Category Archives: Netherlands

How the liberation on business hours affects traditional family values

I clearly lost the pole position during the qualifications. I could have made it right there at 4pm, when the doors opened for the supermarket. Now I have to take what they left over and wait in long lines with them at the cash point. Them, that is literally hundreds of people, being overly excited about the opportunity of shopping on this rainy Sunday afternoon. Since in Groningen there is only one supermarket open on that particular day, it seems as if half the city is getting on its feet to do what they could have been doing during the previous 6 days – spend money. While the idea behind opening trade on Sunday is not new, it seems to have a major impact on what used to be the traditional Sunday setting – a day spent with the family and loved ones (and of course the obligatory visit to the football ground!). Limiting the opportunities for doing the groceries to one supermarket only creates this bizarre image of an entire city eager for shopping, while the other days of the week are rather calm. Of course they are, the activities are spread across many places and many hours. So what makes the idea of shopping on a Sunday so special and why do people experience it as something spectacular? During my time in Tartu, Estonia I saw shops being open every day, sometimes only closing a bit earlier on Sunday evenings. People were accustomed to it and acted (=spent) accordingly. Now back here in Groningen, time and leisure have a different connotation on a Sunday. You normally spend that day sleeping in long, cooking something nice for supper and maybe meet a friend in the center for a cup of coffee. Now with the extra option of doing the groceries, the ease of a Sunday afternoon life gets more and more attacked by those that want you to like spending money in every moment.
Of course I am not complaining, why should I? I just bought my dinner at this Sunday afternoon supermarket. You will most likely find no one complaining about it. Because after all, there are only beneficiaries: me, who gets his pack of cottage cheese, the cashiers who earn an extra shift and uncountable numbers of people who deliberately decided to turn their backs at values that once met the world to many and that now has become a distant memory in times of unlimited opportunities.
Oh, the line of people in front of me has slightly moved closer to the cash point…

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A dollar a day: The European Approach

According to statistics taken from the past 10 years, about 60% of the population in Cameroon lives on less than 1$ per day. While I have lived there, I came to realise that despite the cruelty which derives from these news, 1$ is worth much more in Cameroon than it is for instance in the Netherlands. For 1$ (roughly 0,67€) I was able to take a cab to work and back and to buy a decent lunch, including some fresh fruits. For the same money here in the Netherlands, I could not even get the peel of a pineapple. Therefore I decided to conduct an experiment: I want to live for 5 days (Monday-Friday) on 1$ a day. This includes the preconditions of preparing 1 hot meal per day (with a minimum of 2 ingredients), no additional drinks during my work (except tab water) and no usage of pre-bought groceries such as pepper, oil or milk. I will only have 1$ per day (that is to mention that I will not start with 5$ on Monday and buy shitload). Starting on Monday morning with my 1 week budget of 5$ (3,40€), I will see how far I get with fresh food, enough nutrition and a smile on my face.

Monday

500gr Spaghetti = 0,25€
50oml Tomato sauce = 0,28€
80gr (1) onion = 0.10€

= 0,63€

Since I returned to Groningen only in the early morning, I haven’t had any time to do the groceries before going to work. Thus I had to wait till around 4pm to finally start the experiment. Up till then, I only drank water. While I used all the tomato sauce and the onion, I still have lots of spaghetti left for tomorrow and even feel slightly saturated and very satisfied, as I managed to even safe 4cent.

Tuesday

125gr Mozzarella = 0,39€
6 halfbaked rolls = 0,32€

= 0,71€

Having saved 4cent on Monday, I could spare the additional money to buy these two luxurious ingredients. Together with some pasta from the previous day I managed to get 2 rolls with cheese and pasta for dinner and still have 3 rolls left for breakfast and lunch tomorrow – woohoo! Luckily, I was able to also have some dry pasta for breakfast (and for lunch, as I cooked a bigger bowl), so I spent my day not completely hungry. However, pasta without any salt or oil (or for that case anything that helps building taste) is far away from being delicious. So far, I am amazed how much but also how little one is able to purchase having that amount of money.

