British Expat

English Food vs Dutch Food… Fight!

It’s almost a year and a half since I moved to the Netherlands… and honestly, Holland is starting to feel more like home than England does. Isn’t that vierd?

THINGS (BRITISH) EXPATS DON’T MISS

Wet/cold weather 55%

Politicians 39%

Traffic 37%

Miserable people 34%

Commuting 26%

Sarcasm 13%

Annoying family members 10%

Neighbours 8%

Ex-partners 8%

The Pound 6%

 

THINGS (BRITISH) EXPATS MISS

Fish and chips 55%

Pub grub 54%

Traditional pubs 47%

Countryside 35%

The high street 31%

Sunday roasts 30%

TV 24%

Parks 16%

Football 12%

The changing seasons 11%

 

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know the biggest thing I miss is the English pub culture and good old pub grub, so I’m totally in agreement with this survey!

(Sources: BritishCornerShop.co.uk – and The Mirror.)

I like food. So yes, this post is about food (with a few drinks thrown in). But the question is: which is better?

 

BREAKFAST

1. Bacon vs spek

Thick, luscious rounds of smoked bacon served with crusty bread, lettuce and tomato. Or wafer thin slices of spek? My vote: Team UK.

2. Marmite on toast vs hagelslag

Love it or hate it… marmite is extremely popular in the UK. As is hagelslag in Holland. But which is best? My vote: Team UK.

Proper English tea and toast... with marmite!

3. Full English breakfast vs uitsmijter

Bacon, sausages, eggs, mushrooms, hash browns, beans, black pudding… I’m salivating just typing this! Or fried egg, ham and cheese? Also delicious, but very simple. My vote: Team UK.

 

LUNCH

4. Sandwich and crisps or boterham?

English people pretty much can’t eat a sandwich without a packet of crisps on the side. It’s like an unwritten law or something. What do Dutchies often eat for lunch? A slice of white bread with cheese and a glass of milk. My vote: Team UK.

5. Beans on toast vs … ?

Is there a vs for this one? (Hagelslag?!! Hee hee.) Dutchies think beans on toast is just weird, but we were brought up with it. It’s cheap, easy food when the cupboards are (almost) bare and most definitely in every student’s culinary repertoire 😉  My vote: Team UK.

 

(SUNDAY) DINNER

6. Roast Dinner vs Stamppot

Meat and all the trimmings vs a U shaped boiled smoked sausage and mashed veg and potatoes. I love both, but if I can only pick one it has to be the roast.  My vote: Team UK.

© robbie jim / Creative Commons / Attribution 2.0 Generic

© robbie jim / Creative Commons / Attribution 2.0 Generic

 

AT THE PUB

7. Chips drowned in vinegar or mayonnaise? 

This doesn’t need an explanation. The Dutch won me over with mayo. My vote: Team NL.

8. English pub vs Dutch brown cafe

Both are fantastic for different reasons, but I’ve got to go English pub. My vote: Team UK.

9. Ordering a round in a pub

Ordering a round in Holland: “Zeven biertjes en een witte wijn” (Seven beers and a white wine).

Ordering a round in England: “One Calsberg, one Fosters, one Stella, one Kronenberg, one Bulmers, one Aspalls, one Pinot Grigio and a gin and tonic, please.” Fuck me, we’re fussy. My vote: Team NL.

10. Bar snacks – pork scratchings vs bitterballen 

No contest. My vote: Team NL.

Bitterballen at Elements Beach

11. Pint of beer vs thimble of beer

The bigger the better, surely? My vote: Team UK.

 

MISCELLANEOUS

12. Nesquick vs Chocomel

Powder you mix with milk or prepackaged chocolate loveliness. My vote: Team NL.

13. Liquorice allsorts vs Drop

Both disgusting, at least liquorice allsorts have some coconut around them that I can eat. My vote: Team UK.

 

Unsurprisingly,  I scored 9 in favour of the UK and 4 to NL. But I’m getting there…

What’s your score?

Hayley x

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That one time I went to Hoorn

Last week, on my day off, it was a beautiful sunny day so I decided to go out and DO SOMETHING FUN! Because why the heck not??

Back in January I asked for recommendations of the best places to go in the Netherlands on my Facebook page and I got loads of responses including: Haarlem (went on Saturday), Gouda (going next weekend), Maastricht, Leiden, Delft, Valkenburg, Harderwijk (been), Nijmegen (going in a few weeks), Den Bosch, The Hague, Texel, Rhenen, Groningen, Oostkappelle/Domburg, Naarden-Vesting (been – in fact, this is where our wedding party was held), Rotterdam (been – lots!), Middelburg, Amersfoort (been) and Hoorn.

It was already 12ish when I decided to go, so I wanted somewhere which was an hour or less on the train from Hilversum so I could be there and back in the same afternoon. After a quick bit of journey planning on good old NS.nl, I chose Hoorn… and I’m so glad I did!

Hoorn – pronounced somewhere between the English horn and the Dutch horen (to hear) is a town in North Holland, approx 35km north of Amsterdam. It’s a harbour town so in addition to the beautiful old buildings and canals you also get a gorgeous harbour thrown in!

