More things I’ve learned in The Netherlands so far


  • I need to update my “best fries I’ve had in my life” statistic (until now, the award has been held by a tiny hole in the wall – actually someone’s kitchen – somewhere in Derry, Northern Ireland, 1996). I get the feeling I may have to update it multiple times in the coming year, but right now the award goes to the first fish stand from the north end on the boulevard in Scheveningen. I don’t know that it has a name, but it’s round and they use a lot of Helvetica and Comic Sans, and some amazing spiced salt (I think) on the fries that makes them even better, fresh chunky fried things that they are.
  • OMG kibbeling! I love kibbeling. Crispy on the outside and super tender on the inside. (Oh, and it goes really well with fries. Did I mention how good the fries are?)
  • Generally, I’m not entirely tired yet of only having a minimally functional kitchen (all my pots and stuff are still in storage). For one thing, readymade salads from Albert Heijn are way better than those from Coop in Switzerland. Sorry Coop. Predictably, my favorite is aardbeisalade, mixed salad (feat. spinach, I think) with strawberries and creamy goat cheese (I just wish they wouldn’t put entirely flavor-free overcooked pasta in the bottom of the bowl, presumably to make it more filling).
  • To switch over to the non-food department (phew): I’ve always enjoyed hearing church bells through the window (nothing religious, I just love the sound, it probably connects to home/childhood somehow). De Grote Kerk is a real treat to live near – it plays lovely chimes and little tunes, and at midday there’s some veritable music coming from its bells. I’ve started looking forward to hearing it every day.
  • I generally enjoy having the windows open when I’m home, and let the sounds of the city in. Voices, some traffic. The occasional clop-clop of horse carriages with happy tourists; the (seemingly sterner) clop-clop of riding police(wo)men. The cries of seagulls. A semi-sax-savvy neighbor across the street recently practising “Take Five” over and over. The guys renovating the restaurant downstairs hammering and talking and playing funny music, including Nirvana and Rammstein (one band I wasn’t necessarily expecting to hear here).
  • The other side of the apartment, where my bedroom is, mostly features the (very) nearby cooing of pigeons, which usually wake me in the morning & hence aren’t quite as popular with me as the horses and seagulls and Rammstein-playing hammering men.
  • I had forgotten how unfunny it is to get suncream, mixed with sweat, in my eyes. Note to self: Going on a bike trip? Just risk the damn sunburn.
  • Generally, I have not made the (often deplored) observation that foreigners instantly get spoken to in English here. I usually try to speak my current brand of kindergarden Dutch, and unless I give in and say that I’ll have to continue in English because I haven’t understood a question or something, the conversation will carry on in Dutch. I like that. I like Dutch, too. I don’t necessarily find it a “beautiful” language, but it’s really fun to learn, and it’s cool how it teaches me things about my own language (and English) too. For instance, I would like to thank the Dutch word gordijn for making me realize that German Gardine and English curtain are related. (Little language epiphany at IKEA.)
  • They sure like letters here. Interesting lettering pops up in the most unexpected places (like this railway underpass in Delft). Buildings in town also often feature interesting lettering, much of which has already been documented tenfold among my Flickr peeps, but I’m taking photos anyway, looking voraciously. Then returning home to draw type. Can’t wait to enter letterland for real.
  • I just realized that I used the word “home” without even thinking about it. See? I’m arriving.
  • Overall, life has been getting a bit more “life”-like (feat. stuff to take care of, health insurance, rental cars, other people’s whiny kids at IKEA) and a bit less exclusively “omg omg awesome vacation”-like, but I’m happy here – my current view is that I wouldn’t mind if the rest of my life was an endless summer in The Hague. This summer in The Hague.


    • People always say that, but I found the friets, and food in general, in Belgium disappointing.

      The best fries for me remain in Amsterdam, at a place called “de Belg,” across from the landmark Tuschinski theater off Rembrantplein.

      Maybe that’s where people got the idea the best friets are in Belgium. ;)

  1. Get the Ultrasun sunscreen. White label, black letters, red dot, blue graphic sun image. It’s thick and won’t run into your eyes. Apply 30 minutes before going out :-)

    Welkom in Nederland.

  2. Speaking of the Dutch love of letters, the Beurs van Berlage stands as the masterpiece of the architect H.P. Berlage, who designed every last detail, down to the furniture, wallpaper, and—of particular interest to yourself—even the typeface used all over the building.

    You can rent quite reasonable workspaces there. It’s worth taking a tour of the workspaces if just to see these hidden details you don’t get as a tourist. If you contact me, I can refer you to the contact person there.

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