Sunday 7 December 2008

Still getting used to life in the Netherlands

Stone cold hand-washing

In all the years I have lived in the Netherlands, there are a number of things I will not get used to, things that I cannot adapt to no matter how I try.

Except in building with a very international staff the toilet do not have hot water taps, something one can endure in the spring and summer, but as we approach the days in which we see amid the winter’s snow my hands suffer.

Turn on the taps and see the hands go blue and congeal as if I have dipped them into a bottle of liquid nitrogen, I would not get used to this at all.

Tarts, tomatoes & turpentine

On Thursday night, as I returned from work, I just did not feel like entering the kitchen for a cooked meal. The fastest knock-up meal I could make is smoked salmon on toast after which pasta comes next.

The convenience of having a supermarket on the ground floor of my apartment block cannot be over-stated.

Albert Heijn is the king of supermarkets in the Netherlands, but it would not hold a torch to a third-rate supermarket in the UK.

It has considerably improved though because when I first arrived in the Netherlands, the shelves were staked in alphabetical order, I thought they had tablets, tarts, toilet paper, tomatoes and turpentine side-by-side.

Rumour has it that they brought in an expert from Marks and Spencer to take the concept from corner-shop to supermarket – however, I think they have relapsed into their old ways.

Dated cultures

I approached the salmon shelf and for all sorts of reasons I am date sensitive, too many times I have been in the supermarket and found out-of-date items even though in the evening you run the gauntlet of ill-disciplined, unprofessional and rowdy kids working part-time as shelf-stuffers.

The first was dated the 30th of November, then the next was the 1st of December and the next, and the next – 8 of them in all as it became apparent that it was the evening of the 4th of December.

In the UK, a shop would not survive the evening if a foods inspector finds such stuff on the shelves, but meats and cakes have been found to be out of date too many times, I expect to see stuff like that every other visit.

The staff at this shop are so nonchalant and I really doubt there is any concern about dates on items, in fact, I think I should take pictures next time and forward the stuff to the Consumer’s Association.

I had some other salmon, but if attention to food safety is so lax, I do wonder about culpability if things really go seriously bad.

I have no choice but to continue shopping downstairs, I would ask to speak to the manager next time or cause a bit of a rumpus to embarrass them into really paying more attention to a critical public safety issue.

A building shorn of power

Talk about public safety, as I was working on Friday, my computer died at the same time as the lights, I sauntered out of my office and found the lights had gone out in all the offices in the three-winged complex of 10-storeys.

Only the emergency lighting was on, the lifts were out and the toilets were dark – someone had dug up the cable in the street below.

In my view, even though there was no fire, the building was incapacitated and should have been evacuated regardless of the fact that there was no immediate emergency.

Everyone would have had to use the emergency exits if one arose, but for at least another hour before I left having informed the absent project support office and managers of the situation, the building was still occupied to capacity.

I walked down 9 flights of stairs and returned to work from home but I really felt in a building that also contained three floors of the main power company, someone should have been more responsive, responsible and taken responsibility – well, maybe the building would be there when I return on Tuesday.

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