On Nov. 23, 2005 I moved to The Hague from Washington, DC. This is my new Dutch life.


101 Posts and Still Going Strongish

In the spirit of sitcoms, for my 101st post we look back on the best and worst of the first 8 months of My New Dutch Life.

I began my adventure with Seriously Bad Weather which has proved to be the norm here. Isn't it funny how things just seem so novel in the beginning? As the last days of November 2005 passed by in near-total-darkness, I got an initial taste of the Dutch attitude towards smoking, which is to say that they must smoke at all times.

We celebrated the holidays a bit modestly as our furniture hadn't arrived from the States yet. We would have enjoyed the bit of snow were it not for the fact that my bike was stolen on Christmas Eve!

January was all about transition as we barely managed to survive New Years before having to struggle against the vagaries of the immigration system. Forging ahead, I signed up for Dutch lessons and our furniture arrived more or less unscarred by the trans-Atlantic journey. Nevertheless, the theft of B-'s bike, a mere 2.5 weeks after mine, put our mood at an all time low.

February and March started the mood (up)swing as I finally received my residence/work permit. Huge relief as I already had a job. Shhhh. Emboldened, we started to get out a bit more and enjoy our city. We even managed to get out of the lowlands for a road trip to the UK (you read that right).

In spite of my birthday, however, March went out like lion when I got word that I needed a root canal. Bugger that sucked. Boy, was I in for a big one - not only did it hurt like hell, but I got a taste of the infamous Dutch healthcare system.

June marked my final transition to My New Dutch Life when I decided to give up my American job. The hours and situation were just too difficult to cope with. In spite of my efforts to loaf around for a bit, I managed to land a job quite quickly and have been working since mid-July. Thankfully I got a few choice days off when our pal F- was in the area for the World Cup. I'm still feeling bitter about Italy, so let's agree not to talk about it.

I've also developed an obsession with urinals judging from not one or two, but three posts on the subject.

August has been a banner maand as I've been re-integrated into normal office life (will bring you all up to speed on the new job later). Generally, talking to more people during the day helps immensely. A hiking trip to Belgium doesn't hurt either.

So looking to the future, our "big day" is coming in less than a month followed by our two week honeymoon in Tanzania. And if that's not enough, our lease is up at the end of October, and we're seriously thinking about moving North towards (or into?) Amsterdam.

So, uhm, stay tuned and stuff.



Google vs. Holland

Found this gem on Expatica this morning:

Dutch googelen falls foul of Google

It seems that Google doesn't want people to use its brand name as a verb, and they recently sent their laywers out on a letter-writing campaign to quell this trend.

Now, I've been standing by Google for ages now, even as the sourgrapes gang has likened them to "the next Microsoft." I kinda thought they'd be flattered that a nonsensical word like Google would become common vernacular across the world. What kinda name is Google anyway?

Of course my question is: how do you conjugate googelen?

Ik googel
Jij googel
U googelt
Hij googelt
Wij googelen
Zij googelen

Gosh, when you conjucate it, it isn't even 'google' in Dutch.



No, Not Mickey

This morning we found a little mouse in our kitchen. Always un-nerving, but also unusual as we have a cat. Judging from Guy's prowess at catching crickets and other creep-crawlies, a mouse would be no match for him.

The poor little mouse was stumbling around and bleeding from his lower orifice. As we watched him die, we speculated that our neighbors must have set out a poisonous trap.

Frankly, this really upset me.

Rat poison is inhumane, especially as catch-and-release traps work fine. Setting out poison is also incredibly stupid as the animals have time to run and hide in the walls where they die (and decay) out of reach. We're lucky that we found this little one in our kitchen, but who knows how many others there are. I also worry what might happen if Guy were to catch a mouse dying from poison.

So, I might have to send B- knocking on doors to beg our neighbors to put away their poison. Since all four of the other tenants are girls and he's a guy with a charming Aussie accent, I think he makes for a better messenger.



That Sucks

This train wreck (Ouch!) occurred in downtown Den Haag. In fact, we were on that tram and felt not a thing. The funny thing was that they let us sit on the tram saying that we might only be delayed for about 15 minutes or so. We eventually left without giving a statement or our names or any record that we were ever there.

I was once on a trolley in New Orleans that hit a car that tried to cut it off. I guess the driver didn't realize that trolleys can't turn out of the way. Duh. Still, I barely realized we'd even hit a car, but I had to stick around and give statements to the police anyway, presumably for insurance claims.

So, the socialist, Dutch government has, not surprisingly, a robust support system. If I claim to be incapacitated and I can't work, then they'll support me. So, what's to stop any ole onlooker from witnessing this accident, mill around for a bit and then claim they suffered an injury during this accident? They have strange system of oversight "for your own good" while leaving a lot of loopholes that enable people to become fat-asses living off the dole.

