Monday, 10 August 2015

8 Essential Items Every Expat Needs in Their Dutch Home

In order to integrate in the Netherlands there are (at least) eight essentials you need to have tucked away somewhere in your home. Without them your integration will never be complete and you may even fail the inburgeringscursus*.

1. Potato Masher
Without this vital piece of kitchen equipment you can never hope to truly master Dutch cuisine. Using a masher effectively is hard work but never fear because practice makes perfect. As a guide, you need to keep mashing until the food object in question looks squished beyond any hope of resuscitation.

This kitchen tool allows you to make a perfect stamppot or hutspot- perfect for warming the tummy in winter. Also very handy for preparing meals for after major dentistry work or whilst waiting for the healing of a broken jaw.

2. Birthday Calendar
This is an essential for the smallest room in the house, namely the downstairs loo. If you don't have a downstairs loo, then I fear total integration may be just out of your grasp. Make sure you include the birthday of anyone likely to visit your house - everyone checks for their name whilst they are making use of your facilities. They really do. If they come out of your downstairs loo looking mad it is in no way a reflection of the quality of your chosen toilet paper, rather it's because you forgot to put their birthday in your calendar.
3. Bicycle
It almost goes without saying, but without a bike in the Netherlands you are no one. You simply must have a bike - it really doesn't matter how much you use it but you should have one. Where it is stored differs from household to household. The shed is a popular place. Public hallways in shared accommodations are also popular, preferably blocking emergency exits and any means of entrance. Creating an obstacle course for fellow residents is seen as good sport here. 

You can also leave your bike(s) chained to a lamppost outside your house - it externalises the obstacle course and gives dogs new and varied targets to pee on.

4. Window Foil
Many Dutch homes do not have curtains. They may have blinds or no window fittings at all. This is traditionally so you can peek in and view the showcase living rooms. However, over the years many Dutch homeowners have become torn between tradition and dignity. Do they really want you seeing them in their dressing gowns with bed hair every morning grabbing their first koffie of the day? The solution is window foil. Placed strategically over the windows you can't see out so obviously nobody can see in (except very small and very tall people).

5. Sauces

Your fridge door must be full of different sauces to be served with every meal. Every meal, regardless of what it is. Of course, the food you serve will determine exactly which of the sauces you are to serve but there are some staples: knoflooksaus (garlic flavoured sauce), currysaus (spicy ketchup in essence) and chillisaus (chilli sauce). There are other sauces which are variable and optional but for kids you must serve appelmoes (apple sauce). I have heard that the wide choice of accompanying sauces is related to the lack of flavour in Dutch cuisine.......but I couldn't possibly confirm or deny that rumour.

6. Vases
Flowers are everywhere in the Netherlands. They are also commonly brought by visitors. So if you are a bit of a socialite, then you will need a lot of vases and many free surfaces to put your flowers in and on. Wide vases, narrow vases, tall vases and short stumpy vases - you'll probably need them all.

7. Cheese Slicer

I had never owned a cheese slicer (kaasschaaf) in my pre-Netherlands life. Cheese in the UK is soft and comes in square chunks so can easily be cut with a knife or crumbled or grated for sandwiches. I now own two cheese slicers. (I actually had three but whilst some might find that luxurious, I found it to be a little excessive and as it came free with some cheese I chucked it away). Anyways.... Dutch cheese is hard and triangular shaped. Trying to cut it with a knife is just asking to lose at least one finger dangerous so cheese slicers are essential.

8. Chairs
Foreigners in the Netherlands all have to step into the circle of death at some point. If you have a Dutchie in your house, you may even have to create that birthday circle for yourself. For this you need as many chairs as you can muster from friends, family and neighbours. But you must also have a good supply in house. The good news is (so I am told) that the birthday circle is dying out and a thing for the older generations. There's hope for us expats yet......

*This may not be actually true at all.


  1. I have still not worked out how English houses manage without cheese slices and potato mashers. I lost my last slice and I am struggling to find one in Malaysia - I will seriously pay the postage if you ever get another freebie! My husband cuts cheese British style but the slices are just. too. thick! You forgot the teapot/tealight warmer that is so much better than a tea cosy although this might be something that went out with my Oma's generation. Do people still eat Vla after every meal? I miss it terribly though bizarrely I cannot stand British custard cold or otherwise. And yummmmm appelmoes, my kids don't get it but I still love the stuff. My mother would make it specially for me every time I was ill and leave it in the fridge. I keep the baby food steamer just to make some up!

  2. Potato mashers are common in English homes - otherwise shepherds and cottage pire would be difficult but the absence of a cheese slicer is something I'd struggle with!
    The tea pot thing I have seen with the older generation indeed but not sure it's still popular amongst my generation... I think one cup tea bags have taken over.
    Vla is still popular! Thanks for stopping by - and I'm sure we could sort out a cheese slicer for you!!!

  3. Here in England, we go to Waitrose to get the extravagant (expensive) chocolate custard, just to get away from the dreary old same old plain custard. How I long for the miles and miles of dairy desserts in Albert Heijn......Erik

  4. I've been in the Netherlands two weeks now (the start of our expat adventure!) and have already found so many of these things helpful. Turns out I've been using a Dutch Cheese Slicer my whole married life, it was a wedding gift from my MIL, and had no idea! It sure comes in handy with the large wedges of Gouda I bring home. I mistakenly only packed three vases and have already found them to be full of flowers. I cannot resist the one Euro finds in the store and the flowers in the Delft market on saturday. Who knew they made so many sauces, although the mustardy/mayo one is delicious! Thanks for sharing. I'm going to need to get some more chiars! ha!

  5. Oh how exciting - the start of your expat adventure! I hope you're settling and enjoying Dutch life - sounds like you're getting into it in a big way so a great start!! :-)