Living in Holland

Leiden in pictures

I was looking through some old photographs last night and found some rather cute ones I took of Leiden in April last year. I’ve not got a lot to say about Leiden to be honest as I’ve only been twice. It’s a nice place to go and wander around for a few hours as it’s very pretty, but I personally didn’t think there was that much to do.

Still, if you’re in the area I think it’s worth having a look… but I’ll let the photos do the talking and let you decide for yourself:

Leiden, The Netherlands

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Leiden, The Netherlands

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Leiden, The Netherlands

Leiden, The Netherlands

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Leiden, The Netherlands

Leiden, The Netherlands

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Leiden, The Netherlands

Leiden, The Netherlands

What do you think?

Have I persuaded you to visit Leiden?

Hayley x

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20 things that happen when you have visitors over to the Netherlands

Trying hard not to trample the tulips...

Trying hard not to trample the tulips…

We’ve all been there. Your friends or family want to come over and visit you! YAY!

“Where do you want to go?” (You’re hoping for aaaaaanything but Amsterdam.)

“Amsterdam…?”

*sigh*

“OK. You know there’s more to Holland than just Amsterdam though, right?” “Oh but I reeeeeally want to see Anne Frank’s House…”

So, you end up going to Amsterdam for the three-hundred-and-forty-first time. It’s lucky I fucking like Amsterdam, you think through gritted teeth. And then the following happens:

1. First they complain about how steep the stairs are. EVERY TIME. The buildings are narrow, stairs are narrow, that means they’re steep. Get over it you stair loving freaks!

2. “What would you like to see while you’re over here?” “Oh… nothing in particular.” LIES!! What they actually want to see: coffeeshops, weed, space cake, prostitutes, Anne Franks’s house, windmills, tulips… FFS Susan, it’s October!! There are no fucking tulips in October!!

3. You show them what they actually should see: canals, architecture, Vondelpark, the Skylounge, Jordaan, street art, Foodhallen, Brouwerij ‘t IJ and they realise you’re the Queen of everything and they should’ve just let you plan the itinerary in the first place.

4. They marvel at how good the public transport system is. Like, I know bitch… that’s why I live here đŸ’đŸ»

5. You make them taste bitterballen. They fall in love and want to eat bitterballen at every available opportunity from now on. Oh and kaasstengels.

6. They are in awe of how everyone speaks such good English, but still want you to order *everything*… in Dutch. They look at you like you’re from another planet and are hooked on you performing your wizardry in real life.

7. They think you know the answer to *every* question about the country. “What are Dutch roofs made out of?” Like seriously dude, I know I live here but I’m neither a builder, roofer nor an architect! Google it FFS. “What kind of tree is that?” Ditto being a gardener or a frigging conservationist! I just live here!

8. They fancy going on a boat tour, but you gently persuade them that sitting on a huge canal boat with 50+ other people just isn’t authentic, neither is hiring a pedalo (non-tourists would rather cut their right arm off!) and your mate who owns a boat is at work – so a walking tour it is!

9. You get them to try stroopwafels and they buy approximately 97 packs to take home with them.

10. They stare in wonderment at the poffertje man and his amazing flipping skills (and are slightly bummed by the fact they can’t take poffertjes in their suitcase).

11. You decide you’ve been too nice so far and make them try haring. Pure evil… wahahahaha.

12. Ditto licorice. But because you call it drop – they’re stupid enough to try it! Hee hee 😀

13. You take them to the SkyLounge for prosecco and more bitterballen, and pay, because the prices are eye-wateringly expensive! (We’re talking €4.50 for a WATER!!) But it’s all worth it for that Pretty Woman moment when you see the flash of excitement in their eyes as you get in the lift and push the button to the top floor. (Without the American prostitute, obviously.)

14. They want to go in every Bulldog and/or Irish pub they walk past but you distract them with promises of more bitterballen. Over my dead body!

