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I thought that – seeing as there is a Bank Holiday coming up I would tell you about the difference between the single Dutch Christmas I experienced and the English ones – as well as my all time favourite “Bank Holiday” of New Year – Dutch style.
When I was young my parents decided to ring the changes one year and go over to Holland for Christmas. This was before the commercialisation of Christmas had hit Holland – so the Dutch had “Sinterklaas” on 5 December, when they got their presents, followed by a quiet and somber Christmas, followed by “Oud en Nieuw” (or – New Year’s Eve).
There is one thing I still love about Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Holland. The Dutch go in for white Christmas Lights. So – when you drive on the motorway between Hoek van Holland and Rotterdam – you see what look like white fairylights strung along the edge of the motorway. (I was really disappointed when Dad ponted my “fairylights” out as we were driving to Hoek van Holland one day and all I saw were cranes.)
As I said at the beginning – my favourite “Bank Holiday” is New Year’s Eve – Dutch style.
Because my parents and I had Christmas with my English Grandparents at the proper time we did the present giving with my Oma (Dutch Grandma) on New Year’s Eve.
My two favourite things about a Dutch New Year’s Eve are food and fireworks. Put it this way – If you would like some indication of what the Bombardment of Rotterdam must have sounded like during World War II – go over to Rotterdam on New Year’s Eve. The best place to experience it (as I found out after Oma had died) is on the banks of the river Rotte – looking back towards the city centre. It looked fantastic with the fireworks and the laser show.
(To say the Dutch are fond of fireworks is something of an understatement. To say that they are not so keen on the crashes caused by the smoke hanging around the next morning is also a bit of an understatement).
I mentioned food didn’t I???
There is one foodstuff which is traditionally munched at New Year’s Eve in Holland – they even have TV programmes showing you how to make them. One memorable programme I saw on the subject of the best way to make “Oliebollen” involved a chipshop fryer and an ice cream scoop.
I had better explain what “Oliebollen” are, hadn’t I??? The literal translation of the name is “Oilballs”. What they actually are is the original fruit doughnuts. (Yes – Doughnuts originated in Holland.)
My Dad makes them at New Year’s Eve even now. This keeps the memories of both my Oma and my Mum alive.
In fact, I remember when I had my first New Year’s Eve over here after Oma had died. I walked around Leicester City Centre asking in different shops and supermarkets whether I could buy any Doughnuts. You can probably imagine the shop staff looking at me as though I had completely lost the plot???
I was pleasantly surprised when – at 11pm English time (Midnight Dutch time) – my Dad produced a plate of Oliebollen. We got some more at Midnight English time.
Sorry – did I forget to tell you that my parents and I celebrated the New Year twice (Dutch and English)??? My Dad and I still do.
Even though I haven’t been back over to Holland for New Year’s Eve for nearly 20 years my Dad and I still keep up the traditions associated with it.
The funny thing is that now the Dutch seem to have two “Christmas” times and the English seem to have two Guy Fawkes Nights. I am sorry but I think the English should leave New Year’s Eve fireworks to the Masters (Dutch).
If I was a jar of food I suppose my label would read “Product of more than one country”. After all, I have got a surname that originally comes from France, a Christian name that comes from The Netherlands, a parent from The Netherlands, and a parent from England. Oh – and I think I may have some German blood in my Dutch family as well.
However, you could say that my connection with The Netherlands also appears on every single official document which includes any personal information about me – even if it doesn’t explicitly state my late Mum’s nationality.
(If I want to confuse people I just tell them that my Mum and I were both born in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. This is actually true up to a point. My Mum was born in the actual city of Rotterdam. You just need a diary and a telephone directory to find out how someone who was born in Kings Lynn in Norfolk, can claim to have been born in Rotterdam as well. If you look up the international Dialling Code for Rotterdam you will find it is +31 10 – which happens to be the same as 31 October – my birthday.)
This may seem really strange to you but I feel more at home in Holland – even though I have never actually lived over there. I have been over a couple of hundred times during my lifetime.
Something else which may surprise you is that there are a lot more rules and regulations about how to conduct yourself in Holland than you might have been led to believe. (The idea you can get away with anything in Holland is something of a myth – unless you happen to be a tourist.)
There are two rules (which I consider to be “Dutch”) which I was brought up with.
