Daily Dutch living

Aged cheese (Or: Jokes at a local Albert Heijn)

Here’s a silly joke about cheese for you, spotted at the local grocery store, Albert Heijn:

In English: “Age isn’t important, unless you’re cheese!” Haha. Such a silly joke. But a bit of personality at a chain grocery store as big as Albert Heijn is always nice to see.

Here is an interesting article spotted at The Guardian: Slowly does it: chord changes in John Cage’s 639-year-long organ piece. Or check out the article in Dutch over at at nos.nl.

The name of the work is As Slow As Possible (ORGAN/ASLSP) and it started playing in 2001. According to the Wikipedia article, there have been 14 chord changes to date, with the previous chord lasting 6 years and 11 months. Chords are changed by adding or removing organ pipes.

The performance is scheduled to end on September 5, 2640… It’s hard to imagine that.

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What is your R number? (Or: Corona dashboard)

Last week the RIVM (Dutch ministry of Health) released a prototype of the Corona dashboard which can be found at coronadashboard.rijksoverheid.nl.

As you can see it shows things like ICU intakes and hospital intakes averaged over the last three days (6 and 8.7), number of infected persons per 100,000 residents (9.9) and the very well known R number, which is currently 0.87. There are also data points about nursing homes and a list of data points they are looking to add in the coming weeks.

In completely other news: sometimes trips to the grocery store can be very, very interesting. Today I wanted to grab a water bottle however there was already another customer there looking at multipack water bottles. Okay, he was right in front of what I needed, so I decided to wait. Even in non-corona times, it would have probably been perceived as rude, and it’s not like he would take that long right?

Wrong. After 2 minutes of semi-patient waiting I decided to look at my watch to start timing the rest of this experience. He had a pack of water in his basket already and he would grab another slightly different pack and look at the label. He would then put it into his basket and then pick up something else and look at the label of that water pack.

After the first minute someone else stopped and was clearly waiting to grab something from the water as well. After three minutes I did start to get a bit impatient, but tried to keep it from showing on my face. It must have been obvious that I was still standing there waiting, right? The other person was behind him on the other side of the aisle, so I could forgive him not seeing her. In the meantime about 15 people walked down the middle of the aisle, probably wondering what the heck the bottleneck was. But this was the last item I needed to get, and I was morbidly curious to see how this would play out.

After switching out the multipacks in his basket about 5 times, and staring at labels about 10 times, he finally picked one, grabbed the rest of his stuff and got a move on. The other customer politely waited for me to grab my water which I quickly did. Her and I shared a smile, neither believing what we had just experienced. I whispered fijne dag while deftly grabbing my water with my left hand. Total time it took him: 5+ minutes. Total time it took me: about half a second.

But now I have a good story for the blog, so it was worth the extra five or so minutes, right?

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The clock strikes 12 (Or: Bustling terraces in The Hague)

Today’s the day! As of 12:00 in The Netherlands, cafés and restaurants could again open their doors for both inside service and service on the terrace, with the former requiring reservations. I’ll admit my curiosity got the better of me so I set out to get some photos for the blog.

I suspected that the city centre would be rather busy so I took an alternative route to get around in the beginning. However in the end I found it was easy enough to move around safely due to the ban on cyclists this weekend on the Grote Markt street.

First up we have the Grote Markt plaza, which I was most curious about:

I’ll admit I really like what this area has done. They’ve kept it rather inviting and it is easy to see where there is a free table. The separate entrance and exit is clearly labeled and they even have colored flags placed down the aisle of the exit area, although it’s a bit hard to see in this photo.

Next we have a look at the terrace by ‘t Goude Hooft, a fancy restaurant/hotel combo:

And finally here is a look at the plein by the Buitenhof. Surprisingly there was still a lot of space left here, although the area pictured is a self-serve bar that has very limited food options. I’m always a fan of this place since you need to pay right away. That means you are never stuck at the end trying to flag down the waiter to get the bill. But I digress…

Two other interesting things I saw but did not take a photo of: six tourists on segways around the Binnenhof area. It was weird to see segways at all, let alone in these times, but they were speaking Dutch so they weren’t foreigners. The other interesting thing was a tiny, one person van with a loud speaker strapped to the top, from which they were broadcasting music quite loudly while driving around. Most likely to get everyone in the festive mood. The side of the van said “Hou je Haags”, an expression I blogged about a while back.

