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Day 9: “Whatever” Frauenparkplatz!

February 18, 2012

Let op! As I’m catching up, Day 9 incorporates numerous translations: German, English, sign language, and female-Speak.

Day 9 of 29-days-of-Dutch:

Is kind of cheating as it’s actually from Germany, where I passed through last Wednesday.  Arguably though, I suppose I’m not so much cheating because the Netherlands are basically Germany–

Proof? All I have to do is change some letters to make this  29-days-of-Deutsche

(Something tells me this won’t help my “inburgering” any as probably now my Dutch friends will revoke my visa and put me on the first plane back to the US.)

my residence card!

Back to point:

Day 9 of 29-Days-of-Deutsche is Frauenparkplatz.”

Frau” is German for “woman” and “Park Platz”  means “Parking Place“.

Yes, “Frauenparkplatz”  indeed is a separate parking spot for a woman.

Having been called one of the best parallel parkers they have ever seen (by many many male friends), I take personal offense to this.

Their sign reads, "Nur fur frauen". Can you read my sign?

Germans claim that female parking places are often closer to the door (good for pregnant women), or better lit (safer), but what you really notice is that female parking places are larger and offer more room for the expected stereotypically terrible-woman-driver who can’t park to save her life. In Munich 2 years ago, I even saw a mini cooper parked on the ceiling at a dealership with a big sign reading, “Frauenparkplatz” at the entrance. Can’t find the photo.

What makes it Deutsche?

Well to be honest, I haven’t spent enough time in Germany to fairly judge or dislike them, so I just have to use sign language instead (a picture paints 1000 words above). However, I am able to use one simple word. Yesterday, I just learned from an Italian friend that when a guy says, “whatever,”  it translates to, “I don’t care, either is okay.”  
When a woman says “whatever,”  it translates to, (putting it mildly since this is public) “screw you” 

So in my most big-girl response:

I’ll let Cee-lo sing it best:


Day 8: Inburgering

February 18, 2012

Day 8 of 29 Nederlands Dagen is: Inburgering.

A burger is not so much McDonalds 1/4-pounder in this case, but rather a “citizen.”  So… inburgering  is a verb–the process of putting new citizens in society, or in short…



Sorry again for the rotation. I can't figure this but out. Turn your head

What makes it Dutch?

Integrations is a hot topic here these days, what with the country’s fearless leader (no, not the Prime Minister Mark Rutte, but the far less intelligent, more right wing, more close minded, and much better hair, Geert Wilders) preaching to close the Dutch borders and blaming immigrants for all of Holland’s problems.


Mark Rutte--bachelor #1

Geert Wilders, bachelor #2, leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV)

Read more…

Day 7: Ik hou van je, bezorger!

February 10, 2012

Day 7 of 29 Days of Dutch is an ode to my loved ones: the Bromfietsten and those brave men who tame them (… to be named later).

This is a bromfiets.  (pronounced : broam- feets)


We (native English speakers) might recognize this bromfiets  as a moped or a scooter. You find them all over Holland and they are often used to deliver fast food. Yes I love them, but no I’ve never ridden them. (Well except one time in Brasil, but that was sketchy so I try to forget it.)


What makes them Dutch? 

So clearly the Dutch aren’t the only ones riding mopeds ( The Italians got that one down (Ciao!).)…The Dutch are also not the only ones delivering fast food.

But In the US, we deliver fast food in awesome trucks or 1988 Berettas. Some kid knocks on your door, you smell pot on him, give him $20bucks and he leaves.

typical American fast food delivery vehicle

Unless you’re from Portland and then you probably had some organic pumpkin soup delivered to you by a fair-trade-free-range-bike-courier wearing capri-pants.


However Holland turns the art of fast-food-delivery into what feels like a search-and-destroy mission.  In the Netherlands, they’re not allowed to guns– yet they have a secret weapon indeed (and I am fascinated by it!0, and here he is folks

(Image credit

Voila… the  Bezorgers!

Your generic Dutch fast-food delivery guy. (no, I don’t know this guy– a friend sent me the picture).


