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Holland vs. America

August 3, 2010

I love making lists, ranking things, and comparing and contrasting.  My recent jaunt to Europe was a treasure-trove of new material.  Here are some preliminary observations on which country is better –

Holland Wins

1. Diet Coke – they call it “Cola Light” which is more exotic and fulfilling-sounding

2. Sitting Outdoors – people turn their chairs so that everyone is facing the street and can people watch.  Very common to see two people sitting side by side, instead of across from one another.  Adds a “relaxed, soak up life as it marches by” vibe.

3. Fresh Food – much less processed/preservative-laden food

4. Biking – images of what makes Dutch biking wonderful

  • Bicyclists have the right of way over pedestrians, cars, trams, squirrels
  • Bike lanes actually mean something and don’t randomly stop and then start up again a mile later
  • Traffic lights have the usual red, yellow, green lights for cars, and then another set of red, yellow and green lights for bikes, including a left-turn signal for bikes!
  • The majority of bikes are uprights aka beach cruisers which has you sitting straight up, instead of hunched over like on most of the bikes found here; you feel more friendly and more able to take in your surroundings; I found myself wanting to wave at everyone I passed
  • There are “parking garages” and bike racks everywhere (see the pic above)
  • Dutch bike locks are attached to the bike which makes locking up easier; while in use, you leave the keys in the lock, ensuring you never ahve to fumble in your purse or pocket for keys; for added security, many also use mammoth chain-link locks
  • You wear your regular clothes when biking; people in spandex, cleats, and helmets stand out; not even children or babies wear helmets
  • Fenders go all around the bikechain so you don’t have to worry about getting clothes caught and/or dirty
  • Multiple people on one bike – was common to see a kid in the front and a kid in the back, or an adult riding sideways behind the “driver”
  • Decorations – fake flowers, streamers, bright paint colors
  • Most bikes are beaters, not sparkly shiny toys (this is usually to discourage theft, and actually some of the beaters are really nice bikes made to look crappy)
  • Everyone rides, regardless of age

5. Men’s Fashion – pants that fit right [aren't too tight/too loose, don't hang off the ass, aren't tucked inside shoe tongues], bright pastel colors without fear they make you gay, relaxed and comfy yet well-put together and classy, adorable bags and glasses frames

6. Height – this 6′ gal fit right in!  Average American: 5’9 male and 5’4 female; average Hollander:  6′ male and 5’7 female

7. Childbirth

  • Home-births and natural births are more common than hospital births and drug-laden births [I'm a home-birthed drug-free baby, thanks Mom!]
  • Breastfeeding is heavily promoted and not something that needs to be hidden
  • Extensive network of mid-wives
  • Sixteen weeks of maternity leave, 100% paid at your full salary
  • Up to six months of unpaid leave if desired

8. Prices of Touristy Things: was pleasantly surprised at how places that very easily could’ve gouged tourists [bike rental, boat tour, museum, etc.] refrained from doing so and kept prices reasonable; for example, a boat tour in Amsterdam was about $10, in Chicago, it’s about $20

9. Svelteness – nary an overweight Dutchie to be found

America Wins

1. Grocery Stores – can always find one open and can always find what you need within one store; in the Netherlands, they close early and are teeny

2. Late-Night Cravings – unless it’s a craving for a hooker, pot, or alcohol, you’re out of luck.  We wanted ice cream around 11PM, nowhere to go!  Everything closes early.  Perhaps this is better for the waistline, but still… give me the option of choosing to be fat

3. Size – I realize we’re made fun of for our “bigger is better” attitude, but when it comes to certain things, bigger is better!

  • Washer/dryer: we could fit a pair of jeans, a sock, and a towel in the laundry
  • Fridge: average size is like the microfridge we use in dorm rooms; you have to lay your drinks down on their sides, the house we stayed at had three precarious levels of bottles and cartons; I prefer my liquids upright
  • Sink: teeny in the kitchen and in the bathroom, large enough to hold one plate (sideways) and one drop of water, respectively
  • Coke: when you order a “Cola” at a restaurant or bar, it either comes in a thimble or in a microscopic bottle
  • Apartments: like doll houses over there

4. Customer Service

  • Servers seat you and give you a menu
  • Servers check in to see how your meal is going and if you need anything else
  • Servers bring you the thing you asked for, like silverware
  • Servers bring you the check
  • Servers don’t seem pissed off to serve you

5. Women’s Fashion – too many onesies, balloon pants, and leggings in the Netherlands!

6. Men Standing at Bars – Dutch way to stand is with back of hand pressed against the back, down the pants (see pic above)

7. Water – I’m ok with water not automatically being on tables in restaurants, as it saves a lot of drinking and dishwashing water, but don’t like that you’re often met with “We don’t offer that” upon a request for a glass of tap water; you often have no choice other than paying for bottled water

8. Free Refills of Soda – this is commonplace in the US, unheard of in the Netherlands

9. Ice – due to teeny freezers, not only do most people not have ice, you can’t even buy ice; Dutch custom to BYOI [seriously, when you go to a party, you bring a bag of ice]

10. Improv – only based on one show in the Netherlands, but you’ve got to start judging somewhere… funnier, wittier and more natural here

It’s a Tie

1. Bathrooms

  • In Holland, there are two separate rooms, a water closet (WC) where the toilet and a tiny sink are, and the shower room, where the shower and a slightly larger sink are
  • I like that you don’t have to worry that while taking a long shower, someone is outside the door doing the pee-pee dance; they can use the WC
  • But having two rooms takes up a lot of space, in apartments where space is minimal already
  • Plus there were times I was naked in the shower room and all of a sudden had to use the bathroom, but being in a friend’s house, couldn’t very well run out of the shower room to the WC

2. French Fry Sauce

  • Ketchup in America, Mayo in Holland – hands down, America wins
  • But Holland’s second place sauce makes this one a tie – curry sauce!  Yum.

3. Eggs – they don’t refrigerate eggs in Holland.  I guess it’s not necessary, they don’t seem to have a large amount of salmonella deaths.  And why clog up what little fridge space you have?  But it still seems odd.

8 Comments leave one →
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  2. September 7, 2011 9:31 AM

    Funny :-) Though I refrigerate eggs, and refills of soda are available at Ikea :-)
    But have never brought my own ice to a party. Seriously, that never happens I think.

  3. September 2, 2011 10:23 AM

    Love this – pretty accurate I think, and that’s coming from a Dutchie in the US! I love the observation about the men at the bar. So weird. How did that evolve???

    • September 10, 2011 11:09 AM

      Thanks Elja! I’d love to be an American-ie living in the Netherlands! At least part-time.

      The men at the bar thing…. I have no clue, would love to see a research study done on the topic!

  4. July 27, 2011 7:23 AM

    America rules, and restaurants suck in the Netherlands. I am glad we still have MCdonalds and Burger King and KFC. Thank you America!

  5. erin permalink
    August 6, 2010 1:57 AM

    We nearly fell out of our chairs laughing at this. All very true observations. But our fridge is HUGE! …okay, only on Dutch standards:) Rembert was searching for something about his beloved peanut sauce. Think he needs to start his own blog devoted to this obsession of his…

    • August 6, 2010 8:57 AM

      I almost put something about peanut sauce but then thought that a Rembert-Obsession as opposed to a Dutch-obsession. I should include a candy section – Drop vs. any American candy, US wins hands-down.

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