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July 22, 2010 8:02 AM   Subscribe

I have been assigned to a project that will require me to temporarily relocate from Portland, OR...to the Netherlands. Talk to me about daily life in Europe.

The assignment is for about three months. I've tried to do my own homework but everything I've found is either geared towards tourists (here's what to do! Here are some Dutch phrases!) or permanent transfers (here's tax information!). I am neither.

I'm interested in what things will make my daily life easier (what shops to go to, stores don't open on Sunday, here's here's what will get you arrested, here's how the tip system works, here's how far you can get in a day).

One additional thing: I don't drive. At all. If you're familiar with the area, can I get from Eindhoven (where I would prefer to stay) to Eersel (where I will be working) via public transit? My current commute is about 90 minutes and two bus transfers so complicated is not a problem. They currently have me staying in Meerheide in Eersel (which sounds lovely, don't get me wrong) for the duration but as a city boy, living in a village for three months would make me stick my head in an oven after about a week.
posted by geckoinpdx to Travel & Transportation around The Netherlands (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Pick up a copy Amsterdam: Complete Resident's Guide - while a lot of it is, of course, specifically concerned with Amsterdam, there's lots and lots of detail about daily life, opening times, currency, insurance, renting, all that niggly stuff. It's a great book.

Eindhoven central to Eersel is about 13 miles, which I believe would be pretty bikeable given the flatness of the Netherlands and the provision of cycling infrastructure.

If biking isn't your thing, here's an English language journeyplanner. Plugging Eindhoven to Meerheide, Eersel into it, I get an hour bus ride with one change, if you were going from the central train station in Eindhoven.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:22 AM on July 22, 2010

There's a Dutch public transport journey planner here, you'll need to have addresses at both ends to make it work.

In terms of how far you can get in a day, then from Eindhoven you will be well positioned to get to a large portion of Western Europe, Paris is 4.5 hours away, Berlin, Marseilles and Zurich are all 8-9 hours away by train. You can get details on international train travel from Eindhoven here. You can get overnight sleeper trains to get to a lot of places in Europe, which may allow you to disappear off for weekends across the continent on Friday nights and be able to select from a huge number of destinations.
posted by biffa at 8:28 AM on July 22, 2010

Definitely get the book Undutchables. It is humorous, but also detailed and accurate.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 8:28 AM on July 22, 2010

You'll probably be able to find some good information about the Netherlands (specifically Amsterdam) on Another American Expat. I realize that Eersel and Amsterdam aren't that close but I'm sure something there is pertinent. I am friends with Tami, the author, and she's remarkably friendly and willing to share info, so if you need a specific go-to person I'd recommend shooting her an email.
posted by komara at 8:47 AM on July 22, 2010

She's not in Holland any more, and she wasn't exactly happy while she was there, but you might enjoy reading the archives at AmsterDam Yankee. Here, for example, she talks about the prices in grocery stores, and here she talks about bikes.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:03 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These have all been helpful, thanks (the book recommendations will have to wait until after work).

And it looks like the commute is doable with about a 2km walk from Duizel.
posted by geckoinpdx at 9:48 AM on July 22, 2010

If you are in Eindhoven, almost all shops will be shut every Sunday with the exception of these. It also says that in the city centre, the shops are open on the first Sunday of the month from noon to 5pm. The shopping Sundays (koopzondagen) are different in different cities, so if you feel like going shopping on a Sunday you can select your preferred day from the list in the top right-hand corner of the page and it will tell you which cities have 'shopping Sunday' on that day. Note that a few areas (eg Amsterdam centre, Edam/Volendam) are designated tourist areas and the shops there can therefore legally open every Sunday).

What will get you arrested: Insulting a police officer (really!). If one talks to you, make sure you stay polite; in theory, if you get rude, they can lock you up! Rare, but it definitely happens. By law you have to carry ID at all times (in practice you are extremely unlikely to be asked for it, but the law exists). Also don't ride your bike in a pedestrian mall, many police officers will jump at the chance to give you a fine, foreigner or not. Pissing in doorways etc (so-called 'wildplassen') will also get you a fine, apart from the fact that it is just out-and-out disgusting!

Tipping is not necessary unless you are at a nice restaurant (I mean really nice) or with a large table. Otherwise, let's say you're having a coffee and it costs EUR 2. You give the waiter 2 euros and say thank you very much. Today, for example, I had a meal that cost EUR 10.25. I left 11 euros, but it would also have been fine for me to have waited for my change. Just - duh - don't act as if you're doing anyone a favour with that extra 50 cents or so.

