The Dutch House Guide

Dutch houses (particularly those found in Amsterdam) are extremely dangerous and under no circumstances should they be bought, rented, lived in, squatted, visited or stepped foot there in. When looking for accommodation in Holland it is advised to consider the much safer alternative of living on the streets. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in a Dutch abode (and has lived to tell the tale) will be able to tell you about their many strange quarks and dangers. An Englishman’s home might be his castle but a Dutchman’s home is a deathtrap.

Possibly the greatest health hazard that exists in a Dutch house are Dutch stairs. Dutch stairs are widely regarded as the most dangerous type of stairs in the world for one simple reason; they are insanely steep. So steep in fact that they are better thought of as ladders and in the case of spiral stair cases; twisty ladders.

Descending Dutch stairs is extra dangerous. Even people who have been living in Dutch homes for a very long time can still fall victim to them because (as well as being very steep) Dutch stairs are very patient.

All it takes is one sleepy morning when you forget that you are wearing your pair of extra slippery socks and one quick unexpected vertical trip later you will have a bruise the size of Belgium on your ass (possibly with a neighboring country on the other cheek). And god forbid that there is a window at the bottom of those stairs because if there is you might find yourself suddenly propelled across the street into a nearby canal (as I once nearly was).

As a rule, if your Dutch living-abode includes an upstairs area it is simply safer to forget that it exists at all and sleep in the living room, kitchen or hallway. This has the added benefit of giving the mice their own area of the house because as we all know every Dutch house comes with mice as standard (and can be very territorial).

If fear of falling down the stairs is not enough to made you feel uncertain about your balance then the fact that almost every Dutch house leans will not help matters. One of the side effects of building houses on areas that used to be swamp or a part of the sea before they got filled in is that the ground is very soft and houses tend to develop a ‘slight’ tilt over time. The combination of Dutch stairs and tilting floors often gives the feeling of living in a fun ground fun house.

As well as interfering with your sense of balance this presents a very real danger that one day your whole house might slide off into the adjacent canal. This is particularly alarming if it is only discover upon waking up in your bed as it floats alongside a canal tour boat. For this reason it is strongly advised to have a hard hat and some sort of flotation device nearby at all times.

It is not all bad though. The one thing you don’t have to worry about in a Dutch house is the wiring. With everything else that can go wrong you would be forgiven for thinking that the fuses would need changing every time you so much as point at an electrical outlet. However, as luck would have it Dutch fuses are extremely strong and will survive the greatest of electrical fires. Even if every single lighting fixture and electrical appliance is flickering like an evil spirit is trying to manifest itself you do not have to worry about the electricity failing (and that it is most likely those mice chewing threw the cables again since they have finished your favorite box of cereal).

It is a comforting thought to know that when your house has burnt down to the ground and all your worldly possessions are gone you will still be able to salvage the fuses from the wreckage for use in your next Dutch house (if you choose to take the risk again).

27 responses to “The Dutch House Guide”

  1. It’s not just the Dutch who favour odd electrics.

    When in Malta, we had to renovate a house we had just purchased. The previous electrician, in an attempt to be frugal, had only used one kind of wire so all the items – live, neutral and earth – were red rather than the standard red, blue and green.

    Our electrician had some colourful things to say about that, I can tell you.

  2. Alison says:

    Our wardrobe (four individual but matching pieces from IKEA) doesn’t line up properly because of the various tilts and shifts in our bedroom. Then there’s the dining room, which isn’t square, either, so that one wall comes in at an angle. It’s very Escher-esque. It’s impossible to line the table and sideboard up properly. Everything is slightly askew.

    As for the stairs, the set that runs up to our top floor has been dubbed the Stairs of Death! Interestingly, those stairs lead to the one room with weird wiring. The power went out in only one of the two rooms upstairs. Unfortunately, it was the room with the washer and dryer and the water heater. With the cunning use of extension cords, we managed to skip the costly repair work at the time, since it was more than we wanted to spend at that particular moment. Since then, the power has come back all on its own after taking a month-long vacation.

  3. Tweets that mention Invading Holland » The Dutch House Guide -- says:

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  4. Invader Stu says:

    Unexpected Traveller – I bet there were a few colourful things he shouted a few times while getting electrocuted by not being able to tell one wire from another.

    Alison – Electricity that takes a month long vacation? You officially have the most Dutch house… ever.

  5. Anneke says:

    I happen to live in a (not so old) old factory. It’s maybe 80/90 years old or so, but everything leans. Even the steel skeleton.

  6. julia says:

    I think I’d get sea sick in a Dutch house.

    About the stairs, this is an entrepreneurial opportunity. You could possible design a pillow inspired landing platform for the bottom of stairs. It could be marketed to newcomers who have not built up their resistance to falling down stairs. A follow up would be to create a net to keep you from flying out the front door.

  7. PinainDutchland says:

    Oh you haven’t seen the best of Dutch houses yet!
    In the house of my parents-in-law, they decided to put the laundry room in the attic. That is two freaking Dutch stairs to climb to whenever you are doing the laundry.
    So you get the table cloth and doekjes from the ground floor (where kitchen and living room are) climb the first stairs, then gather your dirty linen from the bedroom in the 1st floor and then climb another stairs to bring all of them to the washing machine. You repeat the same process, this time, going down during summers when you have to hang them outside to dry. To top it all, my mother in law decided to hang clothes line just above the last stair so you have to battle with jeans and t-shirts to be able to find your way down.

