A Quick Guide to Holland

Guide to Holland

As an Englishman I have a unique point of view on the Netherlands. This point of view is usually a foot or two low that of the average Dutchman given their extreme height.

The Netherlands is a very flat country and as such its people are very envious of any other countries with even the smallest of hills or speed bumps. Young skateboarders and go-cart racers are more bitter then most. The Dutch try to compensate for this feeling of hill impotence by giving their country two names; Holland and The Netherlands (not to be confused with Never Land. You won’t find Tinkerbell here… unless maybe you spend too long in a coffee shop).

The Dutch as a whole are a very friendly people (unless they work in customer services or you mention hills). However not everyone on the street who asks, ‘Charlie?’ is inquiring about your name. This could lead to some confusion if your name actually is Charlie. You may end up being given a small bag of what seems to be a very expensive and ineffective washing powder.

It is also a popular belief that every Dutch person wears clogs, eats cheese, is constantly stoned and knows the price and proper etiquette when dealing with prostitutes in the red light district. However this is not true… sometimes they wear trainers.

Attempting to cross the street in the Netherlands can be like taking part in a live game of ‘Frogger’ because not only do the Dutch drive on the other side of the road (to the English) but you also have to look out for trams, bikes, stoned English tourists and then try not to fall in a canal (and then look out for canal boats if you do).

There are a few important phrases that come in handy when in Holland. If you can successfully order ‘een uitsmijter met ham en kaas’ you can eat like a god. As my Dutch friends will tell you it’s the only thing I’ll ever eat when we go out for lunch. If they tell you it is the only thing on the menu that I can order in Dutch it’s all lies… lies I tell you… I can order ‘een uitsmijter met bacon en kaas’ too.

“Spreekt u Engels?” is another very useful phrase but you’ll find that asking the average Dutch person if they can speak English is like asking if they can count to three since most of them can do both. I’ve been told that most Dutch people learn English from TV and repeats of The A-Team. However I have yet to hear any of them, “Pity the fool.”

If all else fails you can always use the phrase I use the most, “Ik heb geen idee wat u zegt,” which translates to, “I have no idea what you said.”

20 responses to “A Quick Guide to Holland”

  1. Amanda says:

    You’ve sent me into fits of giggles again.

    I’ve found that the most effective way to say “I don’t speak Dutch” is the confused, slack-jawed way I say “Huh?”.

  2. Alison says:

    I’m gradually learning more and more intricate ways of saying I don’t speak Dutch, in Dutch. It’s a handy way to learn the language. ;)

  3. Tiffany says:

    Oh Myspace… ! Thanks for doing the interview! And, if you really want to hear a Dutchie’s Mr. T impression, I’d be more than happy to introduce you to my husband :)

  4. Invader_Stu says:

    Amanda – I still use that technique even after all these years.

    Alison – I have along lost if you want any new ones… hhhmmmm… I think you just gave me an idea for a future blog post.

    Tiffany – You’re welcome. Does he do it all the time or just since the new movie came out?

  5. Gez says:

    Mmmmm, uitsmijter met ham en kaas. Lekker!
    Though admittedly if I’m in a cafe for a few beers, it’ll more likely be warme bittergarnituur I’ll order – a selection of deep-fried delicacies such as bitterballen, vlametjes, kaas soufles and so forth. The cold version, consisting of a various selection of cheese chunks and sliced sausages is worthy too. Though I daresay you’d at least tried both by now.

    ‘Live Frogger’ is only applicable to Amsterdam, I find. Zaandam was OK, and now living in Almere, with completely separate cycle and bus lane systems there seems to be almost no traffic! But I do find the biggest problem in A’dam is the tourists – stoned or not! They always manage to stop (with trolley suitcase) right in front of you with no warning, to stare at coffe shops, the sex museum, or tourist-junk shops. Your in A’dam for f’s sake! Of course there’s coffe shops! (reminds me of your post about directing tourists to ‘a good coffeeshop’. Contrary to popular belief, not every Dutchman (or woman) is a stoner!

  6. Invader Stu says:

    Gez – Bitterballen is amazing! I only discovered it after I original wrote this post. Now it is something I always order too. And after the first few times I nearly burnt my mouth off I learned the trick of biting the top of the bread crumb off and letting to cool first.

    And you’re right that live frogger only really happens in Amsterdam. I’ve not seen it happen any where else.

  7. orangesplaash says:

    This tempts me to ask if you have ever fallen into the canal :)

  8. Invader_Stu says:

    I have fallen in a canal in my time but not one in Holland. I do know someone who did how ever and that story is linked in this post.

  9. VallyP says:

    Lovely reminder Stu. Enjoy your week with your parents! We also have visitors at the moment. By the way, I have fallen into the harbour here, but I wasn’t drunk or stoned at the time. The girlfriend knows about that incident!

  10. LizzeeB says:

    I think I need to add “Ik heb geen idee wat u zegt” into my duh, what? reportoire, it’s more polite than “wat zeg je” and when I say “ik wiet het niet” as I often do, I just seem stupid. Loved the swimming in a canal post :-)

  11. Aledys Ver says:

    This was a very funny post, Stu! I enjoyed reading it again.
    If “wat zegt u?” or “ik heb geen idee wat u zegt” don’t work, try with “qué?!” in your best Manuel face! :D http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrwiquIaZkk

  12. Jules says:

    The A-team is how most Germans learn English–most Dutch actually learn English so they don’t have to read books written by Dutch writers :-D

    And what’s with the bacon? No spek? :-D

  13. The girlfriend says:

    @Vally: oh yes I certainly know ;p… Won’t spoil it, he still has to read your book!

  14. French Bean says:

    Have a great trip with the family, Stu! ^.^

    And “Charlie” is a very interesting name for detergent. My family uses one called “Ariel.” :-P

  15. Melissa says:

    We have hills in these parts..real live hills! This was quite funny..in fact my mom is here in 2 days and I’m sending it to her to enjoy as well:-)

  16. helderheid says:

    I just discovered your blog! I’m so glad I did.

    When I was first learning Dutch, “Het spijt me maar mijn Nederlands is niet zo goed. Mag ik verder in het engels spreken?” got around for about 3 months. :)

  17. Invader_Stu says:

    Hi everyone. Thanks for all your comments. I’m still having fun showing my parents around Holland and they are having fun being shown around. I’ll be back to normal blogging service next week and have a few good stories to tell already.

    VallyP – She wont tell me. She says I have to read the book. Quite right to and I will :)

    LizzeeB – Even after all this time I still get use out of the duh, what? reportoire as well.

    Aledys Ver – Manuel is my role model for life.

    Jules – I only came to know and love spek later but I’m sorry, as nice as spek is you still can’t beat English bacon.

    French Bean – He must be easy to find. I’ve not heard anyone in Amsterdam asking for that name.

    Melissa – I belive it when I see these so called hills (I know there are a few really) :p I hope your mom has a good visit.

    Helderheid – That’s a very advanced say of saying you don’t know much Dutch as well. Most of the times I have used that the Dutch person in question has just looked at me with a look that say’s, “But you just said all that.” And thanks for the compliment.

  18. Just a Plane Ride Away says:

    LOL! I miss the Netherlands…

  19. John says:

    een uitsmijter met ham en kaas=’s best dutch food ever.

  20. A Touch of Dutch blog says:

    How did I miss this post?! I am far behind on everything these days. Your point about the A-Team = 100% accurate, according to nearly all of the Dutch men of our generation! A-Team was like a necessary supplement for them ;-)

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