Brian & Ann's European Experience

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Gouda

Okay. So Gouda is actually pronounced with a soft 'g', like "how-da". Bet you didn't know that (unless you are Dutch. Or Belgian. Or unless you DID know it). Ann and I just got back from a (brief) day-trip to this city famous for it's cheese and it's stained-glass windows.

We did buy some cheese (after multiple samples of everything on display), but the church was closed (unsurprisingly, since it is Sunday, and almost everything in the Netherlands is closed on Sunday, I mean... why, of all things, would the CHURCH be open on SUNDAY right?). Even the bakeries are closed. Which is unbelievable to Ann, who hails from a long line of bakers in Belgium, where the standard of service is apparently much higher, and the most bread is sold on Sunday morning.

Neither of us can understand the business practices of these strange people: the Dutch. All businesses are open Monday through Friday from 9:00 until 6:00 (many of them actually CLOSE for an hour during lunch), and only restaurants are open later. Many of the stores are closed Monday mornings as well. Everything follows this rule. Everything.

Imagine looking for an apartment. You have to do it between 5pm and 6pm.

Think about going grocery shopping. Better get it done before 6.

Oh, and if you are out of food on Sunday. Tough luck pal. You can eat at a restaurant when they open.

Want to rent a video? Better decide what and get it from the store before 6 buddy.

Need some condoms? Well my friend, you shoulda planned ahead. Now your options are abstinence or pull 'n pray. All because the culture here apparently convulses at the thought of keeping shops open during times when people might actually be able to BUY SOMETHING!

(Editor's Note: we bought batteries in a convenience store today. The "Family Planning" section, with the flavored condoms and the spermicide, was--naturally--right next to the candy section.)

Well. Enough bitching and moaning for one day. We returned from Gouda with two pounds of cheese, a baguette, a can of coke (because we ran out and, you guessed it, the grocery stores were closed), and some chocolates. So it was a fairly successful trip from a purely American consumer point of view.

More later. It's time to watch "Robinson Expedition 2004: Netherlands vs. Belgium". This is like "Survivor" except the teams are from competing nations. It's a little worrisome how much Ann delights in seeing the Belgian team win all the challenges, but this is what you do on Sunday nights in the Netherlands.

Signing off.


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