Friday, June 13, 2014

Do as I say...

Dutch culture, according to the inburgeringscursus, frowns upon the spontaneous.  There is no such thing as friends coming over and the evening metamorphasizing into one of those chillaxing, beer-drinking-while-discussing-existential-angst-problems, evenings, where people just drop in and put their feet up and toss a bag of chips at the buffet table.  One does not, while walking down the street, suddenly get the urge to visit a friend whose apartment/house is coming up.  No, one must schedule visits--a week in advance is the minimum for politeness, better still is two weeks, and if you can do a month ahead of time you are pronounced nette by all and your "Honorary Dutch Person" card gets another stamp.

It's bullshit.  Really.  Oh, by all means, keep making appointments well in advance with your in-laws--no point in getting them riled up about this--but at this point in our party preparations I'm pretty sure the inburgerings people are just yanking the expats' chains for kicks.  

Karel's yearly birthday party has always been a good bash, to hear him tell it.  Back when he lived in his dinky one-bedroom in Groningen, he'd spend three days cooking up enough food to feed a small army, because on his birthday, a small army would show up, spread themselves out on any seating available, and remain ensconced there until it was dark enough to hide any minute traces of inebriation on the walk home.  But then he moved to Nijmegen, and since then his parties have been, for the most part, significantly smaller.  Usually only five or six people are free to make the epic drive across the country--it sounds so dramatic, even if it is only 2 hours--so while the party is gezellig, it's hardly the madhouse it used to be.

The day before yesterday, we had 12 people on our guest list.  Today, we have 25.  The party is tomorrow.

It was like this for our wedding, too.  The day before our wedding, we knew there would be 50 people coming to the main event, but nobody had RSVP'd for the afterparty.  We guessed that maybe Karel's dad would stay for a toast, and one or two other people.  We had what we thought was an exorbitant amount of food.  And then 30 people showed up. 

So while the establishment may frown upon such displays of spontaneity, and while you should always check the "1 week" box when asked how early you should make appointments, just know that what's preached isn't always what's practiced.