The first one is always calling a stranger Mr or Mrs So-and-so until such a time as they tell me to use their Christian name. I feel seriously uncomfortable when someone who is a lot older than me introduces themself to me by their Christian name alone. I honestly don’t feel I am treating them with sufficient respect if I call them by their Christian name on first meeting them.
The second rule I was brought up with (and I later found out that they have the same thing in French and German) is the difference between “formal” and “informal”. That is one thing I really miss when I am in England – I just hate the “one size fits all” you. As in – “you” as both formal and informal. “U” and “je” I can live with – same with “Vous” and “tu”, and “Sie” and “Du”. In fact – this may surprise you but when I was in Holland a few years ago there was a discussion which made front page news in one Dutch National newspaper – whether or not to get rid of the formal “U” in the office environment.
Another couple of things I really love about Dutch people are – their insistence on shaking hands even when entering and leaving someone’s home – as well as their habit of blunt straight-talking. Put it this way – the Dutch aren’t exactly known for tact and diplomacy.
I will leave you with something I found really confusing when I was growing up.
In the UK – if you are in a large group of people you are only supposed to speak to the people closest to you??? This is what is known as “being polite”.
In Holland – if you are in a large group of people feel free to bellow at the person sitting or standing across the room from you. This is apparently seen as “being polite”.
There was one occassion when something else got my “oh oh – there may be trouble here” radar buzzing in Holland. I had been half-listening to a discussion between two of my Mum’s uncles and my Dutch Grandma’s next door neighbour when I heard “Madam – you are wrong” (in Dutch of course). For some reason my brain had switched itself into English mode (which explains why I started to feel nervous when I heard that remark) conveniently forgetting that Dutch people are programmed to call strangers “Sir” and “Madam” in conversation without being accused of sarcasm.
Different countries do have their own rules of behaviour – don’t be surprised if someone from another country does something you do not expect – instead try to learn a bit about their rules and customs.
Up until now I have kept the blogging I do on here more directed towards things which could be useful in a “Business” setting – or more about me and my life.
I am going to try something a bit different today. This was inspired by a conversation I had with someone on Friday (I will put a link to the blog post which resulted from that conversation near the end) and by the fact it is “Mental Health Week” this week.
What you may not know is that not only have I had time off work in my last job due to depression but one of my friends happens to be a retired Clinical Psychologist.
You could say that I have an interest in Mental Health (some of my friends have Mental Health issues) and I am fascinated by the differences and similarities in attitudes people have to Mental Health and Physical Disabilities.
If you have had a dig around in my personal blog you may have come across Mental And Physical Health Portrayals In Soaps which tackles that exact subject.
However, the conversation I had on Friday was a kind of flip side to the same subject. It was more connected with attempting to educate people about how Mental Health issues and Physical Disabilities affect the person themself. After all, you cannot expect people to have the same experiences as you. I know how my sight affects me but I have learned to ration that information on a strict “Need to Know” basis. (Nobody would be prepared to sit down for a very confusing lecture on exactly how my sight affects me – they would be mummified corpses by the time I had finished expanding on every little detail.)
Have a read of this blog post and see whether you agree with it – How Can You Give Someone Else Your Experiences??? (Or – We Are One But We Will NEVER Be The Same)
We have all come across “Brands” in places like supermarkets, etc. (Did you know that “Brand” in Dutch means “Fire”???)
However, there is another sort of “Branding” which may not be obvious to you – The colour schemes you find on Emergency Service vehicles.
In fact – I got the idea for this blog post from seeing three ambulances as I was on my way home. For further information click here – The Ambulance Puzzle
You could say I rely on “Branding” more than most people. After all, it tells me if the motorised vehicle I am attempting to flag down is a Minibus or a Tesco van (yes – I did try to flag one of those down once by mistake – it was dark and the lights on the front looked like a minibus).
So it can be a bit of a problem when there are several Brandings on the same kind of vehicle. Take – for example – Arriva and their buses of many colours. Correction – buses of many colour combinations (how many combinations of turquoise and white are there exactly???).
To be perfectly honest it wouldn’t be so bad if the Branding on the buses didn’t change so regularly. (I would prefer it if they decided to make the Destination Boards big enough for me to read at a distance.)
What I am trying to say is – please find a “Branding” which works for you and stick to it. Especially if you want me to feel confident about recognising it and associating it with your company.
I was looking at Twitter a few days ago and I came across a “Conversation” which annoyed me. I suppose I should have taken it in my stride and moved on but it hit a bit of a raw nerve with me.
