There is this book called ‘Stuff Dutch People Like’ by Colleen Geske and I have to say, it is very funny. And true. I recognized a lot of stuff that I did not even think as unusual or even ‘typical Dutch’.
The author is from Canada, but she is living in Amsterdam. The book discusses many topics like ‘gezelligheid’, stroopwafels, red pants, Dutch directness, the colour orange and more oh-so-Dutch things.
There are so many things that I find funny/normal yet are weird to tourists. For example, explaining what ‘hagelslag’ is, is always funny. ‘Chocolate sprinkles on your bread?’ Sure parents do not want their children to eat a lot of candy, but there is nothing wrong with eating it on your bread! Adding a thick layer of butter on the bread makes it even better!
The book also describes that when it is someone’s birthday, we congratulate everyone present at the birthday party. I had no idea that was weird. My experience with the ‘congratulations phenomenon’ was when it was my mother’s birthday; my cousin posted something on my Facebook page, congratulating my mother. And like the true Nederlander I am, I congratulated her with her aunt’s birthday. Unnecessary? Maybe. Nice gesture? Yes!
For those who have not seen ‘Pulp Fiction’, there is this scene where John Travolta talks about how here in the Netherlands we eat our fries with mayonnaise instead of ketchup, followed by Samuel L. Jackson’s priceless reply: ‘Yuck!’ I like ketchup, but when I buy fries somewhere (Febo, Smullers etc.) I have to eat it with mayonnaise. Whatever the menu tells me, there is no other option. And if I find mayonnaise on my sandwich, my day will be ruined. Yuck!
Sitting behind the reception I get a lot of questions, and translating the word ‘gezellig’ is almost inevitable. My explanation is this: It is all about the context you use it in. A house can be ‘gezellig’ and it would mean it looks cosy. Going out for dinner can be ‘gezellig’ which means you are having a good time. A person can be ‘gezellig’ and it will mean that the person is fun to be around. It always has a positive meaning. Except when you use it in a sarcastic manner, like I do very often (‘Dit restaurant ziet er ook gezellig uit (!)’ would mean something like ‘this restaurant sure looks great (!)’).
The only thing I, as a true Nederlander, cannot understand, do not want to understand and will never understand, are bicycles. I hate them, which apparently is very rare here in the Netherlands. I hate riding them and I hate avoiding people on bikes even more.
That being said, every country and culture has its quirks. Of course this will be normal for me, simply because I was brought up with it. The book (which was based on a blog by the author) is written in a way that you cannot help but laugh. In no way is this offensive and I really enjoyed reading it. If you are staying at Hostelle, check out our bookshelves because we have it.