The Truth

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

Bitterballenbruid.com turns two

Bitterballen

So that’s actually a massive lie… my “blogiversary” (ugh, is that even a word?) was on 14th November, so I’m late… no surprise there.

I feel like I should acknowledge this milestone, as I’ve just renewed my WordPress subscription for another year after about a month of debating. Funny, this time last year I was also unsure if I would continue. I guess that’s just my personality – I can be extremely indecisive at times. So much so that I even annoy myself!

Also, I’m pretty much the anti-blogger, which is why I was having so much doubt… I hate selfies, I hate self-promotion, I hate all the “look at me, aren’t I brilliant” crap. I can’t stand the thought of every aspect of my life being public and everyone knowing my business. *Almost* everything about blogging makes me cringe.

Especially when people tell me they read my blog! I physically wince with embarrassment! (This actually happened on Saturday, I was talking to one of the guys from The Dutchie’s ping pong club and he casually slipped in to the conversation that he reads my blog. <Waves at J> Thanks, dude! I’m massively flattered you actually read my wittering, but also seriously embarrassed!!)

I just think blogging is so fucking narcissistic and as much as possible, I try not to make it all me, me, me…

But I like writing. That’s the problem. (And occasionally helping people with the things I write. I hope!!)

Hence why I chose the anonymous-ish route.

Anyway, I did renew it, so I guess that means I’m going to be sticking around for at least another year 😉

To “celebrate” in big bloody air-quotes… I guess I should list some of my personal blogging highlights of the past 2 years. But that’s what a proper blogger would do.

So instead, I’ll just say thanks for reading.

With the odd troll-shaped exception… you’re a pretty awesome bunch.

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

 

I’m childfree and I like it

I shouldn’t have to justify my decision to be childfree. But you know what? I have to. All the damn time.

You had me at childfree

Image credit: someecards.com

One time that stands out clearly in my mind was on a recent trip to France to visit my parents. We went to their friends’ house (they’re also English expats living in France) who happened to have their 30-something daughter staying with them. And her 2.4 children.

The grandmother, a similar age to my own Mum offered me tea and then asked “so when are you having kids?” If she’d given me the tea first, she probably would have been wearing it. Her son-in-law chimed in whilst simultaneously bottle feeding a young baby and dealing with an unruly toddler clinging to his leg… “yes, when are you having kids?” Erm… sorry, what? I have just met you. I walked into your house approximately two minutes ago and we’re getting into this. Now. Really?

After taking a mental deep breath and telling myself: these are your parents’ friends. Shut them down, politely.

I replied: “We’re not having kids”.

Then the questions and non-questions started. “Why not?” “You’ll change your mind.” “It’s different when they’re your own.”

“We don’t want kids.” “No, we won’t.” “Thanks, but we’d rather not find out, if it’s all the same to you.”

The mother joined in, she was 4 months pregnant at the time. “It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I didn’t know real love until I became a Mum.” *Sigh* This vein of conversation continued for 5-10 mins or so, until it all turned into white noise.

We finally managed change the subject when I pacified them with the “never say never” line. I know I shouldn’t do that, but I just wanted it to be over…

It’s true, never say never. But the older I get, the more confident I feel with my choice. It is a conscious choice, not one that everyone understands, but it is a choice. And I choose to be childfree.

Not many people I know understand this. I think I finally got through to my Mum after about 5 years of “explaining”. The Dutchie’s Mum gets it. As does my best friend and of course, the Dutchie himself – as he feels exactly the same way. But apart from this small circle, I get the face.

chris-rock-huh-face

The “You’re not having kids?” face.

Friends are allowed to ask. That’s why we’re friends. But just be aware: I am that freak in your social group. The weird one who doesn’t have kids… and who doesn’t want them.

Strangers who ask this question, however, are insensitive. Rude, even. Family members (especially ones you haven’t seen in ages) are probably just looking for something to say. That’s ok too… but next time, can’t you just ask about work or something?

