Monday, August 27, 2007

Slow or not?

I’m not sure whether this is a typically Dutch thing or not and I’m interested in other people opinions...

One of my Dutch teachers mentioned that another one of her students had pointed out to her that Dutch washing machine programmes are far too long. As soon as she said it I had to agree: the standard wash on my Zanussi Rubino II 1200 lasts about one and a half hours and for the past few months I’ve been choosing the “Quick” programme, as I’m fed up waiting for the damn thing to finish. The quick programme is still about an hour long.

However, I’ve just checked it out on the internet and it may not actually be a Dutch thing:
“These days washing machines are much more energy efficient, this is because they use a lot less water. This does mean that they wash for much longer though and it is not unusual for a machine to wash for 2 hours. So if you like your clothes in a hurry, check how long the fastest wash takes.” (

Has anyone else noticed that washing programmes are excessively long here? Is this a typically Dutch thing, or just a new washing machine thing? I’d like to clean this up!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A land of giants

It’s a known fact that the Dutch are the tallest nation on earth. In 2004 Dutch men averaged 6 foot 1 inches (that’s 1.85 metres) and women 5 foot 8 inches (1.72 metres). Freakishly tall people are to be found everywhere in Holland, usually bending down trying to avoid bridges and roof beams that I couldn’t even touch with my best high jump attempt.

Having such height is all well and good for the Dutch women, with their long legs and slender necks, but it has led to some problems for me while I’m living here in the land of giants. Ninety-nine percent of trousers I buy here are much too long for me and I’m forced to cut off a couple of inches and re-stitch the hems. My chair at work is too high, even when adjusted to the lowest possible level my legs dangle. The same goes for the mini-bench type things at train stations, which I find impossible to perch on (and ashamedly I have the same problem with most toilets here as well). Of course, every conversation I have now involves looking up towards the sky, risking a crick in my neck. At cinemas, it’s almost impossible not to be stuck behind a tall person, but worst of all is music concerts where I’m on tip-toes all evening to get a glimpse of the stage.

The Dutch mistakenly say they are “long”, bless their cotton socks (cotton socks which are the size of pillow cases). It’s a forgivable error but even-so the question “How long are you?” still makes me laugh. “Why are the Dutch so long?” is a question that puzzles me however. Most Dutchies will maintain that it’s because they drink a lot of milk and eat lots of dark-brown bread, but can this really lead to such elongated people?

Anyway, although I sometimes feel insignificant and dumpy living here I also wonder whether it’s really that good to have giraffe-like proportions. According to a New Yorker essay in 2004, Dutch ambulances have even had to keep their back doors open on many occasions to allow for the extreme length of their patients' legs.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Foreigner in my home land

I went back to England this weekend, for the first time since February and it felt wierd. I was surprised by:

New twenty pound notes, which have been introduced since I was away and look like fake money. They are bigger notes, with a lot of "designery" white space, purple pictures and something about the industrial process of pin manufacturing on them.

Pubs, restaurants, airports, train stations and bus shelters (all businesses) are now all completely smoke free. The no-smoking laws came into the UK on 1st July and already the restaurants are cleaner, fresher and more enjoyable.

Friday night was the 9th eviction night on Big Brother, and I hadn't seen or heard anything about this series at all. That would have been totally impossible to avoid if I were in the UK, but without any Channel 4 or E4 TV channels, I'm BB-less.

The English football season started again yesterday - 11th August - Crazy!!

Next (clothes shop) has become really really cheap and nasty. I was looking at suits for work in there this afternoon, and there wasn't a suit in there that cost more than 100 pounds. Five years ago that would have been the other way round. Next obviously facing tough competition and is heading towards the prices (and quality) of Primark and New Look.

Things change fast.