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I must admit, it was tempting just to get off at Amsterdam Centraal, since we stopped there anyway… but no, Hoorn was the order of the day. When I arrived at the train station in Hoorn I didn’t really have a clear idea of where to go, so I just wandered around with my camera poised (knowing that if I got lost, I have Google Maps on my phone, so no biggie)… it was a good plan as I eventually ended up at the harbour without even really trying!

The harbour is proudly marked by (probably) Hoorn’s most recognisable landmark, de Hoofdtoren meaning ‘the head tower’. It was built in 1532 and is a registered rijksmonument (national heritage site). Today, it’s a restaurant.

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I had already been exploring for about an hour at this point, so I decided to stop at a pub on the waterfront. I looked for the most traditional one I could find, which happened to be Café ‘t Schippershuis, a traditional bruin café. Perfect!

If you don’t know what a ‘brown’ cafe is, they’re a bit like old-fashioned British pubs. The ‘brown’ title coming from the (often) tobacco stained ceilings, walls and the wooden panelling and floorboards. They’re old and often a bit tatty, but that’s all part of the charm! Oh… and carpet on the table – check!

Schippershuis

The beautiful old bar is shaped like a ship, the friendly waitress was stood behind the bar cleaning glasses and three locals were happily chatting away. As I walked in, the locals stopped briefly to greet me, looked pleased when I returned their greetings (in Dutch) and then went back to their flamboyant conversation and foamy beer.

The Dutch are a friendly bunch – and on the whole – they’re happy to speak English to you. BUT now I’m speaking more and more Dutch, I’m totally noticing that people are even friendlier  in Dutch! They love that you’re making the effort to speak their native language and will reward you accordingly. (This is making me tear up a little bit thinking of the old guy I met in Amsterdam a couple of weeks back – I was in a bar near Centraal Station with my English friend and he offered us a seat, in English. When I replied in Dutch, his face literally lit up like a Christmas tree!)

And the same thing happened in Hoorn. Once I collected my drink and took a seat, the patrons (knowing I could speak Dutch) started chatting away to me and made me feel really welcome. I honestly don’t think that would have happened if I’d ordered my drink in English. Proost! 

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When I first moved here ten months ago, I would have never been brave enough to just get on a train and go somewhere brand new ON MY OWN. It just shows how far I’ve come!

I wouldn’t say I’m fluent yet, but I can do all the basics. Understanding what people say to you is important, and undoubtedly the first step, but now I can not only understand what they’re saying to me… I can reply. My understanding was always pretty good (after visiting here regularly when we lived in England) but gone are the days when I completely freak out when people speak Dutch at me. That whole day, I didn’t speak a word of English.

Initially, a lot of my problem was having the confidence to speak Dutch (this is especially intimidating because Dutch people speak such good English)… but one day I just said to myself: “Fuck it”.

I will make mistakes, but it’s the only way I’m going to learn. And with that, I somehow just got over my fear. This makes me VERY happy as it’s opened up a whole new world of adventures! I love visiting new places with my husband or my friends, but I now I don’t HAVE to wait for them. If I have a day off and want to go somewhere on my own, I damn well can.

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So, like any good tourist, I took a whole bunch of photos. I can’t post them all here as you might lose the will to live… but I’m going to add my favourites at least. (That’s a lot, still. It’s Hoorn’s fault for being so damn gorgeous!!)

As you may have noticed, especially if you follow me on Instagram, I have a bit of an obsession with Street Art.

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And churches. (This particular beauty is Grote Kerk.)

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And skulls. (This one is Noorderkerk.)

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I visited the central square in Hoorn too, called de Roode Steen (The Red Stone) to check out the Westfries Museum. An amazingly impressive building, I’m afraid my photo just doesn’t do it justice though… as I was fighting with the sun the whole time (not that I’m complaining!) so you’ll just have to go and see it for yourself!

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After more walking, admiring and photo taking I fancied a bite to eat and stumbled across Bagels & Beans on my way back to the train station. I remembered that the one in Hilversum had good reviews, so decided to give it a go. Turns out, it was a day of good choices. (Unfortunately it was a one-day-only special. I went to Haarlem the next day with the Dutchie and all of my good fortune had run out. It wasn’t a bad trip… but it was nowhere as good as mijn dagje uit in Hoorn!)

The hot chocolate comes – not as a hot chocolate – but as a mug of hot milk and a shot glass of chocolate buttons to make it yourself! Very novel! I also loved the ‘heaven & hell’ saucer!

Bagelandbeans

To accompany the best hot chocolate ever… I had a delicious Paddoburger van champignons (mushroom burger in a bagel) but I can’t post that picture now or I might chew my arm off.

Think I’d better go and make some lunch…

So, have you been to Hoorn? What did you think?

Hayley x

Ps – and now for a shitload of photos that didn’t fit into the post… but I don’t know what else to do with them. (I didn’t Photoshop any of these btw, so no idea what’s going on with the crazy variation in sky colours!)

