I had lunch with Sophie yesterday, who is from Australia but who lived in Amsterdam for more than five years. She is one of the small army of non-Dutch women who catch themselves Nederlandse heren, marry them, and seem to be rather successful in taking this demographic out of this already small country away overseas somewhere. So far, I know two women from Australia and one from England now in the South of France who have manged it. So, Soph has had a closer look at the Dutch way of life than me, being adopted into her hubby's family, and also learning to speak it proper, like.
We are of course both familiar with the endearing way a died-in-the-wool dutch person will tell you any non-redeeming feature about yourself with no hint of awkwardness, but without malice. "Your hair looks funny." "Your arse is a lot bigger since you got pregnant" (that one was for her, not for me). At the office, I was more inclined to laugh and be pleased they cared enough to make a comment. There's the tendency to end to work day at 5 o'clock sharp, and eat dinner at 6 pm without fail. I actually like this, I think the healthy attitude to work within a set period should be preserved as long as possible here and in France, Spain and Italy. Long live the siesta!
If you drop round to a traditional family around dinner time, be prepared to sit on the couch while they eat dinner. But you really shouldn't have dropped in unannounced anyway. This is the only country either of us have visited where an adult will have a glass of milk with their lunch, and yep, at a business lunch too, instead of a glass of wine. Apparently hobbies are very common, thanks to the crap weather. Kids just grow up learning to do slightly out-there regional things like ice-skate beautifully or stilt-walk or god-only knows what actually.
Oh, and we have a total smoking ban in all restaurants and pubs here (effective 1 july, height of summer). So now as it starts to turn a bit chilly, and we are retreating more inside, its been awesome for me. The locals, bless them, think its a shit idea. Even the non-smokers. Apparently one of the arguments goes "well you don't go to the pub to be healthy do you, so it's stupid to force this on us in the pub, people can make their own choice". Certainly not the cringey "I'm not worthy" attitude of Aussie smokers, who are constantly hiding and saying sorry all the time. I guess here they haven't had 10 years of public education browbeating on the issue. At the moment they are running an add where are middle-aged woman scours the house for her durries and ends up opening up the vacuum cleaner bag and lighting one up. It's pretty skanky. It seems that they when they are going to tackle an issue, they take it head on, with no sensitive touchy-feely support for your foul addiction!