Sunday, January 3, 2010


One of my resolutions that I'd made for this year was to only buy a new thing if I was replacing something old. Saturday? One of the things I bought was a laundry drying rack.

To be completely fair, this does replace one of the lines we have strung across the office/guest room. And we've been thinking of getting one for about a month, so it wasn't as if it were an unplanned purchase. We do a lot of laundry, between the sheets and towels and clothes. Or rather, it's not that we do do a lot of laundry per se, it's that we tend to procrastinate with it all week and then have to run 3-4 loads on Sunday. That's a function of our living arrangements and work schedules.

But it does mean that our two lines (the third gets in the way of the computer and so is rarely used) and single drying rack often get overwhelmed by sodden duds, and then they don't dry as quickly as they should, and then I'm left carting a bag of semi-dry clothes back to Maastricht, where they sit at my desk until I bring them home and unfurl them to dry completely. Where, thanks to the cold that is my apartment, they take their jolly good old time doing so.

In this respect our lives are atypical compared to an average Low Country bumpkin. It's not that we're too cheap for a dryer, which would be the usual reason for someone who chooses not to indulge in such luxuries. My boyfriend has shelled out more for a new slipcover (that the cats promptly tore up), and has spent enough money on oil lamps to buy several dryers. Name brand dryers, too. I think it's largely that, after 15 years (for him) and 3 years (for me) without one, well, you just don't get to missing such things after a while. And more practically, there's no room in our apartment for one.

Supposedly the Dutch are good with money, which is a polite way of saying that people here are tightwads. That is and isn't true--most of the people I know personally are happy to splurge on things like good food and cool toys. On the other hand, I've seen people get into a proper tizzy over being charged and extra 35 cents for a box of sprouts. It is true that heavy marketing tends to drive people away from products, though: I think the thinking is that if something needs that much press it must be defective somehow. But overall people are no better and no worse with their money than elsewhere, given the constraints of the system. It is harder to get a credit card here, and damn near impossible to use one in a store, so I suppose that makes it easier to watch one's pennies.

The one area that seems to be especially lucrative might be called "live action infomercials". I'm sure there's a word for it--"it" being the people who set up a stall in the market on market day and demonstrate the wonders of a new product that solves a problem you never knew you had--in Dutch but the word escapes me just now. These slick talkers slice, dice, floozee, hoover, and do all kinds of fantastic demonstrations with their New Gadget. The pitch, of course, is always that this Gadget is available only through them at the Unbelievably Affordable price of however-much-euros that it costs. For whatever reason there is always a crowd in front of the person, oohing and aahing as they show off a handful of finely sliced onions or a pretty string of beads held together by magnets. Oddly enough, I've never actually seen anybody buy anything from these people, but they're always around.

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