I do not have affection for stereotypes but I will just mention one common thread I have noticed as a woman of small stature. Many of the Dutch are very tall. I remember reading that during times of famine here where tulip bulbs were consumed to fill empty bellies that the height of an entire generation could be stunted. However as the Dutch people prospered in the future, it is said they are proud that their young people are some of the tallest in Europe. I first noticed this when trying to ride a Dutch bike and even with the seat lowered, my tip toes barley grazed the pedals. My next observation came during our road trip to the north today, in the area of Friesland. We climbed the stairs to the dike to try to glimpse a view of the Friesan islands and found the stairs ridiculously steep, for the long legs, I theorized.
The vast expanse of water on our right and the steep green hillside of the dyke dotted with sheep on our left gave me the illusion that the seemingly endless land bridge we were riding to the north could be the theoretical spot where the side walk ends. It just didn't seem that this skinny stretch of land was ever going to intersect with anything other than ocean. So perhaps we would just get to a point, like the end of the earth, where all the theories of Eratosthenes would be disproved and we'd find out the earth is indeed flat as we rocketed off the end of this bridge to nowhere in our rented BMW. But of course that didn't happen, the Dutch are brilliant engineers who somehow built a country on what used to be ocean by strategically draining sea water and moving earth around, until presto chango, more Dutch real estate!
Today we did make it as far north as Harlingen, a charming harbor town, where we had our first savory pancake, pannenkoeken, and sweet mini poffertjes with chocolate syrup, butter and powdered sugar. We also drove onto the thriving capital city of Leeuwarden. King of the round about, every other intersection seemed to have a traffic circle! Truly dizzying.
Back home we grabbed a pub style dinner in the closest town to us. The waiter quickly told us the specials and walked away. Greg and I did our best to decipher what he had said in Dutch. He came back a few minutes later and told us that the bartender who had seated us informed him that we were English and probably didn't understand a word he said. We were delighted that when he translated we had gotten the main points the first time around. Even though you could spend the whole road trip being amused by strangely spelled words on street signs and challenging yourself to pronounce them, I guess the language is getting a tiny bit easier to understand. Also, it is comforting to know that all you have to do is ask and the Dutch are happy to speak English with you.