(Some of) My Shmamsterdam Truths

This has been one crazy week so far. My life's busy factor has been off the charts and I've hardly found time to cook dinner let alone write a blog post. Tonight, however, the husband has a haircut appointment and I'm doing everything in my power to stay awake until he gets home. So, here is the fruit of my efforts: a post on some Shmamsterdam Truths. I've decided to call them Shmamsterdam Truths instead of Amsterdam Truths because, well, even though I've found them to be true, they might not be true for everyone.

This fall, I bought a pair of jeans from H&M. Now I know you're probably thinking that H&M jeans wear out faster than any other brand, and that very well might be the case, but I buy H&M jeans all the time so I am well aware of their shelf-life. This pair of jeans, however, black jeans with the small zippers on the bottoms of the legs, started pilling in the bum area quite quickly. Was it from sitting on the floor with my nanny kids? Was it from spending to much time sitting on the couch looking for jobs (ok, and maybe watching some TV too)? I just couldn't figure what had caused my jeans to deteriorate so quickly, so I let it go. That is, I let it go until I bought another pair of jeans and the same thing happened. I then realized that this strange phenomenon is likely due to the fact that I bike everywhere.

So there you have it, wear and tear from the bike seat is causing my jeans to fall apart. Maybe it's time to invest in higher quality jeans after all.

This statement is actually a bold-faced lie because the other day, someone did. I had plans to get together with an American girl who was a friend of my friend's friend who I had met once in New York (you can draw a diagram if that helps your comprehension) when I received a message from her asking if we could reschedule due to forecasted rain. Seems normal enough, I suppose, but rain is just not something you can plan around in Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, rain is part of everyday life and you just have to deal with it. I even remember telling the husband, who was getting ready for work at the time, "I don't have plans anymore, we rescheduled because of the rain." He looked at me, baffled, and let out a chuckle.

So there you have it, no one will ask you for a rain check in Amsterdam (unless they are a new expatriate).

I can still vividly remember one special morning this fall. The sun was shining, the air was crisp, and I was finally finally feeling really good about myself on the bicycle. Cycling in Amsterdam has been a bit of a challenge for me. It seems that every time I had started to get really comfortable navigating the roads, traffic, and other bikers, my trip would come to an end and I would have to go back to Minnesota. But by the time this autumn rolled around, I had had months of practice, my confidence had reached new levels, and there was no looming plane ticket to interrupt my success. At this point I was an Amsterdam resident, and biking was now, officially, part of my life. This particular morning, I was biking to a nannying job along one of those roads that had left me with white knuckled hands gripping the handlebars in the past. But today, I was at ease ... until a kid who looked about six years old (and his dad) came up from behind and passed me right by.

So there you have it, there's nothing like a young kid cruising by on his bike to trample all over your accomplishments. Though, he's probably been biking since he was four which means he has at least one more year of experience than I.

The reason my week has been so hectic is because I accepted a substitute teaching position at an international school. Every day this week, I am in the classroom teaching second graders. It has pretty much quadrupled my normal week's workload and at least quintupled my normal week's excitement factor. On my first day, one of the students celebrated his birthday with a fruit tray and homemade cupcakes brought in by his mother. Did you catch that? Homemade cupcakes! Can you remember the last time any type of homemade food was allowed in a school? I'm probably only talking to Americans when I ask this, but seriously, I think it was more than twenty years ago that they stopped allowing us to bring in homemade treats. At first, I thought it was poisoned, naturally, but I'm still alive to talk about it, so it was just a delicious cupcake after all.

So there you have it, I'm living in a land where students can bring homemade treats to school ... and I'm teaching in a school so I get to eat them. No complaints here!


  1. Why is it not allowed to bring homemade treats to school in America? (maybe a stupid question from a Dutch girl who grew up with homemade treats ;) )

    1. There's no such thing as a stupid question! (That's the teacher in me talking...) We used to be allowed to bring homemade treats to school when I was young, but then they changed the rules. I think it's mainly due to the fact that so many children have allergies. If a parent sends homemade treats with their child, the child probably won't know what ingredients were used. Also, cross-contamination is more likely to happen in a home kitchen. If the treats are bought from the store with the ingredient list included, it is less likely that an allergic reaction will occur.

      It makes sense, but I also think that this is another good example of how much more relaxed the Dutch can be when it comes to parenting and allowing their children certain experiences that are more closely monitored and regulated in the States.

      I hope this answers your question. Thanks for reading, Stephanie!

  2. I believe it has to do with something else. In America, basically everything that is healthy, nice and thoughtful (foodwise) is being banned. People having a street barbeque? Forbidden. People growing their own veggies in their front yard? Forbidden. People sharing those veggies with neighbours? Forbidden. I believe the companies want you to buy their crappy stuff, full of added sugars, and badly produced ingredients, and the government helps them. I don't believe schools would just change the rules because some kids got sick. And then, it's interesting to think about why all these kids have allergies. Maybe because they're growing up in a sterilized world and they don't build up any resistance anymore?
    Then also maybe the American suing culture has something to do with it, in which you don't want to be responsible for a kids stomach ache and so parents put the responsibility in the companies hands. ("I just bought it at the shop around the corner")
    But, having said all of this: I might be too negative :) And I have experienced some really nice food sharing moments in the States too. And in the Netherlands, the same things with the allergies and all is happening. But I guess I am happy that our government hasn't intervened yet.

    By the way, for a great example of an American school: have you seen Brooklyn Castle? Very inspiring!

    (sorry for my rant)

    1. No need to apologize! I definitely agree that the American suing culture can be blamed for the creation of some pretty unnecessary regulations and that over-sterilization leads to more allergies in the long run. At the same time, however, I think neighborhood BBQs and sharing vegetables with neighbors is allowed in most places. I'm interested to know which places you are talking about if you care to elaborate. It's true that growing may be restricted to backyards though ... but I think that is for an aesthetic reason, not to force you into buying all vegetables from major companies. Anyways, thanks for sharing your thoughts, Miriam! I'll have to check out Brooklyn Castle.