Shopping

Mall of the Netherlands (Or: Like an inexpensive trip to America?)

The Mall of the Netherlands opened earlier this year. It is definitely an American style mall, complete with kiosks in the middle of the walkways. The owner is Westfield (the company that owns a lot of American malls) so it does make sense.

First, the cutest photo ever, of the Nijntje store! Nijntje is a cartoon rabbit. She goes by Miffy in English translations.

And then Hema – I love the facade and touch of green. And as noted, there’s a kiosk in the middle of the walkway.

What mall isn’t complete without a peanut butter store (below)? pindakaas = peanut butter.

The joke on the bag is Pindakaas, in geval van noot or Peanut butter, in case of emergency. Normally it is “in geval van nood”, but they switched out nood (emergency) for noot (nut in English).

(It’s a lot cooler if you don’t have to explain it, I swear.)

And finally, a huge cart artwork which doubles as a slide for kids (the front paws are the slide).

So we can finally say that the Netherlands has a proper mall. American style, at least.

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August (Or: Did you know it is already time for Sinterklaas?)

Marco and I visited Action today. Action (English Wikipedia) is a cheap store, kind of like Dollar General in the US without saying everything is a dollar.

Imagine my surprise (okay, not really) when we saw that Action was selling kruidnoten (English Wikipedia) already. Although I know Roger already saw some at the beginning of this month. Kruidnoten is a hard cookie-like confectionery sold in the time leading up to the Sinterklaas holiday on 5 December. These days it starts appearing in August, and 2021 was no exception.

They also had other Sinterklaas items for sale:

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My favorite color scheme (Or: Water pitcher by Blokker)

You know how as you get older you want to purchase new cups, plates or bowls because they look pretty? But you realize that would be silly because you have perfectly fine tableware at home (especially tableware that you also think is pretty)? And then you don’t buy it, because it isn’t logical to buy yet another cup just because it looks pretty.

If I could start over (and no Marco, I don’t want to start over! I like what we have too!), I would go with this color scheme:

It is a water pitcher by Blokker. I have no interest in buying a water pitcher, but I’ve seen this color theme with cups at other stores. Every time I see it, I love it.

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Early morning shopping (Or: It still feels weird)

Early morning shopping was on the menu today. Early morning being in the city centre around 09:00, when shops were just opening and practically deserted. I didn’t go to any “popular” stores as that would be the epitome of silly. For example, here was the line at Primark around 09:30:

Note that this is a double line that starts on the left side, goes to the right, snakes down the side of the building and wraps back around to the entrance (the door directly in the picture is the exit in corona times). But it won’t be the first or last time I take a photo of the line outside of Primark. It is always crazy long.

I went to Blokker and Xenos – both were practically empty. I then went to Hema, which was a bit busy but doable. I did take a photo of the smartphone cases at Hema as I thought it was a cute display idea:

Those hands would also make for great models for drawing.

I did end up buying a few minor things – a few dish cloths, a new loofah, a spicy ginger tea and a small bag of jelly beans for Marco – but nothing too special. But still, it was weird to be back in “non-essential” stores again. Oh, and I randomly saw a coworker who I’ve spoken with once (!) in the last year. That was strange too. We had a short conversation in Dutch and then parted ways again.

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Way more people than usual (Or: Even Google can’t handle it)

Today was the first day of relaxations for corona measures. Think of things like:

  • The curfew has been lifted.
  • Restaurant terraces are allowed to open from 12:00-18:00 daily.
  • Appointments are no longer required for shopping at non-essential stores.

Some stores (especially Ikea and Primark) have been bombed with an influx of clients due to the restrictions being lifted today. Primark is a discount clothing store – it is quite easy to find a T-shirt there for €2-3.

Enter Google trying to tell you exactly how busy it was by the Ikea in Delft (screenshot was around lunchtime):

Check out that red bar on the left. It can’t even fit on the graph. I checked 10 minutes before they closed and it still looked like that, although it didn’t dip quite as far below the graph. But that could be because they were closing in 10 minutes…

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Shopping by appointment (Or: C&A on a time limit)

I can cross something else off my corona list: shopping by appointment (winkelen op afspraak).

Yesterday I decided on a whim to check what the availability was for shopping appointments at C&A (English Wikipedia), a clothing store. Here in the Netherlands you are currently required to book an appointment at non-essential stores. You must book the appointment at least four hours in advance to prevent “fun shopping”, as the Dutch like to call it. The store can only accept 1 customer per 25 m2, with the maximum capped at 50 customers inside. The store chooses how long the appointment can last, but they are required to offer slots in at least 10 minutes.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had availability the next day (today). I was also surprised to see C&A was offering 30 minute time slots. On the one hand it seemed like a very long time, on the other hand 10 minutes didn’t seem like enough. Oddly they asked how many people would be coming, which is strange since the government rules say you should come alone. On the other hand, I’m sure people would just book separate appointments for the same time slot in that case… I asked Marco if he was interested in going. Since he was also in need of some new clothes, I put down 2 people.

