19 Apr


Koningsdag (Kingsday) is the day when the whole of the Netherlands celebrates the birthday of the Dutch King, Willem-Alexander. It is held on the 27th of April (or the 26th if the 27th falls on a Sunday). The day was previously known as Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) and was a celebration of Queen Juliana’s birthday on the 30th of April. This changed in 2013 when Queen Beatrix (daughter of Juliana) decided it was time to catch up on her DVD box sets and handed the family business over to her son, Willem-Alexander.

1) Everyone goes orange crazy (oranje gekte) to show their support for the Dutch family (The House of Orange). There are orange banners and decorations, orange coloured drinks and foods, orange dyed hair and lots and lots of orange clothes and crazy accessories. This makes it a particularly depressing day for anyone with orange colour blindness. Most of the time they probably don’t even know what is going on and just think it is a bit busy for some reason.

2) The streets become packed with people celebrating. Moving through cities such as Amsterdam in large groups becomes an impossible task. The current of the crowd is too strong and before you know it part of your group is washed up on Dam square while the other half is being dragged towards Museum Plein at a speed of 12 knots.

3) No matter how hard you try not to you will end up wearing beer, even if you are not drinking it yourself. It’s a side effect of inebriated people trying to carry more beer than they have fingers.

4) Underage drinkers will attempt to join in on the festivities by concealing the alcoholic drink of their choice within innocent looking fizzy pop drinks bottles. To them this is the height of deception and completely undetectable by even the greatest of minds. To the rest of us it is extremely obvious due to their loud giggling, singing, constant fighting over the contents of the bottle and the fact that Dr Pepper has suddenly become strangely fluorescent blue in colour.

5) Because of the vrijmarkt (free market) on Koningsdag the Dutch can and will gather all their unwanted belongs from their house, take them outside, dump them on the street and proceed in a desperate fashion to sell them for a few coins to any passers by using any means necessary. Crack addicts trying to score money for drugs have more subtlety and dignity.

6) Amongst the items usually available in the vrijmarkt it is still possible to find things such as 80’s aerobic workout VHS cassettes, top of the pops music cassette tapes, 2D game floppy disks and other discontinued entertainment media formats. It’s entirely possible that these items have been changing owners every King and Queen’s Day since 1985.

7) Dutch parents will force their children to sing, dance, juggle, mime, play musical instruments, recite poetry, re-enact Shakespeare or simply stand on their head for money in a way that has been outlawed by most third world countries.

8) Vondelpark in Amsterdam becomes a children’s market (a place where children sell their unwanted toys, not a place where parents sell their unwanted children). This makes it possible for parents to see all the money they spent on toys for the last 10 Sinterklaas pakjesavond get traded in for Pokemon cards.

9) Selling toys at the children’s market is a defining moment in every child’s life. It displays something of the kind of adult they will grow up to be. Will they be honest and generous or will they try to sell those free McDonald’s Happy Meal toys for 50 cents each?

10) By 7:00 the streets are empty once again because everyone is far too drunk to do anything. Crushed plastic beer glasses and unsold novelty items is all that remain like some kind of bizarre post apocalypse movie scene (possibly one about the zombie apocalypse at Glastonbury).

11) The madness of Kingsday is a farther proof that even the Dutch royal family dislike Dutch circle parties and will do anything to make sure their party is a lively one.

14 Apr

Dutch Waitress

Recently, a lot of people have started telling me that I have lived in Holland far too long to still be considered an expat. I find this slightly troubling. I was not aware that there was an expiration date on being an expat and hopefully I have not been breaking any Dutch laws by continuing to call myself one. However, even more troubling is the fact that (if it is true) I no longer know what I am any more. If I am not an expat then what am I? The Dutch government still has not sent me a certificate of my official new title (whatever it is going to be) so I simply don’t know. I am very confused and have even started questioning the nature of my own existence. If I am not an expat am I even real? Do I really exist?

No one has been able to provide any answers or help me with this crisis of identity… until now. A recent conversation at the office has helped me find the answers I need. I can now get on with my life because at last I know who and what I am. I can be at peace with my new identity.

“No, you’re no longer an expat. You’ve lived here far too long to call yourself that.”

“But then, what am I? People keep on telling me that I’m not an expat any more but don’t have an alternative for what I am now.”

