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Category: Netherlands

Hiking and getting out into nature is a great pastime, which I have always enjoyed. Nothing beats getting some fresh country air, enjoying scenic views

I have done my fair share of hikes myself ranging from short hikes of a few hours to a few multi-day hikes like a 5 day hike through the Fish River Canyon, and a 3 day hike in the Drakensberg in South Africa, and I loved every minute of them.

This is all well and good if you have lovely rugged landscapes to go explore, but the Dutch landscape is just a tad bit less interesting. It is absolutely flat, and, to be honest, the variation in terrain is rather limited, so once you have seen a bit of it, you have pretty much seen it all.

If you were to dump me in some random spot in the Netherlands (without my phone with Google Maps to help me, of course), I wouldn’t be able to tell if I was in North-Holland, Gelderland, or Braband. For me, it all looks very similar.

Therefore, for me, going on long multi-day hikes here would drive me insane from sheer boredom.

Yet, it is one of the favourite pastimes of the Dutch, which they call wandeling. There are whole books devoted to outlining various wandelroutes, and many organised events.

One guy I know regularly does 4 day, 80km walks.

It may be great exercise, and if the Dutch find it fun, then that is great, but somehow, I do not think I will be joining them any time soon.


Bobbie Beer himself

Bobbie Beer himself

Cole turned 10 yesterday, so, to celebrate, we went out for dinner at Bobbie Beer in Almere. This was our first dining out experience as a family since we moved to the Netherlands, not counting places like Burger King, so it was quite exciting for us.

Now, I can tell what you are thinking, and no, I did not take my 10 year old son to a pub for his birthday dinner. Beer is the Dutch word for bear, so in fact, we went to a bear-themed family restaurant. To be fair though, you are able to buy beer there too.

The restuarant has a lovely atmosphere, and is great place to go to with kids. It is also perfectly situated with a perfect view of the Weerwater, a large lake bordering on the edge of the Almere city centre.

Some of the decor

Some of the decor

Being a Friday night as well, you would expect the place to be bustling and unpleasant, but the noise levels were low even though the restaurant was rather busy.

The food was good and came in fairly large quantities ensuring that we did not starve. Cole and I had spare ribs that we perfectly tender and absolutely delicious, while Claudia treated herself to a scrumptious chicken salad.

The service was also excellent, and Cole even got a surprise for his birthday. The staff came to sing to him while bringing his dessert.

The most surprising thing of all though, was the affordability. Restaurants in the Netherlands are not known for their low prices, but Bobbie Beer certainly cost a lot less than we would have expected, especially compared to the quality of our experience.

All in all, they score full marks in my book for a value-for-money family-oriented restaurant.

Me and the birthday boy

Me and the birthday boy


One of the guys at work told me that I cannot considered myself integrated into Dutch life until I have watched my first Eurovision Song Contest.

The Dutch appear to be absolutely crazy over the competition, even though the local entry did not work out for them, not making the final round, much like the last 6 or 7 years before.

This is surprising, since it appears that the vast majority of Dutch TV is devoted to local talent and singing contests.

So I settled down to watch the finals, which I would find hard to miss, as it was broadcast on three of my available channels.
Out of 43 countries entered, 26 had made it to the final.

My musical tastes cannot be considered hip, since most of my favourite music is 200 years old (classical and opera, in case you working that out – but I do love rock and light jazz too), so many of the acts all sounded rather boring and boy-band like, but there were a few really interesting performances inbetween, my favourites being France and Italy.

The judging system is rather tedious and you have to sit through all 43 countries tell you who they liked the most, which this year turned out to be Azerbaijan.

People clearly seemed to like them, but the voting clearly showed to me that I have absolutely no clue as to what is happening on the music scene in Europe.

And, can someone please explain me why on earth Isreal enters a European song contest…..


Tea is drunk in many different ways around the world, some being generally well-liked and others to rather more specific tastes, but nothing baffles me more than Dutch-style tea.

You see, the English way of serving tea, is generally with milk, and that custom is fairly common around the world. It is what I certainly am used to. So you would think that in a land where dairy is the biggest agricultural product, would drink it the same.

Well, the answer is no. In a country which drinks and eats a huge amount of milk products, tea is one of those beverages that is unthinkable for the Dutch to put milk into. Strangely enough, it is acceptable for coffee though…

A few months back I was making a cup of tea at work and a colleague saw me take the milk out of the fridge and he was totally speechless, and then concluded that I was mad.

Since then I have grown to enjoy black tea, and have found the local tea blends (even those pretending to be English Blend) are specifically tailored to be drunk without milk for the best flavour.

Now I am not saying that drinking tea black is a strange thing in itself, but in a country obsessed with milk, I would have expected otherwise.


I have been in the Netherlands for exactly a year now. Or at least it was exactly a year on Tuesday, and have survived to tell the tale.

It has often not been easy, but things are settling down quite nicely now.

Cole is happy in his school, Claudia is beginning to forge a decent social life here, and I have just started an awesome new job at a fantastic company.

Starting with virtually nothing here, we have a comfortable home in Almere, and I honestly cannot be happier.

We have had many difficult challenges here but have surmounted them all.

Now, do I miss South Africa? Of course I do. I miss many things about my former home, but my life has improved so much since moving here that it is inconceivable that I would ever return.


Every year on the 30th April the Dutch go completely bonkers, celebrating the queen’s birthday. Or at least on the birthday of the previous queen, Juliana. When Queen Beatrix came to the throne, she kept the official celebration on her mother’s birthday.

So do the Dutch celebrate with pomp and ceremomy?

No, the entire country turns into one giant flea market where everyone pulls up a piece of pavement and sells all their useless junk, and everyone has a fun, social time.

This year in Almere, the festivies started on Friday night already, with a rather spectacular fireworks display to start things off with a bang.

We managed to pick up a lot of good bargains today browsing the stalls, and even went home with a new pet hamster – we bought a cage for next to nothing from a stall, and then needed to stop at a pet shop to actually fill the newly boight cage.

All in all, it is a day that sees a gezellig crowd paying tribute to their Queen in the way they do best.


I grew up on a healthy dose of South African cooking, and with its Indian and Malaysian influences, it has given me an appreciation of spicy food.

Curries, peri-peri and other fine spicy meals are very popular in South Africa, and the heat is certainly not turned down for the SA version of these dishes.

One of the most popular fastfood chicken outlets in South Africa is Nando’s, which made their name with their peri-peri chicken which comes in Mild, Hot and Extra-hot versions. Personally, I enjoy the Mild, can handle the Hot, but have serious difficultly with their Extra-hot peri-peri.

Now let’s shift to the Netherlands.

Not quite so true

Cuisine in the Netherlands is also heavily influenced by eastern influences by way of Indonesia, which means that one would expect the Dutch to be quite at home with spicy food, but the exact opposite is true.

The curries and chilli-based dishes served up here have been severely toned down to suit the unadventurous Dutch palate.

As an example, for lunch today, I tried some sambal (a chilli-based condiment) which the bottle advertised as “Extremely Hot Chilli”, with several big warning labels on the bottle warning that this stuff should probably be deemed unfit for human consumption since it might cause spontanieous human combustion.

Did I suddenly start shooting flames out my mouth? No!

The spiciness of this apparently extremely hot sambal was actually less hot than a mild peri-peri chicken from Nando’s. It is seriously underwhelming in what it promises compared to what it delivers.

This, I have found, is comon right across the Dutch cooking spectrum.

Maybe I should try out a bottle of Bushman’s Chilli Co’s Hot az Hell sauce from South Africa on my adoptive countrymen….that stuff lives up to the label, and isn’t even their strongest stuff.