Different Donderdag: Trivia

I was reading a blog post the other day that I’d found through someone’s link on Twitter. It was an interesting look at how living abroad, no matter how short a time, can change you, or at least make you aware of things in a new way. I got to this part and felt a particular recognition:

For me, the second noticeable change was the gradual realization that, as knowledgeable as I thought I was, I didn’t know anything about anything, relatively speaking. Politics, history, culture, personality types, food, relationships, language… I was a rank amateur in nearly every way.

We’ve participated in our fair share of quiz nights since being here. The ones we go to are all in Dutch, although we’re lucky to have translations provided when needed. I can generally hold my own in an American game of Trivial Pursuit and as the writer said, I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable person. However, once you start doing quizzes in another country, you start to learn just how specific to a location your knowledge probably is. I’d had a hint of this when playing G (a native of Italy) in a game of (American) Trivial Pursuit. He commented on how much of the trivia is related to things that are specifically American.

Playing trivia games here makes me realize that while I might know a fair bit about general European history, I’m sorely lacking in the finer details which make up general trivia here. Plus, I’m missing all of the general entertainment trivia: music, books, films, actors, etc. When you no longer have the same frame of reference, it can be harder to relate, be it to the person or to an experience. It’s easy to feel left out or simply stupid. After failing to know something seemingly simple or trivial, I often want to cry out in my own defense that “I’m not stupid in my home country! Promise!”

It may seem trivial to be concerned about a lack of trivia knowledge, but it’s often these small differences that can drive home the fact that you’re “not in Kansas anymore”. Try not to focus on how little you know anymore. You’re not stupid. You’ve just got different experiences and frames of reference. Instead, try to remember at least one little trivia bit that you didn’t know before. We do monthly quiz nights and I often miss tons of questions, simply because I’m not Dutch or even European and don’t have the background to know these things, but I try to remember the answer to at least one question and then go look up more info when I get home. After all, you weren’t born knowing the trivia you do know from your home country. It takes years to gather all that useless information. Don’t expect to know everything about your new country, either. Just take it in stride. Eventually, that random bit of knowledge that you’ve picked up will come in handy or seem impressive someday, maybe when you least expect it!

Ribs, Glorious Ribs


Ribs, glorious ribs!
Hot french fries, and coleslaw …

I had another TweetUp (meet-up with friends from Twitter) last night, meeting with pinkypie, ROtotheD, Pamcakes, and Melissa, a friend of pinkypie’s. We’d gone to Stairway to Heaven last time we all got together, and this time we went to Broadway American Steakhouse Restaurant on the Oudegracht. Our goal? Ribs. Pammy had been before and said the ribs were actually quite good, so we were hopeful. That hope was not in vain. The ribs were surprisingly good! As good as the ones G and I used to make? No, but really, how could they be. 😉 They more than satisfied my rib craving — or maybe they’ve just inflamed my craving. Either way, we’ll definitely be going back, especially once the weather is warmer and drier and we can sit on the terrace right there on the canal.

We probably could have sat outside last night. The day was sunny and surprisingly warm, getting up to 17C! It seemed like all of Utrecht was outside last night, with every restaurant and café’s outdoor seating filled to the brim with people enjoying the warmer temperatures. It really was a gezellig evening — friends enjoying each other’s company, laughter ringing out, and the glow of table candles lighting the evening in a rainbow of colors.

We did eat indoors, but it was still fun and an interesting setting. The restaurant is in one of the canal-level/below street-level spaces where the interior is filled with curved walls creating a cave-like atmosphere, without the dampness or dreariness. They had the walls painted with scenes from Old Hollywood, including a mural of Laurel and Hardy.

The pictures aren’t that great, but that’s because they were a last-minute thought as we were getting ready to leave. The rest of the evening was taken up laughing, eating, and generally have a great time. Most of us also got “doggy bags”, since the portion sizes were also American. What you see in the top picture is the ribs that I had left and brought home for my lunch today. The dinner also came with patat/frites (French fries) and we got some cole slaw to go along with it all. Even the cole slaw was excellent, although we partly attributed that to the use of Dutch mayonnaise. All in all, it was a great night with great food and great company. Can’t wait to do it all again!

Foto Vrijdag 2.9


This is one that is best viewed large to catch some of the more interesting details, particularly the woman with her legs dangling out the window as she reads and catches some of the glorious spring sunshine!

I had the pleasure of meeting up with another expat yesterday, and after a fun chat at the Café Graaf Floris, we wandered along the Oudegracht and enjoyed the beautiful light. It wasn’t as warm as it looked, but the fantastic sunshine helped make up for that.

Today, the sunshine has gone and there’s snow making an appearance in parts of the country and it’s particularly cold. Doesn’t matter, though, as we’re headed to Oudewater this evening to finally experience gourmetten!

