Flabbergasted in a Haarlem B&B – Rick Steves’ Journey Weblog


I consider an everyday does of journey recollections may be good for the sou. Right here’s one in every of my favorites and I’d love to listen to a few of your most memorable journey tales, as nicely. 

It’s the summer season of 2008, and I’m hanging out in the lounge of my B&B within the Amsterdam suburb of Haarlem with my hosts Hans and Marjet. Reaching for my Heineken, I discover it sits on a handbook the Dutch authorities produces to show prostitutes about protected intercourse. Thumbing by means of it, I say to Hans, “It’s each inventive and specific.” 

“It’s Victoria with out the key,” he whispers playfully. 

“Isn’t this stunning to lots of people?” I ask. 

“Solely to the English and the Individuals,” he replies. “Bear in mind, that is Holland. Final evening we noticed an area TV documentary. It was about physique piercing, in full graphic element — tits, penises, the whole lot. Final week there was a particular on the Kama Sutra. Sexual gymnastics like I had by no means seen. To us Dutch, these had been solely two extra documentaries . . . no massive deal. Maybe these would have been massive hits on American TV.”  

“I don’t know,” I say, realizing that I used to be discovering the handbook extra fascinating than Hans. “However you understand what the most-visited web page on my web site is? A goofy little article evaluating Amsterdam’s two intercourse museums.” 

“Intercourse just isn’t clickbait right here. It’s not a taboo in Holland,” says Marjet. “However we’re not reckless with intercourse, both. The Dutch teen being pregnant charge is one-half the American charge.” 

Staying in a B&B saves cash. As a bonus, I discover that B&B hosts are sometimes nice college students of intercultural human nature and like to share their findings. They offer me an intimate glimpse of a tradition I couldn’t get from the entrance desk of a resort. 

That is actually true of Hans and Marjet, who encourage friends to make themselves completely at dwelling. And of their front room, with its well-worn chairs, crowded books, funky near-antiques, and an upright piano suffering from tattered music, it’s straightforward to really feel at dwelling. 

Hans and Marjet stay in three rooms and lease out 5. Hans would really like just a little extra dwelling house. Like his neighbors, he might glass-in his tiny yard, however he couldn’t bear buying and selling away his lush however pint-sized backyard. Bringing me one other beer, he asks, “How lengthy do you keep right here this time?” 

“Not lengthy sufficient” is my common response. I’m Hans’ pet Yankee. He’s on a private campaign to get me to calm down, to decelerate. To Hans, I’m the quintessential schedule-driven, goal-oriented American. 

Hans gives extra perception into the cultural variations of their friends. “We Dutch are within the center,” he says. “We’re environment friendly just like the Germans — that’s why there are lots of American corporations right here in Holland. However we need to stay just like the French.” 

“And crack jokes just like the English,” provides Marjet. “All people right here admires the British humorousness. We watch BBC for the comedies.” 

Hans sees cultural variations of their friends’ breakfast manners, too. “Individuals like arduous recommendation and to be directed. Europeans — particularly the Germans — they know what they need. The French take three days to defrost. However Individuals speak and make buddies rapidly. Europeans, even with no language variations, hold their personal formal island on the breakfast desk.” 

Pointing to their two kitchen tables, he continues. “If there are Germans sitting right here and Individuals there, I break the ice. Introducing the Individuals to the Germans, I say, ‘It’s okay, they left their weapons within the States.’ We Dutch are just like the Germans — however with a humorousness.” 

Getting again to our speak about how completely different cultures strategy intercourse, Marjet says to Hans, “Inform Rick the ‘Dutch boys on the English seashore’ story. This physique stuff could also be disturbing to Individuals, however it sends the English underneath their pillows.” 

“As a schoolboy I traveled with a buddy to England,” Hans begins. “We modified our pants on the seashore with out the towel problem — no downside. We’re good Dutch boys. As typical, the seashore had an viewers: bench-loads of retired Brits having fun with the recent air, struggling by means of their soggy sandwiches. When my good friend started becoming his swimsuit, all of the individuals turned their heads away. Amused by our energy to maneuver the English lots, we repeated the transfer. I pulled my trousers down and all of the heads turned away once more.” 

Marjet, laughing like she’s listening to the story for the primary time, says, “We don’t see many English on our seashores.” 

“We get largely Individuals,” says Hans. 

“We’d be joyful to fill our home with solely Individuals,” says Marjet. “Individuals are straightforward to speak with. They’re open. They taught me to precise myself, to say what I actually suppose.” 

Hans breaks in with a Tony the Tiger vacationer imitation, “Oh wow, that is grrreat! What a grrreat home you will have right here!” 

“Individuals get flabbergasted,” Marjet provides. 

“The English don’t know how you can be flabbergasted,” says Hans.“ 

I feel you just about flabbergasted them on that seashore,” Marjet says. “After we visited Colorado, my journey went higher once I realized to say ‘wow’ a few instances a day.” 

Curling comfortably within the nook of the couch, tucking her legs underneath her small physique, Marjet explains, “When an American asks, ‘How are you?’ we are saying, ‘Okay,’ to imply ‘good.’ The American says, ‘That doesn’t sound excellent.’ We clarify, ‘We’re European.’” 

Hans says, “Then the American replies, ‘Oh, sure — you’re trustworthy.’” 

Fascinated by the smiley-face insincerity of America, Marjet says, “Within the US, even grocery store procuring baggage have massive ‘smile and be a winner’ indicators.” 

“It’s true,” I agree. “Solely in America might you discover a financial institution that fines tellers in the event that they don’t inform each consumer to ‘Have a pleasant day.’” 

Hans says, “Do you know that the Dutch are essentially the most wished staff at Disneyland Paris? It’s because most Dutch are open-minded. We will smile all day. And we communicate our languages.” 

Marjet explains, “In Holland when somebody asks, ‘Do you communicate your languages?’ they imply: Do you communicate French, German, and English, together with Dutch?” 

Hans continues. “And for us, appearing pleasant is perhaps much less exhausting than for the French. Are you able to think about a French individual having to smile all day lengthy?” 

Hans tops off my glass of Heineken. “God created all of the world. It was marvelous. However France . . . it was simply too good. So he put within the French to steadiness issues out.” 

“And Canada might have had all of it: British tradition, French delicacies, American know-how,” says Marjet.  

“However they tousled and obtained British meals, French know-how, and American tradition.” 

As I climb the steep Dutch stairs to my bed room within the loft, I ponder the worth of buddies on the street. Probably the most memorable moments of today got here after I used to be performed sightseeing. 

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