Monday, February 28, 2011

Things seem to be going well. I'm starting to know where things are around here. Today, at work, I was asked if I would be ready to train some technicians in the future. I take that as huge compliment. Tomorrow I'll go to Rotterdam for my first field assignment. Even my coworker Chris (the longest working technician in my department) was not his unusual British self today, he smiled couple of times and at the end of the day offered me a ride to my apartment. I've known him for few years now. He is usually a happy guy, but since I moved here he has looked really depressed and practically barked at all people who've approached him. I was starting to think that he was either Jekyll or Hide depending on whether he was home in The Netherlands or working in Iceland. Or that my presence here was dragging him down. :)
I'm starting to feel at home in shorter time than I thought it would take me.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It struck me as I was shopping yesterday how over processed all the food is here. And you can't get "standard" food anywhere.
If I want milk I can get half skimmed milk, I can get thick milk, I can get vanilla milk, I can get chocolate milk, I can get strawberry milk but regular milk is not so common. Same with cream, all kinds of tastes and versions except for standard cream. You can even buy cream in a pressurized container. I don't think there is much cream in the container but it's perfect topping for the baked-in-store-Apple-cake (with pieces of real apples in it) I've acquired a taste for. :)
Meat is not quite so bad if you buy the cuts, just avoid the ground beef, you don't know what's in it. I tried ground beef and I don't think there was much beef in it. Burgers are especially bad. Chicken breasts are ok but when I cook them they shrink a LOT. If I put them in a lightly oiled pan and put a lid over it, soon there is enough water in the pan to sink a ship.
Potatoes or "earth apples", as they're known here, are available somewhat fresh in a shadowy corner in the supermarket but they're actually more expensive than the cooked, spiced and sliced  potatoes you can buy neatly packaged for heating and consuming. That makes me scratch my head.
Vegetables and fruits are about the only things you can buy here unprocessed. They're fresh and good. I wonder why I've not become a vegetarian. Onions are about the only thing from the fruit and vegetable section you can buy processed. You can buy onions that have been cut for you, either into onion rings or sliced into little bits.
The milk will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. The bread will not mold for more than a week, when I throw the rest away. The cream in a can will stay fresh for half a year in the can. I confess that I'm not specialist on food preservation but I don't believe that this is done without adding some chemicals to the raw product.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Yet another gorgeous day has dawned. With fog and rain. The day might be gorgeous somewhere else but here it's kind of gray and wet. Since it's a Saturday lots of people are shopping and walking about, not nearly as many as when the weather is good but a lot nonetheless. I was going to take a walk to the RC track that is nearby, but changed my mind because of the weather. This seems to be typical spring weather here in Hoofddorp.

I'm getting kind of settled in here. I know now where to go for most things. I starting to know my way around the supermarkets. I'm starting to know what to buy.
When I went shopping I saw frozen pizza in the supermarket that was nearly as expensive as the frozen supermarket pizzas in Iceland. I bought one and cooked it. It was nearly twice as thick as the pizzas back home so I guess I could say it was half the price.

Friday, February 25, 2011

One thing The Dutch are really famous for, apart from wooden shoes, tulips, bicycles, canals, windmills,,,. Lets say that one of many things The Dutch are famous for is architecture. In The Netherlands there are many really famous architect firms. It's true, just Google it :). Some of the examples of old buildings converted for modern use are breathtaking. Therefore it is surprising how bland and badly designed many of the newer buildings here are. Lot of them are nothing but boxes filled with square rooms, designed without any kind of ambition or taste. Lot of extensions are similarly designed, without any regards of what the original building looks like. In many ways it reminds me of buildings in Iceland.

Links to few web pages that sometimes showcase Dutch architects.
http://www.archdaily.com/
http://www.contemporist.com/
http://www.dezeen.com/
http://www.designboom.com/eng/

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blogspot.com and blogger.com were in Dutch again. Kind of annoying. It was correct after I logged in though. I wonder how it will be in the future when I'm starting to understand Dutch.

