Different Donderdag


I know before I moved that I always found the little differences between countries to be kind of interesting. I do mean little, too, down to the wall sockets. I’m starting to take all these things for granted now, as they’ve become a part of my daily life. Perhaps by the time I finally take my first trip back to the US, the little things there will start to seem different. Still, with this in mind, I thought I’d start trying to do a weekly piece looking at some of the things here that are just that slightly different from what I knew in the US, even if it’s something small like wall sockets.

I’ll save the wall sockets for a donderdag (Thursday) when I’m a bit more desperate for something to write about. Instead, today, I’m focusing on public telephones. In preparing for my parents’ upcoming visit, I had to get a mobile phone for them to use here. (Thanks to M&R for letting us use one of their old ones.) I should point out that they’re more commonly called mobile phones (mobiele telefoon) here, rather than cell phones, which is the more common term in the US, I think. See? Small differences. Anyway, as my parents and I were discussing phones, we were joking about the fact that public pay-phones seem to have all but disappeared. They’re certainly not as prevalent as they used to be.

As we were talking about them, I commented on the fact that there was one very near our house, not that I’d ever used it. Then, last week, as I was out running errands, I realized that the phone booth that used to stand on that corner was no longer there! I have no idea how long it’s been gone. Looking through some of my photos, I realize that it disappeared sometime between July and October of last year. Public phone booths are becoming an endangered species! Soon they’ll all be gone and we won’t even realize!

I wanted to get a photo of one of the few remaining phone booths and knew from a recent trip to the post office that there were still some there in Neude. When I went to get this photo yesterday, I decided to take a side trip to see if there were any in other locations that I just hadn’t noticed. I checked Janskerkhof, where the Saturday flower market is held, but no, not a pay phone in sight. Neude remains the only place I can think of nearby that has pay phones. I assume there are some over at the Central Station, but these days I wouldn’t be too sure!

So yes, there are phone booths here (three at Neude), but they’re still a bit different from the ones I remember in America. Certainly more spacious! I’m sure Clark Kent/Superman would much prefer the Dutch phone booth for making those quick changes!

All of the phone booths I’ve seen here have been the KPN green. KPN (Koninklijke PTT Nederland) is the Royal Dutch Telecom company, by the way. If you find yourself in a Dutch phone booth wanting to make a call, you’d better have a phone card. I don’t think any of them take coins anymore.

12 thoughts on “Different Donderdag

  1. I love these little differences as well, so I think it’s great you’re highlighting them. Hilarious how you’ve written the public phone booths here, and oh-so-true. Also, I look forward to reading about your take on wall sockets.

    • It’s one of those things that most people don’t even think about anymore. I started wondering if there were more around and I just didn’t notice, but no, there really aren’t that many now!

  2. I heard there are a few public phone boxes on a reserve some where in the Dutch country side were they are trying to breed them and re-introduce them into the wild before they die out.

    • I wonder if there are any charity groups doing fundraising events for the endangered phone boxes. I did Bowling for Rhinos once, so maybe there can be Bowling for Phone Boxes! 😉

  3. I have never used a pay phone here in the Netherlands. Not in the entire 11 years I’ve been living here. That’s not from lack of trying though…
    When I first moved here and still had no phone of my own, bank account/pass etc I decided to go into town. My husband gave me his bank card and his strippenkaart. It had just enough on it to get me into town, then he explained how to use the bank machine (I didn’t understand Dutch yet either), and how to get a new strippenkaart. Sounded easy enough, until I got into town and the bank card wouldn’t work. Ummm… ?
    I went into the bank, but they wouldn’t give me any info because it wasn’t my account. Fair enough.
    I couldn’t call my husband because I had no phone. I went back into the bank and asked to use their phone but they wouldn’t let me.
    I had some small change in my wallet so I went to a pay phone and stood there for a good 5-10 minutes trying to find where the money went in. A security guard came along and explained to me that they required cards, which I could buy at the station nearby.
    Which required money, that I didn’t have, because the card wouldn’t work… hello!
    I went outside, sat on the curb and burst into tears. It was my first taste of how truly different my life was about to become and how helpless I was at the time.
    I ended up walking around asking shop after shop if I could use their phone until someone finally let me about an hour later. Then I went back out and sat on the curb and cried some more while I waited for my husband to leave work and get the train back to Rotterdam to come get me.
    If only the damn pay phones too coins! haha

    • Gah! That sounds like a true nightmare! I would have ended up in tears at some point, too. They really should have a coin option as well as the phone card option, since it’s just that kind of situation where you’re more likely to need a public phone!

  4. What I really miss about pay phones is being able to find a phone book when I need one. My cel phone (“mobile” in England, “handy” in Germany) doesn’t do Google.

    And I know that exact booth too!

    • I don’t even have a phone, but when I do eventually get one, I’d love one that does Google and other websites, since it’s usually information that I need while I’m out and about, not a conversation. Of course, finding a phone book at any pay phone — in probably any country — is just about impossible. They always seem to be missing or destroyed!

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