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.


The Swarm

I am sitting in Schipol airport, about to board a ridiculously long flight to Australia. My sister is getting married in about a week, and I am ditching school and the northern hemisphere in order to go get drunk with relatives. I’m also taking a road trip to see my friends from university, and go on a café crawl with them. They know how much I can eat, and won’t judge me when I throw myself with abandon into a day-long brunch involving multiple locations and far too many chai lattes.

My friends here in the Netherlands have had to put up with me randomly rambling about foods they’ve never heard of that I will eat in places they will probably never visit. Apropos of absolutely nothing, I have been punctuating conversations with statements like “I’m going home in x number of days”.  Naturally I’ve been thinking about how I will describe my life here in a more evocative way than “pretty standard really” and how to give an idea of my friends here in a more accurate way than “yeah, they’re pretty cool”. And seeing as there is a possibility that I will be jet-lagged out of my mind and too busy eating to talk properly, I decided that mumbling “see the blog post” might be a more efficient and eloquent way of providing this information.

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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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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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So the Dutch, Portuguese and British walk into a bar…

It is an often mentioned musical curiosity that the three colossi of classical music, Bach, Beethoven and Brahms share the same initial of their surnames. Clearly there is great musical prowess and genius associated with the letter B. So logically, being in possession of the nickname ‘B’, I should be set to establish myself as Emperor of Classical Music in approximately five years. Three if I exert myself.

And where better to begin than with the music of the Great-Granddaddy of Western art music and fellow B-buddy, Bach?

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