15. You are constantly on suicide watch as they inadvertently stumble into cycle lanes – completely oblivious to angry Amsterdammers who want to knock their block off.

16. They casually suggest hiring bikes and you casually reply “HELL NO!” Ask me again when you’ve lived here 3+ years, can actually ride a bike AND you’re not full of hipster beer and joints.

17. To ease the pain, you take them to FEBO and they almost come in their pants.

18. They want to go to the sex museum so you roll your eyes and begrudgingly pay €4 to have your picture taken with the human-sized veiny penis AGAIN.

19. They also want to go to a live sex show but you draw the line at spending €50 for watered down vodka and ladies pushing ping pong balls out of their laa-laa.

20. On the train home, they declare that Amsterdam is the best city in the world ever. And you agree, wholeheartedly.

***

Do you have any to add? What funny things do your visitors do when they come over to visit?

Disclaimer: I’m actually a very pleasant and patient tour guide to all my friends who come over to visit. If you’re reading this, dear friends: I don’t think you’re stupid, just English. 

Love,

Hayley x

First few months of the 12 Provincies Challenge and why I haven’t been writing lately

Hello and Happy Sunday!

I normally have my ideas (especially connected to writing/work) when I’m in the shower (TMI?) and today is no exception. My brain is literally buzzing with so many ideas. And I realised I haven’t written anything in like, forever.

My massage therapist (a newish addition to my life) says I have a creative block. As in I’m not creating anything so I’m blocked. That sounds way too hippy to me. But maybe she’s right.

I haven’t been writing because I haven’t felt strongly enough about anything to write about it. I thought I’d come home from my Asia trip and be writing 100+ blog posts but they just haven’t come. They take sooooo much time and that’s something I haven’t had a lot of lately. Since we got back I’ve been working loads (to make up for my 2.5 month absence) we also bought a camper van (more travels coming soon!!) and a new HOUSE!! Yes, we are those crazy all or nothing people.

So, excuses excuses. But it’s not just time… My Britishness means I constantly want to apologise if things aren’t good enough and I’m a Virgo so I want everything to be perfect. My writing is FAR from perfect. I know that, but this quest for perfection is holding me back.

I have to take my own advice, like I did with speaking Dutch and just fuck it. (Old post: Learning Dutch is fucking hard)

I can’t always write about things that you want to read. Sorry. I mean Dutch people are funny and that, but there’s only so much you can go over the same ground. I want to write about travel and food and maybe a little interior design stuff here and there, seeing as we’re going to be redecorating a whole new home. You want to read about crazy Dutch people and expat struggles.

Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you are interested in other things. One of my favourite ever blogs (hannahgale.co.uk) covers lots of subjects. I read all of her mental health posts, travel posts and home decor posts. I always skip the fashion ones because it simply doesn’t interest me. We have completely different body shapes and tastes. I know lots of people do read (and love) her fashion posts, but they’re not for me.

So I guess what I’m asking is for you to do the same. For me to carry on writing, I need to do ME.

So please, if it interests you, carry on reading and if it doesn’t – skip it 🙂

Thanks in advance and here’s the post I actually wanted to write today…

First few months of the 12 Provincies Challenge 

I’m almost 4 months into my 12 provinces challenge and I’ve ticked off the following:

Groningen
Friesland
Drenthe
Overijssel
Flevoland
Gelderland: Arnhem 
Utrecht: Kasteel de Haar (Haarzuilens)
Noord-Holland
Zuid-Holland: Delft, Scheveningen, Lisse, Noordwijk, Katwijk
Zeeland: Renesse
Noord-Brabant
Limburg

I also went to Utrecht and Amsterdam multiple times but I’m not counting them as I go all the time… I’m also not counting Nuenen in Brabant (where we picked up the camper van from) or Zaandam, again – I’ve been there loads. Or Huizen, Laren, Loosdrecht or Kortenhoef as they’re all too close to home!

