The story goes that the architect Marlies Rohmer wanted even more colors on the Casa Confetti, but the city said no.
De Uithof, or the main science campus in Utrecht University, has a reputation for having lots of blocky, grey modern buildings. The Casa Confetti was a response to that. It’s got so many colors that it’s even called the “Smarties” building, after the candy.
It’s a residential building, but only for Dutch students. I’ve been inside twice — once for dinner and board games with my project partner, and once for a haircut.
“Do you like gambling?” said Sebastiaan from downstairs in the student bar. “The Casa Confetti has haircuts for only eight euros.”
That’s because the first floor of the Casa Confetti is actually a hairdressing school. The professor and the student take turns cutting your hair. I thought I’d give it a shot. I’m not a gambler, but like any good cloggie, the idea of a bargain had seduced me.
“I’ve never cut Asian hair before!” said the student hairdresser. (Apparently Asian hair is a lot thinner than the average European’s). The students there are nice and enthusiastic. Most are fresh out of high school.
I ended up getting an unintentional bowl cut, but it’s hard to gather sympathy from complaining when I only paid eight euros.
I used to be obsessed with the broodje rookworst. The HEMA next to the university library sold them for two euros each. I ate them as a good-luck charm before exams. I ate them as a reward after exams. I ate them whenever.
Ben, who lived right across the bridge from me, is a fellow broodje rookworst enthusiast. He used to say that he eats two of these each day after rowing practice. It’s easy to see why — they’re so simple, and so delicious.
brood, or bread. Hence, the broodje, or sandwich/roll.
rookworst, or the type of Dutch sausage. One bite and all the juice starts squirting out. HEMA is famous for it.
[optional]: mustard sauce
It’s essentially a glorified hot dog, but I ate them so often that the women working at HEMA would recognize me in bars out in town (hey, aren’t you that guy?) and would know my order before I even opened my mouth.
Neuken in de keuken actually means “fucking in the kitchen”, but some young Dutchies like to say otherwise to unsuspecting newcomers.
It’s just a friendly way to say hello! they’ll say. The Dutchie will then tell their trusting friend to go repeat the magic phrase to the next stranger approaching on the sidewalk. Now, a request like that just smells fishy, like a barrel of hollandse nieuwe haring (delicious as it is).
I’ve seen this deployed on multiple occasions, but have yet to see it work.
Better to let the words sink in and let them come out on their own, naturally. But then you’d risk missing the show: the reaction from the recipient, and the red face of the person, who, just a minute earlier, thought they were one step closer to mastering the Dutch language.
Swear words are appealing when learning a new language. They’re easily digestible, and by memorizing a few naughty words you can feel like you’ve accomplished something. Not to mention the thrill that comes with spitting out lines that gets laughs from the lads and glares from your grandmother.
In this context, the Dutch are easy to please. Anything a foreigner says in Dutch will sound funny to a Dutchie. Extra laughs for salty language.
If dank je wel (thank you) and alstublieft (you’re welcome/here you are) are the most memorized phrases among the international students, then neuken in de keuken will probably be #5. Top 10 at least.
Here’s how a conversation would sometimes start while living in the Netherlands, especially if I met a new Dutchie:
-Where are you from?
-Oh, I’m from California.
-California?! Why would you go here?!
Then they would flap their arms about, or put their hands on their head, as though I had swapped a sunny paradise for a place with constant rain and no hill in sight (and because the weather is a safe and sure topic when meeting someone new). “I didn’t come here for the weather” would be my standard response.
Weather predictions for the same day, August 8th, 2014.
Marc says I’m missing a spectacular rain storm in the Netherlands — the kind that messes up the sewer pipes and floods the old neighborhood. Spectacular to witness, but not so spectacular when those sewer pipes are underneath your doorstep.
Joke’s on California though. The entire state is going through a drought.
Weather forecast from Google / The Weather Channel.
The first culture shock is when you arrive in a faraway land. The second culture shock is when you arrive back home.
The second one is stronger.
Life in a quiet suburb of San José, California is much different from life in the bustling student town of Utrecht in the Netherlands.
For one thing, I can’t bike around everywhere like I used to — not unless I feel like getting flattened by the cars crossing into the painted bike lane. Favorite places and favorite people are no longer accessible on a whim. I miss that freedom.
It’s daily life and daily routines that I miss the most. I miss skating on the ice. I miss stroopwafels, late-night kapsalons, and the raw herring they sold at the Saturday market. I miss tea times with my neighbors. I miss the coffees with friends, and coffees alone out in town. I miss the Friday afternoon drinks that took place every week, at the same time, at the same place, with the same people. Oh, what I would do just to hear a Dutchie raise their pitch every time they say “doei!”
What a special time it was!
It’s easy to romanticize the past, especially when it means so much to you.
But I know I will find reasons to love it back home, just as I have found many, many reasons to love my time in Utrecht.