Monthly Archives: November 2013

Dutch homes (Or: Example of a free standing house)

Last week was a trip to a garden center at the outskirts of The Hague (Tuincentrum Overvecht). Mostly to look at random Christmas items they had on sale. The “warehouse” feel of the place reminded me a lot of some American stores like K-mart which have garden centers…

On the way, we spotted a Dutch home which looked pretty enough to photograph. Considering I live in the center of The Hague, it’s sometimes weird to get this far out of the city and see what non-apartment living looks like. It’s about 7km distance from the city center.

Dutch house

It could pass for an American home — only the roof is made with different material.

landscaping in front of a Dutch house


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Baby animals and more (Or: Dutch class 23 by ROC Mondriaan)

My class on Wednesday was a bit lighter on content it seems – I only have one page of notes!

Usually the first topic in class is randomly chosen. This one actually came from the textbook – this chapter talked about farmers, greenhouses, and similar subjects. One of the things we discussed was the names for baby animals:

koe – kalf (cow – calf)
kip – kuiken (chicken – chick)
varken – big (pig – piglet)
schaap – lamb (sheep – lamb)
paard – veulen (horse – foal)
hond – puppy (dog – puppy)

As you can see, puppy was definitely borrowed from English. Which language had ‘lamb’ first is debatable (and probably Googleable). ¬†

The grammar that we discussed was a theme that seems to come back week after week – using dat (or similar words to connect two sentence clauses together) almost always results in the verb in the subordinate clause going to the end. This week was “saying something using the indirect route, versus the direct route”. The direct route could also be considered what was actually said in the beginning, or a quote.

Het examen is moeilijk. -> Zij zegt dat het examan moeilijk is. She said that the exam is difficult.

Morgen gaat het regenen. -> De broer zegt dat het morgen gaat regenen. The brother said that tomorrow it would rain. (Unconjugated verbs like ‘regenen’ end up after the conjugated ‘gaat’ verb.)

And finally, one for your amusement… (what the heck? this was in the textbook).

Ik zoek een vrouw. -> De enzame boer zegt tegen de vrouw van de tv dat hij een vrouw zoekt. The lonely farmer said to the woman from the television (a reporter?) that he is looking for a woman. Presumably as a wife.

Since this was pretty light in class talk, I’ll leave you with a random photo from the local Hema:

escalator coffee display at Hema

What do you do when you have piles and piles of extra bags of coffee? Why, put it between the escalators of course! (Actually it is a pretty smart use of space. I’m just used to that space being empty.)

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Turkey AND chicken (Or: Thanksgiving in the Netherlands)

Here is a glimpse of the somewhat simpler Thanksgiving dinner Marco and I had in the Netherlands:


Since a real turkey is a bit harder to find (and cooking one is more annoying!) we got a half chicken from Albert Heijn as well as some turkey breast in the back of the photo. We also had green beans, applesauce, sweet rolls, as well as mashed potatoes and gravy. Let it be known Marco bought potatoes and mashed them himself like a true Dutchie. ūüėõ

So yay – Thanksgiving in the Netherlands!

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Compare and constrast (Or: Dutch class 22 by ROC Mondriaan)

The main grammar that we had this week was de vergrotende trap (comparative) and de overtreffende trap (superlative).

English: good, better, best
Dutch: goed, beter, het best(e)

Dutch comparative and superlative

trap in Dutch means stairs. Officially this chapter only comparatives, although we’ve had both a few times in the last week. For me it’s one of those things where I just “use it”, but don’t exactly know the rules behind it in either language.

Comparative –

bijvoeglijk naamwoord + er:
groot -> groter (big, bigger)
klein -> kleiner (small, smaller)

As you can see, English has the same basic rule – add -er. Sometimes you have to add -der, though – when the noun ends in r.

bijvoeglijk naamwoord + der:
donker -> donkerder (dark, darker)
lekker -> lekkerder (tasty, tastier)

And then the words that don’t fit the pattern at all, just make kids and students crazy:

veel -> meer              (much -> more)
weinig -> minder        (little -> less)
graag -> liever           (like -> prefer)
goed -> beter            (good -> better)

Patat is lekkerder dan spaghetti. Fries are tastier than spaghetti.

