Hup Holland Hup

Utrecht en de EK
The country is turning orange as everyone prepares for the Netherlands’ first game of the Euro 2012 tournament against Denmark this evening. Houses have been decorated — in some cases, completely wrapped in orange — and whole neighbourhoods are now decked with orange bunting, banners and more. This orange madness is called oranjegekte, and as the team progresses, so will the mania. During the World Cup, there were orange wigs, face paint, lion costumes (the lion is the symbol of the team), and much more.

We’re ready for the game tonight with some bitterballen, Dutch cheese, and orange-coloured tompouce for dessert. We’ll also be decked out in our own orange clothing and other accessories to cheer the team on to victory. The best part is that even if the Dutch don’t go all the way, based on how things were four years ago during the same tournament, the festive spirit will continue. It looks to be a fun few weeks.

Café de Potdeksel

Weekly Photo Challenge: Together


As I contemplated this week’s theme, I had originally thought to post photos of my dog and one of my cats, who are always together, despite their differences in size and species. But as I thought more about this week and the major national holidays being celebrated this week here in the Netherlands, I realized there’s another sense of together on which I could focus.

Monday was Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day), where the entire country comes together to celebrate. Throughout the country, there are vrijmarkten (flea markets) set up where anyone can sell all sorts of things, ranging from household junkt to original art to homemade goods. Despite the crowds, at least here in Utrecht, there’s a real sense of friendliness and togetherness. Along with the vrijmarkt, there are concerts and DJs playing music, and a variety of other celebrations throughout the city, all with an overlying wash of orange!

This week — today and tomorrow — the country will also come together in remembrance and celebration. Today is dodenherdenking, in which all of the soldiers and civilians who died in wartime are remembered. At 7 p.m., the entire country will come to a halt, observing together two minutes of silence. A few years ago, I was at a concert, and although the show hadn’t started yet and the crowd was quite large and international, everyone joined together to observ the two minutes of silence. Tomorrow, 5 May, marks Liberation Day, celebrating the day that the Netherlands was finally liberated at the end of World War II. I live very close to the street where the liberating forces first arrived in Utrecht, and tomorrow a special statue of a polar bear will be placed on that street in honor of those forces, particularly the First Canadian Army, who were known as the Polar Bears.

This has been a week of togetherness, in both celebration and remembrance.

A Man on a Bike


Orange on the Oudegracht


The Haves and Have Nots

It’s time for the Xpat Blog Hop again, and this one kind of amused me, so I thought I’d see what I could come up with. The prompt is: list 5 things your country doesn’t have and you wish they did, and 5 things they do have and you wish they didn’t.

Things The Netherlands Doesn’t Have:

  1. Air conditioning. It’s not really been necessary in our house this summer, but it still gets warm enough and humid enough that when you have to walk everywhere, you can get a bit warm and sweaty. Sadly, most shops and restaurants don’t have AC, so you can’t even get any relief when you arrive at your destination.
  2. Biscuitville. Admittedly, most places in the US don’t even have Biscuitville, but there’s nothing better for a hangover or just an easy Southern breakfast.
  3. Mega grocery stores. I miss the variety of products available, including the convenience of buying makeup, contact lens solution, sewing basics, and more in one store.
  4. Sunday shopping and 24-hour shopping. Occasionally, I miss the convenience of life in the US.
  5. Antihistamines. When you’ve got a cold, sometimes you want the kind of drugs that will dry out every inch of your body. Sure, you feel kind of parched when taking them sometimes, but at least you have a chance of breathing through your nose. Nose sprays are decent, but there are times when you want more. Or at least something that will knock you out during the worst of the misery.

Things the Netherlands Does Have (But You Don’t Want)

  1. The wettest summer since 1906. I like the rain, but this year has been insane. It’s raining right now.
  2. Geert Wilders
  3. Drop, aka licorice. It’s pretty popular here — supposedly the highest per capita consumption of licorice in the world — but it’s just not for me.
  4. Tax offices that legally can only speak to you in Dutch.
  5. I really can’t think of anything at the moment. I had to stretch for that last one.

