A Hoosier's Observations while in Holland
- The Dutch are extremely helpful. If you go to a Dutch person with a problem (translations, directions, etc.), they will
do everything in their power to help you. They will go out of their way not only to help you, but to make sure that you
understand every detail in the explanation.
- Despite the helpfulness described above, the Dutch can also be reserved. I'm used to walking down the street in the States and nodding and smiling
at people that I pass and getting something similar in reply. Here, if I nod and smile at a Dutch passerby, I get a look
like I'm some kind of maniac or alien from outer space.
- This observation comes more from trips back to the States. While over here, I find myself immediately drawn towards any
overheard conversations in English. I've had to train myself not to do this when I'm back in the States. Otherwise, I
try to hear every conversation going on. It's a weird feeling to be back listening to so much English.
- The shades are almost never drawn on the rather large windows in Dutch dwellings. It's said that this is so people
can look in and see how well the people are doing that live there. You can be walking down the street looking at the shops
when all of sudden you realize that you're looking inside someone's apartment. All you can do (if caught) is smile with
embarrassment and continue on (hoping that the next window is again for a shop).
- Bicycles Rule! If you come to a street crossing that doesn't have a traffic light,
cars will stop for you to cross the street. Bikes will not. They will not slow down.
They will not swerve to avoid you. Most (if not all) of the Dutch ride their bikes.
They rule the bike lanes with imperious immunity. If you don't get out of their way,
you will be hit and it will be your fault. Crossing the bike lane is not for the faint of heart.
- Bicycles get stolen! I am planning on getting a bike once I get settled in.
However, I am being warned that I shouldn't buy a new bike, as it is almost certain to be stolen.
Bikes seem to be a very hot commodity, especially given the love affair the Dutch have with their bikes.
What you see all over the city are the city bikes, not the touring bikes. They are complete with fenders
and very sturdy bodies.
- Be creative in ridding yourself of a ton of change! The lowest paper denomination is 10 NLG. So, anything less than that is dealt out in coins. This means that you can easily end up with a ton of change. You have to be aware of the amount of change in your pocket so that you can manage to keep it a minimum. So, don't immediately go for the wallet to pay for something. Figure out a way of using the change in your pocket first.
- Rotterdam is a very modern city! This is mainly due to Rotterdam being mostly destroyed during World War II. While this then is heroic, it also is a main reason as to why I wanted to live somewhere else like Delft or Utrecht. I want to try and get a truer European flavor during my stay. I have gotten some encouragement from some Dutch friends in this endeavor.
- English is spoken in most places, but you'd better start picking up Dutch! For one thing, Train announcements are in Dutch. Another problem is that you are signing contracts (apartment, bank, insurance, etc.) in Dutch. Also, let's face it; it is the proper thing to do. (For all of you in the States who complain about people not speaking English there, how soon would you begin learning Dutch if you were in my shoes?)
- I think I'm going to have trouble with the hard "g"! Yes, it sounds like someone is getting ready to hock a Louie. There are times when I hear Dutch conversations and I can't believe the sound. I will practice, but it's going to be a hard one for me. I always worry about exaggerating a strange sound in another language and offending my hosts. We have been picking up some Dutch words. These mostly have to do with housing (te huur, slapkammer, etc.) and food (kip, kerrie, etc.)
- Beware of the inspection ledge on most Dutch toilets! You figure it out.
- Wherever you go in the world, you have to deal with bureaucracy! In order to get a driver's license, we have to have the Dutch equivalent of a Social Security Number. In order to do that you have to meet with the Foreign Police. In order to do that, you have to register with the Town Hall. In order to do that, you need an apartment in said town, plus your passport, birth certificate, a letter from your company saying that you work for them, and the lease contract. In order have get your apartment, you have to make sure that the lease contract contains the "diplomatic clause". And, you need various combinations of the above to get your air shipment and your sea shipment through customs.
- To American ears, some Dutch names are hard to pick up! And, those Dutch with such names are the ones who will say their name especially fast. I think that they like the look of utter stupidity on an American's face when they give their names at light speed.