But 4 months down and 4 provinces ticked off sounds pretty good to me.

I may or may not get round to writing individual posts about all these places… but if not, here are some edited highlights 🙂

Arnhem – January 2017

Ok, Arnhem was a bit of a cheat because we had limited time there on our way to Germany… so I should definitely revisit Gelderland (and Arnhem) later in the year. But it does deserve a mention because I had my first bitterballen of the 2017 there! And also there was a snowman. So…

Bitteballen in Cafe Meijers, Arnhem

Bitterballen in Cafe Meijers, Arnhem

Snowman in Arnhem

Snowman in Arnhem

Kasteel de Haar – April 2017

Sooooooo pretty! And by far the most impressive castle I’ve seen. (I still need go to that Instagram-famous German castle too!) But really, if you’re in or near the Utrecht area it’s worth going for a stroll around the grounds. And FREE! 😀

Kasteel de Haar, Utrecht

Kasteel de Haar, Utrecht

Delft & Scheveningen – February 2017

We went to both places in one day when my sister and niece were visiting back in Feb. I’m not gonna lie… I don’t like Scheveningen. It’s so busy/touristy and overpriced! There are lots of better Dutch seaside resorts. (Coming up…)

I loved Delft though!! And want to go back asap! If anyone has Delft tips for me… please leave a comment below. I’d be extremely grateful 🙂 🙂

Oude Kerk, Delft

Oude Kerk, Delft

Delft

Delft

Lisse – April 2017

We also had tourists, I mean friends, over in April… so we took them to see the flower fields in Lisse.

Tulip fields, Lisse

Tulip fields, Lisse

Don’t be a dick and trample the tulips or pick them! Pretty please.

Noordwijk & Katwijk – April 2017

Two lovely seaside towns (which are both a lot nicer than Scheveningnen!!)

In Katwijk I had the best kibbeling I’ve ever tasted in my 3 years of living here – from a seafood stand along the promenade.

Kibbeling in Katwijk

Kibbeling in Katwijk

Garnalen kroktjes in Katwijk

Garnalen kroketjes in Katwijk

Rose garnalen in Katwijk

Roze garnalen in Katwijk

Not the best pic… but here’s the food stall in question 🙂

Katwijk

Katwijk

And we had to take this one for the Dutchie’s Mum, Willy!

Katwijk

Meanwhile over in Noordwijk we went on our first camping trip in Janis. (Named after the Janis Joplin documentary, Little Girl Blue.)

Camping in Noordwijk

Camping in Noordwijk

We stayed at Camping Op Hoop van Zegen which was one of the closest to town but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are a silver fox. Literally the dullest/quietest campsite ever!

Bitterballen in Noordwijk

Bitterballen in Noordwijk

Noordwijk itself was great though and I recommend Branding Beach Club which is currently #1 on Trip Advisor. Average bitterballen but the seafood platter was great, if a little overpriced. You are sat ON the beach though… so 100% worth it. Oh and make sure you book a table! They’re rammed!!

Sunset at Noordwijk

Sunset at Noordwijk

I never used to get sunsets when I was younger (my friends berated me one summer in Ibiza) but now I am fully on board!! Stunning!

Renesse – April 2017

Last, but certainly not least is Renesse… we went here for 3 nights over Easter and loved every minute of it. I’ve heard it does get very crowded in peak summer, so maybe best avoided during that time, but over Easter it was pleasantly populated 😉

De Haven van Renesse

De Haven van Renesse – nice place to go for a drink

Oh, and guys… I have seen the future!! Mosselen kroketjes! Of course, I wish they were bitterballen, but they taste the same. So, so good. 11/10 seriously. Believe the hype. It’s worth going to Renesse just to eat these in my opinion…

Mosselen kroketjes at Grand Café Helder

Mosselen kroketjes at Grand Café Helder

And what trip would be complete without a chocomel and a slice of appeltaart after a long walk on the beach?