Hay-Zoos


Kitschy Jesus statues aren’t limited to US thrift stores or the front yard of that one weird neighbor. Nope. They show up in Dutch hairdresser shop windows, too. This one is in the window of a shop on Voorstraat. I pass it regularly and today I decided to get a shot of it to use in my Project 365.

I’m continuing to love this project, because it’s definitely making me look at my surroundings in a whole new way. I pass this statue all the time, but it never occurred to me to get a shot of it until today. I knew I would be dealing with window reflections, but it turned out to work in my favor. At first glance, when I was looking at the shots I got, I thought this one was going to end up deleted, because the reflections distorted the image too much. But with a simple adjustment of the contrast (ramp it up!), I ended up getting a fun, quirky, psychedelic image.

It almost looks like something that might be hanging in Stairway to Heaven, a local restaurant/bar/club here in Utrecht. I finally went to it on Thursday when I had a Tweetup (a meet up organized on Twitter) with some new friends, including a couple of fellow expat/immigrant bloggers I follow. The service might have been a bit slow, and the burger a bit cold, but it was very tasty and the company was excellent. I really enjoyed getting to meet some new people, especially such a fun and interesting group. I’m looking forward to future Tweetups with them!

Oh, and continuing my habit of injuring myself somehow while G is out of the country, I slipped on a small patch of ice as I was leaving the restaurant that night. I ended up going down hard onto my left knee. That would be the same knee that I injured last spring while trying to stop Lola from making a break for it over the garden wall. The one that had me laid up for three weeks. Fortunately, I was able to walk home and ultimately only suffered some tenderness, bruising and a bit of scraping. Still, I’m glad G’s arriving home this evening!

Early Expats


On this day in which Americans around the world celebrate Thanksgiving — a case of expats/immigrants trying to make friends with the natives of their new homeland — I thought I’d mention some news about some early expats here in the Utrecht region. It seems that some untouched Roman graves have been found near IJsselstein, dating from around the second century AD. They may have been related to the Roman fort that was about 200 meters away.

As I mentioned previously, Utrecht was the location of a Roman fort built around 47 AD. There are also remains of the old city walls (as seen above), although they date from closer to the 1100s. We live right on the eastern edge of the old walled city. I guess Utrecht just can’t get rid of those Italians. G’s even made it inside the city walls. 😉

Now I’m off to give the oven a workout. Time to bake the sweet potatoes, turkey, and cornbread dressing. Plus, those regular potatoes aren’t going to mash themselves. Happy Thanksgiving to all who may be celebrating it, no matter where in the world you’re located.

A Matter of Perspective

Looking at my blog stats today, I saw that someone got here after doing a search for “utrecht living depressing”. How sad! I’m pretty sure they didn’t find what they were looking for here, at least I hope not. I love Utrecht and don’t find it depressing at all. Quite the opposite!

I know some people who move here (the Netherlands in general, not just Utrecht) have trouble adjusting and end up sad and frustrated and unhappy. So far, I’m not one of those people. I suspect that someone who hates it here isn’t truly hating Utrecht or the Netherlands; they’re just unhappy with something in their personal life and taking out their unhappiness on the city/country. I’m lucky, in that I had a say in which country we moved to when we moved. (Although I didn’t actually visit and took G at his word when he said it was a great place.) Maybe I’m just very easy going. I’ve ultimately settled in well no matter where I’ve moved, even when the move wasn’t something I wanted or was expecting.

So to anyone who might be thinking of moving to Utrecht or the Netherlands, I want to be an alternative, optimistic, happy voice, a different perspective to what I see so many of my fellow expat/immigrants expressing. Some of us are quite happy here and have no regrets! That said, everyone is going to have their own reactions and experiences and I’m not trying to belittle the unhappiness of those who aren’t happy here. Just don’t blame it all on the country.

Rock the Vote

Go vote for Pamela and Jarno (couple #5) here, so they can have their dream wedding. Such a sweet story and once they mentioned hanging out in Union Square — I spent a lot of time in and around Union Square while living there — I was hooked. Well, I would have voted for them anyway, since Pam is a fellow blogging expat. 😉

Expats Everywhere

My fondness for alliteration became evident to me back when I was a magazine editor. Obviously, I view blog titles much the same way I used to view subheds — a good excuse to use some quick alliteration.

Anyway, enough with the random rambling. It’s time to share some link love. If you look closely at the top of the blog, you’ll see that there’s a new page next to the Home and About links: Other Expats in NL. It’s a listing of and links to other expats here in the Netherlands. I bet you’d never have guessed. 😉 They’ve all found a place in my RSS feed and I look forward to their new posts. I’ve learned a lot and recognized myself in a lot of them.

If you’re an expat here in the Netherlands and aren’t on the list, let me know. I think I’m missing a couple that I’ve read, but didn’t seem to get into my RSS feed.