I have become so accustomed to the coarseness of the Dutch tongue, and their terrific law-abiding nature, that I very often don’t realise when people are actually just being friendly.

This morning, whilst I was cycling to an appointment, a fellow cyclist next to me barked something in this gravelly language. I didn’t understand at first and assumed that he was being rude, perhaps telling me to move over or saying that I was wearing the wrong colour pullover or something like that.

It took about 30 seconds to realise what he had actually said.

“Licht is aan.”

Translation: light is on.

He was referring to my back bicycle light, which was flashing intermittently as I peddaled and which I still have no idea how to turn off.

I felt ashamed that I hadn’t at least said “thank you” to him. All I’d done was bark back, in something of a panic and without really thinking: “English?” To which he’d shouted over his shoulder: “Achter” (meaning the rear light).

Even when the Dutch are trying to help, they seem so cross.

Whatever my gripes are sometimes about this country – the tax is too high, it’s very difficult to do anything even a little bit anarchistic without being told off, etc – there are some things I really love about the country.

One is some of the free services that the government offers, even to foreigners. Hence the reason that the tax is so high, I guess.

For example, we are having some problems with our landlord. A quick call to Juridisch Loket, which is a free service I’d really encourage expats here to use if you are having problems with your landlord, indicated that we are very much in the right.

What other country offers such a service? I really can’t think of any.


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