It’s not you, it’s me… I just need some space.

I often complain about the Dutch lack of kinaesthetic awareness. I think that in two and a half years in the Netherlands, I’ve been bumped into by more strangers than during all the other years of my life combined. I accept that sometimes this happens because the top of my head sits so far below the standard Dutch eye level. But mostly I think it’s a matter of personal space.

Australia has a population of 23 million. The Netherlands has a population of about 17 million. However, Australia is about 205 times larger than the Netherlands, which means I require about 160 times more personal space than the average Dutch person.

Australia vs. Europe

You would think that with a large population in such a tiny area the Dutch would be more, not less considerate of getting in other people’s way. But having spent the Christmas break (plus a bit more) in Australia and being instantly overwhelmed by the crush of people upon my return to Den Haag, it has been illustrated time and again that this is not the case.

I’ve identified four public spaces that are favourite congregation points for Dutchies:

1. At the end of an escalator. Because it’s inefficient to move to the side to figure out which direction to take, in case you end up on the wrong side. Much better to deliberate exactly in front of the escalator.

2. In the middle of a flight of stairs. A perfect place to catch up on some gossip, make Saturday night plans, or ponder the meaning of life.

3. In the crossroads of busy pedestrian corridors. With relentless tides of foot traffic coming from every direction, the best approach is to plant yourself like a rock in the middle of all oncoming traffic in order to consult Google Maps.

4. Immediately inside or outside a doorway. It would appear the Dutch value the ambiance of a shop as much as the products they sell, as they prefer to step just inside a shop in order to decide whether they actually want to peruse the merchandise. And if they do perchance make a purchase, they will hover immediately outside for a few minutes, just to be conveniently close in case they end up with buyer’s remorse.

I often end up startled and alarmed whilst out and about in the Netherlands as people encroach upon my personal space . To those Dutchies that I jump away from with a look of horror and disgust, it’s nothing personal. I just need my space.

Space that happens to be the exact same height, depth and breadth as you.


Charm, Charles, is a trap.

There are some people that manage to come out of the most awkward situation unscathed. They are the blessed few that possess such high degrees of charm, self-assurance and charisma that they always leave a good impression behind.

Then there are others. Like me.

Two days a week, I have to wake up at stupid o’clock and clean an office building before the staff arrive at 8am. Usually a couple of over-enthusiastic ladies arrive around 7 or 7.30, but they tend to wear hiking boots with their office clothes, so I usually have no qualms about going to work in my gym clothes with bed hair and bleary eyes.

No qualms until now, that is.

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For about a year now, I’ve had the creepy feeling that I’m being followed. Out of the corner of my eye, in the most unexpected places, I see the same face.

At first, it only happened in very public places, and was easy enough to dismiss it as coincidence. After all, when you have a lifestyle that is condensed in a very small geographical space, it’s not that strange to see the same person at the supermarket and at the gym. After a while, you just accept this person as a normal part of the background of everyday life.

But then I started noticing that they had infiltrated my computer. Every now and then, on incredibly diverse websites, that same face, disguised in a thousand different ways, would be brashly staring back at me.

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Calling all psychopaths…

If there is anything I have learnt from the horror film genre, it is that the concurrence of a certain number of creepy circumstances will inevitably lead to a gruesome demise.

For instance, if it is a bitingly cold day with miserable rain and an ominous grey sky, and one is walking alone amongst warehouses in the middle of nowhere in a small European country where they speak a strange language, there is a 100% certainty that an axe murderer/possessed twelve year old twins are going to drag you into an abandoned warehouse, from whence you shall never leave and your screams will echo unheard through eternity.

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The B and the Flying Tiger.

Don’t panic, this is not some disturbing updated analogy about the birds and the bees – on a side note, has anyone experienced the speech that phrase actually refers to? Anytime my friends or I were educated about sex it came in a very blunt form, with no animal metaphors and too many disturbing anatomical diagrams. I can’t help but feel that our generation might have a more wistful and romantic attitude towards sex if it were explained metaphorically, perhaps by actual talking birds and bees, riding into health class on the backs of unicorns.

*This educational reform may have they unintended side effect of an increase in teenage pregnancies. And may be difficult to implement given the known scarcity of unicorns.

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I saw the sign.

A cloud of fear has descended on The Hague. People step out of their doors in the morning full of trepidation. There is a palpable sense of anxiety, a collective apprehension barely contained. Something has changed.

The B is abroad.

Mounted on her metal machine, nothing in her path is safe. People, pigeons, all things scatter before her. She stalks the streets leaving destruction in her wake.

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The language barrier.

I feel it may be wise to begin this post with a pre-emptive apology. Sadly, this is not a post that will recount hilarious attempts at communication with the locals. Nor will I be sharing brilliant Dutch words I have learnt that could be incorporated into everyday usage, partly because I still can’t form a sentence in Dutch, and partly because the words I have been taught are all swear words that I plan to use on my sister the next time I’m in Australia. I’m sorry to those who might have been hoping for anecdotes, insights or education, but this post is going to be something quite different.

This post is a eulogy. Or perhaps more accurately, a eugoogooly on my ability to use the English language.

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