3 Dutch Lessons Learnt the Hard Way

Most people who know me are very aware that I have an uncanny ability to both make an ass of myself frequently, and learn any lessons life has to offer the hard way. While Sean takes the proactive approach to avoid having to learn lessons, I tend to believe I am invincible until proven otherwise. Once I have been proven otherwise, I will happily adjust my behavior or outlook accordingly. Let’s just say that since I landed to live in the Netherlands on August 1st, life has given me enough lessons to learn the hard way that I’ve simply lost count. And while some are more justified than others having never lived in this country before, some are a result of idiocy, blondness, or my usual manic pace of getting from one thing to the next just that tad bit too quickly. My sense is that this will be one of several posts to enlighten others who ever plan to live here, and also generate some humor out of what I’ve come to know as my #fails from abroad. And for the added fun of it, let’s eloquently summarize these 3 lessons in 3 memorable hashtags.

Shortly after I first arrived here, the ALS ice bucket challenge on social media became rampant. At the time I was living out of only 2 suitcases with limited modes of transportation or time to even think about anything but breathing, going to work and where I could walk that wouldn’t put me in the direct kill path of bikes and trams. As one would expect, my dearest sister decided to nominate me for this honorable challenge and of course “no” was not an option unless I wanted to be the brunt of every joke until the year 2092. That’s when I found out one shocking, somewhat discerning and baffling reality. Stores in Amsterdam don’t sell bags of ice. WHAT!!!! So many things shot through my mind…
What do they use to keep coolers cold?
Do they even have coolers?
What do they use for tailgating?”
And the most shocking thought of all…
OMG, do they not tailgate?
Once the astonishment had passed, I remembered the 6-block whiskey ice cube mold I had brought and put in the freezer. I decided this would have to do for the challenge. (Interesting to mention that the size of 1 of these cubes is about 4x the size of a normal ice cube, and that this item made my “what to bring to live out of 2 suitcases for 3 weeks packing inventory” but eating utensils did not).One soaked t-shirt and a borderline concussion later, I moved on from my state of shock.

About 2 months into our stay (and 10’s of grocery store trips later with the shoebox-size capacity of the refrigerators here), we learned in horror  that the 48+ marking on the cheese packaging in Amsterdam apparently does not mean it has been aged 48 years. It seemed to make sense…the first, second, third time I went to the grocery story in a new country to assume that the large numbers listed next to the lgoudseabels on the cheese indicated how many years it had been aged. Yup! Gouda 48+ is what it said and “Wow, this is great! Delicious aged cheese for an affordable price. I knew I loved the fact that the Netherlands were known for their cheese!” is what I said to myself.
Only until I asked the question to our teacher during the last dutch language lesson did I come to discover that the number actually referred to the fat content of the cheese. The higher the number, the higher the fat 🙁
We now buy the 20+ since it is the lowest we can find, and I’m taking a week of cheese hiatus until I fit back into my skinny jeans.

During one of the MANY panic stricken trips trying to find my way to some destination, lost and running late I remember looking up and sgreenbuttoneeing the bus number that I was searching for. Taking a deep sigh of relief I ran towards the bus, heels and all, and saw it. The green button that would FINALLY get me on the right track to the KLM clinic for vaccinations, the post office to pick up my internet hardware (yes, that is part of the process here) and back to the office in time for my 10am meeting. I did the seemingly obvious thing..I pressed it, expecting the doors to open and to walk inside no harm, no foul.
Turns out that was the control for the automated handicap ramp and the reason that the bus was sitting there with no people on it was because that location wasn’t even an actual stop for people to get on, but rather a break spot for the driver. After a good admonishment from a cranky woman that I couldn’t understand, I took the walk of shame 20 feet across the street and waited 60 whole seconds after break time was over to board the bus with the ‘normals’.

I’m sure there will be a round 2 of this post in the coming months. Any embarrassing moments or ‘lessons learnt’ happen to you recently that we can all laugh about?