After being here for a month, I'm seeing a few patterns emerge about the city and its people. What follows are a series of opinions, observations, images, and often entirely inappropriate generalizations (all men are bad for this, right?).
- Dutch kids - toddlers and young kids between say 3 and 8 years of age - are brats. Loud, fussy, and prone to public tantrums. I'm not sure why this is, although it has been corroborated by several friends as well. More research is needed.
- Dutch women - likely as a result of a lifetime of biking - have fantastic, er, backsides. More research is needed.
- Dutch men often use the mantra "We're straightforward and blunt is all - the Dutch are known for being direct." To this I say: This is true, and it is often a refreshing break from North American passive-aggressiveness. But sometimes you're just being a d**k. Don't confuse the two.
- The Water Mafia. For a country surrounded by water, it is incredibly scarce in restaurants and other public places - gyms, parks, etc. You'll regularly need to shell out a few Euros for a bottle in a restaurant or a gym, after being told there is no tap water available. This will also regularly occur while seeing the tap right in front of you.
- The bureaucracy surrounding the work permit/legal resident process is so convoluted that the Dutch themselves have an expression for it - "van het kast naar de muur." Loosely translated, this means being sent from "the cabinet to the wall" - a metaphor of sorts for being sent back and forth with little progress.
- While I was warned about this through a number of websites prior to leaving, I still wasn't prepared for this level of frustration (4 trips thus far to two separate arms of government - one involved an incredibly pleasant and helpful lady, 2 others that were confrontational, and the most recent one with a man who chose a blend of the twoapproaches). All had separate advice that contradicted the previous one, and the last gentleman even told me "not to believe everyone" I speak to at his office. (Including himself, presumably).
- I liken the above process to a root canal. You know well ahead of time that it's necessary and that it is going to be unpleasant, and you try to steel yourself for it. But when the day arrives, it still sucks.
A canal route
- The tram-attendant-as-entertainer is a beautiful thing, and should be adopted in all forms of public transit globally. Not every tram worker does it, but it's happened a handful of times - where the person, male or female, sings the information about the next stop, cracks jokes, even addresses certain people personally with things like "Hey, nice jacket" to a stylish woman, or "Veel plezier met je bier" (have fun with your beer) to a group of young partiers. This all occurs via microphone so all passengers can hear it, and everyone ends up smiling and laughing. On public transit - imagine people smiling! A revolutionary concept to be sure.
- The fall/early winter weather can be wet, and windy, but almost every day we're provided some sun and a chance to hop on the bike, or to take photos like the ones on this posting - with an amazing light. A good little metaphor for life, if you'll permit a moment of fromage - some darkness at times, even heavy during some seasons, but light is never far away.