Sunday, July 09, 2006

10 Things I Really Like About You

I have been awfully hard on this wonderful country. It's just not that funny to talk about all the good things about a place. So as sort of a disclaimer, here's 10 things about the Netherlands that I really, really enjoy.

1. Public transportation. I know, it's kind of like saying, "Oh Post Office, I do love you so!" But it's so easy to love. Everything is on time, from trams to buses to trains. To the minute. There is an incredible amount of information too. This picture comes from a bus in Enschede. It tells you the next five stops on the bus and the exact time when the bus will arrive. Why do we not have this? It's enough to make an American feel positively disenfranchised. Enschede, by the way, is only slightly more populous than Ann Arbor.

2. Pubs. I hate American bars. Bars are smoky, dirty, and loud. The people in American bars almost invariably make me sad, because they are dirty, drunk, and sad. Dutch pubs are fun, they serve decent to excellent food, and you can almost always sit outside on a warm day. You can have an actual conversation. And waiters deliver your drinks, so you don't have to stand at a bar for half an hour begging for an appletini. Or if you were a real man, a martini. Except real men don't use the subjunctive.

3. The weather. We've had a couple of hot spells where the heat pushed 90 degrees, but the summer weather is mostly spectacular, averaging in the low 70s and mostly sunny. It's warm enough to wear shorts, but cool enough to wear pants.

4. Benches. Amsterdam has benches everywhere, usually at particularly picturesque locations along tree-lined canals. Great places to hang out and read a book for an hour or two.

5. Tree-lined canals.

6. No tipping. And taxes are included in the bill. Splitting a check among friends was never so easy. The service is just as good, too, except at the hated apotheeks.

7. Cheap dessert. Grocery stores in general are surprisingly reasonable here. Meat is more expcnsive than the U.S. by quite a bit, but everything else is cheaper. This is especially true of the dessert aisle. I can get a double serving of five different sorbets for less than $2. The pudding section -- yes, there is a pudding section, dwarfed in size only by two sections of yogurts -- is a cheap dessert lover's dream. A chocolate pudding with whipped cream is all of 18 cents. I didn't think you could buy anything in a western country for 18 cents.

8. Money. ATM machines are everywhere. In three minutes I could run and touch three different ATM machines from my apartment. No one really takes credit cards, which is fine by me, since AmEx charges 2% in currency conversion fees alone. Oh, and the best part: no pennies. People just round up or down. I'm adding that to my list of future campaign promises. Rational money for a rational society!

9. History. I live next to Rembrandt's last house. I often lay in bed at night thinking, Rembrandt died next door. That's insane in the membrane and insane in the brain.

10. Stroopwafels. These are two crunchy waffle cookies with honey in the middle. They're an enormous hit of sugar injected directly into your bloodstream. Dutch smack, basically, except for, you know, the actual Dutch smack.

Next week: Back to things that annoy and amuse me, like Dutch politics and trying to find an ear doctor.


At 10:55 PM, Blogger rocketgirl said...

The bus system in my city sucks so much that your picture alone is enough to make me want to move to Amsterdam. They're always encouraging us to use public transportation, we even get bus passes included in our tuition. And still, the city can't be bothered to come up with a system that works.

Combined with the cheap desserts, Amsterdam might just be Paradise.

At 8:42 PM, Anonymous Sienamystic said...

Oh god, the stroopwafels. My aunt, who married a Dutch guy, was the first to introduce me to them. I think I basically sat for an hour in a sugar-induced state of bliss.

At 2:40 AM, Anonymous donna said...

Stroopwafels. I have to imagine them. Not even a photo. [sigh] and ... Rembrandt's ghost is your neighbor- wow!

At 3:04 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I would show you a stroopwafel, but I'm not allowed to buy them after I realized that the tiny little bags were about 1000 calories each. But oh so good.

At 8:22 PM, Anonymous Kristen said...

I found your blog through Frolic & Detour and as I had just spent 2 weeks in Amsterdam on a joint NYU/UvA program, I was intrigued. I'm totally in love with stroopwafels and brought bags of them home with me. I'm now desperately searching for a place to buy them in NY.

At 5:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmmmm - stroopwafels. The person who introduced me to those also instructed me to place it on top of my hot chocolate mug and let the honey start to drip...

We round down or up here in Australia, too. Over-rated.


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