Dutch Quirk #17: Treat the public footpaths like their personal terrace

HomeCultureDutch Quirk #17: Treat the public footpaths like their personal terrace

The outer part of the street is usually designated for parking your bike, while the inner side of the street belongs to the neighbour — whether it’s a public footpath or not, that’s just how it is.

Imagine this: You have the bikes parked in a row on one side of the street. Then you have the neighbours with their knee-high planters of garden herbs, a wooden bench, and some neglected toys from way back when their kids were five and played on the street — except they’re in high school now.

What is it?

We can refer to it as a contagious neighbourhood habit, usually among the tenants of the ground floor but sometimes the whole building chips in on the fun as well, to explicitly utilise the area in front of their place or building.

This area, which also happens to be a public footpath, turns into a personal space — usually a summertime terrace (or any good weather really) and a place for adults to splash around in a kiddie pool.

If a building or a house happens to have a set of outer stairs — that’s a whole other set of possibilities. We’re talking a makeshift table for a stereo, or afternoon tea. A place where the pets can lay down while the owner unwinds on a foldable chair with their front door wide open in the back. 🪟

Walk around, this bench is designated for the house cat. Image: Botond/Depositphotos.

Why do they do it?

I honestly don’t blame the Dutchies. I personally would love throwing a bench in a spot knowing the sun will hit so I can rush there in my pyjamas to soak in some vitamin D in the cold months.

I don’t think that’s all there is to it though. The possibility of a social gathering space right next to your very own front door in itself is tempting. Public transport, biking, or checking QR codes? Who has time for that. Just holla at your friends, family, or neighbours for an afternoon drink in the zone and meet them in your slippers if you want — the dress code is very casual.

Why is it quirky?

It’s simultaneously cute as it is disturbing. If you’re the one enjoying the setting, then sure I assume it’s fun to hang out so close to the fridge with everything you like, without worrying about closeup time or finding a table. 😋 Borrel spot?

But if you’re the one on foot, trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, then bumping into someone’s furniture on the side of the street isn’t exactly convenient.

The silver lining to consider: as a pedestrian, you do get to see a lot of good garden designs and landscaping skills sometimes, so that’s a plus.

Should you join in?

Are you going to be disruptive in any way? To traffic, your neighbours, or maybe people walking down the street? If the answer is yes, then we would suggest finding another hangout place, maybe an actual park close by or a friend’s backyard — move that furniture back inside.

But if you just want to have a nice, mid-sized planter underneath your window with some bright flowers to bring you and others joy then by all means go for it.

What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Kireyonok/Depositphotos

Farah Al Mazouni 🇸🇾 🇺🇸
Farah Al Mazouni 🇸🇾 🇺🇸
Farah believes she's been on many adventures during her millennial life, each for a different (sometimes invisible) purpose. The latest adventure whisked her away to Amsterdam for love, and what a magical surprise she found in this city. Armed with imaginary confetti in her pocket, and ready to celebrate all wins, big and small, Farah says "ahla w sahla" or “welcome” to her latest adventure in this wonderland.


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