Chocomel and appeltaart, De Branding, Renesse

Chocomel and appeltaart, De Branding, Renesse

I hope the rest of the year measures up to these adventures! I love exploring Holland! 🙂 If you want to join in, please use the hashtag #12provincies and if you have any tips for me for the remaining 8 provinces: Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe, Overijssel, Flevoland, Noord-Holland, Noord-Brabant and Limburg – please do let me know!

Hayley x

12 Provincies Challenge

nederlandseprovincieslarge

© Erik Baas / Creative Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Hello and a belated Happy New Year! How is everyone!?

After my Asia trip, I’m not loving Holland to be honest – sorry, but it is soooo fecking cold here!! And anyone who knows me will know that I’m NEVER cold. I must be broken!

Anyway, in the spirit of being English, I’ll shut up and carry on. And I have just had an idea… inspired by the #Take12Trips challenge that lots of travel bloggers have been doing for a few years now…

This year I’m going to visit all 12 provincies (provinces – or regions if you’re English) of the Netherlands.

Here they are along with the Hoofdstad (capital) and town/city with the most inhabitants:

Groningen ~ Groningen ~ Groningen
Friesland ~ Leeuwarden ~ Leeuwarden
Drenthe ~ Assen ~ Emmen
Overijssel ~ Zwolle ~ Enschede
Flevoland ~ Lelystad ~ Almere
Gelderland ~ Arnhem ~ Nijmegen
Utrecht ~ Utrecht ~ Utrecht
Noord-Holland ~ Haarlem ~ Amsterdam
Zuid-Holland ~ Den Haag ~ Rotterdam
Zeeland ~ Middelburg ~ Terneuzen
Noord-Brabant ~ ‘s-Hertogenbosch ~ Eindhoven
Limburg ~ Maastricht ~ Maastricht

In January, I already visited Arnhem, Delft and Scheveningen – so that’s Gelderland and Zuid-Holland ticked off – but I reeeeeally want to go to Nijmegen this year so maybe I’ll do Gelderland twice. Why the heck not!

So far in February I’ve only been to Utrecht, but I don’t think that counts as I go there all the time! What other gems can I find in the Utrecht region?

I need your help please! It would be pretty ‘obvious’ to just to go to the capital of each province… so do you have any suggestions? What are your favourite towns/cities from each province? And most importantly, where can I get the best bitterballen in each place?

Doe je mee? Please feel free to join in! And if you do, use the hashtag #12provincies so I can follow along 🙂

Hayley x

Can everyone please stop telling tourists to hire bikes in Amsterdam

© niputaidea / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

© niputaidea / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0 (Take note: this woman is clearly Dutch.)

I’ve had this as a draft post since 24/05/2016… I checked. So when I saw a post on Facebook this morning “Geef toeristen geen fiets meer” (Don’t give tourists bikes anymore) I was like… damn, Gina! Someone got in my head!!

I agree with Sarah Ouwerkerk, the author who wrote the post, completely. But also “Damn, Gina! Why have you written it in Dutch? How are tourists ever supposed to read it??”

So here’s my post, from 3 months ago, which offers some of the same points as the article above, but with a little more ranting! 😉

I’ll say it again: can everyone please stop telling tourists to hire bikes in Amsterdam!!!

It annoys the living shit out of me.

I work for a travel publisher, and mentioning no names, in our Amsterdam guide on page 6 the first thing it says to do… and I quote: “Cycle through the city on a fiets. Rent a bicycle and peddle through the Grachtenring, the narrow streets in the Jordaan district, across the Dam or along the banks of the IJ at your own pace. Do as the locals: cyclists are allowed to ride side by side and the wrong way down one way streets here.”

No, no, no, no, NOOOOOO!!

I love the company I work for and I love our guides, but this is the most idiotic tourist advice I’ve ever heard. I was so infuriated, I emailed our editorial department immediately and asked them to remove it from the next edition of the guide.