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Just call me Tante Bitterbal

Tante Bitterbal

I have a confession to make: I have a superpower. It first started when I was aged 17, on the bus to college. A friend of a friend began sitting next to me on the bus – a very friendly chap – but even at the time I could tell that his bubbly personality was all bravado and he had more issues than de Volkskrant! (The original line came from my best friend: “He has more issues than The Beano!” The Beano is a long-running British children’s comic, 1938-present.) But anyway, I digress.

After about a week, he came out. I was the first person he told he was gay, despite him having a group of close friends at college and being pretty close with his family.

Since then, people have been regularly telling me their deepest darkest secrets and / or their life story. This is never coaxed or encouraged by me, it’s just like I have ‘confession’ tattooed on my head or something.

I knew there was a reason I should do this blog (semi-)anonymously! So that I can tell stories like this, but never give anyone’s game away.

Sometimes they are friends, sometimes strangers. Once, in England, our hot water tank was broken so I called a plumber out. Whilst clambering in the cupboard, I saw him deliberately pulling his hot pink lace thong up above his jeans so that I would see it. Then he went into a whole spiel about how he was going to a Moulin Rouge / Tarts and Vicars party in a couple of months’ time so he was just ‘practicing’.

I think sometimes people want to confess to ‘random’ people first, so that they can gauge reactions and practice ‘coming out’ before they do it for real to their friends and family. Luckily for him, I don’t judge and I wasn’t offended or horrified by my 50 something year old, married, plumber wearing women’s underwear. I just wanted him to fix my hot water tank.

Another guy told me his entire life story on one of our first meetings, on New Year’s Eve, before we’d even got drunk. I could have named all of his previous girlfriends, which ones he was in love with, his difficult relationship with his family and his struggles with depression. In that hour, I probably knew more about him than most of his close friends did.

Maybe I have an honest face, or a non-judgmental face at least… because people just want to tell me things. Another man also showed me that he was wearing female underwear on our first meeting (what is this thing with people showing me their pants!!), seriously, I’d known the guy about 10 minutes. He’s now transitioning.

And it’s not just men either. I mean, girls like to talk… that’s a given. But women I have just met tell me everything too!

I know about infidelities, people who are silently struggling with depression, marriage near-misses, secret credit-card debts, failed pregnancies, abortions and struggles to conceive. I know about relationship issues that even the partner doesn’t know about, problems in the bedroom, eating disorders, drinking and drug problems – you name it – someone has told me their secret. And I don’t have enough friends for them to all be this fucked up – many of these are strangers or friends of friends who I met at a party once.

Lately, since writing this blog, I’ve become somewhat of a go-to expat agony aunt.

Previously, my ‘thing’ was just about people opening up to me. Not necessarily about me giving them advice, they just wanted someone to talk to, someone to listen.

Now I’m getting emails and Facebook messages asking for advice. It can’t be my ‘honest’ face as I don’t plaster selfies all over my blog (that would be my worst nightmare!)

I have no idea what it is, but I’ve had people asking for job advice, relationship and long-distance relationship advice, housing advice and even advice on how to publish a book! (Huh??) Other people just write and tell me about themselves and their situation and thank me for writing the blog.

I’m really flattered that people want to tell me about themselves, about their lives and ask for advice – I think it’s really sweet that people would even think of coming to me! But the advice part I do struggle with sometimes… a) I really don’t feel qualified to answer some of the questions and b) I don’t always feel like I can give advice to people I’ve never met. But I do respond to every email and I try my best to at least offer some words of wisdom.

I love all of the messages, emails and comments I receive. I read every single one… and where possible… I try to reply to those which require a response. So please keep ’em coming! If you want to spill your guts to someone, I’m your girl! (Apparently!)

Except if your comment is “Suck on my hairy balls.” (That really happened.) The guy gave no reasoning, no explanation. Just – “Suck on my hairy balls.”

Then I have no words for you.

So tell me, what’s your superpower?

Hayley x

Kijk, Mam! Ik sta in de krant!

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If you live in Hilversum and receive the Hilversums Nieuws, today you will see me on page… 5!! (Ok, ok, the OnderOns feature is always on page 5, but I’m easily pleased.)

If you don’t… then here’s the full text:

OnderOns
Naam: Hayley alias Bitterballenbruid
Leeftijd: 32
Beroep: Marketing Manager
Hilversumse sinds: April 2014

Wat doe je in het dagelijks leven?
Ik werk thuis als Marketing Manager voor een Engels bedrijf. In mijn vrije tijd zwem ik, wandel ik op de (Hilversumse) hei en schrijf ik aan mijn blog.

Je blogt. Waar gaat Bitterballenbruid over?
Mijn blog gaat over een expat zijn in Nederland, Nederlands leren, jullie rare gewoontes en te veel bitterballen eten.

Grootste verschil tussen wonen in Southampton en Hilversum?
Mijn leven in een andere taal leven, hele kleine supermarkten (in Engeland zijn ze kolossaal), al die fietsen en veel mensen die parttime werken.

Fish or chips of bitterballen?
Dat is een heel moeilijk vraag, maar ik moet bitterballen zeggen natuurlijk!