I was going to buy a bicycle since everyone living in The Netherlands is obliged to own one. The government even has a bicycleplan for people here. In that plan you'll buy a bicycle and take the receipt to your employer. He'll pay you back and then deduct the price from your paycheck in monthly payments, for up to 9 months I'm told. That may be dependant on your employer. The ingenious thing about this plan is that the monthly payments are taken from your salary before taxes, so in the end you get the bicycle at almost half price. The only condition is that you'll have to use the bicycle to go to work. You can buy another in the same way after three years which is a long time if your bicycle has been stolen after one or two months. But if you spend more on the locks than the bike then you'll most likely be able to keep the bicycle for three years. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

As some long forgotten man once said. "Here be cold and here be snow". The canals are covered by thin layer of ice, too thin for the popular sport, or hobby, of skating. The snow covers the ice so it looks safe but it isn't. The Netherlands are basically flat. Yet here in Hoofddorp one can find a skislope. But there is no snow on it. Its a fake skislope with some sort of covering that makes it feel almost exactly like anything but snow. And right next to it is The Japanese restaurant. Really nice place where the food is cooked in front of you.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Food is cheaper here in Hoofddorp.
Buying house or apartment is slightly cheaper but the costs of buying are higher.
Renting house or apartment is similar but those who rent have less rights here. 
Electricity is much more expensive and Gas comes on top of that.
Fuel is similarily priced.
Taxi rides are similarily priced.
Bus rides are much more expensive but here there it is possible to get high discounts if you travel regularily by bus. It's still more expensive than in Iceland but the difference is noticably less.
Computers cost similar amount.
Cars are cheaper here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Most of my coworkers are really nice. Some are extremely nice, happy, polite and helpful. All in all good eggs (to quote P.G. Wodehouse :D). Few are bit more grumpy but help me anyway. Most go out of their way to make me feel welcome. Few have mentioned IceSave although some of them had accounts there. I need this helpful atmosphere because I hate being the new guy that doesn't know anything and the others always have to save me. I hate it so much that it'd begun to make me depressed. My boss came today and said to all my coworkers that he was going to send more small projects my way, if my coworkers had small projects they were to give them to me. If I needed help with any project and what they were doing was not highest priority, they were to stop what they were doing and help me. Beginning next week I'll be taking some courses that will hopefully help me tremendously.

I've found out that the cheapest supermarket, here in Hoofddorp, is Hoogvliet, the relatevly small supermarket I pass on my way to work and is only about 500 meters from there. The one where I buy the bread, cheese and other toppings for lunchtime. The other supermarkets, Dirk, that is in the shopping center (maybe should I call it village or market center across the street from my apartment) is slightly more expensive and Albert Heijn, 100 meters from Dirk is the most expensive but has the best bread. The price difference from the most expensive to the least expensive is maybe 10%. Even the most expensive foodstuff here is much cheaper than in Iceland.

I got my BSN (The Netherlands Social Security Number) today. Unfortunately it was too late for this months paycheck so I'll be getting a double paycheck in about a month. BSN can take up to 6 weeks to arrive, depending on where people are located, in some locations you'll get them the same day. Mine took one week.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

IceSave

I see in the news that the Icelandic president has decided not to sign the new IceSave laws and thereby making it compulsory for the government to hold an "election" or "voting" among Icelandic citizens where the public gets to vote if the laws should become laws or not.
The clause in the Icelandic laws, that the president is using, states that the president should sign all new laws to make them valid. Should he not do so the laws will still become valid until public has voted for or against the law. The government has to hold this voting or election as soon as possible. The public's voting is final.
The current president is the only president in the history of Icelandic independence not to sign a law and now he's doing it for the third time. 
The reason the president decided not to sign the law is that he had list of forty thousand names, over 10% of the nation or closer to 20% of voters, urging him to let the nation decide on this issue.

