15 Things That Happen When You Live in a Small Dutch Town

Being a foreigner in this part of the Netherlands means that, every time I come across something new or unusual for me, I can’t just label it a “Dutch thing” or a “small town thing.” Some are one, some the other, some are both. Some are probably neither, but it’s hard to be certain (I might write a blog largely devoted to existing in foreign countries, but I never *actually* claimed I was worldly).

Anyway, as you can imagine, this has made my life very complicated and led to a lot of binge drinking headaches.

Luckily for you, it also provides me with something to write blog posts about. I hope you guys appreciate all the sacrifices I make (and applaud you for ever getting through anything I write, which must be difficult with all the parentheticals).

I’ve already talked about some of my more general thoughts on life in the Netherlands; but now, here are some things more specific to life in this weird little Dutch town I call home.

1. Your boyfriend asks to make a standing order at the bakery by requesting “the same thing my parents get.” He does not bother to give his name.

2. You can walk everywhere in town in 15 minutes or less. People will still think you’re weird for not cycling there instead.

3. The local pub provides the drinks for your party without requiring payment upfront, or even a deposit. You can settle the bill next week. Or next month. Or whenever they actually remember to total up how much you even owe. (Can you just come back later? The football’s on.)

4. You ask your boyfriend’s mom to put you in touch with their bookkeeper, expecting her to give you a phone number or email address. Instead she says, “Oh, we can just go on over,” and leads you outside and around the corner…to the front door of his house.

5. The dinky lock that kind of stops your back tire from moving is sufficient when leaving your bicycle outside of the shops.*

6. The person delivering the post will just hand it to anyone who is currently walking up to your front door, regardless of whether or not they actually live there.

7. Someone you’re not sure you’ve ever met stops you in the supermarket, looks at you for about twenty seconds, and then announces she’s figured out who you are — or, more precisely, whose son’s girlfriend.

8. You begin to judge how glamourous or cosmpolitan somewhere is by whether or not they have a train station.

9. It’s perfectly socially acceptable for people to just show up at your front door with no notice, and you’re the weird one for not always being home and/or available.

10. Everyone who finds out you’re from the US will act positively scandalized and ask how you can possibly live here, as if they’ve temporarily forgotten they…also live here.

11. The shops don’t open till 1pm on Mondays, but it’s okay — they stay open later on Thursdays to make up for it.

12. Bus drivers will say “hello” and “good-bye” to everyone who enters and exits their bus — but more surprisingly, all of the passengers will actually respond (well, 99% of them, anyway).

13. When people ask where you live, you don’t just say the name of the town; instead, you give its approximate location and some vague directions for how to get there, because that’s actually less work than repeating the name over and over again just for the other person to say, “Yeah, never heard of it.”

14. Strange children will have zero qualms about walking up to you as you leave the Albert Heijn and asking if they can have your spaarzegels.

15. “It’s Tuesday” becomes a good enough reason to escape go to Amsterdam (because, for the thousandth time, you don’t actually live there).

Maybe these things happen elsewhere; but this is the only place they’ve ever happened to me. Have any of them ever happened to you?

        * This is merely an observation, not advice. Don’t @ me if someone steals your bicycle.

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