One wonderful aspect of living in the midst of Europe is that it's so easy to brush up your cultural perspective by visiting other countries. Take a train for two or three hours and bath in a different culture, mentality and language. I once got invited by a Dutch friend to visit Paris together with some friends of hers. Oh, the excitement! Paris, the emblem of French high culture, architecture, cafés, art, music, wine, food – the images invoked by the idea of Paris are such a strong cliché, that some tourists experience a psychological disorder called Paris syndrome once they visit the city, because the experience is to intense. I was thrilled myself and being a foodie immediately began daydreaming of the many small boulangeries and their wonderful baguettes. Yes, you can buy stokbrood everywhere, but it never comes close to the real thing!
As soon as we arrived and moved into our quarters I wanted to go out and get some of this delicious bread, plus some cheese and wine to celebrate our little trip. “No need!”, my Dutch friends said, and to my big surprise, they opened their bags and produced two big loafs of soft Dutch bread, some ontbijtkoek and a big jar of pindakaas. I was flabbergasted. “We are in the city of fine food, why do you bring sand to the beach?” “Well,” they explained, “we really like our bread and pindakaas. Besides, it's more economical.”
“But what about the French cheese!”
“We brought some Gouda.”And indeed, the next few days, they kept eating their home brought rations under my unbelieving eyes.
I don't even want to pick on the Dutch bread, I know that Germans are infamous for getting into annoying “Dutch bread is no real bread” discussions. What baffles me, though, is the attitude to bring your own food when you go on vacation. Is this the reason that the Dutch like caravans so much, because that way they can be sure never to run out of hagelslag? Or is it really about the money? I understand that you can safe some money when you take a sandwich to work instead of eating out, though I wonder at times if there would be any eetcafés and restaurants at all in the Netherlands, if it weren't for the tourists.
One Canadian friend told me that she heard that the Dutch descended from Scotland but were thrown out of the country for being to stingy. It was meant as a joke, but I wonder at times whether there might be some truth to the story.