Een auto is kleiner dan een vliegtuig. A car is smaller than an airplane.

If you want to say the two objects are the same, you have a few choices:

even … als¬†(or:¬†evenveel … als)
net zo … als
English (just as … as)

De blauwe sjaal is even mooi als de rode sjaal. The blue scarf is just as pretty as the red scarf.

And there you have it Рcomparatives or de vergrotende trap. Perhaps I can cover superlatives and de overtreffende trap.

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Chaos (Or: Feeding the birds)

A random shot of someone feeding the birds in a nearby canal in The Hague:

feeding the birds in The Hague

Picture about 4 times as many birds than shown – this was the close-up. There’s even some swans in there waiting to get fed (and of course due to their large size they get first choice at the food!).

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A question of pronunciation (Or: Dutch class 21 by ROC Mondriaan)

In every language it seems you have a word that must be pronounced perfectly, lest the native speakers laugh at you mercilessly for saying a much, much different word.

Somehow we randomly got on this example last night Рa student said she had trouble pronouncing huur, or rent in English. (This is understandable as the double uu sound is not a natural sound in English, though it is similar to pronouncing tu in Spanish or French.) She mentioned that her coworkers laugh good naturedly when she tries. And why is that?

huur = rent

hoer =¬†a woman who earns her money in bed. ;p ‘Whore’ in English. The w is silent. But oe in Dutch is much easier to pronounce and what usually comes out when you are trying to pronounce¬†uu.

Ik moet de hoer betalan.¬†I must pay the… whore? Hmm.

The same issues exist with the words buur (neighbor) and boer (farmer). Usually when trying to pronounce buur it comes out as boer partially due to not knowing the pronunciation and partially due to your mouth not being able to do the uu sound well.


During the class we mainly finished off chapter 7 and looked again at the time words mentioned in my last blog post (toen, als, wanneer, sinds, and similar).

One thing I did (randomly) learn was that you can mix some verb tenses. The rule for complicated sentences (with a main clause and additional sub clauses) is that the tense always stays the same in past or present.

Toen ik naar de dokter ging, zag ik haar. When I went to the doctor, I saw her. Both in the past tense (required).

Wanneer ik naar de dokter ga, zie ik haar. When I go to the doctor, I see her. Both in the present tense (required).

But you can use the present perfect (Ik heb gezien  / I have seen) and mix it with past or present tenses.

Soms wanneer ik naar de dokter ga, heb ik haar gezien.¬†Sometimes when I go to the doctor, I have seen her. Though it does sound a bit better to add the ‘soms’, or some other element, to the sentence when using the present perfect.


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Sinterklaas (Or: Candy in my shoe)

When I went to grab my shoes earlier this afternoon to do a few errands, I found a gift from Sinterklaas in my shoe!

What is in this Sinterklaas gift

the gift, placed on top of my netbook keyboard for size comparison

It’s tradition to leave small gifts in the shoes of children. This can happen anytime between the day Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet arrive and December 5, though it does not need to happen every day. Children are given larger gifts on December 5 itself.

the contents of a Sinterklaas candy gift

Stickers, candy, and a tiny plastic book. Dank je, Sinterklaas. ūüėČ

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But where does the verb go? (Or: Dutch class 20 by ROC Mondriaan)

Last night I had another class by ROC Mondriaan. As I was on vacation for the last two classes I did not know exactly what the homework was. We were almost done with chapter 5 when I left, so I did all of chapter 6. Unfortunately the class did not get that far so I was a bit bored during the class! But it happens. I did make one mistaken with the¬†dictee, which is a spelling exercise. The teacher tells you a sentence and you need to write it down perfectly. I misspelled¬†concurrentie, or competition. I spelled it as ‘concurrencie’, which makes sense since¬†-tie in Dutch sounds more like a soft -cie¬†(or ‘see’). Another example is¬†politie¬†(police) which is pronunced like¬†po-leet-see.

The main substance of the class was additional time/conditional words which influence the placement of the verb.

als = if (though it can be interchanged with wanneer sometimes)

wanneer = when (present tense)

toen =¬†when (past tense). It also translates to ‘then’ in the past tense.

sinds = (ever) since

The hardest thing to remember is what tense you are in. If you are talking about things happening at this moment, you cannot use toen, only als or wanneer. If you are talking about things that have already happened, you can only use toen. 

