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 Wasp, M.D.

Sometimes it takes very little to evoke the memory of someone. A smell, a tone of voice, a quote from a movie, an act of public stupidity that you wished they had witnessed. The Wasp, M.D. has been on my mind a lot lately, brought to the front of my mess of a brain by sometimes the most unexpected events.

Perhaps this has been brought on by the fact that I recently flew back to Australia in order to be the totally useless* maid of honour at her wedding. Maybe it’s the visiting Australians, maybe it’s the stress of my exams making me revert back to my childhood, I don’t know. All I know is that I have to resist the impulse to WhatsApp totally nonsensical messages to her every other day based on some tenuous link between that thing I just did/ate/saw and that thing that happened at some point in our childhoods that she probably has forgotten and I’m probably remembering wrong anyway.

* I was three hours late to the hens night; I improvised my speech on the spot; I napped through the day-after-wedding-bushwalk; I had laryngitis and couldn’t sing during the ceremony. Bringing me back from The Netherlands = worst investment ever.

Seeing as I can’t think of any cleverer way to present this, I hereby present the top five triggers that get me thinking of the Wasp, M.D.

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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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Winter: An occupational hazard.

I shouldn’t even be writing this post. So far, according to reliable sources (i.e. everyone I speak to that has lived in the Netherlands for more than two years) the 2013/2014 winter has basically been an extension of autumn. And to be fair, this time last year when I was in The Hague, I waded through epic amounts of snow due to the fact that the trams had stopped running because of the inclement weather. It hasn’t snowed yet this year.

This has spurned memes such as the following:

Ned Stark.

As an aside: Game of Thrones Season 4: bring on April!

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Misadventures in Bicycling: Part Two.

For the last couple of days I have been grappling with an important philosophical question: can a bicycle accident be labelled “falling off one’s bike” if one is not technically on the bike when the incident occurs?

While humanity and general conversation skills would obviously benefit from my wisdom and clarity regarding the matter, it is very hard to focus and examine the nuances of the question when my knees are so bruised and scraped that I have to pour all my energy in to self-pity.

Rereading that last sentence also leads me to pose another question: how did I ever survive childhood?

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Misadventures in bicycling.

I have a feeling this is going to be a topic I revisit frequently.

I have to admit that the bike my parents gave me when I graduated from training wheels was the last bike I owned. Suffice to say, it’s been a while. I was never more than an indifferent bicycler at best, and by indifferent I mean capable of staying upright and moving in a forward motion 70% of the time.

So of course I moved to the Netherlands.

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