The reason for this was one comment made during the conversation. It was something along the lines of “lost your glasses??? Ring the Police”.
Yes – I admit that the person who made the comment was just being flippant and trying to make a point about what constitutes a real emergency – as well as losing your glasses not being a reason to dial 999. However, they used what I call the “Specsavers Argument” (Other High Street rip-off Opticians are available). This argument goes along the lines of “Most people who wear glasses don’t have very strong prescriptions – therefore they can lose one pair and walk around in order to find their spare pair without causing any danger to themselves and others”. (One “Chugger” from Guide Dogs for the Blind attempted to use the same argument on me some months back – until I told them to try my glasses on – they soon changed their tune after that.)
I think this is part of the reason why the purchase of glasses is not covered by the Disability Discrimination Act or the Equalities Act. However, I digress.
Without going all Scientific on you (and boring you to sleep) – the simplest way of explaining why I got so annoyed by the Twitter “Conversation” is because – to put it very bluntly – if I lose my glasses that is me totally out of commission. My world becomes one big blur. If you want a taste of how bad my sight is without glasses click here Visions Of Prescriptions where I discuss my sight and my glasses in more detail.
If you were to meet me when I am wearing my glasses I certainly do not appear to be Registered Partially Sighted (unless you put me under certain conditions) – although I do own a white stick I do not use it because I have been brought up and “socially trained” to hide my sight problems as much as humanly possible. You can read all about my sight in other parts of my personal blog.
The way I look at my sight and my disability is as follows – I may be the one who is legally recognised as “Disabled” due to my sight but I have been dealing with it my entire life. The people who I consider to be the real “Disabled” people are the ones who have not spent any time in my company and – therefore – do not know how I “operate”. They are also the ones who can make simple tasks extremely difficult for me just through their ignorance (either by physically putting barriers in my way or by making me feel uncomfortable as a result of their reaction to something I do – or even a request I make).
So – next time you see someone who is doing something you find odd – please remember that they may have a disability (the severity of which is not immediately obvious) and treat them as you yourself would wish to be treated. After all – the person who has just asked you to read something out to them may actually be able to read and understand more than one language – they just have a problem with the size of print on the board behind you (especially if there is a counter between you and them).
A little consideration goes a very long way.
I have just finished updating Inkyworld Blog and I noticed a slight theme running through the posts tonight which I wanted to share with you.
They all have a connection with the word “Setback” – whether or not the setback is (a) intentional or (b) an actual setback or just a setback in your own mind.
As I was thinking about typing this blog post I had some song lyrics playing in my head from a song called “Setback” by my favourite female singer – Kristyna Myles. The lyrics are as follows;
“I’m here to help you through – your loads are my loads too. We’re all in this together.”
(If you want to listen to the song click here – “SetBack” by Kristyna Myles.)
We all face all kinds of challenges in our lives (whether or not we choose to share them with the wider world). I am slowly coming to the conclusion that life becomes slightly easier when we accept each other’s challenges whether or not we actually understand them ourselves.
There may be things we will never understand about someone but all we can do is be a Sounding Board for them if they need it and welcome them without judging them (at least not before we know the whole story).
I have been to a couple of “Arty” places over the past few days.
The first place I went to left me with the major question above.
“Art” is a word which can be used as a kind of catch all – from the highbrow stuff you see in places like the National Art Gallery to the stuff you are more likely to see in a “Pop-up” Gallery.
My eyes have a rather interesting habit of presenting me with pictures which (whilst they bear some relation to the reality which everybody else lives in) are not exactly what the rest of the world sees.
For example – if you are standing in a bus stop in front of a backlit sign you may appear to be part of the poster at first until either you or I move to a slightly different angle.
My favourite images which my eyes have presented me with are the “Snake Toy” mentioned in the blog post in the link (it is actually a staircase – but how the light and shade have combined makes it look like one of those bendy, twisty, snake toys when laid flat), and the “Charles Street Spoon”. In reality the “Charles Street Spoon” was a streetlight which – when seen from above – looked to me like a rather large spoon. It looked the same from ground level but I was looking into the “bowl” of it then.
As you will learn from following this link – Art As A Concept And As Life Itself – My taste in “Art” runs more towards the “Human” aspect of it. I prefer seeing “Art” I can relate to and interact with.
What is “Art” without the injection of human emotion and experience? Just some two or three dimensional object without a soul