Some things I’ve learned in The Netherlands so far

  • My brain will need more than the four days I’ve been here to process that I live here now. With a bike, near a beach, amid Dutch people, a soon-to-be-student. I’m constantly half expecting to wake up. I hope I won’t.
  • Having a bike is awesome. I know you all know that, I was just in denial. Also, this here is Fietsers’ Paradise (feel free to sing to the tune of Gangsters’ Paradise if you must). Not that I didn’t in theory already know that, but, you know, it’s rad that it’s flat, and there are bike paths everywhere (including bicycle roundabouts and bicycle traffic lights complete with buttons to push), and drivers respect riders as other traffic participants rather than annoying slow things that should be crushed. So far, I’m not missing the helmet.
  • The Dutch appear to be a remarkably healthy bunch. It boggles my mind (especially since they also appear to eat their fair share of fried foods), but I’ve seen very few blobby people, few who seem unhealthy or unfit or in bad shape or not looking after themselves. It’s impressive. This recovering couch, er, desk potato can learn a lot here. (I know, the bike’s a start.)
  • My downstairs neighbor’s definition of “speaking English” is starting a sentence with 2 English words and then reverting to Dutch. Funnily, that is exactly the way my grandmother used to “speak English”, just with Swiss German instead of Dutch. She’s rather communicative, so by the time my Dutch class comes around (in 2 weeks) I might not need it.
  • I was really weirded out (and slightly disgusted) by the Dutch word for body, lichaam – it reminds me either of lichen or of Leichnam, the German word for dead body; but then I realized the German word Körper isn’t exactly pretty and sensuous either. We’re even, Dutch.
  • Current favorite Dutch word: kippenvel.
  • I’m reaching some of the limits of minimalist living. Today I gave up on having just 1 pair of pants. Tomorrow I’ll get a second towel too. One towel just doesn’t do it, especially once it’s full of sand and because I haven’t yet figured out the laundry situation (no washing machine in building).
  • The large supermarket around my corner has: no pencil sharpeners and no non-lined paper (which surprised me); bicycle repair sets (which should not surprise me); a little bit of decent chocolate (but not my favorite kind, so I’m hopeful I can ignore it); spiced kroepoek (which I hadn’t known to exist and will now attempt to forget again, because it’s even better than the “naked” kind); an exhilaratingly rich selection of dairy, milk, yoghurts, buttermilk, etc etc that has caused me to experimentally re-evaluate my supposed slight lactose intolerance; and a respectable palette of cheeses too, which have led me to decide that I’m not going to look down on Dutch cheese by default anymore. (When you’re Swiss, disdain for other countries’ cheeses comes as a factory default.)
  • I’m so far keeping my disdain for the bread on offer here, but I haven’t looked further than the supermarket yet. Next stop will be de Bakkerswinkel which is not far from my home (“my home”, whoa) and appears to have good stuff (and, perhaps more importantly, two cats).
  • I still, invariably, suck at foosball, especially when challenged before coffee.
  • Most importantly: Yes; I like it here. More than I expected, in fact.


  1. Nina it’s pretty cool to read your adventures in Holland! I’m also staring my MA in Reading and we’re moving at the end of this week! I expect to have a similar culture shock, added to the left hand side driving which already gives me nightmares. I’ll keep checking back to see how you get on! Congratulations! Sol

  2. Wot? You’re looking down on our cheese?? How dare you.. don’t buy cheese at the supermarket though; go to a specialized cheese shop (and not the tourist trappy stuff :) and buy some extra belegen boerenkaas or brandnetel geitenkaas :)

  3. Sorry if I’ve insulted your national cheese pride, Thies (I know how it feels ;) ). Thing is I never realized there’s such a rich variety of good Dutch cheese – the only Dutch cheese I really knew was relatively boring (sorry) kinds of Gouda imported into Germany. Glad to stand corrected now, anyway. Thanks for the pointers :)

  4. Do NOT buy bread at the supermarket. Go to a bakkerij or banketbakkerij. And sorry to say, but chocolate is infinitely better in Belgium. Even better than that wannabe Swiss kind (runs off, cackling with mad laughter). :D

    • Yes, I’m sorry to admit but there are quite some ‘lekkernijen’ better in Belgium: chocolate, fries, beer… hm, maybe you should’ve moved to Belgium ;)

  5. Do try the ‘Haagse Hopjes’ sometime. Old fashioned local candy that I really like, even though it’s become a bit of a tourist trappy thing. And stroopwafels from Gouda are also a typical Dutch treat for sweet tooths!

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