I like Amy‘s idea of listing five things I’m glad the Netherlands does have, so here goes:

  1. Outdoor cafés and terraces. If it’s remotely possible, even just a table or two, most restaurants, bars and cafés will have outdoor seating.
  2. Always getting a cookie or chocolate with your coffee.
  3. Pataat met (aka french fries with mayo)
  4. Cultural Sundays here in Utrecht
  5. Dutch light (and a hint of a rainbow)

Dutch Light and a Rainbow

Viva Hollandia!

Today is the Netherlands’ first match of the World Cup. We’ll be playing against Denmark this afternoon. Seemingly half the country is either taking the day off work to watch the match, or they’ll be watching at work. Basically, if you’re trying to get in touch with anyone in the Netherlands today between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. CET, don’t bother. Sure, there are a handful of people not interested, but they probably won’t be able to hear past all the cheering and yelling anyway.

Viva Hollandia by Wolter Kroes is an older song, but it’s still gotten a lot of play recently. It’s timeless, I suppose! In fact, I could hear it being played somewhere last night as I was trying to go to sleep, so I ended up with the song in my head when I woke up this morning. I figured I might as well share it with you all. Most likely, we’ll hear it again today when we head to the Potdeksel to watch the game — if we get seats. The Potdeksel isn’t usually open on Mondays, but they’re opening early for today’s match. I think just about any bar and restaurant with a tv will be open today and showing the match. For those without access to a tv, but with internet, NOS, the Dutch channel showing the game, is going to be pumping out 120,000 live streams of the match. Internet might be a bit slow this afternoon as a result.

Let the real games begin! Wear some orange today and cheer on the Dutch team. Hup Holland Hup!

Click here if the embeded video doesn’t work or show up.

World Cup Fever

Hup Holland Hup [Day 154/365]
The World Cup starts this Friday! The Netherlands is slowly turning orange as everyone starts decorating for the festivities. Shops, cafés, houses … Everyone is getting into the spirit and showing their orange. This is one of the window displays at a café on Voorstraat. It’s the same place that had the cute bunny display at Easter. I’ve yet to go inside the café, but I always enjoy their window displays.

I have a handful of countries I cheer for at the World Cup, with varying degrees of success. I can’t help but cheer for the US, of course, but I never expect them to do particularly well. Still, they’ve improved over the years, so hopefully they’ll have a decent showing this year. Because of family, I also cheer for England/Scotland (on the rare occasion Scotland makes it to the WC). I’ve been a fan of Italy for a while now, even before meeting my boyfriend. I started cheering for them in the ’94 WC (poor Baggio!). Italy is the current reigning WC champion, but I don’t see them doing well this year at all. Lippi has made some lousy choices. Fortunately, Holland has a good team this year, at least in theory. They’ve got some excellent players like Robben (please let the hamstring injury not be an issue!), Sneijder, and Van Persie, just to name a few. I’d love to see Holland go far in the tournament, even better if they finally win!

It was quite the party here two years ago for the European Cup, so I can only imagine what it will be like for the World Cup! I can’t wait! Hup Holland Hup!
Waiting for the World Cup

Kus Kus Kus

Yesterday, I saw this story on CNN about the French tradition of kissing when greeting and how it may suddenly be discouraged because of Swine Flu/H1N1. The French, and to an extent the Italians, are the first nationalities I think of when I think of greeting someone with a kiss. Yet they’re amateurs in comparison to the Dutch.

The French and Italians might give one kiss or two, but the Dutch — sometimes considered thrifty — are quite generous with their kisses, giving three when greeting or taking their leave of a good friend. The mechanics of it consist of alternating cheeks, usually starting from the left (from the giver’s perspective). It’s usually only woman-to-woman and woman-to-man; man-to-man is rare, although not unheard of.

Interestingly, considering the story about the possibility of the French backing off from kissing, some people suggest that the kiss on the cheek may actually be less of an illness-spreading risk than shaking hands.