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Category: Society

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.


Why on earth do people spend so much time playing social games on sites such as Facebook?

I know that they appeal to people’s reward response by enticing you to unlock the next achievements, but lets face it, social games lack any form of depth at all, get boring quickly, and largely need you to have a lot of friends playing to be able to make much progress, thus ensuring a healthy user base for the game publisher to milk.

Now, I am not saying that all computer games are boring, or that makers of traditional computer games are not interested in profits, but there is a world of difference between real computer games and social computer games.

Let me use The Sims Social as an example. I got myself The Sims 3 recently, and have been enjoying it immensely. The game has a lot of depth, with many non-linear choices you can make, and many, many different approaches you can take. When you get bored, you can download additional content to get that perfect house you are after, or get the expansion packs giving you more choices of what to do. The options are limitless.

Comparing this to The Sims Social on Facebook, which I had tried out before this, I have no idea why anybody would choose to play the latter. The Sims Social suffers from all the usual drawbacks of social games such as needing to have real friends to play with (which Sims 3 does not care about), limited choices in what to do or buy, lack of depth, and a generally poorer gameplay experience. Many of the aspects of the original Sims games that make it fun are left out of The Sims Social, and it feels more like a Sims-themed clone of Farmville than a true Sims game.

Now I am not saying that I will never get bored of The Sims 3 – I certainly will eventually get bored of it – but the value I am getting out of it is astronomically higher than The Sims Social, so for what reason should I choose to play it?

Social gaming is starting to eclipse traditional gaming in terms of number of players, and this I cannot understand. Maybe I never will.

In any event, I am quite happy to leave my Facebook account idle while getting my gaming fix from what I consider real games.


My Swiss holiday has begun on an adventurous note.

We planned to take the City Night Line overnight train to Basel from Amsterdam which all sounded so exciting. The actual trip was something else entirely.

We caught the train last night and immediately we were put off. The carriage we were in had a musty smell, stains on the carpeting, and holes in the upholstery. This did not bode well.

During the journey we also discovered that the train was not well insulated and the lights remained on, so sleep was pretty much impossible.

The real adventure happened at 5am this morning. I woke up smelling a burning rubbery type of smell and a few minutes later an alarm went off with the train promptly stopping at the station in Gundenfigen, near Freiburg in Germany.

We sat for at least 20 minutes not knowing what was happening, and then we were promptly told to leave the train, and again left for ages in the dark on the platform.

Eventually the police and fire department took over and finally gave us information – the train had caught fire!

We stood for another hour waiting for busses to take us to Freiburg to then take another train to Basel, before the train was ok’d for taking us on to Freiburg instead.

We then got a free ride on an ICE train to Basel, which was an incredible upgrade.

We did eventually get to Basel, albeit 3 hours late, and onto Bern by car.

Now in Bern, the relaxing can begin


One thing that leaves a lot of non-South Africans at a loss is trying to work out what a South African means when he says he will do something now.

You see, South African English has several similar phrases that mean somewhat different things: now, just now, now now, right now might look identical but are not.

So, as a service to mankind, here is what these phrases really mean.

  • Right now – it will happen immediately
  • Just now – it will happen sometime in the nearish future, but not right now. Anywhere from half an hour to two hours from now.
  • Now now – it will happen sometime in the very near future, so sooner than just now, but later than right now
  • Now – this could indicate any of the above

Hope that makes clear what we South Africans mean, so when we will see you just now, you shouldn’t quite open those beers yet, expecting the doorbell to ring any second.


Ah! The sound of meat sizzling on an open fire, combined with that unmistakable smell of smoke and roasting meat is enough to make any South African’s mouth water.

The humble braai is so central to South African life that we have even co-opted one of our public holidays – Heritage Day on the 24th September – as National Braai Day, where everyone takes part in a very South African tradition…..or is it?

As South Africans, we think that we own the copyright on braai’s, but I have discovered that that is not exactly true. Many countries have a tradition of braaing, except it goes under the name of barbecues, or if you find yourself Down Under, a barbie. It is an immensely popular way of cooking around the world.

Even here in the Netherlands, braaing (or barbequing as I am forced to call it here) is a very popular pastime, and the range of different barbecues available is probably better than back in South Africa.

The only real difference between what us South Africans do compared to the rest of the world is what we put on to the braai. The Americans love doing burgers, the Dutch love kebabs and pork braadworst, while the typical South African braai consists of pork chops, boerewors and chicken drumsticks.

I certainly have no need to miss braaing while living in this foreign land – it is just the meat that isn’t quite the same….


Over the last several months I have been writing a lot about things that I find rather strange or unusual about the Netherlands and the Dutch people based on my experiences living here in the Netherlands. One of the things about being a stranger in a strange land, is that as much as there are many things I find strange here, I have also come to realise that I, myself, having grown up in South Africa, have many things about me that appear strange to the rest of the world.

So, after looking outwards at the world around me, here follows the first part of me looking inwards toward myself, and what better topic to begin on than South African English.

South African English is my mother tongue, and it has some quirky differences to the more generally known dialects.

Lets start with our accent. I have met very few people in the Netherlands who correctly guess where I am from based on my accent. Curiously, many people immediately think that I am American, which I find a bit strange, since the majority of the Dutch I have met speak English with a distinct American accent, and the South African accent is nowhere near the American accent, so I have no idea where they get that from.

The Americans, on the other hand, tend to have no idea where to place my accent, sometimes thinking I am British or Australian, while the Brits tend to be fairly good at placing my accent – probably due to the thousands of South Africans that call the UK home.

There are huge differences within the accent as well. Region plays a fair role, so Capetonians, Durbanites and Johannesburgers tend to speak differently, but the speakers home language plays a far greater role. South Africa has a wealth of languages, and each language group – Indigenous, Afrikaans and English native tongue speakers speak English with vastly different accents.

The South African accent is apparently very difficult for foreigners to imitate with any degree of accuracy, and I must say that I have very seldom heard a good South African English accent in a Hollywood movie.

Now let’s look at vocabulary. South African English borrows extensively from both American and British English for words, as well as from the other South African languages.

So, for example, we use the American word truck for what the Brits call a lorry, while we use the British boot (of a car) while the Americans use trunk.

Pure South Africanisms though include words like lekker (nice), takkies (sneakers), braai (barbeque), bru (brother). There are many more you can find here at this link. I often tend to use these words without thinking that noone else has a clue what I am on about.

Now that you might be able to understand me better, my job is done…


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.