs.) Absolutely delicious and about as traditional as you can get!!

Traditional Sinterklaas fayre

Traditional Sinterklaas fayre

4. Bisschopswijn

The Dutch version of glühwein (or mulled wine). Need I say more?

5. Bitterballen

Hahahahahahaha… not Christmassy at all. But fuck it – it’s my list! 😉

6. Boerenkoolstamppot

My favourite of all the mashed Dutch food.

Boerenkoolstamppot

Stamppot (meaning “mash pot”) consists of (lumpy) mashed potato with vegetables of your choice thrown in. My fave is with kale aka boerenkool. Stamppot is often served with rookworst (smoked sausage) and/or bacon lardons.

7. Erwtensoep (or Snert)

Pea soup. Typically made from dried peas, such as the split pea. A bit like English pea soup… but better!

8. Gourmetten

Technically not a food or a drink, but a popular way of cooking / dining especially during the festive period! Read more about gourmetten.

Gourmetten

9. Kerststol

Oval-shaped Christmas bread with dried fruits and more amandelspijs. The Dutch version of the German ‘Weihnachtsstollen’.

10. Marsepein

Marzipan, but in Dutch it’s pronounced something like mars-ze-pain (which makes me cackle every time)! Ewwww… I am not a fan, but a whole lot of Dutch people would disagree with me!

11. Oliebollen

(Literally: oil spheres) I got in a lot of trouble on a previous post for saying that they’re “basically doughnuts”! Dutch people are clearly very passionate about oliebollen and will defend them to within an inch of their life. So ok, I will amend my statement: they are similar to doughnuts…

The dough is made from flour, eggs, yeast, salt, milk, baking powder and usually sultanas or raisins. They’re then sprinkled with icing sugar. Oliebollen are traditionally eaten at New Year but there are oliebollen stands around for the whole festive period (so basically the whole of December).

Oliebollen

© Takeaway / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

12. Pepernoten and Kruidnoten

Pepernoten  literally ‘pepper nuts’ are small, round-shaped cookie like things made from flour, sugar, anise, cinnamon, and cloves. My friend bought me some glutenvrije pepernoten this year so that I can still join in the fun! (Thanks, M! xx)

Glutenvrije pepernoten

Glutenvrije pepernoten

Not to be confused with kruidnoten literally meaning ‘spice nuts’ which are harder, have a different colour and shape and contain the same ingredients as speculaas… which leads me onto last but not least…

13. Speculaas 

Spiced shortcrust biscuit, served around Sinterklaas time. Dutch people go wild for it. You can also get spreadable versions, with a peanut butter kind of consistency. Niet mijn ding (not my thing) but each to their own and all that.

And the most important question: which is your favourite?

Hayley x

 

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Rain rain go away… no, seriously, f*ck off… it’s King’s Day!

It’s raining today in some parts of the Netherlands. Not that weird. April showers and all that. But in other parts… it’s SNOWING.

Tulips in the spring snow.

Tulips in the spring snow. Photo: @VeningaHijken via Twitter

Snow in April!?! FFS.

Reports are saying “King’s Day itself will be cold, wet and windy, with the possibility of sleet and hail. Although it will be around 8 degrees, it will feel much colder, and could be the coldest King or Queen’s Day on record, weather forecasters say.” (Dutchnews.nl)

This cannot happen!!

No. Absolutely not. I will not accept it. This is King’s Day!

Well, actually, this is Queen’s Day in Amsterdam 2010…

Queen's Day 2010

Queen’s Day, Vondelpark, Amsterdam, 2011

Queens Day Fun

Hmmm. Not really sure what happened in 2012. It must’ve been sunny.

The last ever Queen’s Day in 2013 (we were in England at the time… but still… SUNNY!!)

Queens' Day 2013

First ever King’s Day, Amsterdam, 2014: shorts weather!!

King's Day 2014

King’s Day, Amsterdam, 2015

King's Day 2015

Kings Day 2015

So you see… bad weather is a big problem. It just won’t do.