Thee of koffie?
Thee, met melk, maar alleen één kopje per dag! Ik drink bijna nooit koffie.

Mooiste plek van Hilversum?
Dat moet de Hilversumse Hei zijn. Ik vind het Beeld en Geluid gebouw ook supermooi!

Waar ga je heen in Hilversum als je uitgaat?
Eerst naar een Japans restaurant (Sumo of Aiuchi) en dan een paar drankjes in The Guardian, Felix II of Karroesel.

Wat pak je aan als je een dagje burgemeester van Hilversum bent?
Nationale Bitterballendag introduceren!

Wat kijk je graag op televisie?
Mijn guilty pleasure is Keeping Up With The Kardasians! Ik kijk ook graag naar Moto GP en Masterchef Holland, UK en Australië.

Naar welke muziek luister je?
Nou, dat is een vraag! Ik ben een enorme muziek fan, dus waar begin ik?! Heel veel bands met ‘The’: The Smiths, The Cure, The Clash, The Pixies, The Vaccines, The Savages, The Kooks, The Strokes en Arctic Monkeys. Jake Bugg is ook een superleuke tip! Oeh, en niet te vergeten de nationale parel: Anouk.

Waar mag je voor wakker gemaakt worden?
Bitterballen en nieuwe schoenen, graag!

*****

En nu, in het Engels (and now, in English).

What do you do in your daily life?
I work at home as a Marketing Manager for an English company. In my free time I swim, I walk in the Hilversumse Hei (Hilversum Heathland) and I write my blog.

You blog. What is your blog about?
My blog is about being an expat in the Netherlands, learning Dutch, your weird habits and eating way too many bitterballen!

Biggest difference between living in Southampton and Hilversum?
Living my life in a different language, small supermarkets (in England they’re HUGE) all the bikes and so many people working part time.

Fish and chips or bitterballen?
That’s a really hard question, but I have to say bitterballen of course!

Tea of coffee?
Tea, with milk, but only one cup per day. I hardly ever drink coffee.

Most beautiful place in Hilversum?
That has to be the Hilversumse Hei. I also think the Beeld and Geluid building is extremely beautiful.

Where do you go out in Hilversum?
First to a Japanese restaurant and then a few drinks in a bar. (The Guardian is an English pub, Felix II and Karroesel are Dutch bars.)

What would you do if you were the Mayor of Hilversum for the day?
Introduce National Bitterballen Day!

What do you like watching on TV?
My guilty pleasure is Keeping Up With The Kardashians. I also like watching Moto GP, and Masterchef UK, Holland and Australia.

What music do you listen to?
Now, that is a hard question! I’m a huge music fan, so where do I start?! A lot of bands with ‘The’: The Smiths, The Cure, The Clash, The Pixies, The Vaccines, The Savages, The Kooks, The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys. Jake Bugg is also a good tip. Oh, and not forgetting your national treasure: Anouk.

What would you get out of bed for?
Bitterballen and new shoes, please!

I want to know more about YOU! Care to pick a question from the above and answer it about yourself?

Hayley x

10 Things British Expats Miss The Most

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll know that I was lucky enough to win the AngloINFO & British Corner Shop #HomeComforts competition back in November.

As my prize, I won £100 to spend on British groceries, delivered to my home in the Netherlands, for a WHOLE YEAR! I can safely say that it’s the best prize you could ever give to an expat. EVER!

Now obviously, there are some things I miss which money can’t buy: my friends and family, people saying sorry all the time, our sense of humour, traditional British pubs and of course… our beautiful landscape. There are HILLS and everything! 😉 But thanks to the British Corner Shop, I now have the contents of a British supermarket to comfort me in between my visits ‘home’. So here’s a sneak peek of what you can find in my online shopping basket…

Top 10 Things British Expats Miss The Most:

1. Marmite

Marmite has to be top of the list for me! You either love it or you hate it – so I speak for at least 50% of British expats here. Best on toast or crumpets. Mmmmmm…. crumpets!

2. Tea

Proper tea. Builders tea, none of that freaky Rooibos or herbal crap! Yorkshire Tea, PG Tips, Tetley, Typhoo and Twinings. (My favourite is actually Tesco own-brand… I’m a cheap date!)

3. Roast Dinners / Full English Breakfast / Fish & Chips

This one isn’t so tough here in the Netherlands, you just have to put a bit of effort in and make your own… but I imagine for some expats it could be difficult to get your hands on all of the key ingredients. *Sob*.

4. Ale and cider

That fizzy, foamy stuff you drink – technically, that’s lager. English folk drink ale – the room temperature, flat stuff. Want to know the difference between lager and ale? Cider: Ok, so there is cider in Holland: Jillz and Strongbow, but that’s about it. In the UK there are 480 Cider Makers (source). Resulting in hundreds of cider options, and a whole dedicated bay in the supermarket, from traditional scrumpy and fruit flavoured ciders, to the more modern brands like Magners and Gaymers.

5. Cheese

One word for you: cheddar. Two words for you: Dairylea Dunkers. (Ok, so the second is probably just me.)

