Monday, March 12, 2012

"If I were green I would die"

Mojo is back...

One of the hardest things to get used to about living in the Netherlands (and, I suspect, the Catholic countries) is the blue laws--the fact that everything closes on Sunday. Need a plumber? Go find the nearest patch of woods. Forgot noodles? Rice should work just as well...I think. There are a few exceptions to this: the supermarkets do tend to be open for a few select hours on Sunday now, and of course the NS and buses keep running with slightly reduced schedules (though I would recommend checking the website very carefully before travelling on Sunday--that's when the majority of maintenance happens). Museums and zoos are also open, and of course the cafes are always angling for extra business. Depending on which city you're in, you might be lucky enough to have an open library on Sunday. But by and large, if you come from a country where shopping is a legitimate Sunday afternoon activity, the mass closure of stores on Sunday can be a bit of a shock.

I'm sure other expat bloggers have written about culinary adventures that come about when you suddenly find yourself halfway through a cheese sauce and discover there's no cheese in the fridge (not that I recommend making a cheese sauce with Gouda, unless your boyfriend likes that sort of thing). But besides having learned how to deal with such setbacks--by having a freezer full of kroketten and buns--one must wonder: just what, exactly, do the Dutch do on Sundays?

If the weather is nice--if the sun is shining and not a drop of rain is in the forecast--then they lace up their walking shoes and wandelen. A few crazy sods drag out their mountain bikes and don the full Spandex regalia. Wandelen is not quite hiking--though there are some hills in this country, the terrain isn't nearly so rugged, and the paths are quite easy to follow. You have to work hard to sprain an ankle, and there's always a small cafe somewhere nearby. But it's not a stroll around the block, either, as you're in the middle of the woods/heather patch and the only sign of civilization is the whisper of a distant train. That being said, it is difficult to get too lost, and in any event, cell phone coverage is universal.

It's hard to pinpoint the Dutch attitude towards wandelen; they approach the activity with too much intensity for just enjoying nature, but not quite enough effort to qualify it for fitnessen (what you do at the gym). Unless there are small children around, they stomp away with a purpose, but the end they pursue is a mystery. Perhaps it is to burn off enough calories to justify the beer at the cafe. Or perhaps there is a collective subconscious effort to flatten out the hills even more. Or perhaps they don't quite understand how to enjoy the sunlight. God knows, it's a rare sight in the Netherlands.


  1. I actually have come to like the time of on Sundays - the first year it was frustrating to have food stores closed and friends tied up with family activities, but I've come to value the pause and enjoy the chance to read, walk or write.

    The British and Swiss are also big on going for walks - it's partly for fitness but partly social: people value the connections with other walkers and the chance to see what's happening in nature. The British use it as sort of a mobile Quiz Night, seeing who can read a map, who knows how to dress properly, who can name the plants and birds correctly. Yet another competitive sport - I don't think the Dutch do that.

  2. First of all I really like your blog. I know exactly what you mean. When i was young everything was closed except the pump stations. It has to do with both policital reasons and regional cultures. (From a policital point of view sometimes both employee and/or (small) bussiness owners ask this from policital parties because they want one day off to relax and not be pressured to work or other wise they go insane :P.)(From a cultural can be because A. religion (god makes everything in 6 days you know this story) B. regional cultural tradition (like there use to it and dont want to change it.) The good things is the legislation "verordering" for this comes from city counsels called "gemeenteraad" (+ college van burgermeester en wethouders) so that means you need a permit if you want to be open on sunday. Also if CDA and/or SGP and/or christenunie have lots seats in the gemeenteraad its more likely that stores are closed on sunday in your city. So blablabla to get those good parts. That means that in some cities/towns/villages a couple or lots of stores are open sunday. Like were i live. So where do i live you might ask. I live in a place called Roermond (small city) we've got a outlet center and a grocery stores are open on sunday. Check this site out:
    What also a big plus is the like the "socialist" :P shopping bus we have here called the gratis shopping bus. Its a "gratis" free bus you can use to get to the outlet center and various other shopping locations in the city but only in the weekend. So ask for this bus if you traveling by public transportation. more info:
    Also check this site out there's also one in lelystad:
    I dont know for sure but i think some stores are also open on sunday in the big cities dont know for sure.
    what i also need to tell outlet is not like the american version the prices arent like a lot cheaper from the retail prices also collections are like not only for a year ago.

    Sorry for making this post so long.
    So to make things more clearify same political parties on gemeente level can have different opinions depending where you live. So that's make dutch politics even more complicated.

    I hope this gives you and other people a tiny maybe a little bit more happiness.

  3. @ Bear: I didn't know the outlet store was open on Sundays. Some of my friends in Maastricht would go there on the weekends to get things cheaper :-)

    And thanks for the comments!