Dear Willem-Alexander, be a dear and sort it out, will you? Otherwise you’re gonna get soooooo much shit when it’s beautiful and sunny on the 30th April…

Hayley x

13 Things I have learned in 2 years of living in the Netherlands

So, this is typical me… my 2 year anniversary of living in the Netherlands was two days ago.

My Mum used to tell me “you’d be late for your own funeral” and although it pains me to admit it, she’s right. (How is it that my Mother is ALWAYS right? So unfair!) Anyway, I digress.

2 years! Godver! How did that happen!?

I still feel like such a newbie: I still take 5 minutes to lock and unlock my bike, I still don’t eat hagelslag, I still have to double-check with myself which way to look when crossing a road (and then still check both ways anyway), I still mix up de and het words… and I still get flustered when people ‘surprise’ me by talking Dutch…

Just yesterday there was a knock on the door while I was working and I was expecting it to either be the Dutchie forgetting his keys or my ASOS delivery… but nope, it was my next door neighbour – who launched into a detailed account of our pipes and the inner workings of the plumbing on our road.

Me:

keanu-reeves-woah

I admit, it took me a second – but I managed to flick the switch, gather myself and have a conversation with her about our pipes (don’t ask!) life in general and forthcoming holidays.

In Dutch.

After closing the door, I did the above face again… because y’know… I just fucking realised I’m (almost) bilingual. Shit sticks. Who’d have thought it??

Anyway, apart from being able to understand and speak one of the most difficult and grammatically annoying languages in the world (according to me) – I learned some other things too…

1) Dutch people speak very good English. BUT… that doesn’t mean they don’t want you to learn Dutch. 

I’ve said it before and I’m gonna keep banging on about it until it’s imprinted in your brain. Try to learn Dutch. Even if you suck – they’ll appreciate the effort.

2) They eat weird shit for breakfast (and lunch)

Breakfast: sprinkles which are clearly meant for ice cream – on bread, with butter and a glass of milk on the side. Lunch? Bread and cheese, with a glass of milk. You just gotta let it go. (Even though I clearly haven’t!!)

For dinner they eat pretty normally. If you can call a U-shaped smoked sausage and boiled, then mashed to a pulp veg “normal”.

3) The key to cycling confidently in the Netherlands? Fall off.

What is this mad English woman going on about now?? Nope, I haven’t hit my head – only my leg actually – but since I fell off my bike in Domburg a couple of weeks ago, I’ve felt really confident on a bike. Seriously. (How it happened: I was a drunken English fool, trying to knock the Dutchie off his bike. Note to self: you cannot knock a 6ft tall, 15 stone, Dutch cycling robot off his bike.)

But it’s really helped me because now I’m like – what’s the worse that can happen? A little graze on my knee and hand. DISCLAIMER: Don’t come crying to me if you actually hurt yourself or break your neck or something. And I don’t condone or encourage riding a bike when you’re drunk. Unless you’re highly skilled or Dutch 😉

© niputaidea / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

© niputaidea / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

4) Everyone in your home country will still ask you when you’re coming ‘home’ 

BUT I DON’T LIVE THERE ANYMORE!! Also, you will disappoint people. When you do go over to visit you’ll have loads of people to see. Too many people, too little time.

Some friends are going to be offended you don’t contact them/see them every single time you’re over. Some people will complain, even when you do see them – that it’s too short. Others will cancel or drop out at the last minute, which is kinda acceptable if you live 20 mins away but when you live 600 km away… Not so cool. The best remedy for moaners: just give them stroopwafels, that’ll shut them up.

5) King’s Day is the best party in the world

Fact. Dress in orange, drink your body weight in beer and join in with the gezelligheid! It doesn’t get much better than this!! (More on King’s Day.)

Amsterdam Canals

By Carmelrmd (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

6) Think King’s Day is weird? Other Dutch parties and celebrations take it to another level! 

