It is nine years ago. I have only been in the Netherlands for two months. I am standing at the bar waiting to order drinks as the club’s music rings in my ears and my foot taps to its beat. My friends are somewhere on the dance floor.
I wait for the barman.
Suddenly the attractive young girl waiting next to me turns her attention in my direction. She smiles and flicks her hair. I smile back but don’t flick my hair since that would look silly (short hair plus being a man). She says something to me in Dutch which I do not understand. Never the less it sounds evocative. Using my English charm I reply with the kind of smooth romantic line that would make any girls heart melt.
“Sorry. I don’t speak Dutch. What did you say?”
Amazingly this line does not work. The smile fades to be replaced with a puzzled look which in itself only lasts about half a second before she picks up her drinks and leaves without another word.
I will never know if she was saying, “Your place or mine, handsome,” or, “Excuse me. You’re standing on my foot.”
It is a late summer evening six years ago. I am still young, free and single. I am standing at the checkout of my local Albert Heijn super market. The young and attractive Dutch girl in front of me beeps the ingredients of my pasta dinner over her scanner. I decide to show off a little and talk to her in Dutch.
“Mag ik een tasje?” I ask.
With a smile she reaches under the counter and gives me the requested bag. The rest of our little flirtation continues in Dutch as she asks the usual questions; do I have a bonus card, would I like to pay with cash, would I require a receipt. I reply to all her questions with my perfect Dutch vocabulary. Slowly our brief little moment comes to pass. I am about to leave but then…
“I have to ask. Are you English?” she suddenly asks.
The poor girl. She is obviously powerless against my irresistible English charm. I turn back to her with a smile. There is still a long line of people waiting to be served but all she must be able to think about is the terrible feeling of knowing she let me walk out of her life without getting my phone number. Maybe my dinner for one was about to become a dinner for two.
“Yes I am.” I reply with my best ‘I’m British so I’m as smooth as James Bond’ smile.
“Rightttttt. You’re accent is horrible. You should never talk Dutch again.” And without another word she starts serving the next customer.
My ‘smooth as James Bond’ smile suddenly becomes an ‘awkward as Hugh Grant’ stammer. After a few stunned seconds I decide to leave… quickly.
Lies About The Dutch – Part 1
Everyone in Holland is 6’5 tall. Any Dutch person who has not reached this height by their 21st birthday is exiled to Belgium.
Due to a series of escalating over exaggerated tourists stories visitors to Amsterdam are often disappointed to discover that the red light district is in fact just an area with a lot of faulty traffic lights.
Dutch music was first invented during World War II as a means of ‘interrogating’ German spies. However, when the human rights movement put a stop to this practise another use had to be found for it. Incidentally this is why you will never find a German at a Frans Bauer concert.
Frans Bauer and Jack Bauer are related.
The Dutch government is very concerned about the over harvesting of wind by the county’s many windmills. They foresee a real danger that this resource will run out in the next 5 years. This is not helped by the fact that all Dutch people live in windmills.
The Dutch phrase ‘ja hoor’ has coursed several diplomatic incidents when English speaking diplomats have mistaken it for the Dutch diplomats calling them names (sometimes they were).
A lot of Dutch land has been reclaimed from the sea by pumping out the water and building fake land. This has proved very successful. However, at high tide the water still comes up to everyone’s ankles.
Holland is so flat that someone in Friesland can wave to someone in Belgium. The Dutch are deadly jealous of any country with the smallest of mountains, hills or speed bumps.
Even Dutch people giggle every time someone starts talking about the water ‘dykes’
The wide popularity and use of bicycles in Holland can be directly linked to the song ‘Bicycle Race’ by Queen when it became a smash hit in 1978. Bicycle sales jumped by 89% and, “I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride it where I like,” became a national slogan.
Want to read more lies about the Dutch? Check out Part 2 of this list.
It has finally happened. After all the years of waiting and hoping and wondering how I would respond it has finally happened, the one thing I have been waiting for all this time.
It all started when I spotted a couple walking towards me in the street, clutching a map, both sharing the same confused look upon their faces which suggested they were utterly and completely lost. I already started to wonder if this could finally be the moment but I tried to push such thoughts aside and not hope for it too much. The disappointment would have been crushing.
