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Tag: Dutch curiosities

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.


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.


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.


Cycling is second nature to the Dutch. Just about everyone here cycles from birth until your arthritis gets too bad at the age of 90.

The infrastructure for cycling is also superb, with cycle lanes everywhere, but long distance can be a bit of a problem. What do you do if you need to go to another town? Transporting bikes can often be a bit of a hassle.

This is where a rather good innovation rears its head – the folding bicycle. The folding bike can literally fold up, so that it takes less space than a normal bike, making it very portable.

The added benefit of this – and why they are so popular – is that, while you need to pay to take a normal bike onto Dutch trains, folding bikes are allowed on for free, so they are very popular amongst Dutch commuters.

They might look rather silly with there ludicrously small wheels, making anyone who rides them look like they just stole a bike from a clown at the local circus, but they are incredibly practical


As far as meat goes in the Netherlands, pork is one of the predominant meat varieties available, and you can get every possible pork product here from dozens of types of ham to pork sausages, chops, fillets, and even pork mince, but there is one pork product that is severely lacking in this country – real bacon.

The Dutch do pretend to sell bacon, but it is completely different to the bacon that I am used to – the kind of bacon that goes so nicely with fried eggs, fresh toast, and pork sausages.

The bacon you get here in general tends to be much thinner than normal bacon, and, in my exerience, either far too salty, or not salty enough.

The Dutch have the habit of eating bacon raw, on sandwiches, much like ham, but I do suppose that can be excused, because as soon as you try to cook this bacon, it turns into hard thin cripsy bits.

If anyone can tell me where to find some real bacon, I am begging you, please let me know where! A life without bacon is no life at all!


I have a great fondness for sweets, but the Dutch have a “treat” that is, at least to me, rather unpalatable. This is the Dutch favourite, salmiak – a type of salty liquorice.

I love conventional liquorice, having grown up chewing through countless bags of liquorice allsorts, but had quite a surprise when I tried salmiak.

My first reaction was that it tasted like cough mixture. I wasn’t too far off with this though, as I was soon to learn that one of the main ingredients of salmiak is ammonium chloride, which is what gives salmiak its saltiness and also happens to be the main ingredient in cough syrups.

In addition to this, I learned that ammonium chloride is used to make zinc-carbon batteries, and is used as a textile dye, in cleaning products and even shampoo.

Up to now, I have enjoyed just about all the food I have encountered in the Netherlands, but I doubt I can get used to eating cough medicine as a treat.