Does this sound normal to you? Celebrating 12.5 years of marriage, eating aniseed balls on rusks when a baby is born and making a life-sized doll of your friend when they turn 50. Nope, me neither. (Read more on Strange Dutch Celebrations.)

Insider tip: avoid circle parties at all costs!

7) Deep fried snacks don’t count as calories

You just have to ride them off afterwards. The best Dutch snacks are bitterballen (duh) followed by kaasstengels (I’m a new convert) and vlammetjes (if you get the good ones – it’s a bit of a Russian Roulette). For more food-related goodness, I wrote a whole post about the 22 Dutch Foods you must try.

BallenBar, Foodhallen, Amsterdam

8) You have to learn to accept Dutch Directness

Or you’ll end up crying / being angry all the time. (I’m still working on this one.)

Just remember, it’s their culture and it’s not Dutch to mince your words. They’ll tell you how it is, whether you like it or not… so the only thing you can control is how you react to it.

(Hint: try not to cry.)

9) Customer service is pretty crap here

And yet Dutch people don’t tip that much. Certainly not as much as the English do – and definitely not as much as Americans!

Coincidence…?

10) Doe normaal is probably the most annoying thing you’ll hear (closely followed by tsjonge, jonge, jonge!)

Telling someone to “Doe normaal” (“just be normal”) is like telling someone to calm down.

 

(By the way, if you’re not following the Fat Jewish, why not? He makes me laugh, every single freakin’ day!)

11) Technically, it’s the Netherlands

And if you live here, you know this because you’ve been told approximately 326 times.

But if you’re anything like me (and Invading Holland) then you just carry on saying Holland anyway because you’re basically a brat. (Calling myself a brat, not you, Stuart 😉 )

12) You can make a Dutch person extremely happy with the words: Lekker terrasje?

Or lekker biertje, or lekker anything really! The Dutch love many things… but the sun, terraces and booze feature at the top of the list. (Throw in some borrelhapjes and gezelligheid and basically life cannot get any better…)

Bitterballen Loosdrecht Trivio twitter

13) You can’t do it on your own

I left the soppiest til last…

Yes, you probably have your partner and your partner’s family and friends to help you settle in… but you also need to find YOUR people. The first few months can be like the scariest roller coaster you’ve ever been on. Some days you’ll be isolated and lonely and could happily say “Fuck this shit! I’m going home”. Other days you’ll feel on top of the world and moving to Holland (or wherever you are) was the best decision you ever made. It helps to have people who are on the same roller coaster as you.

To meet people, I joined a blogger group where I met the wonderful Sophie of Feast with Sophie, Senja of Little House in Utrecht and Alison of A Flamingo in Utrecht (if you haven’t read these blogs yet, please do check them out! They’re awesome!) I’m also a member of two Hilversum groups via Meetup.com as well as having met a few friends at Dutch classes. It really helps to have people who are going through all the same craziness as you.

What have you learned from living in the Netherlands?

Hayley x

Debunking Dutch Stereotypes

I’ll be the first to admit: I love a good stereotype (especially when it suits me)! But a lot of them (sadly) just aren’t true! From writing this blog I have discovered that most Dutch people can laugh at themselves, in fact, they actively encourage it. From time to time though, the Dutch do get a lot of flack – and often for the wrong reasons. So, I’m here to debunk some myths about the Netherlands and its wonderful inhabitants.

Dutch Stereotypes

(“Typical Dutch” credit unknown.)

1. Dutch people live in windmills, grow tulips, wear clogs and eat lots of cheese. 

I wish! It would be so cool and quaint, wouldn’t it! But nope, it’s a load of rubbish. There are about 1,200 windmills in Holland and nearly 17 million people, so…

Yes, some people grow tulips, but most leave it to the professionals. (And by the way, although the Dutch are synonymous with tulips, they actually originate from Turkey.)

The only person I know who wears clogs is my brother-in-law, when he’s gardening. If you see a Dutch person wearing clogs: they’re in the minority.

