Having some shops open until 10pm is something many people in the Netherlands, especially expats, don’t know the uphill battle it was and may have helped push through without knowing it. The fight to have any kind of shop open past the regular Dutch hours of 6pm was won about 10 years ago when Albert Heijn decided to have supermarkets in major cities open from 8am to 8pm, something if I remember correctly political party D66 (Democrats), a party that traditionally caters to expats, were very much in favour of. At the time it upset a lot of smaller shops that claimed they could not compete, the same argument used for shops not being open on Sundays, but without the sorry Christian excuse that usually comes with it.
Rob van Gijzel, the Mayor of Eindhoven (Labour) would love to accommodate the expat population of his city by having all matters of shops in the city centre open until 10pm. His goal is to make Eindhoven more attractive to ‘knowledge workers’ who come from cities with millions of residents and who aren’t used to shops closing at 6pm on weekdays and 5pm on weekends, with the exception of ‘late night shopping nights’ until 9pm, usually Thursdays or Fridays. And of course this means the Dutch get to shop more conveniently as well. But the stakeholders are against the 10pm opening hours, saying “it’s a bridge too far”.
Back in 1996 when I came to work here as a PA for the summer, I lived in Delft and worked in Hoofddorp. I finished worked at about 17:30 and it was completely impossible to buy any supermarket food after 6pm: there were no Albert Heijn To Go’s at train stations back then. The Dutch would tell me to buy all my food for the week on Saturdays like everyone else, but how could I buy seven days’ worth of food for two (I had a roommate – we switched weeks) without a car or even a bike, never mind that our small student fridge couldn’t fit all the food? He had time during the day as a student – I didn’t.
Here’s what I had to do to get food for dinner: I would take the train to Hoofddorp as usual, but get off in Leiden since my connection was always a 25-minute wait. Supermarket chain Via (now defunct) was right next to the train station and open at 7am. Opening early was the trick back then to avoid the arguments about being open late. I would have 25 minutes to shop for dinner and catch my train to get to work. Then I would go to the office’s restaurant and ask to use their fridge to store my food. They laughed, but understood my logic. I’d bring the food home in the train and have food for dinner.
When I told my roommate how retarded opening hours were as compared to what I knew he said it will change some day, and it did. It could change some more though, so yes 10pm for at least food would make a lot of our lives easier and provide more jobs to people. Yes, some supermarkets are open until 10pm now, thanks to Albert Heijn and expats whinging about it. Go Eindhoven!
(Link: www.deondernemer.nl, Photo of an endive potato mash with meatless sausage by Jasja Dekker, some rights reserved)
Tags: Eindhoven, expats, opening hours, supermarkets
An online survey carried out by rtlz.nl and Dutchnews.nl with 1,123 respondents (including myself) revealed to anyone who hadn’t heard this before that expats find it really difficult and even ‘almost impossible’ to make friends with the Dutch, and tend to stick with other expats, which doesn’t help them integrate.
Many expats in the Netherlands come from Germany and England, two thirds of which are men and have an average age of 34, often considered an age at which people already have their groups of friends. An additional explanation is that since many expats don’t stay for long (three to five years), the Dutch won’t bother making new friends with people that won’t be there in a few years.
Work remains the number one place to make friends and sports clubs, the second. In fact, the Netherlands is often compared to a big sports club you need to be a member of in order to integrate. And of course learning Dutch will also help any expat loads, although when everyone around them constantly switches to English, it’s a major obstacle.
Rtlz.nl brought up a nice cultural example, which was if a Dutch person invites you over to their place at 8 pm, many expats expect it to include dinner because many of them eat at 8 pm or later, like the Spanish. The unwritten rule is that the Dutch eat at 6 pm and have had dinner, so don’t expect a meal. The funny thing is, the trains are full of Dutch people not eating dinner at 6 pm, so I dare say this unwritten rule needs to go. I was recently invited at 8 pm by Dutch folks, ate dinner before I came over and then was unexpectedly served dinner again because they wanted to accommodate the non Dutch folks, but hadn’t told anybody. I guess communication is key, but let’s call it an improvement for both sides.
(Links: www.rtlz.nl, www.dutchnews.nl, Photo by Quistnix, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 1.0)
Tags: cultural differences, dinner, expats, survey
Just last week we told you about the ‘frikandellen vlaai’ and many other frikandel-related ‘inventions’, but we can now call it a hype.
