Saturday, September 29, 2007

What's the difference?

After four days in Geneva with our director, a long train ride through Germany and the Netherlands, I'm finally here in Alkmaar. There's a lot I've seen and experienced already in Amsterdam, at the ocean (5 miles away) and just in our town that is one of the oldest and most historic places in the country. I'll share more of that with you later, but I thought you might enjoy hearing about some of the differences. Ha!

Maybe everyone speaks English, but everything else is in Dutch (only): street and train station signs, food labeling, newspapers, tourist brochures, my washing machines, et al. I'm going crazy trying to read info on the stuff I'm buying to eat, drink and clean with. I don't know if it's been washed or not (spinach), if you can use it for machine or only hand washing (detergent), or if I'm using something safely or not (appliances).

Here are a few more...

Well-made, touring bicycles are everywhere, painted in dark, classic colors and ranging in price from €400 to €2,000. Everyone rides them, ladies in chiffon dresses and men in business suits.

Everyone leaves their curtains open, even at night; living room windows are right at the edge of the sidewalks in town.

If you don't bring a bag with you grocery shopping, you may very well be carrying your carrots and cookies home in your bare hands.

Many foods normally found in the US are in short supply and cost a great deal (protein bars), other foods are actually less expensive (vegetables), and some are much less (cheese).

Hydrogen peroxide, called Waterstofperoxide here and of which I would buy anywhere for $.47/pt in the US, is hard to find and only comes in small 110 ml bottle for around €2.

Clothes driers are NOT THE NORM, I have to use a "drying rack" for my laundry.

Mayonnaise, and lots of it, on French fries (called Belgische frites or patat). No one ever mentions the word "low-fat," let alone things like "trans fats." These fries are made fresh, right on the spot, and are served in paper cones.