Daily Dutch living

Time to vote (Or: 2022 municipal elections in The Hague)

Later this month the 2022 municipal elections will be held throughout The Netherlands. As usual, voting is done with paper and (red) pencil. During last year’s elections voters were allowed to take the red pencils home (nu.nl in Dutch) due to fears about corona, but that probably won’t happen this year. However one corona measure that has persisted is that most voting locations will be open three days (March 14, 15 and 16) instead of only one day, to spread out voters so that no location gets too busy.

A few days ago our voting cards arrived, and today a special “elections newspaper arrived”. As a non-Dutch and non-EU citizen I am allowed to vote in the municipal elections because I have lived in The Netherlands for at least 5 years. This will be my second time voting in the municipal elections. However, only Dutch citizens can vote in the national elections.

Here is a look at page 2 and 3 of the newspaper, and a look at my voting card (with personal information removed). I was pleased to see that page 2 had a large section in English explaining the basics about how to vote for these elections. Not that I need it, but non-Dutch EU citizens don’t have to wait 5 years to vote like I do, so they might not know enough Dutch yet to read the newspaper.

If you want a laugh, check out this 2017 article from the Washington post about how large the ballots are: With 28 parties running, Dutch voters have to use these really huge ballots. The article was about the national elections, but local election ballots are almost as large. It takes longer to unfold the thing than it does to actually vote. And don’t forget the poor volunteer who later needs to unfold all of these ballots and count the votes…

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Pathé movie theatre (Or: Closed due to corona)

As noted, everything is closed at the moment due to the lockdown. With the exception of course of supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential stores. It doesn’t seem to help that much though, as the omicron wave has hit the Netherlands (nltimes.nl in English).

Here is a look at the Pathé movie theatre on the Spui:

In the background you can see the escalators leading up to the cashiers and theatres. As I blogged previously, at least we got to see Spiderman the day before lockdown started.

Of special note is the sign in the foreground: “We’ll be back… again and again”.

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At the movies (Or: Christmas tree at Pathé)

Marco, Roger and I were able to squeeze in one last movie on Saturday morning before the lockdown arrived on Sunday. We booked the tickets for Spider-Man: No Way Home a week previously, as soon as they went on sale. We even had to wait in a virtual queue for an hour to get them! In the end, Roger was the lucky one who was able to get into the site and book tickets (after some technical difficulties as the website and app kept crashing due to the Spider-Man demand). They were great seats, too.

I must say the movie theatre itself was definitely doing everything they could to take it a safe experience. You were required to show your CoronaCheck app (vaccinated, tested or recovered) to get in and wear a facemack until you were sitting in your seat. There was also social distancing in the theater; the seats around your group’s purchase were blocked out automatically and not available to purchase.

Since we are Marvel geeks we already had tickets for a second showing for Spider-Man on Sunday morning, but we will unfortunately get an automatic refund for those. We understand how lucky we were to be able to see it on Saturday, even. And Mom, if you’re reading this: what Marco and I told you about Spider-Man was an integral part of the movie! (“Hey Mom, did you know…?”)

Christmas tree at Pathé Spui near the drink/food area. Actually it is right next to the Starbucks coffee machines. And the rooster on the right side is because Pathe’s logo is a rooster.

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Lots of alarms going off (Or: Testing the emergency system)

Every first Monday of the month at 12:00, the test system goes off here in The Netherlands. It uses an air raid siren which always reminds me of my childhood. Why, do you ask?

The air raid siren sound that is used is the same sound that was used back in Chicago where I grew up. But there it was the tornado siren, warning of impending doom. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but not by much. You don’t ignore tornado sirens in the midwest of the United States.

But the last decade has brought a new sound into the mix during the first Monday of the month at 12:00 — your phone also bleats out a shrill sound about 4 or 5 times. The warning system is called “NL Alert” (crisis.nl in English). “Luckily” the telephones are only tested twice a year, in June and December. Now imagine my phone making that sound, and Marco’s phone, and Marco’s work phone… All. at. the. same. time. BEEEEEEEEEEP!

Oh, and the air siren was still going on outside.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a very useful system. It was credited for helping save lives during the flooding in July of this year in the southeastern part of The Netherlands. It is also used locally if there is a large fire and nearby residents need to close their windows, etc. It it just so loud at times! And it makes me think there is a tornado coming…

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Anyone up for some Sinterklaas sweets? (Or: Albert Heijn offerings)

One of the local Albert Heijns has an entire wall display for Sinterklaas sweets:

Think of things like speculaas with almond filling (cakieshq.com), spiced kruidnoten cookies (thespruceeats.com) and the softer pepernoten cookies (allrecipes.com).

Autumn arrived at the end of September, bringing a lot of rain and cold with it. If you are not paying attention, you will get caught in a sudden downpour that soaks you and then dissipates within 10 minutes. Marco and I also still need to try the yearly traditional of oliebollen, as I mentioned in a previous blog post. Soon!

At least the weather looks a bit drier this week, even if the warmth of summer is gone.

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Hail with a bit of snow (Or: Crazy weather in The Hague)

Cold weather is definitely on the menu the last few days. Days after historic warmth, Europe braces for shocking blast of cold, snow from washingtonpost.com.

I wouldn’t call what we got “lots of snow” per se, more a mix of hail and slush. Heavy on the hail part.

