Category Archives: Dutch Culture

Sinterklaas: The Lowdown!

Christmas is a time when our family get out some very weird traditions – the weirdest probably being mushy peas with our dinner… YUM! But this year I have had to adopt a new tradition Sinterklaas.

Sinterklaas is the Dutch (and Belgian) version of Saint Nicholas, now don’t get this confused with Father Christmas or Santa, who rides a sleigh pulled by reindeer, lives in the North Pole and arrives on the 24th December. Sinterklaas does none of these!

Instead of Dancer, Prancer, Donner and Vixen Sinterklaas arrives on a white horse called Amerigo (but most Dutchies call him Schimmel) in the middle of November from Spain into the Netherlands. He stays here until 6th December, meeting children and checking his naughty and nice list. But don’t worry he’s not alone, he comes with his trusty helpers “Zwarte Piet” (Black Pete).

sinterklaas

From the time he arrives until the 6th he visits children’s houses leaving sweet treats and small gifts in shoes that children leave out with hay and carrots for the horse. There is no actual set date that SInterklaas arrives at your house, so you shoe must always be prepared! This time of year also brings pepernoten – small round shaped cinnamon cookie things that I have already eaten 3 x my body weight of!

The 5th December is known as Pakjesavond, (literally translated as package evening), and is when you get your main SInterklaas presents. I know what you’re thinking… “So you get presents on the 5th and not on the 25th?”… oh no my friend… we get presents on BOTH!!! That’s right, BOTH! Well when I say “we” I mean children, but seeing as it’s my first year living in the Netherlands, I am really a child in Sinterklaas terms!

Therefore at some unspeakable hour before work, there was suddenly a gift left in my shoe by the door!! …

Sinterklaas pic.jpg

OK, OK, so the Netherlands obviously has way to many names beginning with K, so I had to have an S letter for my second name instead, which surely would be made of more chocolate, so a bonus right!

All I know is I could get used to this double Christmas thing!

Kirsty

 

 

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My Last Six Months…

So I have been pretty slack on the updating front in the last six months, so apologies. Life has been pretty jam packed and a lot has been going on, which I want to update you on over the next month or so in more detailed posts.

Here is a snap shot of what’s been going on:

I got a job!

Yes that’s right, I finally had to leave my very comfortable working from home job, and start integrating into office life once again. I found a great job in Roosendaal, which is continuing what I love (marketing) with a great international company. I had a few “interesting” interviews including one that said my personality was too bubbly… errrm OK!

We got an apartment

home** Please excuse the half-naked man in the picture!

If you want to be utterly confused, try renting in a foreign country! After nearly three months of living in the luxury of Gino’s mum and dad’s house, we decided we should stop eating their food, and pay our own way (apart from on Sundays when we still return for a good meal cooked from the parents). We now live in a beautiful apartment in the city, just a short walk from bars, restaurants and the buzz of Den Bosch.

I had my hard style festival virginity taken

hardstyle_changed_my_life.-1163375You know that loud noise that you hear Europeans listening to and think “What the hell is that noise”… no not Scooter! It’s fair to say that despite my early concerns, I am a convert to the hard style way, and can (sometimes) do the dance!

DecibelDecibel 2015

I turned the BIG 3-0!

And what girl shouldn’t be totally spoilt by surprise trips to Rome and having her friends flown over for surprise weekends in Amsterdam! My birthday once again was stretched out to about a month. I made sure I said goodbye to my 20’s very VERY well!

Amsterdam

Yes, it was a surprise, and yes, there were tears!

RomeIf there was one place in the word that could turn me religious, it would be this place! St Paul’s Cathedral, Rome!

I successfully drove on the right side of the road

One of my fears since moving to the Netherlands has been transitioning to driving on the other side of the road. After eight months behind the wheel in the Netherlands I am brave enough to drive without chanting “right, right, right, right”! And I only dove on the wrong side once… ok maybe twice!

 I started Dutch lessons

This was actually only a few weeks ago, but the first few lessons went well, and I can now say more than “ik moet plassen” (I need to pee), WINNING! Gino and I plan to talk an hour a day of Dutch… let’s see how that one goes!

I learned how to make satésaus

This is a huge step in me becoming a proper Dutchy!`

Sate

There have been so many things that have happened over the last six months it’s hard to summarize in such a short blog post, but hopefully this gives you a bit of an insight into major things that have happened so far. I will update more detailed soon.

TTFN

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Surviving Carnaval

Two weeks after I arrived in the Netherlands was Carnaval. Now being English this was a new phenomenon to me, but Gino has been talking about Carnaval week ever since I’ve known him, so there was definitely excitement to find out what all the fuss was about.

When I was first told about Carnaval two thoughts popped in to my head, firstly the seaside summer celebrations my grandparents used to take me to in Norfolk, where we would spend hours waiting for a 20 minute parade put together by the local scout and guide groups. Secondly was Mardi-Gras. Neither of which can be compared to what I now know to be the Dutch Carnaval.

Outfit

Saturday night never looked so glamorous!

Let’s start with the outfit, every city or district has their own mascot, in Den Bosch it’s a frog, you must think “what?” but yes frogs. More importantly, lots of frogs which were sewn onto a blazer. This is then topped off by the colours of the local town or city you are celebrating Carnaval in. We planned to go to Den Bosch, which was renamed Oeteldonk (HUH?) for the celebrations, and therefore our colours were red, white and yellow. I went for a scarf, gloves and leg warmers, it was February after all!

