Help me, uh, go Dutch!
October 8, 2009 5:22 AM   Subscribe

I'm half Dutch, but I've never been to The Netherlands. On my first trip there, where should I go, and what should I do, to get a better understanding of contemporary Dutch culture and language?

Second-generation-immigrant-filter: So, I grew up eating hagelslag and hutspot, but my knowledge of Dutch culture is limited; cobbled together from the stories of ageing relatives who left in the 1950s, and the clogs-and-windmills kitsch one sees in postcards. I can comprehend basic Dutch conversations, but I struggle to speak back unless strings of the conversation calls for strings of profanity or words for food.

If I visit the Netherlands in November, where should I go and what should I do to remedy some of this, and get a better understanding of what it's like to be Dutch today? How can I meet other young people, practise speaking Dutch, encounter Dutch multiculturalism, enjoy dry Dutch humour, and generally come away feeling a bit more Dutch than when I arrived?

Previously, but not quite the same: 1, 2, 3.
posted by embrangled to Travel & Transportation around The Netherlands (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Unless you're going to be there a long time, you'll have to immerse yourself for the duration. Can you go live with some college students? Their conversation often calls for strings of profanity or words for food.
posted by pracowity at 5:45 AM on October 8, 2009

There are some good language sites and blogs out there.

Laura Speaks Dutch is a blog with mp3s and it has a Facebook group. There are other Dutch-learning Facebook groups that would probably help you meet people at all learning levels.

I subscribe to the Dutch Word of the Day by email. It has a blog also. Here's Marco's site, which has a lot of stuff, perhaps too elmentary for you. It's a tad unorganized, but really a goldmine for me.

Here's an idiom blog, which would be good for an advanced person like you. There are several other sites, and it sounds like you're pretty ahead of the game on the language. My ancestors were there for the clogs and windmills, so I can't help you with that.

Goed geluk! Ik wil ook gaan.
posted by jgirl at 5:51 AM on October 8, 2009

I love Babelfish!
posted by jgirl at 5:52 AM on October 8, 2009

Where would you go to experience the real America? New York, Texas, or North Dakota?

A question like this is impossible to answer.

If you want to meet the real Dutch, and see how they're experiencing being Dutch today, you probably need to avoid the big cities, and maybe rent a holiday home in one of the mass vacation parks.

I wouldn't even want to be found death in one of those.

Just stick to what you'd liked to do n any other country. Rent a bike if you are in a city to travel in it. Get a timetable of local activities and simply go where you'd like to go. Talk to people. Have a good time. The Netherlands of your parent[s] doesn't exist anymore, anyway.
posted by ijsbrand at 5:55 AM on October 8, 2009

i feel a bit weird giving advice, as an Irish-Canadian, but I used to live in Holland, so...

sign up at post your story there and try and arrange hosts staggered around the country at 50km or so intervals for as much of the time you plan to be in the country as possible.

buy or rent a good condition used bicycle in Amsterdam (buying is probably better if you think you'll have time to sell it again when you're done). buy a good set of maps. get riding.

the best way to see the Netherlands is by bicycle, and it's small enough that, if you ride for a few hours every day, you can see most of the country in a week.

as for particular places to go, Rotterdam is much more interesting, imo, than Amsterdam. check out club w0rm. despite it's website, it's actually a pretty amazing rock and roll club and a hub of sorts for the local arts community.
posted by 256 at 6:07 AM on October 8, 2009

In another season I'd recommend doing a sailing course. That gives you a chance to hang out with young Dutch people. Is there some kind of team sports you're good at? Maybe you can convince a local sports club to let you train with them.
Organise a metafilter meetup and see how many Dutchies show up.
posted by jouke at 7:50 AM on October 8, 2009

Best answer: OK ... I will take a stab at it ...

If I visit the Netherlands in November [in November most people will be sitting next to their central heating], where should I go [Amsterdam is generally a good start] and what should I do to remedy some of this, and get a better understanding of what it's like to be Dutch today? How can I meet other young people [go ice skating at the jaap eden baan, perhaps ... go out to bars?], practise speaking Dutch [hard one ... everyone will speak to you in English once they realise you aren't native ... travel to the shittiest little dutch town you can find and speak to old people], encounter Dutch multiculturalism [try to meet geert wilders from the PVV, then take a trip to mercatoplein and the zuidoost], enjoy dry Dutch humour [buy the NRC ... only to read the fokke en sukke ... or just buy their book ... or watch theo and thea on youtube], and generally come away feeling a bit more Dutch than when I arrived? [revel in the bad food and bad coffee for the duration of your stay]

So ... perhaps a bit tounge in cheek ... but ... all have elements of truth.
posted by jannw at 8:08 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Amsterdam! Amsterdam is to the Netherlands what New York City is to the United States. But you can't go to the Netherlands and not see Amsterdam. It's a beautiful place.