Did you realize we are now in June? Crazy. Bring on a (safe) summer! ☀️

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A new “control” phase (Or: Dutch press conference on 6 May)

News articles had begun to appear in the last few days saying that the government would be shifting to a new phase of “what can you do” versus “what can’t you do” during these corona times. By yesterday it became apparent that the government would holding a press conference tonight, again with the prime minister and healthcare minister. As expected, a lot of the information leaked yesterday evening and today, so there weren’t too many surprises.

The usual rules stay in place (for example, keep 1.5 meters distance, sneeze and cough into your elbow, stay home if you’re feeling sick, wash your hands often, work as much as you can from home, etc.) The one big rule change in this new phase is “avoid busy areas as much as you can” as a replacement for “stay at home as much as you can”. Which I think is a huge shift already.

Here is the relevant information page from rijksoverheid.nl in Dutch, with some points in English below.

From 11 May

  • As already reported during the last press conference: elementary schools can open, daycares can open, children can exercise and partake in sporting activities outside (teenagers can as well, if they follow social distancing rules)
  • Adults are now allowed to partake in non-contact sporting activities outside as long as they follow social distancing rules and shower at home, with no games allowed
  • Most “contact” jobs are now allowed, including hairdressers, beauticians, driving instructors, acupuncturists, etc. Where possible social distancing rules are followed and appointments are always required, with clients and staff needing to confirm that neither are sick.
    • A bit of a shock: face masks are not required, but can be used if desired provided they are not medical face masks
  • Libraries are allowed to open, provided they follow social distancing rules and limit the rate of visitors accordingly
  • Only use public transportation if you must, and avoid rush hour. It is advised that you wear a non-medical face mask (with this becoming a requirement on 1 June due to the government expecting an increased amount of users by then).

Sometime in June

  • The government expects to be able to test anyone who asks for a test (they hope to allow this from 1 June, but cannot give a precise date yet)

From 1 June

  • Non-medical face masks are now a requirement in public transportation, and public transportation operators are required to have a full schedule by this date
    • Public transportation workers can request testing to make sure they don’t have the coronavirus
    • Medical face masks are not allowed as there is still a shortage of those in The Netherlands for healthcare workers
  • Outside terraces by restaurants can open again
  • Movie theaters, restaurants, cafes, museums and other cultural institutions can open, with reservations required and agreement between the client and staff that neither are sick; with a maximum of 30 visitors and staff combined at any one time

From 15 June

  • High schools can take exams

From 1 July

  • Public restrooms and showers can again open at camping areas and vacation parks
  • The maximum of 30 visitors for movie theaters, restaurants and similar is increased to 100 visitors
  • Church services, weddings and funerals of up to 100 visitors and staff are also allowed

From 1 September

  • Fitness clubs, saunas, wellness centers, coffee shops (drug shops) and casinos can open again
  • Contact sports and inside sporting is allowed, for everyone
  • Sporting events can again take place, but without public. This includes paid football games.
  • Around this time a decision will be made about events with lots of visitors, including festivals and concerts.
from rijksoverheid.nl

The prime minister was quick to caution that the above steps are only possible if the coronavirus is kept under control.

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Empty streets of The Hague (Or: Plenty of places to park your bike)

Recently Marco took a photo of the bike parking outside of Hema:

This was at the start of what is normally evening rush hour, as everyone heads home from work. Normally this area would be packed with bikes, crammed so tightly together that it would then be impossible to remove your bike once you returned from your shopping trip.

The area is normally so full that it there are ‘bike coaches’ which help you park your bike. Or bike coaches that stand around all day talking with each other… one of those two is true. Although one time I did see one of the coaches help an older lady diagnose a problem with her bike, so that was nice to see.

But still: the strange times continue, with no end in the near future.

The government launched a campaign today called ‘alleen samen’ which can be translated as either ‘only together’ or ‘alone together’. Basically reminding us that we are together in this – even when we must undertake so many actions alone (article in Dutch).

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High wind causes detour (Or: Danger of falling glass)

For the last few months the walkway between the train station The Hague Central and the city centre is closed whenever there are high winds (article in Dutch). Pedestrians must take a short 5 minute detour via the Bezuidenhoutseweg towards Herengracht.

