I have to confess that I didn’t know much about the Netherlands before I came here in January. I had been to Holland once before and that was while I was living in Germany and my host family took me to a zoo in the middle of a city. I can’t tell you the name of that city but I do remember seeing tulips, a windmill, and eating fries.
When the opportunity came for me to live in Amsterdam to go to Knowmads I knew pretty much nothing about the country, the culture, or the people. I only knew 1 Dutch person before I moved here and she was on my basketball team at George Mason University for 1 year so I didn’t get to pick her brain much about what her home country was like. What I’ve come to realize is that she is very typical Dutch. Tall, thin, light hair, and I remember her speaking funny when she spoke in her mother tongue. She also had a really weird last name that was pronounced nothing like it looked (Kooij). She told us to pronounce it like ‘koi.’
I didn’t know much about Amsterdam coming here. When I told my friends and people I worked with where I was going I heard 2 things: canals and bike paths everywhere. The other thing that stuck was that I was warned to stay off the bike paths unless I wanted to get hit by a bike.
So after 8 months of being here (wow I cannot believe I’ve been away from home this long), I’m finally starting to get the hang of this whole Dutch thing. I’ve become an absolute pro at making left hand turns on my bike. I’ve ate more french fries in these 8 months then I have in the last few years (I rarely ate fries). And I’m turning into a hagelslag lover.
Chocolate sprinkles. And the Dutch know their sprinkles. They have a bigger selection of sprinkles then we Americans have of peanut butters. And sprinkles aren’t for ice cream here as one would think. Nope, the sprinkles are for their bread…in the morning. Take some bread, put on a layer of butter, and then pour…keep pouring, now pour a bit more of the hagelslag on your bread until you end up with a very thick layer of sprinkles.
When I first encountered this strange procedure, I thought it was the weirdest thing. How could sprinkles on bread ever taste good? I thought about how in America we eat donuts with sprinkles but they’re never really my cup of tea (I love the boston cremes). However, my motto is “When in Rome…” so a couple of months ago I finally had my first hagelslag bread. The verdict: quite delicious.
So much in fact that the hagelslag was the main factor of me never going completely paleo when I first started the paleo lifestyle. Now it seems if there’s bread around and sprinkles it immediately has to go in my belly. I try to keep reminding myself, “moderation, moderation, moderation.” I’ve seemed to be eating more sprinkles than normal because I ended up opening the 2 packages of sprinkles I was going to send home to the family. Sorry fam, Kristin got to it first (but that’s to be expected). Here’s what you could’ve experienced it.
- Fun surprise that they came in little boxes!
- So adorable! They’re like raisin boxes.
Another thing I want to share with you is cold water sinks. Not sure the intention behind only having cold water available in the bathrooms. I’m assuming that whatever the intention it’s probably shared with the non-central heating here in Europe as well. Probably something to do with the environment, maybe? I don’t know. My brain doesn’t really care, it just thinks it’s silly.
Bathroom sink at Knowmads. Notice also how tiny the sink is too. Things are much bigger in America.
Living here for quite a few months has also gotten me to spot the ‘typical Dutch’ things, like the bakfiets, 3 kids and a parent on 1 bike, and the look of the people. I had no idea coming here that the Dutch were known for their good looks. Apparently it’s a land full of tall beautiful people. It took me some time but I have discovered there are 2 types of typical dutch guys. I feel that I’ve gotten quite good at spotting the Dutch in someone. If you asked me to pick the Dutch guy from a line-up I’d feel pretty confident I’d get the right guy.
It’s usually 1 of 2 things that make me say “oh ya, they’re Dutch.” The most popular or one could say dominant in the Dutch gene pool is the skinny face. I can’t really describe what it is but I think it has something to do with the middle of their face. Here’s an example of a typical Dutch guy. This is Tom (pronounced very quickly like ringing a bell). He’s in my tribe and I didn’t ask permission to use his picture on my blog so I hope he doesn’t mind being featured.
Tom is very Dutch. It was also 8am when this picture was taken
The other very Dutch style looks nothing like Tom but I’ve been noticing the look a lot lately. If you don’t know, the Dutch have a lot of redheads. I think it’s borderline normal to be a redhead around here unlike it is back in the states and pretty much every except Ireland. So that is why the following look is also ‘typical dutch.’ This is Jord who is on the council at Knowmads. Again, I didn’t ask permission so I hope he doesn’t mind
Jord: very Dutch
The Dutch girls are a little bit harder to pick from a crowd. Their genes seemed to be a little more mixed than the men’s. But if they’re tall and skinny, you pretty much have a 95% chance that they’re Dutch.
The last thing I want to discuss is the canals and architecture which never seem to get old to me around here. I always find them beautiful and it always reminds me where I am. Never taking for granted that I get to live abroad and experience a different culture filled with weird noises, tons of bikes, and different types of sprinkles.
View from the De Ijsbreaker cafe in Amsterdam East. This is the Amstel river.