Next, I suggest you visit the town and region where your ancestors are from. Walk around, do some window shopping, have dinner, find a nice bar, and strike up a conversation with the locals. You'll get a feel for where your folks came from, and people will love to tell you all about the place and why it's so great (or not) to live there.

If you're not specifically looking to improve your Dutch language skills, don't sweat it, everyone will jump at the chance to show off their English.
posted by monospace at 8:59 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just want to add that not only will you see some 'real' Dutch people in Amsterdam's Old Centre, but you can see 'even more real Dutch' without straying too far from it. I'm no expert, but one of my favorite experiences there was staying several blocks south of the Rijksmuseum; that felt like 'real Amsterdam.'
posted by troywestfield at 9:24 AM on October 8, 2009

Best answer: I just recently came back from a study-abroad trip to the Low Countries (Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg) which had an emphasis on exploring the historical, artistic, cultural, and multicultural aspects of the region. After having spent 3 weeks in the Netherlands alone, I think I came away with a pretty good impression of what it is to be Dutch.

Here's where we went/what we did:

Van Gogh museum (Amsterdam)
Canal Tours by boat (Amsterdam)
Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam)
Amsterdam North to explore the city's counter-culture (e.g. converted-container homes for artists only, beautiful street art, etc)
The Hague
Dutch Language Association “Taalunie” (Hague)
Mauritshuis - Art Museum (Hague)
Utrecht: Cathedral, St. Catharijneconvent and the old city center
Film: Shouf Shouf Habibi (hilarious!)
Bijlmer (Amsterdam); Guided Tour in Amsterdam-Zuidoost ... very multicultural
Prisenhof (Amsterdam) where William of Orange was shot
Leiden: National Museum of the History of Science and Medicine
Rotterdam: tour of the seaport (2nd largest in the world), Erasmus-Bridge, Piet Blom’s Cube-houses
Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (Amsterdam)
Portuguese Synagogue, Jewish Historical Museum and the Resistance Museum (Amsterdam)
Anne Frank House (Amsterdam)
Enkhuizen: open air Zuiderzee Museum, a completely rebuilt traditional Dutch village
Tropenmuseum: collections on the former Dutch East/West Indies (Amsterdam)
Haarlem: St. Bavo Church, Frans Hals Museum
Kinderdijk: site with the most famous Dutch windmills in a typical polder landscape

We stayed in a hostel (Stayokay Amsterdam Vondelpark Hostel) in Amsterdam which was in Leidseplein (the most happening part of town, including great nightlife) and was only a 20 minute walk away from central station. It was close to a ton of restaurants, bicycle rental places, etc. The hostel itself had great amenities, service, breakfast options, and company. From there, we ventured out to other cities/areas.

Since you're so close to Flanders (Dutch speaking part of Belgium), check it out as well! Don't miss Ghent, Ostend, Bruges, Ypers, Antwerp ... and of course, Brussels. A day in each city should suffice ... except, you may want to be centrally located in Brussels while you take a train to each other city. And if you're feeling adventurous, you can also venture out to Wallonia (French speaking part), and even Luxembourg City.

No emphasis was placed on learning the language beyond the basics. English is common-place in the Netherlands, but not so much in Belgium.

Have a wonderful trip! Please message me if you'd like more information.
posted by mahoganyslide at 10:39 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, some great suggestions here.

Jannw, I am completely confused by Theo and Thea, but thanks for reccomending them! I suppose I'll have to brush up on my Dutch before I can figure out whether they're really good, or really, really awful. And don't worry, I'm conditioned to coffee the way my Oma made it - "Strong enough that the spoon stands up".

ijsbrand: The Netherlands of your parent[s] doesn't exist anymore, anyway.

I know! That's sort of the point - I want to replace the Netherlands in my head with something that actually does exist.

I realise that searching for the "real Netherlands" - or indeed the "real" anywhere - is a pointless exercise, but that's not what I'm trying to do. As an example, the stereotypical "real Australia" probably involves beer, prawns on the barbecue, red dirt roads and kangaroos. But if someone asked me, as a urban young person, what life is like here, I'd show them something very different. I'd take them to eat yum cha the local corner pub, then to a little-known beach where you can jump from cliffs into a lagoon, then to the inner-western suburbs for a night of standup comedy, independent music and cocktails, and of course a Lebanese kebab on our drunken way home. Both versions of Austrlia are "real", but the second version probably has more relevance today. In the Netherlands, I guess I'll just have to work hard to meet locals and see where chance takes me.

Thanks again for your advice, everyone.
posted by embrangled at 7:27 PM on October 8, 2009

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