No.66: Happy Dutch babies

14566311498_2abeb94fc8_kWe’ve mentioned before that the Dutch are a generally happy bunch. Apparently the weather, the directness of their compatriots, and even the food – doesn’t  get them down!  Dutch women and Dutch children consistently rank amongst the happiest in the world (and we suspect their fellas do too).

This week some brainy scientists published the results of their new brainy research and it turns out that Dutch babies laugh, smile and like to cuddle more than their American counterparts. As you can imagine, the American press was in overdrive, “how could this possibly be?!” and “who the heck are the Dutch anyways?!;)

On top of their cuddliness and content nature, Dutch  babies “demonstrated greater expressions of happiness” and were in fact, “easier to calm or soothe when upset”.

Having experience my own “Dutch birth” and raising a child in the lowlands, there are marked differences in how the Dutch have and rear their babies. Many of our appointments at the Consulatatiebureau (aka: regular baby development appointments) have emphasized the Dutch people’s age-old parenting beliefs of the “3 Rs”: Rust, Reinheid en Regelmaat (which roughly translate to: rest, cleanliness and routine). I’ve found the advice to be both obvious and effective – in an above-all practical Dutch way.

Most interesting in the study was its possible explanation for the differences:

“A cultural emphasis on cognitive stimulation may lead U.S. infants to be more active and aroused than their Dutch counterparts. American infants also demonstrated higher levels of fear, frustration, and sadness.”

Anyone who has spent any time around Dutch parents know that flashcards, helicopter parenting, and the pursuit of stimulation are not high on their list. And so they shouldn’t!

Give those poor American babies a rest! Stop shaking those over-priced “developmental toys” in their chubby little faces. Stop with the Baby Einstein, the baby in-utero CDs and  all that other garbage on those ubiquitous “top 50 lists for making your baby ‘that-much-more’ smarter”. I think both the babes – and their parents – will appreciate some much needed down-time!

Rest assured Americans: the worst outcome will be a slighty-more-Dutch-child, whose first word may be “gezellig”!! ;)  

No. 65: Social Policing

It was one of those days. I was suppose to be catching an international flight in less than 2 hours. The taxi I had ordered was no where to be found but that was the least of my worries as I flew around my apartment stuffing random items into an over-sized suitcase. My father’s voice rang through my head “I think you like the drama of being late”. As I panicked to find my passport, the buzzer rang. I grabbed my bags and ran for the door. A full garbage bag caught my eye and I threw it over my shoulder and headed downstairs.

Outside, I glanced at my watch and threw the garbage bag on the curb. As I walked towards the cab, I heard someone yelling loudly over my shoulder. I glanced back and saw an middle-age Dutch man running towards me, arms flailing madly around him. Huh? What could he possibly want? Was that a garbage bag he was running towards me with!?  As he got closer I could feel his rage without even deciphering his tirade of angry guttural words: It was 15:00 and garbage was only to be put on the street AFTER 18:00!!!” He marched up to the cab, threw the bag at my window, before yelling ASO!!” and storming off.

Wagging-Finger-2That was my first encounter with what I like to refer to as Dutch Social Policing (mixed with a nasty temper, in this case). Dutch people have a penchant for getting up in everyone else’s business. Living in Amsterdam, on top of each other, doesn’t help the situation much.

The Dutch have a certain code of unwritten rules and social etiquette that must be closely observed at all times. To maintain order in a tiny over-crowded country, everyone must abide by the rules. If you don’t, you can be sure a Dutchie will call you out on it.

I must say, I do have respect for this system but having not grown-up in such a sphere, I still have a hard time getting used to the finger-wagging and seemingly tattle-tale like behavior. One can’t help but feel like a scorned child when you are sharply told, not once but twice, by complete strangers that “drinking tea on a tram is NOT allowed”. Really? Come on! Does my quiet tea-sipping truly bother you? ..So much that you had to get up, out of your seat, and come all this way to say something?! Might I ask if you get paid for extra-curricular civil servant duties?

Or how about my favourite topic: the speaking of Dutch. “Should I be speaking Dutch if I live here?” “Oh, really. Thank-you, complete stranger, that never crossed my mind!!”

“Is my child going to go to Dutch school?” “Why, random-person-standing-next-to-me-in-line, thanks for asking. Perhaps we should go grab a coffee, become BFFs, and I can tell you all about my life.”

This ain't gonna get you far in the Lowlands!

This ain’t gonna get you far in the Lowlands!

I’ll never forget seeing a fairly rough-looking British tourist on the metro with his feet on the seat in front of him. As the metro chugged on, various Dutch passengers would approach him to tell him that this was clearly not allowed. He’d glance at each of them in an utterly bored manner and continue about his business -feet remaining firmly planted on the seat.