(After a moment’s thought)
“Now you’re just a Dutchmen who speaks very bad Dutch.”

7 Apr

Speculoos Detective

Case File #113b
Anyone who has been following my investigative adventures will already be familiar with my most famous and bizarre unsolved case; The Great Speculoos Mystery.

It was only a few months ago that I arrived at work in the morning to discover a mysterious jar of Speculoos waiting for me on my desk. It was unclear who it had been placed there by or what their motives for doing so were. A sign of friendship? A display of secret affection? A warning perhaps? Or an attempt to get me re-addicted? Despite my best efforts at the time I was unable to find out who it had come from and no one was talking.

My investigation was at a dead end…

Or so I thought. The case is now reopened. It seems my mysterious benefactor wishes to make contact again. Recently I arrived at work to find this placed on my desk:

Speculoos Jar

A second jar of speculoos sandwich spread. A quite expensive jar by the looks of it as well. Again, there was no note or name left with the jar. Whoever placed it there still wished to remain anonymous, hidden in the shadows. However, they had made one fatal mistake. They had unintentionally left at a clue to their identity. A clue that would lead me straight to them.

Upon examining the jar I discovered that the decorations included a small German flag. Using a process of elimination I was able to conclude that this meant the jar had in fact originated from… Germany. Furthermore, I was aware of one particular colleague who had recently returned from a weekend in Berlin…

Berlin is in Germany… The jar came from Germany… I had him! Yes! The mastermind behind is all was a bearded Dutchman named Bas!

Speculoos Jar Tweet

“You got another jar of speculoos?” He asked after upon seeing my status update when he arrived in the office a short while later.

He was trying to act innocent but I could see the guilt in his eyes. I knew he was the devious mastermind behind it all.

“Yes I did… And I know exactly who it is from this time.”

“Who?” He asked, as if he did not already know.

This was my moment. I stood up and dramatically pointed the finger of accusation at him for all to see.

“It was… from you!”

There was a moment of silence.

“What?” He replied, denying it of course, like all criminals do when they are caught. He was not even aware of his slip up.

“Do not try to deny it. I know it was you.”

“I honestly don’t know what you are talking about.” He replied, trying to act innocent again. In fact he was really quite convincing. He really did look quite confused but I pressed on. I was not going to let myself be fooled.

“I know you just came back from a weekend in Berlin and that was your mistake… Because this jar of speculoos clearly has the German flag on it. You bought it while you were in Berlin, smuggled it back here and placed it on my desk.”

With a look of triumph on my face I dramatically held out the jar of speculoos for effect, showing him the German flag printed upon it. There was no way out of it. I had him! He had been out matched.

He looked at the jar that I had trusted in his face for a moment and then looked at me.

“Errr… That’s the Belgium flag, Stuart.”

“What?” I exclaimed, all authority suddenly gone from my voice as I quickly pulled the jar back to myself and looked at is closely.

“Ah, damn it!”

Speculoos Jar

He was right of course. Upon closer inspection I was able to see that it was in fact the Belgium flag. In fact, it rather obviously had the name Belgium written above it in gold letters (and might have been stolen from the Belgian Royal Household by the looks of it). My whole case had just fallen apart. I had just accused an innocent man of a crime he did not commit and I am no closer to solving the mystery.

“Then who the heck is it from?” I asked no one in particular, deeply confused.

Everyone who had been listening shrugged.

31 Mar

Being involved in the bloggies three years in a row has been brilliant. I get excited every year when I see Invading Holland has made it through to the final. It makes me very happy. I’m aware that admitting such a thing is very un-English of me but it is really hard to contain myself (even if it does risk perminate banishment from my home country).

It makes me feel very lucky to have such amazing and supportive readers who think I’m worthy enough of being a finalist in such a huge blog award. I’ve said it before but I mean it when I say this blog would not have become what it is today without you. I’ve been a winner of the Best European Blog Award once and now a runner up twice and each time it has been very exciting.

So thank you everyone who has supported Invading Holland over the years. Congratulations to the winner; Tallbloke’s Talkstop. And watch this space again next year when the 2015 Bloggies start.

23 Mar
How I sound when speaking Dutch

This cartoon first appeared in the March/April edition of DUTCH:The Magazine, a bi-monthly magazine for Dutch descendants and expats living in Canada.