I’ve read a lot of material on the subject of being childfree, most recently Kim Cattrall finds the term ‘childless’ offensive and considers herself a mother despite not having children but like many other articles, it doesn’t hit the spot for me. It seems like what she actually said has been heavily cut and quoted to fit what they want the article to say. But this one line stands out for me: “I just believe, and have always believed since my 40s, that there are many different ways to be a mum.”

But I don’t want to be a mum. I don’t need to be a mum.

I hope that when my niece is older, we’ll be close and I’ll be a fantastic auntie to her. But I won’t be her mum, or a mother figure, I’ll be her auntie. And that’s fine with me.

Going back to the point about not knowing real love until you’re a mother (or “Now that I have children, my life has true meaning!” or even “You’re missing out on one of the best things in life”…)

I am ok with the love I feel right now. Really.

It’s common for mothers to say that you haven’t experienced ‘real love’ until you become a mother. And I’m fine with that.

I love. I’m in love. I love my friends and family, I feel unconditional love. And the other type of love you’re talking about? I will never experience that. But you know what? That’s cool with me. The love I feel is the strongest I’ve ever experienced, so I don’t know any better. You’re telling me that your love is better, stronger, more unconditional. I’m just going to have to trust you on that one.

Still don’t ‘get’ it? Here’s what I would like to say to you:

I respect the fact that you want children. Please respect the fact that I do not.

It really is this simple. Having children is a choice.

No, holding your baby doesn’t make me feel broody.

Not even my niece. Everyone said it would be different when my sister had a baby. I love my niece, it doesn’t take anything away from how much I love her and want to protect her – I don’t want a child of my own.

If you’re my friend, I will love your baby. It happens automatically, because I love you. But holding a small human isn’t suddenly going to make my uterus twitch. It’s just not in me. (The feeling I mean, I do have a uterus! I just choose not to grow a human in it.)

I like to hold/cuddle/interact with your child – but I also like giving it back. When they’re older I’ll read them books or play games with them… but when they start screaming, emit a bad smell, puke on me (or all of the above)… you can have them back. Not my department.

I don’t think that my dog/cat is a child and I don’t treat them like a child.

Some people do. I am not one of them. I have a cat. I love her. Sometimes, when she is annoying I put her outside and leave her out there – because she is a cat.

I don’t hate kids.

It’s a common misconception that childfree people are child-haters. While for some people, this is true… I like kids. I just don’t want one.

It’s not a phase I’m going through, I will not change my mind and it is not your place to question it.

Questioning my personal life choice – especially if I don’t even know you – is not and will not ever be cool.

IMG_2758

You can call me selfish – if you like. 

But who am I depriving? A non-existent child? If you’d like to call me selfish, please do so. Probably not to my face though, then we might have a problem.

It’s very common for childfree people to be labelled selfish, because we don’t want to dedicate our life to another human being. And in some ways, I agree – I don’t. I like sleeping, I like travelling, I like doing whatever the fuck I want.

When it comes down to it – selfish isn’t really a suitable label. A non-existent child is exactly that. However, when YOU choose to bring a child into the world, it’s because YOU choose to bring a child into the world. Maybe you’re selfish because YOU want/need/desire a child? It’s not like they asked to be born. No? Ok, well then let’s just both agree to not call each other selfish.

We’re not barren.

And we’re not trying. You have absolutely no reason to feel sorry for me.

Even I question my decision sometimes. But not enough to change it. 

Not continuing the family name, not having grandchildren and worrying about who will look after me in old age are not valid enough reasons for me to change my mind. (And by the way, are all those old people in homes childfree? Nope, thought not. Chances are your kids will move to Australia and not be able to look after you anyway. Just sayin’.)

Hayley x

 

I am no longer the headless woman!

If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably already seen my new profile picture! If you don’t… here it is!!

*Drum roll please*

Bitterballenbruid

You might recognise the style… yes, it’s Blond Amsterdam!!

I have been a massive fan ever since I first visited the Netherlands and I have a huuuuuuge collection of their stuff.

When I found out that they did personalised items, they were my number 1 choice for a new blog logo. Unfortunately, when I contacted them months and months ago… their customer service team were decidedly unhelpful and unfriendly: No, we can’t do logos – you have to buy a piece of pottery – and no you can’t come to the store in Amsterdam to watch while it is being painted. The typical “dat kan niet” bullshit. Miserable gits.

