Monday, 28 December 2009

The Netherlands - Vaarwel

It's time to say vaarwel to the Netherlands.  I'm beginning to realise that learning about a country like the Netherlands is a massive undertaking and, despite all the things I have learned, read about, watched, listened to and tasted, there is still so much more!

I managed to get my hands on one of the Netherlands most famous movies, Turks fruit or Turkish Delight (in English - I know, the first one also looks like English, but it certainly sounds a lot different), directed by the famous Dutch director Paul Verhoeven (he later directed RoboCop and Total Recall) and starring Rutger Hauer (you'll probably remember him best as the evil blond guy in Blade Runner).  It was an incredibly interesting movie, quite shocking in many ways and definitely worth watching for an insight into Dutch culture and humour.  I really enjoyed it, despite the depressing message behind the film. 

I've also been reading De Telegraaf and Algemeen Dagblad using Google translate.  The biggest news stories in the Netherlands this month have been about expenses for senior police officers, the terrible weather, a fatal car crash on one of the dam barriers, the Netherlands first swine flu death, Herbert Raat, leader of the political party VVD, being attacked by three Moroccan girls on a train, a university in the Hague taking down a Christmas tree because it might alienate non-Christian students.

I've also learned that:

- there is a local reformed church in a village in Overijssel that believes the EU is a Catholic conspiracy.

- despite being incredibly successful during his lifetime, Rembrandt was hopeless with money and ended his days in a pauper's grave. 

- the Witte Huis in Rotterdam is Europe's oldest 'skyscraper' at 12 storeys.

- the Dutch had a big part to play in the export of coffee to Europe, they mostly traded with Al Makha in Yemen (hence the term Mocca) and they even stole some of the coffee beans and started their own plantations in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). 

- the Irish word for rabbit, coinin is almost the same as the Dutch word konijn.

- one third of the world's dairy cattle are Holstein-Friesian.

- Scheveningen is the seaside part of the Hague and was often used as a password for the Resistance in World War Two as it is a notoriously difficult word for Germans to pronounce correctly!

- Allochtoon is the Dutch word for its citizens who were born to 'non-native' parents - it comes from the Greek allos+khton meaning 'other land'. 

- a wadloper is someone who hikes in the muddy flatlands of North Friesland.

Last, but not least, I'm going to leave you with one of the most famous songs ever by a Dutch band - Venus by Shocking Blue - surely one of the best songs ever!!  I love the video (from YouTube), it's so sixties!!


Image credits

The image of the cow is by flickruser kevinzim who is from Oxford in England.  Thanks for sharing this with us using the Creative Commons License. 

Rembrandt's self-portrait is copyright free.  The original painting now hangs in Kenwood House in London. 

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