Ok… the eating lots of cheese thing could be true… it’s estimated that the Dutch eat 21 kilograms of cheese per year per person. (Source: Amsterdam Tourist Info) Some Dutch people even call themselves ‘kaaskop’ (cheese heads).

2. Everyone is stoned, constantly. 

Absolute nonsense. It is true that the Dutch have a fairly relaxed policy on “soft” drugs compared with some other countries, but that doesn’t mean everyone is smoking weed. Despite its reputation, The Netherlands isn’t even in the Top 10 weed-consuming countries. (Source: LeafScience.com)

The percentage of the population ‘who have consumed the herb at least once in the past survey year’ is said to be as little as 5% in the Netherlands. (Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.)

And from personal experience – I know a handful of Dutch people who speak weed. About the same amount of English people I know who smoke it.

3. Dutch Tolerance

Euthanasia, gay marriage, prostitution. Alles kan, toch?

Holland was the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia in 2002. They have allowed same-sex marriage since 2001 (and were the first country to do so). Prostitution is also legal in the Netherlands.

BUT… Are the Dutch really that progressive?

“First and foremost, they are pragmatic.

Take prostitution. The Dutch tend to think that it will happen anyway, whether they prohibit it or not.

So they legalise it – to prevent prostitution from going underground, to have access to the prostitutes, promote condoms and hygiene and to prevent mistreatment of women forced to work as prostitutes.

The logic is simple – tolerate it, rather than prohibit it and subsequently lose control.

The same line of reasoning applies to soft drugs and euthanasia: people will smoke soft drugs, so it might be better to educate them about it openly; doctors will be faced with requests from people who would prefer to end their suffering, so perhaps better be realistic about it.”

– Source: Yashe Lange, BBC News

The tricky bit is when you get to tolerance vs acceptance. I’ll let you debate amongst yourselves on that subject!

4. Going Dutch

‘Going Dutch’ = when you split the bill 50/50 (on a date, for example). Or in groups when parties pay for their own bills.

Dutch people have a reputation of being tight. Stingy, mean… whatever you want to call it.

But is it true? From my experience – certainly not! Frugal might be a better word. Dutch people tend to live within their means and only buy what they can afford. Credit cards are rare here, many supermarkets, garages and shops don’t accept them.

True, Dutch people like things that are goedkoop (cheap) but then again, who doesn’t like a bargain? They also like to maximise on their spending, for example ‘all you can eat’ deals in restaurants or making sure they get every last drop out of a jam jar with a clever contraption called a flessenlikker (bottle scraper). But cheap? No. Just sensible, thrifty and economical. Clever clogs, eh?

Still not convinced? I have two more facts for you: The Dutch are the most charitable country in Europe, with two-thirds of people in the Netherlands contributing money to charity every year. (Source: Daily Dutch News)

Dutch people also blow around 65 million euros on fireworks every New Year’s Eve (ok, they’re not frugal with everything!!)

5. Dutch people are rude 

I really want to say that this one is true and be done with it… but even I have to admit to myself that the Dutch are not ‘rude’… or at least they don’t mean to be anyway. Dutch people are direct. So direct that often it comes across as rude to other cultures… even though that’s not (always) the intention. Example of a text conversation with a Dutch friend:

Me: Hoi, ben je vrij op zaterdag? Wil je koffiedrinken? (Hey, are you free on Saturday? Wanna do coffee?)

Dutch friend: Nee, kan niet. (No, I can’t.)

Comparable response from an English/American/Canadian friend: Hey! How are you? I have plans on Saturday, shame! But I’d love to meet up, how about Thursday? xxxx

(Side note: Dutch people don’t do kisses in text messages.)

So it’s isn’t that the Dutch are rude per say… they just don’t mince their words. If you ask a colleague if they like your new top/haircut/shoes, don’t be offended if they reply “no”. You did ask… and all they did is give you an honest answer!

6. Dutch Courage

Dutch people are a bunch of drunks, right? Well, I’m from England so it’s hard for me to judge… 😉 But the main difference I find is that English people drink *to* get drunk.