The ability to abuse this system is great. Remind me to tell you about the uproar over women with college degrees who aren't working - those jerks! How dare they!

Anyway bummer, dude. They probably revoked his license for not following the rules or something.



Basting in Bouillon

Mountains, even little ones, rule! Forests rule even more.

Last weekend, B-, Nigel and I hiked in the Ardennes, just outside Bouillon, Belgium right near the border with France. Though the Ardennes may not be the Alps, the Rockies, or even the Appalachians, they still beat the pancake-flat landscape of The Netherlands. And they have trees too.

Belgium's extensive network of hiking trials weave through forests and along streams, offering the rare luxury of solitude. We only passed one group of people on the trail each day.

Bouillon wasn't too shabby either. Straddling the Semois River, the little resort town features a medieval castle and plenty of atmosphere. Nothing beats a beer cafe after a day of hiking.

Photos of Bouillon and Surrounds



A couple lives prior to My New Dutch Life, I lived the life of a rock star secret hideout. After it all fell apart, I dug down deep to strike out on my own and came up empty handed. I even started working out beats and melodies with my pal, DJ Satori, but nothing flowed.

Almost 5 years out and I think I know what my problem was. I really didn't want to pull some kind of Alanis Morissette and write a bunch of angry tunes, dragging my fans through my catharsis. But the truth is, I was angry. If I had anything to say at that time in my life, it was all about how freagin' pissed I was. Could you blame me? My band broke up just before we were supposed to play a cool festival in Oregon, an airplane crashed into the Pentagon less than a mile from my house on the day our last album was released, and I had just started a job where I was picking up the slack of a drunk woman.

So thank you, Lily Allen, for writing the kind of album I held back on. Her debut, "Alright, Still," is chock full of peppy pop tunes with angry, vengeful lyrics. My kinda girl!

What's this to do with my Dutch life? Are Seven tells me the album won't be released for another year in the U.S. Finally a perk! To my peeps back in the States, you'll have to settle for the video.

Oh yea, and many thanks to Are Seven for the tip off on this one.


Just One Month Out of Life

Back in the 80's, Madonna encouraged nations around the world to take "just one day out of life" for a holiday. Sure, Holiday was a catchy hit, but I'm sure not just a few Europeans raised an eyebrow at the notion of a mere day of holiday.

What they say is true; in August things shut down in Europe. Not everything, but quite a lot. We've taken to calling ahead before leaving the house. What's amazing are how many low-margin firms (small restaurants, boutiques, etc.) are all boarded up. That's some serious financial discipline, making sure you can cover the rent while your store is closed for four weeks. I'm not advocating for American-style, winner-take-all capitalism... just wondering how they manage to go in the red for a month.

Individuals, however, get an 8% holiday bonus paid out in May or June. Yup, you heard me right. You get an extra 8% of your salary paid in a lump so you can fund your summer holiday. No need for that pesky savings plan. Granted, when employers calculate how much they're going to pay you, they factor that cost. Still... it's a nice pick-me-up in late Spring when you're feeling a bit restless.

I ask you this: If everyone's on vacation, will everything be closed when you get to your destination?

I guess we'll find out. Even though we've lost that summer feeling, we're going hiking in the Belgian Ardennes this weekend. We thought about camping, but were turned off by the European concept of camping: RV (aka caravan) parks. "Campgrounds" come complete with game halls, swimming pools, tennis courts and, of course, electricity and water hookups. What's fun for retirees in America is fun for the family in Europe. Until I have my own rugrats, I think I'll pass on the family entertainment. We booked a guest house.

Wij zijn op vakantie.



Zomer's Over

It seems that our 3 weeks of summer has come and gone. The days are noticeably shorter, it's about 35F degrees colder, and the monsoons have returned. Of course, this transformation took place just after we finally bought a fan and a couple of outdoor chairs for our balcony. Thank you, Murphy, for your stupid laws.

Not only does this shift in weather bring about that unmistakable 'back to school' feeling, I also find myself unable to select a good outfit each day. I'm convinced that I simply don't have the right clothes for this weather, nevermind that I wasn't exactly roaming around naked before the heat tsunami (a bit more than a wave, you see) hit.

The Dutch really have the art of layering down -- something I've never been good at. This is a hard pill to swallow b/c I don't consider myself a frumpy dresser, but I think I need the "What Not To Wear" crew to show up to my door, snel.



Yukky Dutch Word of the Day: Stinkscooter

In honor or my last intermediate Dutch class (where I have three papers due today and I'm still working on the last one), I give you another installment of Yukky Dutch Word of the Day.


This is exactly what you think is. All sorts of people buzz (literally) around town on two-wheeled scooters with little better than lawn mower engines to power them. They're really loud (proper noise pollution) and seem to lack catalytic converters and other gadgets to control pollution. So, yes, they are stinky. And that's a word both English and Dutch speakers can appreciate.