Friday, July 25, 2014

Netherlands vs. USA

Nieuwe Kerk, Delft
No expat blog is complete without a comparison of differences between the old home and the new. Therefore, I've put together my list of observations about life in the Netherlands that is different from what I am used to in the United States.

Culture and Society
  • The Dutch language pronounces every letter in a word. 
  • Love of symmetry - many windows display pairs of vases, candles, etc.
  • There are few public holidays, but (depending on your job) it is not uncommon to take a month vacation.
  • Healthcare is reasonably priced.
  • Recycling is thorough and fairly convenient.
  • On birthdays, instead of wishing the birthday boy/girl a happy birthday, people congratulate their family (for putting up with them for another year???)

Buildings and Homes
  • Old is older (i.e. the "New" church in Delft dates back to 1393).
  • Brick is the construction material of choice, with many brick buildings and roads.
  • Windows are rarely screened, and most swivel or swing open rather than slide.
  • Beds don't typically include a flat sheet on top, just a comforter with changeable covers. It is also not unusual to find two twin mattresses shoved together rather than one large mattress.
  • Canister vacuums are more common than uprights.
  • There is no water fluoridation.

  • They like clean toilets - I remember to bring a few coins with me in case I need to use a toilet with an attendant. You pay .20-.50 cents to the attendant who cleans between each use.
  • Speaking of luxury, there is no 1-ply toilet paper, but feel free to indulge in 2, 3 or 4-ply.
  • Dutch toilets drain in the front of the bowl, with an "examination shelf" in the back.
  • The toilet room is also where the birthday calendar is mounted. It provides both reading material and a reminder to send grandma a card.
Examination shelf

  • Many shopping areas are closed on Sundays.
  • Most stores close around 5PM the rest of the week.
  • You should bring your own shopping bag to buy groceries, and expect to bag them yourself.
  • Spices are cheap; even saffron and vanilla can be acquired for just a few euros. Same with flowers.
  • Some basic things like baking soda are harder to find and can be quite pricey.
  • But they have the best selection of bread toppings you will find anywhere, and whole shops devoted to cheese.
  • Sales tax is 21%.
  • Credit cards are rarely used; instead, bank cards are a common method of payment. They have done away with the magnetic strip and signatures and replaced that with a chip and PIN (which can cause problems for unprepared tourists!) There are no checks, but you can transfer money electronically.
  • Grocery carts are usually returned to the proper place after use - you must deposit a coin to use a cart, and you get the coin back once the cart is returned.

Good beer is never far
  • You can buy really good bread from any store.
  • Many restaurants do not offer free water.
  • Cutting with your fork is not done.
  • Tipping your waiter is not expected; they are paid at least minimum wage.
  • The doggy bag is uncommon.
  • Good wine for good price - we commonly buy a certain type of port here for a very reasonable price. We were surprised to stumble across the same port in a grocery back in the U.S. priced at $100.
  • This is not the place for mixed drinks...but they appreciate a good beer.
  • You can walk your beer outside for a little fresh air in front of the pub.
  • Beer is available in many places, including movie theaters.

  • Bikes rule the Netherlands! There is an extensive road system just for bikes. The lack of hills makes riding easy. Most riders do not wear a helmet. Even school children make their commute on bicycle and there are no school buses.
  • One card can be used for public transportation all over the country. 
  • Cars are compact with pick-ups and SUVs less common.
  • Manual transmissions are favored over automatics.
Bikes and Bricks!

  • Most obviously, they use the metric system.
  • Calendar week starts on Monday.
  • Date format is day-month-year.
  • 24 hour clock.

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