My opinion is that these laws are unnecessary and the Icelandic government should make a statement to the international community saying that Iceland will honor all its obligations including IceSave. Then the government should wait and find out how much they´ll have to pay before putting it into law. The reason so many people in Iceland are against those laws is that the amount is so high, that if Iceland has to pay the full amount it'll bring Iceland close to bankruptcy. No one knows at the moment how much money Iceland will have to pay so the law states the maximum amount, but Iceland will certainly never have to pay all that. The bankrupt IceSave bank had properties and outstanding loans that will cover large part of the IceSave debt and if the situation is favorable all of the IceSave debt. Still people are angry and they're afraid that they'll have to pay debts others have created (the largest shareholder in the IceSave bank, Bjorgulfur Thors, was on the list of 500 richest people in UK when I last checked) and the amount of the IceSave is so high that lot of people will vote aginst it, thinking that that way they'll not have to bear responsibility of other peoples actions.
Another reason that this IceSave is such a big issue is that the UK and NL governments were hunting for votes and paid the IceSave customers more than they should have by law. Then they tried to get the Icelandic government to pay them back, at much higher interest than they were paying for that money.
One of the things that annoy me here in The Netherlands are the DVDs. Sure there are lot of movies available and at fairly fair prices too. There are even bargain bins with desirable titles, with 3 titles for 10 Euros or similar. But although they don't dub the movies here, like in some countries, there are nearly no DVDs available with English subtitles. 90% of the movies here have English spoken language and Netherlands subtitles. What I'd like to buy are movies with English spoken language and the choice between English and Netherlands in the subtitles. It would be even better if I could get the subtitles with all the Region 2 subtitle languages on the DVD, including Icelandic. It's not like the subtitles take up much space on the disks. No, this is some kind of conspiracy with the publishers. All the subtitles files are available at the publishers headquarters and it would be very easy, technically, to include them all on the DVD. Someone has made the decision to exclude all others subtitles for The Netherlands market, probably in an effort to increase profits by preventing DVDs from flowing between markets thereby screwing the customer. That kind of business practice is illegal in the EU but it seems that the publishers are getting away with it. What this means for me is that I'll continue buying most of my DVDs from Amazon.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I sit here writing and looking out the window. Few hundred meters away a windmill is rotating. That is to say, the blades on the windmill are rotating, not the windmill itself. The streets in the shopping "center" across the road are full of people. I can hear the children calling and their parents calling back. All in all a nice day even if it's slightly chilly. Most windmills you see in The Netherlands are stopped. Modern electric equipment has taken their place. No matter if they were used for grinding corn or pumping water. The windmills today are only for tourists and to keep ties to the past of The Netherlands. Most of the windmills are being maintained and taken care of by an army of volunteers and only used on special days for show.

Yesterday evening I went to Haarlem for few drinks with coworkers. Lousy drunk that I am, I did the mistake early in the evening to try to keep up with their drinking so I was pretty much out of the running before midnight. I'm still a bit "under the weather". But I got to see parts of Haarlem. It did not strike me as nice as Leiden did last weekend but I understand that the nightlife in Haarlem is very active. Anyway I can't really claim to know all about a town or city by spending one evening there.

The bad things about public transport here is that there pretty much isn't any between midnight and 7 in the morning. One can always take taxi but the taxis here in The Netherlands are a bit like the New York taxis, you can count yourself lucky if the driver speak English and has a drivers license. About the only positive thing is that all the taxis here have GPS, although you have to know how to spell the town and the street where you're going to. It used to be that the taxis here were like the old taxis in London where you could get into a taxi, name any obscure place and the driver would not only know where it was and how to get there. He could also tell you where the best pubs were in the neighborhood and if someone famous lived there. Sadly the taxis in London have changed a bit although you're still safe by taking the old type black taxi. Back to The Netherlands. The government here changed the laws so that just about anyone could get license to drive a taxi. That had the unsurprising results that almost anybody does. If you come to The Netherlands call a taxi company named Verkuyl. +31 (0)297 341 000 They'll come to the airport, or wherever you are, and pick you up. They accept credit cards, although there is a small surcharge. They don´t try to cheat on you by taking the long route and their drivers all speak English.
If you fly to Schiphol you don't have to take the first taxi in the line. If you see nice taxi, in the middle of the line, feel free to walk to it and get in. If I was driving a taxi here I would get a pink Mercedes and aim for the female passengers.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

