Most of the time I forget I’m living in a foreign country. People are friendly and helpful and we just get on with our stuff. But there are a few things that bug me and remind me that this is a different place (in no particular order):
- They leave dog poo on the streets (I may have mentioned this before!);
- The vast majority of the time washbasins by toilets have only cold water taps;
- They eat surprisingly unhealthily – it’s common to have chocolate sprinkles on toast for breakfast; cheese and bread or pancakes and syrup for lunch; mashed potato and sausage for dinner;
- There are at least 20 different types of Gouda cheese;
- Children are expected to go in the changing rooms of their gender, not that of the adult accompanying them. So I should take rocket boy into the men’s communal changing rooms for his swimming lessons, even though it’s immediately after free swimming and so the changing rooms are full of men coming out of the pool, which I find terribly uncomfortable for me! I’ve also been to the ladies communal changing rooms to go swimming immediately after there have been swimming lessons, to find men in there getting their daughters changed. I had to go to one of the private changing rooms.
- Pretty much all the clothes in the shops are tight or skinny fit;
- Toothpaste tubes don’t say what flavour they are; and they aren’t always mint;
- Kitchens are generally tiny – we have so little surface space and no draining board;
- Lamb and decent fish are ridiculously expensive. I am reliably informed that the sheep I see in the fields are a meat breed and this is a historically sea-faring nation so I don’t understand why;
- Tea is served as a glass mug of hot water with a teabag on the side – another thing I may have mentioned before! And they leave the teabag in the cup while they drink it. So I have to warn any Dutch visitors here that our tea isn’t the same as they’re used to.
- Ad breaks don’t come at the same times in TV programs, which can be very off-putting while watching American shows on Dutch TV, as you still have the cut to and from ad break sequences immediately after each other, and then they go to adverts at a completely different point, generally right in the middle of something.
- You can’t buy cooking apples (at least I can’t find them in the supermarkets), but you can buy stewing pears. I’m sure any Dutch in the UK find the opposite!
- You can’t seem to buy cold tablets – the ones with paracetamol and decongestant, and sometimes caffeine, that make having a cold bearable.
- Cold drinks when you’re out generally come in small bottles (200ml); don’t they understand I’m thirsty and want a pint?
Overall we are very happy and feel at home here, but sometimes it’s all too obvious that we’re just not in Kansas anymore!
From the wizard of Oz – Dorothy says it to Toto when they go out of the house after the tornado