I initially thought screw you – I was about to give you a load of free publicity – so I contacted some other illustrators. I got a couple of quotes but my heart just wasn’t in it so I let a few months go by.

I knew I wanted Blond Amsterdam to do it but their customer service had been rubbish. I thought about it again. The talent – the real illustrator(s) – do not have time to deal with customers (or bloggers). I had spoken to some jobsworth. I knew that the real Blond Amsterdam would deliver the goods!

So, I ordered online. I had wanted a logo, but no, they couldn’t do that. So I ordered a bloody plate instead. 12 and a half weeks ago. (Their website states the waiting time for personalised items is around 9 weeks.)

I waited patiently for 9 weeks… and then for another week whilst we were on holiday (hoping there would be a lovely package for me on my return). Nope. I emailed them last week as my expected delivery time had clearly passed – only to be disappointed by their customer service yet again: It’ll be with you next week (with no apology about it already being so late!) and no we can’t take a photo of it and send to you. Of course you CAN take a photo of it. You just don’t want to/can’t be arsed/have a “dat kan niet” attitude. 

But today, I finally got my delivery! It was worth the wait, it’s friggin’ awesome, I love Blond Amsterdam and I love my bloody plate! (And truth be told… I’m actually quite pleased they didn’t send me a photo as opening it was a brilliant moment!)

Blond Amsterdam – your customer service department sucks the big one!! But I still love you.

What do you think of the new “logo”?

Hayley x

Sunflowers in Hilversum – Remembering the victims of flight MH17

A year has passed since the MH17 air disaster. It happened on July 17th 2014 and Hilversum was one of the towns hardest hit. Fifteen residents were killed among the 298 passengers on board.

To commemorate one year since the tragedy, Hilversum is in bloom. The town is awash with bright yellow sunflowers.

According to some news reports, the seeds were taken from a field near the Ukrainian town of Torez, where the plane crashed, and were given to a victim’s father by a journalist who covered the disaster. They state that some were passed on to St Vitus church and others were entrusted to the city’s chief gardener, Hans Roon, who planted them in Hilversum’s botanical garden. (Sources: RFE/RL and The Guardian)

Hayley x

Sunflowers in Hilversum (Zonnebloemen in Hilversum)

Sunflowers in Hilversum (Zonnebloemen in Hilversum)

Sunflowers in Hilversum (Zonnebloemen in Hilversum)

Sunflowers in Hilversum (Zonnebloemen in Hilversum)

Sunflowers at St Vitus Church, Hilversum. (Zonnebloemen bij de St Vitus kerk in Hilversum)

Sunflowers at St Vitus Church, Hilversum. (Zonnebloemen bij de St Vitus kerk in Hilversum.)

Sunflowers at St Vitus Church, Hilversum. (Zonnebloemen bij de St Vitus kerk in Hilversum)

Sunflowers at St Vitus Church, Hilversum. (Zonnebloemen bij de St Vitus kerk in Hilversum)

Sunflowers at St Vitus Church, Hilversum. (Zonnebloemen bij de St Vitus kerk in Hilversum)

Sunflowers at St Vitus Church, Hilversum. (Zonnebloemen bij de St Vitus kerk in Hilversum)

Sunflowers at St Vitus Church, Hilversum. (Zonnebloemen bij de St Vitus kerk in Hilversum)

 

Learning Dutch is f*cking hard

Dutch kissing

Yesterday I cried about learning Dutch. In public. On a busy pub terrace. Ummm. So yeah, that sucked.

Luckily, it was super sunny yesterday and I was wearing sunglasses so hopefully no one noticed… (I’m totally kidding myself, people definitely noticed.)

Anyway, I cried because learning Dutch is fucking hard.

I don’t really talk about it very much, and I purposely try to keep negativity away from my blog… but this isn’t negative, it’s just honest.