It’s not just us though, I’ve seen the same advice offered in other guidebooks, on countless blogs and even on the official Iamsterdam website.

Seriously people!! What is wrong with you?

The average tourist probably hasn’t ridden a bike since they were 15, they also don’t know their way round Amsterdam (because, duh… they’re tourists) they probably want to take photos and they might also like to drink some Heineken (other beers brands are available) or maybe even smoke some weed.

I know what! Let’s give them a bike!

Why, why, why?

Quite simply: it’s dangerous, and above all: stupid.

So, they’re riding along on bright red (or yellow) pristine bikes, at a snails pace, with a map in hand or perhaps a selfie stick (personally, I prefer to call them wanker sticks) with no idea where they’re going… and they’re probably also tipsy and / or stoned.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of accidents and near accidents I’ve seen, and I only visit Amsterdam about once a month! I cannot begin to imagine the amount of carnage that tourists cause on a daily basis. I’ve seen them holding up traffic, just because they’re cycling so damn slowly… or because they’re fussing with a map or phone, holding up other cyclists and just generally being a nuisance to other road users (and pedestrians for that matter!!) I see this as a visitor myself, so the locals must be tearing their hair out!

Who thought this was a good idea again?

 

So, here is my plea to tourists visiting Amsterdam:

Unless you are a highly competent cyclist and you are with someone who knows Amsterdam well – PLEASE do not hire a bike in Amsterdam.

You are a liability!

Amsterdam isn’t that big, but you’re gonna get lost. You know why? Because a lot of places look kinda the same… even if you’re sober. And if you’re drunk, or stoned, or both? Much, much worse.

Do yourself and everyone else a favour and walk. Please. Pretty please… with a cherry on top!

Walking is so much more fun! You’ll be going at a slower pace, so you’ll see more, it’ll be easier to take pictures and selfies – if that’s your thang. It will also be SO much easier to navigate because you can hold your map or phone in your hand and not have to worry about wobbling, crashing or falling off your bike.

For your own personal safety and for others around you, it’s just not a good idea.

And d’you know what else happens when you don’t hire a bike? Happy Amsterdammers. It’s a beautiful city, Amsterdammers are proud of their city… but do you know what they’d like even more?

If you get the fuck out of their way while they’re trying to get to work, pick up their kids, or are running late to meet a friend.

Make Amsterdam happy. Stay on two feet.

Hayley x


									

Review: Vis en Friet, Utrecht

There’s a new hipster chip shop in Utrecht and instead of just *thinking* about going for months on end and never getting around to it, like I did with Frietwinkel, I only bloody went on Monday.

I happened to be in Utrecht, as we had friends over from England and we also happened to be hungry whilst walking past the new ‘Vis en Friet’ on Oudegracht. I’d seen on Instagram that Great Little Place Utrecht had already given it a thumbs up, so in we went.

Vis en Friet, Utrecht

So, what do you need to know? The shop itself is tiny, there are only 3 seats inside and space for about 7 people outside depending on how much personal space you require…

They have the same potato cutting machine as Frietwinkel, but I wasn’t there when they cut the chips, so no video. Soz.

Vis en Friet, Utrecht

The chips are gooooood. As good as Frietwinkel’s. They have definitely got competition on their hands!

The fish is also delicious, it was a little bit greasy for my liking, but that seems to be pretty standard with kibbeling here.

Prices are the same as Frietwinkel for a small portion, but they’ve undercut them on the large portions by a whopping 25 cents!! 😉

Vis en Friet, Utrrecht

Like Frietwinkel, they also have the separate little sauce cups so you don’t have to deal with the soggy-at-the-top, dry-at-the-bottom chip situation. Though I must say, the portion of sauce was a bit stingy and we did have to end up ordering another one! (50 cents. Welcome to Holland!!)

Overall, the quality vs price was spot on.