As the weekend gets nearer I'm thinking about what to do during this boring time of the week when people have no work to keep them occupied. Hoofddorp is not known throughout The Netherlands for it's exciting nightlife. It is in fact considered something of a boring town, to put it mildly. Leiden on the other hand is very well known for it's nightlife. The largest universities are there and everyone knows how the young people like to spend their spare time. To be perfectly honest, also the time they should spend studying. Round trip to Leiden on the train is just under 10 Euros. The only problem is that the last train from Leiden to Hoofddorp leaves Leiden Central shortly before midnight. Taxi is almost 100 Euros so that is basically out of the question. Maybe I take advantage of the fact that some of my most friendly coworkers live there. An interesting fact is that the Royal heirs of The Netherlands Crown traditionally go to a university in Leiden. And even more interesting is that his/her grades are to be kept secret for 50 years.

I just got my Netherlands Debetcard in the mail. Here one gets the Debetcard in the mail and then has to go to the bank to make it active. Sounds unusual but this is how it is done here. To be honest I must admit that if the card was being renewed, instead of being new, I could make it active with a phonecall. In Iceland this would be a big deal but in The Netherlands the banks, at least the branch in my building, are open late Friday evenings and on Saturdays too. In Iceland all banks close at 16:00 on weekdays and are closed during the weekends so it this method was used there I'd have to take time of work to go to the bank.

The Netherlands is the most densely populated country in Europe. Iceland is the least densely populated country in Europe. So it seems that  I swing between the extremes in population.

My HR manager gave me the book "The Undutchables". A funny reading about the more unusal characteritics of the typical Dutchman. I've only read the first few pages but I've found this out. Abortion laws in The Netherlands are liberal yet there are fewer abortions than in most countries. Drugs are legal in The Nethelands yet there are fewer junkies than in most countries.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

As you can see Icelandair has nice offer for me to visit Reykjavik for only 299 Euros including 3 nights at Hótel Ísland. Unfortunately this is only for half a room or per person in a 2 bed room. The real price for me, since I'm single, is 369 Euros. And if you're wondering, the picture, in the picture, is from the Blue Lagoon. This picture is from the Hoofddorp train station.



The Netherlanders are not terribly fond of outside air. I don't think I've ever seen an open window here unless someone was working on the window or painting inside.

