Thursday, December 16, 2010
Borrels, or why high heels are hard to find
I'm not sure if the situation is different in cities like, say, Amsterdam, but in Nijmegen it's hard to find a pair of what I call "ankle-breakers", heels of at least 3 inches (or, in fashionista parlance, 75-80 mm) or even higher. I don't actually wear heels, normally, but every now and then it's nice to at least pretend I'm a smidge taller than 5'3".
At first I thought this was simply because the Dutch are too practical for high heels. But that practicality fails to explain things like why coffeeshops don't actually sell coffee. Then I reasoned that mayhaps it was because Dutch women are already so tall that any extra height would put them at a disadvantage, because then they would be taller than the men. I revoked that theorem after running into a few belly buttons.
But now that I've been to a few borrels, I can comfortably state that the reason high heels are hard to find is because you can't stand in them for more than an hour, tops. And borrels can last a while.
Borrels, or borreltjes if you want to be cute, are informal get-togethers, complete with nibbles and drinks. They are usually held by your colleagues and co-workers, rather than your friends (though it helps to be friends with the people you work with), and the distinction is made from a circle party by the fact that everybody is standing. The special tables made for eating from a standing position are usually scattered around, although some of most informal ones don't even have those. You stand, and talk, and eat, but always standing. In fact, you'd better be dead before you're not vertical.
Which wouldn't be so bad if it were just a little while--twenty, thirty minutes. But the prevailing philosophy seems to be that as long as someone else paid for the beer, you might as well finish it, and thus borrels last as long as it takes the most sober man to get buzzed. The Dutch, being Europeans, drink their beer like all the other Europeans, not Americans, which is another way of saying that they sip, rather than glug. Slow drinking and tall guys...you do the math.
Because these get-togethers are relatively impromptu in nature, then--meaning "arranged less than a month in advance"--it behooves women not to wear heels on the off chance that they might be invited to, or drawn into, one and end up standing for hours on end. And that would just be painful.