6. Lamb

Searching for supermarket lamb in the Netherlands is like searching for a kangaroo in the Antarctic. Once I found lamb sausages (huh??) … once! They’ve since disappeared from the shelves. You see, lamb is a key ingredient to many of our traditional dishes – so an absolute must! Minted Lamb Steaks, Rack of Lamb, Lamb Stew, Shepherd’s Pie and of course Lamb Curries! (Not technically British of course, but curry is hugely popular in the UK!)

7. Heinz EVERYTHING

Beans… sauces… soups. You can get baked beans here in the Netherlands – and if you’re lucky, even tomato sauce. But the soups haven’t made it over here yet… How else is a girl supposed to survive the winter without Cream of Chicken?

8. Crisps

Yes, they have crisps in other countries… here in the Netherlands the standout is paprika! BUT, ask any British expat and you’ll get the same answer: they’re not the same. British crisps are just something else. Go to any large British supermarket and you will find a whole aisle dedicated to crisps and savoury snacks. Sometimes even two! And for some reason, no other country finds salt & vinegar crisps as delicious as we do! There’s no accounting for taste…

9. Chocolate

DAIRY MILK and GALAXY. When you’re homesick: no other chocolate will do!

10. Bacon

That wafer thin stuff you get at the slagerij (butcher) called spek (bacon)? Just because you call it bacon, doesn’t mean it is. British bacon comes in slabs! Thick and meaty. ‘Nuff said.

And what do Dutch expats miss most when they’re abroad?

According to a survey by Dutch television station BVN, top of the list of items missed by Dutch expats is herring! Some 9% of those polled said they missed the herring most of all, followed by kroketten (8.6%), cheese (8.1%) and household goods chain Hema (8%). Family and friends came in only fifth place, with 6.7% of the vote, followed by cycling (6.5%), Dutch bread, cakes and biscuits (2.7%), the warm atmosphere (2.2%), Sinterklaas (2.1%) and things to eat on bread (2.1%). Source: DutchNews.nl.

What do you (or would you) miss the most if you live(d) abroad?

Hayley x

Gezellig

Normally, I translate any Dutch words I use on the blog by putting the English translation in brackets directly afterwards. But with this particular word, that is an impossible task.

So much so, that it requires a whole blog post!

Gezellig

“Cosy” I hear you say…

Is it probably the closest translation? Yes. But (and it’s a big but!) gezellig is sooooo much more than that…

In addition to “cosy” just not cutting the mustard, an English speaker wouldn’t use the word cosy in the same context as Dutch people use gezellig. You would never hear an English person say, “That was a really cosy evening.” EVER.

“Comfortable”

That’s another close one. Close, but no cigar. Sure, in some instances, you could use comfortable… but “That was a really comfortable evening.” NOPE.

“Fun”

Again, close, but if it was ONLY fun, you’d say “het was leuk” (it was fun). Gezellig is on another level.

Gezellig is gewoon gezellig.

Here are some comments from the blog on this subject:

Rody de Groot: The word ‘Gezellig’ cannot be translated to any language in the world with the same meaning as ‘Gezellig’ means in Holland. It’s a typical Dutch word. Guess we invented ‘Gezelligheid’…

Sloeberjong: Lekker is used a lot, but I do keep wondering when your blog about “gezelligheid” will premier. It’ll be a challenge to explain that to non-Dutchies!

Tanja: No translation is proper for the word gezellig, it means that people are having a good time, but it can also mean that your house looks cosy, or comfortable. Or if people do not get along that is ongezellig.

Thomas Gresnich: What I miss is the word “gezellig”, meaning something like cosy. Everything is “gezellig”, like: come for a gezellig kopje koffie. Are you coming tonight? Ja, gezellig. How was the party? Very gezellig. Why don’t you stop smoking? I find it so gezelllig, een sigaretje (a cigarette).

Rockerriert: Cosy is only part of the meaning of gezellig. There’s no English word that covers the whole meaning.

So, just what does this word mean?

Replace gezellig with cosy, comfortable, fun or even convivial and you only have PART of the meaning. The only way I can find to explain it without having experienced yourself is with examples:

As Thomas says: People, places, buildings, parties and situations can be gezellig:

  • Utrecht is zo gezellig.” (In this context could mean quaint, enjoyable, pleasurable – or a combination!)
  • Pieter’s feestje was echt gezellig.” (Pieter’s party was really awesome, had a great atmosphere, was spent in great company.)
  • “Marcel is een gezellige man.” (Possible meanings: entertaining, friendly, pleasant.)

The atmosphere (at a pub, for example) can be gezellig.  That feeling of a pleasant, friendly ambience and having a good time.

It can also refer to the notion of belonging, time spent with loved ones, seeing a friend after a long time apart, or general togetherness that gives a warm feeling.

Hey, even smoking can be gezellig!

It encompasses such a broad range of descriptions, emotions and uses that it simply cannot be translated to any other language in one word.

And what’s this Gezelligheid you speak of?

Gezellig is the adjective form and Gezelligheid is an abstract noun. So adding -heid roughly translates to -ness: coziness, togetherness, gezelligness.

