On the differences between Britain and the Netherlands…
Having landed in the Lowlands way back in sunny August, I have (or I thought I had) become seamlessly in tune with the varying differences between my beloved homeland and the not so distant Netherlands. I have gotten on a bike after 15 years or so and managed to navigate city cycling without killing myself or injuring others in the process. I have tasted and incorporated Stamppot, bread, cheese and copious amounts of stroopwafel back into my diet and adjusted my weekly gym routine accordingly. I have been taken aback and have now come to love the infamous ‘directness’ of the Dutch. So after 4 months, I’m feeling like a Dutch pro, or dare I say a native…until my parents visited that is. After living in my own little routine and enjoying everything I know, I then had the pleasure of showing around my parents who saw the Netherlands through fresh, glittery eyes and pointed out the nuances I had either gotten used to or subconsciously dealt with while mastering ‘bigger’ obstacles, such as the bike.
The following differences are actually three of the most (stereotypically) important, dare I say, institutions of Britain. And below is how they differ, for better or worse, in the Netherlands.
Differences between Britain and the Netherlands
1. To queue, or not to queue?
Queueing is what the British do best. It gives us a sense of order, civility and we’ll be damned if someone jumps the line we love so much. Even in the midst of the horror that is Christmas shopping, if you mistakenly join the queue at the incorrect point, then expect to feel the scorn and shame of the entire store as some smug shopper will drag you out and show you ‘politely’ the ‘proper’ end of the line.
Here in the Netherlands it can be a very different tale. Take the busses for example. Firstly, everyone mooches around the stop in a queue like fashion, personal space is maintained and there is a distinct acknowledgement of who arrived first. This is where everything the British hold dear goes out the window. As soon as the bus pulls in, it’s a free for all! The last person to join the crowd often gleefully steps aboard, leaving any anxious, dazed and confused Brit to shuffle on last, completely bewildered at the savagery that has just occurred. Unfortunately the trauma does not end there. The orderliness in which most depart a bus in the UK requires all front rows to exit first, allowing everybody to get off the bus in a calm and logical manner. Again not so in the Netherlands. People will stream past you, if you let them, and leave you again flustered at how such a simple task can leave you feeling like you are walking through a snowstorm with sunglasses on.
2. Fish and Chips vs Kibbeling
As far as being ‘Quintessentially British’ goes, Fish and Chips are up there with the Queen, talking about the weather and having a pint in a pub. The national dish is cherished, loved and staunchly defended by the masses. The only food not to be subjected to rationing in WWII, paper wrapped fish and chips have been a familiar go to dinner since the mid-19th century. Typically flavoured with salt and vinegar the nations favourite is often consumed on rainy days by the seaside, at lunchtime for the rebellious teenagers straying from school and of course for Friday supper after work!
Having travelled far and wide I had not come across another dish that had rivalled its sentimentality or back to basic wholesome taste until I stepped foot in Groningen. Since then I look forward to queueing / pushing my way to the counter of the fish truck for my ‘portie kibbeling met saus’. The principle is the same, battered fish cooked before your eyes and served to the masses. However, kibbeling is in smaller, more accessible pieces, often beautifully dusted with some mysterious spice which gives a flavour leaving you wanting more. It is also served in a handy tray with a nice space for some garlicy based sauce.
Having raved about kibbeling to friends and family, I dutifully take each one for their own mind-blowing experience upon their arrival in the Netherlands. Each and every one of them, stubborn and doubtful in their approach, armed with a host of reasons as to why this fish ‘will simply not do’. Much to my delight and their disappointment they are one by one converted to the Dutch way of serving fried fish and slyly orchestrate another kibbeling feast before their departure!
3. Tea vs Thee
Confession time. I am British, but up until recently I have not loved tea. I know, I’ve burst many friends idea of the true Brit by forgoing a lovely brew for some OJ or good old H20. My parents on the other hand are staunch tea supporters and rarely travel without their treasured Tetley Teabags or a few bags of Yorkshire’s finest. The classic brew (admittedly a widely debated topic) involves said teabag, hot water, removal of teabag and the addition of milk and sugar to taste, and in that order.
While the Dutch do have thee in abundance, it is normally fruity, green or minty. Now this thee is something I can get on board with, I mean who doesn’t love a good cup of Bosvruchten in the morning?! My poor father however, found this fundamental difference out the hard way. After leaving his beloved Yorkshire Gold behind when visiting, I offered him a cup of thee. Unfortunately my favourite Yorkshire man could not find peace with his citrusy cup of goodness. In an attempt to make things better (against my advice) he followed the institutional method of tea making and removed the lemony tea bag and proceeded to add milk. As one can imagine it did not go down well….ok it went down the sink pretty well.
Too many of these differences may be futile, but when your national stereotype is largely centred around the above three things, any small alteration in how such things are eaten, drunk and organised can be catastrophic. So a warning to all incoming Brits, bring your tea bags, take Valium when embarking on a public transport facilitated journey and prepare to take a step back, swallow your pride and accept that the Dutchies do battered fish way better than we do.
Want to read more on Britain and the Netherlands? Here is why the Netherlands is flat out better than the UK 😉 And this article is about the upsides for the Dutch regarding the #Brexit. Enjoy!
Were there any other noteworthy differences between Britain and the Netherlands I left out? Leave em in the comments!
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