The other main thing to remember is that when you use one of these words within a sub clause (or¬†bijzin in Dutch), you need to put the verb at the end of the clause. One good way to figure out if it is a sub clause or not is to check and see if the sentence can stand on its own. If it cannot, it is a sub clause.¬†Als ik naar de dokter ga… (if I go to the doctor…) is not a complete sentence. You have not said what would happen. Thus the verb will be placed at the end of the clause.

Toen hij zijn familie zag, was hij blij.¬†When he saw his family, he was happy. The sentence is past tense, so you use ‘toen’ not ‘als’ or ‘wanneer’. Notice how the verb ‘zag’ goes to the end of the clause.

Als hij zijn familie ziet, is hij blij.

Wanneer hij zijn familie ziet, is hij blij.

If/when he sees his family, he is happy.

Sinds ik nieuwe buren heb, heb ik hoofdpijn. Ever since I have new neighbors, I have a headache. (Though the tense choice in English is probably not the best.)

And then finally, the other use of toen is ‘then’ in the past tense. The verb doesn’t go at the end of the clause/sentence for this – it merely comes before the subject. Simple inversion.

Eerst ging ik naar het strand. Toen ging ik naar mijn huis. First I went to the beach. Then I went to my house.

I am not quite sure why they needed the split in word choices based on the tense… but you do eventually get used to it. Maybe…

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Sinterklaas parade 2013 (Or: The Hague version)

Yesterday, Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet arrived from Spain. Their boat arrived in Scheveningen. To mark this occasion, The Hague had a parade throughout the city streets. It was a rather long parade as it started in Scheveningen itself at 12:30 and ended at 4:10.

Sinterklaas parade 2 Den Haag 2013

There are only three things you need to know about the Sinterklaas parades:

1. 99% of the participants are dressed up as Zwarte Piet (Sinterklaas’ helper)

2. One person is dressed up as Sinterklaas

3. Zwarte Piet passes out kruidnoten, a small, hard ginger cookie, to children.

Oh… and sometimes if you have kids, they will beg you to run from one street to the next in an attempt to get more candy. At least that is what Marco’s mom said he wanted!

Sinterklaas parade 3 Den Haag 2013

cute donkey… probably one of the few things that wasn’t freezing during this parade!

Sinterklaas parade 4 Den Haag 2013

one of the more enthusiastic floats, with a conductor in front (in red)

As you can see, most floats still had advertising. It helps pay for the parade. But then of course you also have more obvious advertising…

Sinterklaas parade McDonalds advert Den Haag 2013

There are also some Zwarte Piet who really got into the act, either riding past on roller skates (hard to do on cobblestone streets!) or in general just having fun like these Piets:

Sinterklaas parade mugging for the camera Den haag 2013

the guy in the black jacket was previously just an onlooker, but is now immortalized forever!

Here is Sinterklaas near the end of the parade (and some Spanish noblemen):

Sinterklaas parade Den Haag 2013

All in all a fun parade, though it was weird to be watching another parade so soon after returning from Disneyland Paris, where extravagant on-the-hour parades seem to be a specialty.

It is now officially the holiday season in the Netherlands! And it will be that much harder to resist gevulde speculaas

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Time for Dessert (Or: Athene Palace in The Hague)

And now for something not Disney related….

Last Sunday Marco and I went to Athene Palace, a Greek restaurant in The Hague. You are served a shot of ouzo¬†shortly after arriving. It’s a Greek, anise-flavored alcohol. I usually order a variety dish that contains a bit of french fries and rice, along with various meats like suflaki, suzuki, gyros, and chicken. Good stuff!

Another person in the party ordered this dessert:

dessert at the Athene restaurant in The Hague

I forget the exact flavor, but if you like whipped cream this is definitely the dessert for you. I’m more of the¬†dame blanche type. My favorite way to eat that ice cream dessert is to ration out the fudge sauce so there is still some sauce left even near the end of the dessert.

The only drawback to this restaurant is that it can be hard to signal a waiter to bring the check. However that is true of lot of restaurants in this country it seems. Others might say they are just giving you enough time to converse afterwards without being bothered, so it really depends on your viewpoint.

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