Buying a House: The finishing touches!

Posted on 15. Apr, 2015 by in Culture, Dutch Vocabulary

Continuing the Buying a House series (house-hunting, financing and renovating), this post deals with the finishing touches while renovating a house. Like I mentioned in the renovating post, Riccardo and I had to do a lot of research and ask ourselves several questions in order to make the best choices for our home in the Netherlands. On my part, everything seemed to be so new! Here are some of the novelties I learned about:

  • Vloerverwarming- Having lived in Texas and in Mexico, heating is something that isn’t a big issue. Although the temperatures in Texas did drop during winter, the intensity and length of summer made air conditioning a priority. In Mexico, it isn’t common to have neither central heating or cooling in the house; people get by with fans and small heaters. Here in the Netherlands, Riccardo and I discussed our options for heating. For the downstairs, we decided to install vloerverwarming which translates to floor heating. The vloerverwarming is a set of pipes installed on your floor and connected to a water source coming from the kettle. As the warm water travels through these pipes, the floor warms and later the room. Because of the heat, vloerverwarming is recommended with tile and PVC floors because these do not expand or contract with the changes in temperature. I am a big fan of vloerverwarming because I can finally walk barefoot around the house!

    The pipes of the vloerverwarming (personal photograph)

    The pipes of the vloerverwarming
    (personal photograph)

  • Vensterbanken- Window displays are a very important part of Dutch homes. People invest a lot of time in creating beautiful and elaborate decorations for each season. This is why the raam area is very important. A vensterbank is the window sill. I must admit that I had never given much thought to window sills. The house I lived in in Texas had wooden vensterbanken that matched the wood trimmings of the house, while the house in mexico didn’t have such thing. The vensterbanken also help conceal radiators. The material for vensterbanken vary; these can be made out of processed wood like MDF with a vinyl cover or of more expensive materials like marmer or graniet.
  • Itty bitty fonteintjes- Anyone who has been inside a Dutch home knows of the confined spaces of the toilet room. These rooms are, like the name implies, only for the toilet. Because of this (and depending on the size of the home), toilet rooms are very small, therefore the choice of a fonteintje or small sink is very important. If you buy too big of a fontein, you end up with little room to go in the toilet. Riccardo and I ended up buying a total of 3 fonteintjes because we just couldn’t get a decent size sink that allowed for movement in the toilet room. The winner was a sink where my hands barely fit! (Let op: wastafel and fontein are different. A wastafel usually refers to a sink for a bathroom that could have drawers or shelves. A fontein can be a fountain or a small sink in the toilet room.) 
  • Hidden ijskast- I believe that a kitchen is the heart of a home, and the fridge acts as a very important part of that heart. Picking a fridge that meets a family’s needs AND fits with the decor of the house seemed to go hand in hand. Here in the Netherlands, I have learned about the magical hidden ijskasten. These are merely a regular fridge with a door that matches the kitchen cabinets attached making it blend in with the kitchen. In regards to looks, I think this is awesome although I miss being able to put magnets on the fridge.

What differences have you seen between your home country and the Netherlands in regards to home renovating or decorating?

Is it time for Rokjesdag?

Posted on 10. Apr, 2015 by in Culture

It is April! Some of you might think of spring coming up (although April sometimes bodes for some strange weather), others might think of April Fools’ Day. And again others might think of Rokjesdag (Skirt Day). This April 10 is a beautiful day for Rokjesdag, it appears… Sunny, not too windy… but it is a Friday! Huh? What? Read on!

Skirt Day is a known phenomenon in the US, where there are variations like Mini Skirt Day. However, this is not what matters in the the Dutch version of the word.

The term Rokjesdag has existed longer, but column writer Martin Bril made the term popular with a column he wrote in 1996. He used the term repeatedly in years afterwards, and it gained more popularity. It became so popular, that it even got its own entry in the Van Dale, the standard Dutch dictionary. There, it is also referred to as Bloesjesdag (blouse day), however this is a lot less used.

