Another enduring memory is of long evenings spent with friends in the dark ‘brown bars’ of Den Haag. The ‘Paraplu’ was a favourite haunt, a sign of the ‘Durham Heifer’ reminding us of university days in England. We loved the curious variety of Belgian beers, the freshly-pressed orange juice, the glasses of advocaat with cream that you ate with a tiny spoon, the background blues and jazz. The bars became, for us, a potent symbol of the Continent (text: expat from the UK, 1998, Destination Magazine).
When not at our lessons there was plenty of time to explore the bars, coffee shops and restaurants of the Hague. I remember that the coffee seemed to be a great improvement on English coffee but the real novelty was the Indonesian restaurants and the vending machines that sold satay sticks and loempias. You put a coin in the slot, opened the little window and grabbed the snack. It was called ‘uit de muur eten’ eating out of the wall. I lost my taste for English bitter in the Hague and have drunk lagers like Heineken, Amstel, Grolsch and Oranjeboom ever since.
Text: expat from the United Kingdom, 1961. Image: Julie Makri
Some Dutch foods, like stroopwafels and poffertjes, are easy to enjoy, even as a foreigner unaccustomed to the taste. Others require a more adventurous spirit. In the latter category for me was herring. I planned my first taste carefully, since I was determined to like it. I waited for a day when I was well and truly starving at lunch to give myself the best chance. Rather than going for the full, tail-up experience, I ordered a sandwich, complete with pickles and onion. The first bite was delicious, an explosion of complementary flavours, tasting of the sea on a fine, crisp autumn day. But what got to me was the texture—smooth and soft, but a little resistant to the teeth. It felt so very primal inside my mouth. I think I will eat it again, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to grab it by the tail (text: expat from the United States, 2015).