Mon
4 Apr

Rokjesdag

In the Netherlands there is only one true way to know when Spring has arrived. It is not the blooming of the first tulip or the birth of the first baby duckling. It is quite simply Rokjesdag.

Rokjesdag (also known as skirt day) is the name given to the first day of the year when it becomes warm enough for Dutch ladies to start showing off their bare legs again as they once more begin dressing in a selection of short skirts, dresses and shorts.

It also happens to be the day when most Dutch men start wearing their sunglasses in what they ‘think’ is a clever deception allowing them to enjoy the ‘traditions’ of Rokjesdag without getting into trouble with their wives of girlfriends. It never works out as they expect.

Most people in The Netherlands are familiar with the concept. In fact, a lot of Dutch people don’t consider spring to have officially started until Rokjesdag has taken place. The term was made popular by Dutch writer and columnist Martin Bril who called it a great and beautiful day. It has become so recognised now that a Dutch movie was released this year about it. In short, it is the most official un-official holiday in the Netherlands.

When is Rokjesdag?

The Dutch probably would make Rokjesdag an official holiday if the unpredictable Dutch weather didn’t make it impossible to set a fixed date for the event. One year Rokjesdag might be in April, the following year it might be in May and the year after that it might be in April, May, June or July. It’s the only holiday that can be affected by chaos theory. As the old saying goes, “A butterfly can flap its wings in Brazil and cause a Hurricane in Hong kong and Rokjesdag in The Netherlands.”

This unpredictability is probably the only thing stopping the Dutch from creating official ‘Happy Rokjesdag’ greeting cards for the occasion as well.

How do you celebrate Rokjesdag?

There is no official way to celebrate Rokjesdag (yet, give the Dutch time). However, most people agree that at least 50% of the female population has to be showing off their legs for it to be considered a true Rokjesdag. Anything less and it is simply a group of women who have badly misjudged the weather (and are probably freezing).

Wearing tights or leggings is viewed as cheating. Only items of clothing that put bare legs on display count; skirts, dresses, blouses, shorts. Men are also free to join in with the tradition of skirt/dress wearing if they wish. Rokjesdag is for everybody to enjoy, male or female. It should be fun for everyone… However, most men choose to wear shorts.

The important thing to realize is that Rokjesdag is more than just one day. It is merely the opening ceremony to (what is hopefully) a summer of clear skies, warm weather and short dresses… That is if the Dutch weather does not spoil everything.

Happy Rokjesdag

Sat
26 Mar
Easter Egg Hunt Comic

Dutch Easter Egg Hunt

This cartoon first appeared in the March/April edition of DUTCH:The Magazine

Mon
14 Mar
Ten Years of Blogging

Ten years ago today I made the very first post on Invading Holland.

Wow! Ten years! Please forgive me if I freak out a little bit for a moment. I can’t believe that I’ve been writing this blog for ten years already. Even writing that sentence does not seem real. When I started ten years seemed like such an impossibly long way away. When I saw other blogs celebrating their ten year anniversary I thought it seemed like such an epic milestone (and it is). I’ve been writing this blog for a decade! I’ve done the maths and that’s more than a quarter* of my life (so far). That’s a long time to be doing anything.

So in this post I thought it would be interesting to talk a little bit about why and how I started, as well as a few of the things I have learned from ten years of blogging.

How It All Started

I didn’t actually start out with the idea of creating a blog. Like so many things in my life it just sort of happened by coincidence.

For a long time I had had the vague idea that I wanted to create ‘something’ online. I just didn’t know what that ‘something’ was going to be yet. I was interested in the way a website could be a creative thing itself as well as a means to reach an audience. I liked the idea of doing something self contained that was my own thing.

I thought about it casually for a couple of months but I didn’t really get anywhere with the idea. It wasn’t until my flatmate introduced me to his latest online discovery that I knew what I was going to do. He had started reading something called weblogs.

I had never heard of the concept of blogging before so he explained it to me and shared a few of his favourites. While reading them I started to become fascinated with the idea of people sharing their stories and experiences online (this was before Facebook and social media became big and made sharing a normal part of internet life).

I started to think about all the crazy little stories I had of my own; the time I got stuck in a lift, the time I was lost in Amsterdam at night with a broken ankle, even the strange story of how I ended up in The Netherlands. They all seemed like the perfect subject material for a blog.

So I started writing.

Benefits of Blogging

Slowly, over time, I started to rediscover the love I had for writing at school before self doubt had convinced me I wasn’t good enough at it. I started to find that confidence again as I continued to write. Lately I’ve been enjoying writing short fictional stories too.

Finding an audience took time. Every new comment was exciting (and still is). My writing started to improve and I slowly developed a style. Some elements of that writing style were conscious choices while others simply developed overtime by themselves without me even noticing.

I was once told during a radio interview that a big part of my writing style was, even though I made jokes about the Dutch I was never mean about them. I’d never realized until that point that I was doing that or that it was somehow noteworthy. Now it is one of the things I pride myself on since I love the Dutch so much.

Writing this blog also forced me to deal with my dyslexia. You’ve probably noticed the odd spelling mistake, incorrect word or bonkers sentence structure that still gets through sometimes but you’d be surprised what it used to be like before I started. My spelling and grammar has improved more than I could ever have imagined ten years ago.