I think Frietwinkel has the edge over Vis en Friet, only slightly though… by being more instagrammable. The cones, the branding, the funny sandwich board outside. Hipsters love that shit. (FYI – I’m sooooo not a hipster. Not even close.)

Speaking of hipster, the music the dude had on was awesome. He was playing reggae, but not your standard, run of the mill reggae: Groundation and Alpha Blondy. The Dutchie was in heaven. We were only there for 10-15 minutes and they played two of his favourite reggae songs within that time! So bonus points from the Dutchie for music selection!

Vis en Friet, Utrecht

So I guess my advice is… take heed of their super unimaginative, yet highly functional names. If you just want chips, Frietwinkel is your boy. If you’re lusting after fish AND chips, Vis en Friet is the one for you.

Anyone hungry now?? I bloody am!

Hayley x

 

THE LOWDOWN:

Klein portie – €2,50 | Groot portie – €3,00

Fish and chips €6,90

Vismarkt 14, 3511 KS Utrecht

 

Review: Frietwinkel Utrecht

I’ve been meaning to go here for months… so when my parents came to visit a few weeks back, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to grab a cone of the best chips in town! (Apparently.)

Frietwinkel Utrecht

The ‘rents had stopped in Bruges on the way to the Netherlands and had friet met mayo right in front of the Belfry tower – so the stakes were high. Frietwinkel had to deliver… and luckily for us they did! They’re number #1 on Trip Advisor of places to eat in Utrecht – for very good reason.

But they’re *just* chips I hear you cry! Yes, they are just chips. But they are bloody good chips!!

A nice ‘gimmick’ is that they cut them in front of you, so you can see just how fresh they are. I made a little video, voilĂ :

“De eerste BIOLOGISCHE FRIETWINKEL van Utrecht.”

The first organic chip shop in Utrecht. I don’t care about organic tbh – but maybe you do.

Frietwinkel Utrecht

Frietwinkel Utrecht

Cheap, tasty, instagrammable. I’m sold.

And do you want to know the best thing?? They have these clever cones with 2 compartments that keep the sauce separate from the chips!! (I really want to shout “yes lads!!” now.) Oh fuck it… YES LADS!!!

You know how annoying it is when you get a massive blob of mayo or ketchup or whatever at the top of the cone… then you get soggy chips at the top (with waaaay too much sauce) and then the rest of your chips (3/4) have no sauce… Bloody annoying.

But here, the sauce is separate! (I would like to take this moment to personally congratulate the awesome human being who invented these cones. I’m a little bit in love with you.)

And now for the downside… the service isn’t great. But remember you’re in Holland… customer service pretty much doesn’t exist here. So just deal with it.

At least whoever makes the signs has a sense of humour!! 🙂

Eet smakelijk!

Hayley x

 

THE LOWDOWN:

Klein portie – €2,50 | Groot portie – €3,25

Vinkenburgstraat 10, 3512AB Utrecht | frietwinkel.nl

 

This is not a sponsored post. I just really like chips. 

 

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.

Unless it's a fat black woman telling me what to do. I do whatever they say. (@thesoberstruggleisreal)

A post shared by thefatjewish (@thefatjewish) on

 

(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

Being a new expat in NL (and learning Dutch!)

I’ve noticed that a few of my new followers are also new expats… so first: Welkom in Nederland en welkom op Bitterballenbruid.com!

Zaanse Schans

I’ve lived in the Netherlands for nearly two years now and jeeeeeez has it flown or what!? It seriously feels like I moved here a couple of months ago. I was reading another expat blog over the weekend, someone who has actually only been in the Netherlands for 2 months. Stories of rude direct Dutch people, language confusion, homesickness and missing certain things from home (mostly food!) It really stuck a chord with me… brought back all the feels… but it also let me know how damn far I’ve come. 2 years… woah!!