Dus, ik zei het nog een keer: gezellig is gewoon gezellig.

So, I’ll say it again: gezellig is just gezellig.

Come to the Netherlands and experience it for yourself! Lijkt me gezellig!

Hayley x

I heart Amsterdam

We broke up. My (former) favourite city and I.

I didn’t fall out of love, it just became too difficult to maintain a long-distance relationship. Our love affair began in 2001, at University. We grew up together, formed a deep connection, an unbreakable bond… or so I thought. But then it was graduation and time to get a real job – I moved to Surrey. It was a sad farewell. We tried to make it work. I visited at weekends, whenever I could and we kept the sparkle going for longer than anyone expected… but as the years went on, we drifted further and further apart.

We had a good run, Brighton and I.

But things change, relationships move on, and you can only have one favourite city.

So, here’s the story of how Amsterdam wooed me…

Sex appeal || Street Art

You can go to the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum when it’s raining! If it’s not – walk. Amsterdam is a piece of art in itself!

The architecture, the canals, the people, the Street Art. Spend a day walking around Amsterdam and you’ll learn just how damn sexy it is. And I’m not even talking about the red light district!! Walk the entire length of the Prinsengracht  (one of Amsterdam’s three main canals) and you’ll experience countless pieces of modern art. Thought provoking, fun and above all: brand spanking new! These talented artists see a bit of blank wall or a garage front and create masterpieces. Not so great if you happen to own that garage or piece of wall, but hey, it’s all in the name of art.

Street Art, Prinsengracht, Amsterdam

Street Art, Prinsengracht, Amsterdam

One of my favourite pieces (pictured) can be found just 300m away from Anne Frank’s House. As you can *just* see, it’s number 185 on Prinsengracht. (Fingers crossed it’s still there!) This particular piece has suffered a bit of graffiti, but then again, what is graffiti and what is art?

If you’re really into it, you can even go on a Alltournative (ha ha!) Street Art and Graffiti Walking Tour.

Sense of humour || King’s Day 

Amsterdam isn’t afraid to be playful or to take the piss out of itself. The best day of the year to visit Amsterdam? 27th April. Without a doubt! On Koningsdag or King’s Day, aka Europe’s biggest street party, the whole city turns orange, otherwise known as oranjegekte (orange crazy). Yep, that’s right – lots of people will be dressed head-to-toe in orange! The sillier the better! Even the more modest people will bring / wear / buy at least something orange. Some people even dress their pets in the colour. Seriously.

The whole of the Netherlands is a massive party on this day, but nowhere more than in Amsterdam! The main roads are closed off to cars and trams so that crowds can party in the streets and there’s live music, LOTS of booze and an electric atmosphere wherever you go! You could even call it gezellig! 😉

To add another level of craziness, the whole city turns into an open air flea market for the day. Time to get rid of some old tat, or let the kids test their budding entrepreneurial skills!

Kings Day 2014

A typical King’s Day outfit

The biggest and most atmospheric vrijmarkt  (free market) is in Vondelpark. Can’t visit for King’s Day on 27th April? There’s a flea market on Waterlooplein 6 days a week. Buy some crazy orange stuff ready for next year!

The other amazing thing about King’s Day (even despite the date being moved – it was formerly Queen’s Day on 30th April) is that the sun always shines!! Now, I don’t want to jinx it… so work with me please, weather gods, but the last five King/Queen’s days have benefited from glorious weather, making it even more gezellig! (If that’s even possible!)

Good teeth || Food 

The third and probably most attractive quality of Amsterdam is the food. It’s a real food lovers paradise!

The Netherlands doesn’t have the best reputation for its grub, but in Amsterdam you’ll find culinary delights to suit every taste and budget! To try some traditional borrelhapjes (borrel  is drink and hapjes is small bites – so snacks to accompany an alcoholic drink) head to Nieuwmarkt. My absolute favourite area of Amsterdam!

Here you’ll find tons of cafes and kroegen (pubs) serving:

  • oude kaas (‘old’ mature cheese)
  • leverworst (liver sausage)
  • kaasstengels (literally: cheese sticks) or kaassoufflés (both based on deep-fried cheese) 
  • vlammetjes (spicy ground beef enveloped in a little parcel and deep-fried)
  • and of course bitterballen!! (Yup, you read the name of the blog, right?)

My favourite places to go are Gewaeght Cafe, Cafe Del Mondo and Cotton Club. The latter only serves drinks, but be sure to check out the toilets which are floor to ceiling tegeltjeswijsheid (Dutch wisdom tiles) very traditional and very funny!

IMG_2947

Looking for something more sophisticated? Try Woo Brothers at Jodenbreestraat 144. (They don’t have a website because they are TOO COOL and they don’t need to!) Asian food at its absolute best.

Oh, and don’t even *think* of leaving the country until you’ve tried patatje mayo (chips with mayonnaise). Get them from a street vendor; they’ll come in a cone, drowned in mayonnaise! Lekker!

What’s your favourite thing about Amsterdam? Or, if you haven’t been yet, what are you most looking forward to checking out?