Outfit 2

Now Carnaval officially starts on the Sunday and goes until Tuesday, but in true Dutch fashion this has been extended from Thursday to Wednesday. We chose to just concentrate on Saturday to Monday, for three reasons; firstly I think Gino wanted to ease me into my first Carnaval slowly, secondly we didn’t want to spend our live savings on beer, and thirdly my liver wouldn’t be able to cope with that level of drinking.

So on the Saturday night instead of putting on a dress and heels I put on my Carnaval colours and caught the bus into Den Bosch with Gino. I was delighted to see that everyone on the bus was also emblazoned with frogs and bright colours and rather than standing out, I faded into everyone around me. Hooray, finally I was becoming a Dutchy!

When we arrived into Den Bosch I can only describe it as a sea of people, more like a Spanish party town in the height of summer rather than a quiet Dutch city. However it wasn’t just 18 to 30s that lined the streets, people of all ages were not only covered in frogs like me, but also dressed in crazy fancy dress.

Carnaval

We drank at a bar called Paternoster, which was in the main square in the city. As we walked in I was overwhelmed by the amount of people, we pushed our way to the back where Gino’s friends were drinking. The music was loud, but not just the usual music you hear in a bar on a Saturday night, instead “Wooompahpah Wooompahpah” music played, with some kind of Dutch over the top. I understood one song to be the Children’s classic “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”! My first reaction was “what the hell have I got myself into”, quickly followed by “get me a beer now”, but after three or four drinks I found myself bobbing along to the “Woompahpahs” quite happily.

Day two started much earlier, after a full English breakfast we headed into Den Bosch to watch the unveiling of the puppet. Now this is the part I don’t understand, a giant puppet is set up in the centre of the city covered by a cloth, at 3pm on Sunday Carnaval is officially started by removing the cloth from the puppet. Yes I think it is as crazy as it sounds! After the puppet unveiling we headed back to Paternoster where more beers were drunk, and I spent about a quarter of the time in the queue for the ladies. I hate to admit it, but I was quite enjoying this weird celebration by this point!

PuppetMonday, and the final day for us but the day I was looking forward to most, parade day! I grew up in Disney and so was used to the Parades of Disneyland with princesses and my favourite Disney character, expectations were high! We headed to Jeroen and Celesta’s, who live on the parade route; therefore we could keep warm and drink beer in the comfort of their living room. Despite my high expectations I was not disappointed, the parade was an amazing mix of floats that the people of Den Bosch had obviously been working all year on, and when the parade was held up the brass bands would continue the whoompah whoompah music to keep the crowds entertained.

Parade 4After three days of Carnaval, to say I was exhausted was an understatement; I can see what Gino means when he says he gets tired translating from English all the time. Gino’s friends were amazing, and welcomed me into the group like I was meant to be there. There was always someone who took pity on me when I looked slightly confused during the weekend and would explain what was happening and why, as well as someone to always come and help me dance to the weird music that everyone seemed to know all the words to!

Parade day Drinking 2

Lots of beer was consumed!

Even though Carnaval was overwhelming at first, I can honestly say I am excited for next year, when hopefully I can sign along to the Whoompa-ing, finally understand the puppet tradition and my liver will hopefully be recovered. Here’s to Carnaval 2016!

Parade day Drinking 3Saturday NightLeroy

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An Alternative Guide to the Netherlands

There’s been so many people that have asked why I chose to move to the Netherlands rather than taking the easy option of Gino moving to England. There are two different reasons; firstly, I don’t like taking the easy option… ever! And secondly, the Netherlands is AMAZING!

Let me just explain to you why in my alternative guide to the Netherlands:

  • The food – I love fries, the Dutch LOVE fries.
    I love bread, the Dutch have the most incredible bread, it’s a match made in heaven! Don’t even start me on the cheese…oh boy the cheese… and meat!
  • Honesty – if you have ever had the pleasure to have a Dutch friend, relative or partner, you will understand just how honestthe Dutch are. At first it’s a little disconcerting, especially for us English who tend to shy away from pointing out that massive lump of spinach you’ve had in your teeth for two hours, or that huge spot on your head that you have tried to cover up with more make up than Max Factor. But soon you learn to revel in their honesty!kings day
  • Celebrations – the Dutch love to celebrate, whether its Kings Day in April or Carnaval in February, any excuse to get dressed up in orange or sew frogs to your jacket (post on this topic coming soon) and the Dutch will make the most of the opportunity.
  • And this leads to parties – in England having a house party was something I did when I was 15 when my parents left me alone for the weekend, and I prayed that nothing would get broken. In the Netherlands it seems like every weekend there is someone throwing a party. Old or young everyone gets together, usually at someone’s house, to drink copious amounts of alcohol and eat snacks (see next point).
  • Snacks – this point automatically makes me think of a bag of crisps or a chocolate bar…. Oh no the Dutch take their snacks much more seriously! If you ask a Dutchy for a snack they will happily prepare for you chicken satay or fried snacks such as bitterballen, kroketten or frikandellen.
  • Which leads me on to frikandellen – think sausage, but with more spices, and nicer…..much nicer!bikes
  • Bikes – the Netherlands is flat, therefore everyone cycles. The infrastructure is set up for it with cycle routes into and around every town and city, there are 18 million bikes in the Netherlands, meaning there is more than one bike for each person in the country.
  • Height – as a 5ft 8 inch girl it was hard to find a man in the UK that I didn’t tower above when I wore heels. The Dutch are the tallest race on the planet, meaning when I’m in a room full of people in heels I’m probably one of the shortest.
  • Footwear – the Dutch have incredible taste in footwear, despite being tall they take their footwear fashion very seriously. Next time you’re with a Dutch person look down at their feet, I guarantee you wont be disappointed.

… and I haven’t even talked about windmills, tulips or clogs! This list could go on for a while…!

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