Simply through developing a regular writing habit (500-1000 words a week) I started to make incremental improvements. I started to notice some of my regular spelling mistakes and after fixing them a few times the corrections started to stick in my mind until I was no longer making the mistakes in the first place. My writing is not perfect of course. I’ve by no means ‘fixed dyslexia’. I still make mistakes but I no longer feel that dyslexia is something that defines me or holds me back. I’m surprised how often I forget about it sometimes. I certainly feel that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of, even as a writer. Luckily spell checkers also exist and I have a text-to-speech program I use to read my stuff back to me (sometimes with comical results).

The cartoons which were just the results of some doodling soon became a large part of the blogs identity too. They became just as important as the writing and just as much fun to create. Before I knew it my blog had evolved and become its own thing; The adventures of an accident prone Englishman living in The Netherlands. Best of all, people seemed to like it too.

Dealing with Writers Block

I’ve discovered that it is never a good idea to take yourself too seriously. The times I’ve struggled the most with writing have been the times I’ve started to become too caught up in measures of “success,” like visitor count, number of comments and shares or even the regularity (or lack thereof) of my own posting schedule. It created self doubt which led to that old creeping feeling that I was somehow not good enough and that I had been a fraud all this time. Worst of all it created massive writers block which turned that little bit of self doubt into its own self for-filling prophecy. In those moments I’ve found it useful to step back and remind myself why I started writing this blog in the first place; to have fun telling silly stories.

My favourite writer Neil Gainmen was once asked by an inspiring writer, “I want to be a writer when I grow up. Am I insane?” to which he replied, “Yes. Growing up is highly overrated. Just be an author.”

Ten Years of Blogging

The best thing about blogging for the last ten years has been being able to laugh at myself and amuse other people with those stories at the same time. It’s been amazing to have the support of all the people who read this blog. It’s seeing people’s reaction to it that has motivated me to keep going.

I could never have imagined some of the things that have happened as a result of writing this blog either. I’ve been interviewed by a Dutch newspaper, I’ve been on the radio and on television, I became a part time columnist, and I’ve met lots of amazing people (both bloggers and non-bloggers).

As I suspected, back before I even knew what I was going to create online, this blog has become a place that has allowed me to develop and share my creativity. It’s become an important part of my life and has allowed me to do one of the things I love doing the most; writing.

Who knows where I and this blog will be in another ten years’ time. I hope I am still going in some form or another. I will certainly never give up writing.

Thank you for making ten years of my silly stories possible.

(*27.02% of my life to be exact)

Fri
4 Mar

Invading Holland T-Shirt

Exciting news! You can now walk into a physical shop and buy a physical Invading Holland T-Shirt for your physical body. During the month of March I’ll be taking part in what has become known as Loppisstores, rent your own table.

Loppis sales are a fairly recent phenomenon that started in the north of the country. It comes from the Scandinavian countries. They are special shops where you can rent a small areas (a stand or table) to sell your own stuff from. You can sell anything from self made clothes and decorations to second hand books, vinyl records and more. It’s perfect if you don’t want to wait for Kingsday each year to sell your own stuff.

There are two sales locations where I am selling the Invading Holland T-Shirts; Loppisstore in Heerenveen and MijnTafel in Sneek. If you are in the area (or fancy a visit to Friesland) be sure to check it out. The T-shirts cost 8,50 and are still available through the webshop as well.

Loppisstore 1
Loppisstore Heerenveen

Loppisstore 2
MijnTafel Sneek

I’m also trying to find a location in Amsterdam. If anyone is aware of one please let me know.

Fri
26 Feb

Frisian Independence

Dear people of Holland,

As you know I successfully declared myself the king of your country sometime ago. This happened when I put up flyers around Amsterdam announcing the news and no one objected (thus making it official). It has been sometime since my last royal update so allow me to issue the following news.

It has been over half a year since I relocated my royal residence to Friesland (from the royal apartment of Rotterdam). Having spent some time among the Frisian people and getting to know their culture I have decided to grant them full independence from the rest of The Netherlands. I will not (as one of my Dutch subjects suggested) be ‘selling them to Germany’.

This plan means that the province of Friesland will become its own independent country free of Dutch control. Luckily Friesland already has its own flag, language and national anthem so they are already half way there. In order to achieve full Frisian Independence I will be making the following changes over the next few months.

Steps towards Frisian Independence:

1) Frisian will be added to Google Translate (Done).

2) Orange will remain the national colour of Friesland but it will be a slightly different shade of orange from the Dutch.

3) Dutch people within Friesland will now be considered ‘expats’ or ‘tourists’.

4) Border control will be set up between Friesland and The Netherlands.

5) Frisian passports will be issued to all residence of Friesland.

6) Canal jumping will be made an official Olympic sport.

7) Friesland will be represented by its own football team in the European and World Cup.

8) A Frisian edition of the Euro will be created featuring proud Frisian heritage such as; a Friesian horse, carbidschieten and a slow moving tractor.

9) A Frisian representative will be added to the UN.

10) Frisian embassies will be set up in all the major cities of the world.

11) Sloten will be declared the new capital of Friesland.

12) All websites hosted in Friesland will now end with ‘.fr’. Since this designation already belongs to France negotiations will be opened for them to change theirs.

13) A national Friesland day will be created.

14) The name ‘Friesland’ will be changed to ‘The Independent and Glorious Country of Fryslân’.