I don't know Eindhoven at all but the main supermarkets in NL include Albert Heijn, Dirk v/d Broek (incl. Bas and Digros in different regions), C1000, Super de Boer and many others. You can browse those sites and get an idea of some specials and prices if you're interested. In order to get the Albert Heijn 'bonus' offers (which are sometimes pretty good) you'll need a bonus card - just go up to the service desk at the supermarket and they'll hand one over.

A lot of plastic and glass drink bottles, as well as beer crates, have a deposit on them as well (10c or 15c for beer bottles and 25c for larger plastic soft drink bottles). There are machines in every supermarket where you can feed your empty bottles in, press a button and get a receipt which you can hand to the checkout cashier to get your deposit back in cash or have the amount taken off your grocery bill.

If you are planning on travelling a lot within NL, you may find it worth your while to buy a 'Voordeelurenabonnement' from the train service. It gives you 40% discount on all journeys on weekends and after 9am on weekdays (in other words you can use it at any time except on your way to work during peak hour). The discount also extends to up to three people travelling with you. It costs EUR 55 per year, so if you want to go to Amsterdam a few times and make a few other trips, you'll have made your money back fairly quickly.

You can see train journey costs in English here.

If museums and galleries are your thing, you might want to consider getting a Museum Card (only in Dutch, sorry). It costs 40 euros a year but again, if you plan on visiting more than a few museums you will fast make your money back even if you're only here for 3 months. For the both the Voordeelurenkaart and the Museumkaart your best bet is to ask a Dutch colleague to help you with how to get them, it's outlined on the site in Dutch but as you can imagine I'm not inclined to do a detailed translation when you may well not be very interested. You can get both of the cards on the spot with no waiting time.

Happy Dave is correct that 13 km would be very bikeable, but you need to take into account the very unpredictable weather here, windy weather (the downside of a flat landscape), rain, and the fact that it's pitch black outside office hours for a fair few months of the year. I would think you'd have to be pretty hardcore to want to do it regularly just to get to work.

That's what came to mind off the top of my head, but if you have any other specific questions, just ask!
posted by rubbish bin night at 10:17 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

There's a Stumptown Cafe in Amsterdam, too, apparently -- a little bit of home.
posted by CutaneousRabbit at 11:28 AM on July 22, 2010

You can get to anywhere in the Netherlands for a day trip if you plan it out correctly. I used to go over by train to Maastricht (down southeast) for the day while living near Enkhuizen (up northwest). Single trip for me was about 4 hrs but from Eindhoven both cities are a lot closer (2.5 hrs Enkhuizen, Maastricht about an hour). Both cities worth a visit but there a lots of nice touristy places in NL and indeed you are not that far away from the major European cities.

But do prepare for some culture shock in the way people talk. Remember they have the disadvantage of having to talk to you in English where people might choose the wrong words altogether. So prepare to not get upset, stay polite at any time and don't get into any heated arguments because most likely there is some misunderstanding.

I don't think you find yourself getting arrested that easily, more likely fined like mentioned above. Local grocery stores always used to be closed on Sundays and after 18:00 but you see this changing especially in the city centers. I don't think you going to have trouble finding a grocery store open till 20:00 in Eindhoven city center. Still do leave work on time, also considering the bus timetable. Make note of local taxi service number. However don't expect everyone to speak English so patience is key. People are not going to understand you either when you try to speak Dutch and may just laugh at you. Still you probably will score points with people when you try.
posted by Mrs Mutant at 4:33 AM on July 29, 2010

Also always be prepared to pay cash. From cash machine select an amount that is not dividable by 50 so you get 10s and 20s.
posted by Mrs Mutant at 4:53 AM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks very much to all of you who responded. Looks like everything might be easier than I'm expecting.

The management there called very excitedly to tell me they found a room in Eersel, which is apparently nearly impossible in the tourist season (I had no idea it was such a hot tourist destination). I've seen some pictures and done some research and it does seem rather pleasant and idyllic but as a city boy, living there for more than two weeks or so would make me want to strangle someone.

The link provided by Happy Dave and biffa seems to indicate that I can walk from Duizel village centre in less than 20 minutes; my travel partner and I are going to test this the first week I'm there (he leaves after the first week). Hopefully it will work out because Eindhoven sounds much more appealing, long-term.

I work closely with my counterparts in the Netherlands so I'm somewhat familiar with what to expect in business and semiformal social situations and the language barrier, but every tip helps, thanks!
posted by geckoinpdx at 11:59 PM on July 29, 2010

Sounds like you gonna have a great time. Veel plezier! (Enjoy)
posted by Mrs Mutant at 5:00 AM on July 30, 2010

Response by poster: Dank u wel, mevrouw :)
posted by geckoinpdx at 4:35 PM on July 30, 2010

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