Monthly Archives: February 2013

ATMs and stores (Or: Large denominations of euros)

Since I haven’t been in the Netherlands too long yet, I do not have a bank account. Now that I am registered as a legal resident, I technically can get one at any point, however. One thing that I find a bit strange with the Netherlands is the apparent passivity to receiving and spending large denominations of euros – particularly €50. Especially when you consider that right now €50 is closer to $60.

Oddity #1: Dutch ATMs prefer to give you a €50 bill at all costs. If you ask for €60, you will get a €50 bill and a €10 bill back. In the US, you always get back $20s. Of course, I could ask for €20 each time, but  I am still using my American debit card (tied to my Chase account) to withdraw money, and there’s a $5 fee for use in foreign ATMs. That’s fair, but it does mean that I will always try to withdraw €100 to reduce how many times I have to pay the fee. I might withdraw even more (like €200), but considering my luck, the machine would probably give me two €100 bills!

Oddity #2: Most stores seem oddly nonplussed about accepting €50 bills. Of course, this is limited to the stores I have frequented so far, but half the time I expect an alarm to go off and the police to swoop in an arrest me for trying to hand over a €50 bill for a €15 purchase. (I’m joking, but I did have to break a €50 for a €15 purchase today.) I have memories of the hometown Burger King refusing to accept $50 bills even for a purchase around twenty five dollars. So I had it ingrained in me as a child that you just don’t do that. If you can help it. Exceptions: buying clothes, etc, where the total tends to be higher by default.

Oddity #3: Dutch banks will look at you funny if you ask for smaller change. This one I only know from asking questions, but I don’t doubt it. I am used to the US where I had to ride the bus back and forth daily. It wasn’t that far of a ride, so I only needed $1 bills (about $4 a day), but… My routine was to go to the bank every week and break a twenty dollar bill into singles. The bank tellers knew me by name, and sometimes even started counting out singles before I was at the desk. (Useful except when I was really there to withdraw a rent.)

I did see a sign in Xenos (a thrift-ish store) saying no €100 bills or higher, though I do know they will accept €50s (even if your purchase is less than €8…!). Hmm.

Categories: Culture, Everyday purchases | Tags: | 2 Comments

Snacks (Or: Kelly’s Expat Shopping)

A few weeks ago, I went to Kelly’s Expat Shopping in The Hague. I was looking for a few surprises to give Marco for Valentine’s Day. Originally I wanted to go there because the website said that they had sour nerds in stock, but that proved to be wrong unfortunately.

The store was bigger than I expected, and the aisles were definitely wide enough. Since it was my first time there, I took my time looking up and down the aisles to make sure I didn’t miss anything good.

I did end up getting him five things – a bag of sour skittles (to replace the non-existent nerds), Frank’s hot buffalo wing sauce, a small bag of Synder’s Jalapeno pretzel bits, Welch’s grape jelly, and Jack Daniel’s spicy barbecue sauce. The main one was the barbecue sauce, since it is classified as a liquid and thus can’t be ordered from America or the UK. You can bring it over in luggage, though. The grape jelly is good for peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, since it is hard to find jelly in this country. Mainly they just have jam, which is a slightly different taste.

Since there is currently roadwork going on this year, I was not able to take tram 17 like I said planned, but instead had to take tram 3. It just meant a bit further of a walk. But due to that I was able to get this image:

rocks for sale in a candy dispenser

It’s a candy dispenser, repurposed to sell polished rocks. You can see a sign underneath with a list of the various types of rocks available.

ignatiusparochie den haag

Ignatious Parish, a nearby church

Categories: The Hague | Tags: | 3 Comments

A surprise (Or: Soft pretzels made from scratch)

One of the things that I miss from America is Super Pretzels, which you could pick up at the Shoprite grocery chain.  They are frozen pretzels which you could microwave in about 60 seconds.

And of course there’s the addiction to the Madison Square Garden soft pretzels, with hot cheese to dip it in…yum.

Tonight Marco surprised me with this:

figure 8 soft pretzels made from scratch

As a joke he made them into simple figure 8’s, rather than the more traditional pretzel shape. They taste awesome! We’re currently enjoying our spoils with a white beer, Korenwolf, with a dash of lemon juice for added flavor.

Go Friday!

Categories: Food, Marco&Niki | Tags: | 3 Comments

Huisfeest (Or: Dutch lesson 2 of 14)

Last night was my second Dutch class at Volksuniversiteit in The Hague. This time I acted a bit more like Niki: I answered all of the textbook questions and workbook exercises for the lesson we would be going over — in advance. The class was for chapter 7, section B. (Normally the textbook exercises are in class.) It’s not that I have to do so – it just makes me feel a lot more prepared.