 Who IS HE?  These guys are around 18/19 years old–they are everywhere, and they drive like bats out of hell. You could be enjoying a quiet night strolling by the canals in a medieval city when out of nowhere, you’ll be forced to jump aside so this guy can pass you (even if there is plenty more room in the street).  I don’t know if its because he’s following 1988 Dominos Pizza model  (remember, 30 minutes or your pizza is free?) or if he is working on commission… or if he is just (beware: gender bias) an 18-year old boy with his first sense of power.

When Aruna came to visit, we saw the SAME guy going around multiple corners (I kid you not) with different boxes of food 4 times within 15 minutes. It was unreal– yet some how incredibly funny and awesome every time.

We almost died–4 times.

ready to go! Bestill my heart.

This picture I did take yesterday, in the kebab shop.  Notice how ready and prepped the bezorger is– the bromfiets is lined up with the doorway to go straight out without missing a beat.

Why am I in love with them? I can’t explain my fascination with them, those bezorgers– they’re so dangerous, so annoying, but also unpredictable. Or maybe I have to love them in order not to hate them. It’s like a Pierce Brosnon James Bond film. Clearly Daniel Craig and Sean Connery are the true bonds. Lets face it.  Sometimes you just can’t explain chemistry.

Day 6: De Fietsenstalling

February 8, 2012

Here is a Fietsenstalling. Happy Belated Day-6 of the 29 Days of Dutch.  I’m catching up, don’t worry.

Underground Fietsenstalling in Amsterdam

Even though it should be obvious I’ll do the translation:

fietsen: bicycles

stalling:stalls/places to leave things

fietsenstalling: Bicycle Parking!

And one in Amsterdam, just sent by my friend Alex! (Thanks, I didn’t have the pic of that one!)

Parking "structures" (mid-west!) in Amsterdam... just for bikes. Photo Credit: Alex Roos

What makes it Dutch?

Sure, we have a few bike racks from time to time at some buildings.  And we even get a LEED certification point or two for having EXTRA bike racks. (Pat self on back).

BUT: incase you missed a memo, the Dutch do everything on bicycles.  Pick up kids, carry heavy instruments, paint, go to the IKEA, deliver fast food (on a dangerous out-of-control-brom-fiets mind you)… Everyone rides the bike: business-men in suits, women in skirts (I’m proud that I too mastered this!), carpenters carrying a bunch of tools, young Dutch couples on dates holding hands from bicycle to bicycle…

There is no decrease in the amount of people riding (and parking) bikes despite the rain, snow, sleet, or hail.  And there are no fewer riding bikes despite the fact that (I’m pretty sure this is a rule in the Netherlands), the wind ALWAYS blow in your face.

In fact, the only thing that decreases the amount of Dutch people on bicycles is when the Germans steal them all to either A) melt the bikes down and turn them into tanks; or B) Get the hell out of Holland after liberation. (sorry, is that crass? I’ve been here too long it seems…)

With all these people on bikes, one must have adequate bike- parking.

Fietsenstalling behind the Delft Train Station (they're also building new ones to make room for more!)

We have bike parkings in the U.S. too… but not like here. I have only EVER seen our bike parking lots crowded in the U.S. when you’re at a music festival.

BEWARE: Just like drivers, cyclists are NOT exempt from parking like assholes. One month ago, it took me 10 minutes standing outside in the pouring rain with two arms full of groceries just trying to untangle my bike from the mess where some person had locked their bike on top of mine with a cable lock  and disappeared into the grocery store. I had to strategically pull bikes apart and lift mine out, all while not falling in the canal. Unfortunately I do not have a photo of this.

Here are a few of my favorites photos anyhow. Eat your heart out Portland, San Francisco, New York!

Bike parking in front of Delft Station. (They’r remodeling this now).


Delft. Be careful not to confuse it with the NO-Parking area

More bikes in Amsterdam

A nice place for a bike in Delft.

Classic bike-on-canal pic (Delft)

And my personal favorite.

Delft (also at the train station).

Day 5: Hand Shoes, the cutest word ever

February 5, 2012

On the 5th day of 29 Days of Dutch, I’d like to draw your attention to a critical member of the Dutch language and also my favorite word: Hand Shoes.  Or… as you say in Dutch, handschoenen.