Hayley x

Is it possible to get bored of Utrecht?

Clue: No.

On Sunday we went to Utrecht (again – which must be about my 123rd trip!) Ok, kidding, but I have been around 10 times… and for me, it never gets old. The reason? It’s just so darn pretty… even in dreary January!

Cyclists... loads of them!

See what I mean?

De Dom

De Dom

But honestly… the real reason we went to Utrecht? KFC!! I’m laughing as I write this, as it seems so ridiculous, even to me! But hey, I’m an expat and sometimes you miss things… and on Sunday, it was the Colonel and his not-so-secret recipe.

It’s an American chain, but in the UK, we have KFCs everywhere! Over 800, in fact. In the Netherlands? 44.

And the closest one to Hilversum? Poor me 😉 we HAD to to to Utrecht… 😉

I agree wholeheartedly with their slogan: 'So good'!

I agree wholeheartedly with their slogan: ‘So good’!

After the amazing chicken… (hot wings, in case you’re not a connoisseur like me) my happy KFC bubble was rudely disturbed when I went to the loo.

gdfg

Yup, you have to pay 50 cents to use the facilities! (That’s about 40p for English folks.) Normally, at motorway services or on King’s Day… this doesn’t bother me… because it means you’ll get a clean toilet. I get it. But not having any coins means going back to the counter to change a €5 note, after I’d just spent €15 in their establishment. That is annoying. And what if you didn’t have any cash on you? Arrrgggghhhh.

Anyway, rant over. Next stop was the Wolff (City) Cinema to see The Imitation Game.

Cute statue on the way to the cinema

Cute statue on the way to the cinema

What a cracker!! Seriously one of the best films I’ve seen in the last few years. I’ve heard of Benedict Cumberbatch – with a name like that – who hasn’t!? But I’d never seen him act before… and man, can he act! Quick synopsis: English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing, attempts to crack the Enigma code during World War II. If you haven’t seen it yet, go now! It hasn’t got a bazillion award nominations for nothing! Outstanding film.

Nothing to do with the film, but this cool building was close to the cinema.

Apparently a Bed Specialist... I just liked the building.

Apparently a bed specialist… I just liked the architecture.

And what to do post-cinema when it’s raining? Stop in the first pub you see, have a drink and discuss the film – of course!

blah

We stumbled upon Cafe de Bastaard and what a great place it is! Apparently it also has a small theatre. Very trendy, not too busy and loads of beers on offer, including my favourite: Kriek! (I’m a girl, so I’m allowed to like flavoured beer!)

The bar itself, as you may be able to see from the picture, is made of several long pieces of driftwood! Very cool, but I’m sure the uneven surface has caused a spillage or two, especially after a few drinks! A definite hidden gem!

blach

Where are your favourite spots in Utrecht? Any recommendations for me?

Hayley x

How to be English (or Weird Stuff English People Do)

© THOR / Creative Commons  / Attribution 2.0 Generic

© THOR / Creative Commons / Attribution 2.0 Generic

Happy New Year! Let’s kick off 2015 by poking fun at English people! Yep… I don’t only joke about Dutch idiosyncrasies… English people are pretty bloody weird as well! I should know…

Recently, I read two articles about being British by two Dutch bloggers. Now as much as I agree with many of their points and found myself laughing and nodding along… I thought seeing as I’m actually English, I’d like to stick my two pennies worth in…

Oh and as I’ve never been to Wales, Scotland or Ireland (shameful, I know!!) I’m not talking about being British here. I’m gonna stick to what I know… How to be English.

1. Be polite

If I had to guess the most frequently used words in England, I’d go for sorry, please and thank you. We say sorry ALL THE TIME… even when it’s not our fault!

2. Drink tea

We fucking LOVE tea. I only drink one cup a day, but I’m a freak. We’re the 3rd biggest tea drinking nation in the world, after Turkey and Ireland (source). English people think that tea solves everything… and it kinda does. Heartbroken? Tea. Lost your job? Tea. Mother-in-law coming over unannounced? Tea.

Oh… and when we say tea, we mean with milk. I’ve upset many a Dutch person by putting milk in their tea. In England – it’s standard. So if you’d like it zonder melk  you’ll need to specify. And yes, you will get a funny look.

Proper English tea and toast... with marmite!

Proper English tea and toast… with marmite!

3. Queue

Yup, we love that too. Well, we don’t actually love it… but refer back to point 1. We’re so polite, the thought of taking someone else’s turn or pushing in terrifies us!

4. Talk about the weather

Because there’s not a lot else to make small talk about… and the weather is always so shit. I find that Dutch people talk a lot about the weather too, but they just take it a step further than us with the phrase “kut weer”. Yep, it translates to cunt weather.

5. Call people love or darling

Or sweetheart, treacle, pet… whatever takes your fancy. It can also vary depending on whereabouts you are in England. “Alwight, luv?” is pretty commonly used throughout. (These greetings are not intended to be offensive or sexist by the way – just friendly – though they are often perceived that way.)