And then in the end of the class we started on chapter 7, section C. D’oh! :p

I am looking forward to the next class (in two weeks – next week is Spring vacation). During the first class she asked us to sit in the same seats for week 2, but said we would move into more of a circular format for class 3 and beyond. I never realized how much I need to see a Dutch speaker to understand what they are saying, but I do. Some people give some nice visual clues (with their hands) when they talk. But I am currently sitting in the second row and rather short, so it’s hard to see over the students in the first row…

Today’s subject was “At the doctor”. One thing we looked at was giving advice. One of the sentences constructions is with the verb zullen (which is similar to ‘shall’ in English). There’s only two forms for giving advice using zouden: the singular and the plural. ik zou translates to “If I were you…”. The other one you can use is we zouden – “If we were you…”

And then she started asking for advice. She asked what advice you could give a friend whose birthday was today. Someone said: “ik zou een huisfeest hebben!” If I were you I would have a house party.

After a few seconds the somewhat confused teacher replied quite seriously: “Huisfeest!…

… isn’t a word.” And then laughed with the rest of the class.

She said you could use thuisfeest, except that that is more for a house warming party (after you move in). So probably just use feest, a party.

Another thing we looked at was separable verbs. Some verbs have components that, well, separate from the verb if conjugated. For example:

afwassen  = to wash the dishes

Ik was de borden af. (I wash the plates.)

There’s way-y-y too many separable verbs to name. Wiktionary has a long list of separable verbs, and Dutch grammar has a short list of example separable verbs. One thing we learned in class was that if a verb was separable, the stress would be on the prefix (af-was-sen). If it was not separable, the stress would be somewhere in the verb.

Some other interesting things: the professor still has to cover the pronunciation of the alphabet a lot. Mind you, I am not saying I can quickly rattle off the spelling of a random word, but I can do it if I think about each letter. But some students don’t even know the alphabet yet. Though I do get the confusion where “e” is pronounced as the English “a” and “i” is pronounced as the English “e”…

Sadly in a few students’ cases it is because they wanted to sign up for the beginning Dutch course but the timing wasn’t just right – so Volksuniversiteit recommended that they cram for a month and join the second level. It’s obviously not working out that well for them.

Finally, it’s a long class – 7PM to 10:15PM. And of course the bus arrives at 10:17, though the teacher understands and lets students leave early if needed. Apparently some students missed the 10:17 last time and said the next bus was pretty late, so hopefully I don’t ever miss this bus. But it will happen. ;p

Until next time! (March 5)

Categories: Courses | Tags: | 2 Comments

BRAD concert (Or: At the Boerderij in Zoetermeer)

As I mentioned earlier, we went to a BRAD concert on Thursday night. This concert featured Stone Gossard from Pearl Jam. The opening art was the New Killer Shoes (why don’t they have a Wikipedia page yet?!)

setup for the New Killer Shoes band

setting up for the opening act (New Killer Shoes)

A piano solo (YouTube)- “Crown of Thorns” – from the night we went. The singer/player is Shawn Smith from BRAD. Much different from the rest of the songs which had the guitars and drums you would expect. 😉 There’s some history to the song – it used to be sung by Mother Love Bone until the frontman Andy Wood passed away. Most of the band’s members went on to form Pearl Jam.

soundboard at BRAD concert

The crazy soundboard from the concert. I never know how they know what button to tinker with. Maybe they just tinker randomly to make it look like they know what they are doing. 😉 Oh wait. That would be me.

And on the way home, in the tram…

Dutch tram door with smiley face

Do you see the smiley face?

Two different designs for the check-in/out machines. The one in the back has the phrase kaart hier, with a hand holding the card and two arrows pointing where the card should be placed. But still, it’s easy to forget where the card goes. (In my defense, I haven’t had any trouble in the last 3-4 weeks.)

Categories: Zoetermeer | Tags: | 1 Comment

Surprises (Or: Roses from Marco)

After I wrote the last Valentine’s Day post, Marco came home and presented me with a bouquet of roses. Surprise!

red white and pink Valentines day roses

I especially like the dark pink one on the bottom in the middle. It’s my favorite!

And soon we are off to Rodizio for dinner…

Categories: Marco&Niki | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Valentine’s Day (Or: Lollipops and music)

So when I walked into the living room today (after Marco had already left for work) I spied something on the couch from across the room. It turned out to be an extra large Valentine’s Day card, complete with a bit of Dutch for me to translate.

Also next to the card was a single lollipop:

lollipop from Sumo restaurant in The Hague

It’s actually a lollipop from Sumo, a restaurant in The Hague which we visited in late December. It is a running joke that I like the lollipops from that restaurant (which you receive on your way out) because one of them that I got was a four colored lollipop which I found amusing. Considering it has been a month and a half since we visited there, he has held on to it for a long time! He only brought it out long enough to tease me with.

And now it’s mine!

On a more serious romantic note, he also slyly told me last night that he made reservations for the two of us at Rodizio tomorrow night. Grilled pineapple – yum!