  8. Ramona says:

    That’s too funny, if it wasn’t that dangerous :D

    My city was built on a swamp too, but fortunately our houses are less “inclined” to get “inclined” :)

  9. Invader Stu says:

    Anneke – You live in an old factory? Cool. You are the most arty artist I know.

    Julia – I think you are onto something there. With a pillow landing platform falling down the stairs could become fun.

    PinainDutchland – Dear god. Doing laundry on your parents-in-law house sounds like a quest even Indian Jones would shy away from. Does a falling bolder chase you down the stairs as you run away with the laundry?

    Ramona – Hehe. good one. You’re very lucky that they don’t.

  10. Keith says:

    Now I know that you are making it up as you go along.

    It is a well known fact that electricity hasn’t been discovered in Holland yet, so what is the point of wiring a house up?

    It’s like building churches in Holland when we all know that the missionaries haven’t got around to discovering the Low Countries yet.

    The next thing you will be telling us is that you are on the Internet, and you have cell-phones! Tut!

  11. orangesplaash says:

    Not to mention that some of the houses are like “doll houses” – small though cosy.

  12. Anita says:

    That’s why “stairs” are called in Dutch… “trap”.

  13. Aledys Ver says:

    Dutch houses do have their oddities, yes! I suppose that the adavantage of living in the east is that there’s more space here and the soil is firmer than nearer the river delta area. But I’ve had my share of steep stairs – and I notice that the steps tend to be too short, making me wonder how these people, the tallest in the planet – came up with that sort of thing! I’ve also seen old houses with basins (to wash) in the bedroom and then toilet and shower in a separate room….

  14. A Touch of Dutch blog says:

    What Anita said!
    Hilarious post, Stu! :-)

  15. kerryanne says:

    Ah yes, the early morning, slippery sock slip down the steps. Been there.

  16. rakesh rajagopal says:

    absolutely hilarious and true.. visited groningen a few weeks back and i nearly fell down the stairs..

  17. Anneke says:

    Hahaha! “arty artist” *snort* Don’t feel so very arty, but maybe I’m surrounded by artiness, and don’t stand out, or notice it? :P

  18. Ronald says:

    Of course the electricity fuses in The Netherlands are among the top worldwide. You wouldn’t want your TV to turn black every time the 10.000 Watts of lighting on the attic to grow their special vegetables turns on.

  19. Amanda says:

    This is so true. The first house I lived in here had stairs that were indeed the equivalent of a ladder. So we got a nice man in to change them. He arrived with his helper to change the stairs and we went out and left them to it. When we came back the stairs had been changed and the nice men had gone. However, there was one small problem. The top of the stairs led to a drop back down to the ground floor. The stairs had been put in a different place than the old stairs. We called the nice man and he said “you asked me to put new stairs in – that is what I did. We don’t do floors. We do stairs.” So off to the Praxis it was to fill up the hole in our ceiling and make the stairs usable. There’s a lesson in there – be specific!!!!! Dangerous indeed…..

  20. Invader Stu says:

    Keith – We have electricity but it is all generated by steam and mice on tiny treadmills.

    Orangesplaash – And more Barbie’s run down house than Barbie’s dream house.

    Anita – Hehe. Good one.

    A touch of Dutch – Thank yuo

    Kerryanne – Been there and down there (bottom of the stairs very suddenly).

    Rakesh Rajagopal – I guess that means the stairs are just as bad in Friesland

    Anneke – You have a very arty blog :)

    Ronald – A very good point. I know I get annoyed every my special vegetable plantation courses that to happen

  21. Invader Stu says:

    Amanda – That’s so bad that he thought that would be ok. What was he expecting you to do. Climb up stairs and then jump?

  22. French Bean says:

    So let me get this straight: you are at risk on a daily basis by residing in Dutch houses, yet you complain about how a trip to Germany became a test of survival? Hmmm…

  23. Yorrick says:

    Tsk tsk Stu, Groningen is not in Friesland.

  24. Just a Plane Ride Away says:

    Ha! I fell down the stairs in my Dutch home twice! And I am not normally a clumsy person. My dog even fell down the stairs! How sad is that?

    And yes, LOL, those darn fuses. Thank goodness we don’t have to deal with them anymore ;-)

  25. Invader_Stu says:

    French Bean – It’s how I roll

    Yorrick – Er… Oh… I meant it’s close by….. Look a bird! *runs away*

    Just a Plane Ride Away – I don’t think your dog has to be ashamed. Even a cat could fall down Dutch stairs and not land on its feet.

  26. Rutger says:

    Even though you wrote a pretty funny piece here and there’s some thruth in it, it’s a shame that it’s pretty clear you’ve only been to Amsterdam, which foreigners hold about synonym to The Netherlands, which is in turn often confused with Holland altogether.

    Calling The Netherlands “Holland” is like calling the USA California or Texas.

    But nevertheless, a funny writing!

  27. Last days in Vleuten | Katventures says:

    […] staircases (as an aside, the Dutch are well known for their insanely steep stairs, as seen here, here, and here). The house grew a little this year when Mark added a bedroom on top of the […]

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