bat country

They party on boats in the dead of winter. I’m serious.

Leiden in the daylight is your typical glimpse of Europe: pigeons devouring leftover table scraps and hooting defiantly, mothers giving their children a lift on their bicycle luggage rack, good-natured old men walking six dachshunds at a time.

When the sun goes down and the pigeons roost, however, it’s a different story. The university students come out and the cobblestone streets carry a different vibe. The only things that remain open past 6pm are frituuren (fast food), pubs (the legal age for alcohol and tobacco consumption is sixteen), and coffeeshops (where small amounts of soft drugs, such as marijuana, are permitted to be sold under Dutch law for personal consumption).

The typical American “bar scene” doesn’t really exist here. Small groups of friends gather for drinks in pubs, which are very low-key and offer up hearty dinner fare.

As with most restaurants here, service is pretty much non-existant. It will drive you nuts. It’s not that the employees aren’t doing their jobs – they just assume that you’d like to be left alone. It’s not uncommon for friends and families to linger for two or three hours in a cafe or restaurant, so your best bet is to ask for the check when you receive your main course. Sodas, waters, and tea are served in annoyingly small glasses to us Americans. If you want a refill, it’s all up to you to ask for it – and you will be charged. The Dutch are notoriously cheap and frugal, hence the term “going Dutch.”

An American “large” soft drink vs. a European “large.” Do we really need that much soda?

I was informed by a Dutchman that the Dutch “in-joke” regarding Americans is, “Would you like a refill?” They simply cannot fathom why an American  server would ask them multiple times throughout the course of their meal whether or not they would like another 36 oz soft drink. To them, it’s excessive and unnecessary.

We could learn a lot from the Dutch regarding patience, excess and instant gratification. Just spend some time in a pub with the local 20-something crowd and you’ll see what I mean.

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~ by curiouskristie on January 24, 2010.

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