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Dutch customs

Having Dutch coffee

A Dutch café is like a coffeehouse and a pub. Many will sell a few simple items of food — the tosti* being king — but the principal fare is coffee and beer.

The average café in Holland has three beers on tap, and some in bottles. It will have harder drinks (for those 18 years old,) and wine — plus coffee and tea. It would have juice and soft-drinks, as well, and hot chocolate.

All I'd normally have in a café is coffee or beer. For coffee, the cafés are excellent. For beer, they are atrocious.

Yesterday, a Tuesday, I showed up at de Blaauwe Hand, here in Nijmegen, just as the guy was opening it, at 1:00 in the afternoon. I sat at my favorite table, outside, kind of around the corner from the activity, by the lane that goes up around and behind the old church. I got a "koffie," which is strong, small, black, and tasty. With it, I got a small square of chocolate — there should always be a chocolate or a cookie. I also got a complementary half-shot of liqueur. I've only seen that here in Nijmegen; not in Amsterdam, when I lived there.*

But none of that is the best part of a Dutch café. The best part of a Dutch café is the relaxed nature of service. It'll make you crazy, if you're waiting with any impatience; but its rewards come if you can wait.

Having gotten coffee, I sat for as long as I wanted to. I wrote. I "read" the Dutch newspaper, with my dictionary, and made notes. I relaxed, and worked at my own business.

The waiter never returned. He never came to clear my table. This is normal.

I sat for an hour — I checked. It's normal to sit for an hour or more. It doesn't even look strange. The two women who sat at the adjacent table had arrived at the same time I had. They were still sitting when I left.

That's the beauty of Dutch coffee. You can enjoy it, unbothered. It's a remarkable sensation.

It's not easy, if you're not used to it. But it's good, if you can enjoy it.

— Summer 2003


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* The tosti is a simple matter of cheese toasted between slices of bread — maybe including a thin slice of ham — and it's delicious. Dutch cheese is excellent.

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* I returned to The Netherlands in August of 2003. I had lived in Amsterdam between May and December of 2000.
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