boodschappen doen

Half of the magic of living in a new place is adjusting to doing mundane things their way. It turns every little chore into an adventure!

Take, for example, boodschappen doen, or grocery shopping. In America we have the luxury of driving to a large superstore, circling for 10 minutes looking for the closest parking spot, chasing down a cart, filling it with groceries while 90’s love ballads play over the loudspeaker, comparing nutrition labels at your leisure, and eventually dumping it all in the trunk.

Here, it’s a different story. Ga met ik naar boodschappen! (Come with me to grocery shopping!)

The most popular grocery store here by far is “Albert Heijn.” Mine is about a half-mile from my apartment. Bring your backpack and re-usable shopping bags – they charge about .20 euro per bag – and choose your groceries carefully, because you’ll have to carry them all back!

You’re finally there outside the Albert Heijn! A Dutchman grabs you by the shoulders roughly and asks for directions in Dutch. You stare blankly. He curses the “stupid French” before walking away, and you are free to enter the supermarkt.

Let me set the scene. The smell of fresh-cut flowers is strong – flowers are a big thing in Holland, and people buy them as a staple, like bread and milk. The place is tiny and cramped – smaller than an American drugstore. And the music is the same, no matter where you go.

Fire up some Mika to make your experience more authentic. At some point during your shopping experience in Holland, you will undoubtedly hear this song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDSK91mUNLU&feature=channel

You grab your handbasket – there’s no carts – and start jamming along down the aisle.  Let’s get some fruit!

The produce at the grocery store is of poor quality and expensive – that’s why most people get their groenten en vruit (veggies and fruits) at Markt. I’ve never seen apples at Markt, though, so we’ll have to settle for these.

Now let’s get something typically Dutch:

Condiments! Fritessaus is the Dutch alternative to mayo, and people are usually rabid fans of one or the other. It is less fattening than mayo and has a slightly tangy taste. I’m a Fritessaus girl.

Curry Ketchup is neither curry-flavored nor ketchup – it’s a sweet, slightly spicy condiment somewhat like barbecue sauce, but less sweet and with a strong clove taste.

What’re you looking for? Fruit Loops? Um, no. We don’t have that. There’s something that looks like sticks and mud in a bowl. Oh, here’s the Special K!

You’re gonna need some milk to put in that cereal. Milk is sold in small rectangular cartons and comes only in volle (whole) and halfvolle (kind of like 2%.) It would take more than 5 of these cartons to equal a whole gallon of milk. Makes you wonder if you love milk that much.

How about some tea?

European eggs are amazing. They’re tiny, with thick shells and bright orange yolks – and they taste amazing! Get the free-range ones with the happy chickens on it.

Notice anything funny? They’re sold in crates of 10. Not 12. Weird!

Peanut butter? Uh… kinda. A little history…

The Dutch word for “peanut” is pinda, and the word for “butter” is boter. Someone thought fast and trademarked the word pindaboter, so the Dutch forever refer to their hackneyed version of peanut butter as pindakaas, or “peanut cheese.”

A stuk is a piece. The Dutch add ‘je’ to the end of a word to make it small or diminutive, so a stukje is a little bitty piece. So, peanut cheese with little bits of nuts. It’s unsweetened, the peanuts are hard, and the texture is weird. Enjoy your peanut cheese.

Here’s something you might be familiar with – we Americans know it as Laughing Cow cheese. In Europe, it’s sold in its original French packaging. It translates literally as “the cow who laughs.” And it’s just as expensive over here… go figure.

Don’t forget the shampoo! It’s hard to be a pirate in the modern world. Holland gets that.

Is that everything? Are you sick of this song yet? Just wait, they’ll play it again. Let’s go cash out.

Allo.” You smile at the cashier. She doesn’t smile back and starts chucking your groceries down a chute rather roughly.

“De eiren!” (The eggs!) you cry in vain. She pretends not to hear you.

“Twee en twentig euro vijftig,” she sighs. “Wil jij een bonnetje?” (22.50. Want a receipt?)

“Nee dank u.” She scowls and crumples the receipt.

Without a moment’s hesitation, she begins flinging the groceries of the next person in line down the chute, all mixed up with yours as you rush to pack them carefully in your backpack. It’s like Tetris, but more frightening. Big Girl, You Are Beautiful is still playing in the background. You run out of room. You want to scream. You curse the stupid French because it’s the only thing you know how to say and elect to carry the eggs in your hands when you realize the person behind you has “accidentally” packed them in their backpack.

You debate buying another carton, decide it’s not worth it, and just get the hell out of there.

Now you get to carry them home. Wasn’t that fun?

(p.s. – if you haven’t heard enough of it, here’s an awesome cover of the aforementioned song by two Dutch teenagers dressed as hobos, who’ve re-written the song to be about beer. Even if you don’t speak Dutch, you can get the gist of the song by watching the video. It’s quite funny! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_LcFlTNopA )



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~ by curiouskristie on February 25, 2010.

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