I’ve been learning Dutch properly for about a year. Before that, when we still lived in England, I had a few CDs which I listened to occasionally (Michel Thomas, in case you’re wondering). Occasionally – meaning listening to them for a few hours in blind panic directly before every trip to Holland and then not bothering again for a couple of months. Read: Until the next trip!

I’ve taken a Dutch course (which I didn’t complete because the teacher was a terrible teacher. Nice sweet lady, but seriously love – you’re in the wrong business) and I can have basic level conversations and understand about 80-90% of what people are saying to me. So considering I’ve only lived here a year, I reckon I’m doing alright.

So yesterday, fuelled by 8 glasses of wine (not all full measures – thankfully!! On the Wijnspijs Culinaire Wandeling – separate post on that to follow) I took the plunge and started talking to my Dutch friend in Dutch. They don’t call it Dutch courage for nothing! He speaks amazing English, I’ve known him for 6 years and we’ve always spoken together in English. But you know, I need to practice. And I’d been speaking Dutch all day, so it seemed natural to me.

It was all going fine until I made a tiny mistake, literally I said ‘heeft’ instead of ‘hebt’. I know it’s wrong, they know it’s wrong… but y’know, 8 glasses of wine, talking quickly, in my second language… I’m going to make mistakes. No biggie. But then… The Dutchie corrects me.

Ok – I think to myself – he’s supposed to correct me, that’s the only way I’m going to learn. (We have a deal – we correct each other’s language mistakes, except if we’re in a group. Then you have to remind them about it later, one on one.) So… deep breath, carry on…

Then The Friend corrects me. Again, something ridiculously tiny. And I lose my shit.

I just stopped talking and had a little cry, while they awkwardly carried on talking. Once I’d regained my composure… I went to the toilet to fix my face.

They’re blokes so they thought they were being ‘helpful’. I tried explaining to them that it’s not what you say, but the way you say it… but these are Dutch blokes, so that was no use whatsoever!

When I came back, I started talking in English, but after a few minutes, I thought nope. This is not cool. I WILL speak Dutch and I WILL make mistakes. So I gently reminded myself of my speaking Dutch mantra: fuck it.

I try really hard. Really bloody hard to speak the language. And I had a little wobble… but I bloody well picked myself up, dusted myself off and carried on. How very British of me!

So, to anyone out there who is learning Dutch – or any other language for that matter – good luck to you, hats off and a big virtual high five.

It’s hard fucking work – and I applaud you.

Hayley x

(Dutch-related) stuff that happened in April 2015

I was just about to write a post about my “Eating Amsterdam” trip – but then I realised I only posted 3 times in April – and sooooo much happened last month! So that one will have to wait for now… and in the meantime you get a kinda summary post about April, you lovely springy sunny month, you! (Well, mostly.)

Not sure if I’m going to make this a regular thing, but it’ll do for now as I have a few things I want to write about but they don’t necessarily need individual posts.

So, roughly in chronological order (I totally just went downstairs to get my calendar – goldfish brain!!) here’s the Dutch-related stuff that happened to me in April 2015:

1. I ate Amsterdam.

As in, I went on a food tour of Amsterdam and ate EVERYTHING. Even drop (liquorice)… my nemesis. Are you proud?

I will write a whole post about this (promise) because it was amazing. But in the meantime, here’s a picture of some bitterballen. Because, duh.

Bitterballen on the Amsterdam Food Tour

Bitterballen on the Amsterdam Food Tour

2. My 1 year Expat Anniversary

I was just about to post this and then I realised I totally forgot to even mention the fact that I have lived in the Netherlands for a year! What did I do to celebrate? I went to Germany on a business trip… ha ha. Oh well, there’s always next year…

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the fact it’s been a whole year… in some ways it’s gone by in a flash and in other ways… I can watch Dutch films and TV and listen to Dutch radio… and TALK DUTCH TO DUTCH PEOPLE. So that’s still mind-blowing to me.

I read an article today about “Being stuck in the middle of two worlds” by Amanda (of Expat Life with a Double Buggy fame) and I totally relate. She says “I’ll never be mistaken for being Dutch, yet I don’t feel that England is my home anymore.” TOTALLY, TOTALLY get it.

