As with any move there are new things to figure out. Just moving across country can be a change: new climate, different regional shops, and even new subcultures. Moving to a new country you have to make all those adjustments too. When you are on vacation you may need to figure out where to buy toothpaste or something else you forgot. Fortunately, on vacation often your hotel has everything you need – no searching needed. If you are living someplace you need to know where to buy food, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, clothing, tools and other things you may not realize you need. Often this is like a crazy scavenger hunt.
For me one of the biggest adjustments so far has been figuring out where to buy x or what isle to find y. For example, you can buy mops, buckets, decorations, and cookware at Blokker. But good luck finding drain cleaner (I ended up visiting the hardware store for that). This means I often visit several stores before finding what I need. The other day at the grocery store, I was looking for flour and baking powder. I could have bought a mix for anything from pancakes to rolls but I could not find baking powder. If I needed fondant in orange, there it was along with a rainbow of colored fondant and sprinkles but no baking powder*.
One adjustment that I did not expect was figuring out how much I can reasonably carry for a couple blocks. Let’s just say sometimes I overestimated and ended up sore for the next few days. Luckily, it didn’t take me too long to figure this out.
Fortunately, not all changes are hard or challenging. Fruit juice is fairly cheap here and available almost anywhere drinks are sold. This means lots of raspberry and mango juice for me. Yay! Weekly farmers’ market within walking distance. Another easy change – also its close proximity means I head down there more often.
*Update: I was eventually able to locate baking powder. It is sold in small packets and thus is hard to find.
When people ask me what I like about living in the Netherlands, I always give the same response. Walking. When Mike and I moved we sold our cars and decided not to buy a new one. This means our main mode of transportation is walking (followed by taking the train).
Most of my walking has been around town to figure out where I can buy this or that. However, last week a friend invited me along on a walk in the woods. From my house, it only takes about a kilometer before you reach the woods and the heather. (In this weather the heather is brown and not very picture worthy but I promise I’ll take pictures when it is in full bloom.) There are paths through the heather and the woods. On weekends these paths are packed with cyclists, walkers, and even a horse or two. All that walking and cycling makes a person thirsty, so the Dutch have thoughtfully placed tea houses (not to be confused with coffeeshops) and cafes throughout the woods. My friend and I stopped at one for a drink. Sadly they were out of the fresh mint tea that is very popular here so we opted for mulled wine instead.
I think more trips out to the woods will be on my agenda in the future.
One of my favorite things of traveling is trying new foods. Living in the Netherlands has given me more time to find and try new foods. Now it is a widespread opinion that Dutch food is not going to win any gourmand awards. However, I think the Dutch have the comfort food thing down. Here are some of my favorite foods so far.
Stamppot – This is the first Dutch dish I made and it is super simple and 100% comfort food. Stamppot is mashed veggies (with a healthy dose of potatoes or aardappels) topped with cheese and wurst or sausage (though I usually skip the wurst for my helping). I love how easy it is to make and it is the perfect lazy comfort food dinner.
Erwtensoep (split pea soup)- This past year was the first time I tried split pea soup and I have to say I love it. The Dutch do their split pea soup thick making it a good hearty soup and very cozy on a winter day. It also goes nicely with brown bread and butter.
Fries – Ok, so fries are actually a Belgian creation but the Dutch do them well. Go to any town market and there will be a fry truck. The traditional toppings are mayonnaise (none of that Miracle Whip stuff) or speciaal (fritesaus, raw onions, and curry ketchup). You can also get joppie, tartare, curry ketchup, and a variety of other sauces depending on the fry truck. Since Dutch fries are very messy, no skimping on sauce, you eat them with a mini wooden fork. Of course, you can get them plain but really why would you want to?
Stroopwafels – You may have seen the mass produced variety of these in the US, however, nothing beats a fresh stroopwafel. Around the holidays you can get fresh stroopwafels from street vendors. (If you are lucky they are also available fresh year round at town markets.) They are filled with caramel and go wonderfully with coffee.
Oliebollen – Literally, oil balls but don’t let the name scare you. These are basically deep fried donut balls (I think the Dutch like to either mash their food or turn it into a ball) with some powdered sugar on top. Another popular variety has raisins. Sadly, you can only get them around Sinterklaas and Kerstdag (Christmas).
Sorry for posting this a day late. Mike and I had a fabulous new year; we were invited to a coworker’s house for the festivities. (I should preface this by saying that Mike works with a multi-national group of expats in addition to some Dutch folks.) The guest list was largely expats so we were able to converse in English. Everyone I met was fun, interesting, and full of stories about the various countries where they had lived.
The evening began – as I believe all good parties should – with a variety of beers, wine and snacks. There were stuffed mushrooms, chicken wings, mini rye bread sandwiches filled with cream cheese, pizza rustica filled with spinach and ricotta, rum bread, and other delicious foods. Close to midnight the neighborhood filled with bangs and crackling from fireworks. Every member of our party was outfitted with a winter coat and at least one sparkler and we headed out into the street. Colorful lights and loud bangs filled the street and the surrounding air. Around midnight the air was thick with smoke and the sound of fireworks (American readers think the finale of a fourth of July fireworks display and then multiply it by 10 and you will have an inkling of the atmosphere at midnight).
After we had exhausted the supply of sparklers, lanterns etc we headed inside for sparkling white wines and dessert. All in all we entered 2014 with good company and a joyous series of BANGS and BOOMS.