Seething since 2000*
A good friend asked me this question the other day, in reference to my (now officially longer than three months) stay here in the Netherlands. I began answering her question via email, however after a few paragraphs I realised that this information had to be made public. Speculation upon these and other matters then led me to think about some more quirks and characteristics of Dutch culture that make living here so interesting.
In answer to C’s question, I can confirm that yes indeed they do eat chips with mayo here; in fact it is actually the default option. Other options for your standard serving of chips (in a small flat tray, with compulsory plastic fork object) include ketchup and mustard. There is a range of deluxe options, however, which make Australian ‘gravy’ look kind of redundant.
Sorry everyone, but it’s true. My favourite is Grote Patat Oorlog (literally, ‘large chip war’) which involves ghoulish layers of ketchup, mayo, onions (for brains perhaps) and other curry, white, mustard and barbecue sauces on top of a rather symbolic stack of chip ‘corpses’. In fact, if I had my say in the matter, this dish would be re-named Kleine Patat Doijen (literally, ‘small chip corpses’) however I don’t have my say in this matter and so I allow it to be and to continue to be.
Meanwhile K has been giving me endless grief because I do not ask for korting op korting whenever I go shopping at Albert Heijn (perhaps the equivalent of Safeway, Coles etc). The korting (discount/ saving) system here in the Netherlands is unique. On my keyring I carry a barcode which they swipe every time I shop there, receiving a discount of like, forty euro cents.
Korting op korting (discount on/off discount) however, involves getting some stickers from a counter at the front of the supermarket where they sell tram tickets, cigarettes and lotto tickets; taking these stickers into the supermarket; sticking them on whatever item you want the discount on (for example 25% off a jar of Duo Pennoti); then taking these discount items to the checkout where you then receive the 43 euro cents off the price of your item.
Only when you get home do you realise, upon inspecting the receipt, that you have now bought a jar of duo pennoti that you didn’t need, had never felt the need to eat, but lo and behold you’ve got a spoon out and you’re eating it from the jar. That’s what korting op korting does to you but nobody listens to me. Don’t even get me started on Welpies.
I have been thinking a lot about football, it’s hard not to here. Four months ago I attended a pre-World Cup qualifying match between Australia and Qatar at the Docklands stadium in Melbourne. I think about fifty thousand people went along, an extraordinary number considering the traditional dominance of Australian Rules Football in that city.
It was kind of an eerie feeling, however, to exit the Docklands stadium at the end of the match, onto the rainy and wind-blown streets of West Melbourne, and the remand centre there, and to realise that the rest of the city (or the country for that matter) could not give a toss about Australia playing Qatar in the seemingly-endless lead-up to the next World Cup.
In the Netherlands by contrast, a lot of people take football very seriously from the outset, and this applies to the World Cup as well as the current European Cup finals. The orange wigs and shirts came out much earlier this year for Konniginenach of course, but the current level of football fever here is quite exceptional. Laneways strewn with orange flags and bunting.
Choruses of car-horns at intersections during the actual matches, each endless single note non-harmonic blast from those horns corresponding to a goal from the mighty Oranjemen in the thrashings handed out to Italy and France. You do not need to be at the game to know what the score is: you simply count the intense horn blasts, discarding the echoes and delayed effects.
However, as I heard last night when Turkey won its game against the Czech Republic, nationalism is more complex than that in this part of the Netherlands. The Turkish community here in Laakhaven were in their cars and on the streets last night. You did not even need to be watching the game to know that Turkey had scored. Two now in quick succession.
The only thing you did not know was the margin, the Czech goals not registering at all on the carhornometer. I switched on the TV to check the score (3-2). I wonder how loud the major intersection near our house will be if Turkey and the Netherlands somehow end up playing each other in the latter stages of the competition.
If they do, I hope it’s a high-scoring game. I’ll just lie down on the lounge room floor with the windows open, and listen to the endless sea of horns jitching up and down the roads and expressways, canyoning off the apartment windows, mixing with the tube noise and the shouts of young people climbing aboard trams, and then the noise of the tram itself as it dings and rumbles over the bridge. A grote patat oorlog of sounds in our new Dutch home.