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.
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).
The mail system in the Netherlands is not what I was not expecting. Naturally, we are ordering various items for our new place so I deal with mail deliveries regularly. Letters come to our door (ok through the mail slot in the door). Mailboxes aren’t a big thing here. Although you may have a mailbox if you live in an apartment. Packages are delivered to you personally or (if you are out) to your closest neighbor who is at home. So far three of our packages were delivered to our neighbors while we were out. I am still getting used to this delivery method. One nice thing about the mail system is that you can opt out of junk mailers by putting a “Nee” sticker on your mail flap.
Mailing letters is not what I am used to either. The post system is privatized so you have to go to a place that sells stamps. Places that sell stamps have an orange PostNL sign outside. Often you can buy stamps at card shops and grocery stores. Stamps are labeled “Nederland 1”, “Nederland 2”, “Euro”, and “Wereld”. Which Nederland stamp you use depends on how many grams the letter weighs. The Euro stamps are for letters going to another EU country and the Wereld stamps are for letters going outside the EU. Once you have the appropriate stamp for your letter, you mail it in one of the orange PostNL mailboxes around town. Mailing packages is similar. However, just because you can buy stamps someplace doesn’t mean you can send a package there. Packages can be sent where there is an orange PostNL sign and a package symbol.
At the beginning of December, we moved into our new place. We got really, really lucky and ended up renting a townhouse for about the same price as an apartment. The house was built in the 1930’s and was completely renovated within the last 10 years. I love the character of the house from the winding narrow stairs to the leaded glass. The landlord and his brother installed beautiful cabinets in the kitchen and hardwood floors in the kitchen, dining room, and sitting room. There is an office with built in shelves; a guest room with built-in wardrobes (this is crazy rare to have a built-in wardrobe or a closet here); and a bathroom with a heated floor, bathtub with jets and a heated towel rack.
At the moment we have the following furniture: a desk, a few chairs, a coffee table, a couple dressers and an air mattress. Most of that was left by the landlord for us to use. So for the moment we have been spending most of our time in the office where there is the desk and chairs.
Our lack of furniture necessitated a trip to Ikea. Since we have no car (we took the train to Ikea) we are having our furniture delivered. We did pick up a couple odds and ends to carry back. I have to say knowing that you have to carry your purchases home (or in certain cases have them delivered) really makes you think hard before buying.