Of course there is the fear that it will be really crowded, but oddly enough when we arrived the next day there really wasn’t a line outside. There was one older gentleman who entered right before us, but it turns out he did not have an appointment so they turned him away. I showed my email to the security guard and we were allowed in. We were both required to have separate bags. And the bags were kind of weird looking, with lots of times on them, crossed out in marker. Almost like they used that system in the beginning and then gave up after a few days:

The store was fairly empty thanks to the one customer per 25m2 rule. There were maybe 6-8 customers per floor? It almost felt like personal shopping. It was also easy to keep enough distance, so that was nice.

I managed to find almost everything I was looking for. A new jacket, 3 t-shirts and even a plain hoodie. It’s nice and warm. The only thing I didn’t find was a new pair of jeans. However I’m short and small, so sometimes finding that combination can be a pain in a country which favors tall people. Hmm. Marco got everything on his list, so that was nice.

I’m glad I went. Non-essential stores have been closed since mid-December (thanks to Black Friday and Christmas shopping insanity) so we definitely needed to buy a few new things.

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Former Hudson’s Bay building (Or: The name is still there)

Generally the name of a former store does not disappear until the new store moves in. Here is a look at the old Hudson’s Bay building on the Grote Marktstraat (large pedestrian street for shopping):

Hudson’s Bay is a previously Canadian, now American company which opened locations in former V&D buildings (English Wikipedia) back in 2017. Unfortunately Hudson’s Bay only lasted about two years, having closed all of their locations around the end of 2019. The stores just did not take off in the Netherlands, having lost 184 million euros in the Netherlands (article from nos.nl in Dutch). No one knows what will come next for these locations, unfortunately.

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More Christmas trees (Or: A peek at De Haagsche Bluf)

A few days ago I wandered into the Haagsche Bluf (denhaag.com, English) to take a quick picture of their Christmas tree. The Haagsche Bluf is a tiny, outdoor high-end shopping area tucked away in The Hague’s city centre:

In other news, Omroep West (a local news site and channel) will be showing a short documentary later today about the New Year’s Eve riots that occurred in the 70s, 80s and 90s here in The Hague. The document will air tonight at 18:00 and will be available later (I assume) on this page.

Documentaire over kerstbomen rausen in Den Haag: ‘Alles ging op het vuur’ from omroepwest.nl. Documentary about stealing Christmas trees in The Hague: ‘Everything was thrown into the fire’. Rausen is slang in The Hague’s dialect for stealing.

The Hague was well known for burning Christmas trees, cars, couches, chairs, bikes, you name it. At the height of the mania Christmas trees and other flammable materials were stolen from rival groups, occasionally leading to violent injuries and death. The damage cost the city millions of guldens every year (guldens was the Dutch currency before the euro was adopted). In the end the city started organizing their own parties so that people would come to the ‘official’ parties and cause less damage on their own.

The bonfires which happened on the beaches of Scheveningen and Duindorp were the result of the city attempting to control the riots. This worked out okay until two years ago when the bonfires were out of control and spawned fire tornados (!, video from bbc.com). Last year permits were not given to hold the bonfires again due to lingering safety issues and this year the bonfires were cancelled due to corona measures.

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Essential? Non-essential? (Or: What are we again?)

The discussion about who can stay open during the lockdown and who must close continued today. Hema, a general merchandise retail store, decided to open today. Only essential items like food, baby clothes and toiletries were available. The original government ruling said that if it at least 30% of the items sold were essential, then that part of the store with essential items could remain open. The rest of the inventory would be unavailable for sale. (If the store sold at least 70% essential items the entire store could remain open.) Because at least 30% of what Hema sells is essential they decided to open yesterday. Problem is, other chains including Action and Wibra then decided they would re-open from tomorrow. And those stores’ stock is even less essential than Hema’s in my opinion.

That meant the Dutch cabinet went back into discussions last night and this morning. The end result: the 30% ruling is now gone, so you need to sell at least 70% essential items to stay open.

Some large non-essential stores open despite lockdown; government to intervene from nltimes.nl

and then Tighter rules around essential stores that can open in lockdown, also from nltimes.nl.

Fotoseries: Stil in Den Haag op de eerste dag van de lockdown, or Photos: Silence in The Hague on the first day of the lockdown [Tuesday]. Photos 9 and 11 are a bit political, since the pink ‘soon available for renting’ signs have the Dutch prime minister and the Health minister’s name listed as the realtor (Rutte and De Jonge).

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A new addition in Grote Markt (Or: Toilets)

Kudos to The Hague for putting temporary public toilets on the Grote Markt. The most shocking of all: I didn’t see any signs that you had to pay, which would be quite normal in the Netherlands. Generally the only free bathrooms are found in restaurants or cafés.

Normally these barriers would be used for the Royal Christmas Fair. However, the fair was cancelled so the barriers could be put to a different use. And public toilets are very important right now. At the moment restaurants and cafés are only allowed to be open for takeout or delivery, so there not many public toilets available to shoppers at the moment.

I also saw some toilets by the plaza outside the Tweede Kamer parliamentary building, so it is not just on the Grote Markt. (Oh, and for American readers: yes, that’s TJ Maxx in the background. However in Europe the company goes by the name TK Maxx.)

Above is a tweet from the Scheveningen police, wishing everyone a nice Sinterklaas evening. Everyone opens their presents from Sinterklaas on the evening of December 5, aka last night.

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