One thing before I start:

“The term “expat” derives from the Latin prefix ex (out of) and the noun patria (home country, native country, or fatherland). In today’s globalized world, as the reasons for going abroad become more diverse, it’s no longer easy to find a concrete definition for this term. That said, the word “expat” is generally used to refer to people who temporarily or permanently live in a different country than the one they were born in or whose nationality they have. Expats usually choose to leave their native country for a career boost, or to fulfill a personal dream or goal, rather than as a result of dire economic necessity.” (InterNations)

So just to set the scene: as expats we’re already lucky, privileged, whatever you want to call it. I just wanted to point out that I’m not whining about how hard, lonely or what a culture shock it is moving to the Netherlands… I’m really not. Comparatively, we expats have it so easy!

But back to being an “expat”

I’ve been in your shoes, really I have. And sometimes it’s tough, especially if you don’t speak Dutch. Before I moved here, the Dutchie and I would come to the Netherlands for family holidays, to a Center Parcs or something. We’d spend 3-4 days in a holiday home with his family – so me and seven Dutchies. (That should be the title of a Tarantino film.)

Seven Dutchies speaking Dutch 24/7 and me having no idea what was going on most of the time!

It was horrible and I cried. (In the bathroom, obviously, so no one knew – not even the Dutchie.) This happened for a good few years in a row, my Dutch got better each year of course, but still – all those people talking Dutch for days on end – not fun if you don’t understand everything!! It stopped when I moved to Holland. When I actually moved here, I kicked my learning up a gear. I took a local course (something I couldn’t do in England). I got my hands on everything Dutch I could and immersed myself as much as I could. (Despite still working in English.) Anyway, I wrote a whole post about learning Dutch for beginners so check that out if you haven’t already.

I also wrote a post about learning Dutch being fucking hard and sorry to break it to you… but it is.

However… it’s also really rewarding. Some people are assholes – and they’d be an asshole in any language. But other, nice people, will be really encouraging of you learning Dutch (especially as “everyone” speaks English – let me just call bullshit on that one by the way!! NOT EVERY DUTCH PERSON SPEAKS ENGLISH – and even if they do… maybe they don’t want to speak to you in their non-native language.)

You are living in their country after all. Try to learn Dutch. What’s the worst that can happen? You might get upset, or cry or someone might laugh at you.

I’m actually laughing at myself now for how ridiculous I can be sometimes. Getting offended because someone corrects me… yes, it’s hurtful at the time, but ultimately: they’re trying to help.

So… laugh at yourself, or have a little cry. Whatever makes you feel better… we all have bad days. But then: put your big girl panties back on and get on with it!!

I speak Dutch now, to a reasonable level (as in: I can get by in supermarkets, bars, restaurants etc and have a basic conversation with you)
 but I still have the occasional blip. I was paying in a restaurant last weekend (which should’ve be a breeze for me) but the waitress had a really strange voice/accent – I couldn’t understand ANYTHING she was saying!! I kinda just smiled and nodded and felt like a complete IDIOT (two years!! two frikkin’ years!) but y’know. Shit happens.

You’ll get there. Practice is key
 I swear my Dutch is going backwards as I don’t practice enough! (I work in English and the Dutchie and I speak English to each other… which is so stupid, I know!)

My sister has a very good quote for this: “If it is important enough to you, you will find a way. If it is not, you will find an excuse.”

So: I’ve picked up Duolingo again and the Dutchie and I are going to do “Nederlands uurtje” a few times a week. (We’ve tried speaking Dutch the whole evening before and it just gets too frustrating… so an hour is a good compromise.) I’m also trying to get enough people on the speaking course at my local college – I signed up to a Dutch speaking course in January to further improve my Dutch, but it was cancelled because they didn’t have enough people. So I’m going to rally up some friends and see if I can get this Dutch-learning-train back on track.

What are you doing to learn Dutch? Any tips?

Veel plezier in Nederland en succes met Nederlands leren! 

Hayley x