Today is pakjesavond in the Netherlands. What in the heck is pakjesavond? It’s traditionally the day Dutch kids get presents from Sinterklaas – with a whole bunch of help from Zwarte Piet. In honor of this tradition, I’m giving some free advice to the expats living in the Netherlands. Here are some activities that those of us who were not born and raised in the lowlands should avoid.
Carry groceries on handlebars. The Dutch can carry anything on their bikes. I’ve seen men happily biking past my house with an empty crate of beer between their legs and a full one on the back. It’s a time-honored to tradition to throw bags of groceries, clothes, whatever, onto the handlebars and merrily bike on. Do not do this if you are not born with orange in your blood. A colleague of mine tried this and ended up at the emergency room. Seriously.
Ride on the carrier. In addition to using bikes to transport beer and groceries, the Dutch transport people on their bikes – and I’m not talking about those silly bike taxis. Nope, the locals will hop onto the carrier (I had to actually look that word up) on the back wheel and off they go. Don’t do this. You see, there are these things called paaltjes (otherwise known as knee-killers). They are everywhere. The Dutch seem to have an inborn radar and manage to avoid them if they’re sitting on the back of the bike. Those of us not born in the lowlands manage to hit every one of the darn things.
Eat drop. Drop is licorice and I like licorice. And I even like black licorice. According to my husband, if it isn’t black, it’s not licorice. Anyway. One thing I don’t like is salt added to my sweet. There are two kinds of Dutch licorice – zoet or zout. Seriously, could you make the words any freaking closer? One of them – zoet – is awesome deliciousness. The other will make you wish your mom was around to wash your mouth out with soap.
Walk stairs handsfree. You probably know that Dutch are just as famous for their steep stairs as they are for tulips. But did you know they actually walk up and down them like it’s a totally normal thing to do? Seriously! In high heels, while drunk, whenever… it just doesn’t matter. They walk those stairs like they OWN them. I do not recommend attempting this. Go ahead and grab that handrail before you fall on your face with your skirt around your waist. True story. So what if the handrail is dusty as no one else even knows it’s there?
Eat like the Dutch. It’s perfectly okay (and totally satisfying) to eat like the Dutch. They love fried snacks with their beer (bitterballen, anyone?). And then there’s all the cheese. Mmmmm… yummy! Did I forget to mention all the sweets? The problem is eating like the Dutch and trying to look like one – a tall, skinny blonde. I’m 0 for 3 myself.
Happy Sinterklaas everyone!