Instead I waited as the space between us closed one step at a time. I tried to not look at them too much as we got closer and then… just as we were about to pass each other it happened…
“Excuse me… do you speak English.”
I almost fist pumped the air in triumph.
It was the lady who had asked the question I had been waiting all this time to hear. Her husband was still too busy gripping the map and looking at it intensely. I don’t think he was quite ready to admit that they were lost yet but I did not care about that. All I cared about was that someone had finally asked me, an Englishman, if I spoke English. She had even said it very slowly, over pronouncing each word in her Yorkshire accent in the hope that ‘the foreigner’ would understand.
I decided to play it cool. I had been waiting for this moment for a long time and had an equally long list of highly witty come backs prepared but I did not want to throw the moment away too quickly. There was still one other thing that could make it perfect.
After five minutes of giving directions to the wife and five minutes of the husband’s best ‘Honestly, I know where we are’ impression we were about to part ways. For a moment I thought I had waited too long and missed my opportunity but then…
“Thank you. And can I just say… your English is very good.”
I could have hugged her. I almost did.
“Thank you. I am English.” I replied instead (number 234 on the highly witty come back list).
She looked embarrassed for a moment while we both chuckled about this revelation and the husband attempted his best ‘I was not listening but I just worked out where we are for myself’ impression . I bid them farewell and skipped down the street.
Cologne is a very dangerous city. That’s not to say that it isn’t a very nice city. There are the appropriate amount of historical buildings for tourists to take photos of, there are a lot of nice shops to shop in, the locals seems friendly, the food is nice and I am sure the crime rate is quite low. However, this does not change the fact that it is a very dangerous city for one simple reason. Cologne seems to have been built on the theory of Darwinism. If you are not intelligent enough to survive Koln then Cologne will do its best to remove you from the gene pool all together. I discovered this during a recent business trip with a group of colleagues which I feel we were very lucky to return from with all our limbs attached.
We faced our first challenge before we even set foot on German soil. We’d been on the train from Holland to for four hours so we were eager to disembark. The four of us stood crowded around the door, taking turns to peek out the tiny window in an attempt to spot the platform. Finally the train stopped, we opened the door, the first of us put a triumphant foot forward to step out… and quickly had to be yanked back before becoming the owner of a pair of broken legs.
To say that there was a distinct lack of platform is technically untrue. There was something that could have been classified as a platform but it was over a meter down from the door which I’m sure is in violation of EU regulations.
We spent a full minute just staring at the drop in front of us, trying to work out if ‘that was just how they did things in Germany’ and ‘how in the hell’ we were going to get down. Our options seemed limited. Either we would have to make a rope out of our jackets or simply accept that the first one would have to sacrifice himself so the others could have a soft landing. The solution turned out to be a lot simpler than we thought when we checked the other side of the train carriage and discovered that that door could be opened too and the platform was located on that side.
Having nearly failed the first of Cologne’s Darwinian intelligent tests we disembarked from the train and decided to never speak of it again.
A few hours later we discovered that if visitors survive arriving in the city, Cologne has another way of making sure the unintelligent and unobservant are prevented from future additions to the gene pool. This is done in the form of poles that seem to have been randomly placed around the city at crotch height, sometimes in the middle of the path. If someone (let’s say me for example) was not looking were they were going they might end up receiving the kind of surprising and unexpected blow to the dangly area that makes the voice go a few octaves higher.
When this happened to me my last second attempt to protect my genitalia from impact by sucking them up into my body almost resulted in me doing a full frontal flip over the obstacle which would have looked very cool had I pulled it off but in reality resulted in me falling over and almost impaling myself. Luckily my genitalia came away from the incident unharmed.
Having survived the first two attempts to thin our numbers Cologne resorted to a much more subtle and psychological means of trying to remove us from the mortal world; Elevator music! Or as we started to call it; ‘music to write a suicide note to’. It was elevator music that was not just restricted to elevators. We heard it everywhere; the hotel, restaurants, bars, even the games convention we were attending. It was the kind of happy but sad music that you would expect to hear in a montage of long gone happy memories being remembered by the unhappy soon to be no more writer. I could even hear it in my hotel room coming from the corridor as I tried to sleep and not think about picking up pen and paper myself.
Luckily we did not give in to the cities attempts to break us and later returned to Holland in one peace.
The offending pole outside our hotel