Dutch people drink *and* get drunk. Mostly by “accident”… they blame it on gezelligheid.

I was listening to the radio (100% NL – in case you’re interested) just this week and I heard a segment about the most popular emojis for different countries around the world. Guess what Holland’s were? Party and red wine glass. I’m just gonna leave that there and move on…

7. Crazy Dutch Bastards

Crazy Dutch Bastard

Other cultures seem to think that Dutch people are crazy… and why on earth would they think that?? 😉

This reputation around the world mostly comes from their drinking, ahem, I mean gezelligheid and sports games.

Dutch supporters are EXTREME. You only have to Google “Tour de France Dutch Mountain” to see what I mean. A sea of orange. Football matches, same thing. The Dutch are proud and they looooove wearing orange! It’s all a show of pride for the Dutch Royal family, the House of Orange-Nassau.

Orange has become the nation’s symbolic colour, their national pride. You just have to look at King’s Day to see that.

So crazy? Nope. Orange-wearing, Dutch and proud!!

What did I miss? What other (false) Dutch stereotypes have you got for me?

Hayley

15 Weird Things Dutch People Do

I don’t like to generalise 😉 … but Dutch people are weird. In a good way, of course! And I have proof…

1. Hang their duvets out of the window, with the covers still on, to ‘air’ them. Washing machine, no?

Dutch duvets out of window

(Photo shamelessly stolen from my Dutch friend M…)

2. Can’t decide whether to say ‘doei’ or ‘dag’, so say ‘doeg’ instead.

3. Give you three kisses. (But only if they like you.) Right-left-right. If you get three kisses, you’re in!

4. Think almost everything is gezellig and/or lekker.

5. Eat shitloads of deep fried snacks without getting fat. (It MUST be all the cycling, right??)

Borrelhapjes

6. Cycle. Everywhere.

7. Complain about the weather. (Ok, ok, English people do this too. I fit right in…)

8. Base their lives around sunshine. If the sun is out, Dutch people are out. In full force.

9. Wear white leggings. Why…? Why…?

10. Have a day dedicated to skirts! 😉 ‘Rokjesdag’ meaning Skirt Day is ‘celebrated’ on the first day of spring when women suddenly decide it’s warm enough to wear a skirt with bare legs.

11. Say ‘Tsjonge, jonge, jonge!’ A LOT. (Possibly the most annoying Dutch phrase ever.)

12. Let their dogs take a shit on the footpath and don’t clean it up.

Poep sign

Yes, love. I bet you do!

13. Talk English to you, even though you’ve clearly expressed your desire to practice Dutch. (Flippin’ show offs.)

14. Eat ALL the dairy. Cheese and milk for lunch, anyone?

15. Think that chocolate sprinkles on bread for breakfast is a good way to start the day. I will never get over this. Really, never.

What other weird stuff does your Dutchie do?

Hayley x

How to Learn Dutch: For Beginners

Over the last year and half I’ve received quite a few emails asking me about how I learnt Dutch. Note: I am still learning!!

But anyway, I thought I’d share how I am learning Dutch with you guys. I hope it’s helpful for any of you who are being challenged with this difficult language. I feel you!

1. Michel Thomas CDs

My first port of call was Michel Thomas because my Mum and Dad were learning French at the time via the Michel Thomas method and had highly recommended it. (As do I!)

Learning Dutch materials

Both the Foundation and Advanced course are very good, however they will not suffice (alone) in teaching you Dutch! But they’re great for beginners to get a feel for the language and the pronunciation etc.

Oh and because I’m a food nerd, my sister-in-law cleverly bought me “Your 1000 Most Important Words: Food and Drink”.

2. Dutch textbooks

Secondly, I got my hands on EVERTHING Dutch I could. Dutch textbooks, grammar books, children’s books. I mostly ordered these from Amazon UK as I was still living in England at the time. As I was buying so much, I got the majority of them second-hand.

