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


I imagine a daily does of journey reminiscences will be good for the sou. Right here’s one among 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 creative and express.” 

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

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

“Solely to the English and the People,” he replies. “Bear in mind, that is Holland. Final evening we noticed a neighborhood TV documentary. It was about physique piercing, in full graphic element — tits, penises, every part. 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 large deal. Maybe these would have been large 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 already know what the most-visited web page on my web site is? A goofy little article evaluating Amsterdam’s two intercourse museums.” 

“Intercourse is just not 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 fee is one-half the American fee.” 

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 lodge. 

That is definitely true of Hans and Marjet, who encourage friends to make themselves totally at house. And of their lounge, with its well-worn chairs, crowded books, funky near-antiques, and an upright piano suffering from tattered music, it’s simple to really feel at house. 

Hans and Marjet dwell in three rooms and hire out 5. Hans would really like somewhat extra dwelling house. Like his neighbors, he may 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 loosen up, to decelerate. To Hans, I’m the quintessential schedule-driven, goal-oriented American. 

Hans supplies 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 firms right here in Holland. However we need to dwell 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. “People like arduous recommendation and to be directed. Europeans — particularly the Germans — they know what they need. The French take three days to defrost. However People discuss 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 People there, I break the ice. Introducing the People 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 discuss how completely different cultures method intercourse, Marjet says to Hans, “Inform Rick the ‘Dutch boys on the English seashore’ story. This physique stuff could also be annoying to People, however it sends the English beneath 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 drawback. We’re good Dutch boys. As ordinary, 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 turning into his swimsuit, all of the folks turned their heads away. Amused by our energy to maneuver the English plenty, 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 principally People,” says Hans. 

“We’d be joyful to fill our home with solely People,” says Marjet. “People are simple to speak with. They’re open. They taught me to specific myself, to say what I actually assume.” 

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

“People get flabbergasted,” Marjet provides. 

“The English don’t know methods to be flabbergasted,” says Hans.“ 

I feel you almost flabbergasted them on that seashore,” Marjet says. “Once we visited Colorado, my journey went higher after I realized to say ‘wow’ a few occasions a day.” 

Curling comfortably within the nook of the couch, tucking her legs beneath 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 superb.’ We clarify, ‘We’re European.’” 

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

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

“It’s true,” I agree. “Solely in America may 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 probably the most needed employees at Disneyland Paris? It is because most Dutch are open-minded. We are able to smile all day. And we converse our languages.” 

Marjet explains, “In Holland when somebody asks, ‘Do you converse your languages?’ they imply: Do you converse 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 particular person 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 excellent. So he put within the French to steadiness issues out.” 

“And Canada may 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 at the present time got here after I used to be performed sightseeing. 

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