“go where you’re celebrated, not where you’re tolerated”

This quote is on the back of beer coasters from Café Kalff, one of the gay-friendly bars in Utrecht. Below the quote are a few lines where you can scribble down your name and phone number (should you meet a special someone).

One of my neighbors brought the coaster back home after a night out. She’s straight, but she said they gave her such a good time, and that they even let her sign the “international gay wall”. The details are a bit fuzzy after that.

I’ve never been inside the café, but I like the quote.

“neuken in de keuken”, and other ways to say hello in Dutch

photo credit: janwillemsen via photopin cc
photo credit: janwillemsen via photopin cc
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.

“Het hoort erbij”

Loosely translated from Dutch: “part of the deal”

photo credit: juhansonin via photopin cc

I was chatting with Ingrid, the owner of Café Hooi right around closing time. I asked her how things were going since it’s been a few weeks since I first visited (and she still remembered our last conversation!).

Hoe is het? — Aah, goed — Waarom goed?

Ingrid said she felt good when she spent some time with her newborn son earlier in the morning.

“Even changing his diapers?”

“Well, not so much that. But it’s part of the deal.”



photo credit: juhansonin via photopin cc

“tijden geleden”

"Cappuccino in Tokio" by summer park
“Cappuccino in Tokio” by summer park

Literally it means times ago, but tijden geleden is something you would say when you reunite with someone — intentionally or not. You can say it to an old friend, an acquaintance, or even a familiar stranger. An equivalent in English would be: long time no see. And just like in English, tijden geleden suggests that you’re glad about the reunion.

“Long time no see.”

It’s my last month here in Utrecht. And just as things are starting to wrap up, I’ve been bumping into people I met only briefly throughout the year. People I’ve sat next to in lectures, people I’ve made small talk to in the elevator, and familiar strangers I meet whenever there’s a party.

The odd thing is that while we can recognize each other and remember the conversations we had, the name of the other person still escapes us.

But when they do remember your name, and you remember theirs, and when you both remember tidbits (superficial as they may be) about each other’s lives  — it’s a wonderful feeling to behold. Just to think — wow, a stranger actually cared enough to listen to me and remember who I am! (And you, too, get to play a role in helping another person feel that way).


On the last day of my lab work, I went to the Gutenberg café in the university library. The barista recognized me from about a month ago. I recognized the barista as well, because I embarrassed myself after trying to make small talk with her in broken Dutch.

Tijden geleden, she says. I didn’t know what that meant, so she had to repeat it a few times before she eventually explained it in English. We exchange pleasantries and chat about our weekend.

I ordered a big cappuccino, but she only charged me for a small one. For a second I wondered if it was a slip of the finger.

Nee, it couldn’t be.


Or: “round-dizzy” in Danish.

It’s the special kind of dizziness you get from spinning around too much.

Sometimes I feel this while when running down the stairs from the top floor of the apartment building. Dutch staircases are famous for being narrow and steep to save money.

I wonder if the same feeling applies if I’m looking at M.C. Escher’s “Relativity”.

My neighbor Maja walks up and down fourteen flights of stairs each time she returns and leaves home. Not once has she taken the elevator the entire time she’s been living here in Cambridgelaan. Even in large groups, if people are taking the elevator, she will still be taking the stairs.

Is it out of principle? Habit? Health? Or just plain stubborn? Perhaps it’s a combination of them all.

My neighbor Brian and I are doing the same: taking the stairs up and down. The lift has a habit of breaking down with people inside of them anyway.


With seven consecutive consonants in the middle, it’s about as difficult to pronounce herfststrom as it is to ride your bike in one. Many international students who had classes in town ended up taking the bus instead. The autumn storm this year had some of the worst winds in years. It’s over now, but just a few days ago we had 40+ kph winds. Even for Dutch weather, this was not typical.

Did you hear what happened in Amsterdam?

One person got killed by a falling tree, I heard. 



Classes still went on as usual.