Learning Dutch materials

For me: the “201 Dutch verbs” is an absolute must! I use it loads. Hugo “Dutch in 3 months” is also a pretty good textbook, except that I’m not even halfway through it. If you are more dedicated than me, it’s a good ‘un!

3. Children’s books

Most of these were lent to me by my schoonmoeder (mother-in-law). I also bought a few myself at Bruna (a chain in the Netherlands – a bit like WH Smith).

I use the really simple ones for pronunciation – I read to the Dutchie and he corrects any errors. Then I read the slightly higher level ones with a dictionary next to me! (The same as I do with magazines.)

Dutch learning materials

4. Online courses

The two I’ve tried are Duolingo and Babbel. I recommend both of them. Duolingo is free – but it does have a few annoying quirks. I see people complaining all the time on the FB group… things which they think are right but Duolingo says are wrong and about the speaking/microphone settings. I found that speaking slowly and loudly helps with that! (Typical English person, eh?) But really, you have to otherwise the programme marks your answers as wrong. I’m pretty sure they have an app too, but I haven’t used that.

Babbel is more visual/text based. You pay 20 euros for 3 months and you can use it as often as you like. They also have a phone/ipad app which I found useful on the go.

5. Dutch courses

I did an intermediate course at my local college as soon as I arrived in Holland. This is obviously one of the best ways to learn – as you’re thrown in at the deep end! Unfortunately… our teacher was rubbish. Sad face.

It did mean that I had to speak Dutch in class for an hour and a half each week though… and do homework every week. So that was great for continuity… (even though every single bloody week I did my homework in a rush – half an hour before class – whilst eating dinner. Some things never change!!)

Dutch learning materials

At my local college they used the “Delftse methode” which is a pretty good course, though the books are VERY old fashioned, despite being published in 2007…

6. Dutch TV

As I’ve already mentioned before, there’s not a lot to write home about with Dutch TV. But pick a subject you’re interested in and hopefully you can find something tolerable. For me that’s MasterChef Holland. (UK Masterchef is the still the best, Australia second and Holland third. The rest suck.)

I used to watch Pim & Pom, a children’s programme about two cats. There are tons of kids programmes available on cable (we have Ziggo) but I couldn’t stand most of them as the voices are too annoying. However, if you can – watching kids programmes is a really good way to learn basic words, sentence structure and pronunciation.

7. Subtitles

I have Dutch subtitles permanently on, no matter what I’m watching. So even if I’m watching an English/American series, I’m still learning. This is easy for people who already live in Holland, but if you don’t – check all your DVDs, you might be surprised how many have Dutch subtitles.

8. Films

Kinda the same deal as with TV, but there are a few gems: Gooische Vrouwen (also a TV series), Dunya & Desie (totally a teener film, but hey, I like Clueless!), Jackie, Alles Is Liefde, Alles is Familie.

9. Radio

Even if it’s on in the background, you’re still exposing yourself to the language. My favourite stations are 3FM, Sky Radio and Radio 538. And at Christmas time… NPO Radio 2! (Because of the Top 2000.)

top2000crop

10. Practice with Dutch people! 

This seems so obvious, but of the whole list… this is the hardest one to pull off!

Here’s the thing with learning Dutch: you speak Dutch, they hear an accent, they switch to English.

There’s only one way to rectify this. You have to be more stubborn than a Dutch person… and believe me, they’re pretty stubborn.

The whole switching to English thing doesn’t happen to me that much anymore (thankfully!!) but occasionally, it rears its ugly head. When this happens you have three options:

  1. Politely tell them (in Dutch) you’d like to continue in Dutch as you need to practice.
  2. Carry on in Dutch and hope they get the message.
  3. Only for the very brave: If they’re winning the stubborn contest and you’re getting frustrated… act like you don’t understand them when they speak in English. “Sorry, wat zeg je?” or “Wat zei je?” whilst looking surprised is rather effective. It forces them to pause and rethink what they are doing and speak back to you in the language you are using. (The Dutchie finds this particularly annoying, but it gets the point across and forces him to make the switch.)

