There are some Dutch cultures that truly shocked me when I first came into this country. A few noticeable life styles of the Dutch where quite strange to me; while some were shocking others where strange and surprising but a few gave me an almost lost lifelong privilege.
In Nigeria I was told that in Europe it is possible for one person to eat a full chicken. This wasn’t common at all for most people in Nigeria. In my house particularly we ate chicken (not full) twice a year! The first time in the year is January 1stwhich is usually the celebration of the New Year and the second time is Christmas celebration on December 25th.
Though, we could eat chicken during the year but it is usually either by default or co-incidental. The eating of chicken is usually reserved for the exclusive and privilege family. The most exclusive was corned beef! I could count how many times in my whole life I ate corned beef while in Nigeria. No wonder, I didn’t spare corned beef the first time I saw it in a Dutch Supermarket for less than 1 euro.
I bought five cans at a go and I remember my friend then asking me why I bought that much. I told him how poverty deprived me of corned beef for almost 18 years. I jokingly told him I wanted to eat enough to replenish the years of corn beef deprivation. Thanks to Europe, I ate full chicken for the first time and also ate corn beef as much as I wanted. Today, they are no longer my favourite.
The first thing I noticed with a typical Dutch habit when you visit them is their inability to leave soft drinks on the table for you to serve yourself. I observed that they prefer to serve you soft drinks in glasses thereby making it very difficult for you to ask for more (Oliver Twist). Could this be because soft drink is usually very sweet and there is the possibility of your guests emptying everything particularly if they are hungry at the time of the visit? It takes great courage for you to ask your host to go get you another glass of soft drink.
I also struggled with the issue of half cooked meat. In Nigeria our meat is usually well cooked. We boil meet for long then fry them again before putting them in the source to be cooked again. We believe after this long process, it takes the grace of God for any bacteria to still exist in the meat. My first outing with a Dutch friend in the small town of Kampen near Zwolle saw me eat half done meat for the first time.
I must confess that I almost regurgitated the food right there at the restaurant in front of everyone. I opened up the meat only to see blood particles in the meat. I asked my friend that they must have mistakenly not allowed the meat to be cooked properly but he told me that was the fun. We need the nutrients in the meat but not wanting to show my disgust, I manage to eat the meat all the same. When I couldn’t take it anymore….I excused myself to the toilet and vomited everything. A “fantastic” meal of almost 30 euro ended up in the toilet of the restaurant without my friend knowing. Could this be another way of saving energy?
The last I will mention here is the ease with which Dutch people flip their leg on top of the other when they sit down. I travelled in the train for the first time and saw people sitting with their legs crossed. I felt embarrassed that I was the only one in the couch without his leg crossing on top of the other. I immediately wanted to “belong” by crossing my leg also. This also is not common in Nigeria. As a way of blending into the culture very fast, I did as everyone was doing. When it was time for me to step out of the train, I dropped my legs and stood up but had serious cramp.
The cramp was severe because my legs were not used to that new style. I couldn’t stand up so I fell back to my sit and pretended that wasn’t my stop. I had to step out at the next stop after my legs had rested a bit.
This may not have been noticed by many people but I did noticed them because they made great impacts on my life and how I saw the society.