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.
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).
Marco took this photo for me of the Hema in The Hague’s city centre. It shows a wall of chocolate Sinterklaas letters being used to block off what was formerly the entrance to Hema’s restaurant:
Hema’s restaurant is closed right now due to the corona regulations in the Netherlands. All restaurants and cafés are closed with the exception of takeaway. But takeaway doesn’t make much sense at the Hema restaurant so it is completely closed.
And what better way is there to to block off an entrance? It’s quite clever – it immediately makes the space more festive and takes attention away from the reasons why it needed to be closed in the first place. Here’s a look at the store when the restaurant redesign first opened back in early 2015:
If you need a refresher on Sinterklaas letters, they are literally large letters of chocolate, from A all the way to Z. They usually come in the flavors milk, dark, white and hazelnut. They are either plain or covered in fancy designs. If they are a gift for someone, then you normally buy the letter that corresponds with the first letter of the receipt’s name (N for Niki, and so forth). Or a lot of people buy “S” for Sinterklaas. But be warned: if you wait until the day before Sinterklaas to buy one, there will probably only be Q’s left!
It’s almost time for Halloween! Here is one of the two display stands at Hema:
I have mentioned before that Halloween isn’t that big in the Netherlands. It’s slowly gaining in popularity but trick or treating for candy isn’t a huge thing. Of course there is some trick or treating (I know some international schools do promote it) but it’s not as big with Dutch children as far as I’m aware. SoLow has a great collection of costumes and decorations if you’re interested. Xenos usually has a small collection as well.
As most of my readers are aware, it’s not going that great with Europe in terms of the corona virus. The same is true here in the Netherlands as we’ve been breaking records left and right. Number of cases, hospital intakes, ICU intakes, deaths… It definitely seems like the “second wave” has started. Today we registered 2,552 cases. Various experts (but not the government, yet) are saying a lockdown will be coming if the number of cases can’t be slowed. For instance the chairman of the Dutch Union of the Intensive Care Diederik Gommers said this during an interview with Radio 538 (article in Dutch). You can also see the weekly numbers at RIVM.nl in English, updated two days ago.
It feels like a lifetime ago, but a few weeks ago (13 March) I was browsing in Hema. I could not resist snapping a few photos of their chocolate egg collection:
Some of the flavors included dark chocolate banana cream, white chocolate matcha lemon, milk chocolate cookies and cream (that one was almost empty), milk chocolate orange, milk chocolate coconut, milk chocolate peanut butter… I definitely learned that everyone’s favorite flavor is milk chocolate, not dark chocolate.
There was also a display near one of the entrances.
But the best (and most Dutch) flavor was…
You guessed it… Stroopwafel flavored chocolate eggs!
Back in 2013 I wrote a blog post called Kruidnoten (Or: Christmas comes earlier every year). That post mentioned how kruidnoten (Wikipedia) were readily available after September 1st. This candy is traditionally seen in the month of December, both for the Sinterklaas holiday on December 5 as well as Christmas.
This year they were definitely available by August 23, when this photo was taken in a local Hema. Heh.
I give it another 5 years, and then they will be available everywhere by August 1st.
(And in case my parents are wondering, yes, we’ll bring some the next time we visit.)
Marco and I recently had coffee at Hema, splitting a slice of apple pie. On the way out, we noticed some of Hema‘s famous sausage:
Except that this was in the candy aisle. The sausage was made of marzipan! (Marzipan is apparently rather popular over here, but not so much in America).
I also noticed some chocolate bars which say “You are sweet” and “Thank you”. The problem with this is I have some good memories of the chocolate bar when it used to be in Dutch (“Ik vind je lief“) so it is a bit odd to see it in English. For example, the first time Marco gave me one when I still lived in America…
And finally, a what the heck? kind of image. Check out this Kit Kat flavor Marco and I saw at the Asian store:
That’s right – if you look at the pricing card underneath you will see it is sweet potato flavor… All right-y then.
Marco and I visited Hema over the weekend to check out the redesign of their cafe. Pretty impressive!
Do you see the image of the cat on the wall, completely made of candy? His face is a pancake, his whiskers red vines candy, smarties (European M&Ms) for ears, etc. It was a bit hard to get a good picture, unfortunately. Maybe next time.
It even comes with a lively plant on each table, new furniture, new chairs, etc. A big improvement in my opinion.
The best part is that the coffee is now self-serve, which helps a lot with the standing in line part. However, there are still only two registers – made slightly worse by the fact that both lines are now right next to each other so you are standing in one massive, unorganized line until the last moment.
Overall a big step forward. When we visited, there did seem to be more workers which meant that the hot food was being served faster. I think it is the same menu, though, with a bit better advertising.
On Thursday I took the remaining two tests for my B2 Dutch course – het was helemaal geen probleem. It was not a problem at all. The first test was a one on one speaking test with the teacher for 15 minutes. I did get a bit off track with one of the questions but was able to save it.
Due to the scheduling, that test was from 6:45 – 7:00PM and the following test (listening) was at 8:30PM. Because of that, I asked Marco to come with and wait downstairs, and after the test was done we walked to Hema. We had coffee and shared a chocolate chip cookie.
I must admit to being happy – I thought I would have been more nervous during the speaking test. The listening test was also fine, so I know I passed the course. There are still two “lessons” to go – we are on vacation next week, and then the following Tuesday we receive the results and on Thursday we have a party.