Disclaimer: This post isn’t entirely about food
The Netherlands has been my home for the past two weeks and I’ve already fallen under its spell. How couldn’t I, when they have Van Stapele Koekmakerij, labeled as one of the best cookie places in the world? And how couldn’t you, if I tell you that there are food stalls every couple of hundred meters in the city center, making warm, homemade stroopwafels to the delight of hungry tourists?
I reckon the Netherlands is the perfect destination for anyone with a sweet tooth out there. Come to a country where you can buy apple pies in bars, add chocolate flakes (hageslag) to your bread as if it was normal, and eat pancakes with virtually anything on them – although I recommend the salty ones. And don’t worry, if your hunger for pancakes is not satisfied, you can have sweet, tiny pancakes called poffertjes.
I am not a big candy eater so I cannot say much about that. But I do know that similar to the Danes, the Dutch are big fans of liquorice (drop), and they have delicious coffee-caramel candies named hopjes that can give you both the caffeine and the sugar rush in a moment of need.
Not to sound cheesy right now (and apologies for the easy pun with a top cheese exporter) but the food isn’t the only sweet thing about the Netherlands. I was surprised by how welcoming and warm the Dutch are. I was expecting the Northern-Southern Europe stereotype by which the Northerners are colder and more reserved than Southerners. And I was happy to see how wrong I was.
Perhaps because of its status as one of the most diverse places in the world, the Dutch seem open to different nationalities and cultures. As opposed to my experience in Denmark, where I mostly hung out and worked together with non-Danes, here I am living with four Dutch women, having team assignments with mostly Dutch people and often hanging out with locals.
Sure, there was an initial culture shock as I am sure you’ll have experienced when traveling abroad. In a few words, the Dutch seem very organized and punctual. To a Spaniard like myself, they could initially come across as strict in some ways. I was surprised to note that the word “practical” seems to have a positive connotation by itself here. I feel this illustrates my perception of their effectiveness-oriented mindset.
The Dutch will not waste time on unnecessary formalities, which was a bit of a shock at first. In Spain, I got used to phrases like “if you don’t mind, could you please…” and here they are more straightforward and get to the point with a simple “can you…, please?”. Also, forget about the feedback sandwich (positive-constructive-positive feedback). Here, they say what they like and what they don’t like as it comes. Still, they are incredibly polite and I have yet to hear a conversation that doesn’t include alsjeblieft or dankjewel (please and thank you).
Overall, it was easy to feel at home here in Rotterdam as I can overhear Spanish, my mother tongue, once in a while when walking around. English isn’t hard to spot either, which gives a constant reminder of how multicultural the city is. Sure, I am at the honeymoon stage of my exchange experience and there is a chance that as the months pass by, I’ll find new things that I might dislike about the Dutch culture.
But for now, I am celebrating my decision of coming to the Netherlands while having a cappuccino and an apple pie in a downtown bar.