After about 5 stops, and 5 different lectures, an older Dutch couple marched up to him and told him loudly in English that “he should remove his feet immediately!” He finally looked up, and said loudly Really? Now what the f@# are you going to do about it?” The entire metro erupted into loud (Dutch) chatter of shock and anger. Someone summoned the driver and the next thing you know the disobedient infidele was promptly escorted off the metro, his exit met with hearty applause. (Clearly the older Dutch couple knew exactly “what the f@#$ they were going to do about it!!” ;)

And so dear readers, is this another endearing culture oddity one will come to appreciate over time? The Netherland works:  its systems are efficient and effective, its streets safe, its parks clean. Do we have to put up with a little over-zealous good samaritanism in order to enjoy such spoils of luxury???

No. 64: New Year’s Eve madness

Of course leave it to the Dutch to celebrate New Year’s Eve (Oud en Nieuw) in their own particular way! Let’s look at two of the most insane weird yummy scary notable traditions of the evening:



Eat up, my friends!

Who doesn’t love deep-fried balls of dough covered in powdered sugar?!? The direct translation of this Dutch treat is “oily balls” and aptly sums up these calorie bombs.

Oliebollen take on a dumpling-type shape and resemble a homemade doughnut of sort. As soon as the temperature drops in the Netherlands, enterprising Dutchies set up outdoor market stands and sell these sweet treats on every corner. The smell alone will have your mouth watering, even before you can stuff one in your face. Traditionally these doughy lumps are made, and ate, at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Historically speaking, they are said to have been first eaten by Germanic tribes in the Netherland between December 26 and January 6. During this time, the Germanic goddess Perchta would fly through the sky with evil spirits. Apparently to appease these nasty spirits good ol’ oliebollen were offered. Perchta would try to slice open the bellies of anyone she came across, but luckily her sword would simply slide off  the bellies of those who had ate the fatty balls of oil!!

Need to fight some evil spirits of your own? Check out our fool-proof recipe!

Sure, most countries celebrate New Year’s Eve with fireworks but make no mistake: this ain’t your pretty little light show put on by the local municipality! No, no my friends, this is more along the lines of COMPLETE-AND-UTTER-EXPLODING -CHAOS!

Dutchies young and old take to the streets, the parks, the public squares - essentially everywhere and anywhere – and literally start blowing shit UP! The first words that will come to most expats/tourists/foreigners lips when describing the evening of the 31st is “war zone”, and in fact, it’s not too far from the truth. The Dutch sky starts to light up after dark, and the clangs and bangs don’t stop until the wee wee hours of the morning.

Gotta love the Dutch humor in this one! "Anyone for a crash-course in braille??"

Gotta love the Dutch humor in this one! “Anyone for a crash-course in braille??”

Is it not dangerous, you ask? Why, yes it is!! Last year, the Dutch government reported that over 700 people were injured: 5 hands amputated, several fingers removed, 236 eye injuries (91 of them with permanent damage) and 23 cases of blindness. Oh and 190 ambulances were dispatched, 270 police cars, and 233 firetrucks. So, yes my friend, there is indeed a lot of action on this night! 

It seems however, that the Dutchies are divided on this issue. Oh really, sounds familar!  In a recent survey, 50% of Dutch people  would like to see more restrictions on the festivities, whereas the 50% are staunch defenders of this beloved “Dutch tradition”. Perhaps a few more lost eyes, will swing the vote? ;) ;)

Wherever (and however) you celebrate tonight my dear readers, make it a good one!!


Stuff Dutch People Like – The Book!

Book_cover3We are thrilled to announce that our second edition of Stuff Dutch People Like - the book, is hot off the press!  With more content, more graphics and more fun, it is sure to not disappoint! 

More importantly, this Saturday we are officially launching the second edition in Amsterdam at the The American Book Center! We’ve worked hard to have it just in time for the season of gift-giving! :)

If you are in Amsterdam don’t miss the chance to get a signed copy and join in the gezelligheid. We’ve made sure to arrange lots of our favourite Dutch stuff for the event – yummy Dutch cheese, steamy bitterballen, fresh gooey stroopwafels, and drinks of course! It has been said that Dutchies love free stuff….so if that doesn’t sound like a party, I don’t know what would! ;)

Date: Saturday 29 November
Time: 15:00
Where: The American Book Center, Spui 12, Amsterdam

You can RSVP on our Facebook event page - or just show up for the fun!

If you can’t make it you are, of course, welcome to buy the book here! 

Looking forward to see you there!!

p.s. Yes, our good ol’ friend Zwarte Piet is no longer on the cover.
p.p.s. Why? We are as sick of discussing him – as you are!!