Rokjesdag in Den Haag (The Hague) (Image by FaceMePLS at Flickr.com)

In 2009, the year Bril died, it was the last time he could decide when Rokjesdag was or was going to be. Now, there are other methods, such as the Rokjesbarometer (which relies on the amount of twitter messages with #rokjesdag), or the Skirt Alert smartphone-app, in which you can either say YES or NO to wearing a skirt that day. So nowadays, Rokjesdag is more referred to as a good weather day, suitable for wearing a skirt. Bril, however, made his estimation by his own criteria. With his own definition from the column in 1996.

So what is Rokjesdag according to him? It is not just good weather for wearing skirts. It is, as Bril stated it, die ene dag in het voorjaar dat alle vrouwen als bij toverslag ineens een rok dragen, met daaronder blote benen (that one spring day that all women, as if by magic, suddenly wear a skirt, with bare legs beneath).

And, according to him, the toverslag, the magic, is what makes it mysterious and special. As was suggested before, the erotic notion is not at all of importance here. It is about how all women must suddenly have this feeling that the day is good for a skirt, and, as if by agreement, all wear skirts. Bril estimated that this is always around April 15, when the weather is around 20°C (68°F), and the wind is not too strong (so the skirt stays in place).

What day of the week fits best? Again, Bril helps out. According to him, Rokjesdag is only valid if the skirts are worn all day. And this would not be possible on weekends, so Fridays to Sundays. Then, it is too easy to just change. No, freezing in the morning before going to work, and then, having worn the skirt all day, until coming home in the evening, that makes skirt day.

In the video below, a library in Eindhoven had prizes for the first women that would come in skirts – a hair removal treatment for the legs! It is also suggested that Rokjesdag nowadays falls on April 22, the dying day of Martin Bril. However, do the women in the video conform with the definition set out by Bril for Rokjesdag?

YouTube Preview Image

However, doet het ertoe? (does it matter?) Bril thinks, and I agree, het is maar een geintje (it is just a joke). Dutch humor!

Still need to buy a rokje for this particular day? This post will help you out!

Do you know Rokjesdag, and when does it occur in your opinion?

The Dutch kind of Humanitarian Aid – Bikes for Refugees!

Posted on 30. Mar, 2015 by in Culture, News, Politics

What could be more Dutch to give than… fietsen? The Dutch Minister voor Ontwikkelingssamenwerking (Minister for Development Cooperation) Ploumen visited a refugee camp in Jordan, the Al Za’Atari camp, to be precise. Most of these are refugees from Syria, and the camp has been there for 3 years now. People start living there, rather than just searching refuge for a little while. Shopping streets emerged, and distances got longer.

So, one needs an easy and quick way to move. A Dutch person does not have to think long: de fiets! And so our Minister went to the camp and brought with her 1250 fietsen! And it does not only give the inhabitants of the camp a faster way to get to different places, but it also creates jobs! What if the fietsketting is broken? What if you have a lekke band? Or a losse spaak? A lot can break, and thus fietsenmakers are needed – people that will repair your bike! Locals take on the job, and so more find a worthwhile profession.

The idea is that the bikes will be rented out – another kind of business. It also ensures that everybody can benefit from them.

This is in Maastricht. Soon in Jordan too? (Image by FaceMePLS at Flickr.com)

For a news report on this, check out this link.

Where did all these bikes come from? She brought them with her from Amsterdam. Bikes that are stalled at places where it is not allowed are sometimes taken away by the gemeente (municipality). They are then stored away, and the rightful owner can get the bike back. These bikes, however, were never retrieved – and now serve a great cause!

On top of these bikes, the Netherlands also gives 147 million euros for this dire humanitarian situation. Water is short, schools are very full, and more refugees are still on their way.

The Netherlands plans to help the infrastructure of the area with this money and with its Dutch expertise of city and infrastructure planning – starting with the bikes? We will see!

What do you think about this idea? Do you like biking, and do you think it is a good alternative to a car or public transportation?