Living in Holland

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, voilà:

“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.

 

(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

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

2015: The Year The Travel Bug Bit Me Reeeally Hard

Wow, what a year. Seriously, how quickly has it gone!? It feels like only yesterday I was watching the Top 2000 on TV with a glass of prosecco and counting down to midnight, then boarding a plane to start the new year in Spain! (Ooh, and I’m rhyming!)

But now it’s 12 months later… and boy, what a year the Dutchie and I have had! Personally, 2015 will go down in history for me as the year I travelled every month. Yup – in 2015, I left the Netherlands at least once, every single month. Not sure how or why this happened exactly, but I’m so glad it did.

Disclaimer: Normally I try not to make posts all me, me, me. But this one kinda is. (Sorry. Ish.)

January

Trip to Torremolinos, Spain. (If you’re thinking of going… and you’re under the age of 65, you may need to rethink your plans. It is absolutely overrun with silver foxes!) We still had fun though! And it was so nice to be walking around in shorts in the first week of January!!

Dutch tree

Clearly a Dutch palm tree! Torremolinos, Spain

February

Trip to England to meet my best friend’s baby boy, H. He’s awesome. Managed to squeeze in a quick trip to the pub with some other friends… (For obvious reasons!)

English pub

March

March was a month of many firsts! Not only did I travel abroad, but I visited some places in the Netherlands for the first time too: Haarlem, Hoorn and Gouda.

We visited Brussels (another first) and went to France to visit my parents, with a quick stop to Le Mans on the way home. (The place where we first met *insert cheesy heart emoji here*.)

Atomium, Brussels

Atomium, Brussels

April

Stuttgart, Germany – for work. Yep, I left the country, but apparently it was the most boring trip ever. I don’t have a single photo.

May

In May one of my brothers got married, so a trip to the UK was in order! We also visited France (again) to see my parents along with The Dutchie’s whole family!

Mont St Michel, France

Mont St Michel, France (complete with random man)

June

France – AGAIN! This time for the wedding of two of our best friends in Ernes. We also visited Cancale which is famous for its oysters. Well, we couldn’t just take their word for it…

Oysters at Cancale, France

Oysters in Cancale, France

Closer to home, we visited the tiny village of Watergang in North Holland. Mooi!

Watergang, The Netherlands

Watergang, The Netherlands

July

In July we had two weddings to attend in the UK. My other brother and one of my Uni friends. I already wrote a whole post about this trip, so if you’d like to read it it’s here: Being a Tourist in my Home Country

Bombay Sapphire Distillery, Whitchurch

Bombay Sapphire Distillery, Whitchurch

August

More exploring Holland. In August we went to Enkhuizen, Den Bosch (‘s-Hertogenbosch) and the Hook of Holland. (Post here: Weekendje Weg Tip)

We also went to Malta for our first wedding anniversary! I’ve tried and failed multiple times to write a post about that amazing holiday. Jammer! But in a nutshell: GO TO MALTA! IT’S AMAZING!

Cocktails at the Waterfront Hotel, Malta

Cocktails at the Waterfront Hotel, Malta

September

The Malta trip crossed over to September and I also went to the UK to visit my beautiful new niece, who is affectionately nicknamed Turtle. (Don’t ask!)

(And yes, I know what you’re thinking! This has probably been the busiest, most expensive year ever!! 4 weddings and a baby! What the actual fuck!?)

Blue Lagoon, Malta

Blue Lagoon, Malta

October

First visit to Kinderdijk. There’s a post about that: I have this thing with Windmills

Ooh, ooh and don’t forget Zandaam!

Inntel Hotel, Zandaam

Inntel Hotel, Zandaam

We also went on an epic road trip to Portugal, Spain and France. It was the Dutchie’s first time in Portugal! Again, I probably should write a post about that, but I just haven’t had time. (And I know you guys aren’t the biggest travel post fans, yeah – I check my stats sometimes ;-))

*Realises she’s currently writing a travel post. Oops!*

Beautiful Lisbon

Beautiful Lisbon

November

First time at a German Christmas Market. EPIC. There’s a post about that: Kertmarkt(en) Koblenz

Kerstmarkt, Koblenz, Germany

Kerstmarkt, Koblenz, Germany

December

Trip to England for work, fake Christmas with my family and my niece’s first Christmas! Cannot wait!

What a year! Phew! I’m kinda tired just thinking about it!

On top of everything I’ve mentioned above – I’ve also visited Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans and Utrecht more times than I can possibly count! We had soooo many visitors this year! 🙂 🙂 🙂 Hopefully this continues into next year! Nudge, nudge, wink, wink!

And what does 2016 have in store? Possibly not as much foreign travel as 2015, because boy, that racks up! But I do want to visit as many new places in NL as possible, including the Frisian Islands. (Still so annoyed I haven’t visited any of them yet!!) And there might be a cheeky trip to Thailand too! Fingers crossed!

What are your travel plans for 2016?

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