Joining in is Roberto Gelato from Utrecht with a video of the owner listing off other frikandel delights such as pizza-frikandel from Urk, but then what about Utrecht, he says to the camera. Well, Utrecht is going to make frikandel ice cream!
According to Waarmaarraar, the ice cream is ready to roll. Foodies could combine it with Van Gogh potato ice cream and be all set.
Tags: frikandel, ice cream, Utrecht
There’s been a run of weird food combos lately, including pancakes with fries and the discodel. Now the frikandel sans disco has made its appearance in ‘vlaai’ (‘pie’) from Limburg turning a sweet dessert into a savoury one.
Bakers from Grubbenvorst, Limburg whipped up a ‘frikandellen vlaai’ for a friend’s birthday. It can have curry sauce, chopped onions and mayonnaise on it if you like that sort of garnish. Other frikandel fans started asking for the pie after a picture of it was placed on Facebook.
Tags: frikandel, junk food, pie, vlaai
For years in Scheveningen Rocco Gasperoni of the ‘Ndrangheta’ or Calabrian mafia was happily making the best pizzas the neighbourhood had even eaten until his arrest about a week ago.
And his story reads like a movie. His criminal activities date back to 1997 where he was arrested in Spain, then sentenced to 14 years of hard time for smuggling drugs between Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. He was eventually placed in house arrest and managed to flee to the Netherlands.
The Italian government tried to have Gasperoni extradited, but apparently messed up the paperwork and he was free again. Then he opened up a few shops, but the pizza shop is the one that made him popular, although neighbours claimed that shady characters would visit the joint and sit in dark corners. And then the Italians tried to extradite Gasperoni again, but since he had been in the Netherlands for so long, it didn’t stick and more pizzas were made.
As of a week ago Gasperoni will be doing 12 years of a 14-year sentence in a Dutch prison. Dutch authorities blame the differences between Italian and Dutch laws for why it took so much time to put him away.
(Links: www.ad.nl, 20min.ch, Photo of Pizza pie by Adam Kuban, some rights reserved)
Tags: crime, Italy, mafia, pizza, Scheveningen
The Dutch are already involved in getting to Mars, but researchers at Wageningen University feel people need to be able to grow their own food if they ever plan on living there.
Wageningen University wants to grow vegetables in soils similar to those found on the Moon and Mars, but getting those soils is a tall order. However, NASA actually makes ground similar to that on the Moon from sand found in an Arizona desert, while Mars’ crimson ‘soil’ is scooped from a volcano in Hawaii. The first experiments started in 2013 after the university received an order of 100 kilos of NASA’s imitation ‘space soil’, which cost 2,000 euro.
Wieger Wamelink of Wageningen University decided to grow tomatoes, peas, cress and other plants in pots containing the simulated soil. The imitation ground wasn’t big on being watered at first, but soon turned out to be good potting soil. “In the Martian soil, plants were growing fast and well. They even started to flower, something that we never anticipated,” Wamelink said. The 50-day experiment was written up in the science journal PLOS One in August 2014.
The vegetables however are not necessarily safe to eat. Wamelink suggested growing other plant species such as violets to absorb the poisons. Water should be no problem as it is found as ice on both the Moon and Mars, said Wamelink. Other questions which need answers include the presence of friendly bacteria to help plant growth and what happens to plants that grow in low gravity. It’s still all very theoretical and cannot be tested in actual Martian and lunar conditions.
Part of me wonder if earthlings so fond of all kinds of foods, wouldn’t go bonkers from a steady diet of boring, never mind a lack of meat for some, alcohol and chocolate. The first person to open up a snack bar is going to rule the planet.
Tags: Mars, moon, space, Wageningen University
Last weekend in Paris, a French woman asked me at the dinner table what food was like in the Netherlands. Examining the party of eight around me with a Dutch cook on my right (from Limburg, where they actually enjoy food), I diplomatically answered that the Netherlands have great basic ingredients, but seem to struggle to put them together nicely.
In an environment where snack food goes disco and having a romantic dinner at a junk food chain went viral, here’s a questionable junk food mashup: a pancake with ‘friet speciaal’ (fries topped with chopped onions, mayonnaise and curry ketchup), which can be had at a mini-golf course in Rotterdam.