I do find stubbornness wins out… most of the time anyway!

Anything else you’d like to add to this list?

Hayley x

 

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Yesterday, Sinterklaas arrived in Hilversum and because my curiosity was getting the better of me… I had to go along and find out what all the fuss was about!

If you don’t know who/what Sinterklaas is… start with last year’s post about my first Sinterklaas experience: Mijn eerste Sinterklaas (as I already did a lot of explaining there… and I don’t like repeating myself unless I’m drunk!)

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum – Zaterdag 14 November, Oude Haven 

First, all the Zwarte Pieten arrived…

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

There were tons of them, more than 100 I’d guess.

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Traditionally they hand out pepernoten, but I heard one little boy ask a Zwarte Piet “Mag ik pepernoten?” (May I have some pepernoten?) and the response was “Nee, ik ben een gezond Piet. Ik heb alleen ballons of mandarijntjes”. (No, I’m a healthy Piet, I only have balloons or mandarins.) He opted for a balloon 😉

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Some Piets went traditional though…

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Then there was lots of music and dancing…

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Before Sinterklaas arrived on this steam boat from Spain, along with this faithful horse Schimmel.

Sinterklaas' horse, Schimmel

(The horse’s actual name is Amerigo, but many Dutch people refer to him as Schimmel – the type of horse. Schimmel also means mold/fungus so prepare yourself for lame jokes like “There’s Sinterklaas with his schimmel between his legs.” Hawhawhaw.)

The crowds were huge and we weren’t early enough to get a prime spot, so I don’t have a photo of the boat. Dammit.

The Dutchie and I did get a fair few of the big man himself though 🙂

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

His entrance was followed by more music and dancing, before Sinterklaas made his procession around town.

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

Intocht Sinterklaas in Hilversum

A lovely time was had by all and I’m glad to have experienced this tradition first hand. Though I must say: now I’ve seen a Sinterklaas Intocht (arrival/entrance), I don’t really have to go again. It’s definitely just for kids.

So now the only thing left to do is leave my shoe out for the next 3 weeks and see what happens 😉

Hayley x

The #onlyinHolland hashtag

I by no means started this hashtag, however I have certainly been adding to it over the past year and a half!! Earlier today I posted a link to a ‘Dutch people are weird’ Buzzfeed article – if you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the link: 27 Times The Netherlands Went Way, Way Too Far

But they definitely missed a few, so here’s my version… #ONLYINHOLLAND

1. Standard get-your-tits-out fountain in a kids theme park

Mermaid

2. Dutch ‘wisdom’ tiles

Sound advice

3. When you love milk so much it starts talking to you

Good morning, have a nice milk. #onlyinholland

A post shared by Chloe Bliss (@chloebliss) on

 

4. This Dutch policewoman fancied a chilled shift

5. What’s the worst-kaas scenario? 

Worst Kaas scenario

6. No Dutch people allowed

Only Dutch people allowed

7. Casual Friday in Amsterdam

Casual Friday

8. Riding a dike. Literally. 

Riding a dike

9. When you’re too Dutch to queue or too drunk to speak: hot food vending machines

Febo, Utrecht

10. Christmas time in the Netherlands = Butt Plug Santa

 

11. When you can’t wait 25 years for a circle party so you just celebrate 12.5 years of marriage instead

12.5 jaar getrouwd

12. When you forget to order a large beer…

Thimble of beer

13. When you’re done with your bike

Utrecht Grachten

14. When your love for cheese is off the scale

Cheese Museum, Amsterdam

15. Thriftiness is life. Even the Princess can’t resist a bargain

Hayley x

The Dutch Guide to Cycling

Your alternative guide to cycling in the Netherlands…

“There is no happier cyclist than a Dutch cyclist” (CyclinginHolland.com) but why is this? The flat land? The most extensive cycle network in the world? Priority over motorised vehicles? Who knows for sure… but the Dutch bloody love their two-wheeled best friends.