But first — tonight Marco, Roger and I are heading to the Boederij in Zoetemeer to see the band BRAD, which is the second band of one of the Pearl Jam members. Should be fun!

Categories: Friends&Family, Holidays | Tags: | Leave a comment

New experiences (Or: Dutch lesson 1 of 14)

Last night was my first Dutch lesson at the Volsuniversiteit. This is the A2 level.

My night started out with the bus I needed to take being 7 minutes late. This is actually not a long time considering – but buses run every 15 or 20 minutes so it was a lot more noticeable. Interestingly, I still arrived at the school at the same time I should have been there. Not sure how to explain that one, except that we did skip a few stops along the way.

Thankfully my class was in the same place that my oral test was in, so I only had to find the classroom. I knew that there would be a board with a list of classes and their rooms right inside the front entrance. Since the class was starting this week, it was one of the classes that had information on its own piece of paper in large font. (Of course the directions to get to the classroom were in Dutch using vocabulary I didn’t understand yet, though I wasn’t the only person needing help finding it.)

Continue reading

Categories: Courses | Tags: | 1 Comment

Two languages (Or: A letter from the burgemeester)

Yesterday I received another letter from the city of The Hague. Specifically from the mayor, Jozias van Aartsen. But this was definitely a form letter – you can tell because it starts with “Dear Mr., Mrs.,”…

letter from The Hague burgemeester

“Welcome to The Hague!” letter

Since the city now knows that I exist, they decided it would be a good time to welcome me into the city. Interestingly, one side of the letter is written in Dutch and the other side of the letter is written in English. But the information isn’t completely the same – for example, the Dutch side of the letter talks about finding out more information about the municipality (what they do and what they can do for you specifically) by reading the newspaper Stadskrant and De Posthoorn. But the English side of the letter instead has a section on the International Centre of the Hague, something that is completely missing on the Dutch side.

“Ik wens u een mooie tijd in Den Haag!”

I wish you a beautiful stay in The Hague!

On an unrelated note, here’s the lid off a dessert that Marco and I bought at Albert Heijn:

Mona brownie pudding dessert lid

This dessert is a chocolate brownie dessert – somewhere between a brownie and a pudding consistency. Getting it out of the container is always fun. You need to take the lid off (shown above), and then turn over the container on a plate. You then take the cover off the bottom of the dessert, exposing a small hole for you to blow air into, forcing the dessert to slide out of the container and onto the plate. It works pretty well actually.

But now for what the lid says above:

zeg tegen je moeder dat er een muis over het aanrecht loopt,

Tell your mother that there is a mouse walking on the counter

tegen je vader dat er voetbal op tv is

tell your father that there is football [soccer] on tv

en tegen je zus dat haar vriendje voor de deur staat

and tell your sister that her boyfriend is at the door

en jij? Eet smakelijk 😉

and you? Dig in! (or perhaps translate it like Bon appetit!)

Categories: Everyday purchases | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Den Haag (Or: Chinese New Year 2013 celebration)

Marco, his mother and I traveled to the city center of The Hague today for the Chinese New Year celebrations. This included a few different parades, dragon dancing, a speech from the vice-mayor of The Hague, and more. The main action occurred just outside of de Bijenkorf (a department store) near Gedempte Gracht (street) in a parking lot (Google Maps).

The opening of the ceremony began with the waking of the two dragons using drums.

Chinese New Year Den Haag 2013 two dragons

Along with drums there were also cymbal players:

Chinese New Year Den Haag 2013 cymbal dancers

And more dragons:

Chinese New Year Den Haag dragon dancers

Chinese New Year Den Haag 2013 dragon dancers 3

The movement of the dragon was simulated by pulling the steel rods up and down – one person up, the next person down.

Chinese New Year Den Haag dragon dancers 2

I just liked the look of concentration on his face.

The end of the opening ceremony featured one dragon jumping from pedestal to pedestal. As there are two people underneath each costume, it takes a bit of coordination. Here’s a picture of the height of the highest pedestals:

Chinese New Year Den Haag 2013 crowd

The guy in orange has the job of catching the performers if they fall. They did twice – once in the beginning and once in the middle, on the highest pedestal. But no harm came – they were always caught before falling to the ground.

One performer on the other performer’s shoulders, to give the illusion that the dragon was rearing up.

Chinese New Year Den Haag 2013 2

And finally…

Chinese New Year Den Haag 2013

catching them in the act of jumping from one pedestal to the next.

Afterwards, they unveiled the “statue” for each of the years. This is the year of the snake.

Chinatown Den Haag Chinese New Year

A crowd forms near the beginning of the parade that came later.

Chinatown Den Haag Chinese New Year streets

It was pretty fun, but very cold, considering!

Categories: Holidays, The Hague | Tags: | 4 Comments

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