And here is a picture of the view from my desk. The water is the end of an canal and there are fishes in it. A coworker has caught few, but although they're big and fat I wouldn't eat them.
 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The new guy strikes again. Yesterday, after lunch, I put my bread and cheese in the refrigerator like usual. During lunchtime today I was shown how I had accidentally switched off the refrigerator so that all the food in the freezer compartment had to be thrown away. Sigh.
Tobacco and alcohol laws and traditions are bit different here than in Iceland. Full case of beer here costs similar to six pack in Iceland. There is similar price difference in wine and strong drinks. But the weird thing is the cigarettes. In The Netherlands there are usually 19 cigarettes in a pack. Not 20 like in most countries. This is because cigarette packs with 20 cigarettes are taxed. So to circumvent this tax tobacco manufacturers decided to remove 1 (one) cigarette from the pack.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Today was a big day. I went to the bank to open a Dutch bank account. I went to the national registry and got a stamp into my passport, formally registering me as a citizen of the European Union. In the bank I found out that mortgage loans are usually maximum 5 times the yearly salary, before taxes. I guess I won't be buying that 590,000 Euro house I was dreaming about. In fact I'll need the 30% ruling (tax discount for foreign specialists that my employer has applied for for me) to be able to buy the smallish (just under 100 m2) apartment I'm most interested in at the moment.
Apparently I need to get insured here for damages I may cause others. The bank advised me to insure for up to 1.2 million Euro payout for 3 Euros a month. I was told that in the event of property damage it would never be that high but if I caused an accident and someone would need to go hospital the bills would pile up quickly. Iceland of course has "free" health-care for "Icelandic citizens", others are tourists anyway and need to insure their own bottoms. This health-care cost is included in car insurances here. Which makes me wonder, yet again, why it is so much more expensive to insure cars in Iceland than in Europe.
The 30% percent ruling, that my employer has applied for, for me, is a way for The Netherlands authorities to attract specialists to The Netherlands. What it basically means is that if granted, the employer takes 30% off of the salary before applying taxes and other reductions. Usually the employer pays the employee these 30% directly, but there are exceptions. This discount is valid for up to 10 years but tax authorities can ask for proof of "specialty" annually. Another upside of this system is that the employee may "fall into a lower taxbracket". Since maximum taxes in The Netherlands are over 50% this can be profitable. Accoording to one of my coworkers, who has the 30% ruling applied to him, tax discount because of interests on mortgage payments is applied before the 30% ruling. About the only downside of this system, for the employee, is that his pension, which is percentage of his salary, will be 30% lower.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Yet another day in the town of Hoofddorp, population est. 60,000.
Yesterday I went to the supermarket to buy groceries. I wanted to buy some cream to use in a sauce I planed to make with a chicken recipe I have. So I went to the supermarket, into the cooler and looked at the shelves for cream. Well I saw milk, skimmed milk, skimmed milk with chocolate flavour, with vanilla flavour, with lemon flavour. I saw extra skimmed milk and I saw milk where the cows were (according to the print on the carton) only fed organically grown hay or corn or cabbage or whatever. What they could possibly feed them that is not organically grown I don't want to think about. I did not see any cream. After seeking advice from the teenaged employee "manning" the cooler he pointed to the lower left corner of one of the walls. There I found cartons containing whipping cream with vanilla, whipping cream with chocoloate, whipping cream with lemon, etcetera, but no cream for sauces. I later found out that the dutch word for cream is apperantly "Room" very similar to the Icelandic work "Rjomi" and it is sold in small bottles. I'll visit the supermarket again tomorrow.
I seem to fit into the Dutch society pretty well. At least when I'm standing in the checkout line everyone who speaks to me speaks in Dutch. I sat down in the Mall across the street and looked at all the people walking around and came to the conclusion that my clothes (black jeans, sweater and leather jacket) are very similar to what the normal Dutch people wear. The only thing I need to fully blend in is a scarf around my neck.
I've just come home from having nice dinner in Leiden with a coworker and a friend. I learned a lot there, for example the Icelandic words "reikninginn takk" sound almost exactly like the Dutch people asking the waiter for the check. So if you're in The Netherlands feel free to use Icelandic to ask for the check. :)
I had one beer too many but what can I say. It was my turn to treat and it would've looked bad had I not had one too.
I also found out, on the train from Leiden, by using the GPS in my workphone that the trains here have top speed of about 140 Km/hr.
Today I went around Hoofddorp and decided to postpone buying a bicycle (Fiets, pronounced as fijts and cycling is fijtsen). It seems that when the stores are closed and I can't buy a cicycle I decide to buy it but when the stores are open I decide not to. Well it takes me 20 minutes to walk to work, it would take me 5-10 minutes to "fijtsen". It feels that most of that time is taken waiting for the traffic lights over the canal close to the apartment. They're so badly programmed that they remind me of home. :)
I saw in an advertisement in the train station that Icelandair is offering 3 day trips to Iceland, hotel and flight for only 299 Euros. Who knows, maybe I'll drop in for a visit soon.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Now that I've been here one week I'm going to write about the nice apartment that my employee has placed me in for a while. This is, as far as I can understand, a very typical Dutch apartment. I can't decide if I love it or hate it. First is that the apartment next door is being remodeled. Well actually it isn't. In the week I've been here, I haven't heard a hammer or saw or anything else for that matter. But the elevator has been covered in thin particleboard for protection, it is very dirty, and the dry smell of concrete is strong. I can't help but think it rude to ones neighbors, to leave the elevator that everyone in the building uses, dirty for weeks while nothing is being done to your apartment.
Talking about dirty. It was pointed out to me to begin with, but since then I've hardly been able to cross a building without noticing how clean all the windows are here in The Netherlands. Even on the second floor. As one who likes clean windows, but is too lazy to clean them, I can only admire the people here for their hard work. :)
Back to the apartment. I really like the general layout although I wouldn't have put a door between the living room/kitchen and the hallway. And I would've put the toilet and bath in the same room, not separate ones. They're side by side anyway.
As an electrician I don't like the electric layout. In some rooms the switches are behind the doors when they open. You actually have to enter the room and close the door before you can turn on the light. All the power outlets are in the middle of the walls (in height) and there aren't nearly enough of them. In the washing room the outlets for the washing machine and the dryer are on the opposite ends of the room. The washing machine and the dryer are both brand new, the "labels" printed on the front of them are in Dutch and I can't find the printed instructions anywhere so I have to guess what system I'm using when washing my clothes. :D
The apartment has Gas central heating, controlled by sensor on the living room wall. To save expensive energy I raise and lower the temperature depending on the time of day and my working hours. I can't help but think how much more efficient and more comfortable it would be if the apartment was split up into zones and the heating was controlled by a computer. It would also be good if the heater didn't start automatically when I was just about to fall asleep. :) When I'm fiddling with the thermostat I often think of the noiseless cheap energy in Iceland where I would just leave it on comfortable temperature 24/7.
The apartment has gas stove. I must say that considering how often people have told me how good it is to cook on a gas stove, it saddens me to say that my cooking has not improved. And the stove is broken, the ignition pin is AWOL so I have to use the lighter I found in the drawer next to the stove to light the gas.
There are two refrigerators here. The small one is built into the kitchen cabinets, under the counter, and the large one, who looks fairly new, is stainless steel, opens the wrong way and has been scratched by vigorous cleaning, probably by previous renter that used steel wool, and left ugly scratches all over the doors. When I moved in I found 2 lemons in a bag in the door of the large fridge. One looked fine except for small green dots of dust that were all over it. The other one was the source of the green dust. And it smelled really bad.
The living room and hallway have parquet floors with nice expensive parquet lists covering the edges. The (I want to say idiot but it may me inaccurate, so I say person) who installed these lists didn't realize that they are meant to hide cables and are in two pieces. You screw the back piece into the wall and snap the front on. The person put screws through the front and the back so you can see all the ugly screws. And the lists are all crooked.
Apart from broken showerhead, plug in the bathtub that is also broken and can't be "opened" to let the water out and the very "interesting" (from a professional point of view) way that the halogen lights in the bathroom are connected to electricity, I'm very impressed by the bathroom. It's warm, bright and roomy with tiles all over, but since the hot water has to pass through the gas heater the flow is at best modest.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

