Nearly eight months in Nieuw Vennep – time has flown! We have been ‘counting our blessings’ and thinking about the things we enjoy most here, so here are a few of our favourite things:
De Symfonie – This is our local ‘Winkelcentrum’ (shopping centre). Of course it has lots of shops but our favourites are the bakery with its delicious coffee shop, a bookshop that sells English language newspapers, the Post Office and the Jumbo supermarket. There you have it: our favourite Saturday morning programme!
Open spaces – After living in Amsterdam for two months, we really do appreciate the open spaces here. The fields outside Nieuw Vennep are used for growing flowers (roses, peonies, tulips and other bulbs) and later in the season potatoes, cabbages and other vegetables. Closer to town there are parks, sports fields and cycle tracks everywhere. (Dot told someone recently that ‘There are cycle paths everywhere’ and realised it sounded like ‘There are psychopaths everywhere’. She needs to get her English pronunciation right before worrying about Dutch!).
IBTSC – our workplace in Amsterdam. We are really blessed to have such stimulating and interesting jobs – Dot editing the academic journals; David as ‘Manusje van Alles’ (Dutch for ‘Handyman, the man who does a bit of everything’), officially termed ‘operational and academic support’. We have wonderful office colleagues from Scotland, Canada, Netherlands, South Africa and Estonia and we meet students and part-time staff from many parts of the world. It is a privilege to be part of the team here.
Dutch language – Although we have not yet made much headway with learning Dutch, we do enjoy listening to others speaking it! We have even found some words that remind us of English, or more accurately, of English as she is spoke in Norn Iron. For example, the Dutch word ‘uit-stekend’ when reversed is remarkably similar to the NI term ‘stickin’ out’ which means ‘excellent’ (as in, ‘How was your dinner?’ ‘Stickin’ out!’). The Dutch word ‘raar’ is obviously stolen from the NI word ‘rare’ (as in, ‘Thon’ was a rare wee woman’). The sign we saw on a Dutch train directing passengers to ‘shuiven’ the windows out in case of emergency needs no translation to those literate in NI English. However, if this makes the Dutch language look easy, don’t be fooled!
Dutch food – The writers of ‘The Undutchables’ (White and Boucke) joke that the level of global respect for Dutch cuisine is demonstrated by the number of Dutch restaurants you see in cities across the world! That may be true, but we have found some delicious Dutch food – mainly in the sweet department. ‘Gevulde koeken’ are little cakes filled with marzipan; ‘appelgebak’ (spicy apple tart) is on nearly every menu; ‘Roomboter koek’ is a moist, creamy madeira cake. These are all delicious! David has adopted the Dutch habit of drinking ‘karnemelk’ (buttermilk) with his lunch, but we have not yet developed a taste for ‘erwtensoep’ (pea and ham soup) or some of the other specialities such as ‘brune bonen met stroop’ (brown beans with syrup). Hmm! Anyway, here is a Dutch treat you can try at home – even in the UK. Stroopwafel are available in most supermarkets and here’s how to enjoy them to the full:
- Make a cup/mug of hot coffee or tea (make sure the diameter of the cup is smaller than the stroopwafel or culinary disaster will ensue);
- Place stroopwafel on top of the cup for 2 mins. then turn it over for 2 mins.
- Remove stroopfwafel and eat slowly, drinking tea/coffee as you eat. Mmm!