Holland Expat – Differences to Live With

07 Oct

photo-3Duck-sized pigeons.

Pigeon-headed crows.

Parrots in the park.

Light switch “off” is the up position.

At some point I will no longer notice these striking bits of everyday life in Holland. Adjustment happens slowly over time; I want to make note of interesting tidbits now while I can. Of course, there are items so striking you never forget them.

Consider what I call the skid-ramp toilet. This is a porcelain configuration fairly common around Europe.  I suppose it saves water since the standing puddle in the front bottom is quite small. But who thought having solid waste gather on a flat surface and then, upon flushing, skid across a rise before disappearing from site was a good idea? Okay, it might make sense in a hospital or clinic where samples need to be taken but at the bank or restaurant?

Other differences will soon blend seamlessly into my expat life. For now though, the appliances in our home confound me especially since the Dutch are known for their thrifty ways. “Sustainability” is the by-word for recycling, saving energy, and yet my dish washer doesn’t turn off when the cycle is finished. It’s alarm will go off for days until someone opens the machine AND pushes a button. Just opening the door won’t stop that buzzer on the microwave either or turn it off for that matter extinguishing the blue light indicators for chosen wattage. Three buttons–“Stop” “Door Open” and “Off”–are required to conclude my soup warming engagement.

The clothes dryer doesn’t have an alarm, but the red light will blink till the cows come home even after the clothes are removed, folded, and properly stowed upstairs. This appliance requires the cycle dial be turned back to “off.” But don’t be fooled into thinking your clothes are dry just because a blinking red light catches your eye. The machine stops mid-cycle if the lint filter is a tad filmed over, and there is a water reservoir that when filled to almost half an inch (i.e. a quarter of capacity) stops the drying and triggers a blinky red light as well.

Honestly, I’m so grateful for these appliances, don’t get me wrong. We adjust, learn to regularly perform operations superfluous in the US. It’s all part of living overseas, part of the adventure tourists completely miss.

Oh look! The oven is blinking an error message – E 21. No problem. I simply throw the circuit breaker for that section of the house, wait a couple seconds, flip it back on, and I’m good to go bake tonight’s pizza for the boys.


Kristin King is an author, publisher and new US expat living in the Netherlands. Her top sellers are “Unsinkable Vampire” and “Cain’s Coven,” and her latest novel in the Begotten Bloods Series is Death Taint.


Posted by on October 7, 2014 in Living in Holland


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3 responses to “Holland Expat – Differences to Live With

  1. Jasper Hoogendam

    February 27, 2017 at 5:24 am

    The mechanism looked more complicated with the section of pipe that had to move up and down to open the valve of the flush tank at the ceiling. I guess the extra height makes for a better flushing action with less water.

  2. kristinkingauthor

    February 27, 2017 at 3:48 am

    Pull the pipe? Haven’t seen that one before. Pull door bells are common in our neighborhood. Wonder if having the pipe do that saves on cost of fixtures?

  3. Jasper Hoogendam

    January 16, 2017 at 7:37 am

    What confounded me was trying to figure out how to flush a toilet. Sound like a simple thing, but I have seen so many different mechanisms for flushing. The most confounding mechanism was one time spending several minutes looking for a handle or foot pedal then finally finding out I have to pull on the pipe that runs from the water reservoir near the ceiling to the toilet. A strange fixture to be creative about.


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