6. Eat Baked Beans & Marmite (sometimes even together!!)

A staggering 1.5 million cans of Heinz Beanz are sold every day in the UK (source) and the United Kingdom eats more cans of baked beans than the rest of the world combined (source). Jeez, Louise!

Marmite… the light of my life! It’s slogan, ‘Love it or hate it’ is perfect for us because we love to love stuff as much as we love to hate stuff. We love complaining, we do.

7. Eat traditional English cuisine grub

See point 6 😉 We English get a very bad rep for our food, but we’ve come a long way in recent years. You only have to look at programmes like Masterchef UK to see that we’re producing some bloody good food these days!

That said, it’s also important to know the classic and traditional dishes… So if you haven’t tried them yet, here’s your checklist: Full English Breakfast, Bangers and Mash, Shepherds/Cottage Pie, Sunday Roast Dinner, Pie & Mash, Ploughman’s Lunch, Toad in the Hole (nothing to do with toads!!) and Fish and Chips. You’re welcome.

8. Know what Yorkshire puddings are

A sweet treat from Yorkshire? Nope. Batter poured into pre-heated cake tins, cooked in the oven and served with a traditional Sunday roast dinner. About as savoury as they come. (Image source.)

© robbie jim / Creative Commons / Attribution 2.0 Generic

© robbie jim / Creative Commons / Attribution 2.0 Generic

9. Learn the pub culture

And by this I am talking about actual pubs… not pubbing/clubbing… I’m way too old for that shit! I’m talking about taking a nice stroll to your local pub on a Sunday afternoon, with the dog – if you have one – and sitting in the sun (ok, mild drizzle under a pub umbrella) or by the roaring fire in the winter. If you’re in a rural town, bonus points for spotting the elderly local gentleman with his flat cap, newspaper and pint of ale… which takes him about 3 hours to drink.

Going to the pub in the daytime is about having a walk, getting some fresh air and socialising… not about getting hammered. We save that for the evening.

10. Avoid pork scratchings

You’ll thank me for this one! Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. Just ew. Especially when you find one with hair still attached. Step away from the pork scratchings.

11. Party etiquette

In short: bring your own booze.

English party food in a nutshell… it’ll probably be a buffet: sandwiches cut into triangles – especially weird – cucumber sandwiches, cheese and pineapple, vol-au-vents (yes, it’s a French word, but no English person says vols-au-vent), mini cocktail sausages, sausage rolls. Or if it’s a kids party you’ll be treated to the 70’s delicacy which is still going strong: jelly and ice cream.

12. Say “lovely” a lot

Even when you don’t mean it. Also, fine does not mean fine. You have been warned. If someone says they’re fine, they are massively pissed at you.

13. Wear whatever you like, whatever the weather

English people don’t dress for the weather. Especially the young’uns. A 20-something going clubbing won’t look out the window and think “oh, it’s a bit cold for a short skirts and high heels tonight” even if it’s freezing winter. They’ll just go out in a top, skirt and heels and wear their ‘beer bacardi breezer jacket’ instead. I should know, I only stopped doing it 3 years ago 😉

14. Be bad at languages

We’re notorious for it… and it’s true. I was in Spain last week and The Dutchie and I learnt the basics so we could at least order a drink in Spanish and be polite. I was a bit ashamed when every other English person I heard did the classic English tourist thing: speaking LOUDER and SLOWER.

Yeah, that’ll make Spanish people suddenly understand English. *Facepalm*.

15. Know that ‘public schools’ are actually private schools

Makes total sense, right? I know… we’re weirdos.

16. Understand our sense of humour

This basically means balancing sarcasm and self-deprecation along with deadpan delivery. They don’t call it dry wit for nothing.

Oh, and don’t forget innuendo and satire! Still don’t get it? Try this Buzzfeed article.

beer-will-change-the-world-posters

17. Panic and stay at home if it snows

Fact: we cannot cope with snow. When it snows the whole country comes to a standstill.

18. Talk about Europe as if you’re not in it

Phrases I have actually heard English people say: “He has a really European haircut!”, “That cardigan you’re wearing makes you look so European!”, “I’d love to go to Europe”.

19. Be obsessed by Downton Abbey

Ok, this is only for the chicks, but it’s still a very important fact of being English. It’s what Sundays on ITV at 9pm were made for…

20. Have no idea why Boxing Day is called Boxing Day

*Quickly checks wikipedia*

So… you lot are good are telling me what I missed. So, what’d I miss?? What other weird stuff do English people do?

Hayley x

Ps – Special thanks to Explorista.nl and Anna Naomi Blogs for planting the seed for this post.

Home Comforts

Happy Monday!

I’ve been selected as a finalist for AngloINFO’s #homecomforts competition! The winner receives a year of shopping from the British Corner Shop… a very exciting prize for an English girl who is missing home!

It’s a tough competition between the five finalists so I’d be very grateful for your vote! All you need to do is click on the picture below and then “like” it on Facebook! Easy peasy!

Proper English tea and toast... with marmite!

Proper English tea and toast… with marmite!

You have until Wednesday 5th November to vote!

Thanks in advance for your support!

Hayley x