VISITING HOLLAND

The official name is The Kingdom of the Netherlands, but you can call it Holland.  North and South Holland are actually two of the major provinces, but the simple name Holland is widely used. It’s a relatively small country which takes about three hours to drive across.

 

Almost half of the country is man made.  They would section off a squared area on the water front and into the water itself; then build a long hill out of rubble and soil (a dyke), before fashioning a pump using a windmill to dredge the water out of the holding pool.  Once it was drained out, they would plant reed grass to draw out the salt in the soil and voila, new land.  They don’t use the windmills anymore, but modern pumps.

It takes about seven years of planting and replanting to make the soil arable.  Therefore a lot of the country is what used to be – the sea bed, with a huge dyke holding back the North Sea at the top of Holland.

 

The Dutch are very gregarious and charming, and pretty well all of them speak English.  The Dutch language is notoriously difficult to learn, so just as well.

Prepare for 3 kisses on the cheek upon meeting; from side to side and back again.

Most of them are very tall, with the average being 6 foot 2, or 1 88 meters.  This height is demonstrated when you can only see your eyebrows in mirrors, and how high the urinals are on the wall.  You can find extra long legged jeans and very high, knee high boots.

You will be greeted with three kisses, from cheek to cheek and back again.  They are very friendly and calm, with no exaggerated body language or flailing of arms when they speak.  Even large, mean looking bikers are usually very sweet and pleasant.

If you are new in town, you will find them to be private people who separate work and friendship.  Days are organised with activities placed in a rota system, with time for private endeavours, as well as social and work time built in.

 

Equality rates high on their list, as well as tolerance and acceptance.  As long as you don’t cause bother to anyone else, you will be allowed to be whoever you want to be.

No one is better than anyone else in Dutch society. If you see a famous footballer, you would never ask him for his autograph.  It is just not done.

There is no real poverty and the rich are not allowed to get too rich.  If you do make a fortune, you very much keep it to yourself and never ever flaunt your wealth or possessions.

They dress in a conservative manner and say ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes’.  Due to cool, misty, damp conditions, they don’t fuss over hairdos, elegant clothes or fancy shoes.  It’s about keeping feet and head dry.

Women often wear no make up, with hair pulled back, wearing hooded garments and reliable shoes.  Something you can hop on a bike with and pedal across town.

 

Kids are brought up without gender restrictions and encouraged to explore and exert their individuality. Parents and government do not give kids money, as they are expected to work. Most move out at 18 and live on own.  If they go to University, they may take two or three jobs to help pay their way.

 

A Dutch person will happily help you if you ask, but will not offer help. This is because they believe in social and personal space.

If your jacket falls off chair in restaurant, to tell you would be an intrusion.  To put it back may embarrass you and be like saying you are inept.

They can be blunt, opinionated and frank, using no embellishments or political correctness.  Their sense of humour is direct and sarcastic. They are just very witty people with high intelligence.

 

Homes are very much form and function.  They will be spotless with clean elegant interiors. Curtains are left wide open to show nothing sinful is going on.

People work to live, not live to work.  It is not a credit card society and they are not materialistic. Most women only work part time, so either man pays for things or they live frugally.  You need to have free time.

Due to this lack of materialism, they can be very thrifty and hate waste.

In a restaurant, the price of ketchup and mustard can sometimes be written on menu.

Ask for second serviette at your peril.

 

In restaurants, waiters won’t stand over you.  You must wave to them, as they don’t want to invade personal space and privacy.

Wherever you go, the place will be clean, service will be good, and coffee will be fresh and served with one biscuit.  You will find standards to be very consistent.

Look for a shop that sells chips in paper cone. You chose your size and then your sauce.  They normally put mayonnaise on everything.

It’s also a good place to try different types of Liquorice, as they spend €135 million a year on the stuff.

Beer is always served with a two finger head of foam, which they scrape off with a knife.  Heineken, Amstel and Grolsch are the most popular, and the bubbles show that the beer is fresh.

 

You can find 17 million bicycles in Holland, where you can ride along 10,000 kms of bike paths.  Being very flat and full of safe, well marked bike paths, it is a great place to pedal, though Amsterdam can be a bit insane. Bikes have full right of way and you are expected to keep up.

There are 10,000 houseboats in the country.  These arrived after an extreme post war housing shortage. The canals are used for parades, tourism, transport, ice-skating.

Houses can be narrow and high, with flat roofs and gables for decoration.  In the past there was a tax on square footage, so they tended to build up instead of paying out.

I recommend getting out of the main cities and into the countryside if you can.  The villages are wonderful and peaceful.  Even Amsterdam is full of quiet streets and canal side cafes.  You just need to get out of the tourist areas to get the full feel of this little bit of utopia.