It is sort of weird weather where it is dozens of tiny storms flashing across the country, so you might have 2 minutes of hail, then 45 minutes of nothing and grayish skies, 5 minutes of vibrant blue skies and then another 2 minutes of hail. I was woken up early this morning at 03:45 to extremely loud hail smashing against the window. Marco slept through it all, of course!

The cold arctic blast also means that when the clouds disappear, you get to see lovely blue skies. Briefly. For a moment. See also this tweet:

Kind of cool if you ask me.

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Voting in the 2021 Dutch elections (Or: City hall)

The 2021 Dutch elections (English Wikipedia) were held yesterday. Marco decided to cast his vote at The Hague’s city hall. Marco took a quick photo for me, aiming more at the ground to avoid getting anyone in the photo.

As you can see, everything was set up according to corona guidelines. Marco said later that it was set up rather well – there were volunteers controlling the lines, there was plenty of space between the voting booths and there was a separate entrance and exit. You entered by the library and then exited on the other side of city hall. (Check out a photo I took of city hall back in 2013, right after I moved to the Netherlands – there is a LOT of space.)

Above is random voting “paraphernalia” that Marco received, including a card with corona related questions and instructions about how to make your visit to the voting location as safe as possible, both for yourself and others. Also, special for this year only: most voters were allowed to keep the red pencil that they used to vote. Usually they are chained to the desk. However not all voters were allowed to keep the pencil. The choice was up to the city since they would have to finance the red pencils with their voting budget. Some cities decided it was more cost effective to clean them between each use instead.

Differences in cities also meant there were differences in pencils – some cities provided short, little pencils like above. Others provided longer red pencils with “Jouw stem telt!” or “Your vote counts!” printed on the side.

In COVID-19 election, Dutch voters ask: Can I keep the pencil? from reuters.com.

And of course the red pencils were already appearing on Markplaats (the Dutch eBay) early yesterday morning. Not that anyone should be surprised by that!

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Bizarro world (Or: Changes at the movie theatre)

Do you want to read something really bizarre?

Pathé sluit alle shops en buffetten: bezoekers mogen zelf eten meenemen from filmvandaag.nl [Pathé movie theaters close all shops and buffets: viewers can bring their own food in]

Of course, it is completely logical that the movie theatre chain is required to close shops and buffets, since restaurants and cafés are closed right now as well. And before you start hoping you can bring in McDonald’s or a full pizza, Pathé did say by “snacks” they meant popcorn and chips. Darn.

A bit less bizarre, more “lucky”:

Ypres chestnut tree battered but unbowed by wars wins Belgian award from theguardian.com. Short story: 160 year old tree survives repeated bombings during WWI. It grows back with four separate trunks (!). It then avoids being chopped up and turned into firewood during WWII.

The Netherlands also has their own award: De boom van het jaar (The tree of the year). Check out the trees that were nominated last year. I think my pick has to be the 9th tree, from the Overijssel province. I mean, the tree even goes through the roof of a tiny house. To clarify, it is not a house anyone lived in, but rather a tiny “house” that was used to bake bread apparently.

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More postponements (Or: Bring on 2021 already)

Sure, let’s bring on 2021 – not that I think January 1st, 2021 will be a magical day where everything is suddenly better. But you have to look forward to something.

For a good read, check out this article at dutchnews.nl: Despite the government u-turn, the Dutch are still unwilling to wear masks. It does a good job of explaining what kind of issues this country is experiencing with wearing something as simple as a face mask.

This week saw two more cancellations in The Hague:

It just reinforces Marco’s idea that we should put up the Christmas decorations extra early this year, to bring some more cheer into our apartment.

On the plus side, I know that the oliebollen stand on the Grote Markt by Xenos/Blokker is open again. I’ve seen it with my own eyes! No photo proof yet, however. I heard a rumor that we’re going to go pick up some tomorrow. Yum yum yum. According to their Facebook page, they are open from tomorrow (Saturday).

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Dutch cabinet’s emergency ruling (Or: Face masks “urgently advised” in public places throughout the Netherlands)

This afternoon the Dutch House of Representatives and the ruling Dutch cabinet held a debate about corona measures in the Netherlands. This debate followed the press conference that was held on Monday evening. During Monday’s press conference the cabinet urgently advised that face masks be worn in shops in the bigger cities, including here in The Hague.

The Dutch government has now gone a step further with their urgent advisory to say that face masks should be worn in all public indoor areas where people gather in the Netherlands – not just in shops and not just in the large cities. The advisory went into immediate effect, unlike Monday’s advisory which went into effect Tuesday evening. As noted a few days ago, they can’t (yet) require face masks to be worn as the law would first need to be altered.

Rutte: Face masks “urgently advised” in public places from nltimes.nl

Ook kabinet: dringend advies om mondkapje te dragen in binnenruimtes from nos.nl. In this article the prime minister said that if these measures fail the next steps might be a complete closure of the retail branch, including restaurants and cafés, or a shutdown of all sports. In other news articles they have said an evening curfew could not be ruled out, either. Since this went into immediate effect, the cabinet has said that they will release full details of the advisory on Friday. Think of things like what spaces are considered “indoors” and “public”, etc.

I feel like the Netherlands is pretty late here (in Germany and Belgium face masks have been the norm for some weeks now), but every little bit helps.

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