This measure is taken whenever the wind speed is over 50-60km or 30-37 mph. The reason? Four windows broke in June and July in the Dutch ministries office building pictured below, although at the time summer heat was considered the reason. It is not that big a deal, since it’s for everyone’s safety. Still – sometimes you just want to get home. Especially when it’s dark and late.

This was the scene again Friday night, so I decided to take a photo. It’s probably a thankless job, telling annoyed tourists that they have to walk around…

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Festival tip (Or: The Streets of Chuck Deely)

This afternoon the city centre will be hosting a festival in honor of the street musician Chuck Deely who passed away in January 2017 (where has the time gone, really?).

The festival will be held from 12:00-18:00 in the Grote Markt street. The description says “musicians will be at every street corner”. From 18:00 the musical arts will move to the big stage at the Grote Markt, ending around midnight.

Download the schedule (PDF)

More information at chuckdeely.nl or visit the Facebook page The Streets of Chuck Deely.

Flowers left in memoriam outside of Bijenkorf after his death
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Helping hand on a hot day (Or: French restaurant LaSalle)

The Netherlands has been in the grips of a record-setting heat wave this week, with at least five provinces reaching 40C (104F). Due to the fact that The Hague is so close to the North Sea, we didn’t quite reach those temperatures – for us it was more like 36-37C (96-98F).

However, most people don’t have air conditioning in their homes. Why would you, when temperatures like this only happen a few days of the year? Luckily public buildings and work places tend to be at least climate controlled. On days like this it is beneficial to go into work rather than being at home, where the temperatures inside can easily hit 84-86F.

I was pleasantly surprised to see this table outside of LaSalle, a French restaurant here in The Hague city centre:

Free water (for both you and your pet) at La Salle

The sign says ‘Pak maar!’ or ‘Help yourself!’. They even thoughtfully put out a water bowl for pets, either dogs on a leash or neighborhood cats.

You have to understand that water fountains are almost unheard of in this country, both indoor and outdoor. The city and water company Dunea are trying to increase the amount of free water spots in the country, but that takes time.

To see free water on a record setting day – Thursday it was 40.7C (105F) in Gilze en Rijen (Google Maps) – is a step in the right direction.

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European elections 2019 (Or: Time to vote)

Well, time for Dutchies to vote that is. As an expat, I can’t vote. Every five years, European elections are held for the European parliament. 751 seats, of which 26 are for the Netherlands; 29 after UK leaves the EU.

Check out how long the candidate list is (!):

Voting list taped up at The Hague city hall

Voters receive the same list, just a bit smaller (but not that much smaller – it’s still almost impossible to fold back up!)

Only UK and the Netherlands vote today. The rest from the European lands vote tomorrow or in the weekend. Therefore official results won’t be announced until Sunday evening, although exit polls started coming in a few minutes ago. Should be interesting…

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Improvements by Albert Heijn (Or: Shorter receipts)

One of the better improvements for Albert Heijn, a local grocery store, is the option for self-scan. And not the version I’ve seen in the United States where you need to weigh each item as you scan it to make sure there’s no thievery going on. Here it is simply scan each item and then pay at the end. Though I do understand the need for the US system.

Self-scan at Albert Heijn is wonderful. It’s no longer horrible to go right after work, when its crowded and the lines are 5 to 7 customers long. Seriously – before self-scan I would always swear a bit if Marco asked me to pick up something after work, it was that bad. Those days are long gone, as I can count on one hand the times I’ve had to wait for an available self-scan register, and even that was never longer than 30 seconds.

The only problem with self-scan: You are required to print out a receipt, since you need to scan the receipt to allow the exit gates to open. I almost always said no to a receipt previously, when going through a “manned” line with a checkout worker. Why waste paper?

That is also now a thing of the past!

Longer, full receipt (for ONE item!) on the left, versus the short receipt on the right.

This week after paying I was greeted with the question “Would you like a full receipt, or only a short receipt to open the gates?” Very nice. You can see the difference above, with the bar code removed. A great improvement, Albert Heijn!

Oh, and for the people who read small font really well, yes, the receipt says “1 insecten”. I did not win or buy an insect, rather, Albert Heijn has a promotion where you can receive insect stickers and fake insect tattoos for every 10 euros spent. The receipt lets the worker know that I can receive 1 set because I’ve spent more than 10 euros.

Categories: Daily Dutch living, Everyday purchases | Tags: | 2 Comments

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