Can you guess what they are?

Mittens and gloves.  🙂

What makes Handschoenen Dutch?

We all wear mittens. I’m not suggesting that the Dutch were the first ones genius enough to put something warm on their hands when they got cold. Surely cro-magnon man did this as well.

With no facts whatsoever to back this up, I’m guessing that Hansje Brinker noticed that wet wool was really uncomfortable, and also particularly ineffective at flood protection.  (of course I mention flooding)

Credit, wall street examiner

My lengthy studies regarding the evolution of the handshoe, (with particular focus to the time period it first appeared in the Netherlands) suggest that  handshoes didn’t show up in the Low Countries until the Dutch started riding their bikes… you know, sometime around the late 21st century.

Only joking obviously.


What makes this word Dutch I think is:

1) it’s plain adorable (like much of Dutch culture)

2) it’s pragmatic like the Dutch (a shoe that goes on your hand… natuurlijk!)


3) it’s efficient and direct. There’s no BS-ing.

To illustrate the opposite for example, consider you’re a small young child in, say,  Northern Michigan. On your first day of pre-school, Mom says, “Don’t forget your mittens!”  

You, as a young sprout are too embarrassed to ask what “mittens” are, because you should have been paying attention to your older brother…You are unable to discern from this request exactly what Mittens are, what their function is, or where they go on your body.

For a visual of the above, consider me below as a young sprout.

Me and big brother Josh in Northern Michigan before first day of pre-school. I swear I have a cuter picture somewhere. How nice I'm still carrying a bottle.

So then you’re standing at the bus stop FREEZING cold for 30 minutes (because the bus is late and we were tougher than all of those kids now-a-days who wait in mom’s car until the bus shows up) blowing on your hands and rubbing them together. You’re likely to be ridiculed for not having brought your mittens like your mother told you to do. You subsequently become disenchanted with the English language at an early age.

If you were Dutch on the other hand, and your mother said, “Vergeet niet je handschoenen!”  there is no mistake that you would have warm hands. 🙂

On that note, I’d like to consider permanently replacing “Mittens” in the English language with Hand shoes.  Which means my that my birthplace (Petoskey, in Northern Michigan) shall no longer be called, “Tip of the Mitt.”

That’s right…
See you all in the Handshoe next summer!

for those not in the know... Michigan (above) is shaped like a Mitten

Day 4: Schaatsen!

February 4, 2012

Welkom naar de Vierde dag van: 29 Days of Dutch.

(welcome to the 4th day of…)

These are Schaatsen.

Schaatsen: Ice skates. * PS-Jasper, do these look familiar??

Pronounced: “shots-un”…

But instead of saying it with the kind little silence “shhhhh!” that reminds Americans to use their “inside voices,” you actually need to cough and clear something out of the back of your throat while you say it.  For example, try saying: “schchchchgghxx-ots-un”

Nicely done. 🙂

Schaatsen means both the noun, “Ice Skates,” and the verb “to skate”

Kids skating on the Buitenwatersloot (Canal) by my huis.

So what makes skating so Dutch?

Every kid in Northern Michigan (and probably Minnesota but I was never there), upstate New York, and much of Canada skated on their frozen pond growing up. So why is this actually differ?

Ice skating IS Dutch culture.  If you can picture how many people live near canals in the Netherlands (many many many)–that’s how many people are with in walking, biking, or…sledding distance of a place to go ice skating.  As soon as the first frost comes, the people in villages and cities alike start buzzing about with excitement;

Will the canals freeze over this year enough to go skating? 

(if  yes, many Dutch people skip work and to skating on the canals).

Skating at Delftse Hout

Will they run the Elfstedentocht this year?

Check this out– it means, 11-cities-tour. It’s a 200km long race/tour through northern cities in Friesland. The moment the cities decide that the ice is thick and safe enough, thousands of Dutch people arrive ready to participate and a couple of million arrive just to watch. You end up with a blauwekruis (blue cross) at the end. Or if you’re unlucky like in 1963 you mostly end up with frost bite, a gash over your fore arms, and kicked off the ice early.

