Saturday, December 17, 2016
8 Things I Learned in the Netherlands (in November)
1. Dutch people are huge. Tall and broad shouldered and big-footed. Statistically the tallest people in the world, Dutch men and women average out at around 6' and 5'7" respectively. I went into an H&M to see if they sized clothing differently here because it just wouldn't even make sense to have little feather light mini dresses in size 0 - literally no Dutch people would fit into that. Turns out they do have small sizes, but the designs are a bit different, more flattering to the sturdy Northern European figure.
2. You might as well not even wear makeup on the bottom half of your face because 9/10 times the scarf you have tourniqueted around your neck is going to rub it off.
3. It's dark. So dark! I can't put my finger on why it seems darker...maybe the street lamps are different, or maybe since it's been constantly cloudy the starless, moonless night feels darker. It certainly doesn't help that sunset is around 5 pm.
4. It's so diverse. I thought the Starbucks workers at Amsterdam Centraal Train Station were a great example of this: one tall blonde Dutch girl with Delft blue eyes and a near perfect American English accent, one dark skinned girl, one girl with olive skin and hazel eyes wearing a hijab, and a tall boy with the most hipster mustache and trendy half-shaved head.
5. Spinning off of that last point - everyone speaks perfect English. Some older Dutch people stumble a bit with grammar, maneuvering around the bulky accent you imagine of an idyllic country milkmaid in wooden shoes. For the most part, however, anyone you meet working in a cafe or a bike shop or on public transportation, anyone you stop to ask directions on the street, or any back-house cook stuffing your Dutch fries (fritjes) into a paper cone will speak excellent English. Even more surprising was how many non-ethnically Dutch (either immigrants or children of immigrants, many from former Dutch colonies such as Suriname or Indonesia and others refugees from conflict in the Middle East or African economic migrants) people spoke beautiful lilting Dutch comfortably alongside English.
6. The Netherlands is the 28th most densely populated country in the world (406 people per sq km), and the most densely populated "real" country in Europe (Monaco 2nd, Vatican City 7th, Malta 10th, Guernsey 14th, Jersey 15th, San Marino 22nd). It's even denser than India!
7. The bike thing is real. So real. More real than you are actually imagining if you have never been to the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, there are more bikes than people! I met a girl who owns three bikes. They dredge 15,000 lost bikes out of Amsterdam's canals a year. Across the country, people expect to have their bike stolen about once a year - but I find this quite surprising, as I'm not sure what kind of bike resell market there is seeing as everyone already has a bike!!!
8. Holland is a little country. Amsterdam only has a population of about 850,000 yet sees more than 5 million tourists a year! 14 million tourists visit The Netherlands annually!