As I said earlier I've taken up the native custom of buying bread and toppings in the supermarket and eat that during lunch. As I was lunching today I noticed that the bread, I'd just bought, was brand new, not day old like in the Icelandic supermarkets. A side effect of that fact is that here the shelves are basically empty the last hour or so before closing. If you want fresh bread, or any bread at all, don't go to the supermarket just before it closes.

My coworkers here are really nice. Couple of them have been advising me on what bicycle (fiets) to buy. One of them told me, laughing, that the other one has a mountain bike. I didn't get the joke until he mentioned the flatness of The Netherlands. :)

Houses and apartments are expensive here. Real estate agents (Makelaars) here are, I've been told, devious characters. If a real estate agent here "finds" an apartment for me he can charge up to 2% of the purchase price for services. This is on top of what he gets from the seller. Since I'm looking at apartments at around 150.000 euros that means he can charge me 3000 Euros if he finds an apartment for me. If I come to an real estate agent and tell him I want this special apartment, that I've found on the internet or somewere, he can't charge me. But if he advices me to buy another apartment, and I do that, he can and will charge me. Then the seller has to pay 6% tax on the property he just sold. This is much worse than the Icelandic stampcharge (Stimpilgjald) and I thought that was bad enough.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Every now and then Blogger.com insist on appearing in Dutch. All menus and all options are in Dutch. I don't know why, I can guess that it's because I'm connected to the Internet in Netherlands, but this is really inconvenient because I hardly speak any Dutch and there is no obvious way to change it to English. I plan on learning Dutch rather sooner than later. I plan on living here for quite a while and learning it makes my stay easier and more pleasurable. It is also sign of respect to learn the language of the country you're staying in and I respect the Dutch people.