You can feel that excitement at this moment. And I think the wikipedia page already has a section on Elfstedentocht 2012 despite that it hasn’t been decided upon yet.


Here are a couple of vignettes to illustrate the importance of and appreciation for ice skating in the Dutch psyche.

1) The second question I have been asked from just about everyone I met when I  moved here in August was, “Do you have skates yet?”  (You’ll of course recall that the first question I always got is/was, “Why did you move HERE from California? “)

2) Last Tuesday  I received an email from a Dutch friend here in Delft about a recent newspaper article describing the overnight soaring increase in the demand for skates.  Yes, they write about it in the newspaper.

3) Ten minutes later, I received a second email from a Dutch friend who  lives in San Francisco telling me even he had heard  there would be frost for 4 weeks and that I must buy skates now. Specifically not hockey skates. His mother (who lives here) had called to tell him the weather report–and that she had size 38/39 skates all ready for me (see in the above picture). Thanks Jasper and Marjo!

4) Lastly, this morning, I awoke to a note from my neighbors that read:

Dear Jessica, tonight we will make Erwtensoep (pea soup), would you like some? Also, do you have skates yet? 

4b) Further, my neighbors were insistent in lending me their car this morning to pick up my borrowed skates in Kijkduin because 90mins one way (via train) was simply too long and I had to get out on the ice immediately.

I'm half excited, but also half- blind. Staring directly into the sun so mind the facial expression. Also Nevermind the oversized scarf. I could really do without these things, but as it turns out--they're warm.

It was a fantastic day. There were dozens and dozens just on one small set of canals in a park near by. Only not-so-cool-part was hearing cracking in the ice.

Here’s some video–

You know, just incase you’ve NEVER seen anyone ice skate before. And in that case I hope you appreciate the excellent skills in filmmaking, skates, and obviously sarcasm. Mind the nausea. Enjoy the kids nailing each other with snowball and another face down in the snow bank… to get a taste of the flavor here.

Day 3: Storingen

February 3, 2012

Day 3 of the 29 Days of Dutch is interactive and begins with the word, storingen.

*Or, as many Dutch people would prefer to say, k*$storingen. 🙂


Masses making unintended transfers at the Eindhoven train station today on my way back from Maastricht, thanks to STORINGEN


Oh look, today it’s multiple choice! Alright, make your best guess

Storingen  means:

A) A garage unit where you can keep your extra furniture

B) interference–expect a few minutes delay on the train

C) train conductor overslept, we’re waiting for him and will be here soon

D) someone threw themselves in front of the train again, this one’s going to be messy–expect 2 hours delay

E) It’s snowing. Trains cannot possibly operate in the snow, this is unheard of.  Expect major delays, take 2 additional trains and a bus to get to the next major station, and instead of connecting to your final destination, consider sleeping in Utrecht Centraal on the platform since we’ll probably cancel all trains until the morning.


*HINT: only one of the above is incorrect


What makes storingen so Dutch?

So, clearly you can have disruptions on American train tracks, German train tracks, Swiss, etc.

But here it seems to happen all the time. And all Nederlanders complain about it (as I am doing now). If you were in the US, it would actually just be a mess at the airport so we don’t absolve them of their complaining. But because we don’t’ take trains anymore, having ripped up all of our  tracks years and years ago, Americans are removed from this comparison.


If it were German or Swiss, they’d somehow figure out how to get the trains working again–rapidly.

Despite that Dutch weather service can predict even 10 minute windows of dryness during a rainy day (at which point all Dutch people run to Albert Heijn for groceries), the trains, it seems, cannot manage to predict a day with some POSSIBLE snow, nor can they function when it arrives.  You’d think they country JUST moved to 55 degrees north latitude.  But as it turns out, they’ve been here quite a while.


Storingen   happens quite often and can be… well disruptive to say the least.

You CAN plan and prepare for storingen on the trains (and they advise you of this), however, by typing in this website

Following with excellent Dutch customer service, you might be lucky enough to receive this message when you make your inquiry on the above website.


“Translation: UNFORTUNATELY, at this moment the website, NS.NL is not available. We ask you to come back later.” 

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