No, It’s Our Treat

This place is lousy with Dutch people. Everywhere you look there are names like Van der Meer, Haan and – my personal favorite – Hoendervanger. That last one cracks me up to no end. It’s like something the Swedelock and I would make up to be absurd. Like the Irish bar we want to open called O’Shenanigans. (There is actually a place here called Malarky’s. Which blows “O’Shenanigans” out of the water. But I digress.)

I knew three things about the Dutch before moving here:

  1. They are a freakishly tall people,
  2. They eat mayonnaise on their fries,
  3. Their expression “Dutch treat” means we will go halfsies on dinner.

I never thought about that last one being derogatory until I heard the following joke:

Question: “How was copper wire invented?”

Answer: “Two Dutchmen arguing over a penny.”

Oh, I get it! They’re CHEAP. And this is where my husband has come to fundraise?

Yet in this oh-so Dutch city is some of the smartest philanthropic work I’ve ever seen. Philanthropy was my business until my recent promotion to Boss at Stay at Home Mom; I know whereof I speak. There’s something truly special happening to this place that was dying a mere 15 to 20 years ago. People my own age grew up calling it “Bland Rapids,” and now they’re so excited about their city that you’d think we were in Seattle in the late ’90s. Or Prague. Eye roll.

But it is pretty exciting being here. Like starting an experimental theatre company right out of undergrad! Innovative public-private partnerships bolster the community. We walk to the newer organic market around the corner. And the yoga studio. And the salon. And the food pantry. And the soup kitchen. And the Goodwill. And the soon-to-be year-round food market. You get the idea.

I’ll be curious to see how this Dutchness affects our friendships.  The Swedelock and I both have an aversion to stinginess. Or, rather, we have the same definition of stingy. We love treating friends to drinks, movie tickets, shoulders to lean on, moving day furniture-lifting. We also love being treated. We don’t keep track of dollars or time exchanged, but will will start to notice if the flow only goes in one direction. So, for now, Grand Rapids, it’s our treat. But some day you better buy us a damn cup of coffee, or we’ll pay for our half of the bill and head home.

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9 Responses to No, It’s Our Treat

  1. Teresa Marie Smith says:

    Alana:
    Thank you for sharing your adventures and musings with me. I love it! Teresa (from formerly next door)

  2. Liz says:

    Oh yeah, I learned about this from the Dutch exchange student who lived with my family for a year back in high school. She would go through at least 2 cartons of Tropicana OJ a week, cuz juice is very expensive in the Netherlands. When I visited her the first time (I’ve been to visit four times now), she charged me as I was leaving for the food/drink I’d consumed while staying at her place. I was speechless.

    On all the following visits, she let me eat and drink for free while in her house. But anyway, yes, they are thrifty. The main reason EVERYONE there gets around by bike (even with 2 or three little kids/babies on a bike or furniture being hauled behind the bike) is because gas costs so much there. My friend and her husband each have cars, they just don’t drive them very much.

    I LOVE visiting the NL’s, though. Everyone there is *unbelievably* good-looking. I walk around with my lower jaw scraping the floor the entire time. And now the food is good there. (That wasn’t the case during my first visit in the late 1980’s, but you could say the same thing about the U.S.) And the architecture is pretty. The countryside is really scenic. The trains are fantastic, and the country is so small, you can get almost anywhere pretty quickly. And everyone (with the exception of some old folks) speaks perfect English. (I don’t expect that in other countries, but hey, if they already do, I can sure appreciate it!)

    Friends of mine from B’ton (George and Yana and their baby Beatrice) moved there in 2009. I need to visit them (Bea is now in school) and Miranda (the exchange student) and her hubby and three kids. And Amsterdam, my favorite city besides Chicago. Max needs to go there and taste Chocomel. And salted licorice. And Old Amsterdam cheese. And . . . .

  3. Liz says:

    Yep, it’s from I think my fourth of the four visits to the NL’s. Bought it in Amersfoort, a small city outside Amsterdam. That’s where Miranda lives now.

  4. Peter says:

    ….and what is wrong with “mayonnaise on their fries” ?

  5. Kristy says:

    We’ve recently started attending a Christian Reformed church, sooooo many tall, Dutch people with names I can’t pronounce!

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