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Strangers in a Strange Land

It is interesting how subtle differences in values, customs and expectations can stand out. Anywhere in the English speaking world, this poster would probably never get displayed, but the key word and image is apparently not offensive here. (The translation of the first line is obvious – the rest of the poster advertises a job search/placement agency to those who having left school can’t find employment.)

When you shake hands you must say your name: if you don’t, they hang on, still shaking, till you do (even if your name was given when you were introduced).

Like houses throughout Europe, front windows are often at the street edge, but don’t shut your blinds! You might be hiding something (so expect to be very visible all day and especially at night).

Cycles are everywhere – but motor scooters can also use cycle lanes and both can be found speeding along on crowded footpaths zipping in and out among pedestrians.

If you’re not home when a parcel is delivered, no worried. It will have been delivered to one of the neighbours who will bring it along when you get home.

And drive in an orderly manner! I love how the traffic flows, with no evidence of the idiotic speeding individuals engage in on our roads. On the other hand, change lanes (with or without signalling) if there is space for a car – forget about safe following distances!

Thousands of people live below sea level, as in 2 - 4 metres below, where were it not for the dykes and hundreds of pumps working night and day, they would be totally immersed. I'd always know about the dykes of course, but visiting Rick's uncle in Boskoop (a town of 15,000 in which 700 km of canals cover 20% of towns surface area - more that the roads) brought home to me the remarkable situation where such a huge country and its millions of people are virtually under water.

This is a country of order and rules. Every 100 m along main roads, there is a sign identifying the exact location so that if you break down you can be located (or if the police are running an operation, they can know precisely which part of the road to go to.

Speaking of the police, they are almost invisible (in this part of Holland anyway, but even in Amsterdam). The indications from a TV programme we watched is that a great deal of policing (down to preemptive location of potential shop-lifters) is conducted by CCTV.

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