“It’s not a joke and it’s very tasty,” claims cook Brian de Jong. They call it the ‘pannenkoek Xtra speciaal’, which goes for €7,50 and was in fact inspired by the disco snack food mentioned above. In case you got hit hard by a wayward golfball during your stay, you can also order the pancake Turkish pizza (aka ‘lahmacun’) or the pancake satay.
Tags: golf, junk food, pancakes, Rotterdam
Having a glass of wine at the hair salon and at some clothing shops in Amsterdam started as an experiment in January 2016. Rotterdam started in February and called it ‘Project Blending 010’ (why in English, don’t know – 010 is the area code for Rotterdam) and other places in the country called it ‘blurring’ (why in English, still don’t know) because the law says serving alcohol without a liquor license is illegal. So yes, the whole thing was illegal but tolerated – sound familiar?
The Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG) kicked off the experiment, but the Union of Liquor Store Owners (Slijtersunie) recently decided they were done being tolerant and decided to officially report the VNG to the authorities for breaking the law. The VNG is ‘surprised’ because talking it out is usually the Dutch way, but you can imagine there’s a lot more selling of alcohol at salons and shops than there is selling non-alcohol related products at the wine store. The experiment let shops serve and sell alcohol, while establishments that usually sell alcohol could sell shop products.
A lot of us were already having a drink with the lovely people who patiently cut our hair before any of this became a thing. And yes, it would probably help to make any kind of shopping more enjoyable. Maybe it’s time to change the law instead of forcing one group of Dutch businesses to have their turf invaded by another.
Or they could have a drink and talk it out till the cows come home Dutch style, who knows.
(Links: www.binnenlandsbestuur.nl, www.z24.nl, www.telegraaf.nl, Photo of Hair salon by Travel Salem, some rights reserved)
Tags: alcohol, Amsterdam, hair salon, law, wine
Dutch frozen fish company Iglo’s search for the new Captain Iglo (Kapitein Iglo) continues with 30 candidates wanting the job, including 10 women and even a 9 year old girl. The rest were men, young and old, with and without beards. The candidates were subjected to a jury of children during a boat trip around Amsterdam.
Tiemen, the oldest man who applied, was 72 and resembled the already existing bearded captain, but one of the favourites with the jury was 30 year old Samira, a Dutch-Moroccan woman. Part of the selection process included handing out fish sticks to kids, and Samira went one further and brought her own homemade dipping sauce.
Knowing that the Netherlands has never had their own Captain Iglo, going with Tiemen would mean nothing new for the brand and although a safe bet, would reinforce the idea that women and men without beards were wasting their time applying. However, choosing a woman could really spice up the brand’s image and give the marketing people lots of new angles. Let’s see how that plays out.
(Link: www.deondernemer.nl, Photo of Volendam by quantz, some rights reserved)
Tags: fish, job, sea, women
According to BN De Stem, food giant Unilever is pulling the plug on the longest running ice lolly in the Netherlands, the Raket (‘Rocket’).
BN De Stem suggests the Rocket is too Dutch for its own good. Unilever was only producing them for the Dutch market. The company, operating under the Ola brand in the Netherlands and Wall’s and Algida elsewhere, wants to streamline its production of ice cream flavours by reducing them from 450 to 90. As one observer said: “How much more streamlined than a rocket can you get?”
RTL Z claims that the story is an April Fools’ joke, citing “sources within Unilever”. Unlike any other April Fools’ joke I’ve seen, this one doesn’t refer to April however. The original source talks about May instead. Elle smells a rat, because why would a brand ditch a product that sells so well? So I decided to find out for myself, picked up the phone and called Unilever: turns out, their press department is conveniently unavailable for comment during the four-day Easter weekend.
Everybody agrees that if this really is an April Fool’s joke, it’s one of the lamest ever.
If Unilever is really abandoning the Rocket, then you’re in luck. Cheap knock-offs are still being made by competing brands as Z24 helpfully pointed out two years ago .
The news that Unilever is going to discontinue its traditional Dutch treat follows recent news that two major ‘bitterball’ manufacturers, Mora and Van Geloven, are now in foreign hands, and news from 2014 that aniseed cubes were discontinued by De Ruijter because the machine that made them could no longer be kept in repair.
Tags: April Fools, ice, ice lollies, Ola, Unilever