Also love that she compares expat life to Tom Branson moving into Downton Abbey. This makes me laugh, nod along and feel like something is missing at the same time. (And if you don’t watch Downtown Abbey… YOU NEED IT IN YOUR LIFE – LIKE – NOW.)

3. My sister came to visit – so we went to Utrecht

Not really news in itself… except that we properly did Utrecht: A guided walking tour, a canal tour AND we walked all 465 steps to the top of the Dom tower! Oh, and my sister is 5 and a half months pregnant… so there’s that too.

Utrecht gearing up for the Tour de France in July

Utrecht gearing up for the Tour de France in July

And now from the top! For reference… look for the red bike…

View from the top of the Dom Tower, Utrecht

View from the top of the Dom Tower, Utrecht

As with #1, this trip will also get a full blog post shortly… I took a bazillion photos despite it being a dreary old day.

4. Visited Keukenhof

I totally get it. This is one of those touristy things you have to do, once. And once was enough!

We went on a Friday, a very sunny Friday and it was ram-packed. I’m not going to do a blog post about this, because Jennifer over at Expat Lingo has already summed the experience up perfectly!! Here’s her step-by-step virtual tour: Tramped under the tulips at the Keukenhof

Instead… here are a few snaps I manged to take without 20 people getting in the way:

Tulips at the Keukenhof

Keukenhof

Keukenhof

Flower fields near the Keukenhof

Pretty, huh?

And to give you a small glimpse into the volume of tourists…

Windmill carnage

Windmill carnage

5. Blogger meet-up

By far one of my highlights in April was meeting up with some fellow bloggers. In addition to Jennifer from Expat Lingo, who I’ve just mentioned above, I also met up with Sophie from Sophie in Clogs, Aislinn from Ace the Adventure and Alison of A Flamingo in Utrecht. We met at Alison’s gorgeous Italian wine bar, Vino Veritas which is co-owned with her Italian partner Giovanni.

Vino Veritas, Utrecht

Vino Veritas, Utrecht

It was a fantastic evening and we have already set a date to meet up again in June! Fascinating to meet other expat bloggers and share our stories. With wine, of course!

6. King’s Day

Last, but by no means least, were the birthday celebrations of King Willem-Alexander on 27th April. Once again, the weather did not disappoint, despite the forecasts consistently predicting rain until the day itself! Phew!

King's Day in Amsterdam

(We definitely have a problem. We have so much orange crap it’s hard to know what to wear!!)

Orange clothing for King's Day

In the end I plumped for a tiara with orange fluff (classy), Dutch flags painted on my face (standard) plus the following ensemble…

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King’s Day afternoon was spent strolling around the canals, meeting up with friends and listening to live music. The evening was a haze of wine, beer, new Dutch “friends” and more beer. How about you?

Thanks April. You were awesome.

Hayley x

(Dutch-related) Stuff That Happened In March 2015

Bit of a quiet month blog-wise as March has been a reeeeeally busy month at work (yep – I have a real job and everything!) Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like it’ll let up anytime soon, so you’ll probably only be hearing from me about once a week for the next few months. Just so you know and that. I haven’t been kidnapped.

Tomorrow we’re off to Brussels (for one night) en route to France to see my parents for a few days. (Yep, the ‘rents are expats too – they moved to France a couple of weeks after I moved to Holland!)

So before we go off gallivanting… here’s some stuff that happened this month.

 1. Rediscovering Etsy 

I’m very happy to have discovered some extremely talented Dutch illustrators in the past month… Introducing Kim Bell Illustrations. Love her work!!

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After living here for nearly a year… the office/blogging den/spare room is finally finished! (Crikey, we are terrible DIYers!!)

I was looking for some funky postcards to frame and brighten up my office –  so there’s the obvious, Paperchase, but their delivery rates to the Netherlands are ridiculous (£5 for a postcard… huh??) so I decided to look elsewhere.

Bravo, Etsy! Bravo!

