Stuff Dutch People Like

No. 63: 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!! 

A tribute to Antoine van Veldhuizen, a Dutch friend lost on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17

In times like this, the only thing I know how to do is write…and so today I will share a very personal post:

I first met Antoine when I was 23, eleven years ago. I was fresh off the boat from Canada, and he was fresh to his job as director at a small online start-up. We met with equal enthusiasm, spirit and the sense of possibility. It was an exciting time and I was thrilled to be part of building something we all believed in.

He was my first actual boss and an excellent one. He gave me endless freedom and far too much responsibility. The job allowed me to travel to Belgium, Germany, England and France. He was game for anything: any idea, any plan, any pitch – as long as you came to him with a solid plan and a feasible budget.

His laugh was loud, unique and infectious. He took risks, took chances and persevered. Above all, he was a kind and supportive man who continually empowered and trusted those around him. He let me delve deep into a whole new fascinating world encouraging me to gain new skills and grow. Hours were long and days were chaotic, but in the chaos I gained skills and experiences that lay the foundation for my career.

I left Expatica – after nearly 4 years with a heavy heart, but it was time to move on. I knew that leaving Expatica did not mean leaving the friend I had made, behind. Sure enough we’ve always kept in touch. Antoine was always the first to congratulate me on any successes I had. He was continually keen to offer help and encouragement where he could.

Over the years, we’d meet regularly for coffee and discuss business, work, life and our families. His face always brightened up when speaking about Simone and the boys. Our easy banter was carefree and comforting. We’d tease each other with the familiarity that comes from working long hours together on chaotic projects and seeing each other at your best, and worst. I loved poking fun at his “Dutchness” and he’d rib me on all things Canadian. He’d laugh (loud!) at the “naive Canadian” intern who he met many moons ago.

A few weeks ago we met and discussed the idea of working together on a new project. The thought of working together again – ten years after first meeting - felt right. His enthusiasm was infectious and I looked forwarded to seeing each other more, in the process of creating something new. The last time we saw each other, a few weeks ago over drinks in the sun, we shared endless laughs and made plans to finally go camping – Dutch style – together this summer with our families.

kindnessOn Monday night I was on the radio discussing my new book. The interview was in Dutch and I was worried about how it went. Two seconds after coming out of the radio studio – I got a text –  from Antoine. I hadn’t told anyone about the show, but he had somehow heard – and in his usual supportive fashion was the first to reach out with kind words. Like he always did, for so many.

That text message on Monday evening was my last correspondence with Antoine – and a true reflection of his character : taking the time out of his busy life, to reach out to others with kindness, heart and humour.

Antoine was one of the first people I met in this country, and he felt – and treated me – like family. He always had a smile on his face, and didn’t take life too seriously. He continually challenged himself and others around him to dream big  and be better. He was adventurous, smart and driven.  But at the end of the day, after all his accomplishments, he was one of those special people who strived – above all – to just be a good person. And he truly was.

Antoine, Simone and their two young boys (Quint and Pijke) will all be truly missed.

I am but one person – of the so very many – who is better off for having known Antoine, Simone, Quint and Pijke.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who lost loved ones in this senseless tragedy.


No. 62: not queuing

I’ve done something I never dreamed I would do, something I’ve grumbled and blogged about. I learnt my lesson on “never say never in this country, but as these innocuous sounding words slipped out of my lips, I too was in disbelief.

line cuttingIt happened in the most pedestrian of places, the Albert Hein. I was waiting in line at the paracetamol/cigarettes/shavers/post/randomness counter (you know the one!). Weighed down by an active 1.5 year old, a bag of groceries, and 2 parcels to ship as gifts to the other side of the world - a Dutch person casually sauntered into the store, glanced at the existing line of customers waiting on the 15-year-old to figure out the Dutch postal system, and nonchalantly proceeded to walk up to the counter and place their order. There was clearly a line of customers in sight, and clearly others were waiting (and waiting) patiently to be served. But apparently it did NOT matter.

This was no accidental case of ‘overlooking’ the line. I had seen it happen time and time again, but today was different. Today I was hot and tired, and baby was even more hot and tired and together we weren’t the loveliest of duos. And so, loudly, and brimming with 9 years of why-the-heck-can-you-people-not-learn-to-wait-your-turn’ angst, a little Dutch word escaped my lips.


The perpetrator’s head snapped back to look at me immediately. But apparently I wasn’t stopping there, as I followed up with a loud “doe eens normaal!!” .

I suppose it could be seen as completing some imaginary level of Dutch integration. The Dutch phrase escaped my lips even before I had time to think about my response (let alone the language would be in). No other English or Dutch phrase could have said it better. What did this signify? I’d always laughed at the associations of that culturally ingrained Dutch phrase. Just who defined this set definition of normal?? Was I now on the path of becoming one of them? ;)

cuttingIt must be said: Dutch people have an utter disregard for lines, queuing and generally waiting their turn. When I was fresh-off-the-boat it used to drive me utterly mad. Venturing into the city was an exhausting pursuit: my lack of language skills coupled with Dutch people’s lack of queuing-manners used to make my blood boil. Where were the manners? Where was the civility? Had Dutch people somehow missed that basic childhood lesson of not cutting in line!

But it wasn’t just me. Over the years I’ve heard loads of other foreign friends, visitors and tourists equally irate when discussing he matter. I remember a good Aussie friend of mine describing her daily commute from Utrecht to Amsterdam each morning. When boarding and exiting each train, bus and metro she encountered a mad stampede of line cutting, pushing and elbows. Exasperated one evening over drinks she proclaimed. “I can’t do it anymore. I feel my blood pressure rising every morning in this country. It’s like boarding the train with effing animals!”

Good luck!

Good luck my friends! Time to start pushing ;)

Over the past decade, I’ve seen some progress in the Dutch domain of queuing… or at least I believe I have.  Sometimes it’s hard to get a grasp on my own cultural evolution and that of the Dutchies. Had they really gotten better at queuing or had I just become more tolerant of the chaos? Had they changed, or had I?

One thing is for sure , I can’t say I really notice it that much any more – apart from the odd harried day at Albert Hein when my Canadian roots take hold and oddly, shout out in Dutch.


p.s. perhaps this video should be mandatory viewing? ;)

♫ ♫ “You gotta wait your turn. You gotta wait your turn. It’s only fair to wait right there! No cuts, no butts, no coconuts!” ♫ ♫ 

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