The Thoughts That May Cross An Expat’s Mind During Their First Month in the Netherlands
By: Dan Szostek
- You’ll discover that “Punta Nell” is not a tropical destination. It’s the ending to Dutch websites. punt nl = dot nl = .nl
“Where is this ‘Punta Nell’ place? Somewhere near Punta Cana? And why is it constantly being mentioned on the radio and TV?”
- You’ll wonder how Expats before you survived during the times of “BG” or “Before Google.”
“Am I really typing these Dutch cooking directions for pasta into Google Translate?”
- You’ll have fries with mayonnaise, and really, really enjoy it.
“Fries with mayonnaise! That’s what John Travolta was talking about in Pulp Fiction!”
- You’ll be starving at the train station and see everyone else snacking so you’ll buy a pastry filled with a meat substance from the Kiosk.
“Did I just eat a pastry with some type of meat baked inside? I better get another one just to confirm.”
- You’ll have one too many Trappist beers and think horsemeat on fries sounds like a good idea.
“ I just ordered horsemeat on my fries because a guy in the snack bar said ‘iz good.’ Am I going to regret this? Eh, I’ll just put some mayonnaise on it.”
- You’ll drink milk for lunch.
“Milk, it’s not just for breakfast anymore I guess.”
- You’ll get bumped, pushed, and practically stiffed armed when you go grocery shopping, and that’s just in the vegetable aisle.
“Looks like I’m going to need to throw some elbows to get a bag of carrots.”
- You’ll panic and stare blankly at the cheese counter at your local supermarket.
“Um, how many types of Gouda are there?”
- You’ll be offered a cup of coffee EVERYWHERE! At work, at the supermarket, at the barber…
You [Waiting to get your hair cut]: “You know a cup of coffee really does sound good right now.”
- You’ll see people pulling sandwiches out of their pockets EVERYWHERE. On the train, on the street, at their desks at work.
“Hold up, did that guy just pull a sandwich out of his pocket? Wait, that lady did it too. And that guy’s sandwich has sprinkles on it!”
[Moments later, in a sad voice to yourself]
“I wish I had a pocket sandwich.”
- You’ll panic because you’re at a train station with no ticket window and you don’t have the €18 euro in exact change needed for your train journey
“€18.90 in EXACT change to get from Den Hague to Oss????”
- You’ll get a bike but be too nervous to make a left so your journeys consist of all right hand turns.
“Wow, cars are yielding to me I feel so powerful! WAIT, how do I make a left hand turn?”
- You’ll get adjusted to washing your hands with only cold water.
“I’ll just keep my hands here until the water warms up. Um, it’s not warming up.”
- You’ll think your developing calves of steel from walking up your steps.
“My calves are going to be like tree trunks after climbing these stairs everyday.”
- You’ll manage homesickness somewhat effectively until someone asks you how you are managing homesickness.
“You know, I was coping with homesickness pretty well until you asked me what I missed most from home. Thanks!”
- You’ll develop an amazing broken English accent even though English is your native language.
“Oh jeez, am I really communicating like this, I must sound ridiculous.”
- You’ll be doing your best to stick out from the crowd and not dress like a local by wearing your baggiest jeans, sneakers and worn out Philadelphia Phillies baseball hat and still get asked for directions from on the street.
Random Car Driver Stopped in Traffic: [Shouts something in Dutch]
You: [Realizing they are talking to you in Dutch, responds in confusing tone]: Sorry, I’m new here.
You: [Says to self]: Did I just say that?
- This One’s For Guys: You’ll use an outdoor public urinal that comes out of the ground like the one pictured.
“Where’s the cold water to wash my hands? Guess I’ll just use some snow.”
- You’ll feel like a rock star when the simplest things work, like you debit card or your ov-chipkaart (train pass).
“Wait, my card actually worked? I’M KING OF THE WORLD!”
- You’ll experience all this crazy, funny, and amazing cultural differences and think that you should be recording all your adventures.
“You know, I should really start a blog about all this stuff.”
Dan is originally from outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA and now living in the southern portion of the Netherlands with his wife. He enjoys traveling, European grocery stores, and getting himself into confusing situations while wearing his Phillies hat.
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Contest Comments » There are 28 comments
Ha!!!!!! You know I can relate to all of these + three kids. I do have the advantage of using my stroller as a battering ram though at the grocery store. And can I please get some cheddar cheese? Please??
Great piece! I lived in Germany for awhile and can definitely identify with some of these things (mainly how mayonnaise on fries in amazing and that great feeling when your cards actually work!) Never saw those sandwich sprinkles though!! Crazy! Keep up the great writing and observations!
Love hearing all your stories as you travel all over Europe. Having lived in Germany for a year and a half many memories are returning through your writings. The foods sound delicious and make me hungry. Looking forward to more of your stories Dan.