These fine specimens are from a seller named Darveelicious:

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I also bought postcards from Moa Gift Ideas, Steak & Eggs Please and Le Lapin Blanc. I specifically opted for Dutch illustrators / Etsy shops (with the exception of Steak & Eggs Please) because they ship to the Netherlands (obviously) but also because they are friggin’ awesome. Why look further afield when there is so much talent right here in the Netherlands? Can you tell I’m a BIT excited about this!?!?

And the final result…

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I should probably also show you the other side of the room, aka the Blogging Den, but hmmmm my desk is a bit of a mess now… and can I be arsed to tidy it for photos? No.

2. Clog slippers

Possibly the best slippers ever? The Dutchie has been without slippers for about six years, but whilst in tourist paradise at Zaanse Schans, he was sucked in by the clog slippers.

Nothing to do with me, honest!

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3. Visiting Haarlem, Zaanse Schans & Gouda

Pretty impressed I made it to three new places in March. In case you missed those posts, there was A Quickie in Haarlem and Tourist Paradise – Zaanse Schans.

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I didn’t write a post about Gouda because, well, there were no rose-tinted spectacles involved!! ‘Twas a dreary and cold day and the photos I took on my iphone just didn’t do it any justice. My American friend and I did however discover a fantastic cafe thanks to Sophie in Clogs (big thanks again, Sophie!) This is an especially good tip for mamas who are visiting Gouda… we went with a one year old and the place was totally kid-friendly. It’s unofficially split into two parts, the right-wing for kiddie winks (with loads of toys and high chairs etc) and the left-hand side for grown ups who’d like to enjoy their coffee in adult company.

Zoet & Zalig (yup, that’s my full review on Trip Advisor) is most definitely off the beaten track and if you didn’t know it was there, you’d be forgiven for walking straight past it. Here’s the entrance:

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But once inside – it’s a complete hidden gem!

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Fantastic food, beautiful interior details and a great atmosphere. It’s set in a former orphanage but they have completely transformed it – including the outside. When the weather’s nice, there’s a gorgeous courtyard with funky tables and chairs. Ohhhh and THE CAKE. I’m not at all a cake person, but their selection of cakes and tarts was too hard to resist. The coconut and pineapple taartje was stunning. If you visit Gouda, go here for coffee and cake, minimum!

4. Masterchef Holland

A new series of Masterchef Holland has started! YAY! Pretty much one of the only Dutch TV programmes I can watch! I love you guys, but you really don’t have the best TV… Thank funk for Netflix! So yeah, one of the contestants is an undertaker… or so I thought when I translated ondernemer  literally. It actually means entrepreneur! Oops!

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I have also been watching a few Dutch films: Gooische Vrouwen (yes, I know, I’m totally behind the times!!) Dunya & Desie (totally a teener film, but hey, I like Clueless!) and Jackie, which I watched last night. If anyone has any other Dutch film / series recommendations for me – preferably on Netflix – I’d love to hear them please! Trying to watch as many Dutch programmes as possible. It all helps, right? It’s still such a strange concept to me that I can actually watch films in another language. Fuck! (Sorry Mum!)

5. D’ Vijf Broers, Zaandijk

Gah! More food! Yup, pretty much sums the month up: working & eating!

You know when you go to a restaurant and fall in love? I really did with this place. D’ Vijf Broers in Zaandijk is truly unmissable if you’re visiting Zaandijk / Zaandam. Full review here.

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6. Port tasting

Oh, and we did a cheeky bit of drinking too!

Our friend works at a Gall & Gall store and we went to a port tasting evening (in Dutch might I add!) at the beginning of the month.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and although I didn’t understand absolutely everything – as there were so many technical words – it was fun and something I wouldn’t have been able to do a few months back.

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It’s not a wine tasting until you’ve spilled wine, right?

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7. Bagels & Beans

And while we’re on a food and drink theme… I have to mention Bagels & Beans which we have visited twice in the past week!! If you follow me on Instagram you will have probably already noticed my new obsession!

If there’s a Bagels & Beans in your neighbourhood and haven’t visited yet, I encourage you to do so now!

Koffie – check.

Goedkoop – check.

Lekker – check.

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There is a distinct lack of bitterballen in this post!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME??

Have a great weekend everyone!

Hayley x