My first order from Amazon.com, that I ordered in The Netherlands is here. It was shipped Monday the 7th and arrived today, Wednesday the 9th. Before lunch, I might add. The shortest time I can remember for an Amazon.com order to arrive in Iceland was about 1 week. Usually closer to 2-3 weeks. If I was in a hurry to get Amazon books I always had to order from Amazon.co.uk. Then it took 3-5 days to arrive. This was/is due to the curious way that the post office works. All mail from USA to Iceland goes to Europe first (I've heard Germany mentioned) and is then shipped to Iceland. If you look up Iceland on a map you don't need to be Einstein to figure out that this doesn't make much sense.

Most food in supermarkets here in The Netherlands is little less than half the price it costs in Iceland. I've been "doing the Dutch lunch" at work. Almost every coworker goes to the supermarket in the lunchtime and buys milk, bread and some toppings. I've done the same thing except I go with coffee instead of milk. The strange thing is that I had the perfect opportunity to do the same thing in Iceland, instead I usually went to nearest fast-food-restaurant.
The restaurants here are slightly more than half the price they are in Iceland. The funny thing about restaurants here is that most of them are closed on Mondays and many of them are also closed on Tuesdays. There may be more open restaurants in Amsterdam, where there are more tourists, but here in the sleepy little village of Hoofddorp the restaurants just close. People have to eat home on those days, no matter if it's their birthday or if the kitchen caught fire. By the way if you like hamburgers you can be very happy if you're here on Monday, hamburgers here are among the worst I've tasted.

Monday, February 7, 2011

One of those things I really miss from Iceland (and I knew beforehand that I would miss it) is the water. The water here is "really good, straight from the tap" but there is some taste to it that I don't like. I plan on getting waterfilter but the question is should I get the one I left home or buy one from Amazon (like this)?

I'm living in an apartment that my employee provides, see here. I can use it for few months but should be using those few months to search for a place of my own. This is a really nice apartment, I could easily see myself living here. It's big enough to be really roomy yet small enough that I wouldn't feel guilty about buying it. That is to say, if I could get it at about 60% of the asking price. I like the layout, but there are few "issues". Nothing big, but the fit and finish of basically everything gets on my nerves, more on that at a later time. I've been looking for an apartment to buy, the payments are usually lower than rent. Interesting thing about the Netherland real estate market is how common those loans are where you only pay interest but don't pay back the money owed. That will be payed in one sum in, up to, 30 years (kúlulán). According to some sources nearly half the market has those types of loans. Another interesting fact is that if you pay enough interest on your loans you get up to half your taxes back. What does that mean? Well, the average Dutchman only pays interests on his loans, gets half the interest back and invests it. Can anyone say Iceasave?

My coworkers are telling me that to fit into Dutch society I need to buy bicycle (Fiets). Everyone and their grandmothers are using bicycles here. As a matter of fact the most common bicycles are called Granny-bikes (Oma-fiets) and most people have 2 or 3 of them. They have no gears, are almost as heavy as a train and last for ever.
I've decided to start writing a blog about my experiences, regarding my decision to move to The Netherlands. As I'm writing this I've already been here about 100 hours, or four days if you prefer. I arrived on Thursday or Donderdag as the natives call it :). I left Iceland in the clutches of a snow storm so severe that the guy who drove me to the airport, at 0500 in the morning never went above 70 km/hr. in his 4wd truck. Anyway, the airplane departed one hour after schedule because of a long wait for de-icing of the wings. After three hour flight we landed at Schiphol and I took a taxi to my new work-place in Hoofddorp (Head Village).