Ah yes, memories. Well BG, we used to have to rely on friends, phrase books, and just winging it. It took me a few weeks to realize that half negen did not mean nine thirty! Luckily I knew French so I could use the French instructions on most things to figure out what I needed to know. And Ikea just has those awesome cartoons to go by. I also had a great friend who made sure I knew the two most important phrases any 21 year old expat needs - mag ik wat kleingeld voor het sigaretautomat and mag ik eén tasje.
Next trip to Amedio's I will ask for a side of mayo w/my fries!! Thank You. I love the trashmen video, so efficient.
#16 is spot on! I do that in every foreign country I've ever lived or traveled in. Consequently, the use of "spot on" is an acquired habit from having lived in London seven years ago. #10 also sounds familiar. Pocket sandwiches seemed to be everywhere in Europe. It's really genius when you think about it. #14 - why does the entrance to your apartment look like the entrance to a club?
Wow. You just wrote a piece about being an American in the strange land of the Netherlands without one mention of cannibus or ganja or sticky icky or cheebah or, to employ the nomenclature of the 1960s, weed. I offer you my sincere congratulations, for this is like Hunter S. Thompson writing a novel without a curse.
Mr. Szostek, I'm sorry I indulged in my pocket sandwich in front of your very eyes without offering you at least a small nibble. Next time, just ask. I would be glad to share my horse meat and Gouda sandwich with you. It is delicious with mayonnaise!!!
"eh, I'll put som mayonaise one it" :)
The blogging of your adventures never cease to amaze. Very informative, witty and just a touch of whimsy to hold your reader's attention. We enjoy your "Seinfeld"ish ways and live vicariously through your escapades.
#17 - you should feel honored to be assumed European. #8 - Gouda is the best. Why do you think it always appears on the international cheese tray? Where's the Dutch beer review??
Was born in Holland and moved to States when I was two. I was always served mayo with my fries and didn't even realize it was a Dutch thing! Chocolate Hagel (chocolate shavings) served with butter on a slice of bread was a staple of Saturday lunches in my home....I did notice that it was the only home in Philadelphia doing it! I love being Dutch!!
Mayo on fries PLEASE
I adore reading your stories and learning about another culture through your eyes. I can't wait to try fries with Mayo.... Mayo goes with everything. Keep writing. Anne
Great post! Chocolate sprinkles really hits a note - remember being offered them at breakfast in a hotel in Amsterdam once! We all just took a load and forgot the bread, just downed them like a tube of sweets! ;)
In regard to #2, I have no sympathy: You see, when I went to Rome, I took the time to LEARN the language so I would be able to exist on a daily basis in the nation's mother tongue! Of course, I had to eat the same thing for breakfast every day and only knew how to ask people where the bathroom was, but still...(this being said, I did learn enough to put a hit out on a maitre'd who conned us into ordering a 150-euro plate of mozzarella cheese balls)
No. 18 and the urinal that rises out of the ground: Are you just talking about the tree? Or the vaguely shaped gray slab in the background. I would say that, in a pinch, either is passable.
Is there an outdoor urinal for us women, too? I, speaking as a woman, would appreciate that. It would have to be set up for squatting, but same great concept. Fries with mayonnaise are the best! But people drink MILK? Like, in public where other people have to watch? I have to agree with David Sedaris that I find nothing so disgusting as a glass of milk. I'd rather eat horsemeat. Neem me niet kwalijk, u in de Phillies hoed, kan je me een routebeschrijving naar de treinstation? Ik kan alleen maar rechter bochten. Google Translate says this is how to say, Excuse me, you in the Phillies hat, can you give me directions to the train station? I can only make right turns.
Dan, I am thoroughly enjoying my armchair, laptop travels through the Netherlands with you. I only have one question. How much Trappist do you think it will take to fill up a hollow leg?
Hilarious post - loved it! I never thought of the Netherlands as a tourist destination for me (since I don't indulge in the wacky), but chocolate sprinkles, Trappist beers, gouda and MILK have me thinking otherwise. I have to disagree with Marleen because I love a tall glass of milk, any time of the day. Delish!
As a fellow expat in the NetherLands - it's so refreshing to heard that I'm not alone in this journey. Thanks for being real, normal, and honest. Glad I never got the guts to walk into that travel agency and ask about a weeklong trip to Punta Nell.
I love how everyone is freaking out about horsemeat in stuff, and you are actually seeking it out
Dan, always loved your writing, but these comments about your escapades in the Netherlands top the list. You should rethink your vocation.
I love reading your writings. You should have a reality show. Its been fun following you around Europe.
I will certainly try the Mayo/French Fries, Dan. Thanks for the wonderful culinary updates.
Haha! Good stuff. Sounds like the Dutch love their mayo! I hate it. On fries, on a burger, in potato salad, on the shelf...it's gross. But I'll gladly put ketchup on my hash browns! Proost Dan!
Dan, all your thoughts and photos are giving me an opportunity to visit all the countries you have been able to explore. Thank you so much for sharing all this with me.
Mayonnaise on French Fries really is good... :)