So, what does it take to be a Dutch cyclist?

© niputaidea / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

© niputaidea / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

1. Your bike has no gears and a foot brake.

2. You lock it with a strange ring contraption – a “ringslot”, which no one else has ever heard of.

3. Your bike is named after a granny.

4. You scoff at the mere thought of wearing a helmet! How ridiculous!

5. You take your bike on holiday with you. And if you can’t… you hire one instead.

Camping with bikes

6. If you are in possession of children, you buy a bike with a wheelbarrow on the front to transport them to school.

7. You can carry multiple children.

8. Or a fully grown adult on the parcel shelf.

9. There are more bikes than people in your household.

Bikes at Hilversum Station

10. Ladies: You have adorned your bike with a basket, flowers, a colourful paint job… or all three.

11. In order to prevent theft – your bike is a rust bucket with a permanent squeak.

12. You park it next to a nicer bike in the hope that it won’t get stolen.

13. You can ride whilst rolling a joint.

14. Or carrying a case of beer.

15. Or a printer.

Cycling whilst carrying large objects

16. In fact, your ability to ride when stoned, inebriated, or both means you can cycle to the kroeg (pub) or to parties!

17. You can have a completely normal conversation on your mobile phone without wobbling, swearing or falling off.

18. Hell, you can ride with no hands.

19. You are a champion, superhuman bike rider.

20. You are Dutch.

Hayley x

Strange Dutch Celebrations: Having a baby in the Netherlands

This is the last post in the mini-series: Strange Dutch Celebrations.

(Just in case you missed the other posts: Seeing Abraham & Sarah (Turning 50 in the Netherlands) and The 12 and a half year wedding anniversary.)

Beschuit met muisjes

From these previous posts, we learned that Dutch people are a bit barmy when it comes to celebrating birthdays and anniversaries… So what happens when they have a baby?

Well, my dear readers… you’re in for a treat! It’s about to get a whole lot weirder.

Back home, in England, when someone has a baby… they will probably call their Mum… and then after a few days, the (hopefully) happy couple will get in touch with other friends and family to announce their new arrival. Some people plaster the event all over Facebook. Their choice.

In Holland?

You just announce it to the whole street! With coloured banners, bunting, balloons etc (blue for a boy, pink for a girl) possibly a stork… and any other baby related paraphernalia you can think of.

Situatie gewijzigd = situation changed

Situatie gewijzigd = situation changed

Situation changed! It sure has!!

Then comes the baby announcement card aka the Geboortekaartje.

Organised parents-to-be will have already selected the card design and the baby name, so when their little bundle of joy arrives… all they have to do is fill in the date, time and weight at birth. Oh and because they’re Dutch = the baby’s length! A very important detail!

The geboortekaartje (literally: birth card) is something we Brits could definitely learn from the Dutch! All the vital statistics, on one piece of card – it’s so handy! (Especially if you’re like me: terrible with remembering birthdays and suchlike!)

So. You’ve got your card – which means you’re part of the inner circle. Now to visit the little pipsqueak.

Brace yourselves for the worst part.

Even worse than holding a brand new, tiny baby and thinking the whole time: “Shit… what if I drop it!?”

You need to eat a rusk with butter and aniseed balls on top.

Beschuit met Muisjes

Beschuit met Muisjes

Told you.

**Bleeeeeeeeeugh!**

I’m not a baby. I don’t eat rusk. I especially don’t eat rusk with butter! I especially, especially don’t eat rusk with butter and ANISEED BALLS!!

Yet, it’s a Dutch custom… so when a baby is born, you’ve got to do it.

Beschuit met muisjes (literally: rusk with little mice, real meaning: rusk with aniseed balls) come in three types. White and blue balls for a boy. White and pink balls for a girl. And white and orange balls when a new member of the Royal family is born!

Are you looking forward to geboortekaartjes dropping through your letterbox!? Wahahahaha!!

Hayley x