Wednesday

I am not proud of it, but I have decided to terminate my experiment immediately. The reason for this is that after two days of only having dry pasta and water, my lack of vitamins caused steady headaches and loss of concentration. I am still confident that the experiment could work out, but preferably conducting it in a group of people, who each have 1$ a day to spare. Then having a community dinner might even be delicious. Having 1$ per day as a single person in the Netherlands, you can survive, but it is hard work which requires a certain amount of self-confidence and trust, not to mention spending 30 minutes in a supermarket, trying to compare the best deals 🙂


The strange case of Germans in Holland

He said he was sorry for having made me listen to his stories for almost 2 hours. I don’t believe him. In my opinion, these – actually first – words he directly spoke into my direction showed just another attempt from his side to find another target, willing to listen to his glorious life, including all achievements. Starting from the time when he was 15 and stole his dad’s fancy shiny new car for a ride. He is grinning mischievously when he announces that they caught him speeding 260km/h in a 30km/h zone (or 62 in a 30 zone, I really tried to not pay attention). From his driving experiences, he is taking us (me and those other less fortunate people who carelessly chose to sit in the back of the coach) on a rapid journey throughout the first 22 years of his life, including his time abroad (yeah mate, I was in Austraaalia) to his promised 60,000$ tennis scholarship in the U.S.A and finally to his success in seducing women, preferably Ukrainians.

Of course he studies “International Business and Management Studies” here in Groningen. Most of them do. It looks good on their CV when it says you have studied in a foreign country. But they barely do so. Many Germans I met in my years in Groningen (though I understand it is the same in the Germanized cities of Maastricht and Venlo) study in German in the Netherlands, avoiding any language barrier by not socializing with the natives and forming sub societies. You can see them on their bikes in groups of 5-10, invading the supermarkets (Aldi more often than Albert Heijn) and especially on the buses and trains towards Groningen on Sunday evening, when they collectively complain about the teachers in Groningen, the leisure activities in Groningen and most commonly, the non-germans in Groningen. That fine young man who made me listen is an example par excellence. Openly, he led half of the coach know that his main reason of having chosen the German track over the Dutch one was due to avoiding “working with those lazy Portuguese or Koreans” (his words) who would most certainly cause him to fail any group project. In addition to this remotely racist comment, he continued complaining about the injustice of the Dutch government in supporting the Dutch students only, the current method of increasing the tuition fees each year and concluding with the statement that “we foreign students cannot earn money here and need to take a credit to finance the studies”.

He then paused a second and decided to proudly present to us his latest purchase, a 70€ swimming trunks, which he bought from the 1,500€ budget he is receiving on a monthly base from his father to get “the best education possible” (again, his words).
People like him do not want to be in the Netherlands I believe. They often don’t like it here much, but it is cool to say that one is studying/living abroad and barely anyone is considering staying after graduation.For us, the Netherlands is like a cash-cow: We take advantage of its benefits and once we are saturated, we harvest other places.

In the special case of the fine young bloke who unintentionally spoke for many of his kind, I am confident that the Netherlands can easily spare his departure. One final note before the end of this post: When he apologized, I told him I was going to blog about him; he became overly excited but asked me to not mention any names. No problem, Tim…

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PS.: I have uploaded a new SOCIALVIBE cause – Blood:Water Mission. Do the activities and help communities in Africa continue to fight back HIV/AIDS. That is more important than anything else!


The old man and the window

Living in a street covered in red lights in a medium-sized Dutch city offers room for interesting observations of human behaviour.

I stare out of my window in the 1st floor. My window is huge and beautiful, but that is not the point. The point is that I am looking out of the window, knowing that only a few meters from my window I find windows covered in darkish red lights, the color provided by neon tubes. Each evening after work, I spend some minutes at my huge and beautiful window, staring at the traffic of people passing by, slowly, insecure, looking for people like me staring at them, hoping to not catch eye contact. One day, I watched a man (I reckon in his late 50’s) passing by my window more than 10 times within 1 hour, his facial expression showed loneliness at its core…

The “elderly” are being substitutes by young blokes once the dawn sets in, either making sure the prostitutes are not being harassed or, even more often I came to understand, trying to sell hard drugs. It never gets dark at night, it never gets silent at night. I don’t know who intimidates me more; those who actively seek the red lights or those who try to make a living with the lights. But nonetheless, old men, loitering down my street, longing for